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 2:30pm- 5:15pm

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 Aesthetis 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; currently 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, and Debord to Badiou, Rancière, Latour, and Negri we will discuss the constellation of problems around Aesthetics and Politics: Modernity, Avant-Garde, Representation, Revolution, Commitment, Materiality and Immateriality in Art, Mimesis and Institutions, Artists and Intellectuals. We will study 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 G6468
The Impasses of Latinamericanism: Between Post-Hegemony and the Decolonial Option

Orlando Bentancor
M 1:10pm - 3:55pm

 This course aims to explore and problematize the current critical impasse between proponents of the “decolonial” option and of “posthegemonic theory” as ways of thinking about the historical construction of Latin America and its relationship to the global North. For the defenders of the “decolonial option,” globalization is a system of management linked to the emergence of a Eurocentric colonial/modern world system: by incorporating the Americas into the Christian world, the Spanish Empire was the first global design, and the second was the secular model of the civilizing modern nation-state, which proved to be a more efficient tool of political coloniality than the Christian empire. In sum, for decolonial theory, both the problem of the empire and the problem of the nation-state are byproducts of a global expansion that divides the world into colonial and modern spaces. Post-hegemony theorists disagree with what they consider an excessive attention paid to the hegemony of the Christian empire and the secular nation-state, and claim instead that capitalist accumulation is no longer (and maybe never was) organized around such formations. Global technological expansion, post-Fordist organization of capital and labor, and information and social media corrode the hegemony articulated around the nation-state, which is undermined by the continuous subsumption of culture into the logic of capitalist expansion. Briefly said, the cause of the impasse seems to be two opposed notions of globalization. This seminar is built on the hypothesis that the gap between these two seemingly very contemporary approaches is the result of overlooking a historical past that has been poorly understood but is nevertheless constitutive of the present debates. We will search for their genealogical history by rereading groundbreaking works of colonial and modern Latin American political theology, paying special attention to the early modern origins of globalization, imperialism and capitalist expansion. On the one hand, the Christian imperial global design articulated by the political theology in the sixteenth century was also the first defense of an empire as a transnational network of production, circulation, and consumption of commodities. On the other hand, once we accept the hypothesis that contemporary global capitalism produces networks of spatiality that exceed the nation-state, it is imperative to revisit the imperial past in order to rethink the present.


SPAN G6540
Global Heroes, Peri-Iberian Knights

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

This is a research seminar, in the sense that, in addition to discussing theoretical and critical issues, we will be producing knowledge from 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, but, 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 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 a 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 with 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 essential 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 designating "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 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
W 2:00pm - 4:45pm

The overarching aim of this course is to acquaint students with important documents, issues, and problems in the fields of critical theory and cultural studies.  Essential categories and subjects will be addressed with a view to providing students with the tools they will need to produce their own understanding of cultural production.  A balance will be struck between exposure to fundamental works and the theoretical discussions that define the fields at present.  Reading assignments will be intensely discussed; reflecting and writing on them before class will be required of all students.


(See also courses taught in previous semesters)