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2020-2021 PhD Course Offerings

Fall 2020

ENGL 8110 – Proseminar

Candice Amich - Online Hybrid

M 12:10-3:00

The proseminar provides an introduction to English graduate studies through attention to both
practical and theoretical issues. We will preview the arc of progress through the PhD program,
from the art of the seminar paper to developing a dissertation project. Special attention will be
paid to developing the writing skills necessary for professional success; we will draft and
exchange conference abstracts, conference papers, and book reviews. We will also examine
the stages through which an essay, that begins as a conference or seminar paper, may move
toward publication. Together we will read a host of theoretical and critical essays that cover
established and emerging approaches across historical periods, geographic areas, and


ENGL 8138 - Critical Theory: Race and (Dis)Possession

Alex Dubilet & Ben Tran - Online Synchronous

W 3:10-6:00

How do we theorize the relation between race and the operations of possession and
dispossession in modernity? What is the role and significance of capitalism and modern regimes
of property to the processes of racialization? What theoretical tools are necessary for
understanding the nexus and legacy of possession and dispossession that emerge from the
discovery of the New World and subsequent settler colonialism? How do we think of possession
and dispossession in slavery and its afterlives? This graduate seminar will explore these and related
questions from multiple theoretical angles and through various historical and geographic sites. By
engaging with diverse scholarship across Marxism, critical theory, literary studies, black studies,
and settler colonial critique, this seminar will introduce students to some of the most significant
concepts of modern theoretical discourse, useful for research across different time periods,
genres, and subdisciplines.

Possible authors will include (in part, with the input of the participants): Karl Marx,
W.E.B. Dubois, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, Sylvia Wynter, Cheryl Harris,
Moishe Postone, Patrick Wolfe, Silvia Federici, Saidiya Hartman, Glen Coulthard, Brenna
Bhandar, Frank B. Wilderson III, Fred Moten and Stefano Harney. In exploring such topics as
primitive accumulation, the struggle for the commons, colonial modernity and decolonial
imaginaries, and the realities of and resistances to slavery and its afterlife, the seminar will explore
key theoretical perspectives in the critical humanities, unpack the concepts entailed by them, and
trace the requisite historical frameworks informing them. Throughout, we will ask after the
different ways race has been theorized in relation to and in ambit of liberal capitalist modernity.


ENGL 8351 – Studies in 20th and 21st Century American Literatures : Diaspora, Poetics, and Empire

Anthony Reed - Online

M 3:10-6:00

Focusing on key texts of the twentieth century, and emphasizing the contemporary, this course will track black responses to empire, its dissolution, and the limits of sovereignty alongside shifting understandings of race. Abiding questions include the relationship of literature to its context, alongside the interrelated temporal contours of literary form and the rhetoric of progress in literary and theoretical texts.

We’ll consider Négritude, 20th century pan-Africanisms, and various configurations of black nationalism and internationalism.


Related Courses in Other Departments

WGS 8305 - Sexual Politics: Theory & Practice

Kathryn Schwarz

R 3:30-6:30

What is the relationship between theory and practice? This is not a new question; still, as I write a course description in the midst of a global pandemic, it strikes me with new force. We invest much time and energy in the paradigms that comprise a vocabulary of sexual politics: theories of gender and sexuality, of discipline and ideology, of taxonomy and intersectionality, of separatism, interdependence, coalition, and community, of vulnerability, relationality, oppression, and resistance. What exactly is the return on these investments? At what points do theory and practice meet, not only to enhance intellectual understanding, but also to create conditions for effective action? How might theoretical insights facilitate the pursuit of social justice? Throughout the semester, we will engage thinkers who interweave experience and abstraction: feminists of color; queer activists; radical separatists; advocates for interrelation and coalition; cultural theorists in the arenas of law, medicine, policy, and history; writers of manifestoes on a range of urgent issues. We will also bring our own insights and experiences into conversation with one another. And we will approach ‘theory’ not only on its terms but on ours, with a degree of enthusiasm, a measure of skepticism, and at least a flicker of hope.  

FREN 7060 - Literary Theory

Paul Miller

W 3:10-5:30

In this course we will study an eclectic group of texts that were all seminal contributions to a phenomenon in literary studies called literary theory or, more commonly, “theory.”   Many of the theoreticians who impacted literary studies in the United States were French (Derrida, Foucault, Blanchot, Lacan, Barthes, Bataille, Lyotard, Baudrillard, et. al.) but it is also important to take into account that these thinkers influenced and were themselves influenced by other theoretical and philosophical currents, such as the Frankfurt School and continental philosophy in general, not to mention even more recent trends such as postmodernity and post-colonial critiques.   All of this theoretical and self-reflective intellectual production has deeply impacted how we think about culture at large as well as the ways we conceive of canon formation, the value of the humanities and a humanistic curriculum in the modern university.   The humanities are perpetually “in crisis” but to what extent has theory itself also contributed to the particularly acute current crisis?

Rather than attempting an exhaustive overview or history of theory in general (an impossible undertaking) we will address a select few questions and approaches while leaving the possibility for the student to branch out in other areas not covered or only briefly touched upon (psychoanalysis or postmodernism for example) for the final research paper.  Students are encouraged to use the texts in the syllabus as a springboard for exploring other theoretical currents.

Another objective of the course is to familiarize students with current theoretical trends in major journals.   Part of the course requirements will be to familiarize yourself with these journals and to present and dialogue with an essay from one of them. 

Spring 2021


ENGL 8120 Pedagogy Course

Dana Nelson


ENGL 8138: Comparative Literature

Allison Schachter


ENGL 8351: Studies in 20th & 21st Century American Literatures

Teresa Goddu


ENGL 8410– Studies in Romantic & Victorian Literature

Jay Clayton