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Literature Graduate Course Descriptions Fall 2017

The City in Literature and Culture
Instructor: Yingjin Zhang

In order to accommodate students of various disciplinary, historical, national, and area concentrations, this seminar begins with a general survey of scholarship on the city in literature and culture. We will cover works from thinkers such as Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Michel de Certeau, Michel Foucault, in addition to pursuing contemporary work from a selection of critics and theorists. Weekly topics in the survey section include the city as ideas and institutions, the city as images in literature, the city as signs and spaces, the city in gender representation. The second half of the seminar will take us from modern to postmodern, global to local by moving away from Berlin, Paris to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and other non-Western cities.

This seminar does not require reading of specific literary works, but several films are included to flesh out ideas and images presented in scholarship and to help facilitate class discussion. We may adjust some readings to meet student needs, and seminar papers can focus on any viable topics within the general parameters of urban culture.

NOT qualified for Historical Breadth

Violence and Visual Culture: World Film and Video.

Instructor: Winifred Woodhull

This seminar will examine many genres of film (drama, thriller, melodrama, documentary, sci fi, comedy) from a range of different cultures dealing with various forms of violence deployed in contexts such as colonial occupation, war, the criminal justice and prison systems, conflicts of race, ethnicity, sexuality, and class, as well as gender-based violence in both “private” and in publically-sanctioned forms.  A key text will be Karl Schoonover and Rosalind Galt, Queer Cinema in the World, Duke UP 2016.  This book deals with many aspects of film culture, notably the politics of globalization as it affects film production/financing, distribution, and reception (at festivals, in art houses, and in mainstream exhibition venues), while also providing compelling examples of theoretically-informed textual analysis.  

Films to be studied include a number of US productions such as Ridley Scott, Thelma and Louise (1991), Kimberley Peirce, Boys Don’t Cry (1999), Errol Morris, Standard Operating Procedure (2008), Ava DuVernay, 13th (2016), and Mira Nair, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012).  Also: Hani Abu-Assad, Omar (Palestine 2013); Michael Mayer, Out in the Dark (Israel 2012), Fatih Akin, Edge of Heaven (Germany/Turkey/Italy 2007), Gianni Amelio, The Missing Star (Italy 2006), Dai Sijie, The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters (France 2006), Ismaël Ferroukhi, Free Men (France/Morocco 2014), Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers (Italy/Algeria 1966), Noman Robin, Common Gender [melodrama about a trans community] (Bangladesh 2012), Javier Fuentes-León, The Vanished Elephant (Peru/Colombia/Spain 2014), Damián Szifron, Wild Tales (Argentina 2014), Fernando Meireilles, City of God (Brazil/France 2002), Malu de Martino, So Hard to Forget (Brazil 2010), Andrucha Waddington, House of Sand (Brazil 2005), Neill Blomkamp, District 9 (South Africa 2009), Shamim Sarif, The World Unseen (South Africa/UK 2007), Shamim Sarif, I Can’t Think Straight (UK 2008), Sally El Hosaini, My Brother the Devil (UK 2012), Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu (Mauritania/France 2014).  Some of these films may have to be screened through a commercial streaming service (which is preferable in terms of image quality and reliability), but most will be available free on ARES, Geisel Library’s digital reserves.  Students will be encouraged to devote the seminar paper to a film or films related to their own areas of expertise.

Language credit:  This seminar may be taken for French language credit toward the Ph. D., provided that the seminar paper deal with at least one French-language film (from any part of the world) and with one brief scholarly essay or film review originally published in French and unavailable in English translation.

Seminar requirements:  Each student will be responsible for a 30-minute individual presentation and a 12-15 page seminar paper, a film analysis, that will be due during finals week. 

Race, Empire, and Enlightenment
Instructor: Sarah Nicolazzo

The so-called "Age of Enlightenment" was also an age of imperial expansion, colonial war, and the early development of global capitalism as we know it today. What is the role of literary and philosophical texts that we classify as central to the Enlightenment in justifying, defining, envisioning, or critiquing empire? How are Enlightenment roots of contemporary ideas like human rights, the rule of law, and constitutional democracy also embedded in histories of colonialism, slavery, and racialization? Readings will include eighteenth-century literary and philosophical texts such as John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, as well as contemporary theorists of the afterlives of Enlightenment in contemporary notions of race, bio/necropolitics, and the idea of the human. We will pay close attention to how historical and theoretical methods intersect and diverge, and to how critical approaches to Enlightenment force us to rethink our own categories of analysis. 

 LTEN 231 will fulfill the Historical Breadth requirement.

Issues of Social Space in Chicano/a - Latino/a Literatures
Instructor: Rosaura Sanchez

Using social space theories developed by David Harvey, Neil Smith, Henri Lefebvre, Neil Brenner, Peter Marcuse, Massimo De Angelis and others dealing with notions of new enclosures/dispossession, the commons, spatio-temporality, ‘right to the city,’ and with issues of urban policy, gentrification, displacement, segregation and land pollution, we will focus on novels by Helena María Viramontes, Américo Paredes, Alejandro Morales, Rudolfo Anaya, Angie Cruz, and Ernesto Quiñónez; on plays by Culture Clash, Paul Flores and Cherríe Moraga; and on the poetry of Janeida Rivera and the San Diego Taco Shop poets.  Spaces/places discussed will include Los Angeles, Spanish Harlem, Logan Heights in San Diego, the Mission District in San Francisco, the West Side of Chicago and the San Joaquín Valley. Seminar participants  will comment orally on the theoretical and socio-historical readings as well as on a literary text of their choosing,  Students will be asked to write a one-page commentary on at least one of the readings every week and write a 10-page paper on one of the readings by the end of the quarter.

Instructor: Daniel Vitkus

This seminar offers an overview of the fundamental questions, topics, and problems that organize and motivate contemporary practice in literary and cultural studies. One objective is for students to acquire a rudimentary historical understanding of how current controversies, schools, and practices within literary and cultural criticism have developed. Thus, the seminar is not an in-depth study of any particular critical or theoretical approach; rather, we will undertake a survey of the important theories and methodologies that have defined literary and cultural studies since at least the mid-twentieth century. We will cover a range of theoretical approaches, from New Criticism to Post-Structuralism and beyond.  Another important objective is for students to explore possible modes of scholarly practice and in doing so, to begin to develop a critical, theorized perspective that will empower them and help to define their work as emerging scholars.