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.
ENGL 10404 Genre Fundamentals: Poetry
“Poetry makes nothing happen,” W.H. Auden famously wrote. We’ll debate this idea as we explore a wide range of poetry and poetics, investigating how literature develops in concert with social, historical, and technological changes. We’ll begin by examining forms such as the sonnet, sestina, and villanelle, as well as free verse; poetic and rhetorical tools such as repetition, figurative language, rhyme, meter, and enjambment; and concepts of lyric subjectivity and intertextuality. In the second section, we’ll continue to develop strategies for analyzing poetic form while we investigate the links between poetry and history (particularly regarding war, genocide, trauma). The third unit emphasizes poetries of protest and self-determination in the U.S., with a focus on Black, Latinx, Asian American, and Native American poetries. Close reading, close listening, and close watching will all be important as we read poems, listen to poets recite their work, and watch poets perform. By the end of the quarter, students will have the vocabulary to analyze poetic technique and will have developed close reading, literary analysis, and argumentation skills.
ENGL 10606 Genre Fundamentals: Drama
This course explores the pleasures and challenges of experiencing performance through the page. Students will read plays and performances from across the dramatic tradition closely, taking into account not only form, character, plot, and genre, but also theatrical considerations like staging, acting, spectatorship, and historical conventions. We will also consider how various agents—playwrights, readers, directors, actors, and audiences—generate plays and give them meaning. The course culminates in a scene project assignment that allows students put their skills of interpretation and adaptation into practice. No experience with theater is expected. Fulfills the Genre Fundamentals requirement in English.
ENGL 10703 20th Century Short Fiction
This course presents America's major writers of short fiction in the 20th century. We will begin with Willa Cather's "Paul's Case" in 1905 and proceed to the masters of High Modernism, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Porter, Welty, Ellison, Nabokov; on through the next generation, O'Connor, Pynchon, Roth, Mukherjee, Coover, Carver; and end with more recent work by Danticat, Tan, and the microfictionists. Our initial effort with each text will be close reading, from which we will move out to consider questions of ethnicity, gender, and psychology. Writing is also an important concern of the course. There will be two papers and an individual tutorial with each student.
ENGL 10709 Genre Fundamentals: Fiction
This course offers an introduction to the fundamentals of narrative fiction, which explores concepts and analytical tools for reading and interpreting fiction, paying particular attention to the relationship between narrative, time, and history; the role of narrative in shaping both personal and national or collective identity; the relationship between allegorical and realist modes of representation; the status of fiction and of fictional characters. Throughout, we will be alert to formal concerns (about narrative voice in particular—omniscience, irony, free indirect discourse, etc.), as well as to socio-historical and literary-historical perspectives on the uses and pleasures of narrative art, taking examples from texts from different time periods and cultures. The organizing theme will be kinship, and our main texts are likely to be Yao Gyasi, Homegoing (2016), Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1815), and Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart (1938). This course includes a discussion section that is to be scheduled after the class begins.
ENGL 11004 History of the Novel
In this course we will read at least one novel from each century from the 18th to the 21st. We will also consider how some of these novels have been adapted to the cinema. Authors are likely to include some of the following: Henry Fielding, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Vladimir Nabokov, Tom McCarthy, and others. Where relevant we will also consider theories of fiction, narrative, and the novel, such as those of Mikhail Bakhtin, Roland Barthes, E.M. Forster, and René Girard.
ENGL 11200 Fundamentals of Literary Criticism
An introduction to the practice of literary and cultural criticism over the centuries, with an emphasis on theoretical debates about meaning and interpretation in the late 20th century and present. Authors will include Laura Mulvey, Raymond Williams, Pierre Bourdieu, Eve Sedgwick, Lauren Berlant, Louis Althusser, Fred Motenand others.
CWRW 12146 London vs. Nature: Writing Utopia and Dystopia in the Urban Landscape
In this Arts Core course, students will be introduced to a range of the utopian and dystopian fantasies that writers have produced in response to the metropolis of London as the imperial epicenter of manufactured ecologies, from the late nineteenth century through the present day. They will study early responses to modernism and modernization in the city by figures like William Blake, Frederick Engels, Henry James, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf before moving on to contemporary writers such as R. Murray Schafer, who apprehends the city through “earwitnessing” of noise pollution, and Bhanu Kapil, who recalls the race riots of the 1970s against the backdrop of the Nestle factory on the site of King Henry VIII’s hunting grounds. Students will be exposed first-hand to how London is read by writers confronting planetary and political crisis through meetings with living publishers, authors, and art collectives like the Museum of Walking, grappling with the continual metamorphosis of the landscape—and through a sequence of on-site visits and psychogeographical experiments, they will have the opportunity to respond to the city in their own writing across a range of genres.
*This course is a part of the 2021 London: British Literature and Culture study abroad program
ENGL 12320 Critical Videogame Studies
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 such as Ian Bogost, Roger Caillois, Alenda Chang, Nick Dyer‐Witheford, Mary Flanagan, Jane McGonigal, Soraya Murray, Lisa Nakamura, Amanda Phillips, and Trea Andrea Russworm will help us think about the growing field of video game studies. Students will have opportunities to learn about game analysis and apply these lessons to a collaborative game design project. Students need not be technologically gifted or savvy, but a wide-ranging imagination and interest in digital media or game cultures will make for a more exciting quarter.
This is a 2021-22 Signature Course in the College.
ENGL 12720 Inventing Consciousness: Literature, Philosophy, Psychology
What is consciousness? What is it like to be conscious? This course answers these questions by examining the emergence and development of consciousness as a concept. As a phenomenon, consciousness probably came into being deep in evolutionary time. Yet as a concept consciousness is relatively new: the European notion of consciousness emerges in the late seventeenth century. This course draws on literature, history, philosophy, and psychology to examine how the concept of consciousness came to possess its explanatory dominance. We will start by acquiring a sense of what consciousness now means in philosophy, biology, neuroscience, and fiction, paying particular attention to how the concept differs from similar ideas in ancient Indian philosophy. We will then turn to two important historical moments. First, we will examine the interplay between philosophy and literature in the late seventeenth century, reading texts by René Descartes, John Milton, Thomas Traherne, and John Locke. Second, we will focus on how, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the psychology of William James relates to the “stream of consciousness” techniques in the work of Virginia Woolf. This course stresses historical contingency—consciousness has a birthdate—in order to explore a consequence that follows from this fact: the extent to which current uses of this concept are still shaped by the historical circumstances that conditioned its emergence
ENGL 15320 Witnessing Medieval Evil: Literature, Art, and the Politics of Observation
Seeing hell for oneself, watching the torture of a saint, looking at illustrations of violence: these profoundly terrible experiences, narrated and drawn, shaped the way medieval readers took in the world around them, its violence, its suffering, its preponderance of evils. But how exactly does literature allow readers to witness and process such horrors? How is the observation of violence transformed by art? What is unique about the medieval experience of these artistic and literary forms of mediation? What can they teach us about our own contemporary cultural encounters with the sights and stories of atrocity? By exploring questions like these, this course will consider the didactic, religious, and epistemological functions of witnessing in a variety of early medieval texts such as illustrated copies of Prudentius’s Psychomachia (in which the Virtues engage in a gruesome battle against the Vices), the Apocalypse of Paul (in which Paul sees hell and lives to tell about it), early medieval law codes, the Life of St. Margaret, the Old English Genesis, and the heroic poem Judith. These medieval texts will be read alongside thinkers like Giorgio Agamben, W.J.T. Mitchell, and Susan Sontag, whose work on images of atrocity in the modern world will both inform our critical examination of the Middle Ages while opening up the possibility for rethinking literature and art in relation to contemporary experiences of violence.
ENGL 15430 The Origins of Utopia and Utopian Literature
This course examines the foundations of utopian literature and its cultural footprint over time, including Thomas More’s classic text, Utopia, and other early modern responses to it. While we will attempt to sort out the hallmarks and boundaries of this genre as well as what makes imagining utopia so irresistible, special consideration will also be given to how these texts construct notions of gender/sexuality, race, and nation. How do these texts teach us to imagine other futures and worlds for ourselves? And how do they comprehend the political utility of that act? Other authors/texts to be studied in the course include (but are not limited to) William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Robinson Crusoe, as well as two important figures in the history of women’s writing, Aphra Behn and Margaret Cavendish. Readings will span from prose fiction and non-fiction, to lyric and epic poetry, to drama.
ENGL 15440 Desiring Machines: Artificial Intelligence in Contemporary Media
Artificial intelligence is a cross-disciplinary field that seeks to imagine and develop machines able to reproduce, automate and exceed the cognitive and sensorial capabilities of biological organisms. This course will trace the conceptual genealogies that inform contemporary AI, and it will interrogate the uses and abuses of AI within social, legal, medical and creative contexts. Course materials will include a diverse array of media and theory including: Soma, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Natural Born Cyborgs, Ex Machina, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, Speculative Everything, A Natural History of the Enigma, etc… No prior familiarity with AI or computation is necessary. In lieu of a traditional midterm and final, this course will ask students to develop a series of speculative design projects that imagine new intelligent organisms and their worlds.
ENGL 15450 Framework, Recognition, Repetition: Experimental Poetry and Film
This is creative-critical class, and will involve both scholarly and creative work. Students will be asked not only to analyze the works we read and watch together, but to think with the authors/artists through making: students will write analytical papers and will also compose poems and/or films. We will consider 20th and 21st century works of poetry and film that deploy repetition as a technique, and use it to produce recognition, mis-recognition, or a felt failure to recognize. We will think together about why and how works of these time periods engage this dynamic, and what insights we might draw from reading and viewing them closely. We will also read short excerpts from several theorists and philosophers on these topics, but will primarily spend our time with poems and films. Authors and artists considered may include: Gertrude Stein, Hollis Frampton, Stan Brakhage, Lyn Hejinian, and Leslie Scalapino.
ENGL 15460 21st Century and Neo-Slave Narratives
In this course we will explore how 21st century authors of neo-slave narratives write about our present sociopolitical moment by invoking antebellum slavery to do so. What does the genre of the neo-slave narrative open up or express and what might it be saying about the relationship between past, present and future? To engage with these and other related questions, we will be looking at neo-slave narratives across various types of media, such as novels, television shows, and graphic novels along with works of theory by authors such as Saidiya Hartman and Christina Sharpe.
ENGL 15480 Making Progress with the Victorian Novel
A widespread belief in “progress” – the idea that history is always improving over time in a one-way, linear fashion – gripped the imagination of nineteenth-century Britain. At the same time, Victorian literature is rife with anxiety over the certainty of progress. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde presents a scenario in which scientific advancement goes too far, accidentally producing something monstrous. Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles begs us to ask: is life necessarily getting better over time – and for whom? This course will interrogate the construction of the Victorian belief in progress, its ideological consequences, and its complex representation in literature. Among other questions, we will ask: How did the concept and rhetoric of progress bear upon some of the most important historical developments of the 19th century – including industrialization, imperialism, and the rise of evolutionary theory? In what ways did Victorian novels reflect, reinforce, or complicate the notion of progress? How is the idea of progress encoded within the tropes of literary genres (e.g., the Bildungsroman, or the “coming-of-age story”)? Readings may include novels by Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell, Bram Stoker, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
ENGL 15500 Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales
Close reading of the Canterbury Tales, with particular attention to the ways Chaucer’s experiments in literary form open onto problems in ethics, politics, gender and sexuality.
ENGL 15510 Pastoral Revisited: Cottagecore and its Antecedents
Inspired by the pandemic aesthetic "Cottagecore,” this course examines the historical desire for retreat and rural retirement. Beginning with early modern verse, we will ramble through the long history of the pastoral mode, revisiting poetic, prosaic, and digital iterations of that rolling-hill fantasy of rural self-sufficiency and leisure. Having foregrounded the elegiac tradition and Romanticism's darker pastorals, we will think about what is lost and who is excluded from 20th- and 21st-century revivals and re-imaginings of this ‘Green and Pleasant Land.’ Ultimately, we will ascertain the degree to which these varied works obscure a history of white supremacy and colonialism, before thinking about the dangers of a weaponized rural idyll (eco-fascism).
ENGL 15520 Illness and Life Writing
With a few notable exceptions, illness was largely absent from life writing prior to the late twentieth century. We will pick up our story here (with backward glances at some of the more influential works) to see why it emerged during this period, how the topic of illness changed life writing, and how narrativizing illness changed conceptions of the body, patient advocacy and medical practice, and the social conceptions and figuration of disease. Because illness narratives stand at the intersection of medical humanities, narrative medicine, disability studies, and life writing, we will examine all these frames in conjunction with selected works in prose narrative and graphic narrative as well as in poetry, film, and the essay.
ENGL 15540 Comics at the Crossroads
Mid-1985 to mid-1986 is the most important year in comics history. This course is an introduction to comics through the prism of this period with snapshots of comics “before” and comics “after”; major texts are Maus, Watchmen, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and The Dark Knight Returns, all of which were released (or released in accessible formats) in ’85-‘86. We will try to identify the various forces that made this remarkable year possible: changes in the comics business, in American politics and culture, and in the life cycle of the superhero. In the mid-80s the “high” and “low” of comics blended like it never had before. This course is designed for the newbie and afficionado alike, whether you’re meeting these four of the greatest comics of all time, or rediscovering them within a new milieu
ENGL 15560 Modern Love
What is erotic love? In “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” Audre Lorde defines it as “our deepest and nonrational knowledge,” associated with intimacy and attachment as well as the “measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.” Similarly, in Plato’s Symposium, erotic love is defined as something “in between mortal and immortal,” akin to discernment which is “something in between wisdom and ignorance.” In this course, we will question the “in-betweenness” of erotic love, what this rhetoric implies, and what it seems to make known and knowable in modern life. Authors may include James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros, Andre Aciman, Maggie Nelson, and Ocean Vuong.
ENGL 15570 Contemporary Climate Fictions
As the all-too scorching sun set on the past decade, news outlets the world over named 2019 “the year we woke up to climate change.” This course considers climate fictions across media, and tracks representations of disaster, extinction, contamination, and neocolonialism as “climate change” shifted to “climate crisis” and finally culminated in a “climate emergency” in the 2010s. What lessons do these stories of environmental crisis teach us? How do different media, forms, modes, genres, and aesthetics render these topics differently? What alternative endings do these texts imagine, and what might they be missing? Given that climate change disproportionately affects the poor, women, people of color, and Indigenous communities, we will pay particular attention to marginalized voices in conversations on environmental movements, and to the roles of marginalized characters in works of fiction. Possible films may include Jumana Manna’s Wild Relatives (2018), Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi (2009), and George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). Novels may include Ling Ma’s Severance (2018), Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves (2017), and Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation (2014). Poetry collections may include Craig Santos Perez’s from unincorporated territory [saina] (2010), Tommy Pico’s Nature Poem (2016), and Juliana Spahr’s That Winter the Wolf Came (2015).
ENGL 16500 Shakespeare I: Histories and Comedies
An exploration of some of Shakespeare's major plays from the first half of his professional career, when the genres in which he primarily worked were comedies and histories. Plays to be studied include The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Richard III, Richard II, and Henry V. Together, we will read some of Shakespeare’s queerest and most delightful comedies in conversation with darker troubling plays that revolve around sexual violence, racism, nationalism, and political theory, and we will see how such topics put generic boundaries to the test. Valuing those classics for their timeless craft but also for the situated cultural horizon that they evidence, we will explore what it means to take comedy and history seriously. Three short papers will be required.
ENGL 16600 Shakespeare II: Tragedies and Romances
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.
ENGL 18108 Culture and the Police
How do cultural products facilitate, abet, and enable the form of social ordering that we call policing? This course will explore the policing function of what modernity calls “culture” by exploring the parallel histories of policing, the emergence of modern police theory, and the rise of the novel. We will focus in particular on how both literature and the police emerge to navigate a series of linked epistemological and political problematics: the relation between particularity and abstraction, the relation between deviance and normalcy, and indeed that of authority as such. While we will focus on texts from the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Atlantic world, students with a broader interest in policing are encouraged to enroll. Readings will include Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, G.W.F. Hegel, Louis Althusser, and Michel Foucault, in addition to historical documents including gallows narratives, newspapers, and early theorizations of the police concept.
*This course is limited to 15 third- and fourth-year students who have already fulfilled the Department’s Genre Fundamentals (previously Gateway) requirement and taken at least two further English courses.
ENGL 19205 Poetry in the Land of Childhood
Cupboards and attics, nests and shells, the inside of a bush, the bottom of a rowboat: for the 20th century philosopher Gaston Bachelard, intimate “fibred” spaces like these have a special relation to childhood—both as it is experienced and as it is remembered. Taking the lead from Bachelard this course investigates the construction, beginning in the eighteenth century, of childhood as a particular kind of place, one that might be imaginatively accessed through poetic images, rhythm, and rhyme. Our readings will come from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—that is, from the birth of children’s literature to its “golden age”—and will take us from the nursery rhymes and cradle songs of early children’s poetry collections, through William Blake’s “forests of the night,” and to the wonderland of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books.
ENGL 20430 Wordsworth’s Prelude
In this course we will closely study William Wordsworth’s major work The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet’s Mind, a long, Romantic-era poem that has proved both a paradigmatic model and a point of departure for a wide range of literary writing ever since. Revised throughout Wordsworth’s adult life (ultimately into the fourteen-book form of the poem published upon Wordsworth’s death in 1850), The Prelude helped set the terms that still govern our thinking about modern lyric writing and poetic language, the significance of autobiography and memory, the relationship between humanity and nature, the special spiritual and imaginative place of childhood, and the cycles of political revolution, regret, and healing that have seemed an enduring legacy of the French Revolution. The course will be structured as an extended, book-by-book close reading of the poem alongside illuminating contextual writings from Wordsworth’s interlocutors--both knowing and unknowing, past and present, local and global--that can provide a sense of the poem’s power and continuing relevance but also its problems and limitations.
ENGL 21320 Archival Methods: Slavery and Gender in the Americas
This class offers an in-depth introduction to archival research methodologies with a focus on gender and slavery in the Americas. Students will apply their knowledge by working in historical and contemporary archives via two trips to special collections: one to view archival texts from the period and another to find an archival object of the student’s choosing that will provide the topic of their final research paper.
ENGL 21926 People, Places, Things: Introduction to the Victorian Novel
Introduction to the Victorian novel: with emphasis on interpretive methods. Quarter Systems and the Victorian novel do not mix well, which is only to say that this course cannot aspire to a comprehensive accounting of the Victorian novel, or the myriad forms of the novel that emerged during Victoria’s reign (1837-1901). What it does seek to do, however, is give you some little sense of the Victorian novel’s formal and thematic range in a few of the uncharacteristically shorter novels of the period, and—in the bargain—give you a few critical tools and concepts to better figure out what these novels are and what they might be doing. Critical approaches to the Victorian novel are as varied as the novels themselves, perhaps, but I’ve tried to give you access to some of the more recent interventions that centrally query character and characterization (people), things and the circulation of things, and location and spatialization (places). Jane Eyre, Hard Times, Lady Audley’s Secret, The Warden, Jude the Obscure, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
ENGL 22048 Girlhood
This course focuses on narratives in which the category of “girl” or “girlhood” is under construction, or called into question. We’ll begin with a number of works from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (novels by Frances Burney, Jane Austen, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte), and will move into novels, films, comics, and memoirs from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that draw on or depart from some of those earlier texts. Throughout, the course will draw on work from fields like sociology, history, and feminist and queer theory to consider changing conceptions of childhood, adolescence, and development, as well as the way that intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability shape categories and narratives of “girlhood.”
ENGL 23301 The Legacies of the Windrush Generation
In 1948, the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, Essex. Onboard were people who were from colonies such as Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad: they were migrants and subjects of the British Crown, as well as descendants of enslaved Africans and indentured Asians from the West Indian sugar colonies. Their arrival would transform British society, forcing a confrontation with its colonial past. And, what we now know as Caribbean literature took hold in this period, as newly-arrived West Indian writers found platforms for their work on radio and in London publishing houses. They and their descendants have commented on and critiqued race, empire, and plantation histories since.
This course explores the legacies of Windrush as social, political, and aesthetic phenomena. Beginning with Henry Swanzy, Una Marson, and their leadership on BBC’s radio show Caribbean Voices, we will engage with the creative works of Windrush migrants and their descendants: Samuel Selvon, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Hew Locke, and others. To understand social struggle, we will study the life of activist Claudia Jones and her founding of the West Indian Gazette And Afro-Asian Caribbean News. Finally, we will also examine the 2018 Windrush Scandal, in which at least 83 Britons were unjustly deported, in conversation with works like Hazel Carby's account of the intertwined histories of Jamaica and Britain, Imperial Intimacies (2019). Additionally, we will travel throughout London for museum and studio visits.
*This course is a part of the 2021 London: British Literature and Culture study abroad program
ENGL 23302 Gothic Fiction and Architecture
In this course we study the aesthetics and politics of gothic fiction and architecture. Many of us associate Gothic fiction with fearful tales of mystery and suspense. But the rise of a Gothic aesthetic in the eighteenth and nineteenth century was a political movement: British writers, architects, and architects embraced Gothic medievalism to express their opposition to capitalism and industrialization. We will study gothic fiction since the eighteenth century, paying particular attention to how this fiction was used to comment on a rapidly developing society. Our study of gothic fiction will draw us into the real spaces of London, where we will tour renowned Gothic Revival buildings such as the Houses of Parliament, St. Pancras railway station, and possibly a crypt or two. Readings may include Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto; Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey; Bram Stoker, Dracula; Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray; and Henry James, The Turn of the Screw.
*This course is a part of the 2021 London: British Literature and Culture study abroad program
ENGL 23304 The Stage and the City: Performance and Daily Life in Renaissance London
Between the years 1500 and 1660, London developed into an urban superpower. By 1660, London was boasting a population of 350,000, which was nearly six times its population in the early sixteenth century (~60,000). This course asks what it was like to live in London as it evolved into something equal parts new, exciting, and frightening. We will be considering this question through three city comedies set in London and written between 1609 and 1640. City comedies are particularly good at detailing the perils, thrills, and novel sensoria of an expanding metropolis. We will use these plays as a testing ground to articulate for ourselves what central issues have been raised by London-living over the centuries. What was it like to go to an early iteration of a shopping mall? How were categories of disability, race, gender, and sexuality negotiated through this dense and diverse population? How have city dwellers dealt with plague or famine?
Students will be asked to use the issues drawn from this historical context to formulate their own research project about any period of London's history. Throughout the course, the class will take field trips to London neighborhoods, an archive, a theatre performance, and several museums. By engaging with the resources and experiences available in 21st-century London, students will use their imagination and research skills to travel back in time and discover the various "Londons" that have emerged over this city's history.
*This course is a part of the 2021 London: British Literature and Culture study abroad program
ENGL 23770 Introduction to Black Studies
This course introduces students to some of the major themes, perspectives, and questions that underlie the interdisciplinary orientation of Black studies, a field of study that centers the multifaceted experiences, histories, cultures, and politics of peoples of African descent throughout the diaspora. As the late Trinidadian historian C.L.R. James asserts, the primary purpose of Black studies is not only to challenge Euro-American conceptions of history, geography, temporality, and social relation, but ultimately to achieve “the complete reorganization of the intellectual life and historical outlook of the United States, and world civilization as a whole.” This course will serve as an introduction to this dynamic field and its history, and will focus in particular on Black cultural and political movements that span the Americas, Caribbean, Africa, and Europe.
ENGL 24250 Race, Performance, Performativity
What does it mean to feel raced, and how does performance work with or against such feelings? Why and how does a performance of racial identity come to be perceived as “authentic?” What is at stake in performances that that cross real or imagined racial lines? This upper-level class delves into the topic of performativity as it intersects with race in the American context. Some historical background is studied, but we will mostly explore performativity’s intersection with race in contemporary America. Course assignments are a mix of the theoretical, dramatic, and performative. (In other words, some of our readings theorize performativity while others put theory into play.)
ENGL 24412 Theater about Theater
This course is a transhistorical study of changing ideas about representation, explored through the lens of early modern and twentieth-century plays that foreground theatrical form. Every play frames time and space and in the process singles out a portion of life for consideration. The plays we’ll consider this term call conspicuous attention to the frame itself, to the materials and capacities of theater. What happens when plays comment on their own activity? Why might they do so? Why has theatrical self-consciousness emerged more strongly in particular historical periods? What might such plays teach us about the nature of art, and about the nature of life? To what extent can we distinguish between art and life? We’ll explore these and other questions through plays by Marlowe, Kyd, Shakespeare, Pirandello, Beckett, Genet, Stoppard, Nwandu, and Young Jean Lee; and through theoretical work by Puchner, Hornby, Sofer, Fuchs, and others.
ENGL 24680 The Art of Memoir: Then (19th Century) and Now
We’ll begin with selections from Rousseau and Wordsworth that mark their talk about themselves as urgent and unusual, and then focus on some examples of the genre from the past fifty years that have made people call this period the age of memoir: James Baldwin, Mary Karr, D.A. Miller, Ta-Nehisi Coates.
ENGL 25230 Democracy and the School: Writing about Education
Examining arguments about schooling in democracy, access to education, and the relationship between education and power, this course reads fiction and nonfiction prose from the US during the decades after Reconstruction, when education figures centrally in debates about citizenship and enfranchisement. Taking up writers including Anna Julia Cooper, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Zitkala-Sa, W.E.B. Du Bois, Edith Wharton, and Henry Adams, we'll weigh conflicting accounts of education as device for control, a site for violence, a means of becoming oneself, and a vital form of democratic empowerment.
ENGL 26270 Urban Fiction / American Space, 1890-2010
This course situates the depiction of urban environments in narrative prose fiction (by Abraham Cahan, Upton Sinclair, John Dos Passos, Richard Wright, Ann Petry, Sandra Cisneros, and Don DeLillo) within a broader discourse of urbanization (e.g., work by Jacob Riis, W.E.B. Dubois, Jane Addams, Saskia Sassen).
ENGL 26500 The Age of Washington and Du Bois
The goal of this course will be to examine the nexus of intellectual, political, ideological, and material forces that have shaped common understandings of African American literature.
ENGL 27548 Multiculturalism, James Baldwin to Zadie Smith
In this course students will encounter some of the key texts that have shaped and been shaped by multicultural logics from the mid-twentieth century onward. We’ll consider multiculturalism’s many valances as they have arisen in literary polemics, university studies, and contemporary fiction. The course will also push students to ask how multiculturalism has translated between the United States and Great Britain as well as what the complexities of this translation have meant for Black, Cultural, and Post-Colonial Studies.
ENGL 28230 Fashion and Change: The Theory of Fashion
This course offers a representative view of foundational and recent fashion theory, fashion history, and fashion art, with a historical focus on the long modern era extending from the eighteenth century to the present. While engaging the general aesthetic, sociological, and commercial phenomenon of fashion, we will also devote special attention to fashion as a discourse self-reflexively preoccupied with the problem of cultural change—the surprisingly difficult question of how and why “change” does or does not happen. We will aim for a broader appreciation of fashion’s inner workings—its material processes, its practitioners—but we will also confront the long tradition of thinking culture itself through fashion, to ask how we might productively do the same.
ENGL 20375/30375 Emancipation in Literature and History
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.
ENGL 24002/34002 James Joyce’s Ulysses
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
ENGL 24526/34526 Forms of Autobiography in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
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.
ENGL 15270/35270 Strange Worlds
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.
ENGL 25011/36183 Migrant Poetics
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.
ENGL 27870/37870 Midcentury Modern Fiction: Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Sylvia Townsend Warner
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.
ENGL 28290/38290 Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa
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!
ENGL 24813/44813 South African Fictions and Factions
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
ENGL 29992/49992 Metapictures
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.