The crisis of representation in postmodernity—closely connected with social and existential alienation and technological development—often manifests itself in terms of “hyperreality,” where any distinction between “the real” and “the simulacrum” is blurred. The boundaries between “reality” and “non-reality” and relevant concepts (e.g. originality, authenticity, mimesis, simulacrum) have been explored and challenged from different but comparable perspectives in philosophy, art, and literature since classical antiquity. This seminar will investigate discourses on, or inspired by “hyperreality” and its epistemological, ontological, and political implications, from antiquity to postmodernity. Authors and thinkers to be discussed include Plato, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Jean Baudrillard, Guy Debord, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Umberto Eco, Fredric Jameson, Paul Virilio, Bruno Latour, Elizabeth Grosz, Niklas Bostrom, Lucian, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, William Gibson, Philip K. Dick, Christine Broke-Rose, Italo Calvino, Don DeLillo, Julian Barnes.
An introduction to the discipline of comparative literature, looking at major issues in the history and current practice of the discipline as practiced in the USA, with special emphasis on seeing how comparatists enter into ongoing debates concerning theory and method. Several of our faculty will join us for the discussion of their work. Additional readings will include selections from Herder, de Staël, Adorno, Auerbach, de Man, Glissant, Said, Spivak, Apter, Venuti, and Heise. Notes: Required of first-year graduate students in Comparative Literature; open to all graduate students interested in the study of literature in transnational and interdisciplinary perspectives.
This course focuses on professional development and preparation for academic careers in literature and related fields as well as positions outside academe. Part one of a two-part series. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit. Notes: It is open to all Harvard graduate students and is required of first-year Ph.D. students in Comparative Literature.
This course will introduce students to defining trends, movements, and practices in twentieth and twenty-first century popular culture in Africa. Focusing on the lives, interventions and innovative practices of key figures in music, television, fashion, dance, and publishing, we will examine the socio-political and the historical in relation to broader aesthetic and stylistic links to the rest of the world. This will be discussed in the larger context of colonial and postcolonial class formation, the afterlives of Cold War cultural diplomacy, access to education and accumulation of socio-political capital, the emergence of new conceptions of self and nationhood in relation to the global, new modes of cultural circulation, and the new lives of rediscovered archives. Figures such as Fela Kuti, Ousmane Sembene, Fela Sowande, J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Miriam Makeba, Duro Olowu, Charley Boy, Dele Momodu, and William Onyeabor will be discussed alongside new figures, with a focus on lines of influence, self-fashioning, and the interface between the socio-political and the commercial. The ubiquitous power of diasporic/Afropolitan presence (and performance of access) will be considered alongside the local and vernacular/indigenous, and the cosmopolitan and secular will be discussed alongside the traditional and religious. The steady rise/use of social media platforms as generative, where new forms of culture-driven protests and negotiation of identities unfold, will be considered alongside the history of audio-visual communication and the emergence of modern African celebrity culture. This course is suitable for students with a general interest in the production, circulation, and consumption of culture in modern Africa.
“Constellations” is an attempt at putting key literary works in conversation with significant texts from other disciplines and discourses — philosophy, politics, history, law, and the social sciences. The conversations initiated between these texts might converge on conceptual or historical issues; on other occasions, they may conflict on matters of aesthetic form or cultural belief. What gives these ‘coupled” conversations a thematic or curricular coherence is their sustained interest in the life-worlds of minorities as they struggle to gain the recognition and protection of human rights. One of the key questions running through the course will be what it means to make a claim to human dignity from a position of inequality and injustice.
I have chosen landmark texts that describe a wide arc of historical experience from colonization and segregation to migration and the predicament of refugees. These conditions of life and literature will be framed by questions of national sovereignty and international cosmopolitanism. Discourses of race, gender and identity will intersect with conceptual issues of cultural representation and literary form. The conversations initiated by this course will be polyphonic and plural.
This course introduces students to some of the most important Latin American literary works produced during the twentieth century. We will explore the ways in which these novels, short-stories, essays and poems interrogate the historical traumas, political contexts and aesthetic potential of the region between 1920s and 1980s. We will shed light on their place in the historical and cultural formation of the literary canon, as well as on the concept of ‘classic’. The goal of this seminar is two-fold. On the one hand, it introduces students to the Latin American literary and critical tradition through some of the best and most interesting literary and critical works (each novel or grouping of short stories and poems are paired with an important critical essay that situates them historically and aesthetically). On the other, it provides them with the fundamental skills of literary analysis (close reading, conceptual and historical framing, continuities and discontinuities with the aesthetic tradition), and that is why I have selected a relatively small number of readings, in order to have time to work through them, discuss them and have some flexibility to extend the classes we dedicate to a given author when our discussions merit it.