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Reading Transnational Cultures


Module description

In this module we explore the ways in which culture relates to the ideas of nation and the transnational by encouraging you to work with cultural artefacts which engage with more than one cultural context.

We will consider questions like:

  • How important or restricting is it to explore culture within a national context?
  • What does a text need to do to be described as transnational?
  • Can our understanding of these categories be transformed by our engagement with literary and film texts?
  • What are some of the multiple ways in which a text can engage with more than one culture?
  • Are these always liberating and transformative or can they also be oppressive and reactionary?
  • How important is language to these questions?
  • Do texts have to be monolingual or does transnationality require an engagement with more than one language?

We will work together as experts in different cultural contexts to explore these ideas in relation to specific texts.

Indicative syllabus

  • Introduction
  • France and Americanisation: Jean-Luc Godard, Breathless (1960)
  • Germany and Americanisation: Wim Wenders, The American Friend (1977)
  • Enlightenment perspectives (i) France and England: Voltaire, Lettres philosophiques (1734)
  • Enlightenment perspectives (ii) Persia and France: Montesquieu, Lettres persanes (1721 rev. ed. 1754)
  • Global topics, marginal contributions: concentrationary literature from the Spanish Civil War
  • Diaspora in Latin America: Sandra Kogut, The Hungarian Passport (2001)
  • Crossing borders and genres in Japanese literature: Ian Hideo Levy, A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard (1992); Murakami Haruki, the Baker Attack stories and their film versions
  • Japan postwar youth culture: Season of the Sun/Taiyo no kisetsu (Ishihara Shintaro, 1955), Crazed Fruit/Kurutta Kajitsu (Nakahira Ko, 1956)

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • understand the ways in which culture relates to the ideas of nation and the transnational
  • understand the complexities of working with cultural artefacts from more than one cultural context
  • have gained skills in literary and filmic analysis
  • be able to reflect in depth on the significance of language for understanding cultures.