Graduate Courses, Fall 2002

Times and locations of class meetings are subject to change. Consult the UF Schedule of Courses for an explanation of the class period abbreviations.

Course no. Time(s) Course title Instructor
downAML 6017 W 6-8 Labor & the 19th-Century American Novel S. Smith
downCRW 6130 T 6-8 Fiction Writing Leavitt
downCRW 6130 T 6-8 Fiction Writing Powell
downCRW 6331 T 6-8 Poetry Writing Logan
downCRW 6331 M E1-3 Workshop in Translation Wade
downENC 6428 M 9-11 Graduate Multimedia Studio Harpold
downENG 6075 T 6-8 Literary Theory: Issues Leavey
downENG 6077 W 3-5 Pragmatism & Performativity Emery
downENG 6137 R 9-11
screening TBA
Taylorism, History, & the Movies Ray
downENL 6216 M 3-5 Studies in Middle English Paxson
downENL 6226 T 4 R 4-5 Staging Shakespeare Homan
downENL 6236 T 3-5 Eighteenth-Century Literature: English Novel McCrea
downENL 6246 R 6-8 Wordsworth & His Circle Page
downENL 6256 T E1-3 Victorian Genders & the Novel: Masculinities Gilbert
downENL 6276 W E1-3 Twentieth-Century British Literature Kershner
downLAE 6947 M 9-11 Writing Theories & Practices Dobrin
downLAE 6947 T E1-3 Writing Theories & Practices Dobrin
downLIT 6358 W 9-11 Theoretical Approaches to Black Cultural Studies Reid
downLIT 6856 R 3-5 Postcolonial Theory Schueller
downLIT 6934 T E1-3 Narrative & Interactivity Douglas

AML 6017

Labor and the 19th-Century American Novel

Stephanie Smith

Although many Americans will spend most of their adult lives working, fictional representations of work – the conditions of employment, the kinds of labor Americans perform, which jobs are available to whom, what those jobs entail – are relatively rare. Or so it might seem. And yet, many novels written in the United States during the 19th century were, in fact, representations of, and investigations into, the conditions of labor. This course will be dedicated to rendering the multiple manifestations of “labor” – broadly conceived – visible in the 19th century American novel (mostly).

Engaging a variety of critical perspectives, the course will both explore and raise questions about the rapidly changing nature of work, the public sphere, politics and the economy, with a specific focus on ante-bellum conflicts that erupted into the Civil War, the post-bellum years of Reconstruction and the Gilded Age.

Thematic Unit Overview

Reading List: Required

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CRW 6130

Graduate Fiction Workshop

David Leavitt

This is an intensive fiction writing workshop for graduate students in the MFA program in Creative Writing. Reading varies, according to the whim of the instructor. Last year I asked the students to select their own reading, with each member of the workshop presenting a work of fiction that he or she loved. This semester, I have put together a reading list consisting entirely of novels set in hotels.

The workshop itself operates on the principle that prose fiction is made of words, punctuation marks and white space. Craft is the name of the game, with the result that we spend more time talking about point of view and voice than we do about subject matter, “theme,” or “plot.” The class is rigorous. Members are expected to submit their work at least three times during the semester, and to emerge at the end better writers than they were at the beginning. They are also expected to amaze the instructor on a weekly basis by exhibiting great critical acuity and by feats of insight.

Although most of the writers who take this workshop focus on the short story, I will be making a concerted effort this term to create an atmosphere that will be equally comfortable for those working on novels or longer works.

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CRW 6130

Graduate Fiction Workshop

Padgett Powell

This course is open to degree candidates in fiction only. The following is a partial syllabus that attempts to suggest the character of the course.

Your job in here is to write with force and surprise and to tender your efforts regularly and cleanly.

My job in here is to induce criticism which will cure whatever ills are at hand without making the writer ill.

It is difficult to say what is wrong with a piece of fiction in a way that will be at once corrective and palatable to its author. A good professional editor may manage it with a piece not much flawed. I fear, after nearly twenty years trying, that it is rarely possible to do this in a direct way to a more troubled piece of writing for the forming writer then and there. I believe, though, it is possible, in speaking ostensibly about this or that piece of writing by this or that writer, to speak prescriptively and salubriously toward the bettering of later writing, both that done by an author and by witnesses to his or her ordeal. A general sense of what constitutes good writing is supposed to obtain in the course of our piecemeal daily assaults upon the specific faults and merits of a particular piece of writing.

I will now read you a passage from Shelby Foote, whom I satirized in a recent book, which passage has affected my approach to teaching this course (and which satirizing affected my approach to the War, or Wawer as I put it). Then I will elaborate on it, the Foote not the Wawer.

I grade hard, for reasons I will elaborate. The last workshop I taught received two As.

Please attend class. While my hard grading is not deliberately punitive, this policy is: my feeling is that if I have to come here, so do you.

Objective of course clearly stated at outset: that you leave it writing better than when you entered it. That you put to paper things not said before that surprise us.

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CRW 6331

Graduate Poetry Workshop

Will Logan

Course description not available at this time.

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CRW 6331

Workshop in Translation

Sidney Wade

“Poetry is what’s lost in the translation,” Robert Frost is supposed to have said. In this workshop we will be translating poetry from other languages, discussing and challenging Frost’s dictum at length. We will tackle the issues of form, fluency, and accuracy, among many others, as we work out the translations. Students will be required to translate a minimum of six poems during the course of the semester. The workshop will be the laboratory in which we present to one another the problems that arise and find solutions to those problems. The required texts,

are all available from Goering’s Books.

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ENC 6428

Graduate Multimedia Studio

Terry Harpold

This is a studio/seminar course in WWW-based multimedia design and production, with an emphasis on critical and theoretical problems of graphic form and interactivity design. Our investigations will be guided by:

  1. the conceptual and practical challenges of working within narrow design constraints;
  2. the creative provocations of aesthetic defamiliarization – that is, recasting familiar objects in forms and conditions which reveal them as impertinent and unfamiliar.

Critical and theoretical readings for the course will focus on two common characteristics of postmodern graphic design: the refusal of signifying depth and embrace of superficiality and parataxis, and the (theoretically- and technically-related) treatment of text as material, purely graphemic substance, disconnected from its orthographic functions. Students will create digital and nondigital artifacts shaped by these design considerations. Foremost among these will be modules for a post-literate abecedary.

Abecedaries are among the most elementary and commonplace of literary texts. They typically take the form of “alphabet books,” illustrated primers that teach the use of an alphabet with decorated letterforms, whimsical images, and brief blocks of accompanying text. (“Big A, little a – what begins with A?”) Well-known modern examples include Theodore Geisel’s Dr. Seuss’s ABC, Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies (a darkly comic parody of the form), and Chris Van Allsburg’s The Z Was Zapped. The term “abecedary” is sometimes applied to texts organized by the serial structure or typographic forms of an alphabet: for example, Walter Abish’s novel, Alphabetical Africa; J.G. Ballard’s short story, “The Beach Murders;” and Paul Valéry’s unfinished prose-poem series, Alphabet.

At the beginning of this course each student will be assigned one letter, chosen randomly, from the Roman alphabet used by modern English. During the first third of the semester, the student will research the histories and uses of this letter, and will share her or his results with the class in a short written report and oral presentation. The student will also produce a series of mixed-media mockups of a corresponding module of a multimedia abecedary, shaped by the aforementioned principles of superficiality and graphemic materiality. This, too, will be presented to the class for peer analysis and critique. The primary project for the course will be the design and implementation of a fully-realized WWW-based module, incorporating animation, sound and programmed responses to user actions. Most of our class discussion in the last half of the semester will be devoted to analysis, critique, and refinement of students’ letter modules.

Our primary production tool will be Macromedia Flash. Prior multimedia development experience is not required, but you must be prepared to undertake significant work in ActionScript, Flash’s object-oriented programming language (this is not a “point-and-click” multimedia course; you will have to write code); and to work with a high-end graphics editor, like Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia FreeHand, or The GIMP. The class will be taught in the English Department’s Graduate Seminar Room (the room is outfitted with high-end Mac OS and Windows computers to support class presentations), and in the English Department’s Film and New Media Production Suite, where students will use Mac OS G4 workstations. Additional out-of-class access to a Macintosh (OS 9 or X) or Windows (9x, 2000, or XP) computer is recommended. N.B.: Workstations in CLAS’s Networked Writing Environment (NWE) do not support much of the software we will use. The Mac OS and Windows workstations in CLAS’s IMAGE Lab do support most of the software we will use.

Course readings will include technical materials related to Flash and ActionScript development, short critical and theoretical texts on graphic design and typography, and several literary and poetic texts shaped by alphabetic forms and methods.

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ENG 6075

Literary Theory: Issues: Empire

John Leavey

This will be a reading seminar on two interrelated multi-authored volumes, Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus and Hardt and Negri’s Empire. Although many different contexts are possible for providing entry into these two volumes and encouraged for members of the seminar, my reading will take both an obvious and an oblique point of entry. The obvious entry is that of precedence: the prior appearance of and appeal to Deleuze and Guattari by Hardt and Negri. The oblique entry is the question of technology and the futures it prospects.

The seminar will consist of 12 sessions devoted to readings. A seminar presentation (15%) and a final paper (75%) (approximately 4500 words) are required, as well as attendance and participation (10%) in seminar discussions. The seminar presentations will take place in the last two sessions of the course.

Tentative Schedule

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ENG 6077

Pragmatism and Performativity

Kim Emery

This course will explore the intersections of pragmatic and performative accounts of meaning production, subject formation, and political agency, attending in particular to their engagements with speech act theory. Although centered on the works of J.L. Austin, Judith Butler, and C.S. Peirce, the course will also draw on a number of other theorists, including perhaps Tom Cohen, Cary Wolfe, John Stuhr, José Muñoz, Sandra Rosenthal, Sue-Ellen Case, Cornel West, and James Hoopes. No previous training in philosophical pragmatism, linguistics, or semiotics is required or expected, but students should be prepared for a semester of rigorous engagement with critical theory – and have an interest in exploring the interrelation and mutual illumination of traditions not regularly considered in conjunction.

Two class presentations and two short papers (7–10 pages) will be required; doctoral students will have the option of writing an article-length seminar paper in lieu of the two shorter ones.

Recommended summer reading: Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club.

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ENG 6137

Taylorism, History, and the Movies

Robert Ray

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the old opposition of science and religion found itself reduced to the struggle of industrial managers against the last vestiges of metaphysics. This course uses the context of film culture to trace how this new version of an old argument developed between the wars in Hollywood, Paris, and Berlin.

Part I sketches the roots of the debate in such nineteenth-century figures as Comte and Nietzsche, and proposes that the apparently complete triumph of Taylorist modernism remained shadowed by a quasi-religious preference for excess. Part II examines the Hollywood studio system’s effort, derived from Fordism, to rationalize cultural production. Part III concerns the Surrealists’ repudiation of that industrial puritanism and their remotivation of the religious impulse, often located in isolated moments of even the most conventional movies. Finally, Part IV will study the fatal German attempt to combine perfected efficiency with religious politics.

Readings will include works by Comte, Frederick Taylor, Henry Ford, Thomas Schatz (on Hollywood), Richard Dyer (on movie stardom), Aragon, Breton, J. P. Stern (on Nazism’s intellectual history), Bataille, and Leiris.

Films will include Modern Times, 42nd Street, Grand Hotel, Gabriel over the White House, Rose Hobart, Olympic Summer, Triumph of the Will, The Mortal Storm, and Three Comrades.

Assignments

Two medium-length papers, or one exam and one longer paper.

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ENL 6216

Studies in Middle English: Medieval Rhetoric, Poetics, Hermeneutics

James Paxson

This introductory course in medieval rhetoric, poetics, and hermeneutics will serve students of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, students of modern critical theory, and students of rhetoric and composition. Despite what purists of the history of medieval thought might proclaim, these three paramount disciplines or discursive formations often resembled or blurred into each other the way their conceptual descendants often do in postmodern theory.

Required and reserve texts (all in modern English translations) will furnish an introduction to the universal medieval (and remarkably proto-modern) assumption that culture itself was textual; the invention of culture would arise through training in and production of manuscripts, commentaries, glosses, and artes poeticae. The practices of medieval commentary and hermeneutics rested therefore not just on the metaphysical imperatives of medieval philosophy (such as Hugh of St. Victor’s world-as-book concept), but in the practical mandates of the vast medieval grammatica, the cultural system for writing culture, and the apparatus of schools and copy-houses for transmitting scriptural or mythographical learning.

The paramount discourse of medieval textual culture was thus allegory, which we will explore in some detail, both as an epistemological system and as a process of literary composition or textual hermeneutics. Study will also be on medieval theoretical models of narratology, trope theory, and genre, along with attention paid to allegorical and narratological systems at work in the productions of major poets such as Dante and Chaucer.

Required texts

Requirements/Assignments/Grading

Paper one should deal with the importance of the contribution by a medieval commentator or allegorist; paper two should treat a theoretical problem, especially one of an epistemological nature that perhaps presages interests expressed in the canon of modern critical theory. Or, the second paper might treat the expression of a hermeneutic conceptual scheme in the literary work of a medieval poet or literary text, preferably from the Middle English tradition. Notice that there aren’t any texts in contemporary theory on the syllabus; rather, the syllabus represents a basic literacy with some of the major texts and figures in medieval thought. Work with current texts and traditions will largely be the job of seminar meetings, student reports, and papers. Encouraged are projects and interests that seek to make connections between medieval and modern theory – a feat in the eyes of many medievalists and modernists who understand medieval hermeneutics and poetics to have been merely cut off and supplanted through the cognitive and epistemological revolution of Romanticist poetics and its modern or postmodern legacy.

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ENL 6226

Staging Shakespeare

Sid Homan

One third of the course will be spent with students’ helping Professor Homan as he prepares to direct a production of As You Like It for the spring semester. Work will involve: cutting and preparing the text, developing the “director’s concept” (what the production will look like, its mood, the “statement” it makes to the audience), preliminary blocking of the scenes, casting, and adjusting the show to a particular theatre. The other two-thirds of the course will find students working with a partner as they prepare scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, and Stoppard’s reworking of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. No acting experience is required. While we will also consider the play’s critical and theatrical histories, the focus will be on learning about Shakespeare by “doing” him, by performance in which the text is approached as something at once verbal, non-verbal, visual, temporal, and spatial.

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ENL 6236

Eighteenth-Century Literature: English Novel

Brian McCrea

This course will investigate relationships between the “old” 18th Century cannon – Defoe, Fielding, Richardson and Sterne – and the “new” – Burney, Sheridan, Lennox and Inchbald. Particular attention will be given to the question of how (or whether) the most traditional devices of narrative (the birth mystery, for one example) are gendered. We also will contrast the most influential critics of the 1980s, Michael McKeon and Nancy Armstrong, to the most successful critics of the 1990s, Claudia Johnson, Jill Campbell, and John Bender.

Lectures will focus on the response of these eighteenth-century writers to the “demographic crisis” (L. F. Stone’s term) that the English elite suffered from 1650 to 1740. We will analyze how authors use the birth mystery to rationalize the confusions created by the inability of patriarchs to provide legitimate male heirs. The course will open with Nancy Armstrong’s Desire and Domestic Fiction – a work which connects literary and social change in the eighteenth century. Throughout the semester, we will consider the implications of Michael McKeon’s claim that the novel originates as part of an attempt to ameliorate both literary and social anxiety about “quality.” By studying eighteenth-century fictionalizations of kinship, we can see how deftly the writers of the period, even as they encourage subversive social attitudes, bring their readers back to the status quo, closing their stories with vindications of existing orders. We also will position ourselves to study differences (or lack thereof) in the versions of kinship offered by male and female authors.

Students will work toward a publishable essay. Besides participating in class discussions, students will comment upon a novel and a critical work they read “on their own.” (I will provide book lists for both.)

Books

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ENL 6246

Wordsworth and His Circle

Judith W. Page

This course will introduce students to Wordsworth’s poetry and to his long poetic career in several different ways. We will read a selection of Wordsworth’s poetry closely and carefully, focusing on formalist, generic, biographical, and historical questions. We will also consider the way in which literary reputations such as Wordsworth’s take shape and evolve over time: from the poet of domesticity in the 1830s to Arnold’s moral teacher, Hartman’s “remarkably unremarkable” poet to the literary appropatrior and thief of some feminist criticism.

In addition to this critique of the poet Wordsworth, feminist criticism and theory calls for us to acknowledge the women of the Wordsworth circle in their own right. Accordingly, we will consider the writings and contributions of Dorothy, Mary, and Dora Wordsworth, as well as those of several other women associated with the family. Although (problematically) none of these women regarded themselves as writers per se and were reluctant to publish, their travel writings, journals, diaries, and letters attest to a vibrant manuscript culture that coexisted with William Wordsworth’s publishing career and with the texts that he chose not to publish but to share informally – during his lifetime. In addition, we will read selections from such published writers as Charlotte Smith, Joanna Baillie, and Felicia Hemans in order to investigate Wordsworth’s debt to and relationship with contemporary women writers. The class will consider how our perspective of the Wordsworth circle changes when we bring these concerns from the margin to the center.

Considering the mostly unpublished and informal writings of the Wordsworth women will raise questions about the technologies of writing and publication. For instance, we will read excerpts from a travel journal that Dora Wordsworth kept while on a tour with her father and Coleridge. The tour not only gave Dora the opportunity for self-expression, but allowed her to participate in what had become a women’s tradition within the family: recording, transcribing, and sharing journals with family and a larger circle of friends. These manuscripts formed what Margaret Ezell has called in another context a “female family of authorship”, a ccommunity of women who defined their writing non-professionally and did not aspire to publication. We will also consider the idea that the Wordsworth women had more in common with the world of “scribal publication,” as Harold Love has called the pre-professional literary environment of earlier centuries.

Tentative requirements: Students will keep a reading journal and will write a 20-page paper.

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ENL 6256

Victorian Genders and the Novel: Masculinities

Pamela Gilbert

This course will focus on Victorian genders with a special emphasis on masculinities, especially as manifested at mid century (mostly the 1840s–1870s) in the novel. Additionally, we will spend time reading and thinking about secondary works which interrogate and historicize our principal terms. Many of you have indicated interest in gender issues generally and specifically in masculinities, a topic which has received increasing attention in recent years. One advantage to this topic is that it is still new enough to be represented by a critical oeuvre of manageable size. By the end of the course, you will have read a substantial amount of important secondary work regarding mid-century masculinities, as well as a good selection of both canonical and less-known Victorian novels.

Reading may include some of the following, for example:

The course will focus on novels (probably seven or eight) and secondary readings about gender and especially masculinity. Most of these readings will be critical and historical, rather than theoretical stricto sensu, and so you should either be familiar with basic concepts in gender theory or be prepared to do a little extra reading on your own. However, the class discussion will be tailored to (and by) the class members, so you if need to know more about something, please ask. I would also like to emphasize that, although the course will focus on the construction of masculinity in the period, that topic cannot be discussed without reference to female identity, class, and sexuality, among other issues. The use of the plural in the course title is not simply a convention; it reflects the imbrication of gender with other identity categories, despite the increasing sense of a widely shared masculine “essence” which marks the period and which it left as a legacy. In short, I expect seminar conversation to be rather wide-ranging.

Tentative requirements

Requirements include regular attendance and participation, eight short (1–2 page) responses to the reading, posted to the class email list, substantial contributions to discussion of response papers over email, one full length paper (approx. 20–25 pages), one formal oral presentation (based on outside reading).

Response papers are due each week. You may choose which eight weeks you will turn something in, but please do not turn them in late. Response papers should be circulated and shared; you must post them electronically at least 48 hours before class. (I will create an email list for the class, to which you may post papers, responses, questions, etc.) Response papers should be short (one to two pages), focused essays which engage the reading (primary, secondary or both) directly.

You are also expected to contribute substantively to discussion on the list, as well as, of course, in class. The class will be conducted as a seminar; each member will be expected to speak during each class meeting and to discuss collegially with other class members. I will contribute as a discussion facilitator and resource person, but not, generally, as a lecturer. You should plan to use the class to explore and expand your own research interests wherever possible. If you would like to tailor your final project for a particular purpose (dissertation chapter, for example), please let me know.

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ENL 6276

Twentieth-Century British Literature

R. Brandon Kershner

This course will survey the twentieth-century British (and Irish) novel through the present day. In the first half of the course we will stress the emergence of modernism in the novel, with particular emphasis on formal concerns of the novelists, the effects of literary impressionism, and Joyce’s Ulysses as a central text in the modernist canon. The second part of the course will be addressed particularly to works by women and to the exploration of an alternative canon. Thus we will miss some works conventionally taught in a course like this (by Greene, Waugh, Orwell, Huxley, or Carey, for instance) in favor of works by writers like Murdoch and Byatt. At the same time, we will investigate the vexed question of the relations of modernism and postmodernism in the British novel.

The course will combine social and formal concerns: we will begin by emphasizing an evolution in the form of the novel and otherwise generally review the New Critical approach to modernist texts (while simultaneously putting it into question). Then, mostly through the idea of dialogism, we will attempt a bridge into questions of social context and ideology. Contemporary critical modes will be invoked, especially those in which poststructuralist insights are embedded in a social analysis: Bakhtin, Jameson, and Barthes should be especially useful, and we will pay particular attention to the possibilities of cultural studies.

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LAE 6947

Writing Theories and Practices

Sid Dobrin

In this course, we will examine and critique the important theoretical issues and problems that concern contemporary scholars and teachers of composition and rhetoric. We will examine the evolution of composition as a formal area of study, review some of the major projects that have shaped or reshaped thinking in the field, and evaluate various theoretical and pedagogical trends. In addition, we will study how scholarship in related fields – literary criticism, philosophy, and cognitive psychology, to name a few – affects studies in composition and rhetoric. We will look particularly at how computer technology and composition studies intersect, giving pause to consider how teaching in computer environments might be approached theoretically and pedagogically. These discussions will be tied to discussions of how we, as teachers of writing, engage students, develop assignments, and fulfill institutional and personal goals of the composition classroom. In other words, we will work to bridge the gap between composition theory and our own pedagogies.

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LIT 6358

Theoretical Approaches to Black Cultural Studies

Mark A. Reid

Theoretical writings and visual and literary works by people of African ancestry will be studied to assess how groups and individuals construct various types of identities in literary and visual texts as found in such creative mediums as the novel, play, photography, painting, film and video art. Writings by Molefi Kete Asante, Houston Baker, Anne Ducille, Henry Louis Gates, Stuart Hall, bell hooks, Michelle Wallace and others will help us discern how literary and visual products engage issues and evoke debates over the social and psychological construction of racial, class, sexual, gender and national identity. Students will apply critical strategies to analyze creative works and current intellectual ideas about the construction of the subject. Students write short response papers on assigned readings and submit a fifteen to twenty page comparative analysis that contrasts selected course readings and visual presentations with similar approaches by such continental and postcolonial theorists as Mikhail Bakhtin, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Homi Bhabha, Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Lacan, Karl Marx, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and others.

Requirements

  1. Ten submissions of a typed, two-page double-spaced reaction paper on the weekly readings, class discussions, and visual art presentations. 20% of grade.
  2. Moderate one 20-minute discussion on a weekly reading and or visual presentation. 20% of grade.
  3. Submission of a typed 15 to 20-page research paper and two-page bibliography. 40% of grade.
  4. Present a 20-minute oral presentation on the research paper or 15-minute video project. 20% of grade.

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LIT 6856

Postcolonial Theory

Malini Johar Schueller

This course is an introduction to the enormously influential field of postcolonial studies. We will study the ways in which postcolonial theory has intersected with and impacted diverse areas of inquiry such as feminism, historiography, culture, and ethnography. At the same time, this course will stress the importance of historicizing postcoloniality. The course will focus on four concerns central to postcolonial studies: the nature of colonial discourse, the strength of postcolonial rewritings, the articulation of revolutionary national consciousness, the relationship of postcolonial studies to feminist theories, and the changing nature of postcoloniality in light of the “globalization” of culture. We will read the works of major revolutionaries and theorists and the debates and arguments about these works.

In keeping with the wide range covered by postcolonial studies, the course will engage with a variety of cultural materials: popular films, a documentary, a novel, a testimonial, essays, and discourses about the veil. We will also deal with writings from and about the major parts of the world affected by imperialism: Europe, Asia, Africa, and Central America.

Possible Change: I might cut some readings and devote 2–3 weeks to theorizing U.S. Postcolonialism, including studying 9/11.

Tentative Texts

Requirements

Oral presentation; weekly responses; long seminar paper.

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LIT 6934

Narrative and Interactivity

Jane Douglas

This course aims to grapple with one of the more interesting aesthetic developments of the previous century: interactivity. Never before have narratives required input from their viewers or readers to be completed or actualized. In some aspects, interactive narratives – a term that extends to both hypertext fiction and narrative-based games – combine elements from theatre, novels and short stories, films, music, and games. In other respects, however, interactive narratives operate without many of the features essential to each of its components. They lack, for example, singular, physical closure, highly conventionalized content and presentation schemas, and clear-cut standards for presentation of interaction/navigation possibilities.

This course, then, is dedicated to understanding HOW interactive narratives work: do they rely on perceptually (hard-wired) or conventionally (socially) engendered mechanisms for comprehending their contents? How are their workings continuous or discontinuous with those of films, novels, plays, comics, or games? Through readings drawn from a panoply of sources (all included in your course pack), we’ll approach interactive narratives through the spectra of Artificial Intelligence (AI), developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, urban design, literary criticism, hypertext/media criticism, art history and aesthetics, and hypermedia design. We’ll be concerned with what makes an experience both pleasurable and meaningful in any media – and how interactive media can be fruitfully designed and executed around those parameters. And we’ll apply these methods and assumptions to some short interactive pieces of hypertext fiction, and five long interactive texts – possibly including The Last Express, The X-Files, Max Payne, and The Longest Journey, discussing all aspects related to intelligibility, narrative, imagability, and pleasure.

Primary assignments

  1. informal presentations that guide the class through aspects of two of the titles we’ll be covering this semester
  2. detailed reading logs on each interactive text
  3. a paper of at least 4000 words (approximately 16 pages) using any of the critical approaches or theories touched on in the course (e.g., cognitive psychology, schema theory, psycholinguistics, literary theory, game design) to come to grips with the aesthetic and cognitive effects, design, and narrative content of an interactive narrative/game of your choice. (The title merely needs to be a work to which I can have access.)

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