Fall 2021 Course Offerings
SHUM 2008 The Aesthetics of Displacement
(also COML 2008, ENGL 2908, NES 2008)
Fall. 3 credits. Letter grades only.
This course analyses autobiographical writings by authors who experienced settler colonialism, forced removals, and historical erasure. The course is intended to help answer questions around voice, indigeneity, and literary resistance in response to settler colonial violence. In its larger scheme, it asks: What are the shared aesthetics and themes of these writings? How do their authors relay generational and personal trauma? What are some of their literary and political interventions? Students will primarily read verse and prose memoirs by American Indian and Palestinian authors. The course takes a comparative turn as it engages with possible intersections between Palestinian and Native stories, especially those that are written within or about turbulent historical moments. Class discussions and assignments will have critical and creative components, and students are expected to write analytical pieces about the readings and fulfill a creative project that requires a more intimate engagement with the class's themes.
Eman Ghanayem is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society for the Humanities and the Department of Comparative Literature. Prior to coming to Cornell, Ghanayem was the 2020-2021 Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She earned her Ph.D. in English, with minor degrees in American Indian Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies, from UIUC. Her research spans the areas of Indigenous studies, comparative ethnic studies, and transnational gender and women’s studies. Towards a global theory of belonging, and its confluences under colonial conditions, Ghanayem’s research addresses the relationship between natives, settlers, and refugees in both “new” and “old” world contexts. Her first book project, Nations without Nationalisms: On Palestinian and American Indian Literary Imaginations, argues that indigeneity, as expressed in American Indian and Palestinian literatures, offers a necessary critique of (settler) nationalism as a product of the colonial west, as well as represents an alternative form of homemaking that is land-oriented, relational, and can function without a state. Ghanayem authored a piece on Palestinian American Activist Rasmea Odeh in Women’s Studies Quarterly (2019) and co-edited a special issue in Transmotion titled “Native American Narratives in a Global Context” (2019). She is currently working on forthcoming publications in Amerasia and the Routledge Companion to Refugee Narratives. Ghanayem taught a wide range of courses in the Department of English at Birzeit University in the West Bank and the Departments of English, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities: 9/11 and Its Afterlives
(also HIST 2751)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 18 students.
This seminar offers an introduction to the humanities by exploring the historical, cultural, social and political stakes of the Society for the Humanities annual focal theme. Students will explore the theme in critical dialogue with a range of texts and media drawn from the arts, humanities, and/or humanistic social sciences. Guest speakers, including Cornell faculty and Society Fellows, will present from different disciplines and points of view. Students will consider local sites relevant to the theme, including Cornell special collections and archives. Students enrolled in this seminar will have the opportunity to participate in additional programming related to the Society’s theme and the Humanities Scholars Program for undergraduate humanities research.
Topic for Fall 2021: 9/11 and Its Afterlives
September 11, 2001 was a global and historical event that changed how we understand security, democracy, and terrorism. Through a careful reading of accounts from a variety of perspectives, students will be asked to evaluate how the course of history changed for the United States as well as nations in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. We will be reading novels, such as Mohsin Hamid’s Reluctant Fundamentalist, as well as texts such as the 9-11 commission report. The writing assignments experiment with different genres of writing, while drawing from different kinds of historical evidence and research. Drawing from a diverse range of perspectives, we will consider ways to narrate and explain this enormously complex event.
SHUM 4661/6661 Rethinking Boundaries of the Human: Crip Ecology, Disability, and Otherness
(also COML 4260/6260, FGSS 4661)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
This course draws on feminist and queer theories of dehumanization, critical race theories, disability studies, indigenous studies, and critical environmental studies to examine anthropocentrism and various forms of violence that target certain groups of people and the environment. In this course, we will be guided by two questions: (1) How have the definitions of the human aided or challenged oppressions in various ways? and (2) How does the otherness of certain humans relate to nonhuman existence? The course will address the representations of death, violence, animals, ghosts, objects of attachment, and natural environments to rethink the definitions of the human and of human rights. To examine their ethical, legal, aesthetic, emotional, and political dimensions, the course will utilize cultural representations including animated and documentary films, novels, art, nonfiction, and visual images as well as history and material culture.
Eunjung Kim, PhD, is a scholar, teacher, and writer of disability, pain, illness, and a/sexualities with trans-Asian feminist queer crip orientations. She is an associate professor in the department of Women’s and Gender Studies and the department of Cultural Foundations of Education and Disability Studies Program at Syracuse University. Her work appeared in journals such as Catalyst, Sexualities, GLQ, and Social Politics, and in edited collections including Against Health, Intersectionality and Beyond, and Disability, Human Rights, and the Limits of Humanitarianism. Kim’s book Curative Violence: Rehabilitating Disability, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Korea published by Duke University Press (Alison Piepmeier Book Prize, National Women’s Studies Association, 2017; James B. Palaise Prize, Association for Asian Studies, 2019) examines what the social and material investment in curing illnesses and disabilities tells us about the relationship between disability and Korean nationalism. Writing disability theory in a transnational context, the book argues how the possibility of life with disability that is free from violence depends on the creation of a space and time where cure is seen as a negotiation rather than a necessity. Kim’s teaching interests include transnational feminist disability studies; theories of vulnerability and human/nonhuman boundaries; Korean cultural history of disability, gender, and sexuality; anti-violence feminist disability movements; Asian feminisms and women’s movements; critical humanitarian communications and human rights; asexualities and queer theories. She is currently working on a book-length manuscript on the representations of nonviolence, health justice, and the ecology of aging and dying in South Korea and beyond. She is also co-editing a book Crip Genealogies with Mel Chen, Alison Kafer and Julie Avril Minich.
SHUM 4663/6663 Utopia Lost? Failure and its Aftermaths
(also ANTHR 4493/7493, COML 4261/6261, NES 4663/6663)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Tuesdays, 11:20am -1:15pm
What does it mean to consider something a failure? What happens when a movement or campaign never quite gets off the ground, never got the traction they wanted, when a dream never comes to fruition?
This class will consider the question of failure through analyzing thwarted sociopolitical, artistic, and religious movements, with a particular focus on what comes after, across disparate global sites and historical moments. We will analyze the measures used to consider something a failure, as well as the people and forces who determine these measures. Are there different standards for failures for sociopolitical movements that may have a specific goal, like preventing a war, than there may be for artistic movements that never achieved their goals but nevertheless existed? Does something considered a failure produce or require a certain temporality, i.e. “short-lived”? Can failure ever be seen as productive or a goal in and of itself?
In order to answer these questions, we will examine ethnographies, works of literary criticism, historical analyses, manifestos, and more. Case studies will include diverted leftist movements, primarily but not exclusively in the Global South, millenarian movements past and present (what happens when the end of the world never comes), and artistic movements that did not have the impact they themselves expressed. We will also investigate literary and filmic interpretations of moments of failure, and how failure may be aestheticized and reflected upon both by those who experience it and those who have not. Readings will include David Scott, Jack Halberstam, Vivien Green, and Mahmoud Mohammad Taha. At the end of the class students will have a better understanding of the question of failure and its legacy, and whether it can be considered a useful concept at all.
Seema Golestaneh is an assistant professor in Cornell’s department of Near Eastern Studies. Her research, situated at the nexus of anthropology and religious studies, is focused on expressions of contemporary Islamic thought in the Persian-speaking world. She am particularly interested in how metaphysical experiences make themselves known in the socio-material realm via aesthetics and epistemology. Her forthcoming book, Unknowing and the Everyday: Sufism and Knowledge in Iran, examines the social and material life of gnosis (ma’arifat) for disparate Sufi communities in Iran. Essentially an anthropology of the imagination, Seema’s work also relies heavily on textual ethnography and analysis, emphasizing the importance of hermeneutics within the Iranian socio-theological sphere.
SHUM 4664/6664 Death in the City: Funerary Architecture in Muslim South Asia
(also ASIAN 4471/ 6641, ARTH 4664/6664, VISST 4664)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
The tombs of Sufi saints have long been nodes of contact in South Asian cities, gathering devotees from across social classes and confessional groups. These monuments are constantly transforming — pilgrims seek to be buried in the shadow of saintly sepulchres, shrines become complexes with ancillary structures, additional monuments, courtyards, and other open spaces. As they expand, they become significant public spaces, places of sociability and of communal gathering. They are the sites of performance from the annual festivals when the masses descend to mark the death of the saint to more modest weekly gatherings of Sufi disciples reciting ejaculatory litanies to connect with the divine. They are also sites of cultural heritage, attracting visitors interested in historic architecture and tales of heroic rulers, pious saints, and wandering ascetics. The living often outnumber the dead. Using a series of case studies that span the Subcontinent, this seminar explores the development and transformation of funerary landscapes and their connection with urban spaces in the Indian subcontinent. What narratives emerge? What activities and rituals become central? How does space transform? We will explore funerary sites through the historical and geographic contexts in which they emerged and expanded. Through close architectural analysis and literary study, we will consider the processes by which sites are re-imagined and remade over time.
Fatima Quraishi is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History, UCR. Her scholarship focuses upon the intersection of devotional practices with material culture in Islamic South Asia. Prior to joining UCR, she held teaching positions at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and at the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, both in Karachi, Pakistan. She was also the lead curator of the exhibition, “Paradise on Earth: Manuscripts, Miniatures, and Mendicants from Kashmir,” at the Mohatta Palace Museum in Karachi in 2017. Her current book project is a longue-duree analysis of the monumental Makli necropolis in Sindh, Pakistan. Her most recent publications are an entry on Multan Art and Architecture in the third edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam (2021) and a chapter entitled, "This is Makkah for Me! Devotion in Architecture at the Makli Necropolis,” in an edited volume, Saintly Spheres & Islamic Landscapes: Emplacements of Spiritual Power across Time and Place (Leiden: Brill, 2020).
SHUM 4665/6665 Female Complaints: Gender in Early Modern Lyric & Modern Theory
(also COML 4262/6262, ENGL 4965, FGSS 4665, ROMS 4655/6655)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
This semester, we will explore the relationships between gender, sexuality, and literary form in early modern erotic poetry, where women are described in ways that quickly became clichés: as both cruel, impenetrable stones and short-lived, fragile flowers. Reading (in translation when necessary) across Italian, French, and English lyric, from Petrarch to Mary Wroth, we will investigate the differences (and surprising similarities) between chaste and ethereal Petrarchan idealizations of women and the ostensibly erotic, but often unflattering, corporealizations of carpe diem poetry. Exploring themes of originality and imitation, (male) immortality and (female) ephemerality, power and impotence, we will ask what it means that male poets rebelled against Petrarchan clichés only to adopt another set of clichés. We will also ask how female poets positioned themselves as poetic subjects in traditions premised on the objectification of women. Finally, we will ask how this poetry helped shape cultural expectations of gender and sexuality beyond the early modern period. What does it mean for our understanding of romantic convention, for example, if we consider Barbara Johnson’s observation that the origin story of Western love lyric—when Apollo, mourning Daphne’s transformation into a laurel, took up her leaves and his lyre as consolation—is a story of attempted rape?
While the close reading of early modern poems will be our primary focus, each week’s selection of poems will be paired with at least one piece of modern criticism or theory, often from a feminist perspective. These secondary texts will themselves deserve close reading as we track rhetorical habits, tropological tendencies, and methodological shifts in the recent history of both literary criticism and theories of gender and sexuality.
Katie Kadue is a scholar of early modern French and English literature, with a focus on gender, labor, and the poetics of preservation and decay. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, and recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago. Her essays on Andrew Marvell, Michel de Montaigne, Erasmus, Renaissance poetry and misogyny, and contemporary ecocriticism have appeared in Studies in Philology, Montaigne Studies, The Philosopher, Modern Philology, and Qui Parle. Her first book, Domestic Georgic: Labors of Preservation from Rabelais to Milton (University of Chicago Press, 2021), shows how early modern authors understood intellectual and poetic labor as a kind of housework: feminized maintenance work that aims at preserving individual and collective life.
SHUM 4671/6671 Political Theories of Comparison, Creolization, Decolonization
(also GOVT 6365)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Recent years have seen political theorists grappling with the afterlives of colonialism by engaging in projects of comparison, decolonization, and creolization, among others. This course presents an overview of these projects in order to gauge the similarities, differences, and tensions between them. What are the overlaps between the turns to “decolonize,” “deparochialize” and “render transnational” political theory by including people, places, and problems that have otherwise been marginal to it? Is the task to recover “non-Western” political thinkers as central interlocutors in conversations about modernity, freedom, dispossession, and cosmopolitanism or to insist on the particularity and difference of the terms of their conversations? Is the aim to re-read canonical figures such as Kant, Rousseau, and Marx in light of their colonial contexts and concerns? Or is it to remake certain schools of thought and concepts, such as the Frankfurt School of critical theory and dialectics, by bringing them into conversation with anticolonial and postcolonial thinkers, scholars of critical race theory and Indigenous critique? Do the tasks and methodologies of comparison, decolonization, and creolization make them allies, alternatives or antagonists in their efforts to stretch and expand the boundaries of political theory? We will be reading recent and exemplary work that uses the concepts of comparison, creolization, and decolonization to describe their own approach to the field. This seminar contributes to the Society’s focal theme of afterlives by focusing on the afterlives of colonialism in the field of political theory.
Begüm Adalet is Assistant Professor in the Department of Government. She is a political theorist with research and teaching interests in anticolonial thought, transnationalism, the Cold War, development, the built environment, and the Middle East. She is the author of Hotels and Highways: The Construction of Modernization Theory in Cold War Turkey (Stanford). Her writings have also appeared in Political Theory; Comparative Studies in Society and History; Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East; Public Books.
SHUM 4803/6803 What is Classics? Towards a Critical Disciplinary History
(also CLASS 4803/7803)
Fall. 4 credits. Letter grades only.
Limited to 18 students.
Mathura Umachandran, Hayden Pelliccia
Within the long roiling and much heralded 'crises of the humanities', Classics is experiencing a contemporary crisis of its own. These queries are not least shaped around the disciplines continuing cultural relevance and uneven enrollments, but also in its relationships with white supremacy—relationships of complicity as much as co-option. That Classics is in crisis, however, is not a new phenomenon. In this course, we trace queries and fractures of disciplinary method, scope, objects and epistemologies through the history of this thing we have come to know as "Classics".
Mathura Umachandran is a classicist by training. Her work is committed to tracing the development of the methods and ideological forms of Classics in the post war Humanities and, thus, how Classics operates in contemporary culture in collaboration with systems of power. She wrote her dissertation in the department of Classics at Princeton University (2018) and comes to the Society for the Humanities after a post-doctoral position on the Anachronism and Antiquity project at the University of Oxford (2018–2019) and a Visiting Fellowship at the Institute of Classical Studies, London (2019–2020). She has recently co-edited a special issue on ‘Anachronism’ in Classical Receptions Journal (2020), in addition to articles on Iris Murdoch’s reception of Aeschylus, the conceptual history of ‘World Literature’, and public facing essays that addressed Classics as a racialized form of knowledge-making. At Cornell, Mathura will be working on her first book, ‘Critical Mythologies: Classical Reception and the Frankfurt School’, which explores how the first generation of Critical Theorists made turns to Greco-Roman myth, seeking intellectual resources beyond enlightened reason. ‘Critical Mythologies’ examines how Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse not only exploded the cultural value of antiquity itself by revising the concept of ‘myth’ in various ways, but also how they deployed specific narratives (the usual philosophical suspects Oedipus and Odysseus, as well as the less obvious candidates Narcissus and Orpheus) as openings for theorizing new political horizons of knowledge-making about the subject and her relations with the world.