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Literature Graduate Course Descriptions Fall 2018

Aesthetics and Race: The Example of Anti-Semitism
Instructor: Lisa Lampert-Weissig

What is the relationship between literary aesthetics and racism in the western tradition? To explore this question we will focus on the example of the literary aesthetics of anti-Semitism, tracing connections from the medieval period into the twentieth century. We will begin with Chaucer’s “Prioress’s Tale” and medieval Christian visual form and then turn to Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, examining how what Kenneth Gross calls the “poetics of repugnancy” shape canonical representation of Jewish identity. As Anthony Julius’s path-breaking work has suggested, it is not simply that European notions of the beautiful have excluded Jews, but that European aesthetics and anti-Semitism have mutually constituted one another. This insight will inform our readings of modern works, including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun (1860), George du Maurier’s Trilby (1894), poems and criticism by T.S. Eliot, writings by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and Richard Wagner. We will also consider responses to the tradition by Jewish writers and artists such as Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Yankev Glatshteyn, and Emanuel Litvinoff. Theoretical and historical readings will include work by Frantz Fanon, Simon Gikandi, Sander Gilman, Kenneth Gross, Anthony Julius, Julia Kristeva, Neil Levi, Toni Morrison, and David Nirenberg.

There will be an additional class event on the late afternoon/evening of Monday, Dec. 10th. Please save the date.

Cinema and the Sex Act

Instructor: Hoang Nguyen

The course investigates the social, political, and aesthetic operations of moving-image sex acts in the cinema, from early cinema's silent film loops to contemporary porn clips online. Units include stag movies, the avant-garde, cult movies, art cinema, Blaxploitation, Golden Age hardcore, amateur porn, and PornHub. Texts include Freud, Foucault, Bataille, Leo Bersani, Linda Williams, Tim Dean, Mireille Miller-Young, Jennifer Nash, Juana Maria Rodgriguez, Susanna Paasonen.

18th- and 19th-century Print Culture of the Americas
Instructor: Kathryn Walkiewicz

One of the central myths of nation-state formation in the 18th and 19th centuries is that print culture was a key component of widespread, organized revolution and essential to the formation of the U.S. nation-state. While this was not necessarily true, the narrative of the print republic was nonetheless a powerful one that circulated throughout the hemisphere. In order to better understand why this myth endured throughout the nineteenth century and beyond, we will examine both how print culture materially functioned and how it was imagined to circulate in the U.S., Haiti, and throughout (post)colonial Spanish America. We will pay special attention to Indigenous, Black, and Spanish Americas print cultures in the Caribbean and North America. While the course is meant to offer students a robust sense of how print and literacy shaped the Americas in the 18th and 19th centuries, its secondary aim is to provide students with a methodological approach that they can use no matter their fields of study. At the end of the course students will be asked to complete print culture research projects specific to their own literary interests.

Figures of Absence and Excess in Critical 

Instructor: Ameeth Vijay

This seminar asks if figures on the border of representability can be located and recovered.  Accordingly, we will examine the variety of ways that postcolonial theory has engaged with historical erasures and invisibilities.  What methods of reading mark an absence in a cultural archive, and what are the politics of representing that absence?  Figures of absence, paradoxically, can become figures of overwhelming excess.  For example, how has the subaltern subject been variously articulated as invisible and excluded but also as a threatening multitude?    Starting from this problematic, we will consider how concepts from critical theory, like the supplement or the unthought, have similarly attempted to theorize liminality in representation.  The aim of this course is to read fundamental texts in postcolonial and critical theory, focusing not only on core concepts from these fields but also on their distinct practices of reading.  

Instructor: Daisuke Miyao

There are three main goals in this proseminar. 1) It introduces the faculty at the Department of Literature to new doctoral students. 2) It introduces students to key texts that have influenced our faculty in diverse areas of literary study. 3) It demonstrates the kind of writing that current scholars are engaging in, with the goal of having students model essays on examples by current faculty. Each week, individual faculty is invited to present her/his own work.