Fall 2010 Course Offerings

SHUM 4841 The Poetics of Capital

(also ENGL 4076)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
J. Clover 
T 12:20 - 2:15

Money is a kind of poetry — Wallace Stevens. 
Everything can be summed up in aesthetics and political economy — Stephane Mallarme

This course focuses both on the apparatus of Marxian literary theory as it develops across the 20th century, and on the archive of 20th century American poetry. To a lesser degree it extends these studies both into other literatures and into the 21st century. Major poetic figures range from canonical modernists such as Ezra Pound and William Carlos Willams through mid-century figures including John Ashbery and Amiri Baraka to contemporary authors such as Juliana Spahr and Kevin Davies. The major literary theorists run from Volosinov through the Frankfurt School to Jameson and after.

The fortunes of both Marxian literary theory/analysis and of poetry in the west confronted roughly congruent stories of decline in the 20th century. Paradoxically, this does not indicate that they were indexed to each other; indeed, the object of the former has mostly been the novel, while poetry has served as lead object of study for other discourses, most notably deconstruction.

However, this course pursues the critically articulated and possible relationship between the two. In a sense, it starts at the end, with the suggestion that poetry may indeed be better suited to grasp the contours of an increasingly non-representational and non-narrative economic world, a world of hyperabstraction and dematerialization. In turn, it suggests that such a grasp of political-economic development in the west may go a long in coordinating the changes through which poetry has gone. In short and with variations, the course looks at 20th century American poetry and critiques of political economy dialectically, each offering an aperture into a more nuanced understanding of the other.

Required poetry texts: Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations; William Carlos Williams, Paterson; John Ashbery, The Double Dream of Spring; Juliana Spahr, This Connection of Everyone With Lungs; Kevin Davies, The Golden Age of Paraphernalia; Lisa Robertson, R’s Boat. There will also be a digital reader of poems. 

Required critical texts: Marx, Capital Vol. 1; David Harvey, A Companion to Marx’s Capital; Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious & Marxism and Form; Kristen Ross, The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune. There will also be some articles available via online resources, etc. 

Recommended texts: Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle. Fine and Saad-Filho, Marx’s Capital; Volosinov, Marxism and Philosophy of Language; Walter Benjamin, The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire. 

Joshua Clover is an Associate Professor of Poetry and Poetics at the University of California Davis; publications include two books of poetry, as well as a book each on film and music from the perspective of cultural history. Current work focuses on the poetry and poetics of late capitalism, including the essays “Point de capital,” “Stock Footage,” and “Autumn of the System: Poetry and Finance Capital.”

SHUM 4842 Political Ecology of Imagination

(also ANTHR 4082, GOVT 4842, STS 4842) 
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
T. Heatherington
M 12:20 - 2:15 

The world warms, and global environmental imaginaries evolve. Epistemic shifts supplant the natural richness of biodiversity with the artificial wealth of neoliberal economies, and overwrite traditional forms of cultural inhabitation with naïve fictions of wilderness. Changing representations of culture and environment have compelling implications for human rights and indigenous sovereignties over land, water and natural resources. This course will consider how visions and aesthetics of landscape in the twenty-first century are engaged with transforming frameworks of environmental security, governance and power. We begin with theoretical foundations and key issues in political ecology. We will explore the stakes of environmentalism for nation-states, transnational assemblages and global institutions. We will address new research concerns related to the ways that ecological governance continues to transform in response to technological innovations and the politics of climate and environmental security, exploring the social dialectics of power and resistance. We will discuss new dimensions and aesthetics of landscape embedded in the Internet and information systems, and embodied in ecological science fiction. Blending literary and ethnographic perspectives with media studies and critical social theory, we will develop a series of cases to reflect upon relevant cultural approaches to political ecology in different national and transnational contexts. 

Tracey Heatherington is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She earned a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Harvard University in 2000, where she was a Merit Fellow of the Graduate School of Arts and Science, a Research Fellow of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, and a Graduate Associate of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. She has completed extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Italy and held faculty positions at the Queen’s University of Belfast and the University of Western Ontario. In 2003 she was a contributing author to the UNDP Global Drylands Initiative Challenge Papers, and from 2006-8 she worked with natural and applied scientists on environment and development projects in Romania. Her scholarship reflects a humanistic approach to the field of sustainable development; she is particularly interested in the cultural politics and post-national contexts of biodiversity conservation. She has published Wild Sardinia: Indigeneity and the Global Dreamtimes of Environmentalism (2010) with the University of Washington Press “Culture, Place and Nature” Series. Her current research explores the virtual storyscapes related to climate change, extinctions and environmental security in the Mediterranean Sea.

SHUM 4843 Musical Avant-Gardes

(also MUSIC 4843) 
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
A. McGraw
W 2:30 - 4:25

This course will be a critical discussion concerning the history and development of musical experimentalism, broadly defined, as we identify its emergence in world cultures beginning in the early 20th century. We will interrogate a variety of discourses which have developed around the notion of ‘experimental,’ ‘avant-garde,’ ‘new,’ ‘contemporary’ (etc.) musics, noting that while all expressions are localized, nearly all self-consciously experimental musics worldwide are linked through an engagement with modernity, colonization/post-coloniality, antagonism, urbanization and ‘the other.’ Likewise, most avant-gardes are linked by an activist tendency, to imagine difference by articulating alternative visions of human possibility. Experimentalism often represents a tactic in the effort to deal with the problems of culture, hegemony and inequity. Through an examination of local experiments we will theorize issues of musical meaning, change, influence, appropriation, dialogue, interculturalism and misunderstanding. We will identify large-scale trends and links without forcing lines of congruence or rigid taxonomies upon the great variety of experimental musics around the world. 

These musics embody emerging global aesthetic networks marked by the development of new technologies, philanthropic investment, government control, western (and other forms of) imperialism and new disciplinary formations. As well, new aesthetic discourses have had profound influences upon performers, composers and improvisers. As an interdisciplinary seminar, we will draw upon a wide range of ethnographic, critical, journalistic and historical sources from a variety of disciplines: historical musicology, ethnomusicology, art history, critical studies, anthropology, cultural studies, performance studies and theater. 

Experimentalism as a concept and as a self-conscious mode of creation emerges in many kinds of music genres worldwide; its keywords are found in discourses surrounding Western pop, classical, contemporary and jazz and is found over and again in non-Western “world musics” from bossa to maqam to gamelan. Often, borrowings and conceptual migrations between each of these genres act the catalysts and materials for local experiments. Ultimately we ask questions connected to issues of power: Who gets to be experimental? Who is the experimental subject? How are categories of race, gender, sexuality, class and nationality connected to experimentation? What are the consequences for being experimental? How is the relationship between experimentation and tradition imagined? How are global aesthetics locally inflected? How are they resisted? 

Andrew McGraw is an ethnomusicologist, composer, performer and Assistant Professor in the Music Department at the University of Richmond. He has published extensively on traditional and experimental music in Southeast Asia in various volumes including: Ethnomusicology, Asian Music, Asian Cinema, The Yearbook for Traditional Music, Empirical Musicology, and Indonesia and the Malay World among others. He received his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in 2005. As a student and performer of Indonesian musics he has studied with the leading traditional performers of Bali and Central Java during five years of research in Indonesia with funding from the Indonesian government (Dharmasiswa), the Fulbright-Hayes program, Arts International, the VFIC foundation, and grants from the University of Richmond. He directs Indonesian ensembles in New York City and Richmond VA. As a performer and composer he has appeared on Tzadik and Porter record labels.

SHUM 4844 Strategies in "World Cinema"

(also FILM 4844)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
K. Dickinson
T 10:10 - 12:05

Examining films produced within the majority world/non-G-8 countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia, this course adopts an inquisitive and critical stance on how “world cinema” is defined. This film material and the consumer cultures that circulate around it will be addressed according to three guiding themes: global(ised) economies, activism and populism. The analyses will be driven by a range of inter-disciplinary debates on how different forms of colonisation are absorbed into and interrogated by such movies’ fluctuating national, transnational, industrial, institutional, distributional and aesthetic contexts. 

The early weeks will concentrate on how mobile, transnational capital shapes “world cinema”, paying particular attention to overseas funding stipulations, trade protectionism, the role of film festivals, the tactics employed by break-through hits, and the ways in which cinema interconnects with other industries, such as tourism. 

After that, there will be sessions devoted to branches of cinema that forthrightly aim to thwart some of the inequalities set in motion by trade liberalism and (neo-)colonialism. Here the emphasis will be on the perceived scope for revolutionary praxis, the role intellectuals and filmmakers might play in overturning social injustice and the various movements to “indigenize” movie production. 

Lastly, the seminar will interrogate notions of “the popular” by thinking through what it means for Latin American, African and Asian films to appeal to a broad fan base, either in their countries of production or overseas. Here “the popular” often becomes a complex fusion of economic, political and even mythic concerns. 

Readings for this course will be drawn mostly from a work by thinkers who situate themselves within the majority/non-G-8 world, either as film theorists and practitioners, or, more generally, as postcolonial philosophers and activists. 

Kay Dickinson is a lecturer within the Media and Communications department of Goldsmiths College, University of London. She is currently developing a book-length study entitled Arab Cinema Travels, which grows out of previous research published in the journals Screen and Camera Obscura, as well as her co-edited anthology The Arab Avant-Garde (Wesleyan University Press, forthcoming). She is the author of Off Key: When Film and Music Won’t Work Together (Oxford University Press, 2008) and the editor of Movie Music, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002) and, with Glyn Davis, Teen TV (BFI, 2003).

SHUM 4845 Secularism and its Discontents

(also ENGL 4075, GOVT 4845, RELST 4845)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
E. Anker
R 12:20 - 2:15 

Global modernity is typically conceived as fundamentally secular in its values and orientation. Yet this premise has increasingly come under attack, in particular when political institutions and practices are examined from a global perspective. This seminar focuses on how contemporary literature intervenes within debates about legal and cultural dimensions of secularism, thereby exploring the limits of dominant understandings of the secular. We will confront a number of interrelated questions: can indigenous epistemologies and phenomena like ritual be explained in terms of secular humanism? Do structures of collective belonging more fully comport with secularism’s descriptive arsenal, or instead with that of political theology? Are the narratives of history and progress that support secularism as an ideology in fact religious in their underpinnings? How do certain images, like the veil, crystallize conflicts between theological and secular? And can attention to aesthetics enable us to theorize religion as well as secularism, including their mutual imbrications? In sum, how do literature and art map and renegotiate the shifting terrain separating the liberal public sphere from fidelities and aspects of selfhood better understood as spiritual or religious? While many of our readings will be theoretical (Connolly, Mahmood, Pecora, Taylor, Asad, Viswanathan), we’ll also investigate literature and film. Texts will likely include Danticat’s Krik?Krak!, Wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat, Pamuk’s Snow, and Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, as well as Malick’s The Thin Red Line and the HBO production of Kushner’s Angels in America.

Elizbabeth S. Anker is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Cornell. Her first book, The Human Rights Paradox: The Postcolonial Novel and the Claims of Theory, examines a series of challenges to human rights through the lens of contemporary postcolonial fiction. Her current project is tentatively entitled Constitutional Imaginaries: Literary Aesthetics and the Politics of the New Global Constitutionalism. She is also working on essays on phenomenology and animal rights, nostalgia and masculinity in the “9/11 novel,” and secularism and embodiment in humanitarian witnessing.

SHUM 4846 Classical Indian Poetry and Comparative Poetics

(also ASIAN 4446)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
L. McCrea
M 2:30 - 4:25

The classical Sanskrit literary canon of India is unusual in that it comprises not only a vast body of poetry, but a sophisticated tradition of literary theory and criticism as well. This course will treat the classical Indian tradition as a case study in comparative poetics. We will read works of Sanskrit poetry in translation, along with selections from the works of both Sanskrit and early modern and contemporary Western literary and aesthetic theorists. We will look at the way contemporary developments in aesthetics have shaped the reception of Sanskrit poetry and poetic theory over the past two centuries, as well as using parallel readings in classical Indian and contemporary theory to explore the broader normative question of how theoretical resources should be deployed in the interpretation of other, particularly classical, literatures. Is Sanskrit poetry best viewed through the lens of the theoretical tradition that grew up alongside it, or should the claims and approaches of modern theory be given equal or greater weight? Is poetics best seen as a universal, cross-culturally applicable body of theory, or as one or more sets of specific interpretive techniques, varying appropriately with time and place, in parallel with variations in the literatures with which they are expected to deal?

Lawrence McCrea is Assistant Professor of Sanskrit Studies in the Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University. His research interests include classical Indian poetry, poetic theory, hermeneutics and philosophy of language. He is the author of The Teleology of Poetics in Medieval Kashmir (Harvard University Press, 2008), and co-author of Buddhist Philosophy of Language in India: Jñ?na?r?mitra’s Monograph on Exclusion (Columbia University Press 2010). Among his current projects is Reader on M?m?ms?: An Historical Sourcebook in Indian Hermeneutical Theory, part of the series “Historical Sourcebooks of Classical Indian Thought” currently under preparation for Columbia University Press.

SHUM 6341 Aesthetic of Excess: Psycho-Philosophical Approaches to Technology

(also COML 6341, ENGL 6341, FREN 6341, VISST 6341)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
T. Murray
T 2:30 - 4:25

The rise of cinema and mechanized representational technologies has provided an informative backdrop for a century long reflection on aesthetics and the excesses of affect, sentiment, and corporeality in relation to modern/postmodern formulations of subjectivity, community, politics, race, and sexuality. Emphasizing French Psycho-Philosophical approaches to cinematic technologies, the course will rehearse the intellectual backdrop for understanding this Aesthetics of Excess with readings in Freud, Bergson, Artaud, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty in order to frame discussion of later twentieth and twenty-first century reflections on the balance between aesthetics and cinematic and new media technologies. In dialogue with a range of films and digital artworks, we will analyze texts to be chosen from Fanon, Barthes, Simondon, Lyotard, Deleuze, Derrrida, Kristeva, Laplanche, Stiegler, Duguet, Bellour, Nancy, and Rancière.

Timothy Murray is Director of The Society for the Humanities and Professor of Comparative Literature and English. His areas of research include new media, film and video, and visual studies, as well as seventeenth-century studies and literary theory, with strong interests in philosophy and psychoanalysis. He is the founding Curator of The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art in the Cornell Library, the Co-Curator of CTHEORY Multimedia, and curated the traveling exhibition, “Contact Zones: The Art of CD-Rom.” He is the author of Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds (2008); Zonas de Contacto: el arte en CD-Rom (1999); Drama Trauma: Specters of Race and Sexuality in Performance, Video, Art (1997); Like a Film: Ideological Fantasy on Screen, Camera, and Canvas (1993); Theatrical Legitimation: Allegories of Genius In XVIIth-Century England and France (1987). He is editor of Mimesis, Masochism & Mime: The Politics of Theatricality in Contemporary French Thought (1997) and, with Alan Smith, Repossessions: Psychoanalysis and the Phantasms of Early-Modern Culture (1997).