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Fall 2015


The Cinematic Pluriverse of Pedro Almodovar
Instructor: Matthew Marr

This seminar will examine Pedro Almodovar's lensing of gender politics, sexuality, multiculturalism, and Spanish national identity, has nimble negotiation of the local and the global as well as the hybridity of genre and tendency toward thematic idiosyncrasy, which have become signature features of his "brand."


Decadentism, Eroticism, and the Diseased Imagination
Instructor: Nicolás Fernández-Medina

This course will examine various cultural expressions of the body, sexuality, science, and technology put forward during the modernist period. We will analyze their key social and aesthetic implications and inquire into how they deepen our understanding of the complex, multi-layered relationship between the corporeal and the spiritual, the sensuous and the intelligible, and the self and the other.

Spring 2016

SPAN 597:001

Race, Performance, and Possession in the Americas 
Instructor: Sarah Townsend

This course will take a hemispheric approach to examining the connections between race, performance, and “possession”—a vexed concept that can refer to everything from property ownership to spirit possession. Over the course of the semester we will explore the multiple meanings of this term and ask what it can tell us about the equally complex notions of “race” and “performance” by studying a diverse array of cultural phenomena from throughout the Americas (theater, performance art, films, literature, historical documents, music, etc.). For example: What sort of logical contortions were required to reconcile the fact that slaves—i.e. pieces of property—could speak, sing, dance, and even write or act? Is there any link between the practice of spirit possession in many indigenous and African-influenced religions and the histories of dispossession experienced by these groups? How might both instances of “possession” place pressure on liberal conceptions of subjectivity, and what can they tell us about the relationship between race and capital? Possible topics include: the exhibition of racially marked bodies and “scenes of subjection” (Sadiya Hartman); examples of racial impersonation such as blackface performance (what Eric Lott refers to as “love and theft”); slaves as objects of conspicuous consumption and the racialization of conspicuous consumption in the present; Haitian vodou, and links between zombies and whiteness in recent popular culture; avant-garde engagements with ritual practices of trance; struggles over copyright and cultural appropriation; and the politics of archives and museum collections.

The course will be conducted in English, and all required materials will be available in English. (Some supplemental materials may be accessible only in Spanish, Portuguese, or French, and students in SIP need to read Spanish texts in the original.)

SPAN 597

War, Memory, and Displacement in the Americas
Instructor: Judith Sierra Rivera

This seminar will study memory representations of violence and displacement in Latin American and U.S. Latino literatures and other artistic productions. We will begin by reading a diverse body of theory on trauma, memory, mourning, and melancholia, as well as on the relation of these phenomena to the concepts of nation, exile, diaspora, and borderlands. Throughout the rest of our course, we will examine how the specificities of different body politics in the Americas (race, gender, and sexuality) inscribe the work of memory as a work of resistance. Some contexts we will explore through these initial propositions include the U.S.-Mexico borderland (la frontera), the Spanish–American War, U.S. (neo)colonialism in the Caribbean, Latino soldiers in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Cuban Revolution, dictatorships in the Southern Cone, and the Central American Refugee crisis. Our corpus will include diverse literary genres, such as autobiographies, crónicas urbanas, essays, short stories, and novels, as well as performances, films, works of art, and architecture. In this sense, our examination will also reflect on a variety of aesthetics and media and their particular impressions on memory index. Among others, we will consider works by Eva Antonia Wibur-Cruce, José Martí, José Luis González, Pedro Pietri, Reinaldo Arenas, Rodolfo Walsh, Diamela Eltit, Raúl Zurita, Pedro Lemebel, Josean Ramos, Junot Díaz, and Francisco Goldman.

Span 597E

Representing Mythology in Early Modern Spanish Theater 
Instructor: Bob Blue

Representing Mythology in Early Modern Spanish Theater (3) The course would go over basic classical mythology; look at its transmission in Early Modern Spain; examine a number of "myth" plays of varying lengths, ie, traditional comedia and shorter works; look at connections among the myths, plays, and cultural-political contexts; and see how some of the myths were protrayed by painters from the period.

Fall 2016

SPAN 597 (F 2:30-5:30)

The Origins of the Latin American Subject
John Ochoa

This course looks at canonical texts from the late eighteenth century to the end
of the nineteenth century, in order to explore various formations of identity:national, cultural, racial and class. Topics will include post-colonial mimicry,criollo identity, various forms of indigenism, civilization vs. barbarism, regionalism vs. cosmopolitanism, europhilia and cultural independence, the historical origins of caudillismo, and anti-imperialism. Readings will include Concolorcorvo, Lizardi, Bello, Sarmiento, Altamirano, Hernández, Avellaneda, Silva, Martí, Darío, and Rodó, as well as historical documents. Theorists and critical readings will include Anderson, Mariátegui, Cornejo Polar, Sommer, González Echevarría.

Spring 2017

SPAN 597 (TR 4:35-5:50)

Culture, Capital, and the Global Jungle
Sarah J. Townsend 

The Amazon is sometimes imagined as a primeval place located outside history. Yet for several centuries (if not longer) it has been a site of exploration and exploitation by foreigners, and ever since the rubber boom of the late nineteenth century it has been closely integrated into the international economy. This course will approach the Amazonian regions of Brazil and Spanish America as a site of international capital and cultural exchange by focusing on literature, film, theater, music, and historical accounts. Secondary readings will deal with nature and the production of space, indigeneity, and the changing dynamics of global capital.

This graduate seminar will consider texts on uneven development by Marxist and postcolonial critics alongside work on queer theory, race, and (old) new media studies that also thinks through the issue of anachronism and temporal heterogeneity. Among the critics we will read are Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Heather Love, Silvia Federici, Roberto Schwarz, Lisa Gitelman, and Mladen Dolar.

SPAN 597 (F 8-11)

The City as Text: Theorizing Urban Life
Nicolás Fernández-Medina

This course will examine the cultural, commercial, ideological, religious, and sexual dynamics that have defined various urban landscapes in the nineteenth and early twentieth century as seen through art, literature, theory, and philosophy. Special attention will be given to the evolving city of Madrid, a city described throughout this period as cemetery, sordid labyrinth, prison for paranoiacs, creative hub, beacon of freedom, and modern ideal.

SPAN 597/COMP LIT 597 (TR 1:35-2:50)

Translation in the Americas
Krista Brune

This course departs from the claim of Edwin Gentzler in his 2009 study Translation and Identity in the Americas that, “Translation is not a trope but a permanent condition in the Americas” (5). Does translation, in fact, exist as a permanent condition in this hemisphere? How does translation unfold as a metaphor, a linguistic act, and a cultural experience in the Americas? To what extent do processes of translation inform the exchanges of languages, peoples, and cultures within and between nations in this region? By examining the works of key translation theorists and scholars, as well as translators and writers, the course aims to analyze how translation informs the creative and critical projects of artists and intellectuals in the Americas. The class pairs readings of Latin American writers engaged with translation as a metaphor, theory, and practice, such as the Brazilian modernists, Jorge Luis Borges, Augusto and Haroldo de Campos, and Octavio Paz, with critical texts of translation studies by, among others, Walter Benjamin, Lawrence Venuti, and Emily Apter. To further analyze translation as a linguistic and aesthetic challenge situated within a politics and economics of the literary market, we consider the phenomenon of Clarice Lispector in translation and re-translation. The course ends by studying the recent “boom” of Brazilian and Spanish American literature translated into English that has corresponded with an emergence of more print and online venues for publishing translations. 

This class will be taught in English, but readings will be English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Students with knowledge of other languages of the Americas (French, Creole, indigenous languages) are welcome to work with these traditions in their final projects. Class readings and discussion, however, will focus on examples from Latin America and the United States.