Open to Gallatin first-year students only.
How do we write in a situation of crisis, when familiar things and routines lose their habitual meanings? What is the value of artistic practice and intellectual labor in the face of danger? Can words (and, for that matter, music and images) save lives and give form to terrifying uncertainty? This course will explore the literary and aesthetic methodologies used to represent traumatic events and historical crises. By focusing on autobiographical and documentary accounts of three types of dramatic experiences in twentieth-century history (privations and displacement during the October Revolution, hunger during the Leningrad Blockade, and mass incarceration during the Holocaust and Stalinist repressions), we will analyze the international intellectual context that their authors engage with and the ways in which their narratives are structured to impart form to chaos. For their research paper, students will be invited to apply concepts derived from historical readings to analyze an approved work of their choice, emblematic of emergency literature (past or contemporary), and its context. Readings may include: René Descartes, Walter Benjamin, Leo Tolstoy, Victor Shklovsky, Lydia Ginzburg, Varlam Shalamov, Giorgio Agamben, Primo Levi, Svetlana Alexievich, W.G. Sebald, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Dubravka Ugrešić. Films by: Alain Resnais, Sergei Loznitsa, Dick Fontaine, and Abounaddara Film Collective.
First-Year Program: Research Seminars (FIRST-UG)