Winter 2009

Sze Wei Ang

“Race, Religion, and the Nation”
Department of Comparative Literature

This seminar focuses on the intersections of race and religion in the constitution of the nation-state. Contemporary ideas about race are not only related to but are also integral to ideas of the nation and imperialism, and we will explore how race and religion affect our conceptions of national or global space. Furthermore, religious identity is becoming increasingly racialized today, and students will unpack how the different categories resonate in different cultural contexts. We will read essays on political theology, nationalism, and transnationalism in addition to literary texts.

Maya Boutaghou

“Women and the Novel”
Department of Women’s Studies
“But all the older forms of literature were hardened and set by the time she [the woman] became a writer. The novel alone was young enough to be soft in her hands-another reason, perhaps, why she wrote novels. […] No doubt we shall find her knocking that into shape for herself when she has the free use of her limbs; and providing some new vehicle, not necessarily in verse, for the poetry in her.” A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf, [1929], A Harvest Book, Orlando, 1989, p. 77.  With theses few words by Virginia Woolf, I would like to introduce the course on “Women and the Novel”, reminding us about this particular link between creative writing and the field of Women’s Studies. The novel as a genre, especially the modern novel, as Erich Auerbach showed it in Mimesis, deals with reality in one way or another, and the novelistic writings of women tried to do this in their own special way. Through some representative novels, from several parts of the world (Francophone, with Assia Djebar and Monique Wittig ; Indian, with Anita Desai, Arab with Nawal Al Sadaoui), and in a transcultural perspective, we shall try to give meaning to the “and” in the phrase “women and the novel.” Of course we will go step by step, reading some proposed excerpts between the lines, using feminist critical theory, and following well defined pathways : we will first confront autobiography to history. Women were, for a long time, deleted from History as a discourse, the autobiographical form was one way to reveal their own view of History (Assia Djebar, Anita Desai).  Secondly, we will analyze the link between writing and the body trying to understand how writing (écriture) can translate (embody) the feeling of being a woman and give a strong form to fragile voices (Monique Witting, Nawal al Sadaoui).

Greg Cohen

“Film Form and Revolution: New Cinemas in the Latin American Sixties and Seventies”
Department of Spanish and Portuguese

The aim of this course is twofold. First, it shall provide undergraduate students with a foundation in cinema studies by introducing them to various of the central themes and debates of the discipline, both historical and theoretical, meanwhile furnishing them with the tools of critical film analysis. Second, the course will offer a unique introduction to the study of Latin American film by examining the evolution of its more idiosyncratic tendencies. As we shall see, these aspects not only culminated in the great innovations of the 1960s and 1970s in Latin American cinema, but can and should be situated in relation to the transformations in film aesthetics and critical discourse taking place on an international scale during the period. Films by Fernando Birri, Humberto Solás, Nelson Pereira dos Santos, and Miguel Littín, to name just a few, will form the basis of our approach to “new wave” aesthetics, the transnational elements of Latin American film history, the cinematic re-configuration of cultural identities and national imaginaries, and the dynamic matrix of modern discourse, revolutionary politics, and the global circulation of film styles from the dawn of cinema to the eve of postmodernity.

Marcela Fuentes

“Redrawing the Map: Theater and Performance in the Americas”
Department of Theater

This course puts into dialogue theories and practices of theater and performance in the Americas. We will look at the way in which theater challenges national borders providing a space for transnational communities to come together. How do performers in the Americas address issues of freedom, defiance, solidarity, and belonging? How do artists confront the state in fighting for their space of performance? How do they mock and defy stereotypes? We will study plays and performances from Canada, the US, Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Argentina that address issues of indigeneity, colonialism, gender and sexuality, and migration. We will read manifestos, performance texts, and critical essays that will help us map out the Americas as a vast land of interrelated performance practices.

Sonali Pahwa

Graduate Forum
Department of Theater
Presentation and discussion of issues informing and affecting contemporary theater.

Sarah Valentine

“Looking Back on the Soviet Union through Film”
Department of Slavic Languages
We will examine films by contemporary Eastern European directors that focus on critical moments of the Soviet period. Russian film and scholarship will also play a key role in the course and serve as a point of comparison. Our discussions will explore issues such as the meaning of “national” cinema/tradition in the Soviet/post-Soviet context, film and ethics, and questions of interpreting historical events vs. artistic license.

Travis Workman

“Ideas of Culture in East Asian Studies”
Department of Asian Language & Cultures

Ideas of culture are often called upon in order to interpret differences of opinion, to explain the effects of inherited traditions, or to analyze interactions between groups. Despite this explanatory power given to the word “culture,” the term has had a long and variegated etymological history in the European, American, and East Asian contexts, and its precise meaning remains a topic of considerable uncertainty and debate. Is culture universal, because all people belong to one or another version of “it”? Is culture particular, because no two cultures are completely alike? Does the idea of culture effectively reconcile the particular with the universal? Is culture inherently a mixture of elements? Does culture refer to an objective material process, or is it an idea toward which human beings strive? In order to build a vocabulary and background for the discussion of these kinds of questions concerning culture, we will read primary and secondary materials in the field of East Asian Studies, as well as some texts from European thought.  Although this course is concerned with the broader question of culture, we will deal mainly with the literature and intellectual discourse of modern Japan and Korea (particularly, 1910-1945). In Japan and Korea in the first half of the 20thcentury, the notion of “culture” was often deployed to explain the logic of historical events, the causes of social behaviors, and the meaning of works of art and literature (particularly in trans-national interactions). Because of the dramatic explanatory power given to “culture,” its study came to affect the broader political and social milieu of the Japanese empire (e.g., in the Japanese government’s formulation of the policy of Cultural Rule in Korea, 1919-1937). In this course, we will interpret the significance of culture in this period, and consider what it has to teach us about the possibilities and limitations of cultural knowledge in the present day.