Spring 2011 V55.9549 Cultures and Contexts: Multinational Britain
Prof. Woods (NYU in London) syllabus
The idea of British national identity has been built around a sense of united statehood within the confines of the four nations comprising the United Kingdom, ruling overseas territories. As such, it conveyed a sense of a multi-national empire ruled by monarchs, but developing over time into a benign, democratic, constitutional monarchy, generally through peaceful, not revolutionary change. The British have seen themselves historically as freedom-loving, independent, industrial, tolerant, Protestant and individualistic. These myths of national image have been forged partly through conflict with other nations over many centuries and reflect a nationalistic pride in military success and the maintenance of the largest empire the world has ever seen. Changes since 1945 have seen the collapse of that empire, membership in the European Union, large-scale immigration, changing gender politics, and the devolution of power to Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. This has inevitably led to major challenges to traditional British views of their national identity. Includes fieldtrips to key sites.
Spring 2011 V55.9505 Cultures and Contexts: Africa
Prof. Adams (NYU in Ghana) syllabus
African culture through autobiography. Texts consist of chronological life histories and memoirs, e. g., by writers of aristocratic birth and those of peasant birth, by individuals accomplished in the arts and others in the sciences, by Nobel laureates and by political leaders, by women and by men. Each narrative provides an intimate acquaintance with the traditions, aspirations, challenges, and strategies from the writer’s own society. Collectively they provide the skeleton of a usefully subjective narrative of modern African history. The depicted lives include an 18th-century enslaved Nigerian child, who, ultimately, as a free man, would become a respected abolitionist; the U.S.-educated leader of Africa’s first nation to gain independence from colonialism; the passionate Kenyan crusader for the preservation of Africa’s environment as the source of its self-development; and the physically and morally courageous exemplar of the battle that overthrew South African apartheid.
Spring 2011 V55.9544 Cultures and Contexts: Spain—At the Crossroads of Europe, North Africa, and America
Prof. Galban (NYU in Madrid) syllabus
Analyzes the ways in which historical, geopolitical, cultural, artistic, and popular views function to constitute and continuously transform a national culture. Concentrates on epistemological constructions of Spain—the idea of Spain—that emerge from competing external and internal perspectives. Students examine how this national culture is constructed, first analyzing Spain from North African perspectives through Sephardic nostalgic poetry and the Hispano-Arabic literary traditions. The American perspective pits notions of Spanish imperial power and grandeur against the Black Legend, a term that Protestant circles in Europe and the United States promoted to attack the legitimacy of Spain’s New World empire. A final focus on European views analyzes the depiction of Spain as the embodiment of German and French Romantic ideals beginning at the end of the 17th century and the reemergence of the same notion during the Spanish Civil War (1933–36). Throughout, students examine principal textual and visual images that contribute to the historical and contemporary construction of a national culture that emerged at geographic and cultural crossroads.
Spring 2011 V55.9547 Cultures and Contexts: Multicultural France
Prof. Epstein (NYU in Paris) syllabus
France and the U.S. have a habit of looking at one another as anti-models when it comes to discussions of assimilation and difference, “race,” identity, community, and diversity. We explore this comparison as a productive means for re-considering these terms. Why is the notion of “ethnic community” so problematic in France? Why do Americans insist on the “homogeneity” of the French nation, even as, at various points throughout modern French history, France has received more immigrants to its shores than the United States? Through readings, film screenings, and site visits we study the movements and encounters that have made Paris a rich, and sometimes controversial, site of cultural exchange. Topics include contemporary polemics on questions such as headscarves, the banlieue, the new Paris museums of immigration and “primitive” art, affirmative action and discrimination positive, historic expressions of exoticism, négritude, and anti-colonialism. Occasional case studies drawn from the American context help provide a comparative framework for these ideas.
Spring 2011 V55.9548 Cultures and Contexts: Prague—In the Heart of Central Europe
Prof. Mucha (NYU in Prague) syllabus
The concept of Central Europe is somewhat elusive and it is difficult to define it by geographical or political categories. Often characterized simply as a space on the edge between the West and East, many scholars see a distinct Central European culture based on historical, social, and cultural characteristics shared by the countries of this geopolitical entity, the result of complicated historical, political, ethnic, cultural, artistic, and religious interactions throughout more then thousand years of history. Identified as having been one of the world’s richest sources of creative talent and thought between the 17th and 20th centuries, Central Europe was represented by many distinguished figures, such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Kant, Goethe, and Hegel; later followed by Kafka, Rilke, Freud, Mendel, and Dvorak, to mention at least some. We explore characteristics of Central Europe primarily from the perspective of Prague and its cultural history, which is so typical and almost archetypal for this region. Students study geopolitical characteristics and various phenomena that co-create the idea of Central Europe. Taking advantage of Prague, students examine primary sources and artifacts (literature, music, art, film) in their contexts and environment.
Spring 2011 V55.9537 Cultures and Contexts: Modern Israel
Prof. Emmerich (NYU in Tel Aviv) syllabus
Explores various aspects of the production of everydayness in Israel as it is manifested in different sites: the arts, the leisure industry, and the spatio-temporal arrangements of daily routines and practices. Given its unique geo-political circumstances and its symbolic position, Israel attracts much media coverage as well as more scholarly treatment of the Israeli-Arab or Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More often than not, Israel is portrayed through the lens of high politics or treated as an exotic anomaly. Whether popular or academic in its orientation, the study of Israeli society has thus tended to neglect everyday life in Israel. We consider aspects of Israeli politics and culture; visit art exhibitions, music venues, and the cinema; and observe street life in Tel Aviv (day and night).
Spring 2011 V55.9730 Expressive Cultures: Sounds
Prof. Cusick (NYU in Florence) syllabus
Our lives pulsate with patterns of sounds that we call music. We encounter these sounds in our homes, cars, stores, and exercise salons; they accompany us to the grocery store, the dentist's office, and the movies; yet we rarely think consciously about what they mean. Through a series of specific case studies we investigate the function and significance of music and the musician in human life. We raise basic questions about how music has been created, produced, perceived, and evaluated at diverse historical moments, in a variety of geographical locations, and among different cultural groups. Through aural explorations and discussion of how these vivid worlds "sound" in time and space, we assess the value of music in human experience.