Courses

For undergraduate courses, the distribution requirements that a course fulfills will appear in parenthesis at the end of the description. For courses offered prior to 2018-19, distribution requirements are flagged using the following system: (A) gateway, (B) fiction, (C) poetry, (D) drama, (E) pre-1650, (F) 1650–1830, (G) 1830–1940, and (H) literary or critical theory.

Provisional syllabi for some English courses can be found here. Please note that all syllabi are subject to change.

Students should consult the following list of courses that have been approved to fulfill the new literature in translation option for the undergraduate Foreign Language Requirement. Courses taken prior to 2019-20 or otherwise not on this list must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Benjamin Morgan).

History of the Novel

Autumn 2019-2020

11004

Maud Ellmann

We will read one or more novels and novellas from each of the last four centuries and also study movie adaptations of these works. Likely novelists to be studied include Miguel de Cervantes, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Choderlos de Laclos, Jane Austen, Gustave Flaubert, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Henry James, Vladimir Nabokov, Franz Kafka, Tom McCarthy, and Zadie Smith. Film screenings will be scheduled and will also be available for watching in the library. Requirements: one paper of 5-6 pages, one paper of 7-8 pages, regular postings to the online discussion board, and in-class exercises. (Fiction, 1650-1830, 1830-1940, Theory)

The Literature of Riot: The Red Summer of 1919 and African American Literary History

Autumn 2019-2020

12001

Noah Hansen

“The Red Summer of 1919” was a series of race riots that swept the U.S. at the end of WWI, marking a confluence of social tensions around race, labor, and migration with a wider crisis of the world imperial system. This course takes the centenary of 1919 as an opportunity to explore the Red Summer’s legacies in African American literature and political thought. Working in tandem with a series of public programs that aim to “confront the race riots,” we will examine how Black writers have responded directly and obliquely to the upheavals of 1919. Our archive, which includes selections from the early 20th century Black press, important literary treatments, and primary historical documents from http://chicago1919.org, will facilitate a geographically and temporally layered understanding of the Red Summer. Moving from Chicago to D.C. to the seaports of Britain, and from 1919 to the present, we will engage multiple scales of the Red Summer’s significance for racial capitalist modernity. At stake conceptually in the course are questions of historical interpretation and cultural memory: How does one “read” the events of 1919, both as inscriptions of social tensions in their own time, and in relation to the succeeding historical developments that have shaped their memorialization? How do we, and how can we, read 1919 in 2019? Readings include Claude McKay, Cyril Briggs, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Alain Locke, Toni Morrison, and Eve Ewing (1830-1940; Fiction; Poetry).

How to Do Things with Books in Britain, 1910-1960: Modernism, War, and After

Autumn 2019-2020

12003

Zachary Hope

This course examines the many forms and functions of the common reader in British literary history. Beginning with a look back at the early life of this reader, and especially at the purchase their literacies afford them within a burgeoning material culture, we then consider how these literacies and their material dependencies—their reading habits, spaces, and objects—are imperiled as variations of this reader live through experiences of total war, women’s suffrage, interwar anxiety, Blitzing, unhousing, reconstruction, postcolonial displacement, and other moments of profound social change. Readings will include novels, short stories, and essays by Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Graham Greene, Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Bowen, and George Lamming, alongside other contemporary cultural documents–magazines, films, Mass-Observation records—and select pieces of theory and criticism. Assignments include weekly posts, reading surveys, an autoethnography of your own reading habits, and a final paper. (Theory, Fiction, 1830-1940)

Critical Videogame Studies

Autumn 2019-2020

12320

Patrick Jagoda

Since the 1960s, games have arguably blossomed into the world’s most profitable and experimental medium. This course attends specifically to video games, including popular arcade and console games, experimental art games, and educational serious games. Students will analyze both the formal properties and sociopolitical dynamics of video games. Readings by theorists including Ian Bogost, Roger Caillois, Nick Dyer‐Witheford, Mary Flanagan, Jane McGonigal, Lisa Nakamura, and Katie Salen will help us think about the growing field of video game studies. This is a 2019-20 Signature Course in the College. (Theory)

Postmodernism/Postmodernity

Autumn 2019-2020

14002

Zoe Hughes

Postmodernism is a late-twentieth century movement in literature, art, and philosophy that insists on the difference between the objective, or scientific, and lived, or experienced, world. This course introduces students to the central tenets of postmodernism by way of its predecessor, modernism. Is postmodernism a distinct movement or just a kind of modernism? To answer this question, students will engage in comparative analyses of paradigmatic modernist and postmodernist texts. Authors include Samuel Beckett, Octavia Butler, Jeanette Winterson, and Mark Danielewski. Topics include philosophies of art; inheritances of genres/forms, worlds, and technologies; and engagement with issues of race, gender, and sexuality. For the final, students will produce a postmodernist poem or short story or an essay explaining how a text of their choosing reflects and/or deviates from postmodernist norms. (Fiction, 1830-1940, Theory)

Witnessing War

Autumn 2019-2020

14320

Rachel Galvin

War is a defining phenomenon of the twentieth century, yet there is no consensus on how to represent it. How can the experience of extremity or atrocity be described? Who might provide a more trustworthy account of events—a soldier, civilian eyewitness, news reporter, or philosopher? How do political bias and propaganda complicate our understanding of the reliability of war stories? We begin by evaluating arguments about war and its representation by a range of international writers including Wilfred Owen, W.B. Yeats, and Tim O’Brien. Next, we explore the intellectual’s role in witnessing war by reading Primo Levi’s autobiographical account of Auschwitz, The Drowned and the Saved, alongside critical texts by thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Paul Sartre, Edward Said, Susan Sontag, and Judith Butler. In the course of the quarter, we’ll examine a range of classic writings on war by Karl von Clausewitz, Immanuel Kant, Ernst Jünger, Sigmund Freud, Hannah Arendt, and others. In the last part of the course, we consider responses to the United States’ involvement in the wars of the twenty-first century. Texts may include Nick Flynn’s memoir The Ticking Is the Bomb and contemporary poetry from writers such as Don Mee Choi, Mónica de la Torre, Philip Metres, Solmaz Sharif, Juliana Spahr, Ocean Vuong, and C.D. Wright. We conclude with a look at war as represented in painting and photography, and a discussion of Susan Sontag’s controversial New York Times article about the American use of torture at Abu Ghraib prison. (1830-1940, Fiction, Poetry, Theory)

King Arthur in Legend and History

Autumn 2019-2020

15302

Christina von Nolcken

We will consider the historical origins of the Arthurian Legend and some of the ways in which it has been reshaped and used in Britain. We will consider first how the legend was treated in the Middle Ages, most importantly by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century and Thomas Malory in the fifteenth. Then we will turn to the extraordinary revival of interest in the legend that started with the Victorians and which has continued almost unabated to the present. In our discussions we will consider such matters as the political uses that have been made of the legend as well as some of the reasons for its enduring popularity. We will end with a viewing of the 1975 Film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (Fiction, Pre-1650)

Shakespeare II: Tragedies and Romances

Autumn 2019-2020

16600

Tim Harrison

This course explores mainly major plays representing the genres of tragedy and romance; most (but not all) date from the latter half of Shakespeare's career. After having examined how Shakespeare develops and deepens the conventions of tragedy in Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, and Antony and Cleopatra, we will turn our attention to how he complicates and even subverts these conventions in The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. Throughout, we will treat the plays as literary texts, performance prompts, and historical documents. Section attendance is required. This course is part of the College Course Cluster, The Renaissance. (Pre-1650, Drama)

Theories of Gender and Sexuality

Autumn 2019-2020

20001

Lauren Berlant; Kristen Schlit

This is a new one-quarter, seminar-style introductory course for undergraduates. Its aim is triple: to engage scenes and concepts central to the interdisciplinary study of gender and sexuality; to provide familiarity with key theoretical anchors for that study; and to provide skills for deriving the theoretical bases of any kind of method. Students will produce descriptive, argumentative, and experimental engagements with theory and its scenes as the quarter progresses. Prior course experience in gender/sexuality studies (by way of the general education civilization studies courses or other course work) is strongly advised. (Theory)

Narrating Diasporas

Autumn 2019-2020

20050

Sophia Azeb

This course explores how Black writers in the twentieth century variously crafted and defined the African Diaspora while actively navigating this diaspora. Alongside scholarly works in African diaspora theory, readings will include essays and novels by Black writers from the Americas, Europe, and Africa. (Fiction, Theory)

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