Although Shakespeare's plays are usually studied as high canonical literature, they were originally written as playscripts designed for the entertainment of a disorderly, socially heterogeneous crowd and the financial profit of the players. This course will attempt to resituate the plays in their original theatrical setting. We will study a representative selection of Shakespeare's comedies, tragedies, and histories (to be chosen by the class at the first meeting) along with background material on Shakespeare's theater and his culture. There will be one or two hour-exams, one or two short papers, and a final exam. In addition, students are expected to meet in study groups outside of class and to make thoughtful, well-informed contributions to the class listserv and discussions.
Epistolary fiction is fiction presented in the form of letters ("epistles"). Often epistolary fictions invite readers to take voyeuristic pleasure in reading supposedly personal, even intimate, letters not "addressed" to us. Sometimes an epistolary writer pose as an "editor" without responsibility for the content of the letters he or she makes public. Some epistolary fictions look much like other kinds of novels except for the inclusion of a letter-convention "frame." In all cases, epistolary fictions incorporate specific kinds of distance between tales and readers, suggest the possibility of readerly transgression, complicate the supposedly clear space between public and private, and make peculiar authenticity claims.
The late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were the great age of English-language epistolary fiction. The form proliferated starting in the late 1660s, but by the beginning of the nineteenth century its popularity had dwindled markedly. Epistolary fiction was considered largely atavistic for most of the 19th and 20th centuries, though it never really disappeared. Remarkably, it is making something of a comeback today.
This course will consider the functions and appeal of epistolary fiction. We'll concentrate largely on texts from the form's hey-day between the mid-seventeenth and late-eighteenth centuries, but we'll also look at examples from the 19th and 20th centuries and consider some recent works. We'll ask what is at stake -- in aesthetic, political, moral/religious, and market terms -- in writing and publishing novels that pretend to be collections of private letters. Why did the epistolary form take off to such a spectacular extent during the "long eighteenth century" and why did its appeal dwindle when it did? What might account for the strong eighteenth-century association of epistolary fiction with women's voices and experiences? What part does epistolary fiction play in later British and American literary history, including contemporary fiction? Authors will include Aphra Behn, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, Samuel Richardson, Nick Bantock, and Lydia Davis, among others.
This seminar has a bold aim: it seeks to understand better what has happened in our world since the era of decolonization, by considering the term “politics” in its very broadest and most dramatic connotations: as the dream of social change and its failures. Another way of describing its subject matter is to say that it is about revolution and counterrevolution since the Bandung Conference. Together we will investigate the way in which major historical events, including the struggle for Algerian independence, the coup in Indonesia, the Cuban Revolution, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in Congo, the Vietnam War, Latin American and African dictatorships, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the Iranian revolution, the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of apartheid in South Africa, 9/11, the Iraq War, and its aftermath, have been represented in some of the most innovative and moving films of our time. Attention will therefore be paid to a variety of genres: including cinema verité, documentary, the thriller, the biopic, animation, the global conspiracy film, hyperlink cinema, and dystopian science fiction.
The ongoing and fraught question of race in America, as well as the American fixation on elections (which sometimes seems the be all and end all of politics here) may also come under scrutiny; but the idea is to have a more global reach. We will study 12 to 15 of the following titles (here grouped in terms of thematic connections), along with a rich collection of critical essays: Battle of Algiers, The Year of Living Dangerously/The Act of Killing, The Motor Cycle Diaries/Y Tu Mama Tambien, Lumumba/The Last King of Scotland, The Official Story/Missing/!No, The Lives of Others/Goodbye, Lenin, Persepolis, A Very British Coup, Invictus/ Endgame/ More than Just a Game, Mississippi Burning/American History X/ Crash, Caché, The Fog of War/W, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, The Ghost Writer, In the Valley of Elah, Waltz with Bashir, The Edukators/Die Welle/ Election, Children of Men.
Note also that this course will be taught in a way quite similar to my earlier seminar on Cinema and Globalization: students will view the set film on their own in advance and read the accompanying critical articles; occasional and voluntary in-class presentations are possible. Requirements: a midterm paper of around 8-10 pages and a final paper of around 8-12.