A Narratology of Contemporary Art
Course to be offered Spring 2017
Robert Slifkin
Assistant Professor
Institute of Fine Arts
Lytle Shaw
Professor, Department of English, FAS

Description: This seminar will consider the recent expansion of narrative practices in contemporary art. Historically, we will consider these strategies as part of a broader genealogy that draws upon the ‘linguistic turn’ associated with postmodernism and the conceptualism of the 1960s in particular. Yet we will also examine the ways in which the renewed interest in narrative within contemporary art might extend and sustain certain concepts associated with modernism, most notably aesthetic autonomy. Stressing the social, philosophical and epistemological functions of narrative, the course will develop critical tools to rethink narrative’s a priori valuation in some art.  Using a selection of case studies drawn from painting, photography, performance, film, and installation art, we will build out of these a narratological theory whose modes will include fiction, myth, history, embodiment and autobiography.  Differentiating and theorizing contemporary art’s narrative underpinnings will, we hope, help us gain a better understating of this art’s challenges and strengths.  On a methodological level this course will explore a variety of interdisciplinary approaches, engaging with cross-media and cross-disciplinary comparative analyses, the application of literary theory to works of visual art and, equally, the use of visual arts as a source for theorization and for the production of conceptual models.

Justice and Rights Movements: Let Them Lead the Way
Course to be offered Fall 2016
Joyce Apsel
Master Teacher of Humanities
Liberal Studies Program
Michael Dinwiddie
Acting Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs
Associate Professor, Gallatin School of Individualized Study

Description: This interdisciplinary seminar examines the theory and praxis of peace, civil and human rights interventions as enacted primarily by young people in movements of social transformation. Methods of protest, from music and art to boycotts and marches, will be studied as well as alliances and coalitions that have been formed in “cultures of peace” on a global scale. How have young people and children participated in movements for social change? How have they been affected by violence? From marching in the civil rights movements to calls for nuclear disarmament, their agency and activities in “leading the way” will be brought to light.

Narrating the Market: Capitalism in European and US Literature and History
Course to be offered Fall 2016
Professor Leif Weatherby
Department of German
Professor Stephen Gross
Department of History and CEMS

Description: Taking its cue from Thomas Piketty’s recent Capital in the Twenty-First Century and from nineteenth century discussions to examine Capitalism through a multidisciplinary lens, this course proceeds from the conviction that different types of texts reveal different paradoxes or realities of markets and their life-world externalities. Our main entry points will be literary, historical, and philosophical discussions of the economy from the past 250 years, including moral philosophers like Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin, social critics like Karl Marx, Georg Simmel and Rosa Luxemburg, poets like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Bertolt Brecht, and novelists like Hermann Melville and Don Delillo. The course is divided into four sections, and each week we pair non-fiction with fiction accounts of the topic under discussion. We begin with classical political economy, where we will explore how “the Market” first came to be narrated as its own separate and distinct sphere of social interaction. From there we move on to modern political economy of the late nineteenth century, where issues of imperialism, consumerism, and gender move to center stage. Next we will explore the political economy of organized capitalism, to see how critics made sense of market failure and the state’s expanding sphere of social responsibilities. We will conclude with a unit on post-modern political economy, to explore issues of neo-liberalism, financialization, and the environment.

The Art of the Psalms in Medieval European Culture
Course to be offered Fall 2016
Kathryn A. Smith
Department of Art History
Andrew Romig
Gallatin School of Individualized Study

“The Art of the Psalms in Medieval European Culture” is a team-taught graduate seminar designed to introduce students, including doctoral candidates, master’s students, and BA/MA students across a range of departments and programs to the study of the Old Testament Book of Psalms, with particular interest in its collection, dissemination, interpretation, and illustration in medieval Christian manuscripts from roughly the fifth through fifteenth centuries CE. Taught by Kathryn Smith (Department of Art History) and Andrew Romig (Gallatin School of Individualized Study), the course takes a multi- and inter-disciplinary approach to medieval cultural study. We will regard the Book of Psalms as a text that was used and reused for multi-layered purposes throughout the European Middle Ages. We will consider the ways in which the Book of Psalms served as an object of and vehicle for veneration, commemoration, and pictorial innovation. We will explore how it both facilitated the expression of cultural identity and served as a means of intercultural connection between contemporary communities and their collective pasts. Finally, we will define “Psalm Art” as broadly as possible, so as to include not only the calligraphic presentation and pictorial illustration of the Psalms, but also the poetics of the Psalms themselves, the arts of translation and exegetical interpretation, and the devotional practices that placed the Psalms at the center of spiritual life for professional and lay Christians alike for more than a millennium. While the course has its foundations in the fields of literature, history, and art history, as well as the study of medieval manuscripts as material artifacts, readings will invite students to use the Psalms as a case study for a wide range of methodological and theoretical pursuits – the history of emotions, gender studies, literary theory, theology, and philosophy, to name just a few. Students will have the opportunity to examine manuscripts in local collections (the Morgan Library, the Columbia University Rare Book Room) and to examine works in both digital and paper facsimile. Course meetings also will be enriched by visits from guest speakers working in a range of disciplines in medieval studies, including musicology, art history, history, or literature.