Affiliated Courses

Spring 2018 Course Offerings

AAS 561 | AFRO 531 | ANTH 565 | GWS 561 | LLS 561: Race and Cultural Critique; Junaid Rana

ARTH 540: What is Visual Culture?; David O’Brien

CAS 587 | ANTH 515 | EPS 512 | GER 576: Learning Publics: Theory, Performance, Practice; Chris Higgins and Anke Pinkert

ENGL 547: American Romanticism and the Post-Secular Turn; Justine S. Murison

MACS 503 | ENGL 503 | CWL 503: Historiography of Cinema; Ramona Curry


AAS 561: Race and Cultural Critique

Professor: Junaid Rana
Meets: Wednesdays, 2:00-4:50

Introduction to graduate level theoretical and methodological approaches in Comparative Race Studies. As a survey of theories of race and racism and the methodology of critique, this course offers an interdisciplinary approach that draws from anthropology, sociology, history, literature, cultural studies, and gender/sexuality studies. In addition, the study of racial and cultural formation is examined from a comparative perspective in the scholarship of racialized and Gender and Women's Studies. Same as AFRO 531, ANTH 565, GWS 561, and LLS 561.


ARTH 540: What Is Visual Culture?

Professor: David O’Brien
Meets: Tuesdays, 2:00-4:50

This seminar introduces students to the concept of visual studies primarily through the debates that defined the emerging academic field from the 1990s to the present. Some of the questions we will ask are: What is visual culture? What new approaches characterize recent scholarship on visual culture? Why has the visual become such an important category in the humanities? How have visual cultural approaches changed the practice of art history? We shall also consider some approaches to visual culture that anticipated current debates. Special attention will be devoted to nineteenth- century visual culture, but the course does not focus on the nineteenth century, and students may work on visual culture from all periods and places.


CAS 587: Learning Publics: Theory, Performance, Practice

Professors: Chris Higgins and Anke Pinkert
Meets: Thursdays, 2:00 - 3:50 PM

What does it mean to be a public university? Our typical answers are unsatisfying. Public universities, we say, are supported by public revenues rather than tuition; they are accessible to students regardless of social-economic status; they serve the public. The first answer is too formalistic and is, in any case, fast becoming a fiction as tuition has now surpassed state support. The second answer points to a substantive ideal but, again, is starting to look like wishful thinking. Admissions at public flagships is increasingly selective, and as tuition rises the student body is increasingly affluent. The third answer, that public universities serve the public, begs the key questions: who do they serve and how? If we want to deal with these questions seriously we have to investigate the nature of public formations, public things, and public goods. This team-taught interdisciplinary seminar will do just this. Through close reading and discussion of primary texts, from a range of humanistic fields, we will examine the nature of the public and the current conditions of public life. We will investigate what part universities play in catalyzing public formations and discourse. And we will consider what special role might be played by the arts and humanities in “summoning the public into being” (John Dewey)? The phrase "learning publics” is meant to signal the double connection between education and the public: that public life itself is educative and that central to education is the act of making public. Graduate students from all disciplines interested in pursuing such questions through collaborative inquiry and serious-playful discussion are welcome. Special guest lectures and events sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study campus-wide initiative Learning Publics will enhance our work. There are no pre-requisites. Crosslisted as ANTH 515, EPS 512, and GER 576


ENGL 547: American Romanticism and the Post-Secular Turn

Professor: Justine S. Murison
Meets: Wednesdays, 3:00 - 4:50 PM

This seminar explores the vibrant recent debate over secularism, secularization, and the “post-secular.” Long a structuring principle of literary study, the assumption that modernity is marked by an ineluctable move away from religion has been called into question both by geopolitical events and scholars of the humanities and social sciences. This course will introduce students to the major theorists and scholarly discussions currently ongoing about religion and secularism. We will read widely in this interdisciplinary and dynamic field, which has posed urgent questions about secularism in a global context after 9/11, the relation of religion to gender and sexuality, and whether or not we can call our era, as some are doing, “post-secular.” To focus our inquiry, we will concentrate on the period of American Romanticism—from 1820-1865. This period in American culture was marked both by the disestablishment of state churches and the Second Great Awakening; it provoked the creation of new religious communities and the often-violent responses to them; and it experienced the evangelizing of abolitionism that spurred the urgency of such figures as Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown. Using key texts from the era—likely including those by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Walker, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Lydia Maria Child—we will explore the contested terms of the field and the history from which our debates about the “secular” emerged.


MACS 503 | ENGL 503 | CWL 503: Historiography of Cinema

Professor: Ramona Curry
Meets: Wednesdays, 3:00 - 5:50 PM

Learn to be a “detective” into film/cultural history! This graduate seminar, one of two required courses for the UIUC Graduate Minor in Cinema Studies, explores practices and trends in writing the history of cinema and, by extension, other popular audio-visual media.  It thereby offers a meta-historical study focused on how film histories have over the past century variously construed and also shaped their object of study, e.g., as an art form, an industry, a technology, a phenomenon of modernity, a cultural artifact, a site of ideological discourse, and/or material expression of national or ethnic character and/or collective social trauma. While initially critically surveying specific dominant approaches to film history (e.g. focusing on directors as auteurs, on movie stars, on national cinemas, on style and genre, and on issues of exhibition and audience response), this semester’s iteration of the seminar will emphasize in our readings particularly transnational and “sub-national” (e.g., “ethnic” film movements) cinema histories, for the construction and impact of such histories is a site of recent fresh and exciting research. We will to some extent set such trans- and sub-national frameworks for writing histories of media texts in direct contrast to a “national” film historiographic approach.  Although national film historiography has proven persistent, politically strategic, and often intellectually productive, many media historians now contest that long dominant approach in light not only of current global media dissemination but also, even more compellingly, of the quite early and far-reaching impact of cinema’s worldwide circulation from its beginnings, as we can now readily learn through copious digitized cinema historical archives.
Alongside additional selected articles, we’ll read and discuss most of two required books, Looking Past the Screen: Case Studies in American Film History and Method, eds. Jon Lewis and Eric Smoodin (Duke University Press, 2007) and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity (University of California Press 2005).  We will view several shorter films in class but students will also need to watch a couple of (readily available) additional films outside our seminar meetings.  Each student will make several written and oral presentations on the readings, films and issues discussed, write a review of a recent academic book in an area of particular interest, explore readily available cinema historical archives (amazing resources on campus and the Internet), and as a final project compile an extensive annotated bibliography that proposes a cogent historiographic approach to an individual topic formulated in relation to either transnational or sub-national ethnic cinema histories (e.g., African American film history).  That is: you will not write and submit a polished final long essay (of ca. 20 pages) for the seminar, but instead over the last weeks of the semester propose and research and present a polished annotated filmography and bibliography for such an essay.  That “pre-writing” for a substantial essay could form the basis for a conference presentation and/or subsequently drafted essay that you might with further mentoring in a subsequent semester complete and submit for publication (as students in previous seminars making that assignment have very successfully done, as well as seen their book reviews written for class get published!). Crosslisted as ENGL 503 and CWL 503.


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For more information on course affiliation, please contact Susan Koshy (