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Spring 2016 Course Offerings

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SHUM 4506 European Temporal Imagination

(also GERST, HIST)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
K. Grotke 
T: 12:20 – 2:15

This course offers an exploration of the European temporal imagination, or the ways that questions and concerns about time have been integral to both cultural self-understanding and philosophical reflection. It is divided into two main sections, each with a specific objective: the first sets out a series of historically active constraints upon this temporal imagination, focusing on the ways in which temporal frameworks have been constructed, criticized, and altered in European history; the second part will explore the critical usefulness of the category of “time” in the interpretation of nineteenth century work in particular, and examine how temporal notions and patterns (e.g., predictability, recurrence, uniqueness) helped shape  institutional and disciplinary boundaries and agendas.

Across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, time was rapidly expanding in both extent and detail: geological study was pushing the age of the earth from thousands to millions of years, and cross-cultural encounters along with the gradual reconciliation of numerous available time-frames and standards were propelling claims for a “universal” understanding of history. But these changes took place against an already well-established background of discussions and debates in Europe about the meaning and possible direction of time.
In order to grasp what was at stake in the measurement of time and the turn toward history and historicism in European thought, it is important to understand how very different the temporal frameworks preceding the nineteenth century in particular were from those of today. The simplified understanding of “chronology” chiefly as a list or table of historical events was made possible by a far more complex series of developments, a slow and laborious undertaking that combined mathematical method and historical content with the aim of producing a ‘universal history’ of the kind simply not previously possible, because there had been multiple chronological conventions and no universal standard by virtue of which they could be brought into relation. What can we say about the intellectual and cultural effects of such changes? How might contemporary ideas about historical time (such as “Big History”) be related to these earlier developments?

Course readings will be in English, but participants are encouraged to develop paper proposals in line with their own research interests and language proficiencies. The course is focused on Europe, but non-Europeanists and those interested in comparative work are welcome.
Participants will be required to prepare at least one short summary/ introduction of a course text for presentation at the seminar, and to produce a final research paper of approximately 20 pages (topic to be developed in consultation with instructor during Section I).

Kelly Grotke is an intellectual historian affiliated with the Heidelberg Academy of Science and the Erik Castrén Institute, and was recently a Fellow with the ERC-funded Research Project Europe 1815-1914 at the University of Helsinki. She has also worked in finance. Her current book project, Time, History, and Epistemology in the Long Nineteenth Century: A Study in Philosophical Culture, shows how the gradual fragmentation of natural law in Europe shaped nineteenth-century disciplines, methodologies, and theoretical preoccupations. She is the co-editor of Constitutionalism, Legitimacy and Power: Nineteenth-Century Experiences (Oxford, 2014).

 

SHUM 4507 Counter-Time: Anachronism and Obsolescence in Contemporary Art

(also ARTH, COML, VISST)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
M. Navarro
R: 10:10 – 12:05

This seminar explores the uses and forms of anachronism in contemporary art. Anachronism is a defect in linear temporality, the presence of an element that belongs to another time which interrupts and disrupts the course of history. During recent years, using different stances and disciplines, a large number of artists have started to work incorporating technologies, iconographies, references and elements that do not belong to the present timeline. Obsolescence in particular is used as a master strategy to display the alteration of temporality. In addition to this, in the last two decades a whole host of theorists and art historians have used anachronism as a methodological tool and have advocated for an anachronistic interpretation of contemporary art. In both cases (theoretical and practical), these shapes and tools do not just present an aesthetic or epistemological stance, they also account for a political compromise: anachronism as a temporal disconformity that presents a desynchronisation in the hegemonic temporalities. The aim of this seminar is to present a map of theories and artistic strategies in order to better understand the validity of the anachronism and obsolescence in today’s culture. In order to do this, the seminar will be divided into four parts:

1) Theories of the anachronism. In this part, some of the key texts regarding the construction of an anachronic methodology will be analysed: classic texts, like those by Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin, and above all, contemporary texts by Georges Didi-Huberman and Mieke Bal, Alexander Nagel, Terry Smith or Keith Moxey.

2 ) Retromania and obsolescence. Here we will observe the central importance of obsolescence and retro in contemporary visual culture, and its importance in some poetics of contemporary art. By analysing the work of artists such as Tacita Dean, Stan Douglas, Zoe Leonard, Rodney Graham or Warren Neidich, we will try to indicate some of the problems related to the use of the obsolete: mourning for the analogical, nostalgia or resistance to technological progress and the eras of merchandise.

3) Opening Time: Art of History. In this section we will analyse the way in which some artists work as though they were historians, making a particular type of history close to that imagined by Walter Benjamin: open time, constellation, dialectical image, liberation from the past. Artists like Matthew Buckingham, Anri Sala, Peter Forgacs or Francesc Torres are examples of this practice. Here we will focus on the Spanish context and the problem of the recent past (the Civil War, Francoism and the Transition) reverberating in the present.

4) Politics of the anachronism: towards strategic fetishism. In this last part we will examine the political and strategical meaning of the anachronism and obsolescence. Through the analysis of texts by Jacques Rancière and Antonio Negri we will see how the obsolete past is the place to generate energies relating to change and transformation. In particular, we will study the case of the aesthetics of protest movements like “los indignados” (a Spanish grassroots protest movement) in Spain and their “analogical” revolution. In addition, we will try to question the notion of the fetishism of the past and the aim to move towards a positive, “strategical” and critical use of fetishism.

The seminar is located in the midpoint between visual art, cinema, history, philosophy and politics. Perhaps it could be best situated in the field of visual culture studies. The problem common to all of the disciplines here is time. Ultimately, the seminar is trying to explore some of the types of resistance when faced with the hegemonic time of the present. The work of the artists and theorists that we will explore is characterised by understanding time as a material that can be worked with, time that can be open and modified, time that is capable of interrupting the global rhythms of circulation of capital and of introducing chronologies and temporal experiences that shatter and fracture any type of hegemonic temporality.  In conclusion, it is about observing and suggesting “contra chronologies” that resist the established experiences of those in power. Perhaps today this is the only thing that the advanced arts have in common: the capability to undermine the temporal experience of those in power.  

Miguel Ángel Hernández Navarro (Murcia, Spain, 1977) is Associate Professor of Art History at University of Murcia, Spain and formerly the director of the Centro de Documentación y Estudios Avanzados de Arte Contemporáneo (CENDEAC) in Murcia. He focuses on contemporary art and theory, migratory aesthetics, spanish literature and memory. He is author of several books on art and visual culture including: Materializar el pasado. El artista como historiador benjaminiano (2012), Robert Morris (2010) and 2Move: Video Art Migration (2008, with Mieke Bal). He is editor of Art and Visibility in Migratory Culture (with Mieke Bal, 2011) and Mary Kelly: La balada de Kastriot Rexhepi (2008). Among the exhibition curated: 2Move: Double Movement / Migratory Aesthetics (With Mieke Bal), Ursula Bieman: Sahara Cronicle (2010) and Mieke Bal: The Last Frontier (2012). He is also fiction writer. His novel Intento de escapada (2013) was shortlisted in Herralde Prize and is on translation into English, French, German, Italian and Portuguese.

SHUM 4508 Fictions for New Worlds

(also ENGL)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
R. Kalas
T: 10:10-12:05

In The New Science, Vico posits that all nations are “poetic in their beginning.” In this course we will read works of literature that imagine themselves at the beginning of a new nation or polity: such works as Virgil’s Aeneid, Thomas More’s Utopia, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, and NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names.  We will reflect upon each of these works in its specific historical and geopolitical context.  But we will also imagine how, collectively, these literatures might tell a different history of civil society than the one we are accustomed to.

Using Vico (primarily but not exclusively) as our guide, we will consider how “poetic wisdom” might complement other forms of analytical knowledge and calculative reason; and using Vico’s reading of Homer as a model, we will look for both particularities in and patterns among our exemplary texts that might help us to envision a poetic history of polities and collectivities.  For each of these texts, we will try to reconstruct how literature both shapes and is made by political culture.  But we will also explore the different kinds of causation and temporality that are necessary to “poetic wisdom.”  Finally, taking a step back from Vico, we will consider the role of providence in Vico’s poetic history, asking, in turn, how we might refashion a poetic wisdom for the twenty-first century.

Rayna Kalas is associate professor of English at Cornell University.  She has published articles on Shakespeare's Sonnets, glass technology and the metaphor of the mirror in English Renaissance poetry, and sixteenth-century manuals on logic.  Her book Frame, Glass, Verse: the Technology of Poetic Invention in the English Renaissance, published by Cornell University Press in 2007, examines the poetic conceit as a technology of revealing.  Her current book project, tentatively titled How to Frame Your Government, is a study of literature and constitutionalism in early modern England and the American colonies.

 

SHUM 4509 Temporalities of Empire, Nation and Colonial Difference

(also AAS, ANTHR)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
V. Munasinghe
T: 2:30 - 4:25

This course asks how do racialization projects constitutive of modern European empire figure in the making of nation states? How in particular did anticipation of rights bearing European publics, enshrining post Enlightenment values, implicate/disturb the linear narrative of nation states emerging from the ruins of empire? We will explore the temporal entanglements between racialization logics of empire and nation, one demanding difference the other, sameness.  How does the rule of difference address the fundamental paradox posed by those European states that were simultaneously empires and nations, epitomized by the dual title of Victoria, as Queen of England and Empress of India?

The goal of this course is to bring together related but distinct scholarship on the relation between empire and nation, which complicate temporalities associated with both types of polity.  Scholars of empire have demonstrated the integral role of colonies in the making of European nations—establishing difference in the colonies went hand in and hand with the establishing sameness in the metropolis. Here, nation time is also empire time.  Scholars of postcolonial nationalisms, however, posit a break between time of empire and time of nation, where the postcolonial nation is faced with the task of transforming the rule of difference, the inheritance of empire, into the rule of sameness as rights bearing subjects of a later moment. What are the logics and ambivalences of racialization when time of empire requiring difference is also the time of nation, requiring sameness?  What are implications of such an entanglement for postcolonial nations? How do inherited racializations set limits on postcolonial aspirations for homogeneity?  How does postcolonial homogeneity also produce difference in demarcation of the rights bearing subject of the nation?

Viranjini Munasinghe is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at Cornell University. She received her B.A. in Social Anthropology (1985) from Sussex University, England and Ph.D. (1994) from Johns Hopkins University in Cultural Anthropology. She is an historical anthropologist working in the Caribbean (Trinidad) and the Asian Diaspora in the Americas. Her academic interests include cultural and racial mixture (creolization, hybridity, syncretism), race, ethnicity, nationalism, comparison, ethnic studies, postcolonial theory and anthropological theory. Her book, Callaloo or Tossed Salad? East Indians and the Cultural Politics of Identity in Trinidad, (Cornell Press, 2001) explores the question of alternative modernities through the nation form. Her essays have appeared in American Ethnologist, the Journal of Asian American Studies, South Asian Review, Social Analysis and Transforming Anthropology. Her current research analyzes how nations are constituted through projects of comparison.

 

SHUM 4510 Black in Time

(also ASRC, HIST)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
C. Ray
R: 12:20 – 2:15

Members of this seminar will explore temporally specific, yet frequently interconnected iterations of blackness, in an attempt to account for how blackness has been experienced, conceptualized, articulated, practiced, politicized, historicized, and theorized across time and space. From the seventeenth-century West African Sahel, where shifting categories of blackness were articulated long before the advent of French colonial rule, to the twentieth century’s globally interconnected black freedom struggles, we will plot out chronologies of blackness to better understand the historical contexts in which blackness becomes a meaningful, yet ever mutating signifier. As we seek to discern how the material conditions of blackness produced responses like Négritude, Créolité, Pan-Africanism, Black Power, and the Black Consciousness Movement, we will also ask how these ideological movements unleashed new articulations of blackness and restrained others.

In considering how blackness invites us to think about time and periodization, we will confront how the lived experiences of black people in America underscore the prematurity of terms like “post-racial” to describe an America capable of electing Barack Obama as president, while also interrogating the limits of modernity as a universal temporality in light of the continuing disregard for black life globally. What, moreover, are we to make of the fact that time itself has become increasingly racialized through the emergence of new temporal categories, like post-Black and post-racial? And what consequences result from these categories getting stuck in time before their time has actually come?

This seminar will also investigate how the black experience has been set in time by the traditional disciplines, like history and anthropology, as well as by more recent interdisciplinary innovations in African diaspora or Black Atlantic studies. Together we will do more than survey the black experience in time, we will probe how time has shaped what it means to be black in theory and practice, and question how blackness and the black body have been used to mark time.

Carina Ray is an associate professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University. A scholar of race and sexuality; comparative colonialisms and nationalisms; migration and maritime history; and the relationship between race, ethnicity, and political power, Carina’s research is primarily focused on Ghana and its diasporas. She is the author of Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana (Ohio University Press, 2015) and co-editor of Navigating African Maritime History (with Jeremy Rich) and Darfur and the Crisis of Governance in Sudan: A Critical Reader (with Salah Hassan). Her articles have appeared in The American Historical ReviewGender and History, and Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historiques. While at the Society, Carina will be working on her new book project, Somatic Blackness: A History of the Body and Race-Making in Ghana.

 

SHUM 4511 Musical Timekeeping and the Security State

(also MUSIC)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
S. Potter
M: 10:10 – 12:05

This seminar will pair cultural theory readings with musical listenings, to investigate relationships between strategies of musical timekeeping (conductor, clock, score, rehearsal) and forms of political power and resistance. In particular Foucault’s account of ‘security’ as a strategy of power that grants certain kinds of freedom to subjects in order better to govern them will be discussed in relation to the work of John Cage. We will examine musical innovators’ theater of resistance towards complete synchronization and how they have indicated different ways for a group to move through time together, from Stravinsky to Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton and Richard Barrett. We will also look at artists and thinkers who have articulated their work in terms of alternative temporalities, including Japanese noise artists (Kazumoto Endo, Otomo Yoshihide, Keiji Haino), Irish minimalist composer Andrew Hamilton, and comedian Kristen Schaal. How has thinking about musical time drawn on and responded to broader discourses in the humanities on the (progressive, cyclical, or other) history of nations, states, and globe? How have musicians in particular places dealt with their encounters with musical traditions that are contemporaneous but distant in terms of social location? What efforts have been made to weave together disparate social locations through musical projects, such as the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra founded by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said? Readings will draw from the following authors: Paul Gilroy, Fred Moten, Georges Bataille, Susan McClary, Marcia J. Citron, Michel Foucault, Paul Hegarty, Mieke Bal, Rachel Beckles Willson, George E. Lewis, James Pritchett, Ronald M. Radano.

Steve Potter is a composer and performer, and associate lecturer in music composition at Goldsmiths University of London. He focuses on interrelationships between continental philosophy and critical theory, and creative work in the performing arts. He is interested in how, creatively and ethically, to respond to processes of global capitalism. He has created performances on technology and ubiquity; the reality of other possible worlds; sense and nonsense; and Marx in America. His performances incorporate live music and cultural theory, as well as notions of interpassive theater, arts and crafts, and noise. His compositions include Music for the Sleepy (2015, performed at the Infancy, History and the Avant-Garde festival at Omnibus, London); Krono-Metre: Catalogue Out of Time (2010, with Kélina Gotman; performed at the Making Sense Colloquium, IRI-Centre Pompidou/Institut Télécom/NYU in Paris); PLAY (2013, performed by the London Sinfonietta Academy conducted by George Benjamin at LSO St. Luke’s); Quartet More & More (2010, Arditti String Quartet at the Darmstadt summer courses); Old People in the Wrong House Dancing With Robots (2011, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne at the Domaine Forget festival, Quebec); and The Officers (2008, New York City Opera VOX showcase). He also curates and produces performances.

SHUM 4512 The Aesthetics of Time

(also ROMS)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
J. Strauss 
R: 2:30 – 4:25

Changing circumstances can affect our individual perception of time – sadness can stretch out days, joy seems fleeting, wonder can seem to suspend the world – but can the those effects be experienced collectively?  Are there ways to objectify and share the apparent malleability of time?  This course will explore time itself as an artistic material, concentrating on examples from French literature, architecture, and cinema of the last two centuries.  
We will spend the first weeks examining the aesthetic experience of time, its sensuality, concentrating on the sense of smell and beginning with Etienne de Condillac’s 1754 Treatise on Sensations and then moving to Proust’s Swann’s Way and writings by Walter Benjamin.  We will then turn to the sense of touch, especially the feel of another’s skin, and the plasticity of language in relation to memory by reading Claude Simon’s La Route des Flandres (The Flanders Road).  We will close this section with an analysis of erotics, anomie, and pain as they shape and are shaped by cinematic time in Godard’s Weekend

A second section will explore the relations between technology and animal life in relation to time, focusing on the early twentieth century.  We will begin with writings by Heidegger that situate the human relation to time in a complicated zone between technology and animality.   We will then explore the tension between animal, human, and mechanical time in contemporary urbanist movements, notably Le Corbusier’s theoretical work.  Human time, in these readings, emerges as a complicated negotiation between two alienations: the animal and the machine. 

Over the last weeks of the course, we will consider “granular time,” or time as it is articulated around the finitude of the now.  To this end, we will focus on Guillaume Apollinaire’s writings, especially the visual poems or “calligrams” that he composed just before and during the First World War.  Here, the issues of memory, nostalgia, and identity play out in the tension between two temporalities and politics of representation: on the one hand visual and on the other textual.  His concerns and approaches to framing these questions seem to have been affected by recent technological developments, in part the mechanization of war, but also by innovations in the arts and daily life, notably cinema, the phonograph, and radio.  His writings also resonate with contemporary philosophical texts about time, and so to help tease out their theoretical implications, we will read passages from Edmund Husserl and Derrida’s deconstruction, in Voice and Phenomenon, of Husserl’s concept of the living now.  

Jonathan Strauss is Professor of French at Miami University and specializes in literature since the French Revolution.  His work focuses on the intersections of aesthetics, ethics, and subjectivity, particularly in relation to mortality and life. His publications include Private Lives, Public Deaths: Antigone and the Invention of Individuality (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013); Human Remains: Death, Medicine, and Desire in Nineteenth-Century Paris (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012); and Subjects of Terror: Nerval, Hegel and the Modern Self (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).  He edited a special issue of Diacritics titled Post-Mortem: The State of Death as a Modern Construct (30:3 [fall, 2000]) and is currently working on a book about poetry and time.

 

SHUM 6308 Forest Cartographies: Mapping Amazonian Urbanities and the Politics of Nature

Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to fellowship recipients.  
B. Bosteels & T. DuFour 
R: 2:30 – 4:25

This seminar explores the relationship between the economies of emerging cities and the urbanization of fundamental historical ecologies. The seminar focuses on the geographical context of the Brazilian Amazon and the conditions of its urbanization, occasionally in dialogue with ongoing political processes in neighboring Bolivia. 

The urbanization that is characteristic of the Amazon is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon. It involves dimensions extending from the pole of industrial resource extraction and the resultant formation of advanced capitalist economies in the heart of the forest, to the fragile continuity of the traditions of indigenous societies whose economic structures and spatial environments are experienced as fundamentally intertwined with rural, communitarian, and mythic horizons. In order to interrogate the urban driven form of spatial and territorial expansion in the Amazon, the seminar will inquire into the political economies that motivate it, and thus the orienting ontology, specifically, the ontological assumptions about the meaning and significance of the natural world. 

By considering ontological plurality at the level of spatial practices and technologies, the seminar aims to explore the tensions between the global capitalist tendency toward urbanization and modernizing, and the local traditional orientation toward “ecologizing” as the basis for an imagined political economy that is at the same time a politics of nature. 

The seminar will be organized in a series of clusters with an interdisciplinary focus combining elements of architecture, ethnography, anthropology, cartography, political economy, and political philosophy. Clusters include theories of urbanization; nature/culture and human/nonhuman dualisms and critique; life-world and intentionality; commune, community, and state; primitive accumulation and neoextractivism; geophilosophy and cognitive mapping; and human ecology and the anthropocene.

Course Instructors: Bruno Bosteels (Professor of Romance Studies, College of Arts & Sciences) and Tao DuFour (Visiting Critic of Architecture, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning)