Note: these courses do NOT count as core courses toward the Major or Minor
Professor Valerie Forman
How does a nation’s understanding of its borders come into being? Conversely, how do borders contribute to fictions about a nation—the possibilities it offers and who is considered a legitimate member of its community? How do multiple and often contradictory discourses and images shape the stories told about migration and the people who migrate, seeking refuge or asylum? How do migrants document their own narratives as they cross, re-cross, and contest borders? How can their stories along with the work of artists, scholars and activists challenge dominant narratives and unravel the myths that help to give borders and related terms—refuge, asylum, immigrant, citizen--their meaning and even their power? “Fictions” in the title of the course also refers to one of the primary means (the reading of novels, plays, poetry, short fiction) by which we will explore alternatives to the limited realities that borders attempt to produce. Though we will focus on recent crises at the southern border of the United States, we will locate these crises in their longer histories and put struggles over the US/Mexico border in dialogue with other border and migrant struggles. The seminar will also draw from historical documents, the work of historians, visual artists, filmmakers, performance artists, critical/political theorists, as well as scholars of the environment, indigeneity, and migration from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Possible authors/scholars/artists include: Valeria Luselli, Oscar Martínez, Gloria Anzaldua, Carlos Fuentes, Gregory Nava, Warsan Shire, John Sayles, Larissa Sansour, Boots Riley, Donna Haraway, Leo Chavez, and Wendy Brown among many others.
Sponsored by Gallatin
The Italian Renaissance: A New Reading
Professor Virginia Cox
Course Description: The period or movement commonly referred to as the Renaissance remains one of the great iconic moments of Western history: a time of remarkable innovation within artistic and intellectual culture. Italy was the original heartland of the Renaissance, and home to some of its most powerful and enduring figures, such as Leonardo and Michelangelo in art, Petrarch and Ariosto in literature, Machiavelli in political thought. The Italian Renaissance: A New Reading provides an overview of Italian Renaissance culture, examining not only literary, artistic, and intellectual history, but also material culture, cartography, science, technology, and history of food and fashion. It reflects recent trends in scholarship in investigating the extent to which “Renaissance” ideas and cultural trends became diffused beyond the social elites to a wider public, and the extent to which women participated in literary and artistic culture alongside men.
Sponsored by Italian Studies
Contact Elisa Fox email@example.com
Introduction to German Culture & Thought: Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Professor Christopher Wood
Course description: In 1812 the German scholars Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first edition of their soon world-famous collection of fairy tales. They aimed to recover the voices of simple people whose way of life was now imperiled by industrialization and urbanization. These memorable stories involved violence and wit, enchantments and punishments, kings and peasants, elves and witches, talking animals, and children and parents. Read aloud by modern parents to their children, they became the shared substratum of modern culture: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel. Grimm’s tales are the pre-history of Walt Disney. Children know that such stories communicate, in encoded form, the hard and not-so-innocent realities of the adult world: conflict within families, conflict between social classes, the lure of property, the ambiguities of sexual desire, the threats of poverty and violence. Dense and mysterious, laden with symbols, the stories invite endless interpretation. In this course will develop our own interpretations of the stories, following paths opened up by psychoanalysis, mythography, and sociology. The course will also address the early history of folk- and fairy-tale collecting in Europe; the “artistic fairy tales”—literary imitations of the form—by the Romantic writers E.T.A. Hoffmann, Hans Christian Andersen, and Nathaniel Hawthorne; and the worldwide phenomenon of folk and fairy tales. German majors will be expected to read the stories in the original language; others will read in translation. Taught in English.
Sponsored by Dept of German
Topics in 20th-Century Literature: Kafka
Professor Friedrich Ulfers
Course description: This course considers Kafka’s work largely in light of his preoccupation with language, and particularly with the way this preoccupation affected his writing, indeed provided one of its central topics. Our point of departure will be the experience of a “language crisis” among intellectuals and writers in turn-of-the-century Austria, which led to the radical criticism of conceptual or referential language by Fritz Mauthner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and others, but was already foreshadowed by Nietzsche. We will then examine Kafka’s response to this crisis: his insight that conceptual/referential language and opposition/binary involves an abstraction of the “truth” or the “real,” which is only apprehensible in a space of radical undecidability between opposites, demanding a language of irreducible allusiveness, a language that is constitutive of Kafka’s texts. Key topics include: what do the “Kafkaesque,” the “monstrous,” and the “uncanny” mean? What is the “law,” and what is “judgment”? Texts to be read are “The Judgment,” The Metamorphosis,” “A Country Doctor,” and the novel The Trial. Taught in English.
Sponsored by Dept of German
Dante’s Divine Comedy
Professor Alison Cornish
Course Description: This course is dedicated to a one-semester guided reading of the Divine Comedy in its entirety. The text will be read in facing-page translation for the benefit of those who know some Italian and those who do not. Lectures and discussion are in English. Students will learn about the historical, philosophical, and literary context of the poem as well as how to make sense of it in modern terms. Evaluation will be by means of bluebook midterm and final, testing knowledge of key terms, concepts, and passages, two short papers, and active participation in lectures and discussion.
Sponsored by Italian Studies
TPCS: Latin American Cinema (English)
Professor Licia Fiol-Matta
The course considers Latin American Cinema via the lens of gender analysis. We will examine a variety of instances where gender, principally as regards women, is represented whether as status quo, working through, survival, dissent, or insurgency in Latin American films. Topics include “womanliness as masquerade” (Rivière), phallic and other mothers, melodrama, racial tales, loose women, nonfiction women, migrations of femininity and masculinity, singer-stars, and comedy. The students will learn how to analyze film critically, with the proper vocabulary and concepts for film analysis, while simultaneously learning how to discuss gender conceptually and learn about how central gender representations are to narrative cinema. Students will write a research paper expanding on one of the areas covered on the syllabus, perhaps a single filmmaker's work, or a corpus of representations reflecting an era of this cinema or a particular knot of concern, such as precarity or sexuality.
Sponsored by Spanish & Portugese
Socrates and his Critics
Professor Laura Viidebaum
Course description: Despite having written nothing himself, Socrates is—if not the most influential—certainly one of the most influential intellectual figures in the Western tradition, for it is with Socrates that “philosophy” seems first to move from natural history to an explicit concern for human affairs. Indeed, so great is the magnitude of this change that we continue to term earlier thinkers “pre-Socratic philosophers.” His stature is marked again in the name given to a distinctive form of philosophical literature, the Socratic discourse, and an approach to philosophical inquiry and instruction, the Socratic method. In antiquity, his thought, importantly, inspired Plato, Xenophon, the Stoics, the Skeptics, and the Cynics, beyond those thinkers stretching to influence in Rome and Judea...and four centuries before the presumed time of Jesus, Socrates had already suffered martyrdom for his idiosyncratic political, philosophical, and religious views. In modernity, his life both fascinates and repels the attention, notably, of Nietzsche; though criticisms of his mode of existence he had already endured in his own time at the hands of the comedian Aristophanes, among others. Given the state of the evidence, one can look only to the Despite having written nothing himself, Socrates is—if not the most influential—certainly one of the most influential intellectual figures in the Western tradition, for it is with Socrates that “philosophy” seems first to move from natural history to an explicit concern for human affairs. Indeed, so great is the magnitude of this change that we continue to term earlier thinkers “pre-Socratic philosophers.” His stature is marked again in the name given to a distinctive form of philosophical literature, the Socratic discourse, and an approach to philosophical inquiry and instruction, the Socratic method. In antiquity, his thought, importantly, inspired Plato, Xenophon, the Stoics, the Skeptics, and the Cynics, beyond those thinkers stretching to influence in Rome and Judea...and four centuries before the presumed time of Jesus, Socrates had already suffered martyrdom for his idiosyncratic political, philosophical, and religious views. In modernity, his life both fascinates and repels the attention, notably, of Nietzsche; though criticisms of his mode of existence he had already endured in his own time at the hands of the comedian Aristophanes, among others.
Sponsored by Classics
Contact: Nancy Amir-Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
TPCS: Monsters and Jewish Modernity
Professor Roni Henig
Course Description: What is a monster? How does it come into being? Why do monsters capture modern imagination and at what historical junctions do they tend to reappear? From the Golem of the Maharal of Prague to the creation of Dr. Frankenstein, monsters have often figured the anxieties, fantasies, and collective distress of the societies from which they hail. Jewish modernity in particular saw the rapid reproduction of monstrous figures as allegories and metaphors for the ambivalent state of European Jews vis-à-vis their surrounding societies. Whether an outcast, a dangerous force from within or a defender against external persecutions, monsters totter on the border between imagination and destruction, conveying at once a promise and a threat. This course explores monstrosity as a critical framework through which we may reflect on such issues as belonging, gender, race, abnormality and hybridity. We shall consider the monstrous as it relates to “Jewish
questions”, but also as a cultural figure with a life of its own who recurs across times, languages, and cultures, embodying different states of outsiderness and exception. On our quest to face monstrosity, we shall encounter a variety of texts and genres, including short stories, essays, novels, plays and films. We will discuss literary works by authors such as Mary Shelley and Franz Kafka, acquaint ourselves with the discipline of Monster Studies and comment on various key monsters of Western society.
Sponsored by Hebrew & Judaic Studies