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Spring 2022

GEMS 83100: The Problem of Race in Early Modern Studies, Mondays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, 3 credits, Prof. Miles Grier. Cross listed with MALS 78500. 

In a provocative comparison of witchcraft to the conjuring of races, the historian Barbara Fields and sociologist Karen Fields argue that race is not a legal code or a scientific concept by a collective social process governing “what goes with what and whom (sumptuary codes), how different people must deal with each other (rituals of deference and dominance), where human kinship begins and ends (blood) and how [members of one racial community] look at themselves and each other.” The Fields sisters map an intersectional terrain of race-making that puts traditional historical periodization under pressure.  This course is designed to familiarize students with the trouble that race causes in the study of early modernity (roughly 1450-1820), including challenges to national history and to the very term "early modern period." Readings will come from multiple disciplines and theoretical approaches, helping us consider that fundamental question from the vantage point of Arabs, black Africans, Native Americans, Jews, as well as the French, Spanish, Irish, and English.   

GEMS 83100: Theatre in Society: Festive and Ritual Performance, Thursdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm, 3 credits, Professor Erika Lin.  Cross-listed with THEA 86000. 

This course will examine theories and practices of festive and ritual performance in a range of times and places and will explore their implications for theatre as both an aesthetic object and an efficacious performative enactment. Topics for discussion may include: religious ritual and popular devotion; dance, gesture, and movement; games and sports; roleplaying, especially in relation to race, gender, sexual identity, and class; icons and objects; magic, astrology, and witchcraft; birth and funeral rites; nonlinear temporalities; ritual space and place; holidays and calendar customs; animals and environment; food and drink; violence and combat; erotics and sexuality. Each class session will bring together disparate theatre and performance practices by centering on a particular theme. For instance, we might consider popular devotion in Carnival and Hindu processional drama; audience affect among seventeenth-century Caribbean black ritual healers and twentieth-century U.S. reinvented saint traditions; racial impersonation in relation to commedia’s legacy and Philadelphia mummers; performativity in Malaysian spirit possession and modern pagan witchcraft; and altars and other objects in feminist ritual acts. Culturally specific theatre and performance practices will be analyzed in relation to theoretical work by writers such as Joseph Roach, Diana Taylor, Max Harris, Claire Sponsler, Richard Schechner, Victor Turner, Mikhail Bakhtin, Catherine Bell, Kay Turner, Marina Warner, Johan Huizinga, Brian Sutton-Smith, Carlo Ginzburg, Peter Burke, and Ronald Hutton. Evaluation: active class participation, short weekly response papers, possible brief in-class presentation, research proposal with annotated bibliography, and a final paper. 

Students who are working towards the Certificate in Global Early Modern Studies must write the final paper on an early modern topic in order to have it count towards the Certificate. 


GEMS 83100: Representing Race, Wednesdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm, 3 credits, Professor Judy Sund. Cross-listed with ART 70010.

The course begins with a panhistoric survey of the way “black” people have been represented in the Western world, with emphasis on the ancient and Medieval origins of enduring tropes of blackness and consideration of the question whether “race” is a viable term in discussions of visual cultures that predate the invention of racial categories. This overview prefaces discussion of their re-presentations in modern art; of Black self-representation (including contemporary artists’ pushbacks against longstanding tropes); and of museological re-presentations in current exhibitions and installations.  The class will include visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where curators will discuss the intents and strategies that shaped the Afrofuturist period room (‘Before Yesterday We Could Fly”) and the Carpeaux exhibition (“Why Born a Slave!”).