Past Courses – (TEST)
Some knowledge of critical theory is recommended as a prerequisite. Professor Gayatri Spivak requests a ten-minute informal interview for those who are interested in taking her spring seminar. To that end, please email her assistant, Kristen, at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.
In the contemporary world, it has become very important for us to be able to distinguish between “global” and “universal.” This course will try to confront this problem through cartography, fiction, film, and political writing.
One of my interests for the last decade or so has been to look at the word “Development.” This has led me to the word “Research,” in what is universally referred to as “R&D,” that is to say “Research and Development” – to people as unlike us as possible and connect to the fact that democracy as bodycount majority requires the presence of a democratic society. I prefer “general to “universal.” All human social groups, including children as a separate social group, think that something resembling the sphere of life they consider “experience” applies to the generality of humankind: however vaguely defined or not defined at all. We have to work with this if we want to consider what to do with universals, rather than simply with the imposition of Eurocentric universals globally. If tracking the universalizable without universalizing is an approach, who can collectively teach or learn this approach? We require uniformity for the functioning of democratic structures and ethical obligations. Statistics are not unnecessary for the operation of social justice.
In this context, we have to think how the everyday “supplements” these requirements. This will oblige us to ask the question: who is the generalized subject or “I” of our classroom? I will consider the subaltern, those who are being globally denied the right to intellectual labor, today and for millennia, and what our obligation is when we generalize from our own limited context. Disability as part of the definition of the democratic subject, and the fact that the presence continually vanishes will be issues in our class.
Confession is everywhere today. From the pages of the NY Times, to TV shows and magazines, the value that our culture places on the practice of baring one’s sins, shame and desire in public seems limitless. But what is confession? What does it mean to ‘confess’ in a secular context, and why does confessional narrative have such aesthetic power over us? In this course, we trace the history of secular confession as a literary genre from Rousseau to today, and explore its logic and aesthetics through novels, philosophy and psychoanalysis. We also ask how confessional discourse and its peculiar relation to the concept of ‘truth’ can inform our understanding of the present historical and political moment. Readings from Rousseau, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Svevo, Mishima, Duras, Szabó, Coetzee, Freud, Foucault. No pre-requisites.
Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Compares the diverse images of Europe in 20th-century literature, with an emphasis on the forces of integration and division that shape cultural identity in the areas of travel writings and transculturation/cosmopolitanism; mnemonic narratives and constructions of the past; borderland stories and the cultural politics of translation. Readings include M. Kundera, S. Rushdie, H. Boell, C. Toibin and others.
How did Renaissance writers imagine Eros? What obstacles does he meet? How does he relate to other kinds of love? To loss and to wit? Readings include Plato, Ovid, and Petrarch for background, then Stampa, Ariosto, Rabelais, Labé, Marguerite de Navarre, Ronsard, Rabelais, Wyatt, Marlowe, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, and Donne.
(Seminar). Major works of rhetorical theory from Greek and Roman antiquity to early modern Europe with a focus on the continuities and changes and with special attention to the forensic elements of both their inventional and stylistic strategies.
Instructor: Anna M Katsnelson
In recent decades, Russian immigrant identity has changed. Immigrants and children of immigrants are much more involved with their home country. Fiction by Russian-speaking writers shows and also establishes relationship to geographies of their birth, usually Soviet successor nations such as Russia. The focus of this class is an analysis of works by Russian-speaking writers, filmmakers, and artists who create and also trace deepening forms of dialogue between the former Soviet Republics and North America.
This course examines the way particular spaces – cultural, urban, literary – serve as sites for the production and reproduction of cultural and political imaginaries. It places particular emphasis on the themes of the polis, the city, and the nation-state as well as on spatial representations of and responses to notions of the Hellenic across time. Students will consider a wide range of texts as spaces – complex sites constituted and complicated by a multiplicity of languages – and ask: How central is the classical past in Western imagination? How have great metropolises such as Paris, Istanbul, and New York fashioned themselves in response to the allure of the classical and the advent of modern Greece?
The notion of modernity in the West implies a distinctive interpretation of temporality and subjectivity, which grows out of theological and philosophical traditions. Lutheran Protestantism, as developed by Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger, created the conditions for both the construction and the deconstruction of modernism and its extension in postmodernism. The course will examine these two trajectories by considering their contrasting interpretations of the relationship of human selfhood to time and death. On the one hand, the death of God leads to a radical immanence in which human subjectivity either is absolutized as the will to power or mastery that dominates or negates all difference and otherness, or is repressed by universal structures and infrastructues for which individual subjects are unknowing and unwitting vehicles. On the other hand, human subjectivity appears to be finite because its irreducible singularity is always given by an other that can be neither known nor controlled. The course will conclude by considering the alternative psychological, political, and ethical implications of these two contrasting positions.
This course will investigate the distressing persistence of the phenomenon of torture from two perspectives. The first is a critical interrogation of the myth that torture is an effective means of gathering accurate information and the role that both the practice and myth of torture plays in the psychology and implementation of regimes of power, including the functional means by which it defines the political “other” as foreign, inferior, and, ultimately, what philosopher Judith Butler calls “ungrievable.” The second is the means by which the “political imaginary” associated with torture (both produced by and effective in its justification) has impacted, or found its trace within, aesthetic practice: from the history painting-sized tableaus of South American death squads by Leon Golub, to the Torture of Women series of images by Nancy Spero, to the depictions of Vietnam Era atrocities by Carolee Schneemann, to potential resonances of bodily abuse in the performance art of Gina Pane, Marina Abramovic, or Chris Burden, to the investigative practices of contemporary artist Trevor Paglan, and more. How might the imaginary of a “body in pain” (to borrow the title of literary theorist Elaine Scarry’s book) impact—whether directly or indirectly—the aesthetic engagement with, and depiction of, the body in other places, contexts, and social milieus? In order to prepare for research into this question, the course will examine a number of theoretical engagements with issues of power, discipline, and control; the ethics of describing or depicting bodily pain, torture, and death; and the notions of “bare” or “ungrievable” life. By nature of the topic, a number of the materials within this course will be unpleasant and potentially disturbing, and another issue of investigation will concern how to practice and produce ethical and sufficiently respectful academic discussions of issues that so adversely impact human lives.