Reading & Composition

Reading & Composition

Apocalypse and History
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Saniya Taher
8-9:30 am


Etymologically, from Greek apokalupsis, from apokaluptein ‘uncover, reveal’, from apo- ‘un-’ + kaluptein ‘to cover,’ the apocalypse is the act of uncovering while also covering, for it is the end and is a revelation at the moment of world ending that holds radical potential. What would we gain in thinking of disasters, world ending events, and crisis-- in their lived banalities and extremities --as instances of apocalypse we come to disavow and reframe? What happens to our conceptions of history and time, to the order of past, present, and future, to conditions of damage, destruction, and violence when grappled with through the prism of apocalypse? And how are conditions of freedom and subjection, violence and justice, individual and collective wrapped up in understandings of apocalypse? How does an apocalyptic viewpoint illuminate structural conditions of violence, and how can it help us in accounting and tending to historical injuries?

In order to grapple with these questions, we will focus primarily on 20th-century films and literature from the Middle East and Africa, as well as work from black and indigenous writers and filmmakers in the US to think through what reading apocalyptically does, and what sort of vision and perception we can gain in attempting to grapple with the limit of the present's ordering and conditions. Most of our texts engage the “post-colonial,” a critical term that arose in the wake of national liberation movements and indigenous wars of independence fought in the mid-20th century which reconfigured the world as European colonial regimes crumbled and new nation-states emerged throughout the globe. As a concept, the post-colonial implies not only an aftermath, but also a (quite literal) attachment to what came before, suggesting colonialism’s continuation and persistence in the present but through different forms. In close reading, writing, and rewriting about these different mediums, we will seek to articulate how these authors reveal and imagine the weight of history and its catastrophe, configurations of life-and-death, and the intertwined and paradoxical relation between destruction, freedom, and care.

Possible texts:

Karl Marx, Selections
Sigmund Freud, Selections
Saidiya Hartman, Selections
Walter Benjamin, Selections
Fanon Frantz, Wretched of the Earth

Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism 
CLR James, The Black Jacobins
Etel Adnan, The Arab Apocalypse
Ghassan Kanafani, Men in The Sun
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers
Ousmane Sembène, Black Girl
Assia Djebar, Zerda and the Songs of Forgetting
Julie Dash, Daughters of the Dust
Ziad Kalthoum, Taste of Cement
Djibril Diop Mambéty, Touki Bouki