Drawing on performance studies as both a lens
and method, we will analyze performances of aging in cultural formats focussed on the body, particularly film, dance, and social protest. We will pay particular attention
to the performance repertoire the selected examples employ, the notions of
corporeality and physicality they convey, and aspects of site-specificity,
immediacy, interactivity, and collectivity that inform them. We will explore relations
between the individual and the national body, negotiations of dominant cultural
myths, and visions of citizenship that are at their center and discuss what Jon
McKency termed the ‘resistant potential’ of cultural performance, especially as
regards its intervention in the conventional ‘decline narrative’ as opposed to
cultural discourses of ‘ageing gracefully.’
The course examines selected
examples of American literature from pre-Columbian Native American
documents through nineteenth-century literary writing. Taught in seminar
format and based on reading, discussion, and active participation, the
course places literary texts in their historical and cultural contexts.
Readings include early exploration narratives and selected texts from
colonial America, samples of nineteenth-century short fiction, Nathaniel
Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and selected poems by prominent authors, such as Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.
Course requirements: oral presentation. Credit requirement: a 3,500 to 4,500-word research paper in English. Required
Texts: Baym, Nina et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of American
Literature. 8th ed. Vols. A, B, and C. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.