Fall Term Schedule
Rachel Haidu; Tingting Xu
How can early photography differentiate between reality and illusion and tell us about how photographers imagined what they were doing, whether they were creating fictions or theater, documenting reality, or “seeing” the apparently invisible—including ghosts, the passage of time, and atmospheres themselves? In this course we will examine case studies ranging from a “lady amateur” staging scenes with her children and servants, to scientists’ exploration of the camera in wonderment and imperial families’ innovative patronage of the mediums old and new. Readings will include essays by Benjamin, Barthes, Sontag, Bazin, and Krauss as well as the recent scholarship of Geoffrey Batchen, Christopher Pinney, Roberta Wue, and Zahid R. Chaudhary about pioneering practitioners in Asia, Europe, Africa, and America. Class visits to the Eastman Museum will emphasize close observations of photographs done by alternative processes throughout the 19th century.
This course will explore developments in world cinemaindustrial, social, and politicalfrom 1959 to 1989. It will explore film aesthetics, technologies, and circulation questions, considering questions like the following: Whats new about the French New Wave? What do we mean by Third Cinema? How do different national cinemas influence each other? In what ways have various national cinemas responded critically to Hollywoods commercial dominance and to its conventions? How do popular and art? cinemas speak to each other. How does cinema respond to the pressures and provocations of other media at the inception of the digital age? Weekly screenings and film journals required. FMS 132, Introduction to the Art of Film,? typically a prerequisite.
This course explores textiles as vital objects in human lives for millennia. It explores a selection of these luxurious textiles and their intersection with social, economic, and political lives in the Islamic world between the ninth to the eighteenth centuries. At the end of the semester, students will have an overall picture of Islamic dynastic history, its broad geographical expansion from Spain to India, and its cultural themes such as political system, social structure, economic sectors, religious rituals, cross-cultural exchanges, diplomatic gifting, royal leisure, and funerary practices. This course invites students to see artifacts as not merely passive objects but active agents in history as well as their everyday lives. It also discusses a few technical aspects of weaving textiles and looks at textiles as three-dimensional objects. Finally, this course will assist students with developing their critical thinking, research, and writing as crucial skills to succeed in their future careers through weekly readings, visual analysis, in-class discussions, and research projects.
This course explores the remarkably elastic—and durable—genre of the road movie. Across a range of periods in film history, and through a framework of transnational exchange and circulation, we will examine the ways this adaptable genre focuses questions of national and regional identity, racial, ethnic, gender class differences. We will pay special attention to the road movie’s existential and phenomenological preoccupations.
The early modern tends to be understood as a moment of the horizontal: a period of
In this course we will explore the nature of personhood and structured inequality. Alongside changing theoretical definitions of what personhood is – from social roles to ideologies and semiotic displays – we will read ethnographies that highlight the ways in which social values, practices, and institutions have shaped who and what people think they are. Through an extended comparison between the US and South Asia, we will investigate categories of class, caste, and race to understand how social stratification and exclusion operate. Debating whether “race” in the US is like “caste” in India (among other questions), we will search out the opportunities and limits of cross-cultural comparison. We will view ethnographic and popular films and analyze a range of contemporary media in addition to readings.
In this introduction to linguistic anthropology, we will take as our starting point the idea that language does not merely describe the world; rather, linguistic practices play a key role in constituting social relations and cultural formations. Communication enables us to form social groups, to create and sustain social differences, to share cultural conceptions of the world, and to learn models of behavior. Through ethnographic case studies, we will explore each of these issues in turn. We will examine how language works as a communicative system and consider the relationship between communication and culture. We will explore language differences within society and the role of language in the production of social identities and power relations. Finally, we will approach language as a cultural product, exploring traditions of performance and communicative genres (narratives, ritual speech, poetry, slang, etc.). In addition to classic and contemporary readings, we will watch films and video clips from popular media, and analyze advertisements, newspaper articles, and political speeches. Quizzes and a series of written assignments will help students learn to think like a linguistic anthropologist.
This seminar considers anthropological scholarship on waste and wasting, as materiality and practice. We will ask, What counts as waste, why and how and with what effects? What is wasting as a practice, according to whom, and what are its effects? How are cultural ideas about waste and wasting produced in historically contingent ways, in relation to particular economic, political, and cultural systems? How can analyzing waste and wasting help us to understand and perhaps transform systems of power? We will look at examples both locally and globally, ranging from toxic post-industrial sites, to landfills or sewers, to wasting bodies. This is an advanced topics seminar that requires weekly participation and a semester-long research project. Prerequisites: ANTH 101 and ANTH 200
This class examines the multifaceted concept of “postmodernism,” a term that came to define an amalgam of various literary approaches (metafictional, parodic, self-referential), philosophical perspectives (anti-metanarrative, ironic, perspectivist), and cultural developments (consumer society, mass media, dominance of the image) of the mid to late twentieth century. We will study the origins of postmodernist discourse in Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, whose trenchant critiques of modernity set the stage for much of 20th-century thought; the postmodernist fiction of Jorge Luis Borges (short stories), Don DeLillo (White Noise), Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49), Paul Auster (City of Glass), and Italo Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler); the philosophical texts of Gianni Vattimo, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, and Richard Rorty; the cultural criticism of Fredric Jameson, Umberto Eco, and Jean Baudrillard. Conducted in English.
This course uses literature to analyze social behavior, specifically processes of inclusion and exclusion. How communities are constructed, around what signs and sets of practices, and the role that exclusion plays in defining a community are topics we will explore. What does it mean to belong? To be excluded? And just how stable are these categories? Literature from a variety of traditions, historical periods, and genres will provide examples, case histories, and a vocabulary with which such social phenomena can be discussed. Texts include Beowulf, John Gardner’s Grendel, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy, Amin Maalouf’s In the Name of Identity, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Peter Shaffer’s Equus, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Richard Wright’s Black Boy, and more. Course requirements include two essays, bi-weekly response papers, and class participation.
This course surveys the history of cinema from its emergence in the mid-1890s to the transition to sound in the late 1920s. We will examine the cinema as a set of aesthetic, social, technological, national, cultural and industrial practices as they were exercised and developed during this 30-year span. We will explore the diverse forms cinema took and functions it performed during this period by looking closely at a range of films and writings about films and film culture. We will also examine contexts within which these films were produced and experienced as well as theorizations of cinema that emerged concurrently with them. The course thus introduces students to the study of film history as well as a key national and international trends in making and thinking about cinema as it rose to prominence as a vital component of the art and culture of the twentieth century. Previous coursework in film is recommended, though not required; please contact the professor if this will be your first experience studying film in an academic setting.
Recent critical work has called into question the saliency of national traditions and the efficacy of conventional periodization in literary studies. This shift in critical focus from the nation to the globe has implications for the field of American literature and the rationale for literary studies more generally. In this seminar we will consider reevaluations of the always evolving canon of nineteenth-century American literature in light of our increased awareness of globalization’s long history. Does rereading writers once considered “pure products of America,” like Cooper, Child, Emerson, Melville, Poe, Whitman, Hawthorne, Douglass, Delaney, Thoreau, Stowe, Dickinson, Twain, James and others, in contexts that traverse the once heavily policed borders of the U. S. A., change the meaning and implications of their work? What is the purpose of studying any national literature when the concept of the nation itself seems increasingly questionable? We will read representative works by selected canonical “American” authors as well as recent critical reevaluations of the field by Robert Levine, Wai Chee Dimock, Lisa Lowe, Edward Said, Paul Gilroy, Paul Giles, John Guillory and others.
This course will focus on the work of four influential filmmaking collectives from across the global African diaspora: the LA Rebellion (US), the Nest Collective (Kenya), the Black Audio Film Collective (Britain), and Sankofa Film and Video (Britain). What does it mean for black filmmakers to create, in sustained collaboration, a body of politically engaged, experimental work? This will be our guiding question as we study the range of these collectives’ representations, as well as the convergences and divergences among them. Topics will include: the afterlives of slavery and empire; police brutality and black uprisings; migration, memory, and belonging; LGBTQ desire and experience; black feminism and black feminist theory; and Afrofuturism and speculative histories. Our archive will be capacious, spanning narrative films, essay films, anthology films, and web series produced from the 1970s to the 2010s, all of which will be contextualized with interviews, production notes, historical essays, theory, and criticism.
Why should performers study music history? Can musicology help performers communicate more effectively? This course addresses these questions in the context of the music of Belle Epoque France. Together, we will explore what a musicologically informed performance practice might look like. Because many Belle Epoque musicians used music not only to express themselves but to imagine a different, better world, we will explore how musicians can harness music of the era for social change today. Musicians to be studied include Boulanger, Debussy, Fauré, and Ravel, among many others. Themes include race, gender, primitivism, symbolism, and the performing body. Students apply their knowledge in a creative, research-based final project.
This course focuses on Bollywood, the largest film industry in the world, and explores the world of Hindi film songs: the entertaining song-and-dance sequences that mark it. How have Hindi film songs and musical styles changed over the last half-century? What is the social life of filmi songs, both as they relate to and are independent from the films for which they are composed? Taking Hindi film songs as a celebratory yet critical guide to South Asian history and culture, we will examine issues such as gender, nationalism, and globalization. Combining literature on South Asian history, society, and music with numerous film viewings, close analysis of songs, and hands-on workshops, we will develop a culturally grounded and musically sophisticated understanding of why these songs hold such meaning and appeal, both within South Asia and abroad.