Topics in Literature: Literature and Global Civil Society

Course Number: ENGL 165GL
Prerequisites: Check on GOLD
Advisory Enrollment Information: May be repeated for credit providing letter designations are different.
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 165AA-ZZ
Quarter: Winter 2011
Day(s): TR
Time: 3:30 PM - 4:45 PM
Location: PHELPS 1508

May be repeated for credit to a maximum of 28 units provided letter designations are different.
Globalization, the rapidly accelerating flows of information, goods, capital, and people across borders in contemporary times, has engendered innumerable pitfalls and challenges. The dangers of an increasingly interconnected globe, from environmental catastrophes to human rights abuses to the so-called “clash of civilizations,” have resulted in various efforts to mitigate these risks, among them the rise of non-governmental organizations and the growth of corporate intervention. Among the most significant strategies to foster dialogue across borders is the global civil society: a theoretical space for dialogue and cross-cultural exchange in which individuals participate without coercion, are free from violence, follow procedure, and build consensus around various global institutions. Yet with the increased saturation of media and monetary globalization as well as with the dissolution of various boundaries, there have never been so many challenges to global dialogue. The notion of a civil society is hotly debated, leading many critics to decry the construction of the “uncivil,” to contest its academic and abstract nature, or to critique its ambivalence to expanding global capitalism.

Our course will trace the genealogy of rights discourses by investigating their theoretical frameworks from past to present. Moreover, we will engage with texts offering lived perspectives on these global shifts. Literature and other cultural representations provide invaluable and often singular accounts of paradigms that are too often abstract. Importantly, they help us question and complicate the forces of capital and dialogic exchange. An investigation into the role genre plays, from literature to autobiography to movies to cartoons, will help deepen this discussion.

We will look at how these dialogues and practices have influenced three global regions in contemporary times, tracing a trajectory from concerns over national players to the dissolution of borders: Eastern Europe and the establishment of the civil society at the close of the Cold War; the Middle East and the problematization of borders; and NATO, encumbered by a new order of risk, damage, and chaos. How have the forces of globalization altered the self, the family, the community? How is globalization related to gender, homophobia, and religious intolerance? How have these forces called into question ideas on borders of nations, of bodies, of ideas? Literature and cultural representations help to voice these concerns brought into being by a volatile global theater. We will read from authors including Mary Kaldor, Muhammad Yunus, Vaclav Havel, Milan Kundera, Salman Rushdie, Hisham Matar, Marjan Satrapi, George Saunders, Margaret Atwood, Jared Diamond, and Thomas Friedman.