Courses

Boldface letters in parentheses after the course descriptions refer to the program requirements that a course fulfills: (A) gateway, (B) fiction, (C) poetry, (D) drama, (E) pre-1650, (F) 1650–1830, (G) 1830–1940, and (H) literary or critical theory. This applies to undergraduate courses only.

The Declaration of Independence

Spring 2016-2017

17950

Eric Slauter

This course explores important intellectual, political, philosophical, legal, economic, social, and religious contexts for the Declaration of Independence. We begin with a consideration of the English Revolution, investigating the texts of the Declaration of Rights of 1689 and Locke’s Second Treatise and their meanings to American revolutionaries. We then consider imperial debates over taxation in the 1760s and 1770s, returning Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography to its original context. Reading Paine’s Common Sense and the letters of Abigail Adams and John Adams we look at the multiple meanings of independence. We study Jefferson’s drafting process, read the Declaration over the shoulders of people on both sides of the Atlantic, and consider clues to contemporary meanings beyond the intentions of Congress. Finally, we briefly engage the post-revolutionary history of the place and meaning of the Declaration in American life. (F)

Romantic Natures

Spring 2016-2017

20212

Timothy Campbell

This survey of British Romantic literary culture will combine canonical texts (with an emphasis on the major poetry) with consideration of the practices and institutions underwriting Romantic engagement with the natural world. We will address foundational and recent critical approaches to the many “natures” of Romanticism. Our contextual materials will engage the art of landscape, an influx of exotic flora, practices of collection and display, the emergent localism and naturalism of Gilbert White, the emergence of geological “deep time,” the (literal) fruits of empire, vegetarianism, and the place of pets. (C, F)

James Joyce’s Ulysses

Spring 2016-2017

21301

Stephen C. Meredith

This course considers themes that include the problems of exile, homelessness, and nationality; the mysteries of paternity and maternity; the meaning of the Return; Joyce's epistemology and his use of dream, fantasy, and hallucinations; and Joyce's experimentation with and use of language. (B, G)

Pale Fire

Spring 2016-2017

22817

Malynne Sternstein

This course is an intensive reading of Pale Fire by Nabokov. (C)

Junior Seminar: Romantic Fiction and the Historical Novel

Spring 2016-2017

24205

Timothy Campbell

This course pursues the emergence of modern historical fiction at the moment when the “British novel” first joined the literary canon. We will focus upon a series of sites where Romantic fiction conceptualized history with special energy and complexity (the imperial Celtic periphery, commercial life, the everyday, and the mode of romance) while exploring the intrinsic connections between historical fiction and the idea of literary history. Primary authors will include Jane Austen, Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, James Hogg, Walter Scott, and Horace Walpole. As a junior seminar, this course is ideally suited for students interested in developing the skills necessary to write a BA Honors paper or those considering graduate work in English. This course will culminate in a substantial critical paper of your own design. Third-year English majors only. (B, F)

The Chicano Novel and American Literary History

Spring 2016-2017

24212

Jose Antonio Arellano

In 1971, the writer Tomás Rivera described the “Chicano renaissance” as a process of self-invention that involved the “exteriorization of our will”—an effort that motivated a “life in search of form.” This course will examine some of the most ambitious works of literature that are the result of this search. Our guiding inquiries will be simultaneously interpretive, theoretical, and historical: What does it mean to think of form as an “exteriorization” of one’s “will”? Whose will do these forms represent (who is the “us” in Rivera’s “our will”)? What representational strategies enable this exteriorization and dramatize its limitations? Why was the novel so often singled out, and why did some feminist writers prefer instead a collection of letters, poems, journal entries, and personal essays? These questions will inform our study of the consolidation of a self-conscious Chicago literature and its attendant literary history. Students of the course will therefore not only become familiar with exciting works of textual art, they will also study the institutional context that enables the consolidation of “a literature,” and a “literary history.” Authors will include José Antonio Villarreal, Tomás Rivera, Rudolfo Anaya, Cherríe Moraga, Ana Castillo, and Gloria Anzaldúa. (B)

Anxiety

Spring 2016-2017

24260

Malynne Sternstein; Anne Flannery

The phenomenon of anxiety emerged as one of the leading psychological disorders of the 20th and 21st centuries. Worrying ourselves into the realm of the pathological, we now have a requisite measure of anxiety for every prescribed stage of life. But why are we so anxious? Considering its prevalence in everyday life, the concept and theories of anxiety have been employed surprisingly seldom as a way into film, fiction, and art. In this course we examine the modern origin of contemporary discourses specific to anxiety and their unique manifestation in cultural artifacts. To understand the complex of anxiety in the so-called Western world, we rely on the theories of Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Alenka Zupančič, fiction by Stoker, Schnitzler, Kafka, and Sebald, and film by Haneke, Kubrick, Ophuls, and Hitchcock. We will also have guest speakers from the fields of clinical psychiatry, geriatric medicine, philosophy, and comparative anthropology. (G, H)

AfroSF

Spring 2016-2017

24810

Brady Smith

Speculative fiction (SF) has long been a key part of African diasporic literary and cultural production. More recently, however, a wide range of African writers and directors have turned to the resources of science fiction and fantasy in order to come to terms with the continent’s changing place in contemporary global modernity. This course examines the place of contemporary African and diasporic science fiction and fantasy within a longer history of both African literature and global SF, asking what the turn to SF offers contemporary African cultural production, and what reading AfroSF can tell us about the shape of our global present. Course materials will include short stories and films by Nnedi Okorafor, Lauren Beukes, Sofia Samatar, Deji Olokutun, Efe Okogu, Waniu Kahiu, Nalo Hopkinson, Samuel Delany and others. (B)

American Fortunes

Spring 2016-2017

25422

Kevin Kimura

Getting rich quick is practically synonymous with the American Dream. But while a fortune might alleviate financial hardship, it creates problems of its own. Like our present moment, the turn of the 20th century saw rapid changes in technology and finance generate unprecedented wealth inequality. In this period of rapid urbanization and industrialization, writers explored how rapidly changing financial circumstances might change a person’s life. This course surveys major American novels from the late 19th and early 20th centuries to ask questions like: How does money articulate with social class in the context of American political ideology? How do writers represent the moral status and responsibilities of the wealthy as different from those of the poor? What can literary texts tell us about the world in which they were produced and consumed? Readings will include texts by William Dean Howells, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Jessie Redmon Fauset. (B, G)

What Was Cultural Studies?

Spring 2016-2017

25850

David Gutherz

Browse through the “Cultural Studies” section of your local bookstore and you are bound to find works on a dizzying array of topics: close readings of vampire films, postcolonial theory, studies of advertising aesthetics, and historical treatises on the cubicle. What do these books have in common? How did this become what we call culture and its study? This course examines the origins, development and institutionalization of cultural studies in Britain, between 1956-1978. The problems that compelled British socialists in this period to develop new methodologies for the study of culture were not so different from those that plague our own time; they too were concerned with changes in the ‘traditional working-class’, with the promises and menaces inherent in new communications technologies and the rise authoritarian populism. Analyzing these phenomena led them to reconsider: What does it mean to call culture a superstructure? Who or what constructs identity? Can symbolic revolts create real change? Some key works we will study include The Long Revolution by Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class and Policing the Crisis, collectively authored by Stuart Hall and his colleagues at the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies. By the end of the course we may hope to gain both a deeper understanding not only of what cultural studies meant in Britain before Thatcher but also what it might become now, in American under Trump. Course intended as an introduction. No prior study of British history or cultural studies required. (H)

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