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Topics in Law and Literature: Reparations and Human Rights

ENGL 266.301
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

The totalizing violence of World War II is considered the origin of a new concept of human being as well as a new discourse of human rights after genocide.  This seminar will interrogate this history in the context of Cold War Asia and through the critical framework of reparations.  Reparation is a key term in political theory, but it is also a central concept in psychoanalysis (specifically, object relations theory), yet the two are rarely discussed in relation to one another.  This class will explore the links between political and psychic genealogies of reparation by considering how such genealogies supplement one another in theories of the human being and discourses of human rights.  How does attention to this crossing help us understand better the limits of repairing war, violence, colonialism, and genocide in the trans-Pacific?  In this regard, we will be reading not only political and psychoanalytic theory but also a series of novels and memoirs concerning the internment of Japanese Americans by the U.S. government during World War II; the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending that war; and contemporary legal claims by “comfort women,” young girls and women from Japan’s colonial empire conscripted into sexual slavery.