8 sept. 2015

Docencia en Law and Literature 2015/2016. Department of English | Division of the Humanities. University of Chicago (

Department of English | Division of the Humanities

ENGL 28612

Human Rights Witness

(Law and Literature)
Spring, 2015-2016

Thakkar, Sonali

This course examines contemporary narratives about human rights and their violation, focusing in particular on “witnessing” and “testimony” as political as well as aesthetic forms. We will discuss novels, memoirs, legal and political documents, films, reportage, and activist writings in order to consider how these works register the experience of witnessing human rights violations. We will pay special attention to one genre of witnessing—testimony—and we will consider its formal qualities and ethical significance in Law and Literature. The testimonies we will examine speak to a range of sometimes overlapping experiences, including those of active or passive complicity, engaged opposition and resistance, and victimhood and survival, and we will investigate how their form, narrative, circulation and reception generate powerful but sometimes competing claims about responsibility, injury, and reparation. We will look at attempts to record and reckon with atrocity while it is taking place (for example, war journalism, the writings of political prisoners, and the reports that NGO’s such as Human Rights Watch produce), in order to understand the moral and political force of testimony when it is put to work as a way of raising awareness and inciting action in the present, and we will also consider literary and legal work produced in the aftermath of human rights violations (for instance, the archive of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and various novels and memoirs) that are concerned with the problem of how to remember, recount, and memorialize the past. Readings for this course may include works by Ishmael Beah, Roberto Bolaño, J.M. Coetzee, Ariel Dorfman, Achmat Dangor, Mahasweta Devi, Nawal El Saadawi, Philip Gourevitch, Uzodinma Iweala, Clea Koff, Antjie Krog, Primo Levi, Rigoberta Menchu, Michael Ondaatje, Luisa Valenzuela, with secondary readings by John Beverley, Jacques Derrida, Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Elaine Scarry, Joseph Slaughter, Susan Sontag, and selections from primary sources including the report of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and reports by human rights NGOs. (B, H)
Department of English | Division of the Humanities
1115 E. 58th Street Chicago, IL 60637
tel: 773.702.8536 | fax: 773.702.24
University of Chicago. Department of English

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