The 1950s and 1960s saw the rise of national liberation movements in what came to be known as the Third World. These movements fought for the sovereignty of “the people” – the masses deprived of their freedom and dignity by imperialism, dictatorship or feudalism. But these movements were not merely political; they also brought forth literary and artistic vanguards and experiments. Thus, Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s novels gave voice to silenced Indonesian histories during and after European colonialism; Pablo Neruda’s poetry helped construct not only a Chilean identity but also a pan-Latin American one that stood against political and economic oppression; and Alfred Faraj’s development of a politically committed theatre created a space for the expression of daily struggles for social and political justice in Egypt and the Arab world.
The sociopolitical and economic upheavals of the mid-20th century thus went hand in hand with the emergence of national theatres, folk dance troupes and the proliferation of patriotic songs. As the interests of the common man were prioritized in the political arena, the cultural scene produced an aesthetic of everyday life in new works and experimental movements— in Syria, with the socialist realism of Sa’dallah Wannous’ plays; in Nigeria, with the folkloric recoding of Chinua Achebe's novels, or in Cuba, with the advent of Julio Garcia Espinosa’s “imperfect cinema” and documentary style. Ironically, since many of the decolonization movements were led by militant authoritarian figures, the period also saw a rise in populist and propagandist arts that helped establish and enforce different personality cults. These, too, had their aesthetic and mass culture ambitions.
Who are “the people” and what does it mean to become a nation? How are nationalism and sovereignty performed in the cultural sphere? What were the main literary and artistic trends that emerged from such movements, and how did these works inform them in return? What kind of utopian or dystopian worlds did the writers and artists of the time portray? Why did the quotidian and the “everyman” become central to so much of the literature of the time? We will take up these questions as we survey the main literary and cultural trends of a period of great sociopolitical and aesthetic influence.
All articles, short stories, poetry, and short-length visual material will be made available through NYU classes. Novels can be bought from any online or store outlets. They will also be available at NYU’s library reserves. Feature films and long documentaries will be made available at Bobst’s Avery Fischer Center for viewing.
ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION:
Punctuality, regular attendance, and participation in class discussions are a must. If you have to miss a class because of illness or religious observance, please notify me (preferably prior to your absence). If a student misses more than two classes without explanation, their final grade will drop by one half letter grade.
All required readings have to be completed in advance of the session. Students are expected to contribute thoughtfully to the class discussion and to engage with the issues raised or arguments made by their fellow students after they have listened respectfully and attentively to them.
You will be required to write (a) three short papers (3 pages each); (b) one research paper proposal and outline; and (c) one research paper (10 pages).
Papers should be submitted through the “assignments” tab on NYU Classes.
Please note that, barring sudden illness or death in the family, no late submissions will be accepted.
LITERARY CRITIQUE: DUE FEB 25TH
Provide a close reading of one of the novels or two of the poems assigned linking the work(s) to the larger themes and literary trends with which they engaged.
ANALYSIS OF A PERFORMANCE: DUE MAR 24TH
Choose a song or a folk dance performance from the assigned material to analyze with special focus on its sociopolitical message and implications.
FILM REVIEW: DUE APR 14TH
Choose one of the films and review it by discussing the cinematic techniques used, the historical moment within which it was produced, and its cultural significance (trend-setting, reception etc).
PRESENTATION: A 10 minute presentation on any of the secondary sources (articles/book chapters etc) assigned on a given week. A sign-up sheet with presentation slots will be provided online after the first session.
APRIL 21ST: Paper Proposal
APRIL 28TH: Paper Outline
MAY 12TH: Final paper due
STYLE SHEET SPECIFICATIONS:
Font: 12-point Times New Roman
One inch margins
MLA, APA or Chicago style citations (whichever you choose, please be systematic).
Literary critique (3 pages) 15%
Analysis of a performance (3 pages) 15%
Film review (3 pages) 15%
Research paper proposal and outline 5%
Research paper (10 pages) 20%
(Please note that these books will also be made available on reserve at Bobst Library)