Topics in Literary and Cultural Theory: Theories of the Global

We 3:30PM - 5:55PM / 329 Cathedral of Learning / CRN 29658

Generally speaking, the so-called “global turn” in the Euro-American academy can be characterized as a time of numerous disciplinary shifts that contributed to the geopolitical transformations leading up to and following the end of the Cold War. These include the rise of Postcolonial studies, the self-reflexive moments of Anthropology and Comparative Literature, the critique of Area studies, and the turn of Cultural studies toward the Black Atlantic. New configurations created transdisciplinary exchanges around a flow of ideas, projects, texts, and people beyond national and international boundaries. 
In many ways, this disciplinary movement dislodged theory from its place of privilege by grounding its abstractions in material, global concerns. As James Clifford observed, theory was “increasingly contested, cut across, by other locations, claims, trajectories of knowledge articulating racial, gender, and cultural differences.” Returning to an older idea of “theorist” – in ancient Greece, a theorein was a man sent by the polis to another city to witness a religious ceremony – Clifford turned his attention to the difference of “travelers” of the late twentieth century, those displaced by global conflicts and neoliberal development. For the Haitian poet, Joël Des Rosiers, these itineraries of migration reveal an “understanding of the world”.
This course examines literary, cultural, and environmental theories that move between the realm of ideas and aesthetics (of globalization, cosmopolitanism, migration, Anthropocene) and the material lives of transnationals, diasporas, migrants, and refugees. How does theory respond to the global pressure on questions of sovereignty, citizenship, and policies on refugees and migrants? How does the “fitful dialectic” (Comaroff) between the concrete and the conceptual guide theoretical approaches to questions of gender and sexuality; race and national belonging; environmental justice and the Anthropocene?
The course will be conducted in French or English, depending on enrollments. We will read a selection of theoretical works by Fanon, Said, Trouillot, Wynter, Mbembe, Agier, Nixon, Chakrabarty, and Alaimo.


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John P. Walsh

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Course Category

Category B: Disciplines and Intellectual Movements

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