MLS Courses

Core Course:

LBST 500: Introduction to Liberal Studies: Methods of Knowing

Introduction to research methods in the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences, as well as applied interdisciplinary research. Explore different “ways of knowing” – or alternative models of inquiry which are used in our everyday lives, in our professional lives, and in the lives of disciplinary specialists.

Summative Master's Project:

LBST 585: Master’s Project

In their final semester, students work closely with a faculty committee, chosen by the student, to produce a summative master’s project, applying interdisciplinary research frameworks to subjects of intense personal interest. 


  • LBST 503: Self-Justifying Fictions:

    Explore theoretical approaches to the study of literature, including formal and cultural analysis and the ethics and social impact of the humanities. 

  • LBST 505: East Asian Humanities: Classics of China, Korea and Japan:

    Study major themes in East Asian culture through close examination of primary texts in translation, from early classics of the Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions, through later works of narrative, poetry, drama, and film that engage themes of Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist thought.

  • LBST 507: Great Western Cities:

    Examine Western civilization in the urban context, focusing on several cities in their “golden age” of creativity, accomplishment, and influence.  Explore Periclean Athens, Medicean Florence, revolutionary Paris, Victorian London, Leninist and Stalinist Moscow, 20th-century New York, 21st-century Los Angeles, and other cities at their iconic height.

  • LBST 510: Cities and Globalization:

    Analyze how globalization is shaping urban form and problems through contemporary urban theory and comparative urban analysis.  See how world cities have emerged in a global context, and learn about the development of public policies toward urban growth and change.

  • LBST 512: Language in a Globalizing World:

    Study the relationships between language and geopolitical change, endangered and minority languages, and the public policy implications of multilingualism and multiculturalism. Investigate the role of language in a world in which English has become the global lingua franca for commerce, government, science and technology.

  • LBST 514: Ideas of Nature in American Culture:

    Examine how Americans have used nature to think about themselves, environmentalism, American identity, gender/class relations, the American West, and the mythology of Los Angeles.

  • LBST 516: Urban Conservation Biology:

    With the Los Angeles basin as a case study, explore the ecology of cities, urban biodiversity, and controversies and successes of urban nature conservation projects, with a concentration on adaptive management as a methodological framework. 

  • LBST 520: Tradition and the Modern World:

    Study the continuing interplays between tradition and novelty; between locale and globalization; and between heritage and post-modernity, with a focus on a specific locale.

  • LBST 525: The Revolution That Made America:

    Delve into the ideas and politics of the world’s first modern revolution, which transformed thirteen colonies into a nation.

  • LBST 527: Information Systems From Libraries to the Internet:

    Study the history and sociology of information systems and the philosophical and literary implications of writing, archives, libraries, printing, and publishing from the ancient world to the Internet age.

  • LBST 530: Portraits of Leadership:

    Examine several forms of cultural leadership in their historical, literary, and philosophical context, such as the European Renaissance of the 14th through early 16th centuries.

  • LBST 531: The Hero/Heroine in History:

    Are individual men and women capable of altering the course of history in any meaningful way by their actions?  Or are they, rather, individuals who are merely spectators to historical processes?  Explore the issue of human agency over several centuries.

  • LBST 532: Ideas on Trial:

    Trials are crucial indicators of social and cultural attitudes, as much as about ideas as well as persons, and society coming to terms with these ideas and their implications.  What was at stake in the trial of Socrates, the Salem witches, Galileo, Joan of Arc, Nuremberg war criminals, and Scopes?

  • LBST 535: Great Works, Great Challenges:

    What makes a work of literature, drama, or poetry "great"?  What are the political and ideological processes by which these value judgments are created?

  • LBST 537: Empire and Social Reform in America, 1890-1917:

    In the late 19th and early 20th century, the United States came of age as a world power.  Explore the ascendancy of U.S. cultural institutions and economic power along with industrial and social strife and reform during America’s Progressive Era.  Read the writings of Henry Adams, Edith Wharton, W.E.D. DuBois, Mary Mother Jones, George Santayana, Theodore Roosevelt, and others.

  • LBST 540: Hell, Purgatory and Paradise: Dante’s "Divine Comedy":

    Read and closely analyze the Divine Comedy to develop an appreciation for changing values from medieval, to Renaissance and contemporary culture.

  • LBST 541: Opera, Culture, History, and Thought:

    Analyze cultural, historic, philosophical, political, and literary movements and themes through the medium of opera. 

  • LBST 542: The Culture of Comedy:

    Comedy is a technique and a pattern of storytelling, but it is also an outlook on life, a position from which to understand the world.  The comic is not the opposite of the serious.  Explore the broadest range of the idea of comedy as it speaks to the ways in which philosophers, artists, and everyday wise-guys have understood the world and went to its fringes.

  • LBST 544: Representations of Los Angeles:

    Study the literary, artistic and/or dramatic expressions of Los Angeles and its inhabitants, drawing from photography, art, “noir” cinema, and detective fiction set in Los Angeles, from James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler through the 1990s and beyond.

  • LBST 545: Imagining the American West:

    The historian and novelist Wallace Stegner wrote that in its mythic sense, the West is “America, only more so.”   Study the West’s myths and realities, its imagined pasts, and possible futures through cultural representations of the West in photography, painting, film, and in the work of writers from Mark Twain to Joan Didion. 

  • LBST 547: Acts of Interpretation: Literature, Film, and Methodology:

    Explore the diverse ways audiences interpret novels and films.  Consider “interpretation” through the portrayal of spectatorship and voyeurism and examine how film adaptations of novels function as interpretations of those novels, inviting yet further interpretations from various critical perspectives – humanist, Marxist, feminist, gay and lesbian, among others.

  • LBST 550: Theories and Methods of Analysis in Cultural Studies:

    Learn about the current debates and themes in the field of cultural studies, which examines cultural practices in various societies.  Examine issues of ideology, ethnicity, social class, gender, film and media, and technology through approaches from history, literary theory, anthropology, communications, geography, sociology, and philosophy. 

  • LBST 555: Constructions of Childhood:

    Trace the concept of childhood from its 18th-century origins through its dramatic evolution in the 20th century with the development of the concept of the adolescent.  Through applications of age studies, language and cultural constructions, explore how the notion of “the child” has been depicted in fiction, history, film, photography, and other media.

  • LBST 560: Effects of Traumatic Life Experiences:

    Explore the psychological and emotional affects of extreme trauma, by examining the long-term mental health consequences of surviving genocide, using the Holocaust and the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi genocide as case examples.  Conduct a project using the USC Shoah Foundation Institute archives that delve into trauma among genocide survivors.

  • LBST 570: Ecology of Night:

    Explore the world of night and learn about past and present human perceptions of the stars and the role of night in history. Understand the role of artificial night lighting on non-human species and habitats.

  • LBST 571: Food, Fashion, and Furniture: Commodities in the Global Economy:

    Consider  how everyday things— the food we consume, the clothes we wear, the furniture we sit on—intertwine us with distant people and places? Through academic and popular texts, documentaries, newspapers, and other media, “track” commodities from their origins to their final consumption.   Develop insights into how seemingly innocuous food and consumption decisions have impacts far beyond their local households and communities.

  • LBST 572: Controversies in Science, Medicine and Ethics:

    Understand how scientific developments drive ethical issues in medicine. Explore how scientific advances such as stem cells, genetic engineering and reproductive technologies influence how new ethical issues arise and how we are dealing with them.

  • LBST 574: Advances in Genetics and Evolutionary Biology:

    How does DNA directs an organism’s development? Learn how our DNA can be “read” to understand human diversity, diseases, defects, and evolution.

  • Master of Liberal Studies
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Mark Taper Hall, THH 355
  • University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0355