Broadly conceived, this course will explore the relationship between writing and loss. Its more concentrated concern is with how writing (and here we mean both literary and cinematic works) manages to represent the unthinkable, the unsayable, and the unmournable. This course will study the representational systems and generic instabilities of works that emerge from the aftermath of various disasters and catastrophes (war, ethnic violence, political turmoil, and the annihilation of the ecosystem). In particular, it will look at how these works engage various clinical and legal discourses about trauma and testimony, paying close attention to moments when alternative ways of remembering, experiencing, and recounting disasters are imagined and performed. Focusing mostly on texts in the postcolonial literary canon, this course will take students through fictional writing, films, theoretical texts, and philosophical works in order to provide them with a better understanding of what it means “to write disaster” as well as to show them how this writing unfolds through the words of those who survive what they often cannot endure.
1) To read and understand literary and cinematic works that represent various traumatic events, from war, political upheaval, ethnic conflict to both man-made and natural disasters.
2) To grasp basic theoretical, legal, and philosophical explorations of trauma as well as to use these explorations as critical frameworks for literary interpretation
3) To develop literary analysis skills, critical reading, thinking, and writing skills, as well their oral presentation skills.
4) To analyze the relationship between the experience of traumatic events and the development of certain literary genres as well as representational styles.
20% Class Participation: will be determined by reading quizzes, group journaling exercises, small-group and class discussions, and writing feedback groups. Since the class meets once a week for two hours, attendance is a must.
20% Paper 1: A 5-6-page “lens essay” (double-spaced) in which students will use one scholarly source as an analytical lens in order to perform a close reading of one primary text.
10% Annotated Bibliography for Final Research Paper: a concise description of a student’s research project as well as a summary of the two main scholarly sources a student intends to engage (no more than 2 double-spaced pages).
20% Presentation on Final Research Project: Students will deliver a 10-15-minute presentation on their final paper, one that clearly outlines the stakes of their project and demonstrates the student’s capacity to further a well-researched and creative interpretation of their chosen primary source.
30% Final Research Paper: An 10-12-page paper (double-spaced) in which students will further a scholarly argument concerning a primary source of their choice by entering into a scholarly conversation with two scholarly sources.
Assia Djebar, L’amour la fantasia (Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade)
Michael Haneke, Caché (film)
Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost
Prasanna Vithanage, Purahanda Kaluwara (Death on a Full Moon Day) (film)
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric
Raoul Peck, I Am Not Your Negro (film)
Alexis Wright, The Swan Book
Mahasweta Devi, “Pterodactyl”
**films as well as excerpts of various critical, theoretical, and philosophical works will be made available on Moodle**