Representing Human Rights [Full]
Daniel Listoe, Senior Lecturer
- Course: ENGLISH 192, SEM 010
- Class Number: 22716
- Credits: 3 HU
- Time: TR 12:30 - 1:45pm
- Place: CRT 466
“One can feel obliged to look at photographs that record great cruelties and crimes. One should feel obliged to think about what it means to look at them, about the capacity actually to assimilate what they show.”
—Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others
The language of human rights is a call for help. It has become the universal language whereby those under siege seek the world’s help and shelter. Often, those in need cannot speak for themselves and it becomes the tasks of journalists, non-governmental agencies, documentarians, artists, writers, and intellectuals to make the case for those who cannot speak for themselves.
But if appeals to “human rights” are the means by which the powerless are shown to be in need of protection from torture, destruction, abuse, and degradations of all kinds, what is there to be understood about the uneven responses of the powerful? This seminar is designed to think about what it means to encounter portraits of pain built on the very idea of human rights and humanitarian reason. What are the philosophical, political and cultural dimensions of regarding the agony of others? What presentations and representations illicit empathy and action and which become the mere distant backdrop of our daily lives?
To think through these questions we will view and discuss a series of critical documentary films, explore paintings and photography, and read widely, including essays, novels, and poetry.
Students will write two critical essays; engage in a research project; and keep a critical notebook reflecting their discoveries in the readings and viewings.
About the Instructor:
Daniel Listoe (Ph.D., English – Modern Studies) iis a Senior Lecturer in the English Department. Born in San Francisco and raised in Sonoma, CA, he currently lives in Chicago. He has a B.A. from San Francisco State University and an M.A. from Penn State. He has done intensive studies at Trinity College, Dublin and has been a dissertation fellow at UWM’s Center for 21st Century Studies and a Writing Associate at the University of Chicago.
Recent publications include writings on human rights, Holocaust memory and representation, Darfur, and the memorial architecture of Daniel Libeskind. These have has appeared in SubStance, Comparative Literature Studies, Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, and in the collections, (Im)permanence: Cultures In/Out of Time and The World and Darfur.