Expanding Your Perspective: Spring 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.
GERM-GA1520 | COLIT-GA2453.002
T 2:00 – 4:45 pm, 4 credits
Instructor: Benjamin L. Robinson
This seminar is devoted to modern political theater in the double sense of the phrase. Theater has long provided a privileged medium for reflecting on politics, while political theory has in turn been informed by theatrical devices and models of representation. Reading plays and works of political thought in parallel, we will explore the transformation of the modern political scene from the French Revolution to the Anthropocene. Topics to be discussed include revolution and states of emergency, biopolitics and political nature, conceptions of agency (juridical, administrative, more than human), theatricality and performativity, representation vs participation, post-dramatic theater, the politics of refusal, in/visibilization, infrastructure.
Bracketed with discussions of Oedipus and Antigone, the reception of which so fundamentally informed modern political theater, the seminar focuses on a largely German archive of theatrical work – from Kleist and Schiller to Büchner and Brecht to Özdamar and Jelinek – that is political insofar as it challenges still prevalent views of the political scene. Readings from the history of political thought include Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Schmitt, Fanon, Luxemburg, Arendt, Foucault, Agamben, Butler, Honig, Stengers, and Latour. These will be supplemented with a selection of contemporary scholarship corresponding to student interest and the direction of discussion. We will consult texts in the original, but readings and discussion will be in English – no German language skills are required. For the final research papers, seminar participants will be invited to write on an aspect of political theater relevant to their own work and field of study.
Towards peace. Poetics.
F 2:00 – 4:45 pm, 2 credits
Meeting dates: March 24 – May 7 (7 sessions starting after spring break through the semester end)
Instructor: Marlene Streeruwitz, DAAD Chair for Contemporary Poetics at NYU
As literature is the true life science let's take a look what that contains in respect to peace and democracy. Bring your most beloved or most hated novel. Analyze it according to one of the canonical poetics since Aristotle and put this into perspective along with the critique of "Manual against War" which I wrote after February 21, 2022 when the Ukraine Conflict evolved into the Ukraine War. The aim is to find out what literature knows about peace and what our cultures know about peace.
We will attempt to determine the role of literature in war and peace in our cultures and move towards a basic understanding of peace as the requirement for all human rights and democracy. These tentative steps should lead us towards a poetics of peace at least in literature.
Archives, Monuments, and Cultural Memory
Instructor: Professor Paula McDowell
A practical and theoretical seminar whose goals, readings, and (to some extent) fieldwork will be shaped in part by participants’ own concerns. Our agenda will be two-pronged: on the one hand, we will examine issues in archive and museum studies of special interest to students of literature; on the other hand, we will consider literary texts as sites of remembering and the question of “monumental” works. Beginning with the monuments around us (or formerly around us, such as the Roosevelt Statue at the American Museum of Natural History), we will engage critically with our local landscape, learning to situate monuments in time and space and interrogating the purposes, uses, effects, and value (if any) of monuments. We will then turn to the history, philosophy, and uses of archives, balancing practical training and discussion of issues such as intellectual property, copyright, and censorship; preservation, conservation, and repatriation; and problems and possibilities of institutionalization and interdisciplinarity. What can a librarian access in a library catalogue (let alone in the library itself) that you will likely never see? What is the relationship between cataloguing and canonization? What is the relationship between an “author’s papers,” an “author’s library,” and an author’s “works”? How do we archive and catalogue oral texts? Along the way, we will read (and/or physically examine) a wide variety of texts concerned with cultural memory (such as elegies, ballads, or novels such as There There by Tommy Orange) and “monumental” texts concerned with cultural memory themselves (such as Diderot and D’Alembert’s 28 volume L’Encyclopédie, Edward Curtis’ 20 volume The North American Indian, T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, or Tony Morrison’s Beloved). To guide our studies and no doubt no doubt provoke thoughtful debate, we will also read NYU Emeritus Professor John Guillory's forthcoming book, Professing Criticism: Essays on the Organization of Literary Study (Chicago, Dec. 2022).
Dramas of the Black Diaspora
Instructor: Professor Honey Crawford
This course investigates pivotal works of theatre and performance grounded in global black experience. Spanning from the early 20th century to our current moment, we will study a range of texts, performances, and scholarship that encourage interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to thinking about black aesthetics, black culture, and black life. We will question the terms under which black drama is commonly framed and made legible while also digging into diasporic relationality and prevalent discourses around black theatre making. We will analyze literary works while also pushing against text-centrism with the inclusion of oral and corporeal traditions. This course does not attempt to cover a comprehensive survey of drama of the black diaspora. Invested in questions of how to define and where to locate the tenets of Black drama within a global context, we will rather ponder how black playwrights, theatre makers, practitioners, and theorists have distinctly confronted questions of marginality, genealogy and familial systems, and social mobilization with specific but not exclusive attention to the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the circum-Atlantic world.
Black Poetry and Social Movements
W 4:55-7:40 PM
Instructor: Professor Sonya Posmentier
This course is an immersion in selections of Black diasporic poetry and poetics from its 18th century beginnings to the present, which may include such writers as Phyllis Wheatley, F.E.W. Harper, Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Whitfield, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Etheridge Knight, Audre Lorde, Kamau Brathwaite, M. NourbeSe Philip. Not a comprehensive literary history of Black poetry, our semester will instead be organized around different movements and their implication for the development of Black poetry as an aesthetic and social form (primarily in the US, but with some attention to Canada, Britain, and the Anglophone Caribbean). How have poets responded formally and ideologically to the radical geographic, cultural and linguistic displacements of the transatlantic slave trade from the 18th century to the present? How have poems circulated (orally and in print) through more recent migrations and immigrations around and across the Atlantic; and been shaped by cultural and social movements, like the Black Arts Movement and Caribbean Artists Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, or the Black Lives Matter movement of today? In particular, the ideology and practice of historical and contemporary abolition shapes the reading list and will inform our reading methods. We will take special interest in the vitality of contemporary poetic communities and social movements, and I hope we will find occasions to attend readings, performances, protests and organizing meetings, and to welcome visitors.
Archival Theory through Queer/Colonial/State Archives
Instructor: Zeb Tortorici
With an eye toward expanding the doctoral dissertation corpus of primary texts, this course interrogates the notion of the “archive” that has been radically opened up by activists, archivists, and scholars in recent decades. This includes, among other things, grassroots activism, radical historiographies, embodied methodologies, oral histories, cultural ephemera, film and photography, pornography, art and performance. As we explore the ways in which archives are often symbolic colonizing and nationalist projects, we will also think about how archives and documentary collections become sites of activism. We will also analyze colonial archives, alternative literacies, digital archives and processes of digitization, access to archives, embodied research methodologies, the body as archive, LGBT/queer archives, and other public memory projects. How do some archival narratives privilege models of historical subject recovery, such that they purport to recuperate (and define) particular
voices and subjectivities of the past? How do such archival engagements reassert and/or rupture traditional notions of archival authority? How are libraries, archives, and other (digital) repositories mediated spaces, and how do documented voices undergo several stages of transmission and filtering? What role might archival absence play in our scholarship? Enrolled graduate students will engage with archival records (digitally, materially, in person, etc.) in order to develop a final paper/project that best advances their own long-term research goals.
Instructor: Jill Lane
This seminar studies theater and performance in the colonial Americas, across the long period of European conquest and colonization of the region, including Mesoamerica, the Andes, the transimperial Caribbean (including colonial St. Domingue, Jamaica, and Cuba), and some comparative engagement with territories of what is today the United States (New Orleans, the southwestern borderlands) and with the colonial Philippines. We consider different approaches to the geopolitical imaginaries this period, including the dense Atlantic formation forged through the trade in enslaved people, and ask how performance helped to instantiate or contest those imaginaries. We consider the uses of spectacle, performance, and theater in the forceful imperative of religious conversion, as well as the complex dynamics of cultural and linguistic translation (and mis-translation), improvisation, and invention that such practices entailed. We consider a continuum of shared iconography across visual and performance cultures in the colonial baroque. Finally, we engage a comparative approach to 18th and 19th century racial impersonation by considering practices of redface, blackface, and yellowface in various sites and their valenced participation in the development of local, creolized discourses of anticolonialism and early national sentiment. Students will be asked to conduct original research in this area to share with the seminar.
Prácticas Feministas: Tiempos y Territorios de la Revuelta
SPAN-GA 2967.002 -TAUGHT IN SPANISH
Instructor: Verónica Gago
La crítica argentina Josefina Ludmer nos enseñó un arte de la especulación. Especular, dice ella, es dar una sintaxis a ideas de otrxs desde un territorio en que las usamos. Por lo tanto especular es también una práctica material de uso. Especular, como remite la palabra original, tiene que ver con las imágenes que juegan a espejarse pero es además el saber sobre el porvenir que reclaman las finanzas. La especulación es un modo de manejo del tiempo, de fabular sus posibilidades, de abrirlo al acontecimiento pero también de sacarle provecho, de hacerlo rendir. Y simultáneamente es poner a cuenta, en contabilidad futura, a los territorios, conectando de un modo particular lo abstracto y lo concreto.
Las prácticas feministas contemporáneas pueden leerse desde los territorios que disputan. Es allí donde se sitúan para inventar léxicos políticos y producir organización, para alterar sensibilidades y reclamar recursos. Esos territorios desprenden al mismo tiempo vectores de desestabilización de duraciones variables. El arraigo de los feminismos, la reinvención comunitaria a la que dan lugar, la imaginación geográfica que alimentan son parte de una cartografía que está en plena expansión.
En este seminario quisiera abordar distintos territorios para hacerlos funcionar como locaciones concretas donde las prácticas feministas despliegan su versatilidad, ponen en juego estrategias y apuestan a la transformación radical. Son territorios, entiendo, que tienen elementos en común: en ellos se escala la conflictividad, se capilariza la masividad y se materializan temporalidades contenciosas. Territorios del trabajo, del saber, del despojo y de la organización serán las zonas para mapear y ubicar prácticas que están siendo clave en el movimiento feminista internacionalista de la última década.
El seminario se organizará en torno a los siguientes ejes:
Territorios del trabajo
1. Reproducción social y neoliberalismo: un antagonismo al ras de la vida cotidiana.
2. La huelga feminista: como práctica, como marco de inteligibilidad de la precariedad, como horizonte de sindicalismo feminista.
Territorios del saber
3. Saber como ritmo colectivo: ¿qué saberes políticos se están movilizando para la revuelta?
4. Disputas metodológicas y epistémicas.
Territorios del despojo
5. Cuerpos-territorios: extractivismo y explotación.
6. Lo doméstico en disputa: la casa como laboratorio.
Territorios de la organización
7. Asambleas: inteligencia colectiva y evaluación situada
8. ¿Qué significa acuerpar y coordinarse entre luchas?
Topics in French Culture and Society: The French Empire and Its Public Resonances Today.
IFST-GA 2412 | HIST-GA 1210
Instructors: Taught in English by Edward Berenson, Professor of History and French Studies, and Elisabeth Fink, historian and editor, French Politics, Culture and Society.
This course examines the history of French colonialism from the French Revolution to the end of the Algerian War and its legacies. It considers the effects of imperialism and colonialism and on both the colonies itself and mainland France. We will examine slavery and its abolition, colonial conquest and violence, colonialism and the economy, the culture of colonialism, citizenship and subjecthood, war and empire, and the meaning of decolonization. In addition, we will consider the role of historians and their scholarship in public debates over the memory of colonization and decolonization.
*Tentative second session. We encourage students to prioritize enrolling in section 1.
Approaches to Public History
Instructor: Ellen Noonan
This course explores how public historians can build bridges between the work of academic historians and the interests of diverse public audiences. Through readings, media analysis, visits by working public historians, and project work, you will explore intellectual, political, and pragmatic issues in public history. A semester-long project will require you to work collaboratively to conceptualize a public history project and write a complete funding proposal for it.
Writing a Life
Instructor: 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.
Moments of Metamorphosis: Dance, Art, and the Body
HIST-GA 1002 | FINH-GA 3036.007
Instructor: Jennifer Homans
There are moments in history when art and life seem to change dramatically and all at once. This seminar explores the art of European dance -- in art and in performance -- from the baroque to contemporary eras. It focuses on several key moments when the movement, representation, and conceptualization of the human body is profoundly transformed in light of social and political change as well as scientific and philosophical developments. Topics to be discussed include the relationship of dance to absolutist and totalitarian regimes; colonialism and constructions of race; war, revolution and nationalism; and new ideas of gender and the self. We will also discuss the idea of metamorphosis as an artistic and historical concept. Where possible, we will visit museums and attend performances, in addition to inviting scholars and artists to present their work. Students will produce a 15-20 pp. research paper or a creative project. Reading knowledge of French is recommended but not required.
Life & Debt
Instructors: Professor Caitlin Zaloom & Professor Sophie Gonick
Debt is a pervasive facet of contemporary life. From medical bills and college tuition to municipal coffers and central banks, it moves across scales and unites disparate sites, actors, and institutions. It also produces new subjectivities and induces political organizing. In this class, we ask: how does debt affect our social, cultural, and political worlds? How can it be both a tool for violence and an opportunity for collective action? We examine an array of conditions of indebtedness, drawing on scholarship from anthropology, history, feminist geography, carceral studies, critical urban studies, and political economy. We will consider theories of debt and indebtedness, case studies drawn from across the Global North and South, and emergent political projects that reject and rework indebted logics. Course readings will explore debt’s effects on the body, the household, the neighborhood, the city, and the polity, in addition to its transnational qualities, in order to understand life under the hegemony of debt.
Comparative Colonialisms: Latin America and the United States
Instructor: Professor Maria Josefina Saldaña-Portillo
Comparative study of Spanish and British colonialism; examines forms of governmentality implanted by both in Latin America, U.S. & Canada, and legacies thereof. Examines how colonialism produced distinct racial formations in Hispanophone and Anglophone America, focused primarily on production of Indigenous Afromestizo identities. Colonial models race were accomplished through disciplining of gender and sexuality, thus course engages active entwining of race and sex. Purpose of comparison is to assist in addressing the different modes of political subjectivity that emerged as a consequence of distinct legacies of racial formation. We critically evaluate limits of comparativist methodology, and look for modes that move us beyond comparison. How is it that Indigenous identity came to organize itself around the principle of autonomy in Latin American and around the principle of sovereignty in the United States? How did different models of enslavement in the Americans produce different modes of Black and Afromestizo enfranchisement in their aftermath? How is whiteness lived in Latin American and the U.S.? What are the geographical limits of the "white settler colonialism" model in the Americas? In short, how does racial citizenship differ in the U.S. and Latin America? We examine colonial documents coupled with contemporary analysis of colonialism. Twin goals: to gain a better understanding of the contemporal, yet distinct racial geographies in the Americas, and, as scholars of race formation, to avoid universalizing one particular experience to all of the Americas.
African American Language: Politics and Identity
Instructor: Professor Renée Blake
Course description to follow.
T 2PM- 4:45PM
Instructor: Profesor Elayne Oliphant
We tend to think of the secular as an absence of sorts: the neutral emptiness that remains once religion is removed. In this course, we will explore how the secular is imagined, represented, and produced. Like religion, the secular requires and creates particular images, sensibilities, regulations, practices, and beliefs. Like religion, it also operates through the authorization of certain forms of knowledge and the refusal of other actions and ideas as impossible. In everyday language, “secular” can imply a host of meanings, including atheist, profane, rational, or modern. How do these assumptions limit the agents, practices, and connections deemed significant or plausible? Together, we will take up the task of articulating what it means to live in a “secular age”—a framework which, although often invisible or implicit, establishes and limits much of what we experience, expect, and encounter in our daily lives.
T 2PM- 4:45 PM
Instructor: Ismail Fajrie Alatas
This course is an introduction to historical and anthropological approaches to the study of Islam as it is lived out in the daily lives of Muslims. It is concerned with possible methodologies of studying the observable phenomena of Islam as publicly practiced in different social and historical contexts. We examine how scholars, leaders, and ordinary Muslims negotiate varieties of religious experience in their everyday lives. The first part of the course surveys several dominant historical and anthropological approaches to Islam and the debates they entail. In the second part of the course, we read historical and ethnographic monographs from different historical periods and parts of the Muslim world to examine how Islam become sociologically and politically manifested in the lived experience of its adherents, whether through rituals and knowledge transmissions or social conflicts and contestations. In the process of examining these cases, we raise questions about the difficulties involved in studying people’s most strongly held values and beliefs. In doing so, we consider how we can seriously think about “Islam” not only as a historically-situated religion or a moral tradition, but also as an object of academic study. Focal points of the seminar will include exploring the relationship between (1) Islam, landscape, and mobility; (2) Islam, ritual, and materiality; (3) Islamic religious subjectivity and agency; (4) Islam and political economy; (5) Islam and the body.
Islam and Modernity: Re-thinking Tradition, Cosmopolitanism, and Democracy
W 4:55PM- 7:40PM
Instructor: Ali Mirsepassi
This graduate seminar will focus upon the broad question of how societies, predominantly influenced by Islamic traditions, might find a home in the modern world on their own terms. We will discuss the possibility of a critical re-thinking of certain modern conventional modes of thinking about modernity, secularism, and democracy. The class will examine notions of citizenship, religion, and globalization in societies that have been historically influenced by Islamic tradition and institutions. This will be done by way of interrogating the works of contemporary scholars of Islamic modernity, including Mohammed Arkoun, Abdullahi An-Na'im, Fatima Mernissi, Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood, and Aziz Al-Azmeh. We will explore questions that cut across the disciplines of history, anthropology, sociology, and law.