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Fall 2015

SPAN 597A (now SPAN 561)

The Cinematic Pluriverse of Pedro Almodóvar (3) This seminar will examine the cinematic imaginary of Spain’s most internationally celebrated filmmaker, Pedro Almodóvar.  Topics to be considered will include Almodóvar’s lensing of gender politics, sexuality, multiculturalism, and national identity in post-dictatorial Spain; his nimble negotiation of the local and the global; his taste for cinephilic self-referentiality and hybridity of genre; and a distinctive tendency toward thematic idiosyncrasy—all of which are signature features of his postmodern “brand.”  Significant attention will be devoted to approaches and trends within the vast corpus of scholarly criticism dealing with the filmmaker’s oeuvre, and our engagement with film theory will arise organically out of the references from these texts.  Some basic tools, techniques, and language of film analysis will be considered, as will a general understanding of field-specific norms of film studies as practiced in North American and U.K. Hispanism (with the latter being a crucial site for the field, not only by virtue of proximity to Spain—where, in fact, film history has long been synonymous with film studies in the academy—but also because of certain disciplinary developments in the U.K., where cultural studies had an earlier and broader impact on humanities curricula than elsewhere.) 

SPAN 597B 

Decadentism, Eroticism and the Diseased Imagination (3) 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 2015

SPAN 596D 

Biopolitics in Latin American and Spanish Literature of the late 20th Century (3) Provide groundwork in the field of Biopolitics (the dynamics between bodies and the State) theory by analyzing literary texts published in Spain or Latin America that deal with the body's control within society. 

SPAN 597B 

Body and Space Politics in Latin American Intellectual Writing (3) In this seminar, we will study some of the most important Latin American and Latina/o intellectual traditions (post 1800s) and will particularly examine their thoughts and theorizations on bodies and geographies in the Americas. 

SPAN 597D 

Images of the Caribbean in Hispanic Caribbean Literature (3) Students will explore different representations and repetitive discourses pertaining Caribbean culture and politics in Hispanic Caribbean writings from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. 

SPAN 597E 

A Panoram of Spanish Goldern Age Theater (3) As the title indicates, this class will examine several different subcategories of theater from one of the richest periods of Spanish stage productions. 

corporeal and the spiritual, the sensuous and the intelligible, and the self and the other. 


Spring 2016

SPAN 597

Race, Performance, and Possession in the Americas (3) 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 (3) 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 (3) 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

The Origins of the Latin American Subject (3) 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 

Culture, Capital, and the Global Jungle (3) 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 

The City as Text: Theorizing Urban Life (3) 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 

Translation in the Americas (3) 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.


Fall 2017

SPAN 597 

Spanish Cinema Studies: Current Methods and Theoretical Approaches (3) This course will focus on current theoretical trends in contemporary Spanish film studies.  Moving beyond a set of traditional methodologies rooted in film history, genre studies, notions of a “national” cinema, auteurism, and/or formalism, much recent work in the field has embraced the insights of scholarship from areas ranging from sound studies to geocriticism, from ecocriticism to disability studies, from the politics of social activism to televisual and media studies.  While foregrounding critical readings which have broadened the field in this regard, this course will also emphasize—as a secondary concern—the fundamentals of reading film.  It will offer an overview of cinematic practices vis-à-vis performance, cinematography, sound, direction, editing, and production, namely with the goal of enhancing students’ ability (as already seasoned literary critics) to move beyond the application of interpretive tools bound to the realm of narrative. 


Spring 2018

SPAN 597 

A Poetry of Things: Material Culture in the Spain of the Austrias (3) With the rise of Spain in the sixteenth century as a trans-European and global power, social, political, and aesthetic ideals were aligned with the court, empire and modernity. This course will focus on how major poets of Habsburg Spain use artifacts as material sites of discourse to explore connections to antiquity, cultural memory, political and social events, space, self-representation, and status. Artifacts range from large decorative objects, like tapestries, paintings, and frescoes, to trinkets and accessories in "cabinets of curiosities." The course will examine diverse topics such as the city as text, specifically how a "pilgrim"  and learned humanist from Spain reads a Rome of ruins and museum artifacts; how objects like tapestries and paintings are used to explore questions of patronage, social networking, and gift-giving as well as to celebrate imperial politics and ideology; how  mirrors and portrait miniatures are used for examining questions of introspection and self-reflexivity of an incipient modern self; and how inscriptions on tombs and urns explore the interplay between orality and writing, voice and memory. Since the topic is part of a larger European phenomenon, the course will include Spain's cross-cultural relations with Italy, a major source of cultural objects. Time will be devoted to early modern collectionism as a backdrop to textual and artistic production.

Spanish 597

Voices of the Povo/Pueblo (3) This course examines the relationship between public intellectuals and the "people" by analyzing various voices of the povo and the pueblo in Latin American literature, visual art, music, and film since the early twentieth century. The class conceives of public intellectual in a broad sense to include, among others, essayists Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, Fernando Ortiz, and Carlos Monsiváis, musicians Chico Buarque and Violeta Parra, filmmakers Glauber Rocha and Octavio Getino, and painters Tarsila Amaral and Wifredo Lam. By reading works by Brazilian and Spanish American artists and intellectuals together, we will explore the intersections of the intellectual, the popular, the national, and the political in modern and contemporary Latin America. Theoretical and critical texts on the role of public intellectuals, the concept of the national-popular, the testimonial, and the voice will complement our study of literary and artistic works.

SPAN 597 

Latin American Modernisms and (Old) New Media (3) In recent years the rise of digital technologies has led critics to reconsider the category of “literature” and look back at the ways in which it has changed throughout history in response to the advent of new media. In this course we will take up this question in the context of Latin America, beginning in the late nineteenth century and continuing into the present. Among the questions we will ask: How might shifting the focus to regions often regarded as “backward” and “behind” help challenge the rhetoric of rupture and historical amnesia that often accompanies the introduction of “new” media? Given the (in some places) high rates of illiteracy, has literature in Latin America responded differently to the challenges posed by new media? How has the "embodied" art of theater responded to changes in the mediascape, including the invention of the phonograph, film, radio, and digital media? Each week we will read key works of media theory and criticism alongside literary and artistic works by a wide array of Latin American writers. The course will cover a number of works on the MA list for students in SIP, including modernista poetry and other types of texts by José Martí, Miguel Ángel Asturias's El señor presidente, Roberto Arlt's play Saverio el cruel, Gabriel García Márquez's Cien años de soledad, and stories by Jorge Luis Borges; it will also include a few texts in Portuguese by writers such as the Brazilian concrete poets, which we will consider in relation to the rise of cybernetics. For those with no background in Portuguese, these texts will either be available in translation, or (as in the case of concrete poetry) will be simple for readers of Spanish to decipher.