MACS/ENGL/CWL 504: Grad Film Theory and Criticism

Professor: Julie Turnock
Meets: Tuesday, 1-3pm, Zoom 

This course engages with, uses, and challenges various theoretical ideas and approaches to film. Throughout the semester, we will address questions such as: Is cinema studies a discipline distinct from other studies of moving images, and on what bases have theorists made such a claim? How do we incorporate films and media into our research projects? And what is the status of film in such projects? How have theorists conceptualized the relationships among film, media, and the larger global society? We will discuss the historical and cultural context in which particular theories emerged, and we will reflect on the role of film theory in the development of film studies as a discipline. Additionally, we will look at how film studies has both taken up and influenced theoretical lines of thought such as ideologies of Marxism, semiotics, Soviet formalism, psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, feminism, critical race theory, sexuality studies, trans* theory, transnationalism, and critiques of neocolonialism. We will read canonical authors, e.g., Adorno, Bazin, Bellour, Benjamin, Bhabha Bordwell, Comolli and Narboni, Deleuze, Doane, Dulac, Dyer, Eisenstein, Gunning, Hansen, hooks, Metz, Mulvey and more.  

Because the class will be meeting on Zoom, required weekly screenings (typically 1-1/2 to 2 hours, provided by me) will be on your own time.


CWL 581: Biopolitics, Fantasy, Media

Professor: Robert Rushing
Meets: Monday, 4-6pm

Biopolitics is generally understood as power directly manipulating life, but a careful analysis shows that biopolitical interventions are always mediated--that is, like other forms of ideology, as Zizek has argued, they always require a fantasy to sustain them, whether they are public service billboards or Hollywood films. Understanding the essential falsity of ideology is not enough, in other words, to understand its hold over the viewer. In this seminar, we will explore some theories of biopolitics as well as theories (largely but not exclusively psychoanalytic) that attempt to explain the fascination that screen fantasies hold over us in the service of the preservation and exploitation of life. Readings include Väliaho, Esposito, Campbell, Agamben, Zizek, McGowan, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Neroni, Edelman, Mbembe, Jackson and others. Films, television and other media include texts such as: 300, Contagion, Orphan Black, Le Bureau des légendes, The Hunger Games, Logan's Run, The Seed of Man, Mad Max: Fury Road, Jeeg Robot, and more.


ENGL 581: The Settler Colonial Turn

Professor: Jodi Byrd
Meets: Thursday, 12 - 2:50pm 

Settler colonialism now circulates as a critical framework across a range of disciplines as it reorients how we understand arrival and dispersal, possession and dispossession in the global north and south. This class will offer an intersectional analysis of settler colonial studies as it has developed through postcolonial studies. Readings will draw from and situated through interventions from indigenous studies, queer studies, feminist studies, technology studies, and critiques of antiblackness as they shape the political, historical, and contemporary understandings of race, place, and nation within the United States and Canada in particular, with attention given to other geographies as well.


ITALIAN 510: Nation, Ethnicity, and Race in Modern Italy

Professor: Emanuel Rota
Meets: Tuesday, 2-4pm 

The course explores the rise of nationalism and racism and the resistance against nationalism and racism in the Italian cultural tradition in the 19th and 20th century. The main goal of the seminar is to challenge Italian narratives that present Italian nationalism as immune from racial connotations and racism as foreign to the Italian nationalist tradition. The course analyses both literary and non literary sources. A crucial emphasis will be placed on the rise of fascism, the Holocaust and the resistance to fascism. The class is in English.


LAW 687: Jurisprudence

Professor: Francis Boyle

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.

Sequence and Prerequisites: None.

Evaluation: Paper


LAW 657: International Human Rights Law

Professor: Francis Boyle

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.

Sequence and Prerequisites: None.

Evaluation: Paper.


SPAN 535: Cabinet of Curiosities: Theorizing the Spectacular Cinema of Guillermo del Toro 

Professor: Eduardo Ledesma
Meets: Wednesday 3:30 - 5:50

This course explores the transnational cinema of Mexican director Guillermo del Toro as a complete oeuvre with a particular aesthetic, technical and ideological project. It is a comprehensive study of a prominent filmmaker with a distinctly recognizable style that has captivated global audiences. Del Toro’s production has been described as a kind of filmic “alchemy” that deftly combines elements from horror, gothic, fantasy, sci-fi, b-movies, noir, Japanese animation, comic books and other “lesser” cultural genres into eminently hybrid works of art – assembling a filmic cabinet of curiosities. Roughly divided into Spanish and English language works, del Toro’s films will be chronologically studied in their geographic and cultural specificity (at once Mexican, Spanish, Latin American, and Transnational) and from a variety of film theoretical perspectives, centered on, but not limited to auteur theory. In that sense the course will also serve as an introductory study of film theory, offering a foundation in classical film theory through the pairing of each of del Toro’s films with seminal criticism analyzing film form and ideology. Theoretical approaches will include early film theory (Munsterberg, Balazs), montage theory (Eisenstein, Pudovkin), realism (Kracauer, Bazin, Benjamin), auteur theory (Wollen, Sarris), structuralism (Metz, Heath), apparatus and psychoanalytic theory (Baudry, Metz), feminist theory (Mulvey, Modlesky), critical race theory (Dyer, Diawara), audience studies (Reinhard and Olson), decoloniality (Mignolo and Vasquez), and phenomenological film theory (Sobchack, Marks), among other approaches. The course will study all 10 major films by del Toro [Cronos (1993), Mimic (1997), The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Blade II (2002), HellBoy (2004), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), HellBoy II: The Golden Army (2008), Pacific Rim (2013), Crimson Peak (2015) and The Shape of Water (2017)], as well as some of his television work Trollhunters (2016), The Strain (2014-). Taught in English. Some films may be subtitled. Essays can be written in English or Spanish. Credit also counts toward the Graduate Minor in Cinema Studies.


LLS 596: Critical Border Studies

Professor: Gilberto Rosas
Meets: Wednesday 1- 3:20

 "Critical Border Studies." Meets with AFRO 597, ANTH 515 and SOC 596. Be it in Europe, the Americas, the United States, or elsewhere in the globe, there has been belligerent calls to tighten international borders, and better regulate, who can settle, who can migrate, who must leave, and who should be held. Detention, policing, and the surveillance of immigrants and refugees has augmented exponentially. Keeping the pressing presence of the present central, the course moves through theoretical shifts underscoring the frictions among questions of movement, borders, migrations, and refugee studies with respect to the debates on abolition, biopolitics, settler colonialism, and other currents.


HIST 502: Problems in Comparative History: Special Topic Bodies, Genders, Sexualities

Professor: Tamara Chaplin
Meets: Wednesday 1- 2:50

This comparative graduate course will investigate how scholars have approached the body, gender, and sexuality as objects of historical inquiry. In what ways is the history of the body inextricable from histories of power, culture, modernization, emotion, medicine, crime, and urbanization? What is sexuality? How is it practiced, produced, policed, constructed, represented, liberated, controlled? How is the body gendered? How and when is it racialized? Topics may include colonial/postcolonial sexual economies, the body and illness, sexology, reproduction and the state, disabilities, pornography, sexual education, gender performance, bodily adornment and mutilation. This course focuses primarily on modern Europe but may also make comparative forays into Persia, Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the United States. Because our aim is to learn to analyze and write about critical historiographical debates, our readings will be chosen not for their geographic or chronological foci, but rather for their vital contributions to the field. 


ENG 514: Canterbury Critters: The More-Than-Human World of Geoffrey Chaucer

Professor: Robert Barrett
Meets: Tuesday 12- 2:50 pm

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales entangle themselves in the more-than-human world: the stories the pilgrims tell one another on the road to Thomas Becket’s shrine feature philosophical lions, vainglorious roosters, and killer rocks. Indeed, in Chaucer’s Christian worldview, humans are themselves not entirely human, trapped as they are between heaven and earth, spirit and flesh, reason and instinct, nature and culture. They are simultaneously “creatures” (God’s handiwork) and “critters” (Donna Haraway's term for material beings caught up in the lifeweb). We’ll use these ecological insights as points of entry into Chaucer’s poetry, working our way through a sizable selection of the Tales over the course of the semester. We will also focus on a number of critical works from the intertwined fields of ecocriticism and the New Materialisms: Haraway's When Species Meet, obviously, but also Jane Bennett's Vibrant Matter, Mel Chen's Animacies, and Michael Marder's Plant-Thinking.


GER 575/GER 473: Protest Memory: Post-1989 Literature, Film, and Theory

Professor: Anke Pinkert
Meets: Thursday 3-4:40 pm (online)

In this seminar we discuss a diverse archive of post-1989 literature, film, and memorials in order to reexamine the so-called Peaceful Revolution and the interval year of ’89-90. More specifically, we ask what kind of cultural memories of street activism, resistance, and alternative social vision were left behind by the uprising in the GDR. Most scholarship in the last two decades has associated the legacies of 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany’s reunification, viewing this historical break in terms of trauma, defeat, and takeover. Instead, we take our cue from memory studies which is currently shifting from a focus on violence and trauma to more hopeful legacies of social justice and political responsibility. Accordingly, in this course, we will explore how cultural archives (attuned to language, images and so forth) render the protest memory of 1989. Reading post-1989 literature and film, alongside theory, we also move further back into the 20th century to trace how specters of earlier progressive movements and utopian ideas impacted the unrest in ‘89-90. We conclude with the novel Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, which deals with the long aftermath of 1989 through the lens of memory and the protests during the so-called refugee crisis in 2015.


ENG 537: Protest Memory: Sustainability and Utopia in Victorian Britain

Professor: Eleanor Courtemanche

In the 19th century, both Marxist and capitalist visions of the future were based on “productivism,” or a belief that economic growth would lead to widely shared and stable prosperity. During this time new industrial uses were discovered for fossil fuels—the coal that powered steam engines, the petroleum that illuminated cities—paving the way for today’s anthropogenic climate change. At the same time, artists working in the Romantic tradition continued to worship Nature as a holistic and healing spiritual retreat from the stresses of modern life.  At the intersection of these trends flourished a speculative literary tradition that projected new utopias, new systems for living, and new disasters extrapolated from the horrors of inhuman industrialism. 

In this class, we will read works chosen from all three of these intellectual movements, and from recent criticism that engages with the imperialist and extractive economies of Victorian Britain. These may include Charles Fourier’s Theory of the Four Movements,Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s The Communist Manifesto, Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, Richard Jeffries’s After London, John Ruskin’s “Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth-Century,” Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000-1887, William Morris’s News from Nowhere, Peter Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread, H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, Theodor Herzl’s Old New Land, Raymond Williams’s The Country and the City, Mike Davis’sLate Victorian Holocausts, Andreas Malm’s Fossil Capital, Fredrik Albritton Jonsson’s and Vicky Albritton’s Green Victorians, the anthology Ecological Form (ed. Hensley and Steer), and Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty. 


ARTH 540: New Approaches to Material Culture

Professor: David O'Brien
Meets: 1-3:40pm, Online

This seminar introduces students to recent interpretive modes for understanding material culture. It asks: how has the recent emphasis on the material world reshaped the humanities and, in particular, art history? We will begin by examining some of the theoretical work that has encouraged the material turn (e.g., Daniel Miller, Arjun Appadurai, Bill Brown, Christopher Pinney, Bruno Latour) and then focus on examples of scholarly work devoted to specific examples of material culture. Students in the seminar may explore research topics related to any period, place, or medium. Students from all disciplines are welcome.


HIST 507: Problems in Latin American History

Professor: Marc Adam Hertzman
Meets: Thursdays, 2-3:50pm Online

Does freedom depend on slavery or another form of “unfreedom” to precede it?  Did freedom mean the same thing in colonial Brazil as it did in nineteenth-century Peru?  Have other terms and concepts that were salient to those who lived in the Americas during the colonial era and in its aftermath evaded us?  This seminar examines these questions with two main goals.  First, we will familiarize ourselves with a broad array of works about freedom across the hemisphere.  Second, in reviewing the historiography, we will probe silences and contradictions and formulate critical questions and responses.  Though special attention is paid to the African diaspora, we will also explore works that discuss or question what freedom meant to indigenous and Asian people during the slave era and during transitions to nominally “free” labor.  With a broad geographical focus that highlights South America, the Caribbean, and multiple sites in North America, and with a temporal gaze that spans several centuries, the seminar is geared towards graduate students in multiple fields and with diverse interests and disciplinary moorings. 

Please contact Professor Marc Hertzman ( with questions.


EPS 570: Pro-Seminar in Postcolonial Theory

Professor: Cameron McCarthy
Meets: Thursdays, 3-4pm Online

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 methodology insisting on 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 a cultural studies, postmodernism, globalization studies, feminist theory, and research in the areas of development and dependency theory and modernization studies.


ENGL 563: Global Anglophone Nonfiction

Professor: Manisha Basu
Meets: Fridays, 1-3:50pm Online

As the title indicates, this course will take us through global Anglophone nonfiction from India (Amitav Ghosh), Croatia (Slavenka Drakulic), Antigua (Jamaica Kincaid), and Guatemala (Rigoberta Menchu). The theoretical lens will involve trying to understand how these nonfictional texts push against what I would like to think of as ‘regimes of reality’ (drawing on Michel Foucault’s notion of ‘regimes of truth’). We will read not only Foucault in this regard, but also other theorists such as Rob Nixon, Edward Said, Mary Louise Pratt, Hedley Twidle, and John Beverley who have contributed to questions about what it means to inhabit a dispensation which places a great creative and commercial premium on making a show of reality, and more broadly, to theorizations about the epistemological relationship between truth and reality.