Advanced Honors Seminars: Winter/Spring 2012

The College is one of the most diverse communities anywhere–an exciting, sophisticated center in one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan cities in the world. Our mission is to prepare students to be thought leaders and successful global citizens. We do this by creating unique academic opportunities for student and faculty engagement that emphasize research and scholarly communication. Part of the College’s Honors Program, the Advanced Honors Seminars place students in small classes with distinguished faculty to study topics that have the potential to change how we think and how we work. As such, they are ideal gateways for the intellectually stimulating discussions we aim to foster. They challenge students and faculty to engage intensively within and beyond their fields of study, and they inspire intellectual responsibility towards the scholarly community and the wider world.

In spring 2005, the College of Arts and Science launched the Advanced Honors Seminar program, which extends the basic principles behind the Freshman Honors Seminars to upper-level courses (open to sophomores, juniors, and, if space allows, seniors). Distinguished professors drawn not only from the College’s faculty but also from NYU’s professional schools, and from among New York’s professional, cultural, and governmental leaders, teach these small classes. In many instances, the seminars are cross-listed with departments and students may count the classes toward their majors or minors; in some cases, the classes will count only as electives.

Advanced Honors Seminars have three central goals: to create close mentoring relationships between exceptional faculty and students; to challenge students intellectually through honors-level work in critical thinking, writing, and conversing; and to strengthen students’ interest in and aptitude for conducting independent research (e.g. a DURF grant or a Senior Honors Thesis). They are designed to foster scholarly insight and debate and to nurture the intellectual passions of students and faculty alike. We encourage you to try one this year!

G. Gabrielle Starr
Acting Dean of the College

Patrick Deer
Director of College Honors Programs



Course Descriptions


Winter 2012

The Picture of Dorian Gray: A Case Study in Literary Research
AHSEM-UA 126
Instructor: Marvin Taylor
Monday through Friday, 12:30-3:20 p.m.
Winter Session runs January 3-21, 2012

Oscar Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is a cultural lightning rod. When it was first published in England, a firestorm of criticism hit the newspapers and literary magazines, decrying the work as “morbid” and “unhealthy”—coded language that suggested homosexuality to the late-Victorian public. The novel has a complicated publication history. It survives in two versions: the first was published in the U. S., six months before it appeared in England. Wilde’s novel provides a perfect case study in how to approach a literary text in its historical context. This three-week course will focus on the novel’s various manuscript and print versions, Wilde’s correspondence about the work, and critical responses to the text. Various themes of the work will be addressed, such as Wilde’s London, yellow journalism, British jurisprudence, the Labouchere Amendment, the language of flowers, opium dens, Aesthetic Movement philosophy, East End theater, 1890s fashion, “inversion,” late-Victorian portraiture, bibliophilia, book design, Victorian ghost stories, and French decadence. Students will be required to do in-depth research with the Fales Library’s holdings exploring these topics and their relevance to our understanding of the novel. The goal will be to allow students to do primary research and to see how vital original sources are for the study of literary texts. Cross-listed with English as ENGL-UA 252, section 001.

Marvin Taylor is Director of the Fales Library and Special Collections at NYU. He holds degrees from Indiana University in Comparative Literature and Library Science, and in English Literature from NYU. He has held positions at the Lilly Library, Indiana University and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the Health Sciences Library at Columbia University before coming to NYU. Taylor has taught literary methodology, queer theory, Victorian literature, and contemporary art history all from the perspective of primary research in archives. His research about, and interest in, Oscar Wilde led to his inclusion in the dramatis personae of Moises Kaufman’s play, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.


Spring 2012

A History of Disbelief
AHSEM-UA 113
Instructor: Mitchell Stephens
Wednesday, 2:00-4:30 p.m.

This seminar will take up an extended history of atheism and doubt (in the context of a history of religion). It will begin with references to anthropology, the Hebrews and India, before discussing the skeptics and the development of disbelief in Greece and Rome. The course then will follow the uneven progress of this idea and its consequences in Europe during the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the Romantic period. Time will be spent in England and America in the 19th century, when disbelief was allied with radical politics, before moving on to the connection between disbelief and realism, modernism and postmodernism. The main arguments for and against the existence of God will be considered. However, the main purpose of this course will be to force students to confront and grapple with some of the most sophisticated and profound human expressions of disbelief. Readings may include selections from the Bible, as well as work by Cicero, Hume, Mill, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Woolf, and Derrida, among others.

Mitchell Stephens is Professor of Journalism. He is the author of, among other books, the rise of the image the fall of the word and A History of News. His articles on media issues, philosophy, anthropology, physics, and other subjects have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He is currently writing books on the future of journalism and on the history of disbelief.

Varieties of Religious Experience” Revisited
AHSEM-UA 144
Instructor: James Gilligan
Wednesday, 2:00-4:30 p.m.

This seminar will utilize but also update William James’s pioneering approach to interpreting and understanding religion in psychological rather than theological terms. We will examine how the term “religion” is more confusing than helpful when it fails to differentiate between a wide variety of utterly incompatible beliefs and practices at different stages of cognitive and emotional development. We will discuss the phenomenon of “political religions” (nationalism, racism, totalitarianism, apocalyptic fundamentalism) as attempts to reject or distort modernity (the worldview of modern science), in order to fill the vacuum that Sartre called “the God-shaped hole in the soul of modern man” that resulted when the traditional sources of moral, legal, and political authority (God, religion, pure reason) lost their credibility as sources of knowledge. We will consider the political religions as resulting from psychological regression, and contrast them with the current moment in the evolution of religious consciousness, in which the challenge is to find progressive forms of religious expression, understanding and experience that are consistent with the modern scientific mentality, while not being reducible to it. The seminar will conclude by examining whether this is the context in which the next major step in the evolution of both culture and personality will need to occur. Cross-listed with Religious Studies as RELST-UA 140.

James Gilligan, Collegiate Professor, headed the Institute of Law and Psychiatry at NYU and directed mental health programs for the Massachusetts prison system while on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry. He has also served as President of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy, and as Chair of the Committee on prevention, which was part of President Clinton’s National Campaign against Youth Violence. His books include Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, and Preventing Violence: An Agenda for the Coming Century. He has been a consultant to the World Health Organization’s Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Law Lords of the House of Lords, and other groups and individuals throughout the world.

The 14th Century—When Europe Was Transformed
AHSEM-UA 147
Instructor: Jill N. Claster
Thursday, 2:00-4:30 p.m.

The century covered in this course saw disasters of many kinds, some all too familiar to us in the 21st century. It was a time of the Black Death and the decimation of the population on an enormous scale; a time of recession that changed the pattern of prosperity that had existed in the preceding two centuries; a time when the papacy and the Roman Church were faced with the rise of heresy and challenges to religious authority; a time of wars and rebellions. Yet, in the same era, there was a march forward—toward new ideas, new political forms, vernacular languages, a reawakening that brought changes of immense consequence for all of Europe… and for our own culture. Through the darkest periods, the great and beautiful changes that are the beginnings of the Italian Renaissance emerged. This was the age of Petrarch and Boccaccio, among many others, and the great Italian painters who transformed the nature and conception of literature and art and who informed our own worldview. Overall we will study a century that many historians have understood as the most creative and the most terrible of all the centuries before the 21st. Cross-listed with History as HIST-UA 105. Please note that this course does not satisfy the advanced research seminar requirement for the history major.

Jill N. Claster is Professor of History Emerita with a specialty in the Middle Ages. She has taught and studied the Crusader era extensively and, among her other books, is the author of the recently published book, Sacred Violence: The European Crusades to the Middle East, 1095–1396 (2009). She served as Dean of the College of Arts and Science and as Director of the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies. She has been the recipient of a Fulbright grant and was honored with the Great Teacher Award by the Alumni Association of NYU.

The Making of an Iconic Image
AHSEM-UA 148
Instructor: Deborah Willis
Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Iconic images are pictures that become rooted in our personal memory and are stored away for future reference through our experiences with them. Often, the power of an iconic image extends beyond the meaning of its original purpose and takes on another form socially and historically. This seminar explores the range of ideas and methods used by photographers, artists, historians, filmmakers, and critical thinkers in addressing the notion of iconic images within photography, video, and film. It combines historical, contemporary, and theoretical approaches to identity politics and visual culture, and addresses how images are constructed through art, media, advertising, political campaigns, war and disaster, beauty, and popular culture. Class discussions highlight the trends and transformations that have characterized the evolution of the iconic image. Using a series of case studies, we explore the construction of beauty and style, gendered images, race, and pop culture. We also consider issues of representation, display, and reception, as well as the wider social context in which art, music, and culture are experienced in private and public spaces. In addition to classes held on campus, field trips are taken to archives, museums and galleries. Each week students discuss a photograph of their own choice. Cross-listed with Photography and Imaging of the Tisch School of the Arts as PHTI-UT 1120, section 004.

Deborah Willis is University Professor and Professor of Photography and Imaging in the Tisch School of the Arts. Her many awards include a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, an Alfonse Fletcher Jr. Fellowship, a MacArthur Fellowship, an Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award, and an International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Writing on Photography. As a former curator of exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and as the curator of photography and prints at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, she has organized exhibitions and lectured extensively on African American photography. She is the author of Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present; Posing Beauty: African American Images 1990 to the Present; and Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs.

Edmund Wilson and the Art of Cultural Criticism
AHSEM-UA 165
Instructor: Paul Berman
Tuesday, 6:20-8:50 p.m.

Edmund Wilson (1895–1972) was the greatest cultural critic that America has ever produced—or so a good many cultural critics of our own time have come to believe. Wilson belonged to a circle of writers from the First World War generation that included John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. He wrote novels, poetry, plays, and diaries. But mostly he wrote book reviews and essays on literary, political and historical topics, which ran in the New Republic, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and other magazines. Reading a substantial sampling of Wilson’s work, we will examine a series of large topics, including the cultural atmosphere of Greenwich Village early in the 20th century; the rise of literary modernism; the influence of Marxism; the literature of the Civil War; and various traditions of American thought and literature over the centuries. We will pay close attention to Wilson’s style of journalistic writing: his emphases on clarity, on conversational ease, and on emotional forcefulness. Students will be asked to apply Wilson’s principles of writing to their own compositions—an extremely useful thing to do for any student who seeks to become a better writer. Cross-listed with Journalism as JOUR-UA 401, section 001.

Paul Berman is a Distinguished Writer in Residence, a Professor of Journalism, and a Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. He is the author or editor of nine books, including: The Flight of the Intellectuals; A Tale of Two Utopias: The Political Journey of the Generation of 1968; Terror and Liberalism; Power and the Idealists: Or, The Passion of Joschka Fischer and Its Aftermath; Carl Sandburg: Selected Poems, published by the American Poets Project of the Library of America. His books have been published in fourteen languages. He writes for the New York Times Book Review, the New Republic, and other magazines in the United States and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from the MacArthur and Guggenheim foundations, among other awards.

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in 20th-Century America
AHSEM-UA 168
Instructor: Michael Nash
Monday, 2:00-4:45 p.m.

Conflicts over racial equality, freedom of speech, and equal protection under the law that were guaranteed in the Constitution have been contested terrain throughout U.S. history. These struggles sharpened in the 20th century as African Americans fought to end racial segregation, women sought equal rights, business interests resisted labor militancy, while federal and state governments suppressed radicals and other dissenters. This seminar examines the legal struggles and the social movements that took place as Americans fought for civil rights and civil liberties during periods of war, industrial unrest, and social change. It will explore these stories by analyzing legal history through the lenses of political, social, and cultural history. This is an interdisciplinary course. Students study novels, poems, oral memoirs, view films, and read historical monographs that speak to this big and important subject. The Tamiment Library, one of the most important repositories in the United States documenting the history of radical politics, civil rights, and civil liberties, will be our laboratory. Students will work with archives and other special collections on a weekly basis. They will learn how to use and evaluate these primary sources, interpret evidence, make analytical arguments, and develop research questions. Cross-listed with History as HIST-UA 664. Please note that this course does not satisfy the advanced research seminar requirement for the history major.

Michael Nash is the Director of the Tamiment Library and teaches in the History Department. He is co-director of NYU’s Center for the United States and the Cold War and the Frederic Ewen Academic Freedom Center. His publications include Conflict and Accommodation: Coal Miners, Steel Workers, and Socialism, 1890–1920; Red Activists and Black Freedom: James and Esther Jackson and the Origins of the Modern Civil Rights Movement; and The Good Fight Continues: World War II Letters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Political Cinema and Representation of the ‘Other’
AHSEM-UA 170
Instructor: Shimon Dotan
Thursday, 6:20-8:50 p.m.

In contemporary war, the ‘Other’ is viewed not only as an enemy to be fought but, often, as one to be eliminated. How do filmmakers fight against or, alternately, reinforce, such deadly representations? This seminar will focus primarily, though not exclusively, on one of the world’s most conflict-ridden regions—the Middle East—though it will also explore films from Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, France and the United States. Through selected readings and film screenings, we will explore how the ‘Other’ is constructed politically, aesthetically and ethically. This class is designed for anyone interested in filmmaking and film criticism, in contemporary politics and history, especially those of the Middle East, in cinema of conflict and violence, and the ethical questions associated with them. Cross-listed with Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies as MEIS-UA 170.

Shimon Dotan, a Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, is an award-winning filmmaker with thirteen feature films to his credit. His films have been the recipients of the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival (The Smile of the Lamb), numerous Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Film and Best Director (Repeat Dive; The Smile of the Lamb), and Best Film at the Newport Beach Film Festival (You Can Thank Me Later). His film Hot House won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 2007. Dotan has taught filmmaking and film studies at Tel Aviv University in Israel and at Concordia University in Montreal, and is a member of the Directors and Writers Guilds of America.

Commitment and Escape
AHSEM-UA 171
Instructor: Tom Bishop
Wednesday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.

The seventy-or-so years this seminar examines were among the most turbulent in the history of the world. They start with the butchery of World War II, the Shoah, and atomic devastation, and end with the often violent birth of new nations through the decolonization of African and Asian lands. But they were also years of reconstruction and modernization, leading to booming economies and social improvement. The rise of Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism and the emergence of China as the colossus of the 21st century were among the signposts of a changing world in which peoples demanded—and won—their freedom. Perhaps most revolutionary, women at last attained freedom and equality in many parts of the globe. Many writers and thinkers felt such concern for the world around them that they were inevitably drawn to dealing with contemporary issues. Others focused on broader, more philosophic approaches to the existential problems of man in this world; others still sought escape from commitment in artistic paths, removed from social and political considerations. By working with texts— novels, essays, short stories, plays, and films—that reflect artists’ and intellectuals’ reactions to their times, we will explore and analyze many of the leading creative voices of these turbulent years, including, but not limited to: Arthur Miller, Albert Camus, Assia Djebar, Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Betty Friedan, and James Baldwin. The keynote to the seminar will come from Jean-Paul Sartre’s “What is Literature.” Cross-listed with Comparative Literature as COLIT-UA 181.

Tom Bishop is the Florence Gould Professor of French Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, and Director of the Center for French Civilization and Culture at NYU. He chaired the Department of French for 33 years. He has written extensively on European and American theater and on contemporary French fiction and civilization. His books include studies of Beckett, Sartre, 20th-century theater, and French cultural and political life. His most recent book is From the Left Bank: Reflections on Contemporary French Theater and Fiction. He has organized many literary conferences and festivals in New York and Paris, and was the Artistic Director of the six-month long “Beckett 100” centennial event in Paris. He has received numerous decorations from the French government as well as the Grand Prize of the Académie Française. He earned an OBIE award for achievement in Off-Broadway Theatre.

Mimesis and Mimicry
AHSEM-UA 172
Instructor: Elaine Freedgood
Tuesday, 2:00-4:30 p.m.

This course will center on the concepts of mimesis and its poor relation, mimicry. Mimesis refers to the way in which aesthetic works refer: that is, it is about the representation of reality in art. Mimicry is about closely imitating the superficial characteristics of something or someone: it tends to be less about art and more about life. Together, these concepts provoke anxiety and interest about the ways in which reality and the people and things in it can be reproduced, copied, faked, and fictionalized. We will explore the related concepts of denotation, appropriation, reference, plagiarism, and repetition. Texts may include: Plato’s Phaedrus; Aristotle’s Poetics; Michael Taussig’s Mimesis and Alterity; Derrida’s Dissemination; Svetlana Alper’s The Art of Describing; Roland Barthes, “The Reality Effect;” Homi Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man;” Luce Irigary, Speculum of the Other Woman; Eric Lott, Love and Theft; Theodor Adorno, “The Radio Voice.” Cross-listed with English as ENGL-UA 252, section 002.

Elaine Freedgood is the author of Victorian Writing about Risk: Imagining a Safe England in a Dangerous World (Cambridge 2000) and The Ideas in Things: Fugitive Meaning in the Victorian Novel (Chicago 2006), and also the editor of Factory Production in Victorian Britain (Oxford 2003). She is currently working on a book about fictionality, reference and metalepsis.

The Spanish Inquisition
AHSEM-UA 173
Instructor: Georgina Dopico Black
Wednesday, 12:30–3:15 p.m.

In contemporary media and in the wake of 9/11, the Spanish Inquisition has been used as shorthand to denote intolerance, persecution, fanaticism, and a disposition to cruelty in the pursuit of “truth”. While some elements of this reputation are well-earned, the history of the Inquisition is far more complex and interesting. We begin the semester with the heated question of the origins of the Inquisition and its key role in nation building, in order to then turn to the Inquisition’s internal organization and standard practices. From there, we consider the various targets of inquisitorial suspicion or persecution from the late fifteenth through the late seventeenth centuries: Judaism and crypto-Judaism (the conversos), Protestantism, prohibited books, mystics and Illuminati, witches, Islam and crypto-Islam (the moriscos), and those accused of sexual or religious misconduct (blasphemy, bigamy, and sodomy). We close the semester considering what finally brought about the definitive abolition of the Inquisition in 1834. We will read transcripts from Inquisitorial trials, edicts and proclamations, historical chronicles, novels, plays, autobiographies, an Inquisitor’s manual with instructions for torture, a witch hunting treatise, and devotional literature. We also will examine more contemporary reflections: Dostoevsky’s 1880 The Brothers Karamazov, Monty Python’s 1970 “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” skit, and the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s 2003 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Cross-listed with Spanish as SPAN-UA 952.

Georgina Dopico Black is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, and is serving her second term as Coordinating Editor of the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies. She works on Early Modern/Renaissance Spain and the early Spanish Atlantic and is currently exploring questions of the body and the limits of the human. She is author of Perfect Wives, Other Women: Adultery and Inquisition in Early Modern Spain (Duke UP: 2001), winner of the MLA’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize and Yale University’s Heyman Award. She has published a number of articles ranging from monsters to torture to relics, including, most recently, “Pierre Menard, translator of the Quixote, or Echo’s Echoes” (2011); “Sueños de la nación en los Tesoros de Covarrubias” (2011); “The Ban and the Bull: Cultural Studies, Animal Studies and Spain” (2010); and “Anatomies of a Saint: Dissection, Discernment and the Unstable Body of Teresa de Jesús” (2010). She is the co-editor of three volumes: USA Cervantes (Madrid: Polifemo, 2009); Suplemento al Tesoro de la lengua española de Sebastián de Covarrubias (Madrid: Polifemo, 2001); and En un lugar de la Mancha: estudios cervantinos (Salamanca: Ediciones Almar, 1998).

Mapping
AHSEM-UA 174
Instructor: Hilary Ballon
Monday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.

Maps are complex artifacts, both pictorial and abstract, technical and symbolic, works of art and science. This course will consider maps as ways of understanding, picturing and abstracting the world, with examples from ancient Egypt to Google Earth. Over time maps have become increasingly accurate, built with precise measurements and rich with data, but they are also ways of representing the world and conveying particular values and ideas. With maps fast becoming a preferred scaffolding to organize and access data—witness, for example, the many applications of Google Maps—the rich history and complex nature of mapping has particular relevance today. Topics to be covered in the seminar include: Ptolemy’s Geography; world maps (mappa mundi) and cosmographical diagrams; mapping and geographic exploration; the development of world atlases; the invention of true city plans; warfare, state building and mapmaking; mapping as a tool of empire; surveying and land ownership; Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis; and experimental maps in contemporary art. Cross-listed with Wagner as UPADM-GP 281.

Hilary Ballon is a University Professor, and a professor of architecture and urban studies at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She is also Deputy Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi in New York, working to ensure a strong connection between the two campuses.

Ballon’s scholarship focuses on cities and the intersection of architecture, politics, and social life in two fields of research, 20th-century America (in particular, New York City) and 17th-century Europe (in particular, Paris). Her current project concerns the grid plan of Manhattan, which is celebrating its bicentennial in 2011. She is curating an exhibition “The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan,” opening in December 2011 at the Museum of the City of New York, and is editor of the related book (Columbia University Press, 2011).

Ancient Egyptian Funerary Literature and the Book of the Dead
AHSEM-UA 175
Instructor: Rita Lucarelli
Monday and Wednesday, 2:00-3:15 p.m.

This seminar gives an overview on the religion of Pharaonic Egypt, on the basis of the numerous textual and iconographical sources decorating tombs, coffins, papyri and other funerary objects. In particular, the focus will be on the so-called Book of the Dead, a collection of illustrated magical spells that were in use in Egypt from about 1500 BCE until the Greco-Roman period. The students will read a selection of spells (in translation) from the Book of the Dead and analyze the illustrations related to these texts, and will discuss aspects of the ancient Egyptian beliefs in death and the netherworld. The ancient Egyptian pantheon of the gods occurring in the sources will be presented and the complex relationship among official religion, creation myths, personal piety and everyday magical practices will be outlined and discussed in the light of the most recent studies on the mortuary and magical literature of ancient Egypt.

Rita Lucarelli is a Visiting Research Scholar at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW). She studied at the University of Naples “L’Orientale,” Italy, where she took her MA degree in Classical Languages and Egyptology. She holds her Ph.D. from Leiden University, The Netherlands (2005) and her Ph.D. thesis was published in 2006 as The Book of the Dead of Gatseshen: Ancient Egyptian Funerary Religion in the 10th Century BC. Currently she works as Research Scholar at the Book of the Dead Project of the University of Bonn, Germany. Her primary research interests are the magical and funerary compositions of the Pharaonic and Greco-Roman Egypt, in particular those of the so-called “Book of the Dead” papyri whose contents aimed at the protection of the dead during his journey in the netherworld. She is also currently preparing a monograph on demonology in ancient Egypt. During her stay at the ISAW she will develop her research on demonology on an interdisciplinary level, by comparing the beliefs in demons in ancient Egypt with those in Mesopotamia during the 1st Millennium BCE.

The NYU Mediation Lab: Sci-Fi Edition
AHSEM-UA 176
Instructor: Clifford Siskin
Tuesday, 2:00–4:45 p.m.

MIT has its famous Media Lab “to envision the impact of emerging technologies.” NYU now has its own laboratory/workshop—The Mediation Lab—where we will scale up our visions to include “media” of every kind. As our shorthand for the work done by tools, “mediation” embraces all forms of agency—technological and human—everything that intervenes, enables, supplements, or acts in and on the world. This lab is thus for students across the disciplines who want to participate in the making of new knowledge—knowledge that anticipates a future. Our choice of project(s) for this edition of the Lab will be guided by the genre best known for envisioning futures: science fiction. Our selection of SF texts will be framed by turns to both the past—Sir Francis Bacon’s arguments about new tools and new knowledge—and the present—the physicist David Deutsch’s new book The Beginning of Infinity. The point of working together as a “lab” rather than a “seminar” is that we will do as well as think—and do so collaboratively rather than solely as individuals. Cross-listed with English as ENGL-UA 800, section 002.

Clifford Siskin is the Henry W. and Alfred A. Berg Professor of English and American Literature and the Director of The Re:Enlightenment Project. His subject is the interrelations of literary, social, and technological change. Links between past and present inform all of his work, from his sequencing of the genres of subjectivity (The Historicity of Romantic Discourse) to his recovery of literature’s role in the formation of the modern disciplines (The Work of Writing). He is also co-editor, with William Warner, of This Is Enlightenment, and a forthcoming monograph that asks when and how the central genre of Enlightenment became the thing that we now love to blame: the SYSTEM.

Irish History: Famine, Empire, and Colonialism
AHSEM-UA 177
Instructor: Joe Lee
Tuesday, 2:00–4:45 p.m.

The Great Famine of 1845-1851 was an immediate and long-term catastrophe for the Irish people and was the catalyst for substantial changes—positive and negative—in Irish society and culture; it also provoked a long history of debates about the causes and solutions to global hunger that continue to resonate today. This course explores the relationship between politics, power and famine, with particular reference to the influence of political cultures and institutions on decision making in the modern world, through a number of case studies over the past two centuries. It analyses the debates on the Amartya Sen thesis, that famines in the modern world are due less to the failure of food-supply as such, and more to the failure of non-democratic political systems. We will explore a series of case–studies of specific famines, including Ireland (1845-52), Finland (1868), Bengal (1943-44, 1974-75) Russia /USSR (1893, 1920-1, 1932-4), China (1964), and Ethiopia (1983-5). Cross-listed with Irish Studies as IRISH-UA 185, and with History as HIST-UA 799. Please note that this course does not satisfy the advanced research seminar requirement for the history major.

Joe Lee has been Professor of History and Irish Studies at NYU since 2002, and is Glucksman Chair of Irish Studies and Director of Glucksman Ireland House NYU. He was previously at University College Cork (Ireland), where he chaired the History Department and served for periods as Dean of Arts and as Vice President. He is a former Member of the Upper House of the Irish Parliament and former Member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body; he also served as the Chair of the Fulbright Commission for Ireland and as President of the Irish Association for European Studies. He is author of seminal histories of Ireland, The Modernization of Irish Society, 1848-1918 and the prize-winning Ireland, 1912-1985: Politics and Society. His op-ed columns for the Sunday Tribune were collected as The Shifting Balance of Power: Exploring the 20th Century, and he recently co-edited Making the Irish American: The History and Heritage of the Irish in the United States with Marion R. Casey.

Country and City in Modern Chinese Literature and Film
AHSEM-UA 178
Instructor: Jing Wang
Monday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.

This Seminar focuses on the tension and mutual dependency between the country and the city in modern China through the prism of modern Chinese fiction and Chinese film.  The story of modern China, in a sense, is the story of the transformation of a rural society into an urban, industrial one.  This profound change in the socioeconomic sphere has produced equally profound changes in people’s experience and consciousness, which in turn produce their cultural visions and artistic expressions.  The story of modern China is also a story about an organic member of an intimate social setting (say the family or the village) who becomes an enlightened, independent but lonely and alienated “individual” amidst the crowd of strangers in the modern city.  Or, conversely, it is about this cosmopolitan intellectual or professional’s uneasy return to the hometown, to the countryside, about his or her confrontation with an embarrassing past, which can be disengaged rationally but not emotionally.  These issues, to be sure, are not unique or particular to China; rather, they speak to contemporary men and women worldwide.  To study the particular historical experience and cultural formations of modern China may help us better grapple with many central concerns of contemporary life as well as our understanding of it.  The compressed temporality in China’s rapid metamorphosis from a sleepy rural giant to the “workshop of the world” not only means the mushrooming of Chinese cities, but also, and more importantly, an intense drama of social change, moral conflict, cultural diversity, and emotional strain.  All of these have found their representation in literature and film: the rural-urban relationship offers us an excellent opportunity to examine and rethink the epic experience of modern China as exemplary of the human experience of modernity.  Writers and works to be discussed include Lu Xun’s “Hometown” and “New Year’s Sacrifice”; Lao She’s “Camel Xiangzi”; Mao Dun’s “Spring Silkworm”; Shen Congwen’s “Vegetable Garden”; Ailing Chang’s “Sealed Off”, among others.  Films to be screened and discussed include “Crows and Sparrows” and “The World.”

Jing Wang is Assistant Research Scholar in the College of Arts & Science and the Department of East Asian Studies.  From 1999-2006, she was Lecturer in Chinese in the Department of East Asian Studies.  She is the editor and translator of Anthology of Short Stories by American Women Writers in the 1990’s (Beijing: New World Press, 2002).  In year 2000, she was the featured column writer/translator on foreign literature for the literary magazine Shanghai Literature.  Her teaching and research interests include classical Chinese novels; contemporary Chinese writers; literary translation; and comparative studies of cities and urban culture.  In addition to literary translations, she also publishes personal essays.

Love, Prophecy and Madness in Arabic Literature and Islamic Culture, 7th-16th century
AHSEM-UA 179
Instructor: Maurice Pomerantz
Tuesday and Thursday, 2:00-3:15 p.m.

In this course we will consider the important role that conceptions of love, prophecy and madness have played in religion, literature and culture in the Muslim world and its neighbors from the 7th-16th century. We will first consider earlier Ancient Near Eastern conceptions of the triad found in the Hebrew Bible, Ancient Greek thought (Plato, Aristotle, and later commentators).  We will then address major works of Arabic literature and Islamic, Christian, and Jewish thought from the 7th-15th centuries, including the following topics/texts:  Pre-Islamic Poetry; Qur'anic conceptions of prophecy/poetry/madness;  Ibn Isḥāq's "Life of the Prophet";  the themes of lovesickness and madness in early Arabic Love Poetry (Ghazal); stories of early wise fools and sufi mystics;  the Maqāmāt of al-Hamadhānī (11th century); the Arabian Nights; the Hebrew Poet Ibn Gabriol; the Persian Romance, Layli and Majnun_(madman); and Troubador Poetry. We will also read accounts of these themes in the works of the Muslim physicians, philosophers, and theologians (al-Fārābī, Ibn Sīnā and al-Ghazālī), and discuss the ways in which concepts of Love, Madness and Prophecy were received in the Medieval West and during the Renaissance and beyond. Cross-listed with Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies as MEIS-UA 730, section 001.

Maurice Pomerantz is assistant professor/faculty fellow in the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MEIS) at NYU. He specializes in Classical Arabic literature poetry and prose and its interpretation. His dissertation concerns the letters of the tenth century Iranian polymath and vizier, al-Sāḥib b. ʿAbbād. He has published numerous articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries on both Classical Arabic literature and Islamic thought. Among his current projects are a an international conference on "Courts and Performance in Middle East" with Evelyn Birge Vitz (NYU). He is also engaged in preparing a critical edition of the Maqāmāt of al-Hamadhānī with Bilal Orfali (American University of Beirut) and is working on a series of articles on the subsequent history of this important genre of Classical and Medieval Arabic literature.
Updated on 03/27/2014