Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature
Her writing on literature includes a book on Baudelaire, Marx, and Benjamin, Counterfeit Capital (Stanford, 2009). Her essays on lyric poetry, Marxist theories of labor, and Benjamin’s philosophy of history have appeared in Critical Inquiry, Diacritics, and Qui Parle. She is also the English translator of several works of French philosophy, including those by Jacques Derrida and Bernard Stiegler, Sarah Kofman, and Jean Paulhan. Her writing on photography includes numerous essays on historical and contemporary photography in Africa, published in Aperture, Autograph ABP, and History of Photography. She is currently completing a book manuscript entitled How to Write a Visual History of Liberation: Photography and Decolonial Imagination in Africa. The manuscript, based on field research carried out with photographers and in photography collections in Senegal and Benin, explores the relationship between photography and political imagination in francophone West Africa in the years immediately leading up to and following independence from French colonial rule, and was recently awarded a Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation (2013-2014).
Bajorek is also involved in activist collaborations and curatorial projects with partners in several different cities and countries in Africa. In 2010-2011, she was lead curator of Contemporary Africa on Screen (C.A.O.S.) at the South London Gallery. Her art writing and exhibition reviews have appeared in exhibition catalogues, journals, and online, on Africultures, Afriphoto, the Galerie du Jeu de Paume blog, and Africa Is a Country.
Before coming to Hampshire, Bajorek taught at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, where she was senior lecturer in cultural studies. She is currently a research associate in the Faculty of Art, Design, and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.
This course will explore irony as a literary trope and as a broader rhetorical, discursive, and psycho-social phenomenon. Often defined as "saying the opposite of what one means" or "saying one thing and meaning another," irony crosses literary genres, periods, and cultures to become entangled with philosophical inquiry, dialectical negativity, and social critique. We will ask how irony functions in relation to gender and race, paying particularly close attention to its adventures through camp, kitsch, queerness, and postmodern culture; we will ponder the ways irony pits voice against identity, text against image, poetry against prose; and we will challenge irony's reputation for political impotence, positing instead that it contains resources for political insurgency. Discussions will be based on the close reading and analysis of literature, philosophy, and perhaps some films: including Plato, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Brecht, Patrick Chamoiseau, Niq Mhlongo, Judith Butler, Achille Mbembe, Abderrahmane Sissako, and Fanta Regina Nacro.
This course will focus on a small, select number of photographs studied in significant depth. Making use of critical theories of reading and looking, we will examine photographs that are both canonical and non-canonical, from the earliest daguerreotypes in the 19th century to avant-garde experimentation in the 20th century to the expanding global image ecologies of the present. We will study the social, intellectual, and art histories of photography, interrogating concepts of visual representation and issues of technology, identity, and power, and employing the theoretical lenses of writers such as Benjamin, Kracauer, Malek Alloula, and Ariella Azoulay. Students will be required to assemble their own archive of photographs and texts, to develop skills in the digital humanities, and to compose close readings based on visual, theoretical and historical analyses.
Have you ever wondered how we can use a single word to describe a type of poem (sonnet form), the shape taken by objective reality (Plato's theory of forms), and a complex biological entity (life form)? We will examine the concept of form across literature, art, philosophy, and culture, from Plato to the present. Form will allow us to think about how both ideas and things are made, unmade, done, undone, reformed, deformed, and how they are perceived, depicted, and transmitted across time, space, in different media, and different cultures. Students will deepen their experience of both canonical and counter-cultural texts, images, and objects while thinking and writing critically about literature, philosophy, and visual art, including film/video, photography, and mixed media. What do the writers Charles Baudelaire, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Bertolt Brecht, Edouard Glissant, and Gertrude Stein, or the artists El Anatsui, Broomberg and Chanarin, and Maya Deren have to say about form?
Since its invention, photography has produced both anxiety and fascination for writers and writing. This course will ask why writers envy photography, setting out from two significant moments for the West: 19th-century American literature, in which photography is associated with ideas about representation, scientific reason, and autobiography; and the European avant-garde movements of the 1920s and 1930s, in which it is identified with the unconscious, revolution, and utopia. An initial focus on these moments will allow us to expand our inquiry to other geocultural scenes (imperial Latin America, postcolonial Africa). Does photography give rise to new modes of perception, introspection, and description or merely to new metaphors for them? How do different types of inscription affect the nature of subjective experience or of historical consciousness? Possible readings in Douglass, Emerson, Whitman, Benjamin, Brassai, Breton, Proust, Kracauer, and Freud.
Words and pictures are, we know, different beasts. Yet theories of literature and of the image often rely on a common set of ideas -- about the nature of representation or figuration, or about the power of fiction and imagination. This course will explore the many intersections and tensions between literary and visual paradigms. We will be particularly interested in the different status accorded texts and images with respect to epistemological and ideological questions. How do verbal and visual understandings of mimesis, deception, and revelation differ? To what extent are ideas about the image always presupposed by theories of language? How do processes of re-mediation and transcultural appropriation intervene in existing paradigms? Possible readings in Roque Dalton, Denis Diderot, Assia Djebar, Gustave Flaubert, E.T.A. Hoffmann, John Keats, Stephane Mallarme, and Jean Paulhan; additional readings in Alloula, Baudelaire, Benjamin, Derrida, Foucault, Kofman, Nietzsche, Plato, and Wainaina.
This course will interrogate concepts of the city and of urban imagination through literature and film set in or featuring cities both real and fictive. We will explore the city's paradoxical claims to modernity, as well as its postmodern and postcolonial transformations. Specific themes and problems will include the relationship between the city and capital; figures of the masses and the crowd; circulation and control; boredom and novelty; the aesthetic, psychosocial, and political significance of architectural structures; the rise of the megacity and post-industrial dystopias. Readings will be loosely organized around four cities--Paris, New York, Dakar, and Johannesburg--and may include Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, Giannina Braschi, Italo Calvino, Nafissatou Diallo, Langston Hughes, Ishmael Reed, Kgebetli Moele, Ivan Vladislavic, Walt Whitman. Films by Djibril Diop Mambety and Ousmane Sembene, District 9, and King Kong (1933).
A famous philosopher once defined literature as the institution that allows one to "say everything." This definition brings together two qualities of literature that we expect to be at odds: its apparent non-seriousness and therefore, we assume, political impotence and its subtle yet unmistakable association with freedom and risk -- with free speech, democracy, and inventive and open-ended forms of imagination that make new things sayable, thinkable, and even possible. This course will explore these tensions through literary texts and various accounts of literature in an effort to deepen our understanding of the complex place of literature and literary elements in theories of how we change the world. Readings will touch on theories of censorship, performativity, ideology and ideology critique, free speech, democracy, and terror and may include texts by Plato, Nietzsche, Marx, Kathy Acker, Louis Althusser, Charles Baudelaire, Judith Butler, Julio Cortazar, Angela Davis, Jacques Derrida, Eduardo Galeano, Edouard Glissant, Barbara Harlow, Franz Kafka, Thomas Keenan, A.N.C. Kumalo, and selected resistance poems from Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau.