Spring 2022

CPLT 751R - 2 / PSP 789 - The Work of Memory

Angelika Bammer

Wednesdays 2:30-5:30pm

This course will review some of the key texts and concepts in the emerging field of Memory Studies, with particular emphasis on the connections (and tensions) between history (what happened) and memory (what is remembered and how). In this context, we will explore some of the terms in which memory is talked about, including the distinctions between public, collective, social or cultural, memory, on the one hand, and private, personal, or autobiographical, memory, on the other hand. We will consider the political, ethical, social, aesthetic, and psychological dimensions of remembering – and its counterpart, forgetting – and consider some of the ways in which perspectives and approaches from the field of Memory Studies might offer useful analytical and hermeneutic tools for our work. Along the way, we will attend to some of the ways that the humanities and the natural sciences approach the study of memory differently to ask if and how dialogue across these fields can be generative.

Course materials:

Readings include selections from Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Maurice Halbwachs, Paul Connerton, Richard Terdiman, Nicole Loraux, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, Daniel Schacter, Walter Benjamin, Nadine Fresco, Marianne Hirsch, Frances Yates, and David Rieff. All materials are available through Course Reserves in Memorial Library.

CPLT 751R - 1 / PSP 789 - 2 Film Theory

Timothy Holland

Wednesdays 4:00-6:45pm

Optional screenings on Mondays 8:00-10:00pm

This course surveys the film theory canon that spans from the emergence of cinema in the late 1800s to the present. Proceeding more or less chronologically, we will touch on a variety of topics, such as: medium specificity and the debate between formalist and realist camps; the semiotic, textual, and psychoanalytic "turns" that marked the field during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s; issues of representation and counter cinemas; philosophical approaches to film; and the impact of digital technologies relative to photographic indexicality as well as the futures of cinema and its academic study.

Designed for those both with and without a background in film studies, the seminar offers students the opportunity to engage some of the key themes/figures populating film theory, while setting the stage for further research in the field.

Course materials:

Authors we'll encounter include: Béla Balázs, Germaine Dulac, Sergei Eisenstein, Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, André Bazin, Christian Metz, Laura Mulvey, Jean-Louis Comolli, Julio García Espinosa, Mary Ann Doane, Kaja Silverman, D.N. Rodowick, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Luc Nancy, among numerous others. Class sessions will be supplemented by opitional weekly film screenings in a traditional, theatrical setting.

CPLT 3891 - 3 / Re-presenting the Past: Literature, History, Memory

Undergraduate course

Angelika Bammer

Tuesdays & Thursdays 11:30am-12:45pm

One of the functions of literature is to tell us about the past: how we became who we are as people and as persons: what we suffered, how we triumphed, and what shaped our view of the world and our sense of self. In so doing, it fosters self-understanding. But it doesn’t tell us only about “our” past. It also tells us about others: the events and forces that shaped “their” lives and sense of identity. In so doing, it fosters empathy. How does literature render the past in ways that distinguishes it from history? Through its materials? Its approach? Its concept of truth? We will consider these issues as we put history and memory side by side, taking American slavery, the Nazi Holocaust, and the modern history of Israel/Palestine as our historical touchstones. Conceptually and methodologically, we will be guided by both foundational and recent work in the growing interdisciplinary field of Memory Studies. Drawing on work in this field from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, we will consider how and why people remember and/or forget aspects of the past and what the effects of remembering and/or forgetting can be.

Course materials:

To explore the myriad possibilities through which memory can summon history and history can be invoked by memory, we will read materials from a wide variety of genres: fiction, poetry, drama, essay, literary journalism, documentary literature. Required texts will include:

  • Patrick Modiano, Dora Bruder
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved
  • Alice Oswald, Memorial
  • Joe Sacco, Palestine
  • Peter Weiss, The Investigation

These literary texts will be supplemented by scholarly material from the field of Memory Studies on such matters as the neuroscience of memory, forgiveness vs. vengeance, the memory of trauma, the transgenerational transmission of memory, remembering the not-known, postmemory.