Spring 2018 Course Offerings

AAS 561: Race and Cultural Critique

Professor: Junaid Rana
Meets: Wednesdays, 2:00-4:50

Introduction to graduate level theoretical and methodological approaches in Comparative Race Studies. As a survey of theories of race and racism and the methodology of critique, this course offers an interdisciplinary approach that draws from anthropology, sociology, history, literature, cultural studies, and gender/sexuality studies. In addition, the study of racial and cultural formation is examined from a comparative perspective in the scholarship of racialized and Gender and Women's Studies. Same as AFRO 531, ANTH 565, GWS 561, and LLS 561.


ANTH 515: Social Theory/Ethnography II

Professor: Jessica Greenberg
Meets: Mondays, 6:00-8:50, Davenport Hall 109A

This course is the second semester of a sequence initiated with Social Theory/Ethnography I.. Our task this semester will be to examine the theoretical and methodological roots of interpretative social science through the disciplinary practice of ethnography. We will examine a set of classic and contemporary works that reflect specific theoretical orientations in anthropology.  In reading ethnography, we will also investigate the integral relationship between ethnographic method, genres of writing and the production of social theory. We will ask questions such as: how do ethnographers generate theoretical abstractions out of the analysis of specific social practice? On what epistemological grounds do ethnographers have comparative conversations across disparate areas of field research? And what kinds of competing kinds of knowledge and hierarchies of power and expertise are produced through ethnographic methods?


ARTH 540: What Is Visual Culture?

Professor: David O’Brien
Meets: Tuesdays, 2:00-4:50

This seminar introduces students to the concept of visual studies primarily through the debates that defined the emerging academic field from the 1990s to the present. Some of the questions we will ask are: What is visual culture? What new approaches characterize recent scholarship on visual culture? Why has the visual become such an important category in the humanities? How have visual cultural approaches changed the practice of art history? We shall also consider some approaches to visual culture that anticipated current debates. Special attention will be devoted to nineteenth- century visual culture, but the course does not focus on the nineteenth century, and students may work on visual culture from all periods and places.


ARTH 541: Aesthetic Technologies of the Russian Avant-Garde

Professors: Lilya Kaganovsky and Kristin Romberg
Meets: Mondays, 2:00-4:50, Flagg 404

This course takes as its primary focus the radical transformations of aesthetic technologies in painting, photography, film, literature, poetry, and related media produced by the Russian avant-garde in the period from the 1917 Russian Revolution to the beginning of the Second World War. During these interwar years in Russia, Soviet artists attempted to participate directly through industrial design, architecture, literature, and cinema in the state’s ambitious projects for constructing a socialist modernity. They developed what we might term “aesthetic technologies” – new ways of processing sensory experience and of organizing pictorial space and narrative. This course is organized as a primer on the technologies of seeing and representing as they appear in Soviet film, literature, poetry, and the visual arts of the 1920s and 1930s. Topics will include: “trans-sense” (zaum), estrangement (ostranenie), montage, collage, attraction, factography, mastery or conquest of space through vision (osvoenie), and socialist realism. We are interested in how these aesthetic technologies were employed in new media such as photography, cinema, and radio, as well as in how they were deployed across media more broadly, including more traditional arts like literature and painting. Figures whose work will be considered include: Andrei Bely, Sergei Eisenstein, Velimir Khlebnikov, Aleksei Krychenykh, El Lissitzky, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Yuri Olesha, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Aleksandr Medvedkin, Andrei Platonov, Esfir’ Shub, Varvara Stepanova, Sergei Tret’iakov, and Dziga Vertov.


CAS 587: Learning Publics: Theory, Performance, Practice

Professors: Chris Higgins and Anke Pinkert
Meets: Thursdays, 2:00 - 3:50 PM

What does it mean to be a public university? Our typical answers are unsatisfying. Public universities, we say, are supported by public revenues rather than tuition; they are accessible to students regardless of social-economic status; they serve the public. The first answer is too formalistic and is, in any case, fast becoming a fiction as tuition has now surpassed state support. The second answer points to a substantive ideal but, again, is starting to look like wishful thinking. Admissions at public flagships is increasingly selective, and as tuition rises the student body is increasingly affluent. The third answer, that public universities serve the public, begs the key questions: who do they serve and how? If we want to deal with these questions seriously we have to investigate the nature of public formations, public things, and public goods. This team-taught interdisciplinary seminar will do just this. Through close reading and discussion of primary texts, from a range of humanistic fields, we will examine the nature of the public and the current conditions of public life. We will investigate what part universities play in catalyzing public formations and discourse. And we will consider what special role might be played by the arts and humanities in “summoning the public into being” (John Dewey)? The phrase "learning publics” is meant to signal the double connection between education and the public: that public life itself is educative and that central to education is the act of making public. Graduate students from all disciplines interested in pursuing such questions through collaborative inquiry and serious-playful discussion are welcome. Special guest lectures and events sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study campus-wide initiative Learning Publics will enhance our work. There are no pre-requisites. Crosslisted as ANTH 515, EPS 512, and GER 576


ENGL 524: History, Temporality and Seventeenth-Century Literature

Professor: Catharine Gray
Meets: Thursdays, 1:00 - 2:50 PM

Questions of time and history are currently of pressing concern to early modern scholars. For historians, size perhaps does matter, as the scale of the history that we should take as our object of study has become a matter of intense debate, particularly between “micro-” and “macro” historians. At the same time, memory studies and queer theory have turned our attention to linear temporality and its others, asking how understandings of trauma, the performative nature of historical breaks, diachronic simultaneity, nonreproductive futurity or “the new unhistoricism” could challenge our readings of individual texts and change the larger stories we tell about these texts within literary studies. In this course, we’ll grapple with some of the questions raised by these critical developments, and deploy some of the methods they offer, in large part by focusing them on a number of seventeenth-century poems, plays, and pamphlets that themselves take up questions of historical, political, affective, and divine time, including works by John Milton, Andrew Marvell, Lucy Hutchinson, and Anna Trapnel.


Throughout the course, therefore, we’ll interweave recent theories and debates surrounding time and history with works by our seventeenth-century authors, in this way building two inter-animating and overlapping archives: one largely theoretical/methodological, the other largely literary. Students will be asked to actively contribute to both of these archives, as together we develop our skills in primary and secondary research by using online databases and the Rare Books Library. The course will culminate in a workshop of seminar papers that will take up one of the texts and issues of the course. These papers can be historically specific or they can work inter-historically to pair texts from different periods (and national literatures) in ways that self-consciously question historical periodization and/or historicist method. 


ENGL 527: Asia and Africa in British Literature, 1660-1820

Professor: Robert Markley
Meets: Mondays, 1:00 - 2:50 PM

Throughout the long eighteenth century, Great Britain’s economic status depended as much on its trade to Asia as it did on its exploitative relations with its North American colonies.  This seminar will focus on the ways that a wide variety of literary texts—fictional and non-fictional—represented the moral, economic, and political consequences of British imperial and commercial growth.  Although there is a good deal of excellent scholarly work on the “triangular” trade in slaves among Africa, England, and its American colonies, this seminar will consider the slave trade in the context of British efforts in South and East Asia to establish—and dominate--commercial networks; we will pay particular attention to the often furious debates over the power of the East India Company both before and after it estabslished its political control over West Bengal.  Drawing on the work of a variety of postcolonial theorists, we will read and discuss some important texts of the period as well as a number of narratives that traditionally have not made it into the canon.  If you take this seminar, you will be encouraged to explore projects that resonate beyond the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Those students who are not primarily scholars of the early modern period or eighteenth century should feel free to use this seminar in ways that will further their own interests and research. 

Some of the topics we will adrress include the literature of international commerce and its effects on the literature of the period; reactions to the European slave trade in Africa and the Americas; recent trends in postcolonial criticism, including second-generation postcolonial approaches by Srinivas Aravamudan, Rajani Sudan, Chi-ming Yang, Eugenia Zuroski, and others; and the limitations of British commerical and naval power in in the Pacific and the Far East.  Readings will include Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko and The Widow Ranter; John Dryden’s Amboyna; Daniel Defoe’s Captain Singleton; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Letters; Oladuah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative; poems by Hannah More and Anne Yearsley; and Elizabeth Hamilton’s Letters of a Hindu Rajah; and selections from important historical texts by Peter Heylyn, William Dampier; the Scots merchant Alexander Hamilton; William Bosman; and others. 


ENGL 547: American Romanticism and the Post-Secular Turn

Professor: Justine S. Murison
Meets: Wednesdays, 3:00 - 4:50 PM

This seminar explores the vibrant recent debate over secularism, secularization, and the “post-secular.” Long a structuring principle of literary study, the assumption that modernity is marked by an ineluctable move away from religion has been called into question both by geopolitical events and scholars of the humanities and social sciences. This course will introduce students to the major theorists and scholarly discussions currently ongoing about religion and secularism. We will read widely in this interdisciplinary and dynamic field, which has posed urgent questions about secularism in a global context after 9/11, the relation of religion to gender and sexuality, and whether or not we can call our era, as some are doing, “post-secular.” To focus our inquiry, we will concentrate on the period of American Romanticism—from 1820-1865. This period in American culture was marked both by the disestablishment of state churches and the Second Great Awakening; it provoked the creation of new religious communities and the often-violent responses to them; and it experienced the evangelizing of abolitionism that spurred the urgency of such figures as Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown. Using key texts from the era—likely including those by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Walker, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Lydia Maria Child—we will explore the contested terms of the field and the history from which our debates about the “secular” emerged.


ENGL 581: What is World Literature?

Professor: Waïl S. Hassan
Meets: Wednesdays, 1:00 - 2:50 PM

This seminar examines the concept of “world literature,” from Goethe’s coinage of the term “Weltliteratur” to the current academic industry, which has boomed since the end of the Cold War, producing conferences, workshops, monographs, anthologies, and journals. What are the theoretical underpinnings of world literature in its various articulations and paradigms? What is considered “world literature” and what is not? Topics of discussion include canonicity, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, the role of translation, transnational circuits of exchange and mobility, literary prizes, the publishing industry, anthologies, and pedagogy, along with the multiple afterlives of older classics such as The Arabian Nights, to which we will devote the last part of the course. The seminar should appeal to students with interest in globalization, postcolonial, and transnational studies, or who would like to acquire a foundation for teaching the world literature courses offered by many English and Comparative Literature departments across the country.


ENGL 584: Topics in Discourse and Writing | Genre Theories and Histories

Professor: Lindsay Rose Russell
Meets: Mondays, 3:00 - 4:50 PM

Genre theory has been around for a long time (maybe forever), and it has found a home in a lot of disciplines (literature, linguistics, rhetoric, film, psychology, computer science, and so on). This course considers how theorists from several different fields have approached the study of kinds, classes, and sorts. If genres aren't simply sets of texts similar in form and content, what are they? What does it mean to think of a genre as rhetorical and social, cognitive and coercive? How do genres orchestrate not just cultural productions but cultural expectations and relations? Where do genres come from for that matter? This seminar will be particularly interested in theories of genre that take root in historical perspectives, tracing the development of a single genre--the religious treatise, the architecture notebook, the resume, the dissertation, the anthropological monograph, the pastoral poem, the animal autobiography--over time. How do generic patterns (in form, content, situation, exigence, audience, action) take and then shift shape? What prompts a genre to change and how much can it do so before it becomes a different genre? How do genre histories enrich genre theories? This course is open to graduate students of all disciplines and subfields. 


EPS 570: Pro-seminar in Postcolonial Theory and Methodology

Professor: Cameron McCarthy
Meets: Thursdays, 12:00 - 2:50 PM

Within the past decade and a half or so, there has been a steady expansion of scholarship calling attention to the rethinking of center-periphery relations between the third world and the first world. This body of scholarship—most often identified with literature studies, but which has expanded well beyond to other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences—has come to be known as postcolonial theory. Proponents of postcolonial theory have sought to address a wide range of topics related to the historical and contemporary relationship between metropolitan and periphery countries as well as the spatio-temporal impact of colonial and neo-colonial relations on dominant and subordinated groups in the metropolitan countries themselves. These topics include the historical and geographical evolution of colonial relations and post-independence developments in countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean; patterns of identity formation, cultural representation, translation and cross-cultural connection between the metropole and the periphery in disciplinary areas such as literature, popular culture, music and art; and, concerns bearing upon the redefinition of the nation state in the light of globalization or the intensification and rapid movement of cultural and economic capital across national borders. Postcolonial scholars have also foraged into the area of research methods insisting on a critique of methodological nationalism, the foregrounding of interdisciplinarity and the critical integration of scholarly methods across social science and humanities paradigms.


This course is intended as an overview of the major currents of thought in this emergent body of scholarly work.  After considering some preliminary issues of the history, definition and terms of reference of postcolonial theory, we will explore the major themes and substantive theoretical and methodological claims and interventions of postcolonial theorists.  This course should have broad appeal to students pursuing critical studies in the humanities, social sciences, education, the communications fields and in the emerging field of globalization theory.  Every effort will be made in the course to explore interdisciplinary connections between postcolonial theory and other related bodies of thought such as cultural studies, postmodernism, globalization studies, feminist theory, and research in the areas of development and dependency theory and modernization studies.


GEOG 594: The Poststructuralist City - Issues and Debates

Professor: David Wilson
Meets: Wednesdays, 1:00 - 3:50 PM

This seminar explores the complexity of the city as an evolving and turbulent landscape. We will be engaging a multiplicity of cities in our readings and discussion, e.g., Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Cape Town, Mumbai, St. Louis, Detroit, Berlin, Manchester, and New York. Our concern is with the swath of current economic, political, cultural, and social forces that are constituted in and reverberate across the city in current global and neoliberal times. Topical issues addressed include the city as a globalizing entity, rights to the city, the racialized urban economy, the new local state in the city, contemporary urban governance, nature in the city, and the new gentrification. Readings for the course reflect a mix of classic pieces, theoretical-conceptual expositions, and contemporary empirical applications of ideas and theories.


GWS 495: Theories and Theologies of Liberation

Professor: Maryam Kashani
Meets: Wednesdays, 12:00 - 2:50 PM, 1205 W. Nevada St.


Are we free? How is being free different from being liberated, whether corporeally, sexually, religiously, or nationally? This course considers such questions by examining theories and theologies of liberation, from Latin American liberation theologies, Islamic feminisms, and anticolonial movements to Third World liberation struggles, the Gay Liberation Front, and the Black Freedom movement. We also consider historical events like the Arab Spring to think through the conceptions of revolution and social change. How have liberation or revolutionary movements defined what liberation was and how was this liberation imagined or critiqued along lines of gender and sexuality? Who or what is the subject of liberation and can there be individual liberation without collective liberation? Using an expansive feminist lens, we will discuss these histories, theories, and theologies in relation to issues of violence/nonviolence; religion/secularity; neoliberalism; art and aesthetics; gender, sex, and sexuality; and power.


GWS 560: Queer Theories & Methods

Professor: Chantal Nadeau
Meets: Wednesdays, 3:00 - 5:50 PM


Interdisciplinary study in queer theories and methods produced in and across various disciplines. Contemporary philosophical and theoretical developments in queer studies specific to histories of class, race, ethnicity, nation and sexuality.


LAW 657: International Human Rights Law; Francis A. Boyle

Professor: Francis A. Boyle
Meets: Mondays and Tuesdays, 3:00 - 4:15 PM


Based primarily on a series of contemporary “real world” problems, the course introduces the student to the established and developing legal rules and procedures governing the protection of international human rights. Its thesis is that there exists a substantial body of substantive and procedural International Human Rights Law, and that lawyers, government officials, and concerned citizens should be familiar with the policies underlying this law and its enforcement, as well as with the potential it offers for improving the basic lot of human beings everywhere. Additionally, the course presupposes that the meaning of “human rights” is undergoing fundamental expansion, and therefore explores Marxist and Third World conceptions of human rights as well as those derived from the liberal West.


LAW 687: Jurisprudence

Professor: Francis A. Boyle
Meets: Mondays and Tuesdays, 4:30 - 5:45 PM


In recent years this course has surveyed the principal schools of legal and political philosophy in Western civilizations. Topics include the nature and role of the state, the nature and role of law, and the position of the individual in the state. The principal writers surveyed are Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Bentham, and J.S. Mill.



MACS 496| MDIA 596: Advanced Topics: Disney Across Media and Cinema

Professor: Angharad N. Valdivia

Meets: Tuesdays, 6:00 - 8:50 PM


In this era of transnational production, convergence—of technology, platform, and media industries—, commodification of ethnicity, and “de-regulated” global media conglomerates, Disney industries stands out as the most successful player. We will study Disney history, content [hello Princess franchise!], cities and urban developments, theme parks, economic structures and policies of the production, distribution, and exhibition sectors; and the nature of ownership patterns, investment, competition, and trade practices. Walt Disney Industries provides the ideal case study to explore these issues.  Since its inception in 1923 as Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio and then later in 1929 as Walt Disney Productions, Disney industries have led the entertainment world as a visionary example of global synergy and convergence.  In 2017 Disney is arguably the top global media conglomerate.  Given its presence in everyday life and throughout the contemporary neo-liberal economy, Disney is the perfect case study for exploring transnational issues of culture and mediation. 


MACS 503: Historiography of Cinema

Professor: Ramona Curry
Meets: Wednesdays, 3:00 - 5:50 PM


Learn to be a “detective” into film/cultural history! This graduate seminar, one of two required courses for the UIUC Graduate Minor in Cinema Studies, explores practices and trends in writing the history of cinema and, by extension, other popular audio-visual media.  It thereby offers a meta-historical study focused on how film histories have over the past century variously construed and also shaped their object of study, e.g., as an art form, an industry, a technology, a phenomenon of modernity, a cultural artifact, a site of ideological discourse, and/or material expression of national or ethnic character and/or collective social trauma. While initially critically surveying specific dominant approaches to film history (e.g. focusing on directors as auteurs, on movie stars, on national cinemas, on style and genre, and on issues of exhibition and audience response), this semester’s iteration of the seminar will emphasize in our readings particularly transnational and “sub-national” (e.g., “ethnic” film movements) cinema histories, for the construction and impact of such histories is a site of recent fresh and exciting research. We will to some extent set such trans- and sub-national frameworks for writing histories of media texts in direct contrast to a “national” film historiographic approach.  Although national film historiography has proven persistent, politically strategic, and often intellectually productive, many media historians now contest that long dominant approach in light not only of current global media dissemination but also, even more compellingly, of the quite early and far-reaching impact of cinema’s worldwide circulation from its beginnings, as we can now readily learn through copious digitized cinema historical archives.


Alongside additional selected articles, we’ll read and discuss most of two required books, Looking Past the Screen: Case Studies in American Film History and Method, eds. Jon Lewis and Eric Smoodin (Duke University Press, 2007) and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity (University of California Press 2005).  We will view several shorter films in class but students will also need to watch a couple of (readily available) additional films outside our seminar meetings.  Each student will make several written and oral presentations on the readings, films and issues discussed, write a review of a recent academic book in an area of particular interest, explore readily available cinema historical archives (amazing resources on campus and the Internet), and as a final project compile an extensive annotated bibliography that proposes a cogent historiographic approach to an individual topic formulated in relation to either transnational or sub-national ethnic cinema histories (e.g., African American film history).  That is: you will not write and submit a polished final long essay (of ca. 20 pages) for the seminar, but instead over the last weeks of the semester propose and research and present a polished annotated filmography and bibliography for such an essay.  That “pre-writing” for a substantial essay could form the basis for a conference presentation and/or subsequently drafted essay that you might with further mentoring in a subsequent semester complete and submit for publication (as students in previous seminars making that assignment have very successfully done, as well as seen their book reviews written for class get published!). Crosslisted as ENGL 503 and CWL 503.

MDIA 590: New Media Theory

Professor James Hay
Meets: Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 PM

The title of this seminar refers to two, conjoined objectives–the seminar's focus on "new" theories of media, and its focus on theories of a so-called "new media" environment. In both senses, the seminar reviews a range of theories that have become most influential in current conversations about media. The seminar considers how and why responses to the current media environment have involved calls for new ways of understanding and theorizing this environment, but the course also considers how some of the theories of the "new media" environment build on older theory and on theory not oriented primarily toward what traditionally has been considered  "media." The course is open to students from all disciplines, and its approach to this topic addresses the importance of interdisciplinary encounters with theory. The seminar does not assume a student's familiarity either with certain kinds of theory or with studies of media. Although the seminar focuses on theory, it suggests ways that theory informs various kinds of analysis of media in the current context. The seminar also will consider how the circulation of contemporary theory depends on various new media.    



SPAN 590: Affective Transformations: The Politics, Emotions and Aesthetics of Change in Modern and Contemporary Spanish Culture

Professor: L. Elena Delgado
Meets: Mondays, 3:00 - 5:50 PM, G24 FLB


The course will explore the politics, emotions and aesthetics of change in the context of modern and contemporary Spanish culture. “Change” will be understood in a broad sense, including conversion, metamorphosis, revolution, exchange, substitution or deviation. Particular attention will be paid to the (subjective and collective) effects of affects. We will also explore how change is encoded, promoted and/ or opposed in selected literary works, as well as in political/cultural debates in the news and social media. The theoretical framework for the course will include works by Walter Benjamin, Raymond Williams, Antonio Gramsci, Jacques Rancière, Chantal Mouffe, Lauren Berlant, Sara Ahmed, Martha Nussbaum, Manuel Castells and Beatriz Sarlo. NB. The class will be taught in Spanish or English, depending on enrollments.


For more information on course affiliation, please contact Susan Koshy (skoshy@illinois.edu).