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Literature Graduate Course Descriptions Spring 2016

Hemispheric American Prose

Instructor: Sara Johnson

The class explores current debates about the conceptualization of American literature by reading prose production and scholarship that engages the region hemispherically.   Focusing on several contact zones of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we discuss the ways in which novels, short stories, newspapers and polemical essays knit the extended Americas together in complex narratives of conflict and interdependence.  Close attention is paid to questions of genre and rhetorical strategies during an era that witnessed the momentous upheavals occasioned by events such as warfare against Native populations and their forced relocation, the North American, Haitian, and South American Revolutions and the Mexican-American war.   We examine the ways in which the complexities of multilingualism, competing claims of national, ethnic and racial identification, and the realities of migrating labor forces were actively theorized over two centuries ago.   Particular attention is paid to tensions between colonial loyalties and burgeoning nationalist movements, the legacy of slavery in the region, the U.S. Civil War, and growing U.S. continental expansion and regional imperialism.  The course includes a map workshop and secondary visual material.  Texts by writers including B. Franklin, M. Jemison, Tecumseh, L. von Reizenstein, J. Rollin Ridge and Ruiz de Burton will be read with contemporary work about the earlier period by writers including W. Faulkner, R. Ferré and M. Condé.  Primary sources are accompanied by critical studies by scholars including Brickhouse, Gruesz, and Glissant.  In order to familiarize themselves with primary source periodical literature of the time period under study, students will complete a review of an eighteenth- or nineteenth-century newspaper of their choice.  The paper can be published in any part of the Americas, in any language, between 1750-1880. 

PostModern Cinema and Postmodern Theories
Instructor: Alain Cohen

The seminar will underscore the use of contemporary postmodern theories the better to analyze a few postmodern films. These films may include clips from Alejandro González Iñárritu (e.g. Babel,  Birdman), Quentin Tarantino (e.g. Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained, Hateful Eight,) Peter Greenaway (e.g. The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover,) Chris Nolan (e.g. Memento, The Following,) and several others, depending upon the members of the seminar.

Postmodern theory during the last part of the XXth century has come to be defined as a second Renaissance or a second Enlightenment which includes the well-known Lyotard, Baudrillard, Foucault, Lacan, with references as well to Deleuze/Guattari, Barthes, Greimas, Derrida, Metz, Kristeva, et al. Key texts by these authors will help focus upon issues in modernism and post-modernism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic cultural critiques, narratology and text semiotics, context, art theory and film theory, and cutting-edge theories about simulation and hypertext, as our films will be studied during the seminar sessions. At the end of this seminar, students will learn to focus upon and to problematise:

1. The various systems (or lack thereof) conveyed by “micropolitics of power”, “technologies of the self”, “deconstruction”, “simulacra theory”, “the Unconscious is the discourse of the Øther”, “language-models”, et al., proposed therein whenever applied to film studies;

2. The intermesh of “French theory” with the Frankfurt school (in particular Benjamin and Marcuse), leading to language-based models and sex and gender studies, identity politics, and tech/global/virtual studies as “Postmodernism” evolved in synergy with its reception, interpretation and transposition in the US.

Marxism and Ecology
Instructor: Rosaura Sánchez

The system of capital accumulation on a global scale has produced rapid climate change in what some now call the Anthropocene epoch. Practices attendant to this economic system have produced a planetary emergency characterized by ocean acidification, loss of biological diversity, the destruction of rainforests,  the depletion of fresh water, deforestation, and the growing pollution of soil and water from synthetic chemicals.  In this seminar we will read a number of essays dealing with these ecological problems from a Marxist perspective, including the work of John Bellamy Foster, Vandana Shiva, Fred Magdoff, Silvia Federici, Mariarosa Dalla Costa, George Caffentzis, Mike Davis,  Oscar Olivera,  and Massimo De Angelis.  Using these works in a field now being called Ecological Marxism,  we will then look Into some literary and filmic representations of these issues in the work of Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko, Ernest Callenbach, Paco Ignacio Taibo and Subcomandante Marcos, and Rudolfo Anaya, as well as in some films, including but not limited to Even the Rain ( También la lluvia), Quantum of Solace, and Sleep Dealer.

Instructor: Dennis Childs

Vectors of Disposability -- this class will consider the connections of formations of human disposability and commodification ranging from chattel slavery to the prison industrial complex. A part of this inquiry will represent a comparative carceral studies framework looking at situation of collectivized forced migration and labor as experienced by Black, Latin@, Palestinian and other Indigenous subjects under slavery, neoslavery, and (neo)colonialism. We will engage both theoretical texts dealing with modalities of human commodification from chattel slavery to (neo)colonial neoliberalism, along with first-hand accounts by slaves, prison slaves, and deportees regarding these eviscerating modalities of racial capitalist misogynist modernity.

Transpacific Discourses
Instructor: Erin Suzuki

The term “transpacific” has recently emerged into political and cultural discourse as a way to categorize and describe the increasing focus on American-Asian relationships in contemporary U.S. politics and culture. Yet how do contemporary discussions of transpacific partnerships and the like develop out of prior social and cultural flows that have historically mapped (and remapped) the Pacific region? What kinds of cultural, political, and environmental legacies remain from these previous passages, and how do they shape contemporary literary representations of the transpacific?Focusing on questions of militarization, decolonization, diaspora, and environmental change, this course will explore how transpacific texts and films address and critique these concerns with formal and linguistic innovations and experimentation.

From the Indigenous Question in Latin America to the questioning of Latin American Literature: Indigenous Writers and the Production of Knowledge
Instructor: Gloria Chacon

This seminar will focus on contemporary Indigenous literatures from Latin America, or the territory that the “Kunas” have renamed Abya-Yala (land of eternal spring) as the first step to recognize indigeneity as a political, cultural, and linguistic force that gains ground in the l990s.  We will discuss the various movements, manifestoes, and paradigms expressed by indigenous writers (from the Mapudungun, Quechua, Aymara, and Mayan languages to Nahuatl, Zapotec, Mazahua, and others) as well as the challenges these cultural productions pose to traditional literary genealogies in the continent.   We will work through the debates around orality/literacy, translation, form, tradition, gender, and nation.  At the same time, students will explore various Latin American theoretical texts to think through indigenous literature and vice versa.   Most texts will be read in their bilingual format (Spanish and an indigenous language). 

Instructor: Oumelbanine Zhiri

Please contact instructor for course description.

Instructor: Ben Doller

Please contact instructor for course description.