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  • Columbia: CLEN G6550y NYU: H42.2216-001
    Trauma, Memory, and Performance
    Marianne Hirsch (Columbia)  & Diana Taylor (NYU)

    This course explores the interconnections between trauma, memory, and performance through two major 20th c. events, the Holocaust and Argentina’s ‘Dirty War,’ and the theoretical questions they raise. Do they each have their own unique structure and idiom, or can we think about individual and collective trauma through a translocal, cosmopolitan lens?  Topics include: the performance of state power and state sponsored terror; the individual and collective nature of trauma; the study of embodied practices such as testimony and witnessing; the construction of archives of testimony; testimony, its use in literature, museums, and pedagogy, its the dramatizations by others, its archivization; the social role of sites of memory (Auschwitz, Club Atlético, etc.); theaters of justice such as trials, tribunals and truth commissions; performances of protest and resistance.

    This course draws from classic and recent readings at the juncture of trauma, memory, and performance studies. To build on the paradigms suggested by the Holocaust and Argentina’s ‘Dirty War,’ students will be encouraged to extend the topics explored in class to other sites—slavery, the Gulag, Hiroshima, 9/11, TRC, Tlatelolco, etc.

    Please note that this is a consortium course which will alternate meetings at Columbia and NYU.  Students need to figure travel time into their plans.  We plan to meet on Tuesdays from 4:15-6:30.  During the semester, several evening talks and seminars will be organized in conjunction with the course, both at Columbia and NYU.

    1/16 Introduction: Performing Trauma

    1. Video testimonies by survivors and bystanders
    2. Uses and abuses of survivor testimony
    3. Trauma tourism? Survivor led ‘tours’ of concentration camps
    4. Role of survivor testimony in museums and trauma pedagogy

    1/23 Performances of state power and state sponsored terror

    1. View: Leni Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will

    2. Read: Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies, excerpts [ PDF ]

    3. Read: Claudia Koonz, “The Conquest of Political Culture,”
      The Nazi Conscience
      , chpt 4 [ PDF ]

    4. Read: Diana Taylor, Disappearing Acts, ch 1,2,3

    1/30 Wounding a population: Percepticide—fear, terror, and trauma

    1. Read: Richard Schechner, "Towards a Poetics of Performance," [ PDF ] [ PDF ]
      and from Performance Studies: An Introduction, [ PDF ]
      Ch 2.,"Actuals," and final Ch. "War on terror" [ PDF ]

    2. Read: Michael Taussig, Nervous System, [ PDF ]
      ch 2 “Terror as Usual”,
      and 7 “Maleficium: State Fetishism” [ PDF ]

    3. Read: Taylor: Disappearing Acts, ch. 4 and 5, Percepticide

    4. Read: Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead, Ch 1 and 2. [ PDF ]

    5. Read: Julio Cortázar, Grafitti. [ PDF ]
    1. JAN 30 7:00 TALK AT NYU Deutsches Haus, Sybille Quack  on Berlin Holocaust memorial

    2/6 Trauma: theoretical, clinical, artistic, and socio-political approaches.

    1. View: Alain Resnais and Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima mon amour

    2. Read: Sigmund Freud: Beyond the Pleasure Principle, (esp. chpt 3) “Remembering, Repeating and Working Through” [ PDF ]
    3. Cathy Caruth,. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Testimony and History (esp. chapters 1, 2, 3)

    4. Read: Bessel A. van der Kolk and Onno van der Hart: “The Intrusive Past: The Flexibility of Memory and the Engraving of Trauma” [ PDF ]

    5. Read: Dori Laub, “Bearing Witness and the Vicissitudes of Listening;” ”An Event Without a Witness: Truth Testimony and Survival.” [ PDF ]

    6. Read: Judith Lewis Herman Trauma and Recovery (chpt 1) [ PDF ]

    7. Read: Patricia Yaeger, “Consuming Trauma ” [ PDF ]

    2/13 Embodied memory: Individual and Collective?

    1. Read: Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember (Ch 1-3)

    2. Read: Charlotte Delbo, Days and Memory, excerpt [ PDF ]

    3. Read: Roberta Culbertson, “Embodied Memory, Transcendence and Telling: Recounting Trauma, Re-establishing the Self,” NLH 26 (1995), 169-195 [ PDF ]

    4. Read: Jill Bennett, Art and Affect (chpts 1&2) [ PDF ]

    5. Read: Marianne Hirsch, “Marked by Memory: Feminist Reflection on Trauma and Transmission” [ PDF ]

    6. Read: Patricia Yaeger, “Testimony without Intimacy” [ PDF ]

    2/20 Case study: Torture

    1. Read: Jean Amery, “Torture” [ PDF ]

    2. Read: Jacobo Timerman, Prisoner without a Name, selections [ PDF ]

    3. Read: Alicia Partnoy, The Little School, excerpts That Inferno: Conversations of Five Women Survivors of the Argentine Torture Camp. [ PDF ]

    4. Read: Marianne Hirsch, “The First Blow ” [ PDF ]

    2/27 Theaters of Justice: Victims or Perpetrators

    1. Read: Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem

    2. Read: Shoshana Felman, The Juridical Unconscious, chpts 3, 4 [ PDF ]

    3. Read: Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer:
      “Holocaust Studies/Memory Studies: The Witness and the Archive” [ PDF ]

    3/6 Staging Trauma and Transmission:

    1. Read: Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz, “Shame” [ PDF ]

    2. Read: Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz

    3. Read: Anthony Sher, Primo Time (recommended)

    4. View: Anthony Sherr, Primo

    3/20 Social role of sites of memory—Auschwitz, Campo Atlético, ESMA.

    1. Read: Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer,
      There Was Never a Camp Here [ PDF ]

    2. Read: James Young, The Texture of Memory, Intro and chpt 5

    3. Read: Marcelo Brodsky, Memory Under Construction: The Debate about ESMA

    4. Read: Andreas Huyssen Present Pasts (chpts. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7)

    5. Read: D. Levy and N. Sznaider, “Memory Unbound: The Holocaust and the Formation of Cosmopolitan Memory,” European Journal of Social Theory 5:1 (2002) [ PDF ]

    3/27 Collective trauma : three generations of performance protest:

    1. Read: Abuelas, Madres of Plaza de Mayo and H.I.J.O.S.

    2. Read: Taylor, “The DNA of Performance” [ PDF ]

    3. Read: Marianne Hirsch, “The Generation of Postmemory” [ PDF ]

    4/3 Performances of postmemory

    1. View: Asher Tlalim: Don’t Touch my Holocaust [ PDF ]

    4/10 Discussion

    4/17 Discussion

    4/25 Discussion

    This graduate seminar is team-taught by Marianne Hirsch (Columbia) and Diana Taylor (NYU). Classes will alternate between both campuses. The specific schedule TBA.

    Students must attend all classes.
    Bi-weekly postings consisting of reflections on the readings and class discussion on our discussion forum, (due Monday evening at 10PM) 
    A 10 minute class presentation,
    A final 15pg. paper (paper proposals due April 1).

    Books/Articles availabe at Labyrinths Books  and NYU Bookstore
    Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz
    Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History
    Paul Connerton, How Societes Remember
    Andreas Huyssen Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory
    Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
    Roach, Cities of the Dead
    Taussig, The Nervous System
    Taylor, Disappearing Acts
    Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle



    For more information on the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, visit