Next Year Seminars and Workshops
English 8155 (355): Special Topics in English and American Literature
The proseminar, the only course required in the English graduate curriculum, is designed for each year’s incoming class to provide an introduction to graduate studies, with attention to both practical and theoretical issues fundamental to graduate studies in literature in the 21st century. This year it will be taught by Prof. Kathryn Schwarz.
The proseminar is limited to first-year graduate students only.
English 8150 (350): Special Problems in English and American Literature
Reading and Writing for Our Lives
Combining meta-level, text-specific, and personal explorations, this course will advance graduate students' knowledge of key voices in African American, Caribbean, and Afro-Latin American studies while also providing grounding in digital and public humanities methodologies and facilitating students' introspection about their own professional futures. Our explorations will center on: 1) why and how Afro-Diasporic thinkers in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries have understood writing as a survival strategy; 2) what autobiographies of and interviews with senior scholars of Afro-Diasporic literatures and cultures can tell us about the ways their scholarship is at once a professional and a deeply personal undertaking; 3) whether, why, and how graduate students are also, in a sense, reading and writing for their lives; and 4) whether, why, and how graduate students can make sure that their work that matters on a both professional and personal levels.
The course will be divided into three units. The first will feature sustained engagement with literary, critical, and theoretical texts as well as with archival documents that shed light on the intellectual and political environments in which the texts were produced. The second unit will consist of reading senior scholars' autobiographies, conducting interviews with senior scholars, analyzing those autobiographies and interviews, and producing new digital and public humanities materials on and with senior scholars. The third unit will be an opportunity for graduate students to think about their own relationships to writing, their own understandings of whether and how the professional and personal are linked for them, and for their vision of their own future. During this unit students will map out their own professional path forward, given those relationships and that vision.
English 8370 (330): the Enlightenment and Its Literary Connections
The Long Enlightenment and Catastrophic History
(Tuesdays, 3:30 – 6:30)
“There are no more natural catastrophes,” writes Jean-Luc Nancy in his recent meditation on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, “there is only a civilizational catastrophe that expands every time.” Nancy’s remark speaks to a haunting sense that there is no longer a nature distinct from the vast grid of technological modernity, and no longer an event that is confined to its own provenance. Such is the nature of what this seminar calls “the long enlightenment,” a historical formulation designed to capture both the familiar eighteenth-century philosophical project of mastering nature and its twentieth- and twenty-first century dialecticalization. Many have suggested that for every progress achieved in the name of enlightenment a barbarism has loomed in its wake, and this syllabus will seek to unpack such a claim by focusing broadly on a history of catastrophe -- natural and most unnatural -- from the eighteenth century to the present. As an organizing concept, catastrophe allows us to pose questions about the event-structure of history; the rise of secularism and technological determinism; the sublime, the tragic and the apocalyptic; and the political efficacy of sympathy in the time of the multitude. While much of the syllabus will be dedicated to literature, visual art and philosophy spanning 1650-1850, the course will occasionally vault forward, theoretically and otherwise, to consider a longer history of reason and calamity.
English 8450 (320): Studies in Southern Literature
Faulkners: yes, plural; there is more than one Faulkner. This seminar will be designed to recognize the several ways William Faulkner is pivotal to an understanding of several literatures. There is the young, bohemian, modernist, wannabe expatriate Faulkner; the Southern Gothic Faulkner; the man of letters Faulkner; the international Nobelist; the alcoholic; the misogynist; the racist; the racial liberal; the font-of-all-southern-fiction Faulkner; the historical realist. You get the picture. We will read, discuss, write about these mutations of “Faulkner” with, of course, help from the myriad theoretical, historical, biographical adjuncts to his texts. The seminar will work best if you read or re-read several Faulkner texts before we meet. The Sound and the Fury, Sanctuary, As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, The Hamlet, Go Down, Moses, A Fable will be on the syllabus without doubt.
English 8155 (355): Special Topics in English and American Literature
Ever since Catherine Gallagher published her essay `The Rise of Fictionality’ in Franco Moretti’e collection The Novel (2006) the question of referentiality—i.e. the degree of proximity of an imagined world to an empirically verifiable one—has been revisited, and a fresh emphasis has been laid on hypothesis and conjecture as a means not so much of reflecting the what historically real but of actually constructing it. We shall start with the fiction of civil society, considered implausible by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Kant (who said it sounded like a plan for a novel) but regarded by political thinkers such as Hobbes and Locke as the foundation on which all civil history is built. Starting with Hobbes’s and Locke’s ideas of what constitutes the civil person we shall move forward to a recent `fictional’ investigation of the novel and the person, Sheila Heti’s How should a person be: a novel from life (2012). Then we shall return to Cervantes’s Don Quixote with some questions about the ontological status of a real person who is fictionalized, and then consider some of the novels of the 18th and early 19th centuries which explore this issue: Defoe’s Roxana, Haywood’s Fantomina, Lennox’s The Female Quixote, Sheridan’s The Memoirs of Mrs Sidney Biddulph, Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Radcliffe’s The Italian, Dickens’s Great Expectations, and Hannah Crafts’s A Bondwoman’s Narrative. We shall be reading critical work by Nick Paige, Vicky Kahn, Sandra Macpherson, Srinivas Aravamudan, Ros Ballaster, Margaret Doody and Michael McKeon, and we shall end with some speculations concerning the importance that post-secularism and political theology are now assigning to fiction.
Fall Courses of Interest in Other Departments
English 8410 (316): Romantic Prose and Poetry
Periodical Culture: Fall of the Bastille to A Tale of Two Cities:
The regulation of public discourse in Great Britain coalesced through the combined efforts of a range of institutions, the courts and periodicals crucially among them. Issues of personal identity, public propriety, rights of expression and assembly, the meaning of sanity and the values of literature were adjudicated in the heteroglossic space of the periodicals and other ancillary prose. In this course, we will explore that space beginning with Caleb Williams and the English panic over the French Revolution, and concluding with Charles Dickens’s reworking of that moment in A Tale of Two Cities, serialized in the first issues of his All the Year Round. We will consider individual writers such as William Hazlitt and Charles Lamb, as they articulated visions of their social and private worlds, as well as the corporate voices of the Edinburgh Review, Blackwood’s Magazine, and Fraser’s Magazine. Making use the British Periodical and/or American Periodical database, students will conduct original research on topics of their own choosing and prepare an article-length essay based on that research; in addition, students will do collaborative presentations and individual response papers to the shared materials.
English 8150 (350): Special Problems in English and American Literature
Colorblindness Across the Disciplines
It is easy for men to discount and misunderstand the suffering or harm done others. Once accustomed to poverty, to the sight of toil or degradation, it easily seems normal and natural; once it is hidden beneath a different color of skin, a different stature or a different habit of action and speech, and all consciousness of inflicting ill disappears.
—W.E.B. Du Bois
This course examines how the practices and paradigms of scholarly disciplines function to privilege colorblind solutions as responses to color-bound problems. Of course, denial and disavowal of racial power in our society protects privilege and serves a variety of political purposes, but in this course we will examine the ideal of colorblindness as a stance with embedded epistemological causes and consequences. Our goals in this course are to: 1) identify how the disciplines enable and inhibit understanding of race because of colorblindness; 2) acquire an inventory of exemplary interdisciplinary works, methods, and theories; 3) stage creative conversations across disciplines; 4) identify how tropes like merit, market, and choice occlude racial power; 5) and demonstrate the migration of concepts across academic disciplines, journalism, philanthropy, public policy, and popular culture.
The disciplines that we will examine include Literature, Film and Cultural Studies, History, Law, Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology. Students will select which other disciplines (among Anthropology, Art History, Economics, Education, Geography and others) they want to examine according to the interests of the class.
Readings will include:
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Tukufu Zuberi, White Logic, White Methods: Racism and Methodology
Kimberlé Crenshaw et al., Critical Race Theory: The Key Readings That Launched the Movement
Robert Guthrie, Even the Rat was White: A Historical View of Psychology
Charles Mills, The Racial Contract
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
David W. Noble, Death of a Nation: American Culture and the End of Exceptionalism
Cedric Robinson, Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theatre and Film Before WWII
English 8150 (350):
Special Problems in English and American Literature
American Literature and Pedagogy
This course is designed to introduce new teachers of US literatures to the institutional, theoretical and pedagogical questions that inform how we teach students literature, and how to think and write critically about it. The course will focus on such questions as: 1) how do we teach students to read and to write critically about literature—and to what ends?; 2) How does the writing/reading classroom become an interpretive community?; 3) how do we formulate our teaching philosophies, goals, and content?; 4) how do we develop meaningful learning objectives for our students and measure outcomes?; 5) what do we need from our students and what (other than course content and specified outcomes) might they need from us?; and 6) what are the pedagogical, political and ethical responsibilities of teaching?
Drawing on books, journal articles and recent professional debates, the course will focus on developing an understanding of how others have moved from criticism and theory to literary pedagogy and practice. We’ll explore connections (and the validity of those connections) between your developing critical sensibility and your developing pedagogical principles and philosophies. We will study popular culture representations of teaching for their lessons about cultural expectations for good and bad teaching. You’ll experiment with teaching models for two novels, and you’ll work on developing and articulating your own philosophy of teaching literature during the semester.
English 8138 (337B): Introduction to Literary Theory
Secularism, Literature, and the Politics of Culture
In this course we will discuss a range of twentieth- and twenty-first century theoretical and literary works that question the boundaries of secularism, civil society, and minority rights. Engaging with critical discourses in anthropology, comparative and world literature, postcolonial studies, and modernist studies, we will interrogate the political, social, and aesthetic significance of reading literature through the lens of the secular. The course moves beyond the binary of secularism and religion, to consider how modern literary works negotiate the politics and aesthetics of secularism. Is secularism a discourse of the majority? How do minority writers engage with and challenge the divide between the secular and the religious? Is the novel a secular genre? What is the relationship between secularism and modernity? Readings will include works by Erich Auerbach, Walter Benjamin, Edward Said, Talal Assad, Aamir Mufti, Saba Mahmood, Judith Butler, Hannah Arendt, Nella Larsen, and Franz Kafka.
Spring Courses of Interest in Other Departments
French 394, Obscenity and French Literature
Professor Robert Barsky
In this course we’ll discuss the complex relationship that has emerged between those ‘literary classics’ considered essential reading for any liberal arts student and the charges of obscenity that many of the authors who have written those texts have had to endure. This dilemma leads us to the fact that students are given required readings which describes (and often celebrate) acts that are specifically outlawed in their own culture, or which have been written by authors who would be considered ‘outlaws’ in the society that now reveres their work. A range of issues flow from these considerations, including the ways in which trials draw attention to texts and authors, providing them with the audiences and the notoriety to allow them, under certain circumstances, to become ‘classics’. Or the fact that the many contradictions of this tradition points to a deeper ambivalence in our society, indeed in all societies, in the consideration of the relationship between passion and reason. Employing a varied approach that allows students to consider these issues from historical, literary, legal, sociological and philosophical perspectives, and drawing from those texts most often cited in regards to ‘obscenity’ will provide students with ample ways to explore this challenging and creative realm of literary and cultural research.
Dirt for Art's Sake, by Elizabeth Ladenson
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
Les Fleurs du Mal, by Charles Baudelaire
Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, John Cleland
Pornography and Obscenity and Lady Chatterly’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence
Tropic of Cancer, and Obscenity and the Law of Reflection, by Henry Miller
Lolita, novel and film versions, by Vladimir Nabokov
Justine, La Philosophie dans le Boudoir, by Marquis de Sade
Girls Lean Back Everywhere: the Law of Obscenity and the Assault on Genius by Edward de Grazia
La Terre, by Émile Zola