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2012-2013 History Courses
First-Year Studies: Global Africa: Theories and Cultures of Diaspora
Changes in migration patterns, immigration laws, and refugee policies have meant that Africans are living and working in unexpected places. Studies of the African diaspora used to focus on the dispersion of Africans as a result of the trans-Saharan, trans-Atlantic, and Indian Ocean slave trades. More recent scholarship has focused on new African diasporas: Senegambians in Harlem, Ghanaians in Germany, Nigerians in Japan. These modern-day dispersals, powered in part by the forces of globalization, demand new levels of analysis by scholars. People of African descent have made lasting contributions to the societies where they now live. Unfortunately, because their positions have historically been defined by racism and servile status, these contributions have often been appropriated, stolen, or ignored. The goal of this class is to bring the contributions of African migrants to the forefront of intellectual discourse. We will attempt to answer the questions: What constitutes the contours of the African diaspora? How have African migration patterns changed over time? What role has class, ethnicity, gender, and race played in notions of return or exile? Although this is primarily a history class, we will make use of geography, sociology, anthropology, autobiography, literature, film, and music as sources. By the end of the semester, students will have a clearer understanding of how present-day African immigration patterns fit into a larger history of voluntary, involuntary, and forced migration.
First-Year Studies: The Age of the French Revolution
The revolution that convulsed France between 1789 and 1799 and the subsequent dictatorship of Napoleon mark the true beginning of the modern era. Thanks to the worldwide impact of the “ideas of 1789” and the astounding conquests achieved by French armies between 1792 and 1812, the age of the French Revolution and Napoleon can be seen as a watershed not only in the history of France but also in global history. The French Revolution radically affected the development of every country in Europe and altered the destiny of the Middle East and the Americas. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the study of modern history through an investigation of the origins, nature, and consequences of the French Revolution. We will begin by examining the civilization of 18th-century Europe and the crucial developments in the spheres of politics, economic life, culture, and thought that set the stage for the French Revolution. We will then trace the course of political events in France and neighboring countries from the accession of King Louis XVI in 1774 through the final downfall of Napoleon in 1815 and consider how people inside and outside of France reacted to the French Revolution and to Napoleon’s military domination of the European continent. In the spring, we will study the modern ideologies and artistic trends—liberalism, conservativism, socialism, nationalism, and romanticism—that were either born of the French Revolution or decisively shaped by it.
Much anxiety about the future haunts Europe today, as problems range from a declining birth rate to the debt crisis in the continent’s southern tier. Yet Europe has shown its resiliency repeatedly in the past and remains a formidable political and economic presence in the international community. This course will attempt to take a fresh look at the past 100 years, focusing on leading personalities, events, and movements in various locales. Major topics include the advent of World War I, the rise and development of communism in Russia and fascism in Italy and Germany, the impact of World War II, the reconstruction of Western Europe after 1945, the collapse and aftermath of the Soviet empire, and the emergence of the European Union. To achieve as full an understanding as possible, the course will rely not just on historical narrative but also on autobiography, biography, psychology, art and architecture, literature, and film. Group conferences, based on a seminar format, will feature important works by Robert Graves, Rosa Luxemburg, V. I. Lenin, Adolf Hitler, Ignazio Silone, Leni Riefenstahl, Arthur Koestler, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Hannah Arendt, and Milan Kundera.
Activists and Intellectuals: A Cultural and Political History of Women in the United States, 1775-1975
Through activism and organizing of all kinds—through fiction, memoir, poetry, and cultural criticism; through dance, visual art, and sport—American women have expressed their ideas and their desires, their values and their politics. This course will approach US history through the words and actions of all kinds of American women from the late 18th century through the late-20th century. Using a variety of primary sources, mixed with histories narrow and broad, we will analyze the ways in which women worked to intervene in the cultural and political world. Themes will include race, class, ethnicity, immigration and migration, sexuality, and, of course, gender. This is not a classic survey but, rather, readings in the cultural history of the nation framed with political and social history.
Rethinking Civil Rights History and the Origins of Black Power
The Civil Rights Revolution changed the complexion of American society; however, the old civil rights master narrative, with its leading-man casting, has been seriously questioned by a new generation of scholarship. This lecture and film course introduces students to the old and new paradigms of civil rights history and the origins of Black Power. If the old historical narrative places Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and the Black Panther Party at center stage, then the new paradigms make room for Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and organizations from the National Welfare Rights Organization to the Black Women’s United Front at center stage. This history raises several questions. Where are women’s voices in the strategic debates around nonviolence and self-defense? What role did cultural and educational programs play in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements? What was the difference between Jim Crow in Mississippi and Jim Crow in Detroit, Chicago, Harlem, and Watts? How did the Civil Rights Movement defeat white terror? Did the grassroots produce leadership in the Civil Rights Revolution? What role did students play in that epic drama? What was the organizing tradition in the Black Revolt?
The Contemporary Practice of International Law
In a landscape pocked by genocide, wars of choice, piracy, and international terrorism, what good is international law? Can it mean anything without a global police force and a universal judiciary? Is “might makes right” the only law that works? Or is it true that “most states comply with most of their obligations most of the time”? These essential questions frame the contemporary practice of law across borders. This lecture provides an overview of international law: its substance, theory, and practice. It addresses a wide range of issues, including the bases and norms of international law, the law of war (jus ad bellum and jus in bello), human-rights claims, domestic implementation of international norms, treaty interpretation, and state formation/succession. Readings will draw from two key texts: Murphy’s treatise, Principles of International Law, and International Law Stories, edited by Noyes, Janis & Dickinson. These readings will be supplemented by articles and original sources such as conventions, cases, and statutes.
Art and the Sacred in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages
No time in history saw a richer, more varied expression of sacred art than the European Middle Ages. And no other age has known as powerful, as all-embracing a religious institution as the medieval church. In this interdisciplinary lecture course, we will ask why the Christian church and the art made in its service took such extraordinarily varied forms in the 1,000-year period from the catacombs to Chartres, from the third century to the 13th. We will also ask why certain features of contemporary Christianity that are looked upon as quintessentially Catholic rather than Protestant were established not in the earliest years of the church but in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: monasteries and nunneries, the cult of the Virgin, a celibate clergy, and a papal monarchy with virtually unlimited powers. Since Christianity is a religion not only for the here and now but for the afterlife, of special interest will be perplexing beliefs such as that we on Earth might affect the fate of the dead in purgatory and, conversely, that some of the “very special dead” might assist the living or perhaps punish them. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the course will be studying these topics in visual, as well as in written, texts; for instance, in the architecture and decoration of early Christian and Romanesque churches and, at St. Denis and Chartres, in the birth of the uniquely Western style that we call Gothic. By also examining how sacred words were illuminated in manuscripts linked to Lindisfarne, Kells, and Charlemagne’s court, we will attempt to engage with a novel expression of spirituality in the Middle Ages: the book as icon. Near the end of our course, we will follow men and women from all over Europe on their pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, stopping at such memorable French Romanesque churches as Vézelay, Conques, and Moissac. In New York City museums, students will have opportunities to view chapels and cloisters brought from Europe, as well as sculptures, ivories, metalwork, stained glass, books, paintings, and tapestries that are among the world’s most precious treasures. Lectures will be devoted primarily to art; the weekly group conferences, to readings from the Middle Ages.
The Evolution of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights
History is replete with rabid pogroms, merciless religious wars, tragic show trials, and even genocide. For as long as people have congregated, they have defined themselves, in part, as against an other—and persecuted that other. But history has also yielded systems of constraints. So how can we hope to achieve a meaningful understanding of the human experience without examining both the wrongs and the rights? Should the human story be left to so-called realists, who claim that power wins out over ideals every time? Or is there a logic of mutual respect that offers better solutions? This lecture examines the history of human rights and humanitarian law. Approximately half the course will address the long and remarkably consistent history of the laws of war, focusing on the principles of military necessity, proportionality, and discrimination, as well as on the cultural, political, and technological context in which these laws evolved. The other half will focus on the rights that individuals and groups claim against their own states. Although there are no prerequisites, students would benefit from having taken The Contemporary Practice of International Law. Readings will draw from three key texts: Howard, Andreolopous & Shulman’s The Laws of War: Constraints on Warfare in the Western World; Buergenthal, Shelton & Stewart’s International Human Rights in a Nutshell; and Human Rights Advocacy Stories, edited by Hurwitz, Satterthwaite & Ford. These readings will be supplemented by articles and original sources such as conventions, cases, and statutes.
The Emergence of the Modern Middle East
This course provides a broad introduction to the political, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the Middle East from the late-18th century to the present. After a brief critical examination of the designation “modern Middle East,” the course will draw on a wide array of primary and secondary sources in order to illuminate the series of complex transformations and processes that have contributed, over time, to shaping what it has meant to be “modern” in this remarkably diverse and dynamic region. Particular attention will be paid to the following themes: the question of modernization and reform within the Ottoman and Qajar empires; the experience of different forms of European imperialism in the Middle East; the integration of the Middle East into the world economy; the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; state-building in both colonial and post-colonial contexts; the impact of war on Middle Eastern politics and society; transformations in religious thought; changing family norms and gender roles; the genesis of women’s movements; the emergence of nationalism in competition with various sub- and supra-national ideologies (such as pan-Arabism); class politics, social movements, and revolution; Zionism and the Arab-Israeli conflict; the origins and spread of political Islam; the political economy of oil; the Cold War and the role of the United States in the Middle East; globalization and neo-liberal economics; and the impact of various new cultural forms and media on the formation of identities across the region.
America in the Historical Imagination: American and European Perceptions of the ‘New World’
From the earliest European explorations of the Americas, Europeans visualized America alternately as a utopia free of the corruption and materialism that, in their view, characterized their own society or as a savage wilderness that represented the antithesis of their own civilized state. Indeed, John Locke declared, “In the beginning, all the world was America,” pointing to the widespread tendency to portray America as a symbol of both the hopes and fears of humanity. To understand how and why America became such an important symbol in Western culture, this course will examine the image of America from both European and American eyes from the beginnings of European settlement to the 19th century. We will analyze the interdependence of the Old and New Worlds by exploring the following themes: How did Europeans in the 16th century deal with the novelty of the “New World” at a time when the very concept of newness was an alien one? How and when did Americans transform their sense of distinctiveness into a conviction of their special mission and, thereby, lay the basis for the belief in American exceptionalism that has been so important to American identity? Was “manifest destiny”—a doctrine that justified the dispossession and destruction of Native Americans—a departure from or an outgrowth of the Puritan vision of the “City on a Hill,” which made America a model of moral purity and charity? How did Americans reconcile their sense of mission with their attachment to Europe and their desire to emulate European standards of civilization? In other words, conflict and harmony are so inextricably connected in the relationship between Europe and America that we may ask: Is it possible to know which was the point and which the counterpoint?
Cities of the Middle East
In this reading seminar, we will explore the experience of urban space as a lens through which to view broader transformations in the social, political, and cultural history of the modern Middle East. At the same time, the course will introduce students to some recent developments in urban theory and different methods that scholars have adopted to capture various aspects of modern city life. To this end, we will undertake an interdisciplinary approach to our topic, drawing from such fields as art history, anthropology, sociology, geography, film studies, and political economy to explore the historical development of Middle Eastern cities through a variety of frames. In our effort to think beyond the “hard city” of bricks and mortar, particular attention will be paid to the cultural imagination and expression of various modern Middle Eastern cities in film and literature (our main “primary sources” in this course). In Part I of the course, we will conceptualize the place of the city in Middle Eastern culture and society, putting the urban experience in comparative geographic context, and then explore the historical and historiographical relevance of some archetypal urban forms typically ascribed to the region. In Part II, we will take historical snapshots of several different Middle Eastern cities, using them as case studies for exploring broader global transformations in the modern urban experience. Throughout the course, we will examine what cities have meant for Middle Eastern society and culture in a variety of contexts, study how various individuals and social groups across the region have experienced and used urban space, explore how artists and filmmakers have attempted to imagine and render their urban milieus, and consider the extent to which the Middle Eastern experience of urban modernity has paralleled others around the globe.
The Medieval Foundations of England
This course will concentrate on the most transformative and creative time in medieval English history. We begin with the invasion of Anglo-Saxon England by the Normans, Europe’s acknowledged masters of the art of war. Given that Norman knights used stirrups—the most advanced military technology of the day—was a Norman victory at Hastings inevitable? Norman propaganda claimed that Duke William was not only a conqueror but also the legitimate heir to the throne of England. Was he? Did the Norman Conquest result in the imposition of a “Norman yoke of oppression” on free Anglo-Saxons and an attempt to erase Anglo-Saxon culture? Regarding the century and a half after William’s victory, we will ask how the great conflicts of the age—English versus French, church versus state, king versus baron—led to the creation of ideals and institutions of such durability that they continue to shape lives in Britain and America. Some of our areas of inquiry: What is unique about the common law created in 12th-century England? How important is common law today? What did medieval people mean when they spoke of church and state? What do we mean today? Regarding medieval church and state conflicts, we will focus on the epic personal battle between King Henry II and his Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket—a conflict that climaxed in Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral. The course will conclude with a critical analysis of the most celebrated constitutional document in English history, Magna Carta. But how should we understand Magna Carta? Is Magna Carta democratic and progressive? Or is Magna Carta aristocratic and reactionary? Since a copy of Magna Carta resides in our National Archives alongside our Declaration of Independence and our Bill of Rights, we might ask: Should it be there? A student ought to consider this course to be not only about a great period of medieval history but also a workshop in actually “doing history”—and “doing it” in an interdisciplinary way. For example, we will compare conflicting written accounts of the Norman Conquest with the pictorial narrative presented in the most famous of all works of medieval art, the Bayeux Tapestry. The tapestry’s unfolding images and texts have been compared to a motion picture and to a graphic novel, yet the tapestry requires an understanding of medieval pictorial conventions to be read correctly. Even so, it presents many puzzles to the student of history. The most enigmatic: What difference did it make in the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry that, although the patron was Norman, the artist who designed the scenes was Anglo-Saxon and the people who embroidered its images and texts were also Anglo-Saxons? This is a course that emphasizes developing analytical and writing skills that will serve a lifetime in whatever a person chooses to do. Conference work may focus on medieval questions or related ones from another time and place.
History and the ‘Arab Spring’
Media coverage of the tide of public demonstrations and political transformations since December 2010, which we have come to know collectively as the “Arab Spring,” has tended to coalesce around two predominant narratives: the unprecedented nature of these events and the fact that so few experts and analysts saw them coming. This course will explore the significance, as well as the limitations, of this prevailing media interpretation of current events in the Middle East by embedding the so-called Arab Spring within its broader historical context. Despite the import of social media—a decidedly new and dynamic phenomenon—in propelling the Arab revolutions, is the Arab Spring really as new or unprecedented as it initially appeared to us? Can certain apt lessons of history help us explain why the Arab Spring occurred when and where it did? What is the relationship between past conceptions of revolution, mass politics, and anti-authoritarian protest in the Arab world and those that are current today? Finally, what have been the implications of similar such discourses of Arab “awakening” across modern Middle Eastern history? This course has two main objectives. First, we will pay close attention to how the Arab Spring has unfolded in time in order to ask broader questions about how and why (and for whom) certain major media stories of our day constitute consequential historical events. To this end, we will read some theory about revolutions and historical “eventness” from outside the Middle East field. Second, we will isolate several of the most salient themes of the Arab Spring—the role of mass media; mass politics, public protest, and the “Arab street”; the politics of gender; authoritarianism; the generational divide and youth movements; the transformation of public space; violence; neo-liberalism and economic inequality; the question of foreign intervention and neo-imperialism—and consider the extent to which situating these themes in the broader historical context of the 20th-century Middle East can illuminate our contemporary political moment.
Hunger and Excess: Histories, Politics, and Cultures of Food
Beliefs about food, foodmaking, and food consumption are practices that have historically indexed, identified, and mapped the contours of self, community, and nation. This course analyzes food issues through the lenses of culture and history. Histories of particular foods, including sugar, potatoes, coffee, and chocolate, are examined in order to reveal their crucial roles in social change, identity, class formation and conflict, nationalism, and the promotion of slavery. How were potatoes, famine, and the enforcement of free-trade ideology linked in 19th-century Anglo-Irish relations? How have episodic food riots, greeting perceived shortages and injustices in distribution, led to the constitution of new forms of sociability? What accounts for the birth of restaurants? How has the coming of the recipe book affected gender roles and domesticity? And how has the arrival of abundance brought changes to the human body, ideas, and ideals of normality? The course explores relationships between ideas of “nature” and the “natural” and ideas of natural diets, “locavorisms,” the “wild,” the raw, and the cooked. Through the lens of cultural studies and cultural anthropology, food production and consumption are revealed as a symbolic medium whose “travels” across continents, as well as into individual digestive systems, illuminate and map topographies of class, tastes, the forbidden, and the erotic. Food as a symbolic substance moves through fashion, contemporary art, and nutrition. How, for example, is the natural body imagined and modeled in the 21st century? Is it taboo to eat chocolate after yoga? What do the rules of kosher do? And how do food taboos in the natural-food movement resonate with the rules of kosher in the Old Testament?
Christianity and Classical Culture: An Enduring Theme in European Thought
The distinctive civilization of Europe is founded on two very different legacies: the heritage of pagan antiquity and the heritage of Christianity. The fusion of these elements in a single culture was never without its tensions; but as long as the Middle Ages lasted, the potential for open conflict between them was held in check by the authority of the Church. With the Renaissance and Reformation, however, Europeans acquired a sharpened awareness of the dissonance between the cultural presuppositions of pagan Greece and Rome and biblical revelation. The philosophers of the Enlightenment and their spiritual offspring, rejecting the authority claims and ethical teachings of medieval Christianity, turned to Classical civilization to find the basis for an alternate system of values. A rival tradition was constituted by modern thinkers who, wishing to preserve the best of both legacies, sought to establish a new and better synthesis of the values of Christianity and those of Classical civilization. In this course, students will read and discuss a number of works produced by celebrated representatives of both traditions. In the fall, we will begin our inquiries by looking at a number of the key texts of Greco-Roman ethical thinking (Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius) and of early Christianity (Gospels and Pauline letters, acts of the martyrs). We will consider how the relationship between Christianity and Classical culture presented itself to the first group of intellectuals who were compelled to define it explicitly: the Fathers of the Christian Church (Irenaeus, Augustine). We shall then jump forward to the Early Modern period and consider how issues that these writers had addressed resurfaced in the works of Erasmus, Montaigne, Pascal, Lessing, and Kant. In the spring, our attention will focus on 19th- and 20th-century writers such as Goethe, Hölderlin, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Tennyson, Arnold, Newman, Nietzsche, William James, Berdiaev, and Bonhoeffer. First-year students will be admitted at the instructor’s discretion.
Rethinking the Racial Politics of the New Deal and the War on Poverty
The racial politics of the New Deal raises many controversial issues. With an eye toward today’s global economic crisis, students will interrogate the political economy of policies from the New Deal to the War on Poverty. This research seminar explores different perspectives on the legacies of specific social, cultural, and economic policies and programs aimed at the relief and elimination of American poverty. In other words, students will examine the GI Bill, Social Security, the AAA and Urban Renewal, and so forth with an eye toward an evaluation of those experiments and their impact. In what ways did grassroots communities and labor movements organize their own wars on poverty? What did the New Deal and the War on Poverty mean for Black America and for White America? And what was the difference? What did the GI Bill and Urban Renewal mean for different classes in America? Is it true that Social Security had segregated origins? What were the intentions of the White House in launching the GI Bill and other antipoverty policies? Is it true that the GI Bill made many ethnic groups into educated, middle-class professionals and homeowners? What was the impact on interracial cultural democracy of a New Deal program like the Works Progress Administration? And what role did the Popular Front play in the New Deal? Since there was a New Deal, why did the United States experience such a widespread postwar urban crisis? How did the United States come to have the “Other America” after the New Deal? Why did some people in the Other America need “Survival Programs” in the midst of the Great Society?
The Caribbean and the Atlantic World
The Caribbean is Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico—and it is also Venezuela, New Orleans, southern Florida, and the coastal areas of Central America settled by runaway and shipwrecked slaves. The Caribbean speaks Spanish, English, Creole, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Papamiento, Garifuna, and Miskitu. It is an area of tremendous diversity but linked by common experiences of African slavery, colonial domination, underdevelopment, nationalism, and revolution. This course examines the history and culture of the Caribbean from 1492 to the present, with special emphasis on its place in the world: a source of unprecedented wealth built by the labor of enslaved Africans; a hot-spot of international competition, piracy, and war; a crossroads of goods, ideas, and people; and, in the 20th century, a region struggling to be more than an “American lake.” We will pay particular attention to Haiti and Cuba, whose democratic and socialist revolutions had an impact in the Americas as powerful as the other, better-known “great revolutions” of the 18th and 20th centuries. We will use monographs that represent a variety of different historical methodologies (social, economic, cultural, Atlantic, environmental, and gender history), primary sources, and representations of Caribbean reality in film, literature, and art.
The ‘Losers’: Dissent and the Legacy of Defeat in American Politics From the American Revolution to the Civil War
Though our nation was born in conflict and is sustained by conflict, the present always seems inevitable; surely the United States of 2012 is but the flowering of the seeds planted so many centuries ago. To imagine that the Revolutionary War ended in failure and that the Founding Fathers were hanged and the names of loyalists such as Hutchinson and Arnold were as much on our lips as Washington, Adams, and Jefferson seems blasphemous. Or to imagine celebrating the loyalist William Franklin as a hero, rather than his father Benjamin, seems utterly absurd. The world just wouldn’t be what it is if, instead of calling ourselves American, we identified ourselves as Canadian. The melodic themes of liberty, dissent, and equality would seem less lyrical if Americans could no longer claim them as their own; but would our understanding of American identity be the richer if we viewed these themes as forged in conflict? To this end, the course will focus on those groups who were on the losing side of major political conflicts from the American Revolution to the Civil War; namely, the loyalists, the Anti-Federalists, the Federalists, the Whigs, and the Confederacy. The course will also consider the ultimate losers in these conflicts—those who were denied political rights altogether and thus even the possibility of victory. What did the treatment of these different political groups reveal about the extent of—and limits to—American acceptance of dissent? How did a culture that placed a premium on success and achievement regard loss and defeat? How was the South able to turn the defeat of the Confederacy into a badge of honor and a source of pride through the idealization of the Lost Cause? What was the long-term legacy that these losing groups left behind? When viewed from this perspective, were these groups really losers at all? After all, without the Anti-Federalists, there would have been no Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Ultimately, the course aims to cultivate a “tragic” perspective that goes beyond viewing history in terms of winners and losers, heroes and villains, and instead recognizes that, in the final analysis, we are all in bondage to the knowledge that we possess.
Ideas of Africa: Africa Writes Back
The continent of Africa has been variously described as the birthplace of humanity, the Motherland, a country, a continent, and a heart of darkness. All of these descriptions reflect representations of Africa, but how accurately do they reflect reality? This course analyzes the intellectual history of ideas about Africa and argues that some ideas have an enduring shelf life—even when they have been consistently proven to be inaccurate. We will critically interrogate historical and anthropological studies, travelers’ accounts, media representations, and films created by non-Africans. However, we will also examine the critical responses by African philosophers, novelists, academics, artists, and journalists who have attempted to address these images.
Sickness and Health in Africa
Depending on the level of his or her resources, a sick person in Africa potentially has access to a variety of options for treatment. How illness is perceived becomes a crucial determinant in how people seek care. Despite the array of treatment options, the state of public health in most African countries has become woefully inadequate. While the reasons for this decline in health status are related to questions of the international political economy, they can also be traced historically. This class studies the history of health, healing, and medical practices in Africa in order to identify the social, historic, and economic factors that influence how therapeutic systems in Africa have changed over time. We will investigate a range of topics, including the place of traditional healers in providing care, the impact of the AIDS pandemic on overall public health, and the role of globalization in changing the structure of health-care delivery in most African countries.
Women/Gender, Race, Class and Sexuality in Film: History and Feminist Film Theory
This yearlong seminar uses history and feminist film theory to analyze American cinema from its silent origins to the present. Gender, race, class, and sexuality offer contextual ways to look at the representation of women and men in films. We analyze cinema as a part of historical processes and assess historical and feminist interpretations. We learn how to read films, discussing explicit and implicit meanings. A variety of film genres will be analyzed from early motion pictures of the 1890s, silent films, 1940s women’s film, avant garde, film noir, Afro-American cinema, second-wave feminist film, documentary, queer cinema, films of politics, masculine genre films (action/adventure), ethnic cinema, and fantasy/horror through global cinema. Students will develop a critical understanding of movies, not only as part of cultural and social history but also as a political vehicle for activism and change.
Moving from 19th-century struggles against slavery to recent uprisings against apartheid and global capitalism, this seminar explores women’s relationships to revolutions that have shaped the modern world. Although the course focuses largely on US history, we will also consider developments in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. Topics include the revolutionary work of individuals such as Harriet Tubman, Aleksandra Kollontai, Yuri Kochiyama, Nawal El-Saadawi, Mamphela Ramphele, and Rigoberta Menchu; unsung women’s essential contributions to revolutionary movements around the globe; the ways in which revolutions have addressed—or failed to address—women’s demands for equality and self-determination; and the emergence of independent women’s movements within revolutionary contexts. Reading includes memoir, fiction, and political treatises, as well as historical scholarship. Open to graduate students, seniors, and juniors; open to sophomores with permission of the instructor.