Team-Teaching Courses

2016-17

Sex in the Archives
Spring 2017

Marvin J. Taylor
Director, Fales Library

Zeb Tortorici
Asstistant Professor, Spanish & Portuguese

How, and why, do certain archives and institutions collect what they do, and what are the politics behind such acquisitions? How might we define the “archive” (as a concept, metaphor, place, institution, etc.), and how does that influence what bodies are remembered, and why? How do we know (or think we know) what we do about sex and desire in the past, and how do technologies of documentation and conservation alter these limits? With generous support from the NYU Center for the Humanities, this graduate seminar will be co-taught by Marvin Taylor (Director of the Fales Library & Special Collections at NYU, trained as an archivist and literary scholar) and Zeb Tortorici (Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese, trained as a historian of sexuality in colonial Latin America). Weekly seminars will be held in the Fales Library & Special Collections, providing a unique opportunity for graduate students in the humanities to get to know the content and evolution of the archival collections. Among our many goals are to analyze how sex intersects with (and is excised from) colonial archivespublic libraries, museums, university and institutional archives, private collections, and digital repositories. Together, we will visit the New York Public Library(Gay and Lesbian Collections & AIDS/HIV Collections), the Museum of Sex, and the Lesbian Herstory Archives to meet with archivists and curators, and to examine the collections and the politics of display.

The World of King Arthur
Spring 2017

Martha Rust
Associate Professor, English

Kathryn Smith
Professor, Art History

The world of King Arthur: words enough to evoke an image in the mind of almost any undergraduate, be that picture akin to Disneyland’s Fantasyland, Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School, a Medieval Times dinner, or the mounted knight on a sack of King Arthur flour. This very list exemplifies the way stories of King Arthur–and by extension, of the Middle Ages–continue to function as cultural currency: this, some fifteen hundred years after Arthur, a sixth-century Celtic warlord (if he existed at all) inhabited a world vastly different from the one evoked today by the words, “the world of King Arthur.” The World of King Arthur will explore the development of the multifaceted idea and image of Arthur and his world in literature and art spanning the sixth to twentieth centuries as a means of introducing students to the even more multifaceted Middle Ages and to the interdisciplinary methodology that is the essence of Medieval Studies. The course will unfold chronologically and thematically, focusing on key literary and historical texts, sites, monuments and artifacts, characters, and themes in the Arthurian tradition.  Students will have the opportunity to engage with the full range of medieval and post-medieval Arthurian cultural production, and at the same time, they will investigate the politics and reception of this production and will acquire a model for recognizing and querying the effects of all manner of creative recycling of the Middle Ages.

The Culture of the Renaissance: A Re-translation
Spring 2017

Juliet Fleming
Associate Professor and MA Director, English

Christopher Wood
Professor and Chair, German

This class will provide an introduction to the past and the future of Renaissance Studies.  It is designed for graduate students across the disciplines.  Our broad aim is to ‘translate’ — that is, carry forward into the future and so reactivate — the Renaissance as an object of study, first by sketching the historiographical and disciplinary fortunes that produced it; and then by assessing opportunities for new approaches and research paths.

Our title invokes the work of Jacob Burckhardt, Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860), the pioneering work of cultural history that is responsible in large part for what we mean when we use the term ‘Renaissance’.   We will follow the development of this period concept as it was consolidated and re-inflected in the early 20th century by the scholars associated with the Warburg library.

The course is interdisciplinary to a high degree but does not pretend to survey the entirety of European experience in this period.  Rather the focus will be on symbolic expression and its medial and rhetorical formats, including painting, poetry, prose, architecture, theater, dance, music and their various codings, inscriptions, and archivings.  But the concept of the symbol is broad, and we mean it to unfold eventually into an anthropology of meaning that can potentially embrace all aspects of life.

Philosophy of Technology: Thinking Machines
Fall 2016, NYU Shanghai

Brad Weslake
Associate Professor, Philosophy
NYU Shanghai

Anna Greenspan
Assistant Professor, Interactive Media Arts
NYU Shanghai

This course aims to train students to think philosophically about our rapidly changing—and ever more intimate—relationship with machines. We focus in particular on the following subjects: artificial intelligence, robots, cyborgs, automation and science fiction speculation. View course website here.

2015-16

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.

2014-15

American Splendor: The Possibilities and Problems of American Life in Hollywood Films
Course offered Fall 2015
Brett Gary
Associate Professor
Media, Culture & Communication
The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Yemane Demissie
Associate Professor
Film & Television 
Tisch School of the Arts

Literacies of Listening
Course offered Spring 2015
Deborah Kapchan
Associate Professor, Performance Studies
Tisch School of the Arts
Martin Daughtry
Assistant Professor, Music
Faculty of Arts & Science

Description: Philosophy and social theory of the 20th century engaged the body and its sensorium in unprecedented ways. And yet the body remained largely silent until the end of the century, when inquiry turned toward two topics: sound and affect. The co-emergence of these literatures is not pure coincidence: sound and affect re-write the body in similar ways. Both highlight ambiguity, fluidity, and ephemerality—characteristics of what Steven Connor (2004) calls “immaterial corporeality.” Both infiltrate, impact, and exceed the body, revealing it as a permeable zone, a receptive site emplaced within an intersubjective environment that is always already vibrating. Within the rich and growing body of scholarship on sound and affect, we (Deborah and Martin) have each been exploring, in complementary ways, the act of listening. We understand listening to be, minimally: a physiological process, a performative practice, an acoustemological act (i.e., a sound-centered act through which the world is known), a moment of affective capture, and a moment of temporary surrender—both to sounds and to the powers that course through them. Our recent explorations of “literacies of listening” (Kapchan 2009) and “listening acts” (Kapchan 2015, in press) within Sufi communities, as well as “(in)audition,” “auditory regimes” and “thanatosonics” within the context of the Iraq war (Daughtry 2012, 2014 and 2015, in press) have led us to the common set of questions and approaches regarding listening that form the basis for this course.

Indeed, listening has taken on a great deal of responsibility of late. In the context of the rise of religiosities, it is cited as the first step in processes of conversion (Harding 2000:59). It makes the subject vulnerable to an interlocutor, opening a space of inter-subjectivity and empathetic religious response (Frykholm 2004: 10-11). Listening can render the self porous to other aesthetic and often spiritual influences (Luhrmann 2012; Taylor 2010). Further, it can reform the acoustic unconscious, creating new religious sensibilities (Hirschkind 2006; Kapchan 2010). Listening also has its role in non-religious world makings. It is foundational in the first awareness of self-as-sound (Nancy 2007). Through echolocation, listening situates the body within a physical environment and in relation to other sonic agents that populate it. And just as it is forms the self, listening can also deform it or effect its disintegration, sometimes violently (Cusick 2008, Daughtry 2014). Listening, that is, can be instrumentalized to create community, or to dissolve it. Our ears (and skin, and the other corporeal zones that are invigorated by sound) are constant consumers, yet listening challenges the property principle (Kapchan in press). How can one own a vibration, a sound? Together with you we will spend this semester exploring the dynamics, metaphysics, and limits of listening, focusing not only on theoretical works, but on “sound knowledge”: the transmission of affect and insight that occurs through actual listening acts.

Papyrus to PDF: An Introduction to Book History Now
Course offered Spring 2015
Paula McDowell
Associate Professor, English
Faculty of Arts & Science
Charlotte Priddle
Librarian for Printed Books & Faculty
Fales Library and Special Collections, NYU Libraries

This course, co-taught by a librarian and an English professor, provides an introduction to the booming interdisciplinary field of Book History. A scholarly discipline that engages researchers in many different fields of study, Book History addresses more than just books: it investigates the production, dissemination, and readership of all kinds of texts, from Egyptian papyrus to illuminated manuscripts, the Gutenberg Bible to penny dreadfuls, and triple-deckers novels to modern e-books. What unites book historians is a conviction that material artifacts are irreplaceably important. Our course will address a wide range of general topics, punctuated by case studies of particular artifacts and key historical events and intellectual and political debates, addressing topics such as orality and writing systems; the introduction and spread of printing technology; practices and ideas of authorship, readership, and publishing; censorship and intellectual property, and non-book formats.

Value
Course offered Fall 2014
Mary Poovey
Professor, English
Faculty of Arts & Science
Caitlin Zaloom
Associate Professor, Social and Cultural Analysis
Faculty of Arts & Science

Can you put a price on sex? art? love? life? Is time money, or is daydreaming time well-spent? Would you accept a pound of flesh as payment of a debt? Is there such a thing as a free lunch, and what would it taste like? This course explores different—and often conflicting—conceptions of value spanning literature, philosophy, economics, anthropology, and social theory. In it, we seek to convey three fundamental principles: Value is not inherent in things but the result of a social process; value is often determined at the intersection of different conceptions of productive potential; value is conceptualized or measured in different, and often conflicting, ways. We consider important texts in the Western tradition that raise questions about the sources of value and their multiple uses in spiritual, economic, and social life. Readings include selections from Aristotle, Shakespeare, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, Max Weber, John Maynard Keynes, Eugene Fama, and Kazuo Ishiguro.

2013-14

Exploring the Archive: New York City & Beyond
Course offered Spring 2014
Karen Karbiener
Master Teacher of Humanities, Global Liberal Studies
Faculty of Arts & Science
Marvin Taylor
Director of the NYU Fales Library and Special Collections

Description: This seminar is designed for juniors and seniors working on advanced research projects in the humanities. It serves as an introduction to archival research while addressing the scholarly issues raised by the students’ projects. Presentations are thus organized with students’ projects in mind, and designed to enable archival research in a range of topics, periods of specialization, and languages. In addition to on-site workshops utilizing NYU’s Fales Library and Special Collections, the course introduces students to the vast array of archival resources offered by New York City; an overnight trip to a distant archive and information sessions on the construction and use of internet archives broaden the experience beyond city limits.

Comparative Literary and Performance Theory in Contemporary Black Studies
Course offered Spring 2014
Jay Garcia
Associate Professor, Comparative Literature
Faculty of Arts & Science
Tavia Nyong’o
Associate Professor, Performance Studies
Tisch School of the Arts

Description: This reading-intensive seminar in contemporary black studies ranges across several disciplinary formations and is designed for students seeking to deepen existing knowledge of scholarship and theory related to black writing and expressive cultures, and as an immersion in these literatures for those seeking to hybridize black studies and/or black Atlantic theory with other areas of research. Throughout, we devote attention to key texts from the archive of “black Atlantic” thought and consider theoretical problems in the field of black studies.

Text and Technology
Course offered Fall 2014
Lisa Gitelman
Professor, Media Culture & Communication
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Christopher Leslie
Instructor of Media, Science and Technology Studies
Polytechnic Institute of NYU

Description: This course combines two seminars into one classroom with the aim of encouraging dialogue across schools and majors. The course has two professors and meets half the time at the English Department in Manhattan (244 Greene, First Floor) and half the time at 6 MetroTech in Brooklyn (Rogers Hall 213). Your MetroCards are on us! We will be meeting on Fridays to discuss readings in common, and you will be asked to collaborate on projects in addition to working on your own.

STS-UY 3434W, Hypermedia in Context: This course investigates precursors to new media, revealing the possibilities and limitations of today’s incarnations. In Fall 2014 the course will meet collaboratively with a related course taught by Professor Lisa Gitelman of NYU-Steinhardt and the College of Arts and Science.

ENGL-UA 731.001, Digital Literary Studies: The aim of this course is to put literary history and literary analysis into conversation with digital media. The seminar will meet collaboratively with a related course taught by Professor Chris Leslie of NYU-Engineering.