Spring 2018 Course Offerings

SHUM 4619 Writing on Tape in the 1970s

(also AMST 4619, ENGL 4619, MUSIC 4454)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students. 
J. Braddock
M: 12:20 – 2:15 p.m.

This course examines the way audiotape both corrupted and enabled the aesthetic and political culture of the 1970s. After writing On the Road in the mid-1950s, Jack Kerouac spent twenty years writing a novel that tried to emulate in literary writing the particularities of tape recording. By the time Visions of Cody was finally published in 1972, audiotape had itself become an aesthetic medium in its own right. And yet not only had tape become the means for a revolution in recorded music, sound art, and literary writing, it had also become an instrument of political communication and surveillance. 

The possibilities of editing (via the cut, the loop, or the overdub) on one hand, and the seeming capacity for indiscriminate recording of sound on the other, revealed tape to be a medium with claims both for authentic documentation and for deception. Its increasing portability and ubiquity, moreover, erased long-standing divisions between private and public speech, a fact that is as appreciable in the work of Andy Warhol as it is in the career of Richard Nixon. With one ear to the state and another to the music industry, this class will focus on the way literary writing responded to and incorporated the new technology. Authors and artists include Alvin Lucier, Hunter S. Thompson, William S. Burroughs, The Last Poets, The Firesign Theatre, The Credibility Gap, Andy Warhol, Adrian Piper.

Jeremy Braddock is Associate Professor of English at Cornell University, and the author of Collecting as Modernist Practice, which was awarded the 2013 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize, and co-editor of Paris, Capital of the Black Atlantic (2013). He holds a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and has been Faculty Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center (2007-8). His research interests include the production and long reception of modernism in the United States, African American literature, the sociology of culture, and the study of media. He is currently at work on two projects, a study of libraries and information before and during the Second World War, and a book-length project on The Firesign Theatre.

SHUM 4620 Undocumentation

(also AMST 4620, COML 4616, FGSS 4620, LATA 4620, LSP 4621, ROMS 4625, VISST 4620)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students. 
A. Carroll
R: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

Long before Donald Trump speculated on the merits of putting another “F” in NAFTA to transform it into the “North American Free and Fair Trade Agreement,” greater Mexican art workers contemplated Other “F”-ing revisions of the treaty’s acronym. Drawing on, but also subverting documentary aesthetics, art workers in the Mexican-US borderlands turned to performance and conceptual art and literary practices and expanded cinema to corrupt the logic of the statistic, the percentile, the spreadsheet, the exposé on both sides of the border. The prefix “un-” of “undocumentation,” or alternately the “in-” of “indocumentación,” in this archive indexed a mode of erasure operative in documentation proper. It illuminated what was hidden in plain sight. It demonstrated the work’s collective will to erase, strike-through, and palimpsest master narratives of local and global unification. Importantly, it also reflected art workers’ commitments to portraying the particularities of undocumented extreme labor situations in a key period of Mexican-US neoliberal transition now synonymous with (1) the deindustrialization and precaritization of the US (Midwest), (2) the dismantling of the Mexican parastate, the devastation of small Mexican agribusiness and maritime industries, and the opening of Mexican markets; (3) the emergence of a reconfigured North American racial capitalism inseparable from post-1994 and post-9/11 (2001) border militarization and the sensationalist criminalization of undocumented entrance into the US; (4) the advent of a new sex/gender system coincident with free trade and export processing zones; (5) the US funneling of hemispheric narco-flows through the Mexican corridor; (6) the rise of alter-globalization movements in part inspired by Zapatismo; and (7) the US culture wars and the rise of Mexican contemporary art. In this seminar we will examine, among other “primary documents,” mixed media by the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo and Liz Sisco, Louis Hock, and David Avalos; border writing by Gloria Anzaldúa, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, the Zapatistas, Sara Uribe, Sergio González Rodríguez, and Cristina Rivera Garza; contributions to the Tijuana-San Diego installation festival inSITE; and undocumentaries from Alex Rivera’s Borders Trilogy to Sergio De La Torre and Vicki Funari’s Maquilapolis, and Natalia Almada’s El Velador. We also will remain attentive to what Jasbir Puar characterizes as “the archive… rushing at us” (e.g., responses to the recycling of NAFTA panic in the 2016 US Presidential elections and the sheer range of the Trump administration’s –phobias and –isms). Consulting scholarship in art history, visual, literary, cinema, and performance studies, we will develop close readings of border cultural production that are attuned to undocumentation’s “conversational,” “disappropriative,” and “artivist” aspirations. Consulting inter/disciplinary scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, particularly work from Latin/x American and American, women’s, gender, and sexuality, ethnic, postcolonial, and border studies, we will address both the site-specificity of the Mexican-US borderlands and the imaginary geographies of borderization and the Border with a capital “B.” Finally, to balance the scales of theory and practice, of contemplation and action, in the semester’s final weeks, we will workshop participants’ own articulations of undocumentation-as-method.

Amy Sara Carroll (MFA, Creative Writing, Poetry, Cornell University; PhD, Literature, Duke University) is the author of two collections of poetry SECESSION (Hyperbole Books, an imprint of San Diego State University Press, 2012) and FANNIE + FREDDIE/The Sentimentality of Post-9/11 Pornography (Fordham University Press, 2013), chosen by Claudia Rankine for the 2012 Poets Out Loud Prize. Since 2008, she has been a member of Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab, coproducing the Transborder Immigrant Tool which has been included in numerous art exhibitions, including the 2010 California Biennial. With EDT 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab and the University of Michigan interdisciplinary workshop the Border Collective, she collaboratively authored [({ })] The Desert Survival Series/La serie de sobrevivencia del desierto (The Office of Net Assessment/ University of Michigan Digital Environments Cluster Publishing Series, 2014), that digitally has been redistributed by CTheory Books (2015), the Electronic LiteratureCollection, Vol. 3 (2016), CONACULTA E-Literatura/Centro de Cultura Digital (2016), and HemiPress (2017). In 2015, Carroll served as the University of Mississippi Summer Poet in Residence. Summer 2010 and every summer thereafter, she has participated in Mexico City’s alternative arts space SOMA. Carroll’s first critical monograph REMEX: Toward an Art History of the NAFTA Era is forthcoming from the University of Texas Press under the auspices of their Mellon Latin American and Caribbean Arts and Cultures Publishing Initiative.

SHUM 4621 Joyce and the Graveyard of Digital Empires

(also ENGL 4997)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
E. Graham
R: 12:20 – 2:15 p.m

A survey of digital media scholarship from 1970 to 2000 that takes as its focal point Joyce’s 1922 novel, Ulysses—one of the most influential literary works of the 20th century—this seminar investigates major theories of media and literature in relation to the emergence of electronic media technologies. Drawing upon critical theory, media history, and specific artistic and scholarly projects in old and new media, the course asks how and why Joyce came to be used as a defining figure of the “golden age” of hypertext theory: both an exemplary artist and an ultimate editorial challenge. Of special interest to the course is the fate of scholarly projects that took Joyce as their subject, for the challenges of sustainability that the first wave of digital scholarly projects encountered—challenges that reflect on more general problems of preservation in the digital environment, like data corruption, memory failures, and link rot—give rise to important questions about loss, failure, and memory in the history of the digital humanities. If we accept that the history of computing comprises multiple histories that reflect the histories, purposes, and designs for the future of multiple communities of practitioners, what uses can historians make of historical pathways that seem, in retrospect, to represent detours, dead ends, or lost ways? How can we recover, and usefully discuss, projects and editions that, unable to sustain themselves in the digital environment, have left few or no traces for present-day scholars to analyze? How can we design and produce traditional scholarly outputs (talks, articles) for electronic scholarly projects in ways that recognize the value of detours and false starts—what John Unsworth has called “the importance of failure”? What is the relationship between digital literary studies and the project-driven, positivist ethos of current practice in the digital humanities? Themes that the class explores include hypertext theory, poststructuralist theory, electronic scholarly projects, histories of computing, histories of the book, concepts of the “social text,” and the history of predictions about the fate of traditional written forms in an electronic world. Authors and works include James Joyce, Marshall McLuhan, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, George Landow, Jay David Bolter, Hans Walter Gabler, Michael Groden, Jerome McGann, and interactive digital texts.

Elyse Graham is Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities at Stony Brook University and a research affiliate at MIT. She studies early modern literature, print and information systems, and the history and theory of technology.

SHUM 4622 Thinking Through Transparency

(also COML 4618)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.   
A. Parry
T: 12:20 – 2:15 p.m.

The course reads theoretical texts on liberalism, neoliberalism, and corruption, for example recent work from Partha Chatterjee and Shuddhabrata Sengupta on “anti-corruption” and contemporary populisms, and puts it in dialogue with increasingly popular cultural texts from science fiction, fantasy, and related genres. We will study the aesthetic features of these genres--such as long serial forms with appendices (Wolf), Otherworlding narrative structures (Clute), and literalizing language (Delany) with the effect of cognitive estrangement (Suvin)—and discuss how they are used to thematize corruption and scandal, and imagine various forms of transparency, both interpersonal and political. We will select contemporary texts in literary and visual genres, especially in narrative forms that allow for large-scale embedded reveals and critical rewritings of assumed individualizing narrative logics. Students will be asked to identify how the cultural texts raise questions and imagine possibilities not only in their content, i.e. in their ways of representing transparency or corruption, but also in the unusual or innovative frameworks that their formal structures offer for critical thought. The larger goal for the seminar is to understand the unique ways cultural accounts of transparency and corruption can engage the constitutive categories of liberal political thought, such as freedom, rights, property, progress, autonomy, and legality.

During the first half of the semester we will read political and cultural theoretical texts and discuss them through analyses of the Song of Ice and Fire novel series, the Game of Thrones HBO drama based on it, and related texts (fan theories on Youtube, The World of Ice and Fire, etc.). Students are advised to read the novel series or watch the HBO series before class begins. In the second part of the course, students will select their own cultural texts from these genres for their presentations; excerpts from the texts chosen by participants will be added to general course readings when appropriate, depending on availability and language.

Amie Elizabeth Parry is a Professor in the English Department of National Central University and a core member of the Center for the Study of Sexualities. Her books include Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen, which received the Book Award in Literary Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies in 2009, and Penumbrae Query Shadow: Queer Reading Tactics (in Chinese), jointly written with Naifei Ding and Jen-peng Liu. She has also published articles in positions: east asia cultures critiqueInter-Asia Cultural Studies, and Wenshan Review.


SHUM 4623 Scandal, Corruption, and the Making of the British Empire in India

(also ASIAN 4465, HIST 4723)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
R. Travers
M: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

This course will examine the origins of modern imperialism through the lens of corruption, exploring how corruption scandals became sites for generating new ideas and practices of empire. As the English East India Company conquered vast Indian territories in the late 1700s, it was besieged with allegations of corruption against its leading officials. Critics of the Company’s empire drew on long-standing ideas about how militarism and luxury had corrupted the ancient Roman empire, as well as on new enlightenment theories of natural rights. Meanwhile, the British parliament staged repeated investigations of imperial corruption in India, most famously the impeachment trial of Warren Hastings, the former Governor of Bengal (1787-1795). Corruption scandals put imperialism itself on trial, and raised troubling questions about the corrupting effects of military conquests in distant lands.

In this course, we will explore the causes and effects of these imperial corruption scandals, and situate them in the context of new understandings of public virtue and corruption in eighteenth century Britain. How did corruption scandals produce new ideas of imperial reform? What can these scandals tell us about contemporary notions of racial and cultural difference? What role did gender and sexuality play in imperial scandals? We will also examine how British imperial politics was shaped by encounters with Indian political ideas. The decline of the Mughal empire in the eighteenth century generated a large body of Indian writings on political corruption (much of it in Indo-Persian), often focusing on courtly luxury and official profiteering. We will consider how Indian writers critiqued the corruption of British imperial rule, and also how British ideas about the corruption of Indian states were adapted from Indian political writings.

The course is designed to introduce students to British imperial history, the history of colonial South Asia, and the global, connected and comparative history of early modern political thought. Course readings will include European thinkers including Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Denis Diderot, as well as Indian writers (in translation), including the Indo-Persian historian Ghulam Husain Khan Tabataba‘i and the liberal reformer Ram Mohan Roy. Students will design their own research projects on imperial scandals using primary sources, including parliamentary debates and inquiries, pamphlets and official records of colonial rule.

Robert Travers is Associate Professor of History at Cornell, and holds a PhD from Cambridge University. He is a historian of the British Empire, whose research has focused especially on the origins of the British Empire in India in the late eighteenth century. His book, Ideology and Empire in Eighteenth Century India (Cambridge, 2007), examined the political thought of the first generation of British empire-builders in Bengal, showing how officials of the British East India Company tried to legitimize their conquests by styling themselves as stewards of an ‘ancient constitution’ derived from the history of the Mughal empire in India. His current research continues to explore encounters between British and South Asian forms of political culture, through a study of Indian petitioning and contested ideas of justice in early colonial Bengal. Recent articles include ‘The Connected Worlds of Haji Mustapha (c. 1730-1791); a Eurasian Cosmopolitan in Eighteenth Century Bengal’, Indian Economic and Social History Review 52, 3, 2015, pp. 1-37; and ‘A British Empire by Treaty in Eighteenth Century India’, in Saliha Belmessous ed., Empire by Treaty. Negotiating European Expansion 1600-1900 (Oxford University Press, 2014), pp.132-160.

SHUM 4624 The Politics of Imprisonment

(also HIST 4724)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
R. Weil
T: 10:10 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

Different polities incarcerate in different ways. This seminar put prisons into their wider political contexts, considering them as sites for wider debates about rights, tyranny, corruption and slavery, race and empire. Readings will include as primary sources ranging from the 17th -century to modern times, as well the work of current historians, political theorists, political scientists and activists, including Loïc Wacquant, Michel Foucault, David Rothman, Jennifer Mannion, Alice Bullard, Angela Davis, Andrew Dilts and Heather Thompson. 

Among the topics and questions considered in the course: What were the characteristics of imprisonment prior to the rise of the "modern prison"? How did the activism of incarcerated debtors in the mid-17th century English revolution create a public discourse about the relationship between imprisonment and liberty? Why did the birth of the modern prison coincide so closely with the birth of the American (and French) republics? How did changing forms of imprisonment intersect with imperial ambitions, as in the settlement of Australia and New Caledonia with convicts? What do the new generation of activists and scholars mean by "the carceral state?" Why and when do politicians talk about prisons, how do prisons serve as models or anti-models for political society? In what sense can we call prisons political institutions, or speak of a "carceral state?" 

Rachel Weil is a historian specializing in the political, cultural, intellectual and gender history of early modern England. She has published articles on a range of subjects: Restoration political pornography, the "Popish midwife" Elizabeth Cellier, John Locke's concept of the family, political informers, and national security legislation targeting Catholics after the Revolution of 1688, as well as two books: Political Passions: Gender, the Family and Political Argument in England, 1680-1714 (Manchester University Press, 2000) and A Plague of Informers: Conspiracy and Political Trust in William III's England (Yale University Press, 2013). Her work has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Huntington Library and Cornell University.

Her current project looks at practices of detention in 17th and 18th-century England. It explores prisons as sites of politics, where both gaolers and prisoners engage in pragmatic and ideologically charged ways with notions of rights, constitutions and authority; and how this in sometimes gave actors in the wider political world an investment in what happened in the prison. It further considers how the detention of prisoners was understood to be similar to (or different from) other situations in early modern England in which people were restrained from moving where they pleased: the confinement of the sick to hospitals or their own houses, the commitment of lunatics to asylums, or slavery. She is a co-founder of and contributor to the blog Early Modern Prisons, where aspects of her research are regularly published.

She is currently Professor of History at Cornell University, where she has taught courses in early modern English and British History (covering 1500-1800), early modern Europe, modern Europe, the history of monarchy, gender history, the history of childbirth, the English Revolution, legal and constitutional history, and the history of prisons.


SHUM 6819 Urban Representation Lab - Building Feelings/Feeling Buildings: Mapping Urban Memory in an Ahistorical Age

(also AMST 6819, ARCH 6408, ENGL 6919, LSP 6819)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to fellowship recipients.  
E. Diaz
W: 10:10 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

The Spring 2018 Urban Representation Lab, “Building Feelings / Feeling Buildings: Mapping Urban Memory in an Ahistorical Age,” is an innovative seminar for graduate students in the humanities and design disciplines. Urban Representations Labs are offered under the auspices of Cornell University’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Collaborative Studies in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities grant and are organized by the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and the Society for the Humanities.

Selected students receive a $1,500 stipend to support a final project. Since final projects will be collaborative, students with diverse backgrounds and skill sets (i.e. ethnography, film and video, critical theory, digital mapping, architecture, fine art, landscape architecture, city planning, etc.) are encouraged to apply.  Applicants should be in their first three years of graduate training or enrolled in a graduate professional program.  Advanced undergraduate students may apply, but preference will be given to graduate students.

Materials to be submitted:  (1). C.V.   (2). A two-page statement describing your interest in and qualifications for the seminar including:: a. your state of graduate study; b. your background or interests in urban representation; c. your interest in collaborative research and your knowledge of various methods and tools we may bring to it; and d. your background with relevant experiences such as curating, architecture, etc. and your experience with digital skills such as GIS, web design, internet art, photography, video, sound recording or any other relevant information.  No letters of recommendation are required.

Applications must be submitted via http://urbanismseminars.cornell.edu/apply/ by November 1, 2017.

In 2014, architect and author Marc Kushner praised the role of social media in shaping the future of our built environments.  In a TED Talk, he skipped over histories of social, economic, and political exclusions in modern American cities, including early twentieth-century redlining practices, gentrification, and urban renewal projects of the mid to late-twentieth century, to declare, “Architecture is not about math and it’s not about zoning; it’s about those visceral, emotional connections that we feel to the places that we occupy.” This course asks how built environments make us feel by connecting different vocabularies and methodologies used in academic fields (public history, ethnography, cultural studies, etc.,) and visual and performance art to map architectures of identity and unpack notions of cosmopolitanism and nationalism. The early twentieth century witnessed unprecedented migrations of racial-ethnic and working-class peoples in the U.S., many of whom moved from rural to urban environments. These migrations shaped communities that catalyzed populist arts movements in the 1960s and 1970s civil rights era that defined the look and feel of many American cities—as murals, posters, and street art are now integral to their visual and cultural landscapes. Today, urban and community art initiatives are promoted by municipal redevelopment agendas with corporate sponsorships.  There is little to no recognition of the liberationist agendas in which murals, graffiti, street art, pop-up galleries, and other art spaces materialized. We will consider the absence of local histories in the remaking of urban landscapes as global art networks and transactional spaces in the neoliberal age. Moving between U.S., Latin American, and Caribbean cities, the course explores popular arts movements in connection with relational aesthetics, social sculpture, and public art interventions from a range of artists and collectives including Anne Bray, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Judith Baca, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Regina José Galindo, INDECLINE, Ana Teresa Fernández, and others.

Course Instructor: Ella Maria Diaz, Assistant Professor of English and Latina/o Studies, Cornell University