Past Courses – (TEST)
Poets, Rebels, Exiles examines the successive generations of the most provocative and influential Russian and Russian Jewish writers and artists who brought the cataclysm of the Soviet and post-Soviet century to North America. From Joseph Brodsky—the bad boy bard of Soviet Russia and a protégé of Anna Akhmatova, who served 18 months of hard labor near the North Pole for social parasitism before being exiled—to the most recent artistic descendants, this course will interrogate diaspora, memory, and nostalgia in the cultural production of immigrants and exiles.
How is ideology transmitted as performance? This course explores that question by examining a series of performances and performance genres developed and disseminated in mid-twentieth-century Europe, and by contextualizing them within a number of theoretical perspectives. The main focus of the seminar is on the 1930s and 1940s in both the Third Reich and the Eastern Bloc. The seminar will take in a wide range of “performances,” including both those marked as aesthetic (theatre, film, art exhibitions), as well as considering the politically motivated aesthetics of trials, political rallies, the performance of race and of progress, and of course the cult of staging political leaders like Hitler and Stalin as well. In the course of the semester, students will read widely in the literature of political and performance theory, as well as engaging with a range of primary materials: films, documentaries, plays, newsreels, mass spectacles, dance, etc.
The course will discuss how filmmaking has been used as an instrument of power and imperial domination in the Soviet Union as well as on post-Soviet space since 1991. A body of selected films by Soviet and post-Soviet directors which exemplify the function of filmmaking as a tool of appropriation of the colonized, their cultural and political subordination by the Soviet center will be examined in terms of postcolonial theories. The course will focus both on Russian cinema and often overlooked work of Ukrainian, Georgian, Belarusian, Armenian, etc. national film schools and how they participated in the communist project of fostering a «new historic community of the Soviet people» as well as resisted it by generating, in hidden and, since 1991, overt and increasingly assertive ways their own counter-narratives. Close attention will be paid to the new Russian film as it re-invents itself within the post-Soviet imperial momentum projected on the former Soviet colonies.
This course will examine the major debate, contested genealogies, epistemic and political interventions, and possible futures of the body of writing that has come to be known as postcolonial theory, in relation to histories and practices of decolonization. We will examine the relationships between postcolonial theory and other theoretical formations, including poststructuralism, feminism, environmentalism, Marxism, Third Worldism, and the decolonial. We will also consider what counts as “theory” in postcolonial theory: in what ways have novels, memoirs, or revolutionary manifestos, for example, offered seminal, generalizable statements about the colonial and postcolonial condition? How can we understand the relationship between the rise of postcolonial studies in the United States and the role of the U.S. in the post-Cold War era? How do postcolonial theory and its insights about European imperialism contribute to analyses of mid-twentieth century decolonization, contemporary globalization, and “decolonial” discourse in the present?
This mini seminar is an introduction to psychoanalytic theories of group emotional adaptations and their representations as applied to the study of social, cultural and historical phenomena. The role of group emotional responses and adaptational processes will be described. The phenomenon of symbolic alterations of reality will be discussed. The inclusion of group emotional adaptations will make for a more comprehensive ethnology and historiography.
Performance has been a key term in many different fields from gender studies (Butler’s concept of performativity) to sociology (Goffman’s “presentation of self”) to anthropology (Turner’s anthropology of performance) and of course theater and art. This course is an advanced survey of interdisciplinary formulations of performance studies. Students will examine a broad range of performances on and off the stage, live and recorded, including performance art, storytelling, celebrations, political speeches, concerts, protests, street happenings, and everyday encounters. We will read key texts in the field and apply them to various modes of performance and sites where we observe and participate in performance. Through the readings, discussions, and assignments, you will develop critical analytical skills with which to consider art and performance and with particular attention to how sex, gender, race, class, sexuality, sexual orientation, and other systems of power shape people’s everyday lives.
This syllabus is designed as a counterweight to mitigate the marginalization of Science Fiction (and genre literature in general) not only within the Slavic department’s course offerings, but throughout the academy at large. I have conceived this course in response to the prevailing pedagogical deference to a canon that excludes most “mass market” cultural production. In recent decades, what has historically been critically dismissed as a lowbrow literary form has enjoyed some spirited rehabilitation in critical circles. This shift owes much credit to theorists such as Darko Suvin, Fredric Jameson and Donna Haraway. It also reflects contemporary culture’s intensifying urgency for a critical apparatus adequate to tackle dilemmas of technology as a force that has profoundly infiltrated social forms. In my experience, this shift in popular consciousness has not yet been reflected in tangible departmental course offerings.
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.
This seminar is a close encounter with the towering figure of Persian mystical poet Maulana Jalal al-Din Rumi and his monumental masterpiece, The Masnavi. Rumi (1207-1273) is a seminal figure in Persian poetry and Islamic mysticism. His seminal chef-d’oeuvre Masnavi is the centerpiece of his poetic legacy. He has been widely read and deeply loved by generations of Muslim and non-Muslim readers. His recent popularity in North America amounts to a renaissance of his poetry in a fertile ground. The Masnavi (1258-1273) consists of six books of poetry, 25000 verses or 5000 lines. It is one of the most significant mystical dramas performed in Persian poetry. A close reading of this classical text is a singular inroad into the variegated landscape of Persian poetry and Islamic mysticism. The course consists of regular readings of the original Persian text alongside its most recent English translation. We will then locate the Masnavi within the larger historical and literary context of its time and provenance.