Donna Honarpisheh

Undergraduate Discipline


BA, Sarah Lawrence College. MA, University of California–Berkeley. PhD, University of California-Berkeley. Area of primary specialization: comparative literature, aesthetics, postcolonial studies, critical theory, transregional modernisms, cultural studies, and visual culture. Teaching and research interests include: psychoanalysis, postcolonial temporality, theories of abstraction, global avant-garde, diaspora and memory studies, narrative theory and history, oceanic studies, history of the senses, and embodiment and politics of mourning. SLC, 2022–

Undergraduate Courses 2022-2023


Destruction as Form: Aesthetics in the Wake of Violence

Open, Seminar—Fall

As we continue to navigate the ongoing conditions of the pandemic, the threat of climate change, perpetual war, and violence against racial minorities, this course attends to the political, psychic, and ecological forces of societal affliction in which we live. In particular, it asks: what is the work of art and literature in the wake of affliction? How do works of art register the violence of historical trauma and how do they open up new ways of relating to the world? In other words, how do aesthetic mediums not only reflect societal conditions, but also serve as portals to imagine the self/collective, time and history, otherwise? Drawing mostly from a corpus of artists, writers, and filmmakers from the Middle East and Africa (as well as other global examples), the aesthetic works we will engage in this course were produced in the wake or midst of postcolonial national liberation movements, global critiques of authoritarianism, and experiences of contemporary warfare, raising questions about the limits of the nation-state, configurations of life and death, and the psychic affliction that arises from destruction. By attending to literature, film, and art that incorporates not only the subjects of destruction but also the forms they take (fractures, fragments, transhistorical senses of time, dislocated geographies, and abstract forms), we will think simultaneously about how aesthetics is altered in the aftermath of destruction and what its forms enable us to perceive differently. We will reflect on the role of aesthetics and its relationship to repair, how it registers without resolving loss, and how it can offer a critical relation to historical wounds, even if it cannot adequately redeem them.