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Attention and Engagement in Contemporary American Poetry
Amy Hollywood

The late Reginald Shepherd writes that the poem is a form of thinking, a thinking out and a thinking through. For many contemporary poets, this thinking requires new and/or hybrid forms, forms often more reminiscent of ancient and medieval religious texts.


Comparative Literature 256. Archeology of Modernity and Visual

The course will include a creative experiments in photography, writing and digital media as well as analytic assignments. VES and GSD students welcome.

Explores contradictions of the modern experience in literature, philosophy, arts and architecture. Topics for 2010: nostalgia and modernization, public freedom and cross-cultural memory, archeology and the creative mapping of the urban space, culture and politics. Special attention to the relationship between critical theory and creative practice. Reading from Benjamin, Simmel, Shklovsky, Nabokov, Kafka, Arendt, Certeau, Lyotard, Derrida.

Reading Derrida II: On Haunting and Messianicity
Amy Hollywood

The course will focus on selected essays by philosopher Jacques Derrida, read against the background of the philosophical, theological, and literary texts with which he is engaged. Readings will likely include work by Sophocles, Antigone, Hamlet, and works by Karl Marx, Nicolaus Abraham and Maria Torok , and Paul Celan, as well as by Derrida.

Christian Sexual Ethics
Mark D. Jordan

What accounts for the prominence of sexual issues in contemporary Christian debates? Is this something new in church history? Is it peculiar to Christian thinking or does it arise from other cultural forces? Is it helpful for Christian ethics to talk so much about sex? This course will take up these questions, together with their assumptions and consequences, in two steps. It will first consider some earlier constructions of sexual topics in Christian theology. It will then study some of the rapid changes in Christian teaching about procreation and pleasure, marriage and parenting, wholeness and virginity, in the last hundred years.

New York: Thank God we were finally going to be adults about it (lie about feelings and not get hurt). Mid-town and a great deal through alumni: a chaise overlooking another chaise in another expensive mid-town apartment garden. Photographs from the following weeks depicted simpler and more robust things on the same chair with different people. Wine, flash cards, little jokes after I was gone.

New Orleans: “1 wants to sleep with you,” 2 told me. There was a hot tub and 2 left for a while.

Honda, Accord (roof): The mountain range visible from my bedroom window as a child rose as two giants, profiles sleeping foot to foot. I hoped others had seen them first and taught their children the stories. Only now there was just blue interrupted by mosquitoes and vultures, so near and far that they were indistinguishable.

Medford: When all the students were home for the summer it was a safe place to be at night. And even after it happened I went back because it’s good to read in some place so campy. Cherry blossoms and romantic emergency campus lighting–Tarantino was subtler.

Austin: Almost two years ago I was in the worst throes of pain and making promises in a blue silk dress. My dainty oral accessory has now supplanted that dress (ruined) as the most expensive piece in my wardrobe.

Cambridge: I pretended we were friends again on the staggered granite pews. I was so busy acting like I liked your dog and didn’t feel hurt that I only noticed the sap when I peeled up my left leg for class.

New York: Alone on the platforms, I remember your rotating maps. I cannot parse the route when you keep re-orienting your hand. I keep staring like we’re watching a full fish tank and then rely on you later and you get us there. We each recognize the houses of friends, and walk by them.

I’d like to propose a moratorium on the improper use of the word miracle.

Example of a Miracle: On Friday I’m going to New York to spend a femme-heavy weekend with my Ladywife and the sweet/pretty Ms. EM. Shabbos dinner with strangers in Brooklyn. I’m just a load of laundry and a manicure away, a bus ride and a work day, an appointment.

At the far end of the room a discredited waltz
Was alive and reciting tales of the conquerors
And their lilies– is all of life thus
A tepid housewarming?

It seems I forfeited my perfume somewhere between Five State November and the dawn of the new decade. I’ve looked for it everywhere and it is gone. Two nights ago I dreamed that I found it– one of those cruel, mundane dreams which blends so casually into reality that you feel robbed midday when you discover you’ve been operating under the misapprehension of two realities. Like the rest of my life: I even pulled down a similar bottle, assuming it was the right one and overturned it onto my wrist. I forgot about the chipped lip and sliced my wrist open, again.

When I was ten my class took over a restaurant for a night to learn about business. I didn’t want to wait tables or cook food or hostess. I wanted to be the great arranger, expediting all the meals, pulling all the different arenas together. My only lasting memory of that evening is of one of the real waiters showing us how to pull a table cloth, like a magician, out from under a set table.

I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got right now. Gently wobbling, trying to reorient myself, I look down and discover that the entire setting has changed beneath me. I keep looking down at my feet, surprised anew. Or I keep acting as if keeping the false past in the periphery will encourage it to become presently true.

Or. I keep waiting to smell like myself again and then realize I no longer want to.

Once an hour I think that I am only a moment away from restoration and then remember that I can’t even beg this away. I keep pausing, mystified, certain that I could rectify this grave problem with one phone call. The truth! If only everyone had a grip on the truth then the good would come tumbling in, would start now, would arrive in nearly no time. I keep acting like my feelings and hope can change this if only t hey are revealed. But I’m wrong. It is like surrendering yourself to someone’s death even though they are still alive. Ashbery is called in but doesn’t help.

… It was time to be off, in another
Direction, toward marshlands and cold, scrolled
Names of cities that sounded as though they existed,
But never had.

“The outburst of nostalgia both enforced and challenged the emerging conception of patriotism and national spirit. If was unclear at first what was to be done with the afflicted soldiers who loved their motherland so much they never wanted to leave it, or for that matter to die for it. When the epidemic of nostalgia spread beyond the Swiss garrison, a more radical treatment was undertaken. The French doctor Jourdan LeConte suggested in his book written during the French Revolution of 1789 that nostalgia had to be cured by inciting pain and terror. As scientific evidence he offered an account of drastic treatment of nostalgia successfully undertaken by the Russians. In 1733 the Russian army was stricken by nostalgia just as it ventured into Germany, the situation becoming dire enough that the general was compelled to come up with a radical treatment of the nostalgic virus. He threatened that ‘the first to fall sick will be buried alive.’ This was a kind of literalization of a metaphor, as life in a foreign country seemed like death. This punishment was reported to be carried out on two or three occasions, which happily cured the Russian army of complaints of nostalgia. (No wonder longing became such an important part of the Russian national identity.) Russian soil proved to be a fertile ground for both native and foreign nostalgia.”