Theorizing Public Humanities: Who Gets to be Human? Geographies, Temporalities, Epistemologies
Instructors: Jay Garcia and Diana Taylor
Black Studies and Decolonial Studies enter academic and wider public arenas in myriad ways today—via theoretical interventions, poetries, performance art, and more. As dynamic factors within contemporary critical thought, they influence projects of different kinds, supplying ideas that present fresh starting points for contemporary inquiry. This seminar centers on the contributions of these two domains of thought, with special attention to questions about what happens to conceptualizations of the “human” and related discourses, such as that of human rights, when investigated through the lenses of Black Studies and Decolonial Studies. Evaluating the terms, epistemological commitments, and the imaginative dimensions of each area throughout the seminar, we will also consider where Black Studies and Decolonial Studies converge and diverge, how these forms of knowledge production have been and can be activated, and what they may tell us about the public humanities in its current and future iterations.
Sponsored by the Public Humanities Initiative
Early Modern German Culture: Folk, popular, and mass culture
Professor Christopher Wood
COLIT-GA.2917.001 / GERM-GA 3700
The concept of the “people” is so politically charged that for at least a generation, research into premodern European vernacular or unofficial cultures has been paralyzed. This course aims to convert this impasse into an opportunity, reopening the dossiers of folklore, folk literature, folk religion, and folk art. The technologized mass culture enveloping our lives today, as well as the virulent new modes of political populism, are the inevitable frameworks of this investigation. The course will have several objects of study: antiquarian and proto-scholarly study of popular customs and literary forms, for example the collecting of proverbs or fairy tales already in the sixteenth century; the establishment in the nineteenth century of the “wisdom” of the people, or “folklore,” as an object of systematic scholarly study as well as the museological enshrinement of material popular culture; and the twentieth-century theoretical discourses on folk or popular cultures, and the entanglement of those discourses with the mass media and with nationalist politics. Among twentieth-century theorists and historians we will read Riegl, van Gennep, Benjamin, Bakhtin, Propp, Auerbach, Löwenthal, Ginzburg, Davis, Blumenberg, Foucault, Certeau, Anderson, Rancière, Didi-Huberman.
Sponsored by the Department of German
Medieval Arabic Poetic Theory
Professor Philip Kennedy
COLIT-GA.2967.002 MEIS-GA 1770-005
An overview of classical Arabic literary theory in its three aspects: poetic, Quranic, and philosophical. The major primary texts range from the 3 rd /9 th to the 8 th /14 th centuries, tracing major themes. To be covered: concepts such as “takhyīl” (image-evocation), metaphor, simile, naẓm (sentence construction), majāz (figurative speech), and badīʿ (literary figures), and discussion of how medieval authors dealt with questions of plagiarism and influence, truth and fiction, the old and the new, and plainness and ornateness in poetic speech. As an outcome, students will acquire an understanding of the main debates that concerned medieval literary theorists and their development over time. Reading materials will be selected from the medieval Arabic works. While focusing on selected passages in each class, students will familiarize themselves with some of the multiple-volume-length works as a whole. Where apposite, we will engage with modern Western theory, as well as some secondary scholarship.
Advanced knowledge of Arabic is required.
Sponsored by Middle East & Islamic Studies
Multilingualism and Language Politics in Jewish Literature
Professor Roni Henig
COLIT-GA 2978.002 /HBRJD-GA 2453
Tracing the transnational turn in literary studies, this seminar focuses on critical theory of multilingualism, translation, and world literature. Modern Jewish literature (loosely defined) is explored through its fraught language politics as a case study and serves as a point of departure to question the continuity between such categories as nation, ethnicity, and language. We shall engage in a diverse range of scholarship, literary theory, and a selection of literary texts, juxtaposing early twentieth-century debates on Jewish languages and diaspora with political discussions on language, translation, and the nation-state in Israel/Palestine today. Ultimately, the course explores how a translingual approach to literature might reshape and transform its object of study.
Sponsored by the Department of Hewbrew and Judaic Studies
Intersections: The Writing of Contemporary Art
Professors Jordana Mendelson and Sara Nadal-Melsió
COLIT-GA.2956.003 / SPAN-GA 2977.001
This seminar will explore the role of writing in the creation and practices of contemporary art. We will focus on works from the 19th century through the 21st century, from Baudelaire's definition of the modern artist to the use of writing and all sorts of inscriptions by visual artists. We will examine writing as a technology that defines, produces, and intervenes in artistic practices (art criticism, essays, titles, press releases, museum catalogs, etc.) We will look at texts by critics and essayists and by artists themselves, as well as at the uncertain relationship between the two. The seminar will be taught in English, but the languages of the texts will be in both English and Spanish. Among the authors and artists we will consider are: José Ortega y Gasset, Eugeni d’Ors, José Díaz Fernández, Sebastià Gasch, Remedios Vario, Maruja Mallo, Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Rubert de Ventós, Enrique Vila-Matas, Josep Renau, Antoni Tàpies, Antonio Saura, Ángel Gónzalez, Esther Ferrer, Estrella de Diego, Albert Serra, Chus Martínez, Xavier Antich, and Marina Garcés.
Sponsored by Spansih & Portuguese
Writing the Bourgeoisie
Professor Anne Lounsbery
COLIT-GA.COLIT-GA.1092 / RUSSN-UA 1001.002
Is it an insult to call someone a bourgeois? Why is nineteenth-century European literature preoccupied with the figure of the bourgeois, and how did this preoccupation shape our views of the bourgeoisie as a class? How do artistic representations of things bourgeois (the middle class, merchants, burgers … ) function in different texts and traditions? If the middle class and the genre of the novel are as closely related as has often been claimed, why has the novel flourished in societies where there is no bourgeoisie? Any category denoting a “middle” is unstable. For example, in different contexts “bourgeois” and closely related words can suggest what is snobby and high or what is lowly and tainted: great distances separate Balzac’s daring Parisian capitalists from Dickens’ stolid shopkeepers, Germany’s assiduously cultured town-dwellers from Flaubert’s myopic provincials—yet all can be categorized as bourgeois. On the peripheries of European culture we find even sharper differences. In Brazil, Machado de Assis produced a version of realism that could only arise in a society where slavery coexisted with “bourgeois” literary forms. And Russian writers, despite the total absence of a bourgeoisie in Russia, reacted strongly to the idea of the bourgeois, often using it as a figure for modernity’s various disruptions and threats. Readings will include primary texts from the late-eighteenth through the early-twentieth centuries, mostly novels (Goethe, Balzac, Dickens, Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Machado de Assis, Mann, Chekhov, and others). Theoretical and critical texts by Anderson, Cohen, Elias, Gay, Hobsbawm, Marx, Moretti, Schama, Schwartz, Wallerstein, Watt, Weber, and others. All readings in English.
Sponsored by Russian & Slavic Studies