Past Courses – (TEST)
This course explores the formation of Russian national and imperial identity through ideologies of geography, focusing on a series of historical engagements with the concept of “Asia.” How has the Mongol conquest shaped a sense of Russian identity as something destinct from Europe? How has Russian culture participated in Orientalist portrayals of conquered Asian lands, while simultaneously being Orientalized by Europe and, indeed, Orientalizing itself? How do concepts of Eurasianism and socialist internationalism, both arising in the ealry 20th century, seek to redraw the geography of Russia’s relations with East and West? We will explore these questions through a range of materials, including: literary texts by Russian and non-Russian writers (Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Solovyov, Bely, Blok, Pilnyak, Khlebnikov, Planotov, Xiao Hong, Kurban Said, Aitimatov, Iskander, Bordsky); films (Eisenstein, Tarkovsky, Kalatozov, Paradjanov, Mikhalkov); music and dance (the Ballets Russes); visual art (Vereshchagin, Roerich); and theoretical and secondary readings by Chaadaev, Said, Bassin, Trubetskoy, Leontievm, Lenin, and others.
This seminar explores literary realism in modern China by asking how literary form presupposes a theory of life and why new modes of realism in modern fiction and pictorial representation should be reevaluated in light of the contemporaneous developments in biological sicence and philosophical inquiry.
Required of all comparative literature and society majors. Intensive research in selected areas of comparative literature and society. Topic for 2015: TBA
This course explores the relationship between Spanish American literature and media by focusing on five forms of media: gramophone, radio, photography, film, internet. We will discuss how these different media have opened up questions about the role of visual and aural perception, the relation between high culture and mass culture, authenticity and authorship, and the place of literature in Latin America today.
As the great imperial powers of Britain, France, and Belgium, among others, ceded self-rule to the colonies they once controlled, formerly colonized subjects engaged in passionate discussion about the shape of their new nations, in essays, fiction, poetry, and theatre. Despite the common goal of independence, the heated debates showed that the postcolonial future was still up for grabs, as the boundary lines between and within nations were once again redrawn. Even such cherished notions as nationalism were disputed, and thinkers like the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore sounded the alarm about the pitfalls of narrow ethnocentric thinking. Their call for a philosophy of internationalism went against the grain of ethnic and racial particularism, which had begun to take on the character of national myth. The conflict of perspectives showed how deep were the divisions among the various groups vying to define the goals of the postcolonial nation, even as they all sought common cause in liberation from colonial rule. Nowhere was this truer than in India. The land that the British rulers viewed as a test case for the implementation of new social philosophies took it upon itself to probe their implications for the future citizenry of a free, democratic republic. We will read works by Indian writers responding to decolonization and, later, globalization as an invitation to rethink the shape of their societies. Ostensibly a gesture of resistance against imperial control, anti-colonialism also sparked debates about gender relations, the place of minorities in the nation, religious difference and secularism, internationalism and models of world unity, among other issues. With the help of literary works and historical accounts, this course will explore the challenges of imagining a post-imperial society in a globalized era without reproducing the structures and subjectivities of the colonial state. Readings will include Rabindranath Tagore, The Home and the World; Tagore, Nationalism; M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj; B.R. Ambedkar, “Gandhism”; Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable; “Stories of the Partition of India and Pakistan”; Bapsi Sidhwa, Ice Candy Man; Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines; Arundhati Roy, God of Small Things; Arvind Adiga, The White Tiger. Course requirements: One oral presentation; two short papers, each 4-5 pages (double-spaced); and a final paper, 7-10 pages (double-spaced)
The phrase “the art of the novel,” a reminder that the ascension of the genre to the status of “high art” rather than merely popular entertainment is still relatively recent, comes from Henry James, himself both a novelist and an influential critic of the novel. The premise of this co-taught seminar is that it is intellectually productive to bring together the perspectives of the novelist and the critic, looking both at their differences and at their common questions and concerns. In addition to fiction and criticism by Orhan Pamuk, students will read novels by Stendhal, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy.
This seminar is an inquiry into the close relations among the history of the book, the history of reading and the discussion about the disciplines. This is not to say that there is a chain of causality among these three disparate elements. Rather, they are part of an entwined series of discussions surrounding material, intellectual, and cognitive questions that set in motion changes in the technologies of the book, in the practices of reading, and in the ways disciplines are devised within and without the academic world.
Books transmit content –but not only. Furthermore, they have always been epistemological devices –that is, artifacts that suggest ways to know things (skills, disciplines, etc.). They have always constituted material concepts with which to respond to complex questions about cognition, study, dissemination of knowledge, interaction, dialogue, debate, indexing, order, search and research –at local and global levels, among many different graphic and alphabetic traditions. Book is a very large denomination that includes many different techniques ranging from unique handwritten objects to manually, mechanically, or digitally reproduced ones. The history of the book encompasses the study of the radical variety of researches devised to achieve material ways to produce and disseminate knowledge that are not only verbal, but also multimedia: the history of the book is, as well, the history of the combination and interplay, on the same portable and archivable object, of text, images, music, pieces of machinery (vovelles), or even the sacred, the talismanic, and the totemic.
This short course is devoted to the study of a crucial aspect of the catastrophe (economic, social and cultural) of Europe in the years comprised between World War One and World War Two. We will analyze this catastrophe as an aspect of the collapse of the 19th century European order and its foundations: free market, diplomatic relations among nation-states, representative government, and liberal rights. This complex order survived until 1929, when the first of the above foundations (the myth of a self-regulated market) failed. It failed when the European elites chose to defend the market and stabilize the economy by resorting to mighty executives and Fascist regimes. Anti-Semitism should be understood within this context: the European nations depicted themselves as victims of the financial plot orchestrated by the Jews. This representation was a change of fundamental importance in the history of European cultures, a morphological transformation of the millenarian anti-Jewish Christian tradition into a new anti-Semitism that grew as hostility to the legal emancipation of the Jews, which had started in late 18^th century. Emancipation was won in 1791 for the first time, following the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in revolutionary France. After a few years, the anti-Semitic propaganda opposed emancipation and launched a frontal attack against citizenship rights and their beneficiaries, who were held responsible for the decline of the European civilization: this was the genesis of the self-representation of the European nations in the 20th century as victims of the financial power of the emancipated Jews, and the theme that this course will study. This historical and cultural analysis is timely and can help us to cast some light on the political mutation that the actual financial crisis is impressing on the democratic order that emerged in Europe after the defeat of the anti-Semitic regimes in World War Two.
This course seeks to understand how the Environment came to stand as a dominant paradigm for comprehending economic and social interactions in the latter half of the twentieth century. Proposing that by the 1960’s the Environment had subsumed antecedent world-models such as “Universal History”, this course traces an arc from early-modern European natural history to the late-twentieth-century discourse on sustainability, examining how post-Enlightenment scientific and humanist discourses were absorbed within and transformed by the construct of the Environment. For example, we will see how the terms and techniques for analyzing and managing “Nature” in early-modern Europe shifted almost seamlessly by the mid-twentieth century into terms and techniques for organizing “the Environment” via developments in evolutionary science and eugenics, psychoanalysis, computer modeling, and new forms of global governance. Because the Environment has been posited as an empirically-knowable system that simultaneously transcends any ontological category, we will question methods by which to approach such a discursive-material object, looking at how different disciplines have attempted to measure, understand, and delimit the Environment: e.g., as a psychological, semiotic, biological, cultural, or technological entity. Within the post-World War II decades, we will pay particular attention to how architects, landscape architects, planners, and technological designers contributed to the Environment’s conceptual formation. Readings for most weeks include one primary text supplemented by secondary sources. This course is intended to expand students’ historical and critical perspectives on an issue of pressing contemporary importance. Students will also be encouraged to acquire new representational and rhetorical skills, such as using Graphic Information Systems (an introductory tutorial will be given during the first class session) and collaborating on a group exhibition through which they will collaboratively produce a taxonomic structure for presenting their work and a strategy of visual and textual material. The course is open to all advanced undergraduates and should be of especial interest to students of history, anthropology, art history, engineering, and the biological sciences.