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Spring 2007 Course Offerings

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SHUM 420 Culture, Sovereignty, the State

(also COML 442 and ENGL 408.03)
Spring. 4 credits. Limited to 15 students. 
M. Hart. 
R 12:20-2:15

"Culture, Sovereignty, the State" asks students to think about the relation between 20th- and 21st-century cultural practice and the idea of the state. We will read texts from cultural and political theory, considering their insights in relation to a number of literary and fine art works. Covering a variety of approaches to the state—from theories of absolutist monarchy, to "neoliberal governmentality," to the "culture and society" tradition of the British New Left—our weekly discussions will be wide-ranging in focus. They will return, however, to two central questions: Have cultural critics under-theorized the state, as opposed to related concepts like the "imagined nation"? And does the concept of sovereignty (a notion with resonance for theories of subjectivity, authorship, and state power) offer us a way to articulate the relation between cultural practice and the historical and juridical definition of the state?
Theoretical work under discussion will include books or extracts by Jean Bodin, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Matthew Arnold, Carl Schmitt, Hannah Arendt, Raymond Williams, and Foucault. More recent analyses will come from Agamben, Nancy Fraser, David Lloyd and Paul Thomas, Frances Mulhern, and Saskia Sassen. We will read poetry and fiction by David Jones, Alasdair Gray, and David Peace, as well as artistic and architectural practice by Eyal Weizman, Layla Curtis, and the designers of the New York City Memorial Garden to the British victims of 9/11. 

Matt Hart is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research and teaching focuses on contemporary British culture, modernism, and critical theory. He is currently working on two book projects: Nations of Nothing But Poetry: Late Modernism and Vernacular Sovereignty and Late Britain, a collection of essays on British politics and culture since 1979.

 

SHUM 421 Modernization and Fiction

(also ENGL 408.01)
Spring. 4 credits. Limited to 15 students. 
A. Hoberek. 
M 2:30-4:25. 
In this course we will consider the relationship between twentieth-century US fiction and the processes of economic, technological, and organizational development known collectively as “modernization,” treating modernization both as a material phenomenon and as an ideology that has furthered the interests of particular economic classes and nations. We will begin with literary responses to the modernization of agriculture in the early twentieth-century United States, exploring the reciprocal relationships between modernization and (1) the gendered nature of farm labor, (2) the construction of the Midwest as a particular region of the US, and (3) the nostalgia for vanishing ways of life typically associated with “local color” fiction. Then we will turn to the South, a region of the US long associated with underdevelopment, and consider the elaboration of a Southern identity grounded in resistance to modernization yet seemingly paradoxically affiliated with the experimental artistic movement known as modernism. We will address the spatialized contrast between Europe and the US central to representations of immigrants as embodying the modernizing impulse, and compare the celebrations of modernization central to the American New Deal and Soviet socialist realism. In the second half of the course we will turn to modernization as something that the US state has promoted in the rest of the world as part of its cold war and post-cold war foreign policies. We will, for instance, read Abdelrahman Munif’s Cities of Salt, a novel about the coming of American oil companies to what would become Saudi Arabia, alongside W. W. Rostow’s influential social scientific treatise The Stages of Economic Growth, which directly influenced the policies of the Kennedy administration. In the final weeks of the class we will consider how American fiction of the last thirty-five years has responded to US modernization policy and to the anti-globalization movement that has arisen at least partly in conflict with this policy. Students will write a paper incorporating both close reading of a literary work and research into the history of modernization theory and practice; a research report and drafts of the paper will be due throughout the semester. 

Andrew Hoberek is Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the author of The Twilight of the Middle Class: Post-World War II American Fiction and White-Collar Work. His research focuses on twentieth-century US literature and culture, and he is currently working on a book on American fiction and foreign policy since 1960.

 

(also AS&RC 427, ENGL 408.02)
Spring. 4 credits. Limited to 15 students. 
B. Edmondson. 
T 10:10-12:05

This course will explore, and historicize, both early and contemporary popular, non-canonical Anglophone Caribbean literature as a site of Caribbean middle class cultural production. The literature of the Caribbean has typically been interpreted by critics as a “highbrow”, or elitist, form, produced and consumed by the relatively small middle class. This course seeks to revise our understandings of Caribbean class and cultural mores by examining Caribbean society through its apparently non-serious, or “middlebrow”, literature. Inasmuch as all of the iconic artifacts of Caribbean identity—salsa, carnival, calypso, dancehall—are identified with the Caribbean working class, “popular” in Caribbeanist scholarship is usually synonymous with “poor”. The middle class, viewed as small and culturally rootless, is usually marginalized by cultural critics as a consumer of popular culture, not a producer. The course will challenge this perception by investigating the locally produced Caribbean novels of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, putting them into conversation with later, mass-produced or internationally disseminated novels. Examined as a whole, these novels suggest an older and more extensive middle class cultural presence in the Caribbean than is typically credited. In particular, we will concentrate on the role of Caribbean women as readers and writers of middlebrow literature. Many of these novels are written in the romance genre, or feature female protagonists, suggesting that women are the intended reading audience. One of the course’s aims is to answer the question, Is there a popular literary tradition in the Caribbean? 

Belinda Edmondson is an associate professor of English and African-American & African Studies at Rutgers University, Newark. She is the author of Making Men: Gender, Literary Authority and Women’s Writing in Caribbean Narrative (1999) and editor of Caribbean Romances: The Politics of Regional Representation (1999), among other publications. Her current research project is on Caribbean middlebrow culture, both past and present.

 

SHUM 424 Time and the Other

Spring. 4 credits. Limited to 15 students. 
N. Melas. 
T 12:20-2:15

What is the relation between time and belonging? What are the conditions of inclusion or exclusion into the present? Do all people occupy the same time? What are the presuppositions necessary to determining that something or someone is ahead of the times or behind the times, premature or belated? What are the ramifications of positing multiple temporalities and how do these enter into representation? What is the role of the other (temporal, cultural, historical, spectral, perspectival) in our apprenhension and interpretation of time? This course will address these questions in a wide-ranging investigation of temporality and otherness in a selection of key texts, mainly in philosophy and literature with special attention to the intersection of experience and politics. Authors may include Heraclitus, St Augustine, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Levinas, Fabian, Conrad, Achebe, Glissant, Ouolouguem, Bugul. 

Natalie Melas teaches in the Comparative Literature Department at Cornell University. Her areas of interest include transcultural theory (between postcolonialism and globalism), the politics of disciplinary histories, cultural comparison, modern English literature, Anglophone and especially Francophone Caribbean literature and theory, and Greek decadence. She has published essays on the fate of the humanities in the contemporary university, on incommensurability, on Joseph Conrad, on French Caribbean Literature and on modern literature around Alexandria. Her book, All the Difference in the World: Postcoloniality and the Ends of Comparison, is forthcoming with Stanford University Press. Her current project concerns the poetics and politics of untimeliness.

 

SHUM 425 Cold War Aesthetics in E. Asia

(also ASIAN 465)
Spring. 4 credits. Limited to 15 students. 
P. Liu. 
T 2:30-4:25

This course is concerned with the Cold War in East AsiaCthe Apartitioning@ of China, Japan, and Korea into mutually hostile, geographically fractured and temporally de-synchronized Azones@ in the post-WWII eraCand how this historical experience produced a postmodern aesthetics in East Asia. How do literary texts, films, and popular music in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan explore this historical trauma and ideological rift? How might we understand postwar popular culture in East Asia as social formations standing in a structural relation to a US-led “new world order,” and how does this form of neo-colonialism differ from previous forms of territorial colonialism? Special attention will be paid to theories of the “East Asian economic miracle” as an exception to capitalist development. 

Petrus Liu received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (Chinese, Latin, and German) from UC Berkeley. His teaching and research interests focus on Marxian economics, gendered subjectivities in (post-)colonial cultures, 19th- and 20th-century Chinese literary and intellectual thought, and popular culture. He has published in InterAsia Cultural Studies, positions: east asia cultural critique, and Asian Exchange. He is currently editing a special issue of positions on queer China and transnationalism and working on a book manuscript, Stateless Subjects: Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and the Decolonization of Labor.

 

SHUM 426 Science, Technology and Colonialism

(also STS 476)
Spring. 4 credits. Limited to 15 students. 
S. Seth. 
R 10:10-12:05

Scholarly work in the last two decades has come increasingly to pay attention to the oft-neglected linkages between technology and science on the one hand and the discourses and practices of colonialism and imperialism on the other. Texts of broad conception like Michael Adas= Machines as the Measure of Men and Gyan Prakash=s recent Another Reason have made an attempt to provide an overview of many of the issues involved, but the field awaits a genuinely synthetic treatment. This advanced seminar will aim to provide the framework for such a treatment by looking at a number of key areas of current interest. The course is organized thematically and topics will include the importance to the colonial project of social statistics and technologies of identification (fingerprinting), medicine and hygiene, scientific nationalism and nationalist science, Aguns, phones and steam,@ the periphery as laboratory, and gender, savagery and criminality. We will also draw on some aspects of post-colonial literature, especially the writing of those involved in Subaltern Studies, to take up a question poorly explored in the field so far: the relationship between science and violence. Readings will be comprised of a mixture of primary and secondary sources, and students are encouraged to contribute topics and texts of particular interest. 

Suman Seth is Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University.

 

SHUM 428 The State and its Rivals, 1500-1800

(also HIST 412.02)
Spring. 4 credits. Limited to 15 students. 
P. Stern. 
R 2:30-4:25

Full title: Rethinking Leviathan: The State and its Rivals in the Early Modern World.
In an era of globalization, multinationalism, international commerce, and the rise of various forms of “non-state” actors, it is striking that history writing — particularly about politics — continues to be dominated by the centrality of the nation-state. Yet, especially when seen in its wider global and historical contexts, the definition of state and political community that we have become familiar with in the modern world — contiguous, well-defined territory marked by the monopolization of force and bureaucracy — is revealed not as a self-evident fact or inevitable reality but as only one possible figuration of political power. This course offers an opportunity for students to think within and beyond the “nation-state” by investigating its early modern foundations as well as the possible alternative forms of political community rival to it. Drawing on readings from an interdisciplinary literature in history, sociology, political science, anthropology, historical geography, and literary criticism, the course seeks to encourage students to question the primacy of the state in our understanding of history and politics while demanding they think practically about methodologies and strategies for undertaking research that can overcome such historical and historiographical limits. It investigates the historical and theoretical definitions of the state, literature on its rise in early modern Europe, and the other forms of rival political community that vitiated the state’s claims to totalizing sovereignty and allegiance. From the pope to pirates, early modern history is replete with examples of possible rivals to the nation-state as well as evidence for how the modern nation-state came, perhaps temporarily, to overcome them. These include religious authorities, corporations and associations, companies and transnational/global institutions, itinerant military power, composite and non-contiguous states, as well as those increasingly defined as illegitimate by the national state, such as pirates, thieves, and secret societies. These varied forms of power are key to understanding the dynamics of early modern European and world history, as well as the processes that slowly made these alternatives unavailable in modern era. Furthermore, such an understanding allows students to explore the similarities — and significant differences — between the early modern and the postmodern era, including concerns about globalization, multinationalism, diaspora, postcolonialism, and the questionable fate of the nation-state itself. 

Philip Stern is Assistant Professor of History at American University in Washington, DC. His principal research and teaching interests include the history of early modern Britain, British Empire, and Mughal and British South Asia. He is currently at work on two book projects: A State in the Disguise of a Merchant: The Origins of the East India Company-State, 1657-1707, and Rescuing the Age: Culture, Cartography, and the British Exploration of Africa 1788-1830.