Take a sneak peek at our Spring 2016 Courses as you make your plans for next semester! The full course list can be found here.
The Passions of the Mind: Affect, Literature, and Music in Europe, 1600-1800
Professor: Robert Dimit
In this course we study the early modern European theory of the passions in various cultural contexts, with special attention to literature and music. While many scholars today treat the passions as nothing more than emotions under a different name, readings for this course will illustrate the substantial differences between the two categories, as well as the extent to which early modern discourse around the passions – ethical, rhetorical, medical, aesthetic, and so on – constitutes an alternative to our late modern conception of human psychology. My goal in offering this course is to change the way students understand European cultural productions from before 1800, and to make them conscious of the contingency of our late modern assumptions about emotion and its role in literature, music, and other arts. To that end, we read theoretical and literary texts from the period under study, as well as recent historical and analytical writings, and listen to musical examples.
Preliminary reading list:
René Descartes. The Passions of the Soul.
William Shakespeare. Hamlet.
John Dryden. All for Love: The World Well Lost.
Eliza Haywood. Love in Excess: Or, The Fatal Enquiry.
Francis Hutcheson. On the Nature and Conduct of the Passions.
Samuel Richardson. Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded.
Adam Smith. The Theory of Moral Sentiments.
Henry Mackenzie. The Man of Feeling.
Horace Walpole. The Castle of Otranto.
William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lyrical Ballads.
Introduction to Art Worlds II
Contemporary Art and the Politics of Participation
Professor: Lori Cole
What is the contemporary and how can it be imagined across political, geographic, and historical specificities, that is, globally? From the 1960s through the present much art has relied on the notion of experience—from Brazilian neo-concrete art that required audience participation to contemporary debates over relational aesthetics and social practice—and this class will look at the development of theories and histories of contemporary art through the lens of what constitutes “experiencing” artwork. Fluxus, happenings, Gutai, conceptual art, public art, performance art, activist art—all model the interaction of the artist and the public very differently. We will look at how these different movements and artists stage the interaction between art and the public sphere, and the relationship that they propose between gender, racial, and national identities and experience.
Together, we will reflect on the evolving debate surrounding participatory art, the politics of public art, and the rise of new media. Readings will include artists’ writings by Hélio Oiticica, Allan Kaprow, Guy Debord, Sol LeWitt, Cildo Meireles, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, and work by critics such as Mari Carmen Ramírez, Nicolas Bourriard, David Joselit, Claire Bishop and Grant Kester. The class will include site visits to museums and artists’ studios and assignments will range from art criticism to class presentations, and will culminate in a final research paper.
Human Fact II
Professor: Jocelyn Lieu
This course in the craft of fiction involves textual analysis and is an ongoing fiction workshop for graduate students in the humanities. Lionel Trilling wrote that the true job of the fiction writer is to reveal “the human fact” in its veil of circumstances. The human fact that Trilling refers to is more than character, more than verbal portraiture or any specific figurative representation of an individual-more, even, than a reaffirmation that there is no such thing as an ordinary life. He was writing about revelation, in fiction, of the unspoken yet ever-present sensation oflife. Arguably, literary narrative in all of its forms may be gathered under the umbrella of this definition. This course is an exploration of the writer’s craft with an emphasis on the above notion. Class time may include discussions of texts by contemporary and modern writers writing in or translated into English. Students’ creative writing will be analyzed in a workshop format, drawing on and extending the insights into craft provoked by assigned readings. Students will have the option of revising stories for a final portfolio due at the semester’s end.
Digital Humanities: Analysis & Visualization
Professor: Kimon Keramidas
The Information Age has provided us with both a flood of measurable data and a variety of new tools to analyze and present that data. This course will consider how the analysis and visualization of information through digital technologies has significantly changed the way we look at our world both within the academic community and in society at large. The data portion of the class will begin with an understanding of the ontologies of data and metadata and address analysis techniques such as distant reading, topic modeling, text encoding, and text analysis. The visualization portion of the class will interrogate just what it means to visualize an argument and will include both a critique of and experimentation with the timelines, maps, infographics, charts, and visual confections that are used as alternatives to textual explanation. Along with practical work with digital tools for analyzing and visualizing humanities data, such as Voyant, Google Ngrams, CartoDB, Omeka Neatline, Topic Modeling Tool, and Agisoft Photoscan, this course will include readings by authors such as Bolter and Gruisin, Drucker, Tufte, Moretti, Ramsay, Presner, and Grafton.
Introduction to Gender Politics II
Reading the Modern Species: Invert, Woman
Professor: Emma Heaney
This course investigates the interaction between the social, medical, and political redefinitions of the category “woman” from the late 19th C to WWII and the emergence of the trans feminine “extreme invert” in scientific and cultural texts. We will read novels, poems, newspaper cartoons, popular songs, and medical texts that present both the “New Woman” and the new flexibility of the category “male” (a flexibility that has as its limit the “man with a woman within”) as either threats to the natural order or as exciting markers of Modern social evolution. How do the genealogy of these two categories relate? How do “expert,” “popular,” “vernacular” and “literary” representations of each category relate or differ? How can late 20th and 21st-century theories of sex, gender and sexuality be read in relation to this period and these texts? How do we account (or fail to account) for this history in our theoretical or political attitudes toward the proper object of feminism? How do evolutionary or devolutionary theories of race, coloniality, and class emerge in literature (both fictional and scientific) that claims to address modern shifts in sexuality and gender? What alliances and antagonisms (among women? between women and trans feminine people?) are produced in this Modern gender crucible and how does this alchemy align the relation between gender, sex, and sexuality in the 20th and 21st century? These are some of our questions for the semester.
Introduction to Literary Cultures II
Contemporary Debates in Literary Studies: World Literature, Comparison, Translation, Digitization
Professor: Alan Itkin
In this course we will discuss several recent influential works of literary theory, in order to investigate the issues and debates occupying literary studies today. Being a literary scholar means being part of a larger conversation in literary fields. The goal of this course is to introduce students to the terms and ideas that are guiding the conversation in these fields today. In this course, we will focus on four issues that have been the subject of sometimes heated debate in literary studies: world literature, comparison, translation, and digitization. In doing so, we will engage with several important question that literary studies is grappling with, including: How does literature circulate in our global world, and how does this affect the way literary texts are written, read, and interpreted? What is the place in the academy for scholarship that views texts through this global lens, rather than situating them in their immediate national and linguistic context? What role does translation play in the global system in which literature circulates, and how does it affect the way we understand texts as discrete linguistic entities? What part does digital technology play in the production, circulation, and consumption of literature, and how does it help us develop new methods of literary analysis and interpretation?
Introduction to Global Histories II
Spaces of Global History
Professor: Justin Jackson
The second of a two-course sequence designed to introduce graduate students to global history, this reading and writing-intensive seminar reviews some of the most important developments in modern historical scholarship through the lens of space. Even while historical writing and thought is now very much affected by the “spatial turn” influencing scholars across multiple social sciences and humanities disciplines, historians have always situated their examination of the causes, effects, and dynamics of change over time in human societies (and prehistoric time) in discrete and particular spatial units. This course offers a menu of late twentieth-century historiography, sampling some of the many different ways in which students of the past have historicized space and spatialized history.
A diverse set of readings both introduces students to various definitions of global history and its foundational concepts and concerns, and reviews iterations of global history in different spatial frameworks. These include studies of oceans as regional spaces of global history; the globe as a space of world systems and divergent comparative economic development; global commodity networks; the rise of modern nations, states, and nation-states; diasporas and migrations; “microhistories” of localities or events as global history; colonies, empires, and the subaltern and postcolonial; environmental histories of global ecologies; and “big histories” of our planet’s entire past and its place in the universe.
Introduction to the City II
Race, Violence, and War in the Post-war American City
Professor: Patrick Vitale
The decades following World War II are usually referred to as the post-war period. Yet this same period is also one of the most war-torn and violent in American and world history. From Korea and Vietnam to Nicaragua and Panama to Somalia and Afghanistan, it was (and remains) a period of sustained war and violence both within and beyond the borders of the United States. However the post-war period was not only defined by violence and war, for many Americans it was also the most prosperous and hopeful moment in the nation’s history. During this time, cities were dramatically remade, while suburbs filled with growing numbers of mostly white working and middle-class homeowners. This class will consider the relationship between prosperity, peace, war, and violence as it has played out in American cities and suburbs during the period between World War II and the present. It will examine how war and violence are not exceptional or discrete phenomena, but rather are fundamental parts of everyday life in American cities and suburbs. To do so the course will focus on three key subjects: 1) the effect of the United States’ exercise of military power – war as it is commonly understood – on cities and suburbs; 2) the role of violence in shaping urban and suburban life inside the United States; and 3) wars on communism, the city, culture, poverty, drugs, the poor, and terror that took/take place primarily within urban areas.
A History of Media Theory
Professor: Tom de Zengotita
It has become commonplace for theories of media to attribute massive psychocultural transformations to the influence of dominant forms of representation and communication. Homeric Greeks (like other “tribal” peoples) lacked an interior self because they lived in an “oral” world. The phonetic alphabet made philosophy possible. Print underlies bureaucracy and mechanization. TV creates a “global village.” Contemporary multimedia technologies undermine (or, in other circumstances, enhance) centralized attempts to control social meaning. And so on. The primary aim of this course is to raise the underlying, and as yet unanswered, questions upon which all such media theory depends: to what extent does the emerging age, the age we live in now (Post-industrial, Post-philosophical, Post-modern, Postwestern, Information Age, Late Capitalism), recover certain characteristics of Oral/Traditional culture? To what extent does it preserve or intensify or dilute characteristics of Print/Modern culture? To what extent is it constituting something new? In order to address that question seriously, the course will pursue three more specific aims: 1) To make explicit the general characteristics proposed for defining each ideal type of media mindset and culture. 2) To suspend impulses to approve or condemn. 3) To undertake a detailed empirical study of specific phenomena so as to put the proposed characteristics to the test.
Topics in Global Histories
Empire in American History
Professor: Justin Jackson
Some of the most exciting and innovative scholarship in American history recently has either adopted transnational, international, and global methods in order to reconstruct the history of “the U.S. in the world,” or sought to situate American history around the history of empire and colonialism. Exploring questions at the productive intersection of these two literatures, this course reviews the career of “empire” in the longue duree of American history by showcasing work which underscores the ways that empire has shaped American history beyond the dominant nation and nation-state in North America. Subjects explored here include the way Native Americans in colonial America and the early United States formed imperial polities and engaged with European colonial powers; how early American nationalism and constitutionalism spurred continental U.S. empire; how gender, sexuality, race, and class informed the creation of insular U.S. empire in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean in 1898; how trade and dollar diplomacy secured U.S. hegemony; the importance of law, security, and policing to U.S. imperial formation; the expansion of U.S. global power in the Cold War; and how consumer goods and consumer culture secured U.S. dominance in the 20th century.
Topics in Literary Cultures
Poetics after the Holocaust
Professor: Alan Itkin
Theodor Adorno famously wrote that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Adorno thus claims that the Holocaust represents a crisis for literature: the Holocaust has revealed the barbarism inherent in Western civilization and thus shown that literature and cultural refinement in general are nothing but a mask for this barbarism. In this course, we will explore the way literary writers after the Holocaust have sought to respond to Adorno’s charge against literature by reconsidering some of the most basic concepts of Western literary theory: representation, vividness, pathos, catharsis, etc. The course therefore will focus on writers whose work responds to the Holocaust, including the Holocaust survivors Primo Levi and Paul Celan, as well as writers who did not experience the Holocaust firsthand, such as Peter Weiss, W. G. Sebald, and Jonathan Littell. Because we will be reading these authors in order to understand how they reexamine central concepts of Western poetics, we will also pair these readings with excerpts from works of classical and Enlightenment poetic theory. We will thus seek to gain a fuller understanding of an underappreciated aspect of Western literary history: that post-Holocaust writers have sought to rebuild Western poetics from the ground up in response to the crisis for literature constituted by the Holocaust.
Digital Humanities: Telling the Sogdian Story: A Smithsonian Digital Exhibition Project
Professor: Kimon Keramidas
The Sogdians were the middlemen of the transcontinental trade known as the Silk Road, amassing great wealth which financed a flowering of civilization in their homeland, the area around Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan. But they were also purveyors of culture to their imperial neighbours, transporting craftsmen, artists, Buddhist monks and others, and introducing new artistic and religious ideas and contributing to military and diplomatic affairs as far west as Europe and as far east as Japan. This project-based course will investigate how best to use digital media to create a fuller, multi-faceted portrait of the Sogdians, and tell the story of how their adaptability and mobility allowed them to influence the art and culture of people across Asia without the traditional trappings of empire wielded by the adjacent Iranian, Chinese, and Byzantine empires. As part of an ongoing project at the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian museums of art, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, students will work with Sogdian scholars, curators from the Smithsonian, and digital exhibition specialists to learn about this unique culture and then develop prototypes and research texts for a full-scale digital exhibition to be hosted by the Smithsonian. The course will show the practical applications of collaborative interdisciplinary humanities scholarship and highlight the challenges of making coherent and complex intellectual arguments for broad audiences in the digital medium.