Friday, December 4, 2009

Thesis submission deadline for January grads: December 16th

Please be reminded that Draper students who intend to graduate this coming January will need to submit their completed and approved Master's theses to Draper no later than Wednesday, December 16th. Any theses received after 6:00 PM on December 16th will be held over for May graduation. There will be no exceptions.

For more information on thesis guidelines, please see Draper's Web site, here:

All thesis related forms--including a sample cover page and second reader sheets--can also be downloaded from the Draper website, here:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The New York University

Colloquium in American Literature and Culture


"Transatlantic Revision and American Literary History: The London Editions of Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper”

Joseph Rezek, UCLA


"This is the Way the World Ends: Herman Melville and the Invention of an African Iago"

Miles P. Grier, New York University

Wednesday, 9 December

6:00 p.m.

13-19 University Place, room 222

New York University

All are welcome!

Refreshments will be served.

Joseph Rezek received his PhD in English from University of California, Los Angeles, and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for Early American Studies. Miles Grier is a PhD Candidate in American Studies at New York University.

For more information:

The final NYU Comp Lit Horizons of Translation Series lecture will be TONIGHT, Thursday, December 3.

William Granara

Harvard University

(12/3 @ 6:00)

"Translation, Cultural Conflict, and the Literary Text"

Deutsches Haus. 42 Washington Mews

Reception to follow!

Prof. Granara teaches Arabic language and literature and directs the Arabic language program at Harvard University. He studied Arabic at Georgetown University and received his PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania . He is the former executive director of the Center for Arabic Study at the American University in Cairo and the former director of the Arabic Field School of the U.S. Department of State in Tunis , Tunisia . He has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and North Africa . Dr. Granara specializes in the history and culture of Muslim Sicily. He has written on cross-cultural encounters between Islam and Christendom throughout the Middle Ages, as well as the poetry of Ibn Hamdis , Sicily 's most celebrated Arab poet. His study of "Ibn Hamdis and the Poetics of Exile" was published in the 1998 issue of Edebiyaat. In addition, he lectures and writes on contemporary Arabic literature and has published translations of Egyptian and North African fiction. His translation into English of the Algerian Arabic novel, The Earthquake, was published in March, 2000. His work on literary criticism focuses on postcolonialism and cross cultural poetics.

Guest entry by Rebecca Colesworthy, Literary Cultures

A tenured professor and college administrator for whose work I have great respect recently told me that “a few years ago everybody was interested in the literary.” Such, she suggested, was no longer the case. Nowadays “objects” and “things” are all the rage. Her intention in remarking the declining preoccupation with “the literary” across the humanities was benevolent. Well aware that my current academic post is not tenure-track, she was trying to help me to determine how best to frame and, indeed, how to “sell” my work when applying for jobs in the future.

Still, she is not alone in marking such a sea change. In a recent issue of PMLA, the queer theorist and modernist studies scholar Heather Love observed a widespread shift from interest in “the discursive” to interest in “the affective.” It would be wrong to suggest that the turn to affect (or the “affective turn,” to cite the title of a 2007 anthology) is either tantamount or reducible to the turn to the object. Nevertheless, it seems fair to suggest that they do coincide in ways both temporal and conceptual. (Note the title of Draper’s own topics in gender politics course, “Objects of Affection.”) As someone who works on notions of “the gift” and “generosity” in particular and notions of “the social” in general – the subtitle of The Affective Turn is Theorizing the Social – I would promptly count myself among those invested in conceptualizing both affect and things. But what is one to do when the primary “things” on which one works are literary?

This question is in part a pragmatic one. How does one pursue a career in literary studies and encourage one’s students to do the same when “the literary” is no longer a hot commodity? In using such economic rhetoric I do not mean to suggest that the turn away from discursive analysis is motivated by interest rather than intellectual and (in some cases) political concerns, but simply to acknowledge the fact that academia is a business even if it is – thankfully – not only that.

Yet this question also has conceptual and even political valences for me.

In my course this semester, Introduction to Literary Cultures I, my students and I read and discuss theorists from a range of disciplines who figure culture as a “literary” phenomenon. What exactly this means and the ramifications of such a presupposition vary from one theorist to the next. Certainly we might question the extent to which “our” culture could be called “literary,” whether that term is taken to connote a certain Arnoldian notion of high culture or a more generalized Derridean notion of “textuality.” Admittedly, there is something counterintuitive about the claim that contemporary life is not “textual,” saturated as it is with text messages, tweets, facebook updates, and blog entries like this one. Yet in my view the abundance of information and communication and the technologies that enable them hardly fosters textual engagement of either the critical or the belletristic variety.

In teaching, I cannot help but feel a certain disjunction between the linguistically oriented theories we read and discuss and the world outside the classroom. My response to this disjunction varies. I wonder, isn’t such a disjunction the very point of the classroom, a space that Ellen Rooney provocatively terms a “semi-private room”? Shouldn’t it and the space and time it affords for reflection on such outmoded objects as literature be preserved?

But I also remain convinced that the literary and the discursive remain relevant – and not only because I and many of my students work on literature. I could say a lot about this. For example, the Lacanian in me worries that the turn away from the literary is a foreboding sign of the times, a symptom of the widespread repression of the signifier – in all its imperfection – in an era ruled (as Michel Foucault would also have it) by a misbegotten wish for total knowledge. Setting such rarefied terminology aside, we might also ask in a much more general way: what are the potential costs of this turn away from the literary (and the textual, the discursive, the linguistic, and so on)?

In re-reading Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s 1986 essay “Writing ‘Race’ and the Difference It Makes” for class this week, I was reminded of what a powerful tool literary criticism can be in enabling us to expose the ways in which the literary has been marshaled in the service of maintaining injustice and inequality. Gates writes: “The growth of canonical national literatures was coterminous with the shared assumption of intellectuals that race was a ‘thing,’ an ineffaceable quantity, which irresistibly determined the shape and contour of human feeling as surely as it did the shape and contour of human anatomy” (3). Race, Gates persuasively argues, is not a “thing,” but a “trope” (5). Even if we wouldn’t ascribe the same authority to national literatures today we might still ask how the literary is put to use for various political and economic ends. What tropes are treated as if they were things? How do we distinguish between tropes and things? At what cost do we confuse them?

At stake in these questions is not only a project of critique and demystification, but also our confrontation with the limits of what “we” – that is to say, literary critics – do. Thus while I would want to insist on the importance of distinguishing between the textual and the material for myriad reasons, I would also suggest that the task of what Gayatri Spivak called “reading the world” twenty years ago is far from finished.

So, what is a literary critic to do? I hope, a lot.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Museum of Chinese in America Architectural Design Tour & Brown Bag Lunch: Friday, Dec. 4

Museum of Chinese in America
Exhibit and Architectural Design Tour & Brown Bag Lunch
Friday December 4, 12:00-2:00pm
Meet at MOCA- 215 Centre Street- at noon

The Archives and Public History Brown Bag Lunch Series presents the final brown bag for the semester this Friday, December 4. This session will feature a tour of the Museum of Chinese in America led by MOCA staff. The tour will be followed by an open question and answer session. Founded in 1980, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States. The greatly expanded MOCA at 215 Centre Street is a national home for the precious narratives of diverse Chinese American communities, and strives to be a model among interactive museums.

Please RSVP to Keara Duggan kearadugganATgmailDOTcom by Thursday, December 3.

Guest post part two, by Rick Halmo

If you missed it, part one of Rick's account of his recent travel was posted on this blog on Nov. 25th. Enjoy!

Jerusalem: The Holy City

I had the opportunity to spend a full day in Jerusalem, although given how much Jerusalem has to offer for a history buff like me one day was not enough in this intriguing city. The security presence was apparent everywhere once we entered the city limits. Coming off the hour-long bus ride from Tel Aviv we were immediately subjected to a security screening into the bus depot/full-scale mall. In lieu of describing the history of the city, I think it is more interesting to discuss the manifestations of “modernity” that have been attempted in the “Holy City,” particularly in the realm of architecture and infrastructure.

One of the more astounding things I had learned during my trip was that the city of Jerusalem has a law stating that anyone wishing to put up a building within the city limits could do so but if they hit an archeological “dig” site that company would have to stop its construction and finance the remainder of the dig. Also, the new buildings would have to be built with the same old-looking stone with which the rest of the area is built. What an interesting roadblock to future development and construction. Only currently is Jerusalem putting in an aboveground rail line (think of the T train in Boston’s suburbs) through the city, and the project has apparently taken a long time to develop.

As I was leaving Jerusalem, I had the sense that this city had trapped itself in the past. Proud of its immense history, I felt that it attempted to retain that history by keeping the city’s entire character contained in the past as well, as if its incredible history could not stand on its own. More likely, perhaps it was just that the city’s inhabitants yearned for the past, a point that gains even more credibility when you consider their reaction to a place like Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv: Sin City

Tel Aviv is your standard beach city. Its characteristics mirror that of other beach cities that one can think of; the city is relatively more progressive than the rest of the territory, people regularly walk around in bathing suits, and there are abundant clubs and bars that you certainly would not see in other parts of the country like Jerusalem. Tel Aviv has corporate parks and a highly developed, futuristic downtown. Balancing this modern flare, there are a plethora of quaint marketplaces where bargaining is also part of the culture. Around the city there are a number of large parks and exercising areas, and while one may not feel alien in this area coming from America, the feeling of separation between Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel seemed quite palpable.

One of the more incredible things I picked up during my trip to Israel was a free magazine in the Jerusalem tourist headquarters. It was from the “TimeOut” publishing group (from “TimeOut New York”) and they had a magazine cover with the headline “JRS vs. TLV: Holy City vs. Sin City.” Two of their comparisons will do just fine to show how the area views these two distinct cities.

Under the comparison of “Architectural Trademark,” Jerusalem’s section describes, “Jerusalem stone and ancient ruins,” while Tel Aviv’s states that they have, “Bauhaus alongside indistinct contemporary architecture.” In the “religion” comparison, Jerusalem is said to be a place where “Judaism, Christianity and Islam are practiced in synagogues, churches and mosques, built in the name of God, Jesus and Allah, respectively,” while Tel Aviv’s religion is “Hedonism. Practiced in bars and nightclubs. God is a DJ.” The comparisons seem to reflect a kind of distaste for the modern and a preference for the past. Given the history of this region, it is hard for me to blame the inhabitants of the region for that mentality. Even so, I felt my experience of these two cities to be enhanced by experiencing the other one.

As you can see, a weeklong trip provided a lot of memories and lessons that one can only get by living what they learn in class. The trip gave me a better perspective not only on what I am learning in my classes, but also on the way in which people interact in other societies. I look forward to applying what I learned here to future scholarship and future travels.

Special “Thank you” to my professors, Mrinalini Rajagopalan and Maia Ramnath, for being so supportive of my travels to this incredible area.
The Draper Student Organization invites you to a colloquium on SILENCE

with presentations by

Rhyannon Rodriguez
“Silence & the Sound of Difference: The Narrative Qualities of Silence in Horror Cinema”

Jason Slaughter
“Three Unusual Instances of Silence in Music”

Alana Smith
“Silence as Violence – Muting Politics in Humanitarian Discourse”

Tamara Day
“The Powers of Silence in Wide Sargasso Sea”

Friday 11 December 2009 6:30 pm in the Draper Map Room

Refreshments will be provided.