In this HarvardX presentation, Martin Puchner explores how the concept of World Literature came into being, describing the conversations of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Peter Eckermann.
This course will explore that experience as expressed in various cultural forms–fiction, film, comedy acts, graphic novels, memoirs, art installations, and new media. We will pay particular attention to contemporary works and authors (e.g., Kahf, Nye, Alameddine, Hammad, Abu Jaber), although we will also consider the work of early 20th-century Arab-American writers (Gibran, Rihani, Rizk). Topics include mapping the exilic experience, translation and bilingualism, cultural translation, and the semiotics of food.
The maritime counterpart to ancient trade routes that brought silk and cannon-fire to Europe, the Indian Ocean was a space re-imagined through successive tides of trade, conquest, and exploration, historically mediating between the diverse cultures of several continents. This course introduces students to the literatures of this cosmopolitan space and to its historic lines of influence and exchange, through a comparative reading of literary texts drawn from its perimeter and from travel accounts both fictional and historical/semi-biographical. Readings will include Indic, Arabic, and Persian classics, Sufi poetry from across Asia and Africa, travel narratives in Portuguese and English, and twentieth century writing on the region’s imperial afterlives. Class sessions will be complemented by visits to relevant library and museum collections throughout the semester. (Readings will be made available in English.)
“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” said Bong Joon Ho during his acceptance speech for Parasite’s historical Golden Globe wins. Are we finally ready to embrace subtitles? Are those one-inch-tall subtitles still a cultural barrier? Are they literary artifacts of translation? Despite their widespread use, subtitles are less often studied as a critical site for translation. Using subtitles as a point of departure, this course takes an interdisciplinary approach to explore the intricacies of translation in cinema and other media cultures. It situates translation at the intersection of media and literary theories. In this course, we explore how the media form of subtitles can enable philosophical reflection on issues such as nationalism, nativism, foreignness, aphasia, postcoloniality, labor, and technology. The course will draw on theoretical texts from a diverse range of thinkers, including Frantz Fanon, Frederic Jameson, Slavoj Zizek, John Mowitt, Rey Chow, Naoki Sakai, and Sergei Eisenstein, among others.
Students’ work-in-progress on a semester-long translation project will be presented, discussed, and critiqued each week with the aim of publication. Readings on strategies, theories, and methodologies will complement participants’ work in the seminar’s shared enterprise of exploring the pleasures and risks of translating literature. Working as scholars and practitioners, we will challenge the division between theory and practice in the field of translation studies today. Guest translator-scholars will visit the seminar. Requirements: all source languages are welcome; translations into English. Enrollment limited to twelve (graduate students and advanced undergraduates); course application due by August 22.
Travel is a persistent feature of Arabophone societies through which they have consistently sought to understand and extend their physical, spiritual and imaginative worlds. This course explores the literary tropes of travel and how real, imaginary and spiritual geographies have been described and developed. It encourages students to think about the theme of travel in Arabic literature, its formal and stylistic modes of expression, and the deeper and diverse implications of writing about traveling Closely connected to travelogues are biographical and autobiographical works through which themes of identity, belonging, and depiction of the other will be explored. Material is taken from a broad range of Arabic literary works with a focus on modern texts such as The Days by Taha Husayn, The Journey of Ibn Fattuma by Najib Mahfouz, A Mountainous Journey by Fadwa Tuqan, and Season Migration to the North by Tayyib Salih among others. All texts will be read in translation. No previous knowledge of Arabic is required. Students who have reading knowledge of Arabic may participate in an extra weekly session to read the original texts in Arabic.
Narrative Negotiations: How do Readers and Writers Decide on What are the Most Important Voices and Values Represented in a Narrative?
Narrative Negotiations explores narrative “voice” in a wide range of literary and cultural texts. Narrative voice is a lively dialogue between the author and the reader as they engage in the experience of determining the value and veracity of the narrative: whose story is it anyway? The writer creates the imaginative universe of character, plot, emotions and ideas—she seems to be holding all the cards; but it is the reader who rolls the dice as she draws on her human experience and moral values to question the principles and priorities of the storyteller. The game of narrative becomes deadly serious when storytelling confronts issues of colonialism, slavery, racial profiling and gender discrimination. Is the right to narrative restricted to those who have suffered the injustices of exclusion? What is my responsibility as a storyteller—or a reader—if I am a witness to violence, or an advocate against injustice, but my life-story is one of privilege, protection and security? What is the role of the politics of identity or cultural appropriation in determining whose story is it anyway? Throughout the seminar students will be encouraged to draw on their own histories, memories and literary experiences as the enter into the world of the prescribed readings. For the final assessment I hope students will choose critical and creative ways of telling their own stories, or the stories of others who have captured their imaginations. Seminar participants will be required to come to each class with two questions that pose issues or problems based on the texts that are important for them, and may prove to be significant for their colleagues. I will invite members of the group to pose their questions and start a discussion.