Expanding Your Perspective: Fall 2023 Elective Courses
These courses take learning beyond the core curriculum, providing students with the opportunity to explore the field of Public Humanities in a variety of relevant departments.
To enroll, visit Albert. Schedule is subject to change. Please view Albert for the most accurate scheduling information.
Investing in Futures: The Art of WorldBuilding
CEH-GA 1016 003
TH 2:00 – 4:30 pm, 4 credits
Instructor: Professor Marina Zurkow
What would it mean to unhinge the present from its current conditions and wildly create a world you want to live in? Through world-building exercises, students in this course will develop detailed alternate worlds, reimagining everything from laws of physics to societal habits and customs.
The term “world-building” originates primarily in science fiction and gaming. World-building and “futuring” models are often based on constraints—design limitations— that can spark new imaginaries liberated from business-as- usual predictions. Future studies—also known as futurology—has been used since the 1970s by business and military interests as part of a strategic planning toolkit. This framework of speculating about the future in systemic ways has been adapted by many contemporary artist collectives and mission-driven organizations, in order to challenge present assumptions about future outcomes. In these artistic quests, the notion of the “future” has led to the development of productive utopias, foreboding dystopias, and queer heterotopias.
Similarly, in this course, students will engage in a combination of collaborative and individual creative work and research to imagine their future or alternate worlds. Students will complete three variously-scaled worldbuilding projects, in the forms of invented artifacts, writing, and storytelling, whose features will draw from Investing in Futures, a constraint-design platform, co-created by the instructor, which explores topics such as governance, living conditions, food, climate, and technology, and whose specific conditions range from the possible to the absurd.
The class will also draw on work and readings by the Near Future Laboratory, David Graeber, N.K. Jemisin, and Nelson Goodman, among others, and on research about future scenario design thinking and speculative design. In addition to a series of written assignments and presentations, the class will culminate in a public “worlds’ fair.”
Imagining Cities: Hardware, Software, Wetware
TH 5:30-8:30 pm, 4 credits
Instructor: Professor Robin Nagle
This course asks a simple two-part question: What is a city, and what can a city be? Is a city an organism, an ecosystem, an artwork, a machine, an ever-evolving neural network, or something else entirely? What forms of life are made possible, and what life is extinguished, because of cities? How do we interpret a pattern of gathering that first appeared thousands of years ago and that continues to evolve in ever larger configurations across the globe? Can we connect ruins of cities and contemporary urban spaces with not-yet-imagined metropolitan configurations? What is revealed by the paradox of urban singularity in the context of urban universals?
This course explores dynamics of urban life through three linked frames of reference: hardware, software, and wetware. Hardware refers to geology and geography, built environments, and deliberate infrastructures. Why do cities rise in some places and not others? How do those locations allow or impede specific urban forms? Software includes cultural expressions, traditions, social dynamics, tensions, synchronicities. What makes a city inviting or hostile? How does political valence influence urban ambiance? Wetware points to the living beings – humans and otherwise – whose relationships animate the everyday and shape a city’s legacy across time. There three frames interact with and titrate each other in continual flows of influence, negotiation, conflict, inspiration, and change.
Our investigations span history, from the ancient to the contemporary, and include (im)possible futures. Specific locations, in real-life and in imagined settings, will inform our investigations; a partial list includes Beijing, Cahokia (in present day Missouri), Çatalhöyük (in present day Turkey), Dubai, Lagos, London, Mumbai, New York, and Rio de Janeiro; students will also add examples. A transdisciplinary approach draws from social science, journalism, literature (speculative and otherwise), memoir, and film (documentaries and dramas). We’ll read works by Marc Augé, Isaac Azimov, Katherine Boo, Italo Calvino, Mike Davis, Kenneth Jackson, N.K. Jemisin, Henri Lefebvre, China Miéville, Joseph Mitchell, Lewis Mumford, Annalee Newitz, and Kim Stanley Robinson, among others; films include “Metropolis,” “Wings of Desire,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Do the Right Thing,” “Bladerunner” (the first one), “Man with a Movie Camera,” “The Warriors,” “When the Levees Broke,” “Wall-E,” “Terminal,” “Central do Brasil,” and “Koyaanisqatsi.”
The semester project that anchors the course is to create a city. Students will draw from class material and outside research to craft their own metropolis, in any time and space, in the medium of their choice, and invite us into its singularity and its universal attributes, its scents and sounds, dangers and vibrance.
Writing a Life
W 2:00-4:45 pm
Instructor: Professor Jennifer Homans
A life is a history. It has a chronological order -- birth to death -- and it is marked by events and a social and historical context. But the inner life has a different and stranger history, difficult to access and convey. Sources can be slippery, even in a memoir: memory does not always serve, and people lie -- especially about themselves. In the case of an artist, the question is even more complicated since the relationship between life and art, or inner and outer worlds, is rarely direct or causal. A convincing life may not be a true life. The medium we use to tell a life imposes additional constraints, not to mention the entanglement of the biographer’s own life with her subject.
This course examines the question of how to tell a life through close readings of biography and memoir, film, art exhibitions, and curated events in music and dance (museum panels, for example, and the ‘retrospective’ choice and placement of art works, is a form of biography too). Students will read, but also begin to write a life. Not their own, but someone else’s.
War and Cinema
Intructor: Professor Ruth Ben-Ghait
This course investigates the relationship of cinema and war around the world from the early 20th century to the present. Film has been integral to shaping public consciousness of military events as they unfold and the memory of those events. The course looks at government propaganda, commercial entertainment films and independent documentaries. Topics to be addressed include representations of ally and enemy; the aestheticization of violence and war as spectacle; the role of sound; and who counts as a combatant. This is a class on the history of war, and the history of cinema; no prior knowledge of either field is assumed.
Stages of Afro-European Performance
Instructor: Professor Paul Edwards
This course explores the histories of Blackness in Europe through drama, theatre, and performance. How have Europeans conceptualized performance through ideas of race? How has putting the Black body on display reified white supremacy and colonial domination? And importantly, how has the stage created opportunities for Black counterinsurgencies against prevailing racial logics? The course examines the medical theatre of eugenics, the conceptions of safety and refuge for Black exiles from the Americas, and the colonial gaze on performing Black bodies. Drawing on the legacies of performance created between the metropole and its periphery, students will come to question many of the prevailing theorists of the Western canon, their discontents, and importantly the latest theorization and analyses emerging inside out outside the academy on the Global South, transatlantic studies, and the Black Atlantic. By the end of the course, students will come to their own theories of the complicated web of race and performance on the European continent.
Topics in Translation: Rethinking Translation in Theory
COLIT-GA 2875 | MEIS-GA 1770.004
M 2:00 - 4:45 pm
Instructor: Professor Hala Halim
Comparative Literature’s relationship with translation has long been problematic and productive in equal measure; for instance, the criterion of reading in the original collides with translation’s constitutive centrality to Weltliteratur, the latter itself perceived as central to the discipline. Recent decades, meanwhile, have shown Comparative Literature to be the cradle of Translation Studies particularly in the latter’s “cultural turn,” whether or not—this a subject of debate—Translation Studies is to become an independent discipline. The aims of this course are: 1) to provide a short overview of the evolution of Translation Studies, especially in its complex relation to Comparative Literature, 2) to introduce some key concepts and contemporary theoreticians of translation, including its interdisciplinary resonances and 3) to probe the ethical stakes of translation—not least solidarity—as well as its poetics in postcolonial, pandemic, or dystopic times.
Sound, Listening, and Racialization in Latin America and the Caribbean
W 4:00-6:00 pm
Instructor: Professor Dylon Robbins
This course will examine critical concepts related to sound studies relevant to Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Primary sources will be read and examined in Spanish and Portuguese, as well as critical interventions in the fields of sound studies, critical race theory, cultural history, and Latin American and Caribbean studies. We will ask questions of different written and audiovisual materials with an ear toward lived experience and historical phenomena with concern for issues of spectatorship and representation, scientific discourse and inquiry, as well as for sound recordings and recording devices as material objects that embody and mediate social relations. As the semester progresses, students will develop original research projects using archival materials and in conversation with the critical and methodological framework of the course with consideration for alternative yet academically rigorous formats according to their respective interests and skill sets.
Memory, Trauma and Performance
M 3:30-6:15 pm
Instructor: Professor Diana Taylor
This course explores the interconnections between trauma, memory, and performance in the Americas. Focusing primarily from the 1960s onward we focus on events throughout the Americas—Mexico 1968, Argentina’s ‘Dirty War,’ Chile under Pinochet, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, the U.S., Canada and other sites in which criminal politics have disappeared citizens and traumatized populations. Does each context have its own unique structure and idiom, or can we think about individual and collective trauma through a translocal, cosmopolitan lens?
Colonial Archives, Erotics, and Latin American and Latinx Performance
W 2-4:45 pm
Instructors: Professors Zeb Tortorici and Josie Saldaña
This graduate seminar examines a diverse range of colonial Latin American archival records for the traces, visualities, and absent-presences of the subaltern subjects and "desires," in terms of performance, curation, political praxis, and other forms of memory registered within the archive(s). We will delve into vexed erotic worlds of colonial Latin American (Inquisition records; Indigenous-language confessional manuals; criminal records, chronicles, early texts by Indigenous authors, and the like!) to think about how contemporary knowledge production on and about sex comes out of coloniality, connecting past to present and future in Latin American and Latinx worlds. The course will be oriented around primary research with original sources and interdisciplinary methods to advance students' individual projects at their various stages. The course places Nahuatl- and Quechua-language traces of "desire" and Spanish-language colonial writings in dialogue with the art, performance, and activism of artists such as Xandra Ibarra, Carlos Motta, and Pêdra Costa, among others.