Note: these courses do count as core courses toward the Major or Minor
Proximity and Protest in the 18th-Century Letter and its Afterlives
IDSEM-UG 1816 / COLIT-UA 175
In this course we unearth the lost art of letter-writing and study epistolary form in interdisciplinary context, putting the epistolary novel, one of the most popular prose forms of the eighteenth century, in conversation with a range of primary documents (newspapers, pamphlets, travel letters) as well as works of philosophy and critical theoretical works. As we do so, we will ask how these letters let us unfold the problems of distance, intimacy, and exchange. Of particular interest to us will be how the epistolary form accounts for the scenes of its composition and represents the circumstances and space around the act of writing: In what ways does the epistolary novel (along with collections of letters of the period) imagine travel and contact with other cultures? What exactly is the “readerly” intimacy letters create, and how do these strategies portray and construct gender? How do these letters depict strangers, foreigners, and other “others,” and how do they address or confront the public? We will think about how the letter reinforces or resists norms. Our readings will take us across Europe and the Atlantic world and, more locally, to the Wrightsman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we will consider the domestic spaces, objects, and material histories that inform some exemplars of this literary form. Finally, we will conclude our inquiry with a look at the epistolary form’s 21st-century afterlife, and students can expect some creative projects along the way. Major texts may include: Montesquieu, Persian Letters (1721); Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1741); Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Julie, or The New Heloise (1761); Lady Mary Montagu, Turkish Embassy Letters (1763); Hannah Webster Foster, The Coquette; or, The History of Eliza Wharton (1797); and Leonora Sansay, Secret History: or, The Horrors of Santo Domingo (1808). *taught in English
Literature & Philosophy: Political Philosophy on Steroids
GERM-UA 202 / COLIT-UA 202
This course looks at problems of political conditioning and the agony of our times. The themes that draw our attention are not covered by traditional perspectives of political philosophy. We shall study the roots of tyranny, patriarchal strongholds, sexual repression, national identity, and the destruction of individual freedom in terms of literary and philosophical texts that describe and undermine all sorts of political myths and beliefs. The student will have a fuller sense of the stakes and pain of political maturity and what it takes to survive restrictive laws and what psychoanalysis calls the relentless pounding of the ‘reality principle.” Readings include the works of Marx, Kleist, Kafka, Phillis Wheatley, Hannah Arendt, Kathy Acker, Sarah Kofman, Derrida.
Sponsored by Dept of German | Contact Lindsay A O'Connor
Texts and Ideas: Topics—Travel and Encounters
When, how, and why have we come to associate travel with leisure and transnationalism, both involving a degree of privilege? What does such an association preclude in our own times? Where, for example, would we factor in exiles and migrant laborers? What are the complicities between tourism and neo-colonialism? If we take the long view, what might we uncover about the relationship between travel and imperialism, and about the role in that relationship of ethnography, the guidebook, or the museum? If mass tourism is a product of the modern era, what were earlier travelers, particularly from what we now think of as the non-Western world, after? What were their motives? What were the concepts through which they perceived a world that pre-dates the nation-state and how did they travel in that world? In what way are their texts different from modern texts we associate with travel (ethnography, the travelogue, the guidebook), who are their addressees and what writing conventions are at stake? We address these questions through literary, theoretical, and critical texts, from the fourteenth to the late twentieth century. Readings include: Said’s Orientalism, Ibn Battuta’s Travels in Asia and Africa, Lane’s Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Tahtawi’s Imam in Paris, Ghosh's In an Antique Land, Kincaid’s A Small Place.