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2022-2023 Kaplan Scholars Courses




Throughout the past five hundred years, islands have witnessed some of humanity’s most daring experiments in autonomy and revolution, alongside of some of its most ambitious experiments in domination and administration. Is there something about the nature or scale of islands that tempts such experimentation? One thing seems certain: islands loom large in the imagination. A large body of influential writing, painting, and dreaming about islands has accompanied—and even preceded—encounters with them. In this exciting and experimental course, taught by two award-winning teachers, we will examine islands in both their historical and their imaginary aspects, ranging across a wide variety of novels, plays, movies and historical texts. We'll study islands as utopias, colonies, refuges, social laboratories, revolutionary spaces, objects of "discovery," centers of power, prisons, legal anomalies, and, most recently, harbingers of our environmental fate.

Sample Texts

William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Aimé Césaire, Une Tempête
Shawna Yang Ryan, Green Island
Epeli Hau’ofa, “Our Sea of Islands”
Susan Buck-Morss, Hegel, Haiti, and Modern History
R. L. Stevenson, Treasure Island
Ian Fleming, Dr. No
Benh Zeitlin (dir.), Beasts of the Southern Wild
Rom Clements and John Musker (dir.), Moana
David Vine, Island of Shame
Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, video poems.
Craig Santos Perez, from unincorporated territory
Bob Marley, Catch a Fire and Burnin’
Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings
Ishirō Honda (dir.), Godzilla
Thor Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki
Thomas Cole II, “(The) Bikini: Embodying the Bomb”
Raymond Craib, Adventure Capitalism 


Daniel Immerwahr is a professor in the history department, where he teaches global history and U.S. foreign relations. The topics he studies include the United States' empire, its foreign aid policies, and its pop culture (he recently published a scholarly article about Frank Herbert's Dune). His most recent book, How to Hide an Empire, was a national bestseller. He has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New Republic, and Jacobin. He is now writing a book about fire in U.S. history.

Jules Law is a professor in the English department, where he specializes in the Victorian novel, psychoanalysis and gender, and literary theory.  He is the author of The Social Life of Fluids:  Blood, Milk, and Water in the Victorian Novel, and has written widely on gothic and detective literature. He has received numerous teaching and public-service awards, including the Charles Deering McCormick Professorship of Teaching (2007) and the Centro Romero Community Leadership award (2008).



Revolutions: Visualizing Radicalism (Moscow, Madrid, Mexico)

This course examines the travelling aesthetics and politics of radicalism triggered by the Russian (1917) and Mexican (1910) social and cultural revolutions, up to their internationalist conundrums materializing around the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). It follows an interdisciplinary and comparative approach engaging with Russian, Latin American, and European critical theory, visual arts, and literature. Prospective field trips may include visits to the Russian avant-garde collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, Diego Rivera's Industry Murals at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, and Mexican-American muralism in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen. (Note: the Kaplan Institute pays for field trips.) We will examine the continuity of radical aesthetics and politics in works situated on the borderline of art, literature, film, monumentality, and propaganda, both understood in their historical background and rethought in the context of the cultural and social issues the world is facing today.

Sample texts


Sergei Einsenstein, October (1928), Que viva México! (1930)
Esfir Shub, Spain (1939)
André Malraux, Espoir: Sierra de Teruel (1938-1939)
Luis Buñuel, Las Hurdes (1933)


Vladimir Mayakovski, Aleksandr Blok, poetry
Nellie Campobello, Cartucho (1931)
Federico García Lorca, The House of Bernarda Alba (1936)
John Reed, 10 Days That Shook the World (1919)

Visual Art

Murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Josep Renau
Russian Constructivist and Production art
Avant-garde Books by El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, and others

Ephemeral and Performative Art

Revolutionary Posters
Agitation Trains
Transient Monuments

World Exhibitions

Soviet, Mexican and Spanish pavilions at the Paris World's Fair (1937), including the first-ever exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica 


Miguel Caballero (PhD Princeton University, 2017) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Currently finishing a book manuscript on monumentality, conservationism, and iconoclasm titled The Monument of Tomorrow. Conservation and the Avant-Garde in the Spanish Civil War. He also has an online activist platform on HIV-AIDS from a sex-positive perspective called ASS (Amor, Sexo y Serología), a topic which he is currently turning into an academic project as well. He is interested in  modernism and the avant-garde; the relations between literature, philosophy and the visual arts; psychoanalysis; medical humanities; and museum studies.  

Nina Gurianova is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Her scholarship in the fields of literature and art history encompasses both Russian and European modernist and avant-garde movements, with a specific emphasis on the interrelation and mutual influence of aesthetics and politics. Another, no less important problem she addresses deals with the profound symbiosis of the literary and the visual. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, William F. Milton Fund, and IREX.