Fall 2016

  • New Diasporas: Black British Literature

    This is a course on the dynamic body of works produced by migrants and descendants of migrants from Africa and the Caribbean in Britain since the 1950s. How has the migrant experience transformed the British cultural landscape after the end of an empire? What does it mean to be British and Black? How have migrant writers created new aesthetic forms to respond to the meaning of postcolonial Britishness? How does writing function as a mode of imagining alternative spaces of belonging?

  • The Literature of Environmental Disaster

    In the Anthropocene, humanity has become, for the first time, a geological agent transforming the conditions of life on earth, but this power itself gives rise to unprecedented challenges, from air pollution and floods to nuclear fallout and plagues, from agribusiness to petro-imperialism. Literature sheds a unique light on this global crisis, highlighting in each case the lived human experience, the distinct visions of nature, and the complex social conflicts involved.

  • Modernism and Modernity: Aesthetics of Surveillance

    Taking up Orwell's master trope of distopic futurity, this seminar in comparative media aesthetics and theory explores the paranoid logic of surveillance in its literary, architectural, artistic and, above all, technological (photographic, cinematic, digital) manifestations in order to unpack a category that is at once a political tactic, a narrative strategy, a theory of the subject, an architectural model, a mode of spectatorship and, quite possibly, the paradigmatic epistemology of the cinematic medium.

  • East Asian Humanities I: The Classical Foundations

    An introduction to the literature, art, religion and philosophy of China, Japan and Korea from antiquity to ca. 1400. Readings focus on primary texts in translation, complemented by museum visits and supplementary materials on the course website. The course aims to allow students to explore the unique aspects of East Asian civilizations and the connections between them through an interactive web-based platform, in which assignments are integrated with the texts and media on the website. No prior knowledge of working with digital media is required.

  • Humanistic Perspectives on Literature: Case Histories, Life Stories

    The seminar reflects on the role of exemplary stories - ones that seem to want to offer a lesson in the understanding of life and character, even of personhood as such - in fiction and non-fiction. What do authors intend when writing factual "case histories" or fictional variants on the genre? What are readers supposed to learn from such texts? What is at stake for the subjects of case histories? How do modalities of narration and literary figuration variously shape the presentation of life stories in autobiography, psychoanalysis, art criticism?

  • Cybernetics, Literary Ghosts and the Italian Way

    "Will we have a machine capable of replacing the poet and the author?" asked Italo Calvino in 1967, hopeful that computers would write "the literature." In 1962 poet Nanni Balestrini instructed a computer to write a poem eager to hear "the voice of the machine." Rough novels and 200,000 non-fiction books have already been written through algorithms and a literary novel is expected soon. Can we instruct a computer to write a novel? Should we use an algorithm or machine learning?

  • Displaying Latin America

    Exhibitions are central to the history of architecture. The modern architecture of Latin America made its international debut with several national pavilions in the 1939 New York World's Fair, the most famous being that of Brazil, as part of cultural and economic policies that addressed the need to be part of a modern world. This seminar studies multiple sites and strategies of displaying Latin America through architecture.

  • Introduction to Classical Arabic Literature

    An introduction to Classical Arabic Literature from pre-Islamic Arabian poetry to 17th century burlesque tales from Cairo, this course familiarizes you with the authors and texts that shaped the classical Arabic literary heritage. Poetry, tales, and fables will acquaint you with genres such as the qasida, ghazal, and the maqamat, providing a sense of literature at a time when Arabic was the language of writing from Spain to India. Keeping in mind our positionality in relation to the material, we will address questions of genre, periodization, translation, and aesthetic judgment.

  • Popular Trends in South Asian Literature

    This course introduces students to the richness and diversity of South Asian literature produced in vernacular languages and in English. Texts represent major themes and popular trends in the 20th and 21st century; and we discuss them in historical and literary contexts. Topics include cultural renaissance and nationalism; progressive- Marxist literary movement; modernist and experimental literature; feminist, dalit (oppressed castes), and diaspora literature; and various postmodern and contemporary literary trends.

  • East European Literature and Politics

    The seminar will analyze the way totalitarian oppression was represented and resisted in literature of the second part of East-Central European 20th century. We will look through the lens of literature at the main political and historical issues that afflicted Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and other countries of the region. We will study texts (essays, memoirs, novels, short stories, plays, and poems) which offered various ways to resist moral and political oppression.


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