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Courses

Spring 2018                                                             

 
RSCP 82100 – Research Techniques in Renaissance Studies, GC: R, 2:00pm - 4:00pm, room TBA, 4 credits, Prof. Professor Clare Carroll [38086]. Crosslisted with CL 80900, 2 or 4 credits
The course is designed to help students work on their own research—on the dissertation, the orals, or on a research paper in Renaissance or Early Modern Studies, broadly defined as 1350-1700. Students are not required to be members of the Renaissance Certificate Program to take the class.

We will study how the material conditions of texts as well as those of archives, book sellers, and libraries influence the transmission and interpretation of early modern culture. Readings will include articles on such topics as archives, authorship, literacy, the material make-up of books and manuscripts, the printing press, and reading practices . Students will receive instruction in topics specifically related to research in the early modern period: codicology, paleography, textual editing and analytical bibliography. We will study the history of reading—marginalia, descriptions of reading, and of reading practices. The major assignment for the course is an annotated bibliography related to each student’s own particular research interests. Other assignments include exercises in paleography, analytical bibliography, and an oral report related to one of the readings. We will visit the Manuscript and Rare Book Collections at the Morgan Library.  


Reading list (texts from which weekly readings will be selected):

Ann Blair, Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age
Roger Chartier, Forms and Meanings: Texts, Performances, and Audiences from Codex to Computer
Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Study
Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe
Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book
Arlette Farge, Allure of the Archives
Imtiaz Habib, Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500-1677: Imprints of the Invisible
Heidi B. Hackel and Catherine E. Kelly, eds., Reading Women: Literacy, Authorship, and Culture in the Atlantic World
Andrew Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance
Armando Petrucci, Writers and Readers in Medieval Italy
Brian Richardson, Manuscript Culture in Renaissance Italy
Bill Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England
Articles by Robert Darnton, Anthony Grafton, Lisa Jardine, and Peter Stallybrass.

 
THESE COURSES WILL FULFILL ELECTIVE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE CERTIFICATE.
 
HIST 72800 - Slavery and the Disciplines, GC:  R, 6:30-8:30 pm, room TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Herman Bennett [CRN 38117]
At its core, this course takes up concerns animated by both the persistent and emergent focus on slavery in the disciplines.  It asks how and why distinct disciplines are suddenly approaching the study of slavery?  Obviously this dynamic portends to far more than an engagement with the study of slavery solely as an economic system or as a technique of power.  Slavery, as a result, is no longer restricted to the domain of historians and the study of the enslaved past.  For this reason, the course“Slavery & the Disciplines” offers a wide-ranging examination of slavery’s presence and impact on disciplinary formation.  In discerning the work of slavery in various disciplines, notably Anthropology, English, Philosophy, Political Theory, Religion, and Sociology, this course explores how scholars of distinction disciplinary formations employ the study of slavery to press on the extant cultural logic but also framings of the past, present and future. 
 
Robert Reid-Pharr has recently written that “even as we joyously celebrate the victories of our enslaved ancestors, even as we take satisfied stock of how far we have come, we must studiously avoid the triumphalist narratives that are the hallmarks of humanist discourse.” Reid-Pharr’s trenchant critique is not alone.  A variety of intellectuals and scholars have leveled a similar broadside against the epistemology configuring Western thinking and its enduring legacy.  Rather than reduce this to a generational critique framed as an inquiry into the history of the present, we might be better served asking how and why this engagement with slavery and its legacy arises at this precise moment among a range of scholars in various disciplines?  What, in other words, does this engagement and critique say about our historical moment, previous representation of the slave past, and slavery’s sublimated presence in contemporary life?  What might be conveyed by invocation of slavery’s enduring afterlife?  What are the implications for the University and its constituent elements—disciplines?
 
Over the course of the semester, the seminar participants will deliberate over slavery and freedom as these subjects have been broached and now are treated by distinct disciplines.
Syllabus here.
 
 
ART 84000 - Mellon Seminar: The Connoisseur of Mughal India, GC:  W, 11:45-1:45 pm, room TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Molly Aitken- Zaidi (maitken-zaidi@gc.cuny.edu) [CRN 38162]
To be co-taught with Navina Haidar, Curator of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
This course draws on the extraordinary collection of Mughal and Deccan painting and decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the expertise do MET curator, Navina Haidar, to introduce students to what it meant- socially, politically, and personally- to be a connoisseur of the fine arts in 16th -19th - century India. Connoisseurship is our theme, and the course will afford student the rare opportunity to hone skills in close looking and distinction that are now rarely taught. Students will be introduced to some of the greatest masters of Indian art first and. They will also read primary and secondary sources on European and Mughal aesthetics and on European and Mughal conceptions of connoisseurship to think comparatively and critically about the history of close looking and discernment in art.
 
C L 88100 - Dante’s Web: Charting Connections between the Commedia and his other Works, GC: W, 2:00pm-4:00pm, room TBA, 2/4 credits, Prof. Paola Ureni, [CRN 38100]
This course will highlight the connections between Dante’s works, identifying and following thematic, philosophical, and lexical threads that link the Commedia, Convivio, Monarchia, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Vita Nuova, and Rime. Even though the consideration of the temporal sequence of Dante’s writings will be important, our readings will be organized according to thematic – rather than chronological – criteria. Scholars have often discussed the relations and reciprocal influences in Dante’s oeuvre, particularly, for instance, in the Commedia and the Convivio. On the basis of the philosophical and political dimension, studies and critical editions of the Monarchia have considered its relationship to the Convivio. More recently, for example, the political dimension has been highlighted as relevant to the linguistic theory of the De Vulgari Eloquentia. Besides investigating the connections discussed by Dante criticism, we will explore and identify references to structures of thought shared by the different aspects of medieval intellectual discussions, and mirroring Dante’s intellectual iter. This will allow for a study of the poet’s syncretic consideration of the political, philosophical, musical, and scientific discourses, as well as of the relationship between classical authors and material, and contemporary theological tenets.
 
ENG 82100 – Sovereignty, GC: W, 11:45am-1:45pm, room TBA, 2/4 credits, Prof. Feisal Mohamed, [CRN 38208]
“The theory of sovereignty,” Foucault declares in Society Must be Defended, was “the great instrument of the political and theoretical struggles that took place around systems of power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.” If one were to revise this observation, it would be only to add that the theory of sovereignty continues to be at the center of struggles around systems of power. In recent months we have certainly been reminded in thunder of the political charge of sovereignty in our own moment: with Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, with the rise of strongman politics in countries where democracy had always been precarious, such as the United States, Russia, Turkey, and India, to name but a few examples. Depersonalized authority, rule of law, proceduralism and overlapping consensus all seem especially now to be self-deluding liberal fantasies.
This course will thus focus on English literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with an eye to later theoretical approaches to the questions of sovereignty. In exploring early modern material, we will pay attention to constitutional debates on the role of the sovereign, but also to the role of England’s rising imperial ambitions and to the complex political self-positioning of the period’s women writers. We will take into account recent scholarship on political theology, and examine how writers of this tumultuous period reinscribe the political imaginary implicit in various literary modes, epic, tragedy, satire, and pastoral. Especially important to the theoretical content of the course will be the cluster of theorists witnessing up close the collapse of liberal order in the Weimar Republic: Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, and Leo Strauss. We will also read theorists of our own moment of anxiety on sovereignty, such as Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, and Wendy Brown. Seminar participants will be expected to make a conference-style presentation leading to a research paper of 14-16 pages.
 
Preliminary list of literary texts:
William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece, The Tempest, Macbeth
Ben Jonson, Sejanus
Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book 1; View of the Present State of Ireland
John Donne, Satyres
Aemilia Lanyer, The Description of Cooke-Ham
Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World
John Milton, A Masque, Lycidas, Paradise Lost (selections), Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes
Lucy Hutchinson, translation of Lucretius’ De rerum natura (selections); Order and Disorder, cantos 1-5
Andrew Marvell, Upon Appleton House, An Horation Ode, The First Anniversary, the Advice-to-a-Painter Poems
Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave
 
 
ENGL 8211 - Early Modern Trans History and Theory, GC: T, 11:45am-1:45pm, room TBA, 2/4 credits, Prof. Will Fisher, [38201]
 
This class will offer a broad survey of possible sites of inquiry for transgender (trans) scholarship on early modern English texts, and explore the intersections between the fields of early modern studies and trans studies. It will address questions like: How might gender-variant characters and historical figures speak to contemporary trans inquiries? What are the major premodern trans texts? How do recent developments in trans studies impact the way we read early modern texts, and vice versa? What are the methodological issues involved in understanding gender variability before the introduction of terms like trans, genderqueer, nonbinary, genderfluid, pangender, agender, and cisgender? How does early modern thinking about sex/gender and the body compare with contemporary thinking about these topics as articulated in trans studies?
 
READINGS:
Literary texts will include canonical works like Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl, John Lyly’s Gallathea (along with other early modern iterations of the Iphis and Ianthe story), and Ben Jonson’s Epicoene, as well as lesser-known works like Francis Beaumont’s Salmacis and Hermaphroditus and seventeenth-century broadside ballads about gender-variant individuals.
 
In addition, we will be examining a range of non-literary sources, including the court cases of individuals like Eleanor/John Rykener and the “female husbands” of the late-seventeenth century like Amy Howard/James Howard. We will also study early modern medical writing about gender and the body, including the accounts of spontaneous gender transformation from the period and the discussions of intersexed individuals, in order to consider whether – or how – this material might help contest assumptions about the historical dominance of binary models of gender identity.
 
Finally, trans theorists like Susan Stryker, Jack Halberstam, Joanne Meyerowitz, Cheryl Chase, and Dean Spade will be read alongside the work of early modern scholars like Simone Chess, Colby Gordon, M.W. Bychowski, and Leah DeVun.
 
 
SPAN 82200 – The Invention of Love in Early Modern Spanish Poetry, R, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 3 credits, Prof. Lia Schwartz, [CRN 38053]
 
The development of Humanism led to the rediscovery of Italian poetry in the Renaissance, which became a main model for different conceptions of love at the time, and of Greek and Roman poetry. The example of Petrarch’s Canzoniere and his Italian followers in the sixteenth-century, Bembo among others, combined with the enthusiastic reception of Neo-Platonism after the translations of Plato and the philosophical writings of Marsilio Ficino, promoted a vision of love that was going to be recreated by Spanish Renaissance and Baroque poets for two long centuries. The purpose of this course will be to examine the relations between literary and philosophical theories and their recontextualization in poetic texts, focusing on the constitution of the voices of the lover and on the portraits of the beloved, as they appear in individual poems, and in the collections built as “cancioneros” after the example of Petrarch. Garcilaso de la Vega’s and Fernando de Herrera’s works, historical precedents of Góngora’s and Quevedo’s poetry, will be studied in conjunction with readings of Neo-Platonic theory, Marsilio Ficino’s treatises and those composed by his most important mediator in Spain, León Hebreo in the famous translation of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, with references to other important texts in the transmission of Neo-Platonic ideas.

 

Fall 2017

RSCP 72100 - Introduction to Renaissance Studies:  Neoplatonism across Time and Faith, GC: W, 2:00-4:00pm., Rm 3309, 3/4 credits, Prof. Clare Carroll and Feisal Mohamed, Cross listed with CL 80900 and ENG 71000

Engaging in questions of Platonic influence may seem to support a traditional view of the Renaissance as reviving and redoubling a unitary sense of Western culture tracing its roots to ancient Greece. This course poses a strong challenge to that narrative. By focusing on the Platonism of late antiquity, we in fact engage in a profound re-mapping of the period’s engagement with classical and medieval locales, one less centered on Athens and Rome and taking into its ken Alexandria, Damascus, and Baghdad.
 
The Neoplatonic tradition was the philosophical limgua franca of the Renaissance: the rediscovery of Plotinus and Proclus achieved in no small measure through the prodigious influence of Marsilio Ficino was a spark generating widespread interest. And as was recognized in the period, it is a tradition that spans all three Abrahamic faiths: the great wellspring of biblical Neoplatonism is the Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria, whose influence can be discerned in the seminal Christian mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius and in the Islamic tradition of falsafa. These interests certainly display themselves in literature, though this course will ask whether such engagements constitute thick intellectual engagement or a merely ornamental embellishment.
 
We will see in the course how Neoplatonism continues to provide a common philosophical language to theologians of all three faiths, as in the work of the twentieth-century Shi’a philosopher Henri Corbin and of the member of the “Radical Orthodoxy” school Simon Oliver.

 

COURSES OF INTEREST


FRENCH 70500 - Writing the Self: From Augustine to Selfies, GC: T, 4:15-6:15pm, Rm 3310A, 2/4 credits, Prof. Domna C. Stanton

How is the self written, visualized, constructed? What different forms and shapes do such texts take over time, in different genres? What purposes do they serve, for the several selves inscribed in a text and for others (including the self) who will read it.This course will begin by examining several theoretical texts on writing the self (Lejeune, Smith, Derrida, Glissant, Stanton), then trace self-writing from the Middle Ages (Augustine, Kempe, Pisan) through the early-modern periods, focusing on both the global (travel narratives on conquest --Columbus, La Casas, Equiano), and on various forms (letter and diary, for instance) of gendered interiority (Cavendish, Gentileschi, Sévigné, Westover). Signal texts on post-Enlightenment confession and memoir (Rousseau, Sand) will be followed in the second half of the seminar by a more thematic approach to issues of modernity, including  slavery and liberation always deferred (Jacobs, Douglass, Wright, Coates); modernism and the limits of experimentation (Woolf, Nin, Kafka, Cahun); autofiction  (Colette, Joyce, Stein); dislocated, traumatized selves in wars and holocausts (de Beauvoir, Sartre, Anne Frank, Levi, Henson [comfort women]); testimonio, the indigenous (Hurston, Levi Strauss, Menchu) and human rights narratives (Eggers); and French  post-structuralism and the psychoanalytic (Barthes, Kristeva, Cardinal, Louise Bourgeois, Lacan). Our last two seminars will involve a discussion of inscriptions of sexual and medical bodies, featuring birthing, AIDS, cancer and transgender selves(Arenas, Guibert, Bornstein, Leonard, N.K. Miller); we will end with the topics of digital/virtual self-writing and the selfie (Smith, Giroux, Nemer and Freeman). Throughout, we will consider possible meanings of confessing/revealing/ concealing and constructing/deconstructing the selves; and finally, we will ask whether, at bottom, all writing is self-writing.

Work for the course: Whether the course is taken for 2, 3 or 4 credits, all students will be responsible for doing the readings closely and for engaging consistently in class discussion. They will each present a reading of a primary text from the syllabus to the class. All students will take the final exam.

a.  Students who take the course for 4 credits will also write a 20-25-p. paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor. In preparation, they will  first turn in a title and a paragraph summary of the paper; then a thesis statement and a 4-p. outline; finally a 4 p. introduction and the bibliography (the schedule will be indicated on the syllabus).
b.  Students who take the course for 3 credits, will do all of the above but instead of a 20-25 p. paper, they will do a 10-13 p. paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor.
c.  Students who take the course for 2 credits will submit their reading of a primary text in writing (5-7 pp.)

Please contact Domna Stanton with any questions (dstanton112@yahoo.com). 

The syllabus and the course materials to be downloaded will be posted on Blackboard by August 15, 2017.