Spring 2019

  • Topics in the History of Modern Syria: Ba`thist Syria - Film, Literature, Power

    This seminar explores cultural production in Ba`thist Syria (1963 - present) - its conditions of creation, circulation, and reception - within a broad historical and theoretical framework. The course aims to contextualize and comment upon ongoing discussions surrounding modern and contemporary Syria through an introduction to historical debates in the scholarly literature on politics, aesthetics, and culture.
  • Publishing Articles in Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

    In this interdisciplinary class, students of race as well as gender, sexuality, disability, etc. read deeply and broadly in academic journals as a way of learning the debates in their fields and placing their scholarship in relationship to them. Students report each week on the trends in the last five years of any journal of their choice, writing up the articles' arguments and debates, while also revising a paper in relationship to those debates and preparing it for publication.
  • Hope: A History

    This interdisciplinary course combines literary, philosophical and theological analysis to investigate hope and how its formulations in the West have evolved over time, from Greco-Roman antiquity to the present. When is hope a virtue or positive aspect of agency, and when is it an illusion or vice? What are the relations of personal to national, political, and religious hopes?
  • Corruption, Conversion, Change: Philosophies and Fictions of Transformation

    In the age of self-help books and memoirs, one wonders, can we really change? Can writing offer us the hope of transformation? Of conversion? How do you publish the "self"? Can literary genres serve as models for how to live one's life? We will confront such questions through the fictions and philosophies of the past; through historical figures such as Socrates and St. Augustine and the fictive characters of drama and the novel.
  • Topics in the Hellenic Tradition: Hellenisms

    Since the 18th century, intellectuals and poets have turned to Greece in a movement which may be seen as idealizing or decadent, nostalgic or radical. What defines a particular style as Greek or Hellenizing and what motivates its adoption? To what extent is Hellenism also a reflection on a culture's relationship to itself? How is Hellenism articulated in and through the different arts, and is an aesthetic Hellenism always also a political Hellenism?
  • Introduction to Jewish Cultures

    This course explores the relationship between culture, history, religion, and ethics in global Jewish experience from the Bible to the present. Following representations of themes such as sexuality, suffering, and mysticism, we'll debate the boundaries between religion and culture and see how ethical questions play out in cultural forms. How does Jewish law, ritual, and custom inform Jewish culture, and how does culture sometimes push back against religious norms?
  • Theory and Methods of Comparative Literature: Critical and Literary Theory

    A course in the foundational texts of contemporary critical theory. The relationships among literature, philosophy, aesthetics, and linguistics will be investigated as they come to the fore in the intellectual development of the following, among others: modern philology, New Criticism, hermeneutics, structuralism, speech act theory, Marxist and cultural criticism, historical-epistemological aesthetics, rhetorical criticism, and poststructuralism.
  • Who Owns This Sentence? Copyright Culture from the Romantic Era to the Age of the Internet

    Literature, art, computer code, social media, news, music and video games--copyright underpins almost everything we read or hear. But it is not an old idea. Why was it invented? For whose benefit? What is a "work" or an "author"? Is copyright still relevant, or is a new framework needed? From Balzac and Dickens to Facebook, from Bizet to Broadway musicals, this new course invites students to think about the philosophical and cultural issues raised by copyright in the past and present--and for the future.
  • Archive Writing

    Contemporary changes in modes of creating, presenting, and preserving knowledge have also fostered a scholarly and artistic fascination with old media, book history, archives, manuscripts, etc. This course explores the practical and ethical issues involved in archival work, and how modern and contemporary poets have used archival research to fuel historically- and politically-minded interventions.
  • Contemporary Latin America in Literature and Visual Arts

    This course is an introduction to contemporary Latin American and Caribbean literature and visual arts. Placing special emphasis on the changing relationships between aesthetics and politics, it analyzes different genres and artistic styles that emerge with new forms of imagining the relations between culture and politics, from the 1960s to the present.


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