As the nation-state and national cultures struggle with more mobile and global understandings of political and cultural formation, so too must the ways in which we study them evolve. We have scholars working on a variety of topics including transnational migration, African cinema, global Chinese literature, and a variety of topics in literary theory and cultural studies. The department has hosted three NEH summer seminars on this topic and it represents a more recent area of research for a number of faculty members in all ranks.
Cultural Memory of War
A significant number of our faculty members have made valuable and lasting contributions to the scholarship in the cultural memory of war and its social and political contexts. Our department has been home to 11 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars concentrated on war and memory. Two scholars have established international reputations in interdisciplinary work on the legacy of Vichy in postwar French literature, film journalism, and jurisprudence. We have two scholars who have published extensively on the Germans’ treatment of their Nazi past. These colleagues have all found ways to work together on projects while maintaining their individual research agendas. Yet another colleague has published a monograph on how popular television is employed to help the Lebanese work through the legacy of their 1980s civil war. The department is also home to a journal, Gulag Studies, which is dedicated to understanding the cultural legacy of Soviet internment camps.
The Department of Global Languages and Cultures has collected the largest concentration of active scholars in North America in what might be called ‘post-classical studies’—that is, the study of Greek and Latin, the languages of antiquity, in later periods. Within the department we have two Byzantinists (one of whom also studies Greek language instruction in Renaissance Italy), a medieval Latinist, and a specialist in Renaissance Latin and the classical tradition (Dan Schwarz – History colleague). In 2013 these colleagues organized into a research group, called Classical Transformations and partnered with the largest organized European entity in this area at the Humboldt University in Berlin, to do a series of three conferences between 2013 and 2015 and to explore other forms of collaboration.
Literary and Media Studies
Faculty at every rank publish consistently in literary theory and national literatures. The Literary and Media Studies cluster offers a characteristically translational approach that complements our department’s transnational breadth. The translatability of languages and cultures is as constitutive of world literature and media as their inescapable untranslatability. It is vitally necessary to translate foreign cultural artifacts while exploring the inevitable limits of any such effort, thus resisting the temptations of cultural equivalence and substitutability as well as the converse danger of language nationalism. This approach has informed the cluster’s large body of work, which includes monographs, articles, and volumes in literary theory, literature, and in film and media studies. Our faculty work in a variety of national contexts, such as French, German, Italian, and Russian, explore a plurality of languages, genres, and media as historically and theoretically inflected practices of transnational identity. This is also reflected in our curriculum that offers a large number of courses in film studies.