Columbia SPPO


Graduate Courses Fall 2014

(See also courses taught in previous semesters)

SPAN 84100 (Cross-listed as CPLS W4100)
Arabs and the West: The Andalusian Symbiosis
Pat Grieve

W 2:10 - 4:00

This interdisciplinary team-taught seminar deals with the rich culture of Iberia (present-day Spain and Portugal) during the period when it was an Islamic, mostly Arabic-speaking territory—from the eighth to the fifteenth century. This theme course is significant in its approach to the study of Andalusia for a number of reasons: it grounds the study of Muslim Spain in the larger context of the history of Islam and of Arabic culture outside of Spain; it embraces many aspects of the hybrid Andalusian legacy:  history, language, literature, philosophy, music, art, architecture, and sciences, among others; and, while the course includes materials from Christian writers, the textual materials focus more on Arabic writings and the viewpoint of Muslim Spaniards. The course closely examines the cultural symbiosis between Arab Muslims and Christian Europeans during the eight centuries of their coexistence in Andalusia. Through a critical reading of an appropriately chosen set of texts translated into English from Arabic, Latin, Spanish and other Iberian dialects, students will study the historical, literary, linguistic, religious, artistic, architectural, and technological products that were created by the remarkable symbiosis that took place in Andalusia. With its multiethnic and multilingual forms the Andalusian legacy bears direct resemblance to our contemporary multicultural world and provides students with a rare opportunity to integrate knowledge of different sources and viewpoints. In the first and final weeks, we compare how two contemporary historical novels, by Arab writer Radwa Ashour and Tariq Ali (of Pakistani extraction), treat the fall of Granada in 1492. Class discussion and readings in English.

SPAN G6000
Didactics of Spanish Language and Culture

José Ruiz Campillo
F 1:10- 3:55pm

A course on the didactics of language that covers general questions about teaching methodology and the teaching of Spanish specifically. The course is composed of fifteen units that will address the following abstract and practical issues among others: the epistemology of language teaching and learning as reflected in the various methodologies, general and applied linguistics, the role of the teacher and the student, the planning of a curriculum, the preparation of syllabi, the evaluation of textbooks, the focus on form, and the cultural component of language teaching. Each topic will be accompanied by a bibliography, both in English and Spanish, produced by specialists from the United States, Latin America and Spain. Weekly class sessions will be complemented by class observation of student performance by the instructor.

SPAN G6141
Rethinking Aesthetic and Politics in Contemporary Latin America

Graciela Montaldo
R 1:10pm - 3:55pm

The purpose of the course is to study the relationship between Aesthetics and Politics, its genealogy and the updated discussions on the field. In Latin American culture this relationship was crucial during the twentieth century; at present times most of the works of the main contemporary artists update political potentialities of art and Aesthetics. The course necessary will review both aspects: the theoretical reflection and the new works. From Benjamin, Althusser, Debord to Badiou, Rancière, Latour, Negri we will discuss the constellation of problems around Aesthetics and Politics: Modernity, Avant-Garde, Representation, Revolution, Commitement, Materialy and Immateriality in Art, Mimesis and Institutions, Artists and Intellectuals. We will read texts by Mario Bellatin, César Aira, Antonio José Ponte, Alan Pauls, Fernanda Laguna, Mario Levrero, films by Federico León and Eduardo Coutinho and art projects by Vick Muniz and Marcos López.

SPAN G6540
Global Heroes, Peri-Iberian Knights

Jesús Rodríguez-Velasco
M 1:10pm - 3:55pm

This is a research seminar, in the sense that in addition to discuss theoretical and critical issues, we are going to produce knowledge from the vantage point of the primary sources.

Our main question, therefore, is --what are the questions and concepts with which our primary sources respond to the political, social, and cultural exigences of the construction of global heroism.

The word "hero" in Greek "hérōs", means "protector", and it is etymologically related to the Latin verb "seruare", "to preserve, to protect." It has the same etymology as "service", "to serve", and "serf". Heroism is, in this sense, not only a key element of political and social service, it is, as well, a civil and political duty. This is the kind of analysis that we will be leading, and the kind of genealogy of global political duties that we will be pursuing. In this sense, we will necessarily consider how the concept of global heroism allows us, as well, to understand the genealogies of some contemporary political conversations regarding what is heroic in everyday life in a global society of systemic violence --including the issues on infrapolitics and "subaltern heroes".

We will address the question of global heroism from the perspective of Iberian studies --and we will contribute to a redefinition of Iberian studies. The main thesis regarding Iberian studies is that "Iberian" cannot be considered a geographical region, and that the Iberian is, in fact, a challenge to such conception. This is why we are playing with the very name, and talking about the "peri-Iberian", which playfully evokes not only the peripheral, but also the movements that, even if have the Iberian worlds as a geopolitical gravitational force, describe different dynamics concentric to this problematic, multilingual, multi-political, multi-religious, gravitational center. One possible definition for the "peri-Iberian", or even for "Periberia" is "A certain way of circum-circulation and networking, extremely dynamic, and that constantly blurs the dialectics of center/periphery, colonies/metropolis, and others (even "frontiers" or "borderlands") and that is permanently in need of inventing composite languages. Periberia is constantly defining subgeographies." Periberian cultures occur, thus, in the Mediterranean, in Northern Africa, in Greece, in the Middle East, in the Indian Ocean, in China, in the Americas, in the Pacific, etc.

For this reason, our primary sources include texts in Spanish, Latin, Portuguese, Catalan, Greek, Arabic, French, Occitan (all of which are available in translation as well). These sources are important to examine the conflictive interconnected political histories derived from the practices of global heroism.

The point of reference of heroism is, in this course, the knight. Knights and chivalry are at the forefront of a specific series of dialectical issues, like nomadism vs sedentariness, civil vs religious jurisdiction of the knight, war vs peace, civilization vs non-civilization, legitimate vs illegitimate violence, individual vs collective, national vs global, adventure vs mission, and so on. All those elements are quintessential to the sort of general dialectics opposing individual projects vs systems of coalition among different political entities in the name of global jurisdictions.

Moreover, knight, in medieval vocabularies, is a complex noun, because it does not only work at the literal level, but also at other levels: allegorical, tropological, anagogical. One of the metaphoric levels of the word "knight" is that it ends up designing "lawyers", "clercs", "martyrs", and, definitely, "saints." We will also address some of those slippages in our pursuit of the meanings of global heroism.

Since our interest is historical as much as theoretical --we want to know whether medieval and early modern responses regarding global heroism can become useful for us to investigate contemporary issues regarding the systems of global protection, and the pervasive moral and political model of the hero--, we are going to discuss, as well, some contemporary theoretical texts about heroism, service, duty, violence, politics, sacrality of the human, systems of city and citizen protection, movement, displacement, exile, conquest, interfaith violence, and others.

Some of our theoretical readings include Judith Butler, Giorgio Agamben, Serge Gruzinski, Michel Foucault, Stefan Zweig, Yan Thomas, Wendy Brown, Dipesh Chakravarty, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, etc. Primary sources include texts in Spanish, Latin, Portuguese, Catalan, Greek, Arabic, French, Occitan (all of them are available in translation as well), and are connected with Iberian or, better yet, peri-Iberian experiences: Poem of the Cid, Tirant lo Blanc, Curial e Guelfa, Os Lusíadas, Chanson de Roland, Le Charroi de Nîmes, Roncesvals, Libro de Apolonio, Documents from the explorations of the Societas Catalanica in the Mediterranean, Ibn Battuta, Ibn Khaldun, Marco Polo, travelers to China, González de Clavijo's Embassy to Samarkanda, texts and poems about the crusades, Arabic accounts of the Crusades, Vasco de Gama's travel, Fernao de Magalhaes's circumnavigation, etc.

SPAN G9901
Seminar on Literary and Cultural Theory

Carlos J. Alonso
T 1:00pm - 3:55pm

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a set of theoretical questions and problems and to discuss the place of theory in literary and cultural studies. What does "theoretical thought" mean? The course will examine main authors and categories of the history of criticism, with texts organized into two sections. The first section will produce a discussion of categories and problems of the literary institution that will imply critically reviewing some keywords: culture, literature, author, intellectual, fiction, reading, genre, discourse. This section will evince a historical scope of theoretical problems. The second section will contain texts that will focus on different areas of literary and cultural reflection and on their relationship with each other. Within the frame of Modernity we will see how literature as an autonomous practice plots its links with culture, State, politics, hegemony, institutions, mass culture, and other exclusions. We will conclude by considering the problem of centers and peripheries in the production of theoretical knowledge.


(See also courses taught in previous semesters)