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).

Global Speculative Fiction

Winter 2019-2020

26312 / 36312

Hoda El Shakry

This course examines literary and cinematic works of speculative fiction in a comparative context. An expansive genre that encompasses science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, horror, as well as utopian and dystopian literature, speculative fiction envisions alternate, parallel, possible, or imagined worlds. These worlds often exhibit characteristics such as: scientific and technological advancements; profound social, environmental, or political transformations; time or space travel; life on other planets; artificial intelligence; and evolved, hybrid, or new species. The course reflects on how these texts and films reimagine the past and the present in order to offer radical visions of desirable or undesirable futures. To that end, we will consider how this genre interrogates existential questions about what it means to be human, the nature of consciousness, the relationship between mind/body, thinking/being, and self/other, as well as planetary concerns confronting our species. Literary and cinematic works will be paired with theoretical readings that critically frame speculative and science fiction in relation to questions of gender, race, class, colonialism, bio-politics, human rights, as well as environmental and social justice. In addition to exploring speculative fiction as a way of reading and interpreting the universe, we will examine its generic and aesthetic qualities across a variety of subgenres (Afrofuturism, cyberpunk, steampunk, climate fiction).

Biography, History, Art: Documenting Blakelock

Spring 2019-2020

26522 / 36522

Lawrence Rothfield; Ric Burns

This Gray Center sponsored research practicum is tied to a film project with documentary-maker and Mellon Collaborative Fellow Ric Burns about outsider artist Ralph Blakelock. America’s van Gogh, Blakelock created art far ahead of his time, went mad, and spent nearly twenty years in an asylum before emerging into the glare of flashbulbs as the most sought-after painter of the 1910s, only to end his life as victim of a con game. In between, he sojourned with the Sioux, hobnobbed with Gilded Age millionaires, channeled Longfellow and Mendelsohn in his art, struggled in the emergent New York “art world”, played vaudeville piano, and became one of the first major figures in modern celebrity-driven mass media. How best to capture this kaleidoscopic life and Blakelock’s dizzying art in a documentary is the creative challenge of the seminar. Our focus will be on Blakelock’s Ghost Dance/The Vision of Life. Art Institute conservators, assisted by chemistry department Professor Steven Sibener, will use scientific imaging to see inside the painting, whose provenance and context of production and reception need to be researched. Participants will be assigned to specific topics based on area of expertise. The course should be of particular interest to students in DOVA, Art History, History, English, Psychology, Chemistry, Cinema Studies, and Anthropology. Instructor consent required. Open to students at all levels. Email a letter of interest to Professor Rothfield: lary@uchicago.edu.

Queer Theory

Winter 2019-2020

26885 / 36885

Kris Trujillo

This course aims to offer a foundation in queer theoretical texts. In order to understand the contested definitions of the term “queer” and explore the contours of the field’s major debates, we will work to historicize queer theory’s emergence in the 1980s and 1990s amidst the AIDS crisis. Reading texts by key figures like Foucault, Sedgwick, Butler, Lorde, Bersani, Crimp, Warner, Halperin, Dinshaw, Edelman, Anzaldúa, Ferguson, and Muñoz in addition to prominent issues of journals like GLQ, differences, and Signs, we will approach these pieces as historical artifacts and place these theorists within the communities of intellectuals, activists, and artists out of which their work emerged. We will, thus, imagine queer theory as a literary practice of mournful and militant devotion, trace queer theory’s relationship to feminism and critical race theory, critique the hagiographic tendency of the academic star system, and interrogate the assumptions of queer theory’s secularity. (Theory)

Renaissance Christian Epic: Tasso, Vida, Milton

Spring 2019-2020

29120 / 39120

Joshua Scodel

This course will focus upon the two most important Renaissance Christian epics, Torquato Tasso’s La Gerusalemme liberata/Jerusalem Delivered (first pub. 1581) and John Milton’s Paradise Lost (first pub. 1667), and two brief Biblical epics, Marco Girolamo Vida’s Christiad (1535) and Milton’s Paradise Regained (1671). We will examine these four Renaissance epics as ambitious efforts to revive an ancient and pagan form in order to depict Christian and self-consciously modern visions. We will consider how Renaissance epic poets imitate and emulate both their classical models (primarily Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses) and Judeo-Christian sources (primarily the Bible); seek to forge an elevated and appropriate language for epic in Latin, Italian, and English; espouse new visions of the human, the heroic, and gender relations; and adumbrate distinctively modern national, imperial, and global ambitions. All non-English texts will be read in translation, but students who can read Latin or Italian will be encouraged to read the originals. (Poetry, 1650-1830)

Bad Readers

Winter 2019-2020

39203

Alexis Chema

By the end of the eighteenth century more women and working class readers existed than ever before, and as the ranks of readers grew, so did cultural fears about the dangerous effects of popular, untrained, promiscuous, escapist, or otherwise bad, reading. This course will investigate the democratization of the “reading public,” the debates about the dangers of reading that it provoked, and the ways that these arguments inflect, underlie, or diverge from contemporary anxieties about what constitutes bad reading, from Eve Sedgwick’s critique of paranoid reading to the now daily warnings about fake news. (18th/19th)

Lyric Intimacies in the Renaissance

Winter 2019-2020

22140 / 40140

Sarah Kunjummen

This course will examine how writers in the Atlantic and Mediterranean world used lyric verse as a tool for establishing, imagining or faking intimacy—with potential lovers, employers, friends, and God. Poetry has often been perceived as a peculiarly intimate medium, tasked with providing access to a person’s inner experience: we’ll examine how Renaissance poets created the experience of lyric nearness and track the social functions the poetry of intimacy served. The course will feature British authors such as William Shakespeare, John Donne and Katherine Philips in conversation with Petrarch’s transformational sonnets, verse in the Islamic poetic tradition by Hafez and ‘A’ishah al-Ba’uniyyah, and the work of writers in the Americas such as Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz and Anne Bradstreet. Along the way, we will explore some of the following questions: what was the gender politics of Renaissance lyric? How did writers make space for queer or heteronormative writing and attachment within the conventions of the love poem? What looks familiar about the forms of intimacy we find in these texts? What remains profoundly strange about them?

Postcolonial Bildungsroman

Spring 2019-2020

21212 / 40202

Darrel Chia

In this course, we consider the novel of subject formation in the twentieth-century, with a particular emphasis on postcolonial adaptations of this form. We examine how different instances of the genre play across tropes of aesthetic education, self-making, and nation-building. Readings will likely include Conrad’s Lord Jim, E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm, and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, as well as key critical pieces by Mikhail Bakhtin, Marc Redfield, and Jed Esty, among others.

Miracles, Marvels, and Mystics: Unknowing in Medieval England

Spring 2019-2020

40309

Joe Stadolnik

In this seminar we will explore how premodern literary texts imagined experiences of ‘unknowing’: narrating scenes of astonishment, misapprehension, and disbelief. Our primary readings will draw on a rich tradition of vernacular writing in medieval England. We will read across that tradition’s genres, as writers experimented with ways to represent the wondrous, the occluded, the incomprehensible, and the horrific in a variety of forms, among them spectacular miracle plays, prose exercises in mystical negation, and the poetry of dreamworlds and alchemical secrecy.

Our Biopolitics, Ourselves: Feminist Science Fiction

Spring 2019-2020

21310 / 41310

Hilary Strang

1970s feminist theory made a significant conceptual move in provisionally bracketing off biological sex from the historical/cultural work of gender. Feminist science fiction (in contrast), in its brief flourishing in the 70s and early 80s, finds its utopian moments in the biological, in genetic manipulation, reproductive technology, ecological forms of being and new bodies of a variety of kinds. This class will read science fiction, feminist theory and current critical work that concerns itself with bios, biology and biopolitics in order to ask questions about the divide between nature and culture, what's entailed in imagining the future, what gender and genre have to do with each other, and just what science fiction is and does anyway. Authors may include: Le Guin, Russ, Butler, Piercy, McIntyre, Haraway, Malabou, Fortunati, James, Rubin, Firestone.

Gender, Capital, and Desire: Jane Austen and Critical Interpretation

Autumn 2019-2020

21360 / 41360

Tristan Schweiger

Today, Jane Austen is one of the most famous (perhaps the most famous), most widely read, and most beloved of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British novelists. In the two hundred years since her authorial career, her novels have spawned countless imitations, homages, parodies, films, and miniseries – not to mention a thriving “Janeite” fan culture. For just as long, her novels have been the objects of sustained attention by literary critics, theorists, and historians. This course will offer an in-depth examination of Austen, her literary corpus, and her cultural reception as well as a graduate-level introduction to several important schools of critical and theoretical methodology. We will read all six of Austen’s completed novels in addition to criticism spanning feminism, historicism, Marxism, queer studies, postcolonialism, and psychoanalysis. Readings may include Shoshana Felman, Frances Ferguson, William Galperin, Deidre Lynch, D.A. Miller, Edward Said, Eve Sedgwick, and Raymond Williams.

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