The course catalog for 2021-2022 as well as Provisional syllabi for some English courses can be found in Department of English Language & Literature - Syllabi & Reading Lists. Please note that all syllabi are subject to change.
This course explores 19th-century slave emancipation in the United States as conceived in imaginative literature and in the post-World War II historical imagination.
This course offers an introduction to fiction from the Gilded Age and Progressive Era in the US. We'll ask how short stories and novels intervene in the period's debates about US imperialism, immigration, corporate capitalism, eugenics, racism, and democracy; we'll also examine fiction's role in writing the history of the Civil War, sectional reconcilation, and the racial violence attending Reconstruction and its aftermath. Paying close attention to how and where our texts were first published and read, we'll consider the usefulness of the categories that have described them (such as regionalism, realism, and naturalism). Authors may include: Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, Stephen Crane, Pauline Hopkins, Upton Sinclair, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton.
This course will introduce students to recent debates in the environmental humanities and simultaneously to a range of creative responses across fiction, documentary, poetry, and the visual arts spurred by the effects of what has come to be called the Anthropocene epoch (despite substantive challenges to the term that we will address)—in a period of perceived grave environmental crisis. Students will be asked to respond critically to the works at hand, but also to conduct their own research and on-site fieldwork in Chicago on an environmental issue of their choosing. Students must be available for several field trips.
It has been nearly fifteen years since Isabel Hofmeyr urged thinking across geographies in her essay “The Black Atlantic Meets the Indian Ocean.” The Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean are not newly connected, but rather have been connected through the circulation of labor and goods since antiquity. How does our understanding of regimes like slavery and contract labor, and concepts like diaspora and migration, change when we think betwixt and between? This interdisciplinary seminar takes up this mantle, looking to literature, art, theory, and history that provide new accounts and imaginaries of the Caribbean, Southern and East Africa, and the Indian subcontinent—and the waters that reach their shores.
Readings may include Andrew Liu and Anna Arabindan-Kesson on goods like tea and cotton, Jazmin Graves on the African Indian Sidi community, Neelofer Qadir on narratives of South Asian labor migration to East Africa, among others. Writers and artists may include Gaiutra Bahadur, Amitav Ghosh, Andil Gosine, and Sharlene Khan. In addition, we may look to scholarship that conceptually crosses these ocean worlds, such as Durba Mitra and Jordache Ellapen on South-South and Afro-Asian feminisms. While this course will be conducted in English, participants are encouraged to bring materials and expertise that move beyond an Anglophone frame
As critics have rediscovered the fiction of the Romantic period in recent years, they have found not only neglected literary texts worthy of recovery but also signs of the emergence of many qualities that we take to mark the modernity of the British novel: investment in deep interiority, altered forms of narrative authority, allegiance to a national canon, and cognizance of a publishing marketplace that was newly saturated with choices, structures by serials, and segmented into subgenres. We will particularly organize this course around one further sign of the Romantic novel’s modernity: an unprecedented preoccupation with the representation of cultural-historical specificity.
Literary history has come to recognize Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels, which established the historical novel’s “classical form,” as the embodiment of a distinctly Romantic historical impulse. But Scott’s influential practice of history was only one of many models available in its time, and we will follow the lead of recent critics who have generated considerably more complex accounts of historical fiction by taking issue with presumptions about Scott’s priority—both in his own day and in our own. As we mark the emergence of the historical novel, we will also situate this subgenre within a wider expansion of the code of realism that attended to social-historical phenomena and processes in new and enduring ways.
This course consists of a chapter-by-chapter introduction to Ulysses. We will focus on such themes as the city, aesthetics, politics, sex, food, religion, and the family, while paying close attention to Joyce’s use of multiple narrators and styles. Students are strongly encouraged to read Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Homer’s Odyssey as preparation for this course. Assignments will consist of quizzes, collaborative class presentations, regular contributions to the online discussion board, and a final paper
From the late 1950s New York became a world center for innovative poetry, painting, jazz and dance. This course explores the networks that linked uptown and downtown, black and white, queer and straight and other scenes, with the tensions both productive and destructive these created.
This course examines the innovative, creative forms autobiography has taken in the last one hundred years in literature. We will study closely works written between 1933 and 2013 that are exceptional for the way they challenge, subvert and invigorate the autobiographical genre. From unpublished sketches to magazine essays and full-length books, we will see autobiography take many forms and engage with multiple genres and media. These include biography, memoir, fiction, literary criticism, travel literature, the graphic novel and photography. Producing various mutations of the autobiographical genre, these works address some of the same concerns: the self, truth, memory, authenticity, agency and testimony. We will complement discussions of these universal issues with material and historical considerations, examining how the works first appeared and were received. Autobiography will prove a privileged site for probing constructions of family narratives, identity politics and public personas. The main authors studied are Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin, Vladimir Nabokov, Roland Barthes, Paul Auster, Doris Lessing, Marjane Satrapi and W.G. Sebald.
This course investigates the ways that digital and networked media have changed contemporary aesthetics, forms, storytelling practices, and cultures. Along the way, we will analyze electronic literature, Twine games, interactive dramas, video games, transmedia narratives, and more. Formally, we will explore concepts such as multilinear narrative, immersive and navigable worlds, network aesthetics, interactive difficulty, aleatory poetics, and videogame mechanics. Throughout the quarter, our analysis of computational media aesthetics will be haunted by matters of race, gender, sexuality, class, and other ghosts in the machine. Students need not be technologically gifted or savvy, but a wide-ranging imagination and interest in new media cultures will make for a more exciting quarter.
Medieval Literature often conjures worlds of almost science-fictional strangeness. We will focus on the fantastic spaces of romance and visionary religious literature to explore the affective, conceptual, and ideological experiments enabled by medieval forms of estrangement.
This introduction to modernist poetry focuses on British, Irish, and expatriate American poets such as T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Mina Loy, and W.B. Yeats. We will also consider some of their antecedents (such as Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Charlotte Mew) and some of their contemporaries, known as the “war poets,” such as Wilfred Owen, David Jones, Siegfried Sassoon, and Isaac Rosenberg. Assignments will consist of: two papers, collaborative class presentations, and regular contributions to the online discussion board.
Though best known for a single play, Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett was a poet, novelist, short-story writer, playwright, translator, and critic with a voluminous output. This course introduces students to the variety and influence of one of the central figures in twentieth-century literature and theater by considering Beckett’s better-known plays—both on the page and in recorded performances—alongside select novels, criticism, film, radio, and television pieces. Among the questions we will ask are: What can Beckett’s experiments across media teach us about the presumed and actual limits of form? What happens when a medium becomes the means of its own undoing? What can we learn from Beckett’s career about cardinal developments in twentieth-century drama, literature, film, and television?
showcase the displacements and migrations that characterize the era of advanced global capitalism. Fleeing economic, social, and climatological collapse, migrants hardly find a second home; they become refugees without refuge. The limits on their flourishing extend far beyond the national borders that they cross in search of livable life. Wherever they go, they are discriminated and psychologically segregated by discourses of race nationalism, discourses in which migrations give rise to races. This course will focus on this process of migrant racialization-all the more pressing in light of current world events-with a curriculum that includes works by Weber, Simmel, Smohalla, Benedict Anderson, Anzaldúa, Appadurai, Brathwaite, Walter Benjamin, Celan, Derrida, Eggers, Ghosh, Le Guin, Glissant, Vine Deloria Jr., Woody Guthrie, Mbembe, Haraway, Tsing, Giddens, Negri and Hardt, Jason Moore, Bhabha, August Wilson, Sterling Brown, Big Bill Broonzy, Jacob Lawrence, Miguel Méndez, Mary Louise Pratt, Momaday, Silko, Canclini, Karen Tei Yamashita, Heise, Gikandi, Schmidt-Camacho, Fields and Fields, Bonilla-Silva, and Massey, in addition to film screenings and field exercises.
This course introduces students to the field of Translation Studies and its key concepts, including fidelity, equivalence, and untranslatability, as well as the ethics and politics of translation. We will investigate the metaphors and models that have been used to think about translation and will consider translation as a transnational practice, exploring how “world histories” may be hidden within “word histories,” as Emily Apter puts it. In the process, we will assess theories of translation and poetry from classical antiquity to the present; compare multiple translations of the same text; and examine notable recent translations. Students will regularly carry out translation exercises and create a final translation project of their own.
"Satire exposes human folly to ridicule in order," as Jonathan Swift claimed, “to mend the world.” This course will examine the protean mode of satire—its history, its forms, its pleasures and its politics—beginning with the origins of satire in Ancient Greece and Rome and extending through the literary satire of the 17th-19th centuries, with some consideration of these works in relation to popular contemporary forms like news satire and sketch comedy. We will supplement our reading with theoretical and critical discussions of satire by John Dryden, William Hazlitt, Mikhail Bakhtin, Northrop Frye, Linda Hutcheon, and others.
This course will examine books that were important in the British project of empire in the nineteenth century, both as texts contributing to debates about empire and its operations, and as material objects that circulated around the globe. We will take up three themes: commodities and their regimes (e.g. Opium, and the Opium Wars); slavery and other types of labor migration; settler colonialism. Books will include Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821); Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself (1831); [Edward Gibbon Wakefield], A Letter from Sydney (1829); Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847). The class will meet in Special Collections in Regenstein.
*The class is open to undergraduates by permission.
In this course we will study three British (or in Bowen’s case, Anglo-Irish) novelists whose principal works were published between the 1920s and the 1970s. While Woolf is well-known, Bowen and Warner have only begun to receive the recognition they deserve. We will read a selection of their fiction, probably including Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Between the Acts, Bowen’s The Last September and The Heat of the Day, and Warner’s Lolly Willowes and Summer Will Show. We will also read a selection of these writers’ shorter works, especially Bowen’s and Warner’s extraordinary stories about Britain in World War II. Assignments will consist of collaborative class presentations, regular contributions to the online discussion board, and a final paper.
This course will examine the very long and possibly—very probably—the greatest novel in the English language. We’ll consider the effect of Richardson’s decision to conduct his novel as a series of letters, and we’ll pay particular attention to his extraordinary effectiveness in creating complexity in a fairly simple plot and in tracking an ever-expanding cast of characters. The Penguin edition we’ll be using comes to 1499 pages, and they are over-sized pages. This is a course for committed readers!
This course will introduce and examine some of the concepts, methodological approaches, and ethical commitments and challenges relevant for pursuing research and teaching in Black studies. This methods class will study these frameworks alongside the history of the field and its many contemporary iterations in order to explore how different configurations of research process and theoretical innovation continue to shape scholarly work in this field. In addition to readings by Barbara Christian, Sylvia Wynter, St. Clair Drake, Roderick Ferguson, and others, students will “try on” certain methodological approaches in practical assignments throughout the quarter.
This course explores how birth, infancy, and other forms of radical beginning were given discursive shape in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. In light of the increasing importance accorded to natality and its conceptual cognates—highlighted in the work of such thinkers as Hannah Arendt, Michel Henry, Adriana Caverero, and Giorgio Agamben, among others—we will read works of literature, philosophy, and medicine from early modernity, a period obsessed with phenomena akin to what we now call natality. Topics will include the recovery of human experiential newness in the writings of John Milton, Thomas Traherne, and Henry Vaughan; the philosophical appropriation of the new in René Descartes and John Locke; and the politics and practice of midwifery (Jane Sharp) as it related to the increasing medicalization of birth and infancy.
2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Political Unconscious. This seminar will provide students with an overview of Marxist literary criticism via the career of one of its most innovative living practitioners.
This course examines the intersection of narrative in print and film (fiction and documentary) in Southern Africa since mid-20th century. We begin with Cry, the Beloved Country, a best seller written by South African Alan Paton while in the US, and the original film version by British-based director (Korda), and American screenwriter (Lawson), which show both the international impact of South African stories and important elements missed by overseas audiences. We continue with fictional and nonfictional responses to apartheid and decolonization, and examine the power and the limits of the “rhetoric of urgency” (L. Bethlehem). We will conclude with writing and film that grapples with the contradictory post-apartheid world, whose challenges, from crime and corruption to AIDS and the particular problems faced by women and gender minorities, elude the heroic formulas of the anti-apartheid era.
*Open to third- and fourth-year undergraduates and graduates only. Pre-requisites: Must have completed Hum Core plus one or more of the following: Intro to Fiction or equivalent; International Cinema, or equivalent; Intro to African studies
This seminar offers a critical introduction to performance theory and its applications to theatre and other practices. We will discuss three key conceptual clusters:
a) action, acting, and forms of production or play, from classical (Aristotle) through modern (Hegel, Brecht, Artaud), to contemporary (Richard Schechner, Philip Zarilli, others); b) affect, and its intersections with emotion and feeling: in addition to contemporary theories, we will read earlier texts that anticipate recent debates (Diderot, Freud) and their current interpreters (Joseph Roach, Erin Hurley, others), as well as writing about the absence of affect and the performance of failure (Sara Bailes, etc.); and c)archives and related institutions and theories, including audience formation (Susan Bennett) and challenges of recording ephemeral acts: theorists of memory (Pierre Nora) and remains (Rebecca Schneider), theatre historians (Daphne Brookes, Tracy Davis and others) as well as current theorists on the tensions between the archive and the repertoire (Diana Taylor) Course expectations include active and complete participation; two oral presentations and a final paper. The final paper could be a review article (ca 5000 words) using two recent books in your field to examine key concepts that define the field and controversies they may engender.
This course is based on an exhibition that was first staged at the Overseas Contemporary Art Terminal in Beijing in the fall of 2018, and subsequently re-enacted at the Royal Academy in Brussels in the spring of 2020. The exhibition explores “pictures within pictures,” images that reflect on the nature of image-making, across a range of media and genres. A virtual version of the exhibition is available on the Prezi platform: https://prezi.com/oogd4qxqu4m2/copy-of-working-copy-of-metapictures/?pr… , and a physical installation, supported by the Smart Museum, will be installed in the Media Arts Data and Design Center (MADD). Visual materials for the course include paintings and drawings, diagrams, models of the visual process, image “atlases,” multi-stable images, cinematic and literary representations of images nested within narratives.
The readings for the course will include Michel Foucault on Velasquez’s Las Meninas, Walter Benjamin on “dialectical images,” C. S. Peirce on iconicity, Nelson Goodman on analog and digital codes, and Georges Didi-Huberman on Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Bilderatlas. Students will be encouraged to explore traditional examples of metapictures such as the Duck-Rabbit (canonized by Gombrich and Wittgenstein) or to investigate newly emergent forms of self-reflexive media. Guest lectures will be given by Patrick Jagoda on experimental games and Hillary Chute on comics and graphic narrative; these might be coordinated with the Media Aesthetics core sequence in the fall term, which focusses on the question of the image.
This course will explore the intersection of law, literature, and slavery in the United States. In part, this class will provide an introduction to the methods and animating questions of the “law and literature” mode of scholarship. More particularly, we will examine how law decisively structured the cultural imaginaries of abolitionist and pro-slavery writers, a structure that endures in many contemporary public debates on the histories of slavery and freedom. While attending to the atmospheric legalism of abolitionism, we will also consider anti-legalist and anarchist critiques of the abolitionist mainstream—critiques that put pressure upon construing slavery’s antitheses in the legal genres of personhood, citizenship, and so on.
This course critically examines the Environmental Humanities as an interdisciplinary and unruly field. We will focus our attention on some of the topics that have animated the field as it has coalesced over the past ten or fifteen years: the Anthropocene and its alternatives; environmental racism and global inequity; competing narratives of apocalypse and resilience; posthumanist accounts of species relations. We will also discuss the wide variety of methods and approaches that take place under the banner of “environmental humanities” and explore how they might be adapted to or engaged by our own writing and research. Prior to our first meeting, we will collaborate to build a reading list for the quarter that is reflective of students’ areas of interest.
This course explores the history and developments of Early Modern Critical Race Studies (pre-1700) from the inception of the field in the early 1990s to the present. Students will read classics and new classics on early modern racial formations (including monographs by Kim F. Hall, Ania Loomba, Geraldine Heng, and Patricia Akhimie, among others), while learning about the theoretical and political roots of the field, the stages and controversies that have marked its history, and its major subfields—including presence studies (Imtiaz Habib), performance studies (Ayanna Thompson), and visual culture (Peter Erickson). Students will also learn about the newest directions in which the field is headed, namely, whiteness studies (Arthur Little, David Sterling Brown) and transnational critical race studies
This course contextualizes various schools of thought in the field of Black Studies, including Afrofuturism, Afropessimism, Afronihilism, black optimism, and Afrorealism. Students will read texts by key figures, who might include Saidiya Hartman, Orlando Patterson, Hortense Spillers, Frantz Fanon, Stuart Hall, Kara Keeling, Achille Mbembe, Fred Moten, Sylvia Wynter, Frank Wilderson, Katherine McKittrick, and Jared Sexton.
In this course we will explore the thesis that literary fiction published in the years of the 2010s participates in and signals the end of embedded neoliberalism as a governing consensus.
Assemblage names a compositional practice in the material, visual, and literary arts. It also names a way of conceptualizing non-aesthetic forms (markets, cities, nation states). This course begins by focusing on the different semantic and pragmatic values of assemblage (in anthropology, urban geography, and social theory); turns its attention to two art exhibitions, The Art of Assemblage (MoMA, 1961), and 66 Signs of Neon (1966), led by Noah Purifoy and consisting of assemblage work made from the detritus of the Watts riots (Aug. 1965); and ultimately concentrates on a history of how and why African American writers and visual artists (such as Jean Toomer, Zora Neal Hurston, Romare Bearden, Ntozake Shange, and Betye Saar) have deployed the assemblage mode.