Literary representations of the Sahara challenge facile assumptions about this undertheorized place. Approached mainly through the prism of adventure and exploitation, the desert is portrayed as a dead space. However, literature and film furnish a unique opportunity to engage critically with the ways Maghrebi and Middle Eastern culture production represents deserts and raises issues of fundamental importance to these societies. This course offers students the opportunity to engage in close readings of novels and film through the theme of the Sahara and Saharan space. Reading through the politics of human mobility and life in the desert will help students to understand how myth, memory, history, coloniality/postcoloniality, and a strong sense of ethics are deeply intertwined in the Saharan sub-genre of African and Middle Eastern literatures. Whether grappling with transcontinental issues of climate change, cannibalization of biodiversity or overexploitation of natural resources, desert-focused cultural production invites us to think critically about the politics of space and place as well as mobility and spatial control as they relate to this supposedly dead nature. Deconstructing reductive Saharanisms, students will see the desert for what it is, rather than what it is portrayed to be or stand for.
Format: seminar; hybrid
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
active participation, short presentation, short weekly responses on GLOW, midterm exam, and final paper
Students are admitted into the course on a first-come-first-serve basis. If the course is over-enrolled, preference will be given to Arabic Studies and Comparative Literature majors and certificates.
Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
Students will receive constant and extensive feedback on their written work. Students will write regular weekly responses on Glow, a reflection statement, two 5pp. papers for midterms, and one 10pp. final paper.
Students will gain critical awareness of the imbrication of power, hegemony, economic injustice, and colonial policies in the disruption of indigenous conceptions of the Saharan space. Students will also be able to question representations of the Sahara as a dead or empty space by engaging with locally produced alternative conceptualizations of place. Finally, students will produce written assignments that address issues of power and environmental discrimination.
ENVI Humanities, Arts + Social Science Electives