GERM-GA 1115 / FINH-GA 3035
The “Culture of Art” in Germany, 1750-1820
Course description: Over the course of Goethe’s lifetime, German writers and thinkers entered for the first time a Europe-wide conversation about the normativity of the sculpture of ancient Greece and Rome, the emergence of a secular discourse of art in the Italian Renaissance, the comparative capacities of painting and poetry, and the place of art and artist in modern society. The visual arts, transcending language, hosted an international “culture of art” standing alongside the Latin-based “republic of letters.” The history of art, as reconstructed by antiquarians and scholars, pictured the mythic continuity of European civilization, and allowed Europe to define itself against its perceived others. Modern painting and sculpture made visible the secular drift of modern society. Academies of art cultivated normative, idealist theories of art. Goethe himself was one of the first to challenge the principles of the ancien régime of art. His pamphlet on Strasbourg Cathedral (1772) drew medieval architecture back into the story of art. The next generation developed poetic and critical languages to address the forms excluded by the academic system. Refugees from the art academies—the so-called Nazarenes were pioneers—sought to repristinate the art of painting. Meanwhile, the social and political upheavals triggered by the French Revolution invited realignments of art and public. In Bavaria and Prussia, statesmen, artists, and scholars invented the national museums of the future. The generation born around 1770 cultivated an aesthetics of sketches and ruins; narrated the exceptional lives of artists real and imagined; and practiced an urbane and subjective but also philosophical art criticism.
This was the Kunstperiode, the “period of art,” the decades animated by the “idea of art”; an epoch whose end was pronounced by the poet Heinrich Heine in 1828. In this course we will read texts in the fields of aesthetics, archeology, art history, and art criticism, but also track the apparitions of the visual arts in prose fiction (Heinse, Goethe, Tieck, Brentano, Arnim). The questions addressed by the course have generated important recent scholarship in the field of German studies (Campe, Décultot, Dönike, Endres, Geulen, Haverkamp, MacLeod, Menke, Mülder-Bach, Wellbery). At the core of the seminar is the question of form: which concept of form would succeed the metaphysically guaranteed or ideal form of the ancien régime? the inner or archetypal form intuited by Goethe in created nature, underwriting coherence and continuity across change; or the incomplete and elusive forms generated by the imagination and captured, at best, by a poetics of the fragment as proposed by Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis. The texts will be read ideally in their original language. However, virtually all of the texts are available in translation, thus the course is also open to interested students who do not have German.
*This course fulfills the pre-1800 literature requirement. Sponsored by German.
The Transnational Turn: History, Ethics, Method
Course description: Many fields have taken a transnational turn to examine locations outside of their normative purview. Although this shift could be imagined as a multicultural expansion towards the inclusion of others across the globe, this course aims to historicize this shift in relation to power, particularly formations like race, sexuality, class, gender, and ability and legacies surrounding settler colonialism, Eurocentrism, colonization, US empire, and the Cold War. Put differently, instead of imagining the world as “a small world after all,” how might we attend to the fractures and differences that continue to maintain a world order involving the biopolitical death, debilitization, and militarized policing of racialized, gendered, and sexualized populations? This course thus historicizes, questions the ethics, and tracks the methods and fields available for the emergence and future of transnational analysis. Rather than accepting the liberal consideration of other spaces as simply better for intellectual fields and artistic practice, the main goal is to more critically understand how turns to the non-West are informed by the lingering problematics yet possibilities provided by anthropology, philosophy, area studies, and cultural studies as they can be contextualized in relation to the Cold War, neoliberalism, post-socialism, and culture wars, amongst other contexts. Further, the transnational must also be situated in relation to the medial forms available for tracking and considering the non-West, such as world cinema, literature, and performance. This course ultimately situates the historical alongside medial forms to help us consider the available methods (representation, cognitive mapping, and affect) for imagining nation states and the world. Rather than focusing on a single region, this course takes the admittedly difficult task of pondering the transnational turn as a broader concern across fields and analytics. This course will examine theorists like Frantz Fanon, Jasbir Puar, Edouard Glissant, Sylvia Wynter, Ella Shohat, Pheng Cheah, Trinh Minh-ha, Mel Chen, Fredric Jameson, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Andrea Smith, Naoki Sakai, and David Harvey. We will also situate theoretical discourse in relation to cultural production by artists like Jacolby Satterwhite, Cao Fei, Kapwani Kiwanga, Candice Lin, Bert Bernally, Isaac Julien, Xandra Ibarra, and Shirin Neshat.
*Sponsored by Art & Public Policy (Tisch)
Italian Immigration & American Labor
Course description: This course is a selective exploration of the most significant methods and interpretive themes that have evolved over the years and that continue to animate Italian American cultural history. These developments make Italian American studies today a particularly dynamic and exciting field—a vibrant arena in which to explore new concepts and approaches. Students will read classic studies of Italian immigration as well as more recent monographs on Italian American history and culture and will discuss not only their content but also the arguments, assumptions and theoretical models behind them. Among the topics that will be covered are: transnationalism, ethnic formation, women’s and gender studies, radicalism, mobility and diasporic studies. In particular we will discuss the interdisciplinary borrowings that have inspired some of the most recent works and explore new venues of investigation and research.
Conducted in English.
Sponsored by Italian
Professor de Vries
GERM-GA 2610 / RELST-GA 1760
Wittgenstein: Ethics and Mysticism, Religion and Aesthetics
Course description: This seminar will investigate Wittgenstein's approaches to ethics and mysticism, religion and aesthetics, and compare and contrast these with those of his contemporaries and later interpreters. Starting out from the “Lecture on Ethics,” presented to the Heretics Society in Cambridge and then again to members of the Vienna Circle between September 1929 and December 1930, in which Wittgenstein also addressed the question of miracles, we will discuss his other relevant writings, notably the earlier Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and later Philosophical Investigations as well. But the aforementioned lecture will serve are our guide as it stands out for many reasons. We will seek to reconstruct its overall argument, discuss several remarkable parallels with thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, and assess its undiminished actuality for us, as a modern form of so-called "spiritual exercise," here and now.
Readings will include Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Elizabeth Anscombe, C.S. Lewis, Pierre Hadot, Hilary Putnam, Stanley Cavell, Cora Diamond, Jim Conant, Martin Stokhof, Veena Das, Sandra Laugier, Eli Friedlander, and others.
*This course fulfills the 20th-century theory requirement. Sponsored by German.