Literature and Justice: Kleist, Kafka, Coetzee
GERM-GA 2600 / POET-GA 2002 / COLIT-GA 2917
Kleist, Berlin, 1800s – Kafka, Prague, 1910s – Coetzee, Cape Town, 1980s. Reading these three writers shows how the question of justice has been posed and reconfigured – from the revolutionary epoch, to the climax and collapse of European imperialism in the First World War, and on to the period of anti-colonization and neocolonial predations of globalization. In each case, the literary engagement with justice gives rise to distinctive kinds of literature and probing explorations of modern political life. Saturated by the injustices of their times, these literary works expose aporias in the law, navigate intractable problems of personal and institutional complicity, reflect on the history and the form of rendering justice (or denying it), and, for lack of a clear theoretical conception, convey a sense of the justice that is felt to be missing. What does reading literature contribute to the theory of justice? Topics of discussion include the critique of violence, poetic license, the history of modern rights, biopolitics and governmentality, activism and vulnerability, the “feeling” for justice and messianicity, precarity and social justice, racial and sexual justice, truth and reconciliation, climate justice. Theoretical readings include Arendt, Benjamin, Butler, Chakrabarty, Derrida, Foucault, Mbembe, Nietzsche.
*Fulfills the Poetics and theory requirement
Special Topics in Theory: Digital Media Theory
GERM-GA 2610 / COLIT-GA 2610.001
This course introduces the history and concept of the digital. Digital systems are representation systems, and so engage a wide variety of philosophical sources, literary theory, and media theory. Digital technologies developed from a dense multidisciplinary discourse that included mathematics, language philosophy, logic, and philosophy, reposing the classical metaphysical question of the relationship of representation to reality. The course focuses on three concepts that emerged from this rich overlap: information, computation, and the network. These concepts are associated with Claude Shannon, Alan Turing, and Warren McCulloch, and rely on frameworks from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Immanuel Kant, and the trajectory from Gottlob Frege and Charles Sanders Peirce through the Vienna School's logical positivism, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and beyond. The philosophical origins of digital technologies form a dialogue with media-theoretical assessments of those same technologies, and the course will give particular weight to the works of Friedrich Kittler, N. Katherine Hayles, Wendy Chun, and, Luciana Parisi, Ramon Amaro, and Sianne Ngai, with a focus on bridging the gap between the origins of digital technologies and their extensive aesthetic and political-economic consequences in the present.
*This course fulfills a core requirement for the Advanced Certificate in Digital Humanities. Taught in English.
*Instructor consent required: email@example.com
Germinations: Radical Growing and Thinking in the Francophone Caribbean
FREN-GA 1992 / COLIT-GA 2650
This graduate seminar will center vegetal life as a means to deeply engage Francophone Caribbean poetics, understood as encompassing written and oral expression, music and kinesthetics, visual art, and spirituality. We will not merely consider how authors and artists reap unilateral symbolic meaning from plants in the aftermaths of plantation slavery and colonialism; rather, we will study how multifaceted models of memory, historicity, autonomy, solidarity, and futurity germinate from the entanglements of Caribbean thinkers with particular tropical vegetation. Though primarily focused on Haiti and the departmentalized French Antilles and Guiana, the seminar will incorporate perspectives from the Americas, Africa, and the anglophone Caribbean to survey emerging frameworks that view plants as active makers of worlds, including Indigenous cosmovisions; ecofeminisms; ecopoetics; plant intelligence; sensory ethnobotany; and ecological metaphysics. Our principal guiding texts will include novels, poetry, critical essays, and visual art by Édouard Glissant, Sylvia Wynter, Suzanne Roussi Césaire and Aimé Césaire, Maryse Condé, Daniel Maximin, Patrick Chamoiseau, Françoise Vergès, Dénètem Touam Bona, Malcom Ferdinand, Mimerose Beaubrun, Edwidge Danticat, Jean Casimir, Monchoachi, Emanuele Coccia, Humberto Maturana, Édouard Duval-Carrié, and others. Discussions will also touch on colonial botanical archives and histories of ecological activism in the greater Caribbean. Our interrogations will raise issues of embodiment, trace, and historical consciousness; subjectivation, nonhuman agency, and modes of “ecological being”; species, taxonomy, and racialization; sensory knowledge and phenomenology; and form and aesthetics. What are the contributions of plant beings to Caribbean conceptual landscapes? How do Francophone Caribbean paradigms of thought both contest and enrich approaches such as “postcolonial ecocriticism” and “racial capitalism”?
*The seminar will be taught in English, and readings may be done in French or in English.
*Fulfills a CALAMEGS requirement
Goethe, Hegel, Shakespeare: The Emergence of Literature as Critique
GERM-GA1117 / ENGL-GA / COLIT-GA 2917:
litical criticism (in the general sense of the word ‘political’) is no recent invention, it is the oldest mode of literary application, which limits the reach of literature from the start (Plato’s Politeia). In the Structural Transformation of the Literary Sphere that occurred after the 18th century (Habermas’s title), literature’s ways of representation came to include critique, and criticism aesthetic critique. The exemplary scene for this turn is Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s involvement with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The philosopher Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit made world historical sense of this primal scene of a literary critique. In a close reading of Shakespeare’s plays, which is unrivaled and little recognized in its depth up to now, Hegel traced and marked in Shakespeare’s theater the threshold of the modern world in its critical emergence. The seminar shall elaborate the theoretical approach of Hegel’s critical method as the model of a ‘new’ criticism as a new historicism and discuss some consequences for the theater performance after Shakespeare and the novel after Goethe.
Topics in Modern German Literature and Politics: Like they do in Babylon. Aesthetic Practices and the Critique of Society
GERM-GA 2223 / COLIT-GA 2645
The year 2013 saw the takeover of the state theater Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin by Shermin Langhoff and Jens Hillje. Langhoff and Hillje, who had formerly been based in the small theater Ballhaus Naunynstraße in Berlin Kreuzberg, had become known for a new approach to theater they labeled post-migrant theater. Why, they asked, had German theater stages remained so far behind in representing the actual diversity of contemporary society – in their stories and the bodies on and behind the stage? And why had they been so slow in taking up their concerns? This development marked a shift towards a return to social criticism in artistic practices that subsequently spread to other fields such as prose, visual arts, and – to a certain degree – poetry. In this course, we will examine the predecessors of social criticism in German literature and art, a few of its international inspirations, and the developments that have taken place during the last decade. We will read texts, watch movies, and engage in dialogue about the possibilities and responsibilities of artistic practices in our times.
*Taught in English
ITAL-GA 2312/COLIT-GA 3323
The final third of the Divine Comedy is its least user-friendly. T. S. Eliot charged this up to a certain modern prejudice against beatitude as material for poetry, since “our sweetest songs are those which sing of saddest thought.” Far less seductive than the Inferno and more abstract than the brightly-colored Purgatorio, the Paradiso has a reputation for being formidable, verbose and somehow irrelevant. All the more reason to study it together. It is simultaneously the most “medieval” part of Dante’s masterpiece, being rooted in historical and political upheavals of the moment and the most au courant philosophical debates coming out of Paris, as well as the most “modern,” radical and daring. Grounded in the necessity of happiness and the reality of evil, it is a reflection on the foundational ideals of a culture in constant tension with the world as it is. For this reason it can and has been studied from the perspectives of history, politics, philosophy, psychology, literature and art. The course will follow the trajectory of the Paradiso, delving into the questions it poses and the history it presupposes. Students are encouraged to investigate connections between Dante and their own research interests.
Diversity and Exclusion in Contemporary Italy, 1945 to the Present
ITAL-GA 2682/COLIT-GA 3925
The main aim of the course is to develop in students a critical awareness of how various ‘others’ have been described and depicted in Italy since 1945 and how demarcation lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’ have been produced, both in scholarly discourse and popular media. The ‘others’ include poor inhabitants of cities and the rural South, people with disabilities and those classified as mentally ill, people of color, people with non-heteronormative sexual identifications, immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, Roma. The course asks how processes of definition and classification work, what forms of power back them up, and to what extent the dominant definitions may be resisted, challenged or reversed. Materials for study include written texts, photographs, documentary films and television programs.
*Most of the verbal materials, including spoken words, are in Italian and advanced competence in Italian is required for the course.
Italian Journeys: Travel Writing and the Global South
ITAL-GA 1981.002/COLIT-GA 2192.002
Sitting in the middle of the Mediterranean, Italy has long been at once a destination and a point of departure: to the east, across the Atlantic, to South Asia and to China. This course looks at the long history of Italian travel writing, from Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s Navigationi et viaggi to modern accounts of Italians abroad (and at home). We’ll explore how Italian writers have shaped the nation’s shifting imaginative geography, its memories of conquest and empire, and its relationship with the Global South; we’ll also interrogate the critical frames that have produced the Global South as such. Authors include Amalia Nizzoli, Giovanni Comisso, Alberto Moravia, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Erminia Dell’Oro, Antonio Tabucchi, and Martha Nasibù.
Fantasies of Love: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the History of Emotions
ITAL-GA 1981.001 / COLIT-GA 2192.001
"Storytelling is a way to explain, organize, and master what people are feeling," says historian of emotions Barbara Rosenwein. When the emotional dimensions of love and eros are concerned, people's fantasies of what they should and should not be, appear to be deeply influenced by fictional paradigmatic narratives. This course aims to explore literary fantasies of love that emotional/hermeneutical communities have produced and relied on over the centuries in the Western tradition, with a focus on Early Modern Italy. The subject will be addressed through an interdisciplinary perspective, resorting to some of the most important fields of study on which the history of emotions is based, like neurobiology, psychology, anthropology, and sociology. Applying this methodology to literary texts, as well as to cinematic, visual, documentary, and religious sources, participants will experience productive and meaningful interdisciplinarity, while reflecting on how to transfer this mindset to their own research.
SPAN-GA 2967.002/COLIT-GA 2967.001
This course is an advanced survey of feminist writing, grounded in Latin America and in conjunction with global, intersectional feminist thought and gender studies. Along with essays, we will read literary works and inquire after their gendering, taking literature as a privileged locus to imagine contemporary interventions and discuss the genealogy of feminist writing as resource. We will debate recent turns, such as the politics of care, decolonial feminism, engagements with black feminism, and the literature of femicide for an intensive study of queer feminist epistemes.