2017 Flexner Courses
During the fall 2017 semester, Bryn Mawr faculty members will teach six courses — ranging from an Emily Balch seminar for first-year students to an interdisciplinary graduate course — that will engage Bonnie Honig’s Flexner courses and/or the larger body of her work. Professor Honig will visit each class during her Flexner residency to participate in class discussion.
Emily Balch Seminar — Professor Yonglin Jiang, East Asian Languages and Cultures
Refusal: Chinese Civil Resistance in Literature and Films
This seminar examines Chinese civil resistance, an important form of human refusal— the expression and action of refusing and denying — through works of Chinese literature and film, as well as critical work in the field, including the Flexner Lectures delivered by the leading scholar of democratic, feminist and legal theory Bonnie Honig of Brown University. We will address three sets of questions: 1) What is refusal and civil resistance, and what are the general experiences and themes of civil resistance in world communities? 2) What are the Chinese political, social, and cultural powers that shape and enforce class, gender, and ethnic injustice, and how do the Chinese people engage in civil resistance in either everyday life or organized social movements? 3) in what ways is Chinese civil resistance different from and similar to that in other societies and cultures? Through weekly reading and writing assignments and class discussions, including the attendance at the Flexner Lectures, students will not only become familiar with general concepts and issues of civil resistance, the Chinese values, experiences, and representations of civil resistance, and the differences and similarities between the Chinese and other societies, but also hone their skills in critical thinking, clear and analytical writing, and effective presentation. Texts include the novels of To Live by Yu Hua, Farewell My Concubine by Lillian Lee, and their film adaptations.
Classical Studies 175 (cross-listed with Gender and Sexuality Studies) — Professor Catherine Conybeare, Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies
Feminism in Classics
We shall start by considering the relation of feminism to classics; we shall then look at the responses of feminist philosophers and theorists to a range of classical texts that may be read as resisting or refusing the master narratives of a patriarchal culture. These texts will comprise the poetry of Sappho, Sophocles’ play Antigone, Plato’s philosophical dialogue Symposium, Euripides’ play Bacchae, and selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. We shall close with a reading of a fundamental text of refusal, the prison diary of Perpetua written in Carthage in 203 CE while she awaited her martyrdom in the arena.
English 214 — Associate Professor Kate Thomas, English
Refuse and Refusal in Victorian Britain
The florid wealth of Britain in the nineteenth century was fed by income from slave trade, industrial exploitation, and imperial expansion. It was also an era that was horrified by its own growth; abolitionism, the women’s suffrage movement, the arts and crafts movement, the inception of the welfare state were all nineteenth century protests against the waste of human life and spirit. The noun “refuse” finds etymological root in the concept of that which is “despised, rejected ... outcast.” This course will touch down on key events, debates and literatures that brought the figures of the outcast and the resister into sharp relief.
English 302 — Associate Professor Bethany Schneider, English
“It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me,” Ishmael muses as he tries to understand the monomaniacal hunt that drives Captain Ahab and his crew of whalers of every race and creed to their watery doom. Herman Melville’s 1851 Moby Dick and historical and critical materials surrounding it, will be the entire subject of this course. An allegory of a nation charging toward Civil War, a nation founded on ideals of freedom and equality, but built on capitalist expansion, white supremacy, slavery and genocide, Moby Dick is hailed by many (and many who have never read it) as “The Great American Novel.” But which America, whose America? Written for the generation that would fight the Civil War, how does this novel continue to describe America, today? By turns comic, tragic, epic, mundane, thuddingly literal and gorgeously spiritual and metaphysical, the novel rewards both intricate close reading and intense historical and critical analysis. We will take up questions of race, gender and sexuality, colonialism, the animal and the human, the oceanic, freedom, individuality, totalitarianism, capitalism, nation and belonging. Students will write a midterm and a final research paper.
GSEM 623 (Graduate Group in Classics, Archaeology, and History of Art) — Professor Annette Baertschi, Greek, Latin, and Classics, and Professor Homay King, History of Art
Figures of Resistance
The GSem will explore classical figures of resistance such as Prometheus, Antigone, Electra, Medea, and Lysistrata and their reception in modern art and cinema. The focus will be on films and other works of art that re-appropriate and transform the ancient characters and their stories. We will discuss in particular how modern filmmakers re-contextualize the classical figures to shed light on contemporary historical, political, and social issues. Films will include Tony Harrison, Prometheus (Great Britain, 1998), Liliana Cavani, The Year of the Cannibals (Italy, 1970), Amy Greenfield, Antigone/Rites of Passion (USA, 1991), Ingmar Bergman, Persona (Sweden, 1966), Miklós Jancsó, Electra, My Love (Hungary, 1974), Arthur Ripstein, Asi Es La Vida (Mexico, 2000), and Spike Lee, Chi-raq (USA, 2015). Readings will be drawn from texts on reception studies, film and gender theory, psychoanalysis, and political theory.
History of Art 380 — Lisa Saltzman, Professor of History of Art
Topics in Contemporary Art: Strategies of Remembrance: Publics, Politics and the Art of Memory
How does a country commemorate its past? This seemed a reasonable structuring gambit for a Flexner seminar inspired by the work of Bonnie Honig, particularly given my own work on the ethics and aesthetics of cultural memory. Attuned as I am to those historical events that at once demand yet defy the conventional forms of representation, I was struck, in Honig’s Antigone, Interrupted, by her deft interventions into a logic and language of mourning, and in turn, into the politics and practices of commemoration. But now, in the aftermath of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this question seems especially urgent. And in turn, even as we consider a range of historical contexts and commemorative projects from around the globe, we will begin with the question of Confederate monuments in this country. And, no doubt, as it inevitably does, the concerns of the present will inflect our engagement with the past, even if that past is the received history of memorials, monuments and commemorative practices in the modern era.