Literature and Cultural Studies: Racialized Conceptions of the Past in Narrative (Literature 499)




Meeting One:

            Sigmund Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia.”

Samuel Raphael, Theatres of Memory (First Chapter)


Meeting Two:

            Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism (Part One 1-66)


Meeting Three:

            Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Illuminations

Samuel Raphael, Theatres of Memory (Second Chapter)


Meeting Four:

            Karl Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (to page 41)


Meeting Five:

            Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx (first two chapters)


Meeting Six:

            Fredric Jameson, “Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” The Anti-Aesthetic

David Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country, Section One


Meeting Seven:

            Russ Castronovo, “Political Necrophilia.” 

David Lowenthal The Past is a Foreign Country, Section Two


Meeting Eight:

            Charles W. Mills, Racial Contract (first two chapters)


Meeting Nine:

            Toni Morison, Beloved



Benjamin, Walter.  “Thesis on the Philosophy of History”.  Illuminations.  New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968. 

Castronovo, Russ.  “Political Necrophilia.”  Boundary 2: An International Journal of Literature and Culture 27.2 (Summer 2000):133.

Derrida, Jacques.  Specters of Marx: the State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the International.  Trans. Peggy Kamuf.  New York: Routledge, 1994: 3-76.

Freud, Sigmund.  Moses and Monotheism.  Trans. Katherine Jones.  New York: Random Books, 1939: 1-66.

---.  “Mourning and Melancholia.”  1917.  The Standard Edition of Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 24 vols. James Strachey ed. and trans. London: Hogarth Press, 1953-74, vol. 14: 237-60.

Jameson, Fredric.  “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”.  The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. Ed. Hal Foster.  New York: The New York Press, 1998: 127-44

Lowenthal, David.  The Past is a Foreign Country.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985: 3-262.

Marx, Karl.  The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.  4th ed.  New York: International Publishers, 1998: 15-41.

Mills, Charles.  Racial Contract.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.

Morrison, Toni.  Beloved.  New York: Vintage, 2004.

Samuel, Raphael.  Theatres of Memory.  New York: Verso, 1994: 3-204.



The independent study will be similar to a “Literature and Philosophy” course, only it will concentrate on the philosophy of history and its relation to narrative theory and cultural studies more precisely. 



To investigate the intersections between history, fiction, and nationalism, especially in how they result in nostalgic or “necrophilic” relations to a fantasized and racialized conception of the past.


Nature of Study:

The course will largely consist of independent reading and in-depth discussion of the texts in consultation with the professor.


Role of Professor:

The professor will provide background for the texts, their context, and the theoretical issues that they raise; offer feedback on the interpretations and/or discussion questions that the student will present each week; and provide commentary on the final essay.


Frequency of Meetings:

The 1½-hour meetings will occur every week and a half throughout the Winter semester.



Along with brief response papers and/or discussion questions for each meeting, the student will write one eight-page paper, incorporating at least three of the theoretical texts listed below in an in-depth analysis of Toni Morrison’s Beloved.