Fall 2016 Undergraduate English Courses: Twentieth Century
358:361 Cross-Cultural Humanities in Literature and Film
01 MTH3 CAC 18085 MANGHARAM MU-210
The twentieth (and twenty first centuries) have been characterized by dehumanizing events, including the upheavals of racial segregation and apartheid, colonialism, decolonization, terrorism, and human rights abuses. It is not surprising, then, that one of the central philosophical concerns of our time has been an interrogation of what it means to be 'human,' through bodies of knowledge broadly referred to as 'humanisms.' In this course we examine how cultures across the world, in the West and non-West, have investigated the human condition, and sought to organize their social, material, and epistemic worlds through rejections or consolidations of different humanisms. The world texts that we will read or watch in this class all take the human condition as their central concern, arriving at very different answers to questions such as: are there basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled? Do these rights change depending on the race, class, gender, or nationality of the person involved? Are some people less human than others? In the process of reading, we will ask: how do texts by victims of oppressive political and social systems lend depth to concepts such as ‘human,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘rights?’ We will also pay close attention to the literary and visual forms of these texts asking ‘What are the risks and obligations of humanist storytelling and how are these linked to specific cultural forms and aesthetic practices?’ In the process of asking these questions, this course will engage in close readings of novels, films, folk epistemologies, memoirs, poetry and plays that reflect on the atrocities of slavery, the Holocaust, South African apartheid, September 11th, and colonial and post-colonial discussions of women’s human rights. Texts taught will include Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Joseph Sacco's Palestine, and Elie Wiesel’s Night, and will investigate themes including women’s human rights, multiculturalism, indigenous humanisms and religion.