Comparative Literature 385 Literature and Justice

Comparative Literature 385 Literature and Justice

Comparative Literature 385 Literature and Justice

Fall 2007Prof. Vincent Farenga

Course Goals: What Will You Learn?

  1. You will examine writers of fiction and autobiography (ca. 1950 – 2000) who claim to be victims of injustice in multicultural societies. These writers will expose you to individual and collective injustice due to racism, ethnicity, gender, religious intolerance, and immigration in societies such as Cuba, Guatemala, Eastern Europe, Israel-Palestine, Somalia, Afghanistan, India, and the U.S.
  1. You will learn how to link these intensely personal voices to the ideas of political philosophers, literary critics, and historians who theorize about how to achieve justice. You’ll learn arguments about: the history and nature of human rights; reasons for redistributing wealth and power; the need to recognize the worth and authenticity of oppressed individuals and groups; why victims of injustice should have moral standing across national borders; how race, class, gender and sexuality produce hybrid forms of injustice, etc.
  1. You’ll develop or improve your critical abilities to see how fiction and autobiography overlap. Using both literary and social criteria, you’ll learn to evaluate the truth value or moral standing of a victim’s sense of injustice. You’ll understand the prominent role literature plays in determining values within social developments like multiculturalism, issues like human rights, the nature of personhood, gender relations, etc. You’ll also appreciate how ideologies of many kinds contribute to conflicts over justice (liberalism, democracy, feminism, communitarianism, ethnic or racial theories, Zionism, Islam).

Course Requirements

  1. Class attendance & participation: you are expected to attend our 2 classes each week (= 29 class meetings) and to be prepared to discuss the readings assigned for that day. You should set aside 6-7 hours per week for reading these assignments (= about 150 pages). This portion of your grade will be adversely affected if you miss more than 4 classes; there are no excused absences. [15%]
  1. Class format will combine various types of discussion & presentation (general discussion, round-table discussion, role-playing, mock-trial, reports, etc.)
  1. Written assignments: 2 short papers (5-6 pp. each) [30%]; take-home midterm exam [20%]; and longer paper (12 pp.) [35%]. Note Policy on Written Assignments.

Required Readings [available at the University Bookstore]

Ali, Ayaan Hirsi. Infidel.New York: Free Press. 2007.

Appelfeld, Aharon. Tzili: Story of A Life. Trans.

Barnet, Miguel/Esteban Montejo. Biography of a Runaway Slave. Trans. W. Nick Hill. Willimantic: Curbstone P. 1994 [o.p. 1966].

Barghouti, Mourid. I Saw Ramallah. Trans. A. Soueif. New York: Random. 2000.

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee. Arranged Marriage. New York: Random. 1995.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage. 1980 [o.p. 1952].

Fraser, Nancy and Axel Honneth. Redistribution or Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange. London: Verso. 2003.

Khadra, Yasmina. The Swallows of Kabul. Trans. J. Cullen. New York: Random. 2004.

Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Interpreter of Maladies. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1999.

Menchú, Rigoberta (E. Burgos-Debray, ed.). I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in

Guatemala.Trans. A. Wright. London: Verso. 1984.

*Other required readings will take the form of selections from works on theories of justice or literary and cultural background on the readings. These will be available electronically through Ares Reserve or on our course’s Blackboard site (see below).

Study and Research Aids: To help with assigned readings, “focus questions” will be provided for certain texts. These highlight the key information and developments you should look for and key concepts you should recognize. You’ll find these on Blackboard.

Policy on written assignments: Assignments are dueat the times and days indicated in the syllabus. Late assignments will not be accepted unless Prof. Farenga approves this in advance for reasons of illness or personal/family emergency. There will be no exceptions. NB. Electronic submissions are not accepted—hard copy only.

Policy on academic integrity: We will adhere rigorously to the university's policies on academic integrity as described in SCampus. Violations, during exams or through plagiarism in written work, will be reported to the Office for Student Conduct.

Policy on Grade of “Incomplete”: A grade of IN can only be assigned if you do not complete work after the end of the 12th week because of illness or personal emergency. Prof. Farenga must, however, approve assignment of this grade. The missed work must be completed within one academic year.

Statement on Students with Disabilities: Any student requesting accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP, STU 301; x00776) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please have the letter delivered to Prof. Farenga ASAP.

Instructor: Vincent Farenga, Assoc. Prof., Classics & Comparative Lit, THH 256-R, x00106, . Office hours for Fall: Tu & Th 11-12 and Tu 3:30-4:30 in THH 256-R.

Course Syllabus

Week 1

Aug 28Course introduction: aims, requirements, policies.

Aug 30Discussion of recent newspaper articles. What is a “sense of injustice”? How does each article tell a story? How is the alleged victim of injustice represented?

Readings: Selected newspaper articles

Shklar 1990, “Introduction,” Frames of Injustice 1-14 [Ares Reserve: our password is justice]

Week 2

Sep 4 What is a “testimonial novel”? Barnet’s description of a new genre.

Esteban Montejo’s story of his early life as a slave and free man.

Readings: Barnet “The Alchemy of Memory” in Biography 205-208;

Barnet/Montejo Biography 17-115

Sep 6Montejo continues his story: how does he develop a sense of injustice? What are his predominant values and concerns in life?

Is the Biography of a Runaway Slave a novel of the Cuban revolution?

Readings: Barnet/Montejo 143-200;

R. González-Echevarría 1985, “Biografía de un cimarrón and the Novel of the Cuban Revolution,” in Voice of the Masters 110-23 (Ares Reserve).

Week 3

Sep 11Rigoberta Menchú’s early life: how do the Quiché village and the coffee or cotton plantation (finca) constitute a community and anti-community?

What are “human rights”? What is their history 1776 – present?

Readings:Menchú 1-78;

L. Hunt 2007, “Introduction,” in Inventing Human Rights: A History 15-34 (Ares Reserve).

Sep 13How does Menchú develop a sense of injustice? How does she identify herself and her people as victims of injustice?

Reading:Menchú 79-140

Week 4

Sep 18How does Menchú’s story of genocide evoke powerful emotions through the reader’s empathy in scenes of degradation, fear, brutality, torture?

How was the 18th – 19th c. European novel instrumental in using the empathy of readers to construct a sense of universal human rights?

Readings:Menchú 141-209;

L. Hunt, “Torrents of Emotion” in Inventing Human Rights 35-69 (on Blackboard).

Sep 20How literary is the construction of Menchú’s story? Is it “literarily engineered” (= “doctored”) to solicit empathy for human rights violations?

Challenges to the truth of Menchú’s witnessing: are they valid?

Readings: Menchú 210-47;

D. Stoll 1999, “The Construction of I, Rigoberta Menchú,” in Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans 177-2000 (Ares Reserve).

Week 5

Sep 25How is it possible to represent the genocide of the Jewish Holocaust? Discussion of strategies in documentary and fictional recreations.

Appelfeld’s novelistic heroine Tzili: of what injustices is she a victim? Does she have a sense (consciousness) of injustice?

How was Zionism a response to European injustice toward the Jews?

Readings: Appelfeld, Tzili 1-99;

T. Herzl, “The Jewish State,” in The Zionist Idea201-26 (Ares Reserve);

Gordon in The Zionist Idea (Blackboard)

Sep 27Through her ordeal, does Tzili develop as a person? Does she acquire degrees of moral autonomy, self-determination, and agency? What “rights” does she come to possess?

How is Tzili’s ultimate fate linked to Zionism?

Reading:Appelfeld, Tzili 101-185

J. Rose, “’The Nazi Holocaust Proved the Urgency for a Jewish State’” in The Myths of Zionism, 135-53 (Ares Reserve).

Week 6

Oct 2First Short Paper Due Today.

Historically, how did western Europeans understand the nature of Palestine and Palestinians? What role did Zionism play in this?

What does it mean to have no place as a homeland? What might it mean for a poet, Mourid Barghouti, to return “there”?

Readings: E. Said 1979a, “The Question of Palestine,” in The Question of Palestine, 3-37 and 46-55 (Ares Reserve)

_____ 1979b. “Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims,” in The Question of Palestine 56-82 (on Blackboard);

Barghouti, I Saw Ramallah, 1-33.

Oct 4How do the Palestinian identity and community of exiles compare to the identity and community of those who remain “in place”? Focus on images of borders, mobility, temporariness, transience, shifting identity, etc.

Can Palestinians achieve self-determination without a place and a state to inhabit?

Readings: Barghouti 34 – 89;

E. Said 1979c, “Toward Palestinian Self-Determination,” in The Question of Palestine 115-25 (on Blackboard).

Week 7

Oct 9 Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s family, early childhood and adolescence: nomadic clans, “liberal” self-emancipation, and Islamic fundamentalism. Is she a victim of injustice?

Should the norms of justice be limited by national or cultural boundaries?

Readings: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel 3-88;

O. O’Neill 2000a, “Identities, Boundaries and States,” in Bounds of Justice168-85 (Ares Reserve).

Oct 11Hirsi Ali’s interior battle between fundamentalist Islam and westernization. How influential on her were western novels?

Should victims of injustice in foreign states and cultures have moral standing in our eyes?

Readings:Hirsi Ali 89-144;

O’Neill 2000b, “Distant Strangers, Moral Standing and Porous Boundaries,” in Bounds of Justice 186-202 (on Blackboard)

Week 8

Oct 16Refugee camp, emigration to Holland, marriage; the possibility of escape. How true are her claims? Does she represent herself as a novelistic heroine?

Readings:Hirsi Ali 145-282;

Oct 18New life, new identity, in Holland; birth of a social critic & activist.

Are Hirsi Ali’s public criticisms of Islam in the Dutch media justified? Does feminist critique have an international moral standing?

Are there limits to a just demand for individual freedom? A

conservative perspective on women in Islam.

Reading:Hirsi Ali 283-350;

H. Jawad 1998, “The Legal Status of Women in Islam,” in The Rights of Women in Islam, 1-15 (Blackboard).

Week 9

Oct 23The Taliban and fundamentalist Islamic justice: what is this organization’s history and principles? Why are women its prime moral targets?

How does an unjust regime transform the lives of those who support it and those who resist it? Who are its victims?

Reading:Yasmina Khadra, The Swallows of Kabul 1-102.

Oct 25How does injustice transform the “inner world” (= self) of its individual victims? How does it poison the most intimate personal relationships?

How is the “politics of recognition” a cause of injustice?

Readings:Khadra, Swallows of Kabul, 103-141;

Taylor, “The Politics of Recognition” (photocopy).

Week 10

Oct 30Injustice and epiphany: how does witnessing injustice inspire individuals to transform themselves? Why is the victim who sacrifices her/himself a savior for others?

Reading: Khadra, Swallows143-95.

Nov 1Take-home midterm due today

Redistribution vs. recognition as causes of injustice: are they really antithetical?

Reading: Fraser 1-33 in Fraser and Honneth, Redistribution or Recognition?

Week 11

Nov 6Emigration & cultural displacement (India to U.S):injustice in the everyday experiences of an individual’s private life. Families as scenarios of injustice across cultural boundaries.

Do we need a “two dimensional” concept of justice to insure a “parity of participation” for all involved?

Reading: Divakaruni, Arranged Marriage(“The Bats” 1-16; “Clothes” 17-33; “Silver Pavilions” 35-56; “The Maid Servant’s Story” 109-168).

Fraser in Fraser and Honneth 34-48.

Nov 8Marriage as a scenario of injustice: the problem of recognizing personhood across cultural boundaries.

When cultures are “hybridized” in today’s multicultural societies, how does the collapse of traditional status hierarchy force everyone to scramble for recognition?

Readings: Divakaruni, Arranged Marriage (“The Disappearance” 169-81 and “The Doors” 183-202);

Fraser in Fraser and Honneth 54-64.

Week 12

Nov 13Deeper into the injustice of private life: war & family life; personal betrayal; political dislocation & social class; betrayal of cultural values.

Should we create a more just society by using “transformative strategies” that value boundaries between social groups—or that erase them?

Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies (“When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” (23-42); “Interpreter of Maladies” 43-69; “A Real Durwan” 70-82; “This Blessed House” 136-57;

Fraser in Fraser and Honneth 70-88.

Nov 15Second Short Paper Due Today

Marginalized individuals and the struggle for recognition (the sick, the elderly, the foreigner).

Social disrespect & the need for self-respect: a fundamental matrix of social injustice? What moral expectations do individuals have about social interactions?

Readings: Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies (“The Treatment of Bibi Hadar” 158-72; “The Third and Final Continent” 173-98); and

Honneth in Fraser and Honneth 110-34.

Week 13

Nov 20No class today*

Nov 22Thanksgiving Holiday

*Reading: Ellison, Invisible Man (“Introduction” vii-xxiii) and 3-108

Week 14

Nov 27The marginalization and social invisibility of African Americans as misrecogntion. How can a black American discover more authentic sense of self?

Disrespect and betrayal as personal experiences of injustice; the 3 spheres of recognition.

Readings: Ellison, Invisible Man 136-95 & 251-317;

Honneth in Fraser and Honneth, 135-50.

Nov 29The Invisible Man finds the moral voice of a political activist to speak out against injustice.

Are the identity struggles of minorities a legitimate path to recognition?

Reading: Ellison, Invisible Man 333-82;

Honneth in Fraser and Honneth 150-70.

Week 15

Dec 4Strategies of black resistance: yield to racist stereotypes? Play the activist? Rage as a revolutionary black nationalist?

Personal identity formation and autonomy as the key to social justice?

Reading: Ellison, Invisible Man 462-512;

Honneth in Fraser and Honneth 170-89.

Dec 6The race riot and the search for a more authentic voice.

Course summary; concluding discussion.

Reading: Ellison, Invisible Man 512-81.

Dec 11Final Paper Due Today, 5 pm THH 256-R