Una Chung

Hyman H. Kleinman Fellowship in the Humanities

BA, University of California-Berkeley. PhD, Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Special interests include Asian American and postcolonial literatures, new media studies, and critical theory. SLC, 2007–

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Literature

First-Year Studies: Questions of Travel: Writing Place, Writing Movement

Open , FYS—Year

We will begin with an image of a city, Alexandria, as it emerges across a century in the literary works of Lawrence Durell, E. M. Forster, Constantine Cavafy, Nagib Mahfouz, Ibrahim Abdel Meguid, Edwar al-Kharrat, Stratis Tsirkas, Andre Aciman, and Amitav Ghosh. The city belongs to multiple intersecting histories, literary geneaologies, intimate archives of memories and sensations, and the many appearing, disappearing, and non-appearing lives of Alexandrians, travelers, migrants, poets. We will pursue the elusive figure of the city while examining some of the historical forces of the 20th century that have taken part in shaping the particular qualities of this place. We will learn how to think critically about historical and social contexts, to research literary and cultural histories relevant to our primary texts, and to write scholarly essays centering on literary analysis. The second part of the course turns to the figure of the road in novels, memoirs, and travel writing by Jack Kerouac, Che Guavara, Graham Greene, Antal Szerb, Jean Giono, Yoko Tawada, Andrew Pham, Ma Jian, Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat, Meena Alexander, Michael Ondaatje, Michelle de Kretser, Noo Saro-Wiwa, and Teju Cole. We will take a comparative approach to these texts, inquiring into the purposes of travel, the constitution of different kinds of roads, the nature of the journey undertaken, and the worldview evoked by the narration of the traveler’s experience. Individual conference projects may draw on a variety of themes related to questions of travel and literature in diverse times and places, which culminates in a longer research paper on a specific literary topic. Individual conference meetings will alternate biweekly with small-group conference meetings (approximately four students per group), which will provide an ongoing writing workshop environment running parallel to the seminar. In these small-group meetings, we will discuss individual conference projects, as well as read and comment on each other’s seminar essays. The writing workshop will also include several excursions to nearby sites and offer a variety of brief informal exercises on elements of travel writing and other creative nonfiction.

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Rhetoric of Place: Writing in Yonkers

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

This course is part of the Intensive Semester in Yonkers program and no longer open for interviews and registration. Interviews for the program take place during the previous spring semester.

In this seminar, we explore the concept of place through literary and art criticism, as well as students’ own historical research, fieldwork, and direct perception. We investigate the spatial, temporal, and sensory dimensions of place in diverse figures: home, mythos of origin, container technologies, development timelines, migratory mapping, futurity of desire, nowhere of utopia, other spaces of heterotopia, postmodern placelessness, queer disorientation, sacred spaces, histories of hauntings, environmental anima, affective geographies, and imaginary cartographies. We examine social and political histories of Yonkers, as well as investigate the cultural significance of both the architectural/urban designs of built environments (exterior, interior, threshold, frame, center, periphery, etc.) and the natural histories of the Hudson River. Writing assignments ask students to reflect on their own relationships to place through memory, experience, and research-based knowledge, including the politics and poetics of presence, temporariness, and disappearance. Multimodal composition is part of our explorations of writing, including linguistic, visual, aural, and gestural modes of rhetoric, as well as digital tools.

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Self-Experimentation: Cultures of New Media

Open , Lecture—Spring

This is an open lecture that introduces a wide range of topics in new-media studies but is not an introduction to the methods of cultural studies (see History and Fantasy). Also, this is not a media/film history course.

This cultural-studies course explores the world of contemporary new-media culture and electronic arts. We will analyze key aspects of digital media—such as screen, interface, network, procedural rhetoric, and game—in relation to both technical apparatuses and intellectual genealogies related to critical concepts such as writing, capture, image, speed, sensation, and affect. Michel Foucault’s work on notions of self-referentiality and self-cultivation will provide both a historical and a theoretical focal point for a diverse set of readings drawing on a variety of methods of cultural criticism, including Marxist, postcolonial, and feminist theories (e.g., Stuart Hall, Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, Roland Barthes, Michel Serres, Saba Mahmoud, Francois Jullien, Barry Allen, Shigehisa Kuriyama, Yuk Hui). The premise of this course is that the cultural contexts for digital-media use in our society are quite open-ended and subject to constant change. Rather than an extension of the ideological apparatuses animating mass media of the early to mid-20th century, it may be that the contemporary cultural formations surrounding digital media are articulated in complex new ways. The very ambiguousness of the common designation of “new media” is, thus, an appropriate umbrella term for this course, in that new media include emergent forms of resistance to the digital-culture industry—from hackers to slow food to analog love.

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Previous Courses

History and Fantasy: An Introduction to Cultural Studies

Open , Lecture—Spring

This cultural studies course explores a selection of literature, film, video, performance art, installation media art, and sculpture, with an emphasis on feminist and postcolonial artists. The course covers a variety of methods of cultural criticism, as well as key texts in Marxist, postcolonial, and feminist theory. These diverse materials are organized around the central theme of the entanglement of history and fantasy, which appears in contexts as varied as urban development, war, migration, exile, environmental disaster, spiritual journey, psychological disintegration, haunting, and love. These are techno-myths for our time.

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Marxist Aesthetic Theory and New Media Art Practices

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

This course opens in the contemporary milieu of digital media, which are paradoxically both hyperorganized in their penetration of infrastructure and inchoate as a cultural formation. Not for the first time, scholars have been torn between articulating a rupture and tracking a continuity. We begin our study of new media by turning to early 20th-century critical debates that raised the question of “What is literature?” as a way of inquiring into the nature and extent of social transformation caused by the development of capitalism. The function of criticism was also implicitly recontextualized in political terms at the boundary between art and society. Taking these historical literary discourses as points of departure, we further explore the particular significance of studying new media in American culture today. We consider a broad range of both new media arts and commercial digital applications, with a special focus on how to write art and cultural criticism involving new media. The first semester of the course focuses on Marxist literary theory, while the second semester emphasizes the aesthetics and art practices of contemporary digital culture.

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Global Feminisms

Advanced , Seminar—Year

This is a graduate course, open to undergraduates in their junior and senior year.

This course explores the work of feminist intellectuals and artists of the 20th century, with an emphasis on the specific challenges arising within discourses on the global, transnational, diasporic, and indigenous within feminist thought. The common underlying thread of the course is not tied to a concrete movement or ideology but, rather, runs through the collective awareness that the social organization of gender and sexuality always has much to reveal about how a society views labor, embodied knowledge, sensuous life, intimacy, violence, emotional intelligence, environmental embeddedness, species-consciousness, etc. We examine the micropolitics of everyday life, as well as macroformations of power that structure societies and entire transnational regions and blocs. Our site-specific investigations are attentive to the thresholds that lie between regions (geographic, cultural, imaginary) and the complex needs of those who attempt crossings.

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Related Disciplines

Marxist Aesthetic Theory: Literature and New Media

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

This course opens in the contemporary milieu of digital media, which are paradoxically both hyperorganized in their penetration of infrastructure and inchoate as a cultural formation. Not for the first time, scholars have been torn between articulating a rupture and tracking a continuity. We begin our study of new media by turning to early 20th-century critical debates that raised the question “What is literature?” as a way of inquiring into the nature and extent of social transformation caused by the development of capitalism. The function of criticism was also implicitly recontextualized, in political terms, at the boundary between art and society. Taking these historical literary discourses as points of departure, we further explore the particular significance of studying new media in American culture today. We consider a broad range of both new media arts and commercial digital applications, with a special focus on how to write art and cultural criticism involving new media. The first section of the course focuses on Marxist literary theory, while the second section emphasizes contemporary digital studies.

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The Ethnological Temptation: How an Aesthetic Became a Personal Identity

Open , Seminar—Year

This course begins not with a definition of what “Asian Americans are” (as Wikipedia does) but, rather, with a skeptical investigation into the existence of the concept itself. We examine varied historical precedents for contemporary understandings of “Asian American” as a political entity, cultural formation, or personal identity. Intertwined histories of labor, migration, war, philosophy, and art lie half-visible beneath the ordinary surface of everyday language today. We look back at examples of the most creative and potent uses of the terms East, Oriental, and Asian. In the “ethnological book,” as described by Roland Barthes, “appropriation diminishes, the Self’s certitude grows lighter.” The “ethnological temptation” names the moment of a twin arising—liveliness solidified by racial taxonomies—as an aesthetic category gains life by defining a new type of social being. One of our central concerns is to understand how a politics of identity arose as a response to experimental art and technological innovation, as well as came to be deployed as a political tactic in struggles over (neo)liberalism in the United States and in discourses on globalization. The first section of the course focuses on specific histories within Asian American studies, whereas the second section takes a more comparative approach to diverse formations of identity politics—including immigration, race, gender, sexuality, and posthumanism.

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Related Disciplines

Global Feminisms

Seminar

This course asks a simple question: What happens to sex and gender when we travel? We will explore a few of the many causes of transnational movement—immigration, war, political exile, work, education—as they appear in literature, film, and art. These primary cultural sources will provide rich sensory details about such migrations from the perspective of embodied experience. By working with artists’ texts and images, we will not be collecting data about gendered bodies and sexualities; instead, we will develop analytical tools for understanding how bodily experience is captured in language and how that language is used to make decisions about bodies in society. In a nutshell, gender never travels whole and intact across any border. Gender is a part of the force of territorialization. At the same time, the inherent power (or volatility) of the sign of gender has allowed it to animate diverse insurrectionary movements, both social and artistic. In particular, we will work through an assemblage of material, focusing on three transnational sites that pass significantly through South/East Asia, Middle East/North Africa, and US/Europe. This is a writing-intensive course, which will cover different forms of writing—from the short and explosive to the long and thorough.

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War, Violence, Spectacle

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

"Writing has now come face-to-face with a most crucial juncture: to negotiate with the inescapable presence of violence,” says Jason Mohaghegh. This course looks at the fiendish ways in which war haunts Asian/American writing of the late 20th century. Beyond the geopolitical event, wars enter memories, dreams, fantasies; reroute kinship structures and create unexpected alliances; re-map civil societies according to spontaneously naturalized conceptions of an internal enemy, detainee, POW; merge espionage, intelligence, and treachery into tropes of ethnic identity; and blur boundaries of peace and conflict into endless territories of home inseparable from terrains of war. "This is not dialectics; this is irrelevant catastrophe, for though the West forever stands as the First World, the East is never the Second or Third World, but rather the Seventh or Twelfth now becoming a Zero-World (insurgent waves of obsolescence).” (Mohaghegh). We will track literary texts into contagious zones of ancient media and new rituals. We will read analyses of contemporary war and theories of war technologies against the grain to extract the signs of a new aesthetics of violence.

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First-Year Studies: Imaginariums of Globalizing Asia

Open , FYS

This course provides a foundation for engaging in contemporary cultural studies in a transnational framework, with a particular interest in the roving horizon of the East. We will focus on a diverse selection of literature, together with film, video, sound, and other media. Our venture will be to explore an emergent trove of myth, fable, fantasy, image, and meme, which are becoming new imaginariums of cultures evolving in globalizing economies. Maps of this-and-that Asia, sedimented through centuries, appear against an uneven terrain of new cities, migration patterns, finance circuits, media chaos, and polymorphous bodies. There is everywhere a search, an unnamed hero, and a cleaving of East and West. In particular, our study of texts will attempt to understand the appearance of a new type of fictional character that is an elusive figure haunting discourses of a globalizing Asia. This figure is traceless, secretive, fugitive, nomadic, infinitely resourceful, and completely enmeshed in the contemporary world. Tracking this figure, we will find ourselves immersed in esoteric archives of fact, data, discarded things, cybernetic voices, old wigs, fake photos, abandoned houses, maps to elsewhere, and the ever-present signs of insurrectionary movements—political, criminal, poetic.

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Related Disciplines