Reading & Composition

Reading & Composition

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Emily Laskin, Donna Honarpisheh
79 Dwinelle

Borders on maps have historically been used to delimit space and mark differences in cultures, regions, languages, and national identities. However, for the people who live in the space of borderlands the divisions between communities and cultures are rarely as concrete as the state-imposed boundaries that seek to divide them. What is more, the political, juridical, and cultural effects of borders vary based on one’s position in both the local and global order. This course will begin with today’s pressing questions about borders: the proposed Mexico-US border wall, the referenda on independence in Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan, and the revival of nationalist sentiment across various parts of the world. We will continue by devoting close attention to a series of visual and textual objects—literary, filmic, theoretical, and other reflections on the space within, outside of, and across border spaces. We’ll examine how borders function in both the material and imaginary world. And we’ll think about the differences between natural and political borders. This course will focus on several specific regions: Mexico and the southwestern US; Russia and its southern neighbors; the coastal and territorial boundaries of Iran; and breaks and partitions as they pertain to India and Pakistan. Finally, our discussion will consider literary attempts at de-territorialization and the possibility of imagining a world (or worlds) beyond borders.

Since this an R&C course, its major aim is to help students develop their prowess as readers, writers, and thinkers. We’ll spend time learning tools for building effective analytical arguments as well as tactics for expressing those arguments clearly in writing. In addition to several essays over the course of the semester and reading assignments for each class, students can expect to complete regular short homework assignments as well as participate frequently in class discussions.

Possible texts and films include:


Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands

Majid Majidi, Baran (film)

Bahram Beizai, Bashu, the Little Stranger (film)

Simin Daneshvar, “Sutra”

Gilles Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus, selections

Mahmoud Darwish, selected poetry

Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias”

Bahman Ghobadi, A Time for Drunken Horses (film)

Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel (film)

Gregory Nava, El Norte (film)

Andrei Platonov, Dzhan

Alexander Pushkin, “Prisoner of the Caucasus”

Leo Tolstoy, “Hadji Murat”