MY FAVORITE SEMESTER INTELLECTUALLY! ❤️ Before I gush, a few things:
- I’m back to four classes (and also auditing a fifth).
- This has been the best schedule I’ve had so far, with no classes on Thursdays AND Fridays.
- But in terms of sheer reading, I have to average three books per week (not including some of the theory/academic journals I have to read for CompLit & English, as well as my own independent research for my junior tutorial).
- I’ve taken classes with three of the professors in previous semesters (Homi Bhabha, David Carrasco, and David Wang).
Here’s a snapshot of my desk with stacks of books organized according to each class, from left to right, HDS 2052, ENG 191C, and COMPLIT 277:
HDS 2052: Religion Around Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez: Their Writings and Lives — Davíd Carrasco
Profé Carrasco was my Hum 10 seminar professor in my Freshman fall. Here’s a snippet of the blog post I wrote way back in September 2017, Things I Love:
The room is warm. My pulse is throbbing at an almost manic pace. In a hitched breath’s moment of unconscious cerebration, it occurs to me that I am surrounded by knowledge coming to life — in eager minds, raw stories, bustling thoughts, and this palpable sense of convivencia and of shared humanity that emerges from within all of us when we discuss vanished worlds in ancient texts (Odyssey, Oedipus Rex, Poetics, Symposium…). Unbelievable, but somehow it is happening, in this time and place, in this infinite now. (I am really loving my Humanities seminar under Professor David Carrasco! Every time I walk out of class, some ineffable change washes over me; I’m not sure what it is, but I feel just a bit more comfortable with uncertainty and a little bit more certain about what gives me meaning.)
No surprise that I’m taking a class again with Profé!
This class is my first venture into the Harvard Divinity School, looking at literature through the lens of religion. In particular, we focus on two Nobel Prize-winning writers, Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez, and the religion AROUND their writings and lives. ‘Religion’ is meant in the broadest sense of the word — think of homeland and quests, sacred places and borders, memory and myths, terror and magical flight, ghosts and demons, goodness and evil, slavery and freedom, women and machismo, colonial violence and political and spiritual forms of resistance.
I’ve always been intrigued by the connection between holy and profane texts: Confucian ethics and Daoist cosmology have shaped China’s Four Literary Classics, the Greek pantheon of gods have sustained myth and tragedy, Christian symbolism and morality are intertwined with much of European literature; the same can be said for the Indic, the Islamic, and the Buddhist traditions…
The sacred and the secular are always interrelated. Great literature touches something divine.
ENGLISH 191C: Constellations — Homi K. Bhabha
My freshman spring seminar with Professor Bhabha was one of the most formative classes I’ve taken at Harvard. Even several semesters apart, I would often find myself referring to a fragment of conversation from that seminar — a certain way of looking at literature that is interdisciplinary, broadly humanist. I once wrote a short post on ‘Why Literature‘, which was inspired by that seminar.
When I tell people about this class, many are perplexed about the word ‘constellations.’ I picture it as a tapestry made from disparate intellectual threads: clusters of ideas, polyphonic conversations, and what Walter Benjamin calls “the constellation in which his own epoch comes into contact with that of an earlier one” (On the Concept of History). I can’t reduce this class to a single topic — it’s very much about identity, movement, communities, and collective speculation through literature.
The wide arc of historical experience is a genealogy of histories of inequality and injustice, and life-worlds of individuals who seek to make a claim to human dignity from a variety of contexts. How can we conceive of colonization and segregation in dialogue with migration and the predicament of refugees? What does citizenship mean in an age of international cosmopolitanism and national sovereignty?
COMPLIT 277: Literature, Diaspora, and Global Trauma — Karen Thornber
- The voluntary or involuntary migrations of peoples
- A national, ethnic, or religious community living far from its native land
- Ethnic minority groups of migrant origins residing and acting in host countries but maintaining strong sentimental and material links with their countries of origin (Stéphane Dufoix)
‘Diaspora’ has no fixed, singular definition. I like to think of it as dispersions and movements, with globalized communities and networks forming in their wake.
This being my first CompLit class, the comparative aspect really does stand out. Comparisons are never neutral: How do we think beyond our own frame of reference? How can ‘equal’ comparisons be undertaken in an unequal world? Can we start from our own position and not assume it as the center of the universe? Can we make comparisons that don’t reflect the structures of domination of the world?
The syllabus traverses many corners of the globe (every week we move to somewhere new!): African; East, South, Southeast, and West Asian (Chinese, Indian, Iranian, Korean, Vietnamese); and Middle Eastern (Jewish, Lebanese); as well as Latin American and Caribbean. Can we juxtapose traumas of one diaspora beside another?
More broadly speaking, I’m interested in trauma that’s not only event-based, but also prolonged, meandering, constant; not only centered on the poignant, persecuted figure of the refugee, but also the often invisible, assimilating, hybrid migrant.
HISTLIT 98: Junior Tutorial — Catherine Nguyen
I work with my tutor, Dr. Nguyen, towards a 6000-word (roughly 24 pages) essay on any possible topic that is remotely historical/literary, which is to say anything at all. I’m still brainstorming, but I have narrowed it down to the Anthropocene (the geological age of humans) novel, or climate fiction (cli-fi). For a long time, I was exploring my usual interests: diaspora, globalization, capitalism, postcolonialism. They all revolved around big ideas that undergirded my academic study: What does literary self-representation reveal about a subject? What is the relationship between writing and the self?
But, this semester, I’m quite obsessed with a different question: What new challenges does climate change or the Anthropocene pose to the work of the novel?
Our collective (in)ability to imagine climate change or to even imagine a future without us that is immediate, realistic, and urgent is ripe for critical dissection.
I’m totally new to the realm of climate fiction and eco-criticism. If you have recommendations for ANYTHING that could possibly be interesting, please send them my way. I need collisions! Constellations! Violent, rupturing, crazy inspirations!
CHNSLIT 245R: Literature & The State of Emergency — David Der-wei Wang
I’m auditing this class! The state of emergency — in the vein of Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, and Giorgio Agamben — denotes the suspension of regular law and the intervention of the national sovereign. Yet, when the ‘state of emergency’ becomes normalized, regularized, and naturalized, the supposed state of exception becomes the rule.
Through case studies across the Chinese diaspora such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, and Lhasa, the class explores sovereignty, bare life, biopower, necropolitics, cyber-politics, contagion, disaster, slow violence, apocalypse, etc.
The semesters have really flown by. Gosh. Read previous renditions of my semester’s worth of classes below:
- My Junior Fall Harvard Classes!
- My Sophomore Spring Harvard Classes + Some Little Things
- My Sophomore Fall Harvard Classes! (ft. Life)
- My Freshman Spring Harvard Classes
- Embracing Rejection At Harvard (also unexpected surprises)
Happy to chat about any of these topics!!! 🐣✨🌲
Lots of love,