Spring 2019

  • Topics in the History of Opera: Verdi and Shakespeare

    Over the course of his lengthy career, Giuseppe Verdi composed three operas based on plays by William Shakespeare. His operatic treatment of Macbeth (1847) was composed when Verdi was only 33-years old; he would wait another forty years before returning to Shakespeare for his two final (and arguably greatest) operas: Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1891). This seminar focuses on a close reading and analysis of these three operas; literary sources, ottocento operatic conventions, performance traditions, representations of race and gender, genre, etc.
  • South Asian American Literature and Film

    This course examines literature and film by South Asians in North America. Students will gain perspective on the experiences of immigration and diaspora through the themes of identity, memory, solidarity, and resistance. From early Sikh migration to the American West Coast, to Muslim identity in a post 9/11 world, how can South Asian American stories be read as symbolic of the American experience of gender, class, religion, and ethnicity more broadly? Students will hone their skills in reading primary materials, analyzing them within context, writing persuasively, and speaking clearly.
  • Roma (Gypsies) in Eastern Europe: The Dynamics of Culture

    "Roma (Gypsies) in Eastern Europe" treats Romani history, cultural identity, folklore, music, religion, and representations in literature and film. Roma have been enslaved, targeted for annihilation, and persecuted for centuries. Yet they have repeatedly adapted and adjusted to the circumstances surrounding them, persisting as distinctive ethnic communities while simultaneously contributing to and forming part of the dominant worlds in which they live. This course offers novel perspectives on ethnic minorities and the dynamics of culture in Slavic and East European society.
  • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace: Writing as Fighting

    We start with Tolstoy's artistic stimuli and narrative strategies, explore the author's provocative visions of war, gender, sex, art, social institutions, death, and religion. The emphasis is placed here on the role of a written word in Tolstoy's search for truth and power. The main part is a close reading of his masterwork The War and Peace (1863-68) - a quintessence of both his artistic method and philosophical insights. Each student will be assigned to keep a "hero's diary" and speak on behalf of one or two major heroes of the epic (including the Spirit of History).
  • Seminar on Andrei Bitov

    Analysis of works of one of Russia's most important contemporary writers. Focus on major novels, including "Pushkin House," the 1st Russian postmodernist novel. We explore his wide-ranging concerns, such as psychology; philosophy; science; other arts (including jazz & cinema); people's relationship to other biological species; integrity & societal and psychological obstacles to it. We examine him as a Petersburg writer. Focus also on his relationship to time, history, & other writers; his place in Russian & Soviet literature & culture.
  • Cervantes' Don Quijote and Beyond

    This course, open to both undergraduate and graduate students, explores Cervantes' highly experimental fiction. Known as the author of the immensely innovative 'Don Quijote', Cervantes is credited with writing the first modern European novel, with a daring exploration of human madness, a satire of New World conquistadors, the Inquisition and more. Yet he is equally bold and experimental in his daring short stories, the `Novelas ejemplares', and the work that he was certain would be his legacy, the 'Persiles'.
  • Thinking Translation: Language Transfer and Cultural Communication

    What is translation? What is a language? So essential and widespread is translation today that it has become a central analytic term for the contact of cultures, and a paradigm for studying many different aspects of our multilingual world. This course will consider translation as it appeared in the past, but especially as it constructs everyday life in the contemporary world. It will look at issues of anthropology, artificial intelligence, diplomacy, film, law and literature that involve interlingual and intercultural communication.
  • 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.

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