On course: Bryn Mawr courses and their reading lists

Ethnographies of Memory: Women's Narratives on Modern Migrancy, Exile, and Diasporas: German 245, cross-listed with Comparative Literature/Anthropology/ Cities/Feminist and Gender Studies Fairbank Professor in the Humanities, and Professor of German and Comparative Literature Azade Seyhan.

How do women live in, write in, and master a language not their own? What is the fate of cultural memory in an age of universally embraced technologies? How can signifying systems of a particular culture be translated into a foreign idiom?

These are the critical questions addressed by this course, which focuses on configurations of linguistic, cultural, and national memory in women's narratives on migrancy, exile, and displacement within and outside a geographical map.

"My personal ambition is to move students from a space of monolingual conceit to a space of bilingual or multilingual imagination," said Professor Azade Seyhan during a panel discussion, held at the October 5 launch of Challenging Women, on preparing Bryn Mawr students for global life and leadership.

"Bryn Mawr has been a place where I could bring together many diverse interests and create courses that open students up to worlds other than their own," she said. "Iwas also able to help establish the major of comparative literature, which was not in existence when I first came here."

Reading lists

Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies, Plume, 1995.
Ana Castillo, So far from God, W.W. Norton, 1993.
Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban, Knopf/Random House, 1992.
Assia Djebar, Algerian White, Seven Stories Press, 2000.
Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language, E.P. Dutton, 1989.
Emine Sevgi Özdamar, The Mother Tongue (selections), trans. Craig Thomas, Coach House Press, 1994.

Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 1997.
Azade Seyhan, Writing Outside the Nation, Princeton University Press, 2001.

FILMS include Auslandstournee, The Battle of Algiers, The Buena Vista Social Club, In the Time of the Butterflies, and Lone Star.
Primary texts in other years have included Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands (La Frontera), Ana Castillo's The Mixquiahuala Letters, Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory, Rosario Ferré's The House on the Lagoon, and Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior.

Seyhan said her early academic work on non-native writers in Germany was for her a jumping point to issues such as identity politics, cultural nationalism, and linguistic memory.

"Social ruptures caused by immigration and displacement lead to an impoverishment of communal life," she writes for the course description. "This loss requires a verbal restoration of memory to accord meaning, purpose, and integrity to the past.

"For the displaced peoples of our age, parents' biographies, autobiographies-veiled and revealed-autobiographical fictions, testimonies, and memoirs become the restorative institution of cultural and communal memory. Since the 'conservation of remembrance,' often understood as a transmission of culture to children in the form of oral narratives-stories, fairy tales, family anecdotes-is usually seen as part of women's labor, the work of women writers of diasporas can be read as a memorial to family and coll ective histories. Through a study of autobiographical, literary, and theoretical texts by women writers of the modern diasporas in the United States, France, and Germany, the course will reevaluate the critically transformative stage of "writing outside the nation."

Although no prerequisites are listed for this course, Seyhan says it is better appreciated by students who have taken an introductory course in literary theory and criticism and have reading knowledge of at least one foreign language, preferably French, German or Spanish. A working knowledge of a lesser-taught language such as Arabic, Chinese, Yiddish or Urdu is also most welcome.

Students taking the course for German credit are expected to read additional materials that are only available in German and write their papers preferably in German. Additional time is devoted to reading and analyzing longer texts in German.

Course requirements include five 2-3 page position papers, an oral presentation of a critical issue, and shared responsibility for class discussion.

You may order these books from the Bryn Mawr College Bookstore, whose proceeds benefit the College: Elizabeth Morris, Bryn Mawr College Bookshop, New Gulph Road, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, 610 526 5322, emorris@brynmawr.edu

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