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A collection of Comparative Literature's past events.

"English Lyric Poetry, Medieval to Early Modern", Seth Lerer, Distinguished Professor of Literature, University of California at San Diego

Seth Lerer (born 1955) is Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California at San Diego, where he served as Dean of Arts and Humanities from 2009 to 2014. He had previously held the Avalon Foundation Professorship in Humanities at Stanford University. Lerer specializes in historical analyses of the English language, in addition to critical analyses of the works of Medieval and Renaissance authors, particularly Geoffrey Chaucer. He is the author of eight scholarly books, most recently Prospero's Son: Life, Books, Love, and Theater (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Lerer won the 2010 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism and the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism for Children’s Literature: A Readers’ History from Aesop to Harry Potter. He is currently the M. H. Abrams Distinguished Visiting Professor in English at Cornell University.
When Oct 10, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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"This Moment of Manumission: Representing Exceptional Blackness in Claudia Rankine's Citizen and Marvel Comics' Captain America", Jonathan Gray, Associate Professor of English, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Jonathan W. Gray is Associate Professor of English at John Jay College-CUNY. He is the editor of the Journal of Comics and Culture and the author of Civil Rights in the White Literary Imagination (University Press of Mississippi, 2013). Gray is currently working on the book project Illustrating the Race: Representing Blackness in American Comics, which traces depictions of African Americans in comics from 1966 to the present, for Columbia University Press. He has published academic articles on Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, Kyle Baker’s graphic novel Nat Turner, Jay Z’s relationship to Black masculinity, and Trayvon Martin in popular culture. His journalism on comics and popular culture has appeared at EW.com, Salon.com, and The New Inquiry.
When Oct 03, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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Graduate Research Roundtable

When Sep 26, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern
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CGS Arabic Film Series

When Sep 22, 2016
from 07:00 PM to 09:00 PM
Where Foster Auditorium
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Theeb (2014)

"Privately Empowered: African-Islamic Feminism in Northern Nigerian Fiction," Shirin Edwin, Sam Houston State University

When Apr 25, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: My talk is based on my forthcoming book entitled Privately Empowered: Expressing Feminism in Islam in Northern Nigerian Fiction (Northwestern University Press, 2016). It responds to the lack of adequate attention Islam in Africa receives in comparison to Islam in the Middle East and the Arab world. I attribute this neglect to the tight embrace between Islam and politics that has rendered Islamic feminist discourse historically and thematically contextualized in regions where Islamic feminism evolves in concert with the nation-state, and many struggles for legal reforms, activism or social affiliations. In Africa itself, Islam bears the burden of being a “foreign” presence that is considered inimical to African Muslim women’s success. Bridging the blind spots in both African and Islamic feminist theories, I forward the term, African-Islamic feminism, to compel attention to African Muslim women’s private engagement with Islam in potent depictions by three relatively unknown Nigerian novelists, Zaynab Alkali, Hauwa Ali and Abubakar Gimba, due to the texts’ emphases on Muslim women’s personal and private engagements with Islamic ritual and prayer in the quotidian. Such rituals as prayer and the observance of Qur’anic injunctions—Islamic monotheism (shahādah), prayer (ṣalāt and dua), Islamic virtue (akhlāq), among others—privately inculcated for personal fulfillment, regionally and thematically validate those underexplored forms of Islamic feminism whose objectives fall outside the purview of public activity, commonly manifested in activism or in affiliations to organizations.  I conclude that the spiritual universe of African Muslim women may be one where Islam is not the source of their problems or their legislative and political activity, but a spiritual activity that can exist devoid of activist or political forms.

Bio: Shirin Edwin is an associate professor of French in the Department of Foreign Languages at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Her work focuses on Islam in African literatures.

"Neo-Confucian Ethics and Spirit of World Order: A Comparative Study of Tolerance ," Ming Dong Gu, University of Texas, Dallas

When Apr 18, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: Faced with world-wide crises today, the value system based on liberalism has proven to be inadequate on a global scale. There has appeared an urgent need to approach the global predicaments from the perspective of common ethics. In 1993, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions issued a Declaration: “Toward a Global Ethic,” signed by more than 200 leaders from over 40 different faith traditions and spiritual communities. It unequivocally declares: “No new global order without a new global ethic!” This truism lead us to ask: in the construction of a new world order, what moral principle or categorical imperative in Kantian terms can we find in ethical systems of the world which may serve as the spirit of a new world order? This article argues that the Confucian way of tolerance is perhaps a suitable choice because tolerance is now acknowledged as one of the spiritual achievements of modern times and may hold the ethical key to regulating human differences and resolving conflicts involving class, race, religion, nation and culture.  The idea of tolerance is found in all cultural and spiritual traditions, but it is in Confucianism that it was elevated to a moral virtue, a way of life, an ethical theory, and to the exalted status of Tao (恕道) two millennia ago and has remained so since. This article will compare the ideas of tolerance in various traditions, examine the extent to which the Confucian way of tolerance transcends the limitations of regional religions and spiritual faiths, and explore how it may be modernized into the cornerstone of a universal ethics underlying the inner spirit of a new world order.

"On Anxiety: Striving, Failing, Muddling Along," Mari Ruti, University of Toronto

When Apr 11, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: This presentation combines insights from Lacan’s 1961-1962 seminar on anxiety with recent (feminist, queer, and affect theoretical) accounts of neoliberalism to analyze the contemporary Western phenomenon of pervasive anxiety. In his commentary on anxiety, Lacan repeatedly (and humorously) refers to the straight male subject’s sexual anxiety in the face of his female partner’s seemingly infinite capacity for jouissance: the fact that the phallus always falls short of the phallocentric ideal, faltering at the very moment of delivery. Keeping in mind that for Lacan the phallus is ultimately a signifier without a real-life referent––so that women can also aspire to phallic mastery––Lacan’s depiction of “premature detumenescence” seems like an apt metaphor for the predicament of the neoliberal subject whose hunger for self-actualization, accomplishment, and satisfaction (the good life) tends to exceed its capacities, with the result that anxiety is, for many, the status quo of everyday life in today’s society. What are the cultural forces that produce this predicament? Why is it so difficult to get out of? Are there any antidotes to it? And might anxiety even have something to offer even as it derails our quest for a balanced life?

Bio: Mari Ruti is professor of critical theory at the University of Toronto. She is the author of ten books, most recently Between Levinas and Lacan: Self, Other, Ethics (Bloomsbury Press, 2015) and The Ethics of Opting Out: Defiance and Affect in Queer Theory (Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2016).

"Forms of Unevenness: Latin America and the Novel 'New World Time'," Emilio Sauri, University of Massachusetts, Boston

When Apr 04, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: This talk attempts to understand what “the contemporary” has meant to the novel, and in turn should mean, for comparative studies of the novel. I take the contemporary Latin American novel as a test case, and argue for reading it in relation recent transformations in the political configuration of the world-system. No doubt the novel in Latin America has long exhibited an acute awareness of the manner in which relations within what Pascale Casanova calls “world literary space” reflect and often contest unevenly developed relations within that system. Yet, Casanova’s study extends only to a period in which the emergence of peripheral literatures had not only been marked by this awareness, but also tasked with addressing and even compensating for such unevenness. This is the period, in other words, when the accumulation of literary capital approximated the ideology of modernization—a desire for a form of modernity spurred on and, at the same time, circumscribed by the unevenly developed flows of global capital.

What happens to the novel, then, when the conditions of possibility for social and economic modernization within the formerly developing world have been radically altered—if not altogether eliminated—by a deepening crisis in the world economic system? This is an historical shift, which, beginning in the 1970s, would eventually give rise to what the Brazilian philosopher Paulo Arantes describes as “o novo tempo do mundo,” or “new world time,” in which “the very modern notion of progress—and the temporality of history that made it thinkable” is neutralized. I hold that in reading recent works by authors like César Aira, Pola Oloixarac, Nicolás Cabral, and Roberto Bolaño, we can see that how this “novo tempo do mundo” has altered the Latin American novel’s sense of the present to reflect something like a development without developmentalism on the level of narrative. Viewed from this perspective, the question of the contemporary not only calls for a modification of comparative approaches to the study of the novel—as exemplified by Casanova, as well as critics like Fredric Jameson, Roberto Schwarz, and Franco Moretti—but also raises new questions about the political horizon of literature today.

Bio: Emilio Sauri is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature and visual art from the U.S. and Latin America, and reads these in relation to the development of the world-system. He has co-edited a collection of essays titled Literary Materialisms (Palgrave, 2013) with Mathias Nilges, along with a special issue of nonsite with Eugenio Di Stefano, and his work has appeared in MLN, Studies in American Fiction, and Twentieth-Century Literature. He is currently at work on a book project on literature and the ends of autonomy in the Americas.

"The Dulles Plan for Russia: Soviet Literature, Conspiracy Theories, and the Anthropology of Morality," Alexander Panchenko, Russian Academy of Sciences

When Mar 28, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: Conspiracy theories are a powerful explanatory model, or way of thinking, that
influences many cultural forms and social processes throughout the contemporary
world. Generally defined as “the conviction that a secret, omnipotent individual or
group covertly controls the political and social order or some part thereof,”
conspiracy theories include a number of principal ideas and concepts that make
them adaptable to broad variety of discourses and forms of collective imagination.
Proceeding from the necessity to explain and localize evil as a social and moral
category, conspiracy theories produce ethical models that oppose ‘us’ to ‘them’,
‘victims’ to ‘enemies’, ‘heroes’ to ‘anti-heroes’. At the same time, conspiracy theories
are extremely teleological; they do not leave any room for coincidences and
accidents and explain all facts and events as related to intentional and purposeful
activities of ‘evil actors.’ Quite often, conspiracy theories are grounded in holistic
worldviews that lead, in turn, to particular hermeneutic styles. Reality is always
considered to be deceptive; ‘simple’, ‘superficial’, and ‘obvious.’ Explanations must
give place to more complicated intellectual procedures aimed at a disclosure of
‘concealed truth’. From this perspective, the concept of mystery appears to be the
most powerful element of conspiratorial narratives. Conspiracy theories often
motivate political action and social praxis, accompany transformation of institutional
and informational networks, provoke moral panics, and changes of identities.
This talk will focus on continuity of Soviet conspiratorial ideas and narratives in post-Soviet
Russia. What ‘performative shifts’ of late Soviet discourse were adopted and transformed by
‘communities of loss’ in the 1990s and 2000s? Why did conservative nationalism of the
1970s become so significant for Russian popular culture forty years later? What messages
are encoded by the symbolic language of moral panics and conspiracy theories related to the
‘imaginary West’ in the late Soviet and post-Soviet Russian society? These questions can be
at least partly answered by an analysis of the so called Dulles Plan for Russia, a
conspiratorial forgery based on borrowings from the novel Vechnyi Zov (the Eternal
Call, 1971–76) by the Soviet writer Anatoliy Ivanov. The talk deals with its history,
ideological contexts and popular reception in present day Russia.

Bio: Alexander A. Panchenko is Director of the Research Center for Literary Theory and Interdisciplinary Studies at the Institute of Russian Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg, Russia), a Professor of Social Anthropology at St. Petersburg State University (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), and the Director of the Center for Anthropology of Religion at the European University at St. Petersburg.  His research interests include religious folklore and vernacular religion in Russia and Europe, theory and history of folklore research, contemporary folklore and popular culture, and anthropological approaches to the study of Russian literature.  He has published more than 100 research works (including two books) in Russian and other European languages on vernacular religion in rural Russia; religious movements in modern Russia; the political use of folklore in the Soviet Union, and comparative studies in folklore and the anthropology of religion.

"So Say We All: The Fiction of World Science Fiction," Arielle Saiber, Bowdoin College

When Mar 21, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: Environmental change and disaster.  The evolution and fate of the human race.  Understanding the Other (gender, race, sexuality, class, belief, the alien).  The ethics of technoscience.  The possibility of space and/or time travel.  Issues of extra-Terran colonization and colonialism.  Future world wars.  Dystopias and utopias.  What/where is reality?  What if X had happened, instead of Y?  In many of its questions and critiques the genre of science fiction (SF) is, per force, global.  Depending how you define SF and proto-SF, one can find beginning points with H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Mary Shelley, and even Dante and Lucian.  As a designated literary genre, however, SF began in the US in the 1920s; and it was the US, followed quickly by England, and predominantly by white men in both countries, whose perspective quickly came to dominate the field.  Elsewhere in the world, genre SF (literature, film, etc.) evolved at various moments from the mid-twentieth century on, at times in imitation of Anglophone SF, at times in conversation with it, and at times with a concerted effort to build a narrative set in and reflective of an author’s culture.  Dr. Saiber's talk will address this tension between the apparently “global” nature of SF and the inevitably “local” characteristics implicit within its production.  She will give an overview of the current state of “World Science Fiction” and then focus on one country’s production—a country few would ever associate with SF, and yet one with a significant output since the 1950s, and with notable local peculiarities: Italy."

Bio: Arielle Saber is Associate Professor of Italian, Bowdoin College (Ph.D., Italian Literature, Yale, 1999). She has published articles on medieval and early modern Italian literature; early modern mathematics, print history, and advice manuals; literature & science studies; genre theory and experimental electronic music; and Dante in contemporary culture. Her book Giordano Bruno and the Geometry of Language came out in 2005 (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate Press), and her co-edited anthology Images of Quattrocento Florence: Writings on Literature, History and Art in 2000 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).  She has also co-edited special issues of Configurations (“Mathematics and the Imagination”), Dante Studies, and California Italian Studies.

"Unnatural Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Time Travel Fiction," Biwu Shang, Shanghai Jiaotong University

When Mar 14, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: The first decade of the twenty-first century witnessed an upsurge and a flourishing of time travel fiction in China, which is physically, logically, and/or humanly impossible. The boom of this new narrative genre has been fueled in no small part by the so-called “postmodernist turn” coupled with the “historiographical turn”, to the degree that it is no longer possible to read it along the lines of traditional narrative theory. With contemporary Chinese time travel fiction as its central concern, this article pursues four major goals: 1) to uncover its dominant unnatural patterns and means of time travel, 2) to reveal its unnaturalness from such perspectives as metalepsis, prolepsis, self-contradictory narration, and multiperson narration, 3) to examine its consequences and values of being unnatural, and 4) to offer a way of naturalizing it by suggesting the intersection of unnatural narratology with ethical narratology.

Bio: Biwu Shang is a Distinguished Research Fellow of English at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, editor of Frontiers of Narrative Studies. His areas of research include narrative theory, ethical literary criticism, and contemporary Anglo-American fiction. He is the author of two critical monographs (In Pursuit of Narrative Dynamics, 2011; Contemporary Western Narratology: Postclassical Perspectives, 2013). His writings were published or are forthcoming in such journals as Style, Journal of Literary Semantics, CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, Semiotica, Neohelicon, Primerjalna Književnost, and arcadia: International Journal of Literary Studies.

"Marginocentric Afterlives of Bruno Schulz and the Migration of Forms," Adam Zachary Newton, Yeshiva University

When Feb 29, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: The third millennium dawned for Polish modernist Bruno Schulz (1898-1942) with a remarkable instance of scission and damaged contiguity. Almost certainly his last creative works, nursery murals that Schulz had painted for a Gestapo officer’s villa were discovered and then spirited out of Drohobycz in several fragments.  Transported to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem with a portion left in situ in Ukraine, they now endure an uncannily ruptured afterlife in unintended echo of what Schulz celebrated mythopoeically as 'the migration of forms.' That this fate also echoes a series of transpositions and appropriations undergone by the biographical figure of Schulz himself across the border of the late 20th and early 21st century prose fiction makes the episode especially uncanny. In this talk, we will consider an unlikely epilogue of artist/artifact transit across the boundaries of nation, language, and cultural heritage.

Bio: Dr. Adam Zachary Newton is University Professor and Ronald P. Stanton Chair in Literature and the Humanities at Yeshiva University and former chair of the Yeshiva College English department. He did his graduate work in literature and philosophy at Harvard University, and in addition to his many articles, essays, and plenary talks, has published five books under the general rubric of the ethics of reading in the areas of Narrative Theory, American Studies, Modern Jewish Thought, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies. He is now at work on a sixth monograph on the subject of Jewish Studies and the academic Humanities.

"Enlightened Exoticism? Lady Anne Barnard at the Cape of Good Hope, 1797-1802," Greg Clingham, Bucknell University/Bucknell University Press

When Feb 22, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: Lady Anne Lindsay Barnard (1750-1825) was the wife of a colonial administrator at the Cape of Good Hope, 1797-1802, under the governorship of Sir George Macartney and Sir George Yonge. The object of merely sentimental interest till the 1990s, critical attention to her letters, diaries and watercolours reveals the engagement of a subtle, sceptical, and creative mind whose work and wit offer remarkable insights into life in the colony – standing at the crossroads of East and West at a crucial historical moment – and that raise questions about the relations between history, fiction and politics that continue to be relevant today.

Bio: Greg Clingham is the John P. Crozer Chair of English Literature and the Director of the University Press at Bucknell University, Pennsylvania, where he teaches courses on literature 1650-1850, and on a wide range of texts in their relations with law, history, East-West relations, the exotic, memory, translation, and landscape. He is the author of Johnson, Writing, and Memory (Cambridge, 2002) and also of many other books and essays on Johnson, Boswell, Dryden, and issues in historiography and translation.

"Beyond the Color Curtain: Cold War Networks and the Global South Imaginary," Anne Garland Mahler, University of Arizona

When Feb 15, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: The networked nature of politics today has led to a divergence from postcolonial and ethnic studies rubrics towards horizontalist approaches to cultural criticism like the Global South.  This talk details the cultural history of this horizontal turn through tracing the roots of the contemporary notion of the Global South to the ideology of a profoundly influential but largely elided cold war movement called the Tricontinental.  Mahler argues that this ideology, which was disseminated among the international Left through the Tricontinental’s expansive cultural production, revised a black Atlantic resistant subjectivity into a global vision of subaltern resistance that is resurfacing today.

Bio: Dr. Anne Garland Mahler is an assistant professor of Latin American cultural studies at the University of Arizona.  Her research interests include global south studies, black internationalism, and cold war politics, and her book manuscript is entitled The Color of Resistance: Race and Solidarity from the Tricontinental to the Global South.  Her second project, Men with Guns: Cultures of Paramilitarism in the Modern Americas, was awarded a 2015 Ford-LASA Special Projects Grant.  Mahler’s articles have appeared in Latin American Research Review; Small Axe: A Caribbean Platform for Criticism; Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies; and U.S. Latino(a) Studies.  

"Revolutionary Indians: Ramón Emerterio Betances & the Specters of 19th Century Caribbean Patriotism," Kahlil Chaar-Pérez, University of Pittsburgh

When Feb 08, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: This lecture will examine the revolutionary aesthetics and politics of the late-nineteenth-century Puerto Rican intellectual Ramón Emeterio Betances.  An under examined figure in Caribbean history, Betances stood out among the contemporary Hispanic Caribbean elite for his singular experiences of dislocation: he lived most of his life in France; he included Haiti within his vision of a Caribbean federation; and he was of African descent.   Focusing on his early romantic novella The Two Indians (1853) and his texts on Haiti, we will ask how Betances’s resignification of indigeneity and patriotism offer alternate routes to understanding the emergence of nationalist traditions in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. 

Bio: Kahlil Chaar-Pérez is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh through the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures. He specializes in Caribbean and Latin American modern and contemporary literatures and culture, recently co-edited a special issue of Discourse journal dedicated to Édouard Glissant, and is currently working on a book project about creole intellectuals, anticolonial politics, and visions of colonial crisis in nineteenth-century Cuba and Puerto Rico.

"Temporalities of Emergency: Literary Form and Counter-Insurgency in Twentieth-Century Jamacian Fiction," Nicole Rizzuto, Georgetown University

When Feb 01, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
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Abstract: The last decade has witnessed ongoing debates about the implementation of Emergency law in response to insurgency and terrorism. A question world powers confront post 9/11 is, “what is the temporality of Emergency; what justifies its extension through time?” Colonial novels of Jamaica demonstrate that this question has a history and a literary history.  In their formal stagings of the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865 and the brutal counter-insurgency that ensued, forgotten works by Herbert George de Lisser and Victor Stafford Reid alternately elaborate and challenge a rhetoric of “necessity” that governs arguments for the temporal extension of Emergency law during the colonial era, a rhetoric that has returned anew today.

Bio: Nicole Rizzuto is Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University. She is author of Insurgent Testimonies: Witnessing Colonial Trauma in Modern and Anglophone Literature (Fordham University Press, December 2015). Her work appears in Comparative Literature, College Literature, Twentieth-Century Literature, Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, World Picture, and Contemporary Literature.

 

"When Liberation Coincides with Total Destruction: Walt Whitman's Biopolitics in Post-Katrina New Orleans and the Second Gulf War," Christian Haines, Dartmouth College

When Jan 25, 2016
from 12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
Where 102 Kern Building
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Abstract: This paper argues for a biopolitical approach to Walt Whitman’s poetry, one that considers how Whitman locates utopian possibility in a poetics of the flesh. I examine two adaptations of Whitman’s poetry, a 2009 Levi’s Jeans commercial directed by Cary Fukunaga and Rob Halpern’s 2012 collection of poetry Music for Porn. The former stages Whitman’s utopian aspirations in post-Katrina New Orleans, the latter revises Whitman’s Civil War poetry in response to the second Gulf War. In both cases, the historical wounds borne by bodies become sites for reimagining social futures. Whitman’s name, I propose, becomes a crossroads in which the long disaster of American exceptionalism converges with struggles to construct a world beyond the constraints of capitalist and state formations.

Bio: Christian Haines is Assistant Professor of English at Dartmouth College. He is completing his first book, A Desire Called America: Biopolitics, Utopia, and the Literary Commons, which examines utopian figurations of corporeality in nineteenth-century and contemporary U.S. literature. He has published essays in journals including Criticism, Genre, and Angelaki: A Journal of the Theoretical Humanities. He is co-editor and a contributor to a forthcoming special issue of Cultural Critique entitled “What Comes After the Subject?” His current research examines the relationship between contemporary cultural production and finance capital.