Instructor: S. Higley
Instructor: J. Michael
Instructor: B. London
The Great War, Paul Fussell has famously argued, initiated a new form of distinctly modern memory – unsparing, unsentimental, and essentially ironic. At the same time, it ushered in an unprecedented era of remembrance that transformed Great Britain into a culture obsessed with the commemoration of its war dead – in a manner anything but ironic – and with preserving the memory of the war as a piece of cultural heritage. In fact, long before the war was over, the people of Britain – both soldiers and civilians – were imagining how to remember it, and devising the administrative and aesthetic structures that would shape so much of its postwar memory. So powerful was this impulse – and so pervasive was the postwar obsession with memorialization – that Geoff Dyer has argued, “The war, it begins to seem, had been fought in order that it might be remembered, that it might live up to its memory.” Recently, scholars of the war have begun to question not only how the war was remembered but whose war has been remembered and whose memories valued, opening the established history of the war to other narratives: war as experienced, for example, by women, working class men, colonial soldiers and laborers. And they have illuminated the way memory is fabricated to produce myths of the war that, over time, serve changing interests. This seminar will explore the work of memory in some of the many memoirs and works of imaginative literature that appeared in the decades immediately following the war (e.g., Robert Graves, Vera Brittain, Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf). We will consider the prodigious production of war poetry and the posthumous canonization of the “war poets” (e.g., Brooke, Owen, Sassoon, Rosenberg). And we will consider the appropriation and transformation of the war and its memory in late twentieth century literature, film, and television. We will also consider, as a critical framework, the rich body of theoretical and historical scholarship on memory work, collective memory, and memorialization, not all of it specific to the WWI context.
Instructor: S. Rajan
This seminar will focus on how scholars have theorized the concept of agency within a variety of disciplines, from philosophy and critical theory to anthropology and sociology. The question of “agency”—what it means for a person to act as well as the mental states (e.g. emotions or intentions) and sociological structures that condition the individual’s freedom and capacity to act—have been vital questions for some time. While this interest in the problem of agency has been particularly pressing since the post-structuralist “decentering of the subject” and Marxist ideology critique, the problem of agency has a long philosophical history. In this course we will trace the concept of agency from earlier philosophical accounts to more recent theorizations of agency in Marxism, post-structuralism, political theory, and aesthetics. Along the way, we will pay particular attention to how problems in agency intersect with the recent critical interest in the “affects” and the efforts by scholars to link aesthetics, ethics, and politics. Readings will range from Aristotle and Immanuel Kant to Anthony Giddens, Stuart Hall, and Hannah Arendt.
Instructor: J. Scott
As we read examples of twentieth-century fiction from around the world, we’ll be focusing our inquiry on the representation of imagination. Who imagines what in the influential novels and stories of the past one hundred years? How does the representation of imagination figure into an author’s impact on global culture? In our study of writers who have had a traceable international influence (Borges, Kafka, Beckett, Stein, Woolf, Nabokov, Garcia Marquez, Calvino, Sebald, and Coetzee, among others) we’ll be looking at cross-cultural transmission, studying effects of translation, and examining the evolution of fictional form through the last century. Our exploration of modern and contemporary imagination theorists will include Sartre, Warnock, Scarry, and Kearney.