Bodies on the Line: Politics and Performance
Mon/Wed 8:30-10:05 AM
Prof. Harmony Bench
This graduate seminar begins with the proposition that all politics are a politics of the body. This course examines how bodies are framed, deployed, circulated, and/or constrained for political ends. Readings draw from critical cultural theory, performance art, performance studies, and dance studies to interrogate how political and performing bodies negotiate identities, display themselves or are displayed by others, protest social inequalities, and experience pain—even death. This is a course about social and political violence and the dangers of putting one’s body on the line.
Wed/Fri 2:20-3:45 PM
Prof. Jennifer Schlueter
In this course, we will investigate forms of American popular performance—including blackface minstrelsy, burlesque, Wild West Shows, dime museums, tent shows, vaudeville, and phantasmagorias—which thrived between 1820 and 1900. We will take as our source material scripts, programs, reviews, posters, designs, and other ephemera held by the Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute. Particular attention will be paid to how the production and consumption of live popular entertainments—often construed in scholarly and popular print as a bastion of vice in need of reform—was (and is) policed and critiqued. We will examine, in short, the politics of pleasure.
African Popular Culture
Thur 2:15-5:00 PM
Prof. Ryan Skinner
This course focuses on the rich variety of African popular culture as a way of elucidating the politics and poetics of urban social life in the modern African world. It engages with a number of critical theoretical paradigms (on publicity, social space, the carnivalesque, postcoloniality, etc.) and reads (looks and listens) deeply into contemporary Africanist approaches to popular expressive culture.
International Studies 4800
Prof. Dorothy Noyes
This course explores cultural diplomacy (CD), broadly understood: the exchange of performances and ideas across state borders with the intention of building political influence, abroad or at home. We consider the theory and practice of cultural diplomacy in several contexts. First we explore the current prominence of the culture concept in international affairs, considering both its useful ambiguities and its limitations as an analytical tool. Then we’ll look at the historical context in which state-sponsored CD took shape in the twentieth century. Next we consider alternatives to that model, emerging from both postcolonial and internal resistance to Western hegemony. Finally we look at the recent revitalization and reshapings of cultural diplomacy in response to consumer capitalism, the globalization of public opinion, new media, and geopolitical shifts. In each case we’ll examine concrete examples of cultural performances to consider the possible effectsand efficacy of CD initiatives.
NB: this may not look like a performance course, but it is! We consider first diplomacy itself as a kind of cultural performance (think of G-20 summits); we also deal with international artistic collaboration; tourism; global events such as the Olympic games, beauty contests, Eurovision, and international exhibitions; volunteer work; and the performance strategies of refugees, protesters, and revolutionaries.
American Regional Cultures and Global Transition: Appalachia, Louisiana, and the Texas Border Country
Prof. Dorothy Noyes
This course will introduce you to the folklore of three American regions. Each is famous for its music and local traditions, but each is often thought of as deviating in a distinctive way from the national culture: Louisiana is “creole,” Texas is “border,” and Appalachia is “folk.” While exploring these differences, we’ll also explore the commonalities. Imagined as different from a supposed American norm, each region is both attractive to outsiders and stigmatized by them. In each region, a dynamic vernacular culture has emerged out of complex race and class relations. In each region, both government policy and economic forces have powerfully transformed local lifeways and the physical environment, and vernacular political expression has been subject to violent repression. Each region has also been strongly marked by in- and out-migration, and each region is strongly connected with the outside world, both national and international.
We’ll look at historical change and cultural revival through the prism of celebrated folklore forms such as Louisiana Mardi Gras, Appalachian fairy tales, and the Tex-Mex corrido. We’ll also explore the impact—economic, environmental, demographic, and thus also cultural–of recent events: Hurricane Katrina and the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, mountaintop-removal mining in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee, and the debates over various kinds of traffic (migrants, drugs, and capital) across the US-Mexican border. The focus throughout is on how local people use cultural performance to address social challenges.
Topics in Comparative Studies: Ethnography, Film, Festival
Comp. Studies 5691
Prof. Katey Borland
This class is a prerequisite for participation in the May term Fieldschool in Bluefields, Nicaragua. (See OIA description here)
This undergrad/grad course combines ethnographic content with practical skill building. We will critically examine available ethnographies of Nicaragua (concentrating on the Creole Atlantic Coast but including Managua, Masaya and Miskito community studies). We will review and practice ethnographic method, and we will study Folkloric, Documentary and Ethnographic filmmaking, reviewing exemplary projects and employing selected techniques. Finally, we will learn effective ways to catalog, store and archive footage and other data, so that our collected materials are accessible to diverse communities.
The course will culminate in a month-long immersion experience in Bluefields, where we will be working with students at the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (BICU) Tourism program to document on film the interaction of tourism and cultural preservation in the annual Palo de Mayo (Maypole) Festival. We will live with local residents, interview festival organizers and performers, audiences and tourists, and experience the festival ourselves. As we document ourselves in the festival, we will regularly reflect on our own position vis-a-vis our community partners in the production of cultural meaning and cultural exchange. Palo de Mayo is an afro-caribbean carnivalesque celebration that features a distinctive local music and dance (check it out on YouTube) Bluefields is an English-speaking area of Nicaragua, but some ability to communicate in Spanish will be very helpful. Ideal for those adventurous spirits who are looking for hands-on experience in ethnographic documentation in a team setting.
Renaissance Drama: Gender, Sex, and Disorder
Prof. Elizabeth Kolkovich
Shakespeare gets all the glory, but he lived and worked alongside several other excellent playwrights in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. In this course, we will analyze a selection of those other writers’ comedies and tragedies, including such plays as The Spanish Tragedy, Arden of Faversham, and The Roaring Girl. Our plays will take us from the English household to urban spaces and decadent foreign courts. Be prepared for a wild ride; the Renaissance stage was home to hilarity, violence, love stories, and more.
As we learn about the culture and theater in which these plays were produced, we will pay special attention to their performances of gender and disorder. How do they define appropriate and unseemly behavior for women and men? What happens when characters step outside of accepted gender roles or challenge the status quo? We will consider how Renaissance theater conditions and modern staging possibilities might shape our interpretations of these issues and many others.
Our textbook will be English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology, and we will read some contextual materials available on Carmen. Class requirements include active participation, two short essays, and midterm and final exams. Prerequisite: Six credit hours (two courses) of English at the 2000-3000 level, or instructor permission.