In this course, students will discuss and analyze the American children’s animated TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) as a literary and artistic work. The show centers on a 12-year-old boy who is both the reincarnation of a global peacekeeper called the “Avatar” and the sole survivor of the genocide of his people.

Queer Forms

What does queer art look like, sound like, feel like in our bodies? What forms does queer art take? What representational and political strategies does it take up? How are queer art forms connected to collectives and communities? What possibilities do they offer for understanding our past, present, and future?

El leninismo y la nación: debates contemporáneos sobre la nación en las Américas

En este curso se debatirá la nación desde la perspectiva literaria y teórica. ¿Qué es la nación? ¿Cómo se conceptualiza la nación en el ámbito literario y teórico? ¿Qué tiene que aportar el leninismo en el debate sobre la nación? Por medio de las producciones culturales de América Central, México y Cuba, veremos cómo la nación ha llegado a ser violenta, especialmente cuando es controlada por el capitalismo salvaje, y también revolucionaria o capaz de revolución, como es el caso de Cuba y las naciones indígenas de Abya Ayala.

Trans Literary History

This course is about literary representations of gender variance in the past. Focusing primarily on texts that predate contemporary trans discourse, we will consider how gender norms have historically been constructed and subverted in poems, plays, novels, short stories, fables, and myths. As a class, we will take on the role of literary historians: rather than simply transposing today’s ideas of gender and sex onto the past, we will take up analytic tools from trans and literary studies alike to think about the cultural contexts in which different ideas of gender have emerged.

On 'the problem of speaking for others': Feminist Theories, Literary Practices

Taking our cue and the inspiration for this course’s title from feminist philosopher Linda Alcoff’s influential essay, “The Problem of Speaking for Others,” participants in this course will consider some of the concerns that arise when one attempts to speak, write, or create films for or about others and their experiences. We will begin by closely examining various responses to this and related questions by several prominent twentieth-century feminist and postcolonial scholars.

Loosed in Translation: Poetics and Politics, between Tongues

Per its etymology, translation figures as a deft midwife, carrying a text over one language and into another. Pessimists frame translation otherwise: as an ill-fated encounter between powerful and powerless languages; as a form of transmission that necessitates misprision; as the violent uprooting of a source text or language from its autochthonous environment; or as a domesticating art that exploits, and encourages, the loss of meaning in linguistically-specific phrasal idioms, grammatical gender, syntax, and tonality.

Thinking with Literature, Art, and Film

Do poems take up truths? Can a novel be a way of thinking about something? What can you learn—about yourself, about others, about the world—from a film? This course considers the ways that literature, art, and film are not only a part of our creative imaginations but also central sources of insight into what is real and actual. How do fictional and imaginative works touch what is worldbound? How do they help us see and understand our world?

Family: Selected Memories, Imaginations and Narratives

Family is at the core of our memory and imagination. From postcolonial politics, religion to language, how do macro forces impact families and their individual and collective psyches?  How do the trials and tribulations of family life define our imagination? Moving through exile, revolutions, poverty, religious crises, and

Ghost Stories: Literary Hauntings and Specters of the Past

In the texts we will read in this course, hauntings—the spirits of the deceased invading and inhabiting physical spaces—provide often unwelcome and undesired opportunities for characters (and authors) to reckon with experiences and events thought long buried, but which refuse to be forgotten. Dismissed by modernity as mere superstition or fantasy, the ghosts which haunt our texts demand our attention, forcing us to question whether the present can ever be fully independent from the past.

Literature and Social Categories

For this class, we hone the skill of close reading, which examines how a work of literature makes its meaning through its style (e.g., its tone, narrative perspective, figurative language, and so on). In particular, we consider the way works of literature challenge social categories by engaging with the stylistic conventions of their genre (literary category). The works we read in class both set and defy expectations about their literary category and its conventions. In so doing, they also set and defy expectations about the social categories with which they are preoccupied.