Spring 2020

  • Afterlives of the Artists

    We will examine the ways in which Giorgio Vasari's "Lives of the Artists" have morphed into modern and postmodern literature, focusing on the novelistic and lyric subversions of the original model. Adjustments to the standard narrative include biographies of wretched artists, artsy dealers, and aesthetically inclined criminals; texts set within the imagined world of a painting; tales privileging the instrument or materials over the artist; and dramatically rewritten or unwritten lives of the usual suspects.
  • 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?
  • Early 17th Century: Polyglot Poetics: Transnational Early Modern Literature

    Early modern vernacular writers did not simply imitate classical antiquity, or, if northern Europeans, imitate Italian or French verse as if it were ancient, but traded verse horizontally and multilaterally. Languages faded into one another through proximity, trade and war. We explore this cross-lingual, transnational literary field through the literature of travelers in the period: the poetry of diplomats, colonists, itinerant prophets and pharmacists, and the work of traveling theater companies.
  • Seminar in 19th- and 20th-Century French Literature: Writing the People in 19thC France

    What is the people? Much of nineteenth-century literature is an effort to confront this urgent political question after the Revolution, and to give shape and voice to this amorphous new sovereign. At once ubiquitous and intangible, the people is an unsettling power that modern writing seeks to name, express, silence, or shape. This course examines some landmark novels (by Hugo, les Goncourt, Sand, and Zola) and social analysis (by reformers, hygienists, and intellectuals) at the crossroads between politics and aesthetics. Critical texts by Marx, Chevalier, Rancière, Foucault, T.J.
  • The Contemporary

    What does it mean to be contemporary? How does one truly inhabit the present? Through theoretical texts and examples in literature and film, this course explores the ways in which thinkers, writers, and filmmakers have crafted themselves as agents of actualité.
  • Topics in Germanic Literatures: Happy Endings and the Politics of Affirmation. From Homer to Hollywood

    Happy endings are better than their literary reputation might suggest. This course will challenge the widespread misconception that happy endings are simply trite, conventional, and reactionary. By looking at diverse examples from entertainment to high art, from Disney's "The Little Mermaid" to Milton's "Paradise Lost", from Goethe and Schiller to Jordan Peele, we will examine the political dimension of the happy ending as an intriguing cultural phenomenon. Affirmative art can make valuable contributions to social cohesion and democracy. And, happy endings are joyful.
  • Middle High German Literature II: Gender, Sanctity, and Popular Piety in the Middle Ages

    Seminar explores constructions of sanctity in texts and objects from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries. Beginning with saintly Queens, working through mystic writings, and ending with popular material culture surrounding vernacular legends and cults, we ask what constitutes holiness in these situations, as well as the relationship of these ideals to medieval understandings of gender: the multivalence of virginity; the gendering of male clergy; the different valuation of ascetic practices in male versus female holy women; the significance of female cross-dressing in proving female sanctity.
  • Topics in Hindi/Urdu: Literature and Cinema

    Reading and viewing of select Hindi/Urdu literary works and their cinematic adaptations, covering a wide-range of registers, genres and styles: drama, short story, novel (excerpts), as well as commercial and alternative cinema. Attention will be given to historical and social context, as well as different styles and trends. Stories and films will address issues of discrimination, inequity, and reform, representations of gender, social and cultural norms and conventions, stereotypes, taboos, and transgressions. In-depth classroom discussion in Hindi/Urdu of all materials.
  • Culture and Revolution in the Modern Middle East

    This seminar will explore the relationship between revolution and culture in the modern Middle East, with specific reference to the literature and history of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Iran. Readings will consist primarily of novels and memoirs written in the midst of revolution or revolutionary movements in the twentieth and early-twenty-first century in addition to secondary sources on history, social change, and the relationship between aesthetics and politics.

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