Graduate Courses, Fall 2010
|Course no.||Time(s)||Course title||Instructor|
|AML 6017||W 9-11||Antebellum Slave Narratives||White|
|AML 6017||W 3-5||Print Culture in 19th Century America||Smith|
|AML 6027||R E1-E3||Afro-Latina/o Cultural Studies||Hedrick|
|CRW 6130||T E1-E3||Graduate Fiction Workshop||Leavitt|
|CRW 6166||M 6-8||Studies in Literary Form||Powell|
|CRW 6331||T E1-E3||Graduate Poetry Workshop||Logan|
|ENG 6075||F 6-8||Queer Theory & Cultural Politics||Emery|
|ENG 6075||R 3-5||Film & Media Theory||Burt|
|ENG 6076||T 6-8
|ENG 6137||T 9-11
|ENG 6138||W 9-11
|Studies in Film: Weimar Cinema||Mennel|
|ENG 6138||T 3-5
|Jean-Luc Godard: The Films & the Critical Writing||Turim|
|ENL 6246||M 3-5||Jane Austen||Page|
|ENL 6256||M E1-E3||Victorian Popular Novels||Gilbert|
|LAE 6947||T 6-8||Writing Theories & Practices||Sánchez|
|LIT 6357||R 6-8||The World of Langston Hughes||Reid|
|LIT 6855||F 3-5||Consumer Society & Commodity Culture||Hegeman|
|LIT 6856||T E1-E3||Theory’s Child & the Subject of Children’s Literature||Kidd|
|LIT 6856||W 6-8||Bridging the Pernicious Chasm: Utopia, Dystopia, & Science Fiction||Wegner|
|LIT 6934||R 9-11||Women & Race: “The Trouble Between Us”||King|
|LIT 6934||M 9-11||Pre-Modern English Poetry & the “tre corone” of Italy||Shoaf|
Antebellum Slave Narratives
This course is a survey of the major African-American fugitive slave narratives of the colonial and antebellum periods (roughly half of the texts we know were written after the Civil War), and of the major critical approaches to this body of writing. Authors treated will include John Marrant, William Grimes, Moses Roper, Lewis & Milton Clarke, Josiah Henson, Solomon Northup, Henry Bibb, William & Ellen Craft, Jacob Green, and John Brown, as well as the better known Equiano, Douglass, and Jacobs. We will try to read as many narratives as possible.
Three critical assumptions will guide our readings and discussions. First, countering the long-held belief that Frederick Douglass authored the paradigmatic slave narrative (with Harriet Jacobs writing the woman’s “answer”), we will examine the extremely diverse body of narratives with attention to the problem of canon-building. Second, challenging the tendency to read slave narratives as historically rich data-receptacles but literarily impoverished texts, we will examine the literary development of this tradition and consider the possibility that it played a central role in US literary development. Third, we will consider the meaning and significance of abolition—as a form of cultural politics about race with a long legacy as one of the paradigmatic US form of thinking about race, heavily inflected by white liberalism. Most of the critical work of the course, then, will focus on transposing, in cultural terms, the political-institutional history of abolition. To those ends, we will focus on a few case studies, with likely candidates including Charles Ball, the probable author of the important narrative “Slavery in the United States”; William Wells Brown, one of the most diverse and successful antebellum writers; and the iconic Sojourner Truth, whose status as author and icon challenges and perhaps clarifies problems of authorship.
I encourage anyone interested in the course (or anyone not, for that matter) to read Robert Fanuzzi’s entry “Abolition” in Keywords for American Cultural Studies (ed. G. Hendler and B. Burgett) and any one of Ira Berlin’s histories of US slavery: Many Thousands Gone (2000); Generations of Captivity (2004); or The Making of African America (2010).
Print Culture in 19th Century America
The United States of America, as a political experiment in “democracy” – a form of government, “of the people, by the people, for the people” – rested on Enlightenment principles. However, it could not have come into existence without the growing power of print. A lively print culture, and the subsequent dissemination of the “word,” not only made America possible, it almost dissolved the government as well.
Meanwhile, as the political experiment grew, so did America’s ambition to have an indigenous “culture.” In 1846, critic and writer Margaret Fuller published an essay titled, “American Literature: Its Position in the Present Time, and Prospects for the Future,” in which she surveyed the field, as it were, of her time and made predictions for the future – our future. Returning to our founding documents, and to that essay as dual launching points, this class is going to re-examine our 19th-century “American” print culture heritage, what it was, what it might mean or have meant, and where our “literary” heritage went after 1846, with a particular focus on print as a medium, the publishing industry and American print culture of the 19th century.
Readings will include work by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Lydia Maria Child but we will also be using the archives.
Afro-Latina/o Cultural Studies
All texts will be in English. In this course, we will be examining how certain ideas from cultural studies inform criticism and theory by and about United States Afro-Latinos/as, mostly of Hispanophone Caribbean descent (Afro-Cuban Americans, Afro-Puerto Rican and Nuyoricans, Afro-Dominican Americans). We will be reading some fiction, and we will also do some historical work to situate and understand the presence of Afro-Latina/o groups in the U.S.
Graduate Fiction Workshop
This is an intensive fiction writing workshop for graduate students in the MFA program in Creative Writing. Reading varies, but will probably consist of short novels.
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 four times during the semester, and to emerge at the end better writers than they were at the beginning.
Although most of the writers who take this workshop focus on the short story, I will be making a concerted effort to create an atmosphere that will be equally welcoming for those working on novels or longer works.
Studies in Literary Form
In this course we will read some Turgenev and Peter Taylor, some Diderot and Beckett, some Kleist and Kafka and Barthelme, some Dinesen and Paley, some Stein and Hemingway, some Bernhard and O’brien (Flan), maybe a little Jane Bowles and Juan Rulfo. Some of these are intelligently paired. The point will be to witness the narrative tactics and the stylistic tics and steal them for your own use. You will turn in exercises in writing after these authors, and develop those pieces you can into perhaps standing pieces that are not dismissed as mere exercises. Open to MFA candidates in fiction.
Graduate Poetry Workshop
There are four-and-twenty changes in a linnet’s song. It’s one of the beautifullest songbirds we’ve got. It sings ‘toys’ as we call them; that is, it makes sounds which we distinguish in the fancy as the tollock eeke eeke quake le wheet; single eke eke quake wheets; or eek eek quake chowls; eege pipe chowl: laugh; eege poy chowls; rattle; pipe; fear; pugh and poy.
–from Mayhew’s London
The south-east coast of Van Dieman’s Land resembles a biscuit at which rats have been nibbling.
–Marcus Clarke, His Natural Life
Being of an undiplomatic and demonstrative nature in matters that give me pleasure, I threw the paper up into the air and jumped aloft myself – ending by taking a small fried whiting out of the plate before me and waving it round my foolish head triumphantly till the tail came off and the body and head flew. . . . Then only did I perceive that I was not alone, but that a party was at breakfast in a recess. Happily for me they were not English, and when I made an apology saying I had suddenly seen some good news of a friend of mine – these amiable Italians said, “Hurrah, Signore, we also are delighted. If we had only got some little fish, too, we would throw them all about the room in sympathy with you!”
–Edward Lear, letter of November 24, 1865
The object of poetry is to find the equivalent in language for things seen and felt. This workshop will ask you to write a dozen poems, one per week, and to read a broad selection of modern poetry from Robert Frost to poems published this decade. Each week the workshop will discuss your work and the work of your predecessors. We will find a place for frivolity and fecklessness within the seriousness of verse, and hope that within our studies cheerfulness will keep breaking in.
- an anthology of modern poetry
- three or four volumes of postwar contemporary poetry
- James McAuley, Versification
Queer Theory & Cultural Politics
This course is designed to serve as a graduate-level introduction to queer theory and thus attends to foundational texts from Foucault through the early 1990s, while also exploring more recent work in the field. In order to illuminate queer theory’s implications for the practice and interpretation of cultural politics, we will pay particular attention to its engagements with speech act theory, performativity, and performance, and will also consider examples of queer cultural work in extra-academic contexts and genres. The semester will begin with an overview of major concerns, methodologies, and texts before moving on to consider important new work on affect, trauma, failure, and futurity.
Each student will be assigned primary responsibility for one class discussion. One conference-style presentation and paper, one abstract, frequent short homework assignments, and a revised seminar paper (15–20 pages) are also required. Readings will include some combination of the following books, as well as several articles, some chosen by seminar participants.
- Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings
- Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive
- Roderick Ferguson, Aberrations in Black
- Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, volume 1
- Judith Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place
- Heather Love, Feeling Backwards: Loss and the Politics of Queer History
- José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia
- Kathryn Bond Stockton, The Queer Child
- Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics
Film & Media Theory
This course will focus film theory in the wake of digital media, focusing particularly on the truth value of the film image, transmediality, narrative frames, the frame as image holder, and the cinematic paratext. Readings include selections from, among others:
- Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media
- Friedrich Kittler, Literature, Media, Information Systems
- W.J.T. Mitchell, The Reconfigured Eye
- Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt, Practicing the New Historicism
- Philip Rosen, Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory
- Tom Conley, Film Hieroglyphs
- Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation
- Gemma Solano and Antonio Boneu, The Art of the Title Sequence: Film Graphics in Motion
Films include, among others:
- Calling Northside 777
- Blow Up
- Peeping Tom
- El Cid
- The Battle of Algiers
- Caché (Hidden)
- Paris Belongs to Us
- The Testament of Dr Mabuse
- The Lady Vanishes
Auto-immunity, animal, sovereign: outliers. This seminar pays particular attention to some of the later texts of Derrida. Three topics in two parts are followed, intertwining perhaps but not necessarily intertwined – each may set the limit of the other, its other, still to be determined and specified. The topics seem to converge on “outliers.” The first part considers politics and community in Points . . . , Rogues, The Politics of Friendship,and “Faith and Knowledge.” The second part considers animality and sovereignty, two outlaws outside the boundaries of the law, in the set of the most recent seminars, The Beast and the Sovereign.
This seminar, a useful preparation for those interested in or already teaching ENG 2300, will involve exploring the implications of four remarks:
1. Conrad’s way of dealing with the terror of the rubber boom in the Congo was Heart of Darkness. There were three realities there: King Leopold’s, made out of intricate disguises and deceptions, Roger Casement’s studied realism [in his official reports], and Conrad’s, which fell midway between the other two, as he attempted to penetrate the veil and yet was anxious to retain its hallucinatory quality. This formulation is sharp and important: to penetrate the veil while retaining its hallucinatory quality.
Here is the proposition: the goal of a reinvented film studies should be to penetrate the movies’ veil while retaining their hallucinatory quality. The project is to invent a method of film analysis that will achieve this balance.
Readings for this section:
- Hammond: The Shadow and Its Shadow: Surrealist Writings on the Cinema
- French Impressionist filmmakers’ writings on Photogénie
- Keathley: Cinephilia and History, or The Wind in the Trees
2. It was true to say that our considerations could not be scientific ones. . . . And we may not advance any kind of theory. There must not be anything hypothetical in our considerations. We must do away with all explanation, and description alone must take its place.
Here’s the question: why in the wake of May ’68 did the ideological semiotics of Screen-theory (named for the British film journal) drive out other critical modes? What can Wittgenstein teach us about Screen-theory’s ambitions to achieve a “scientific film criticism”? About the place of description in film analysis?
Readings for this section:
- Samples of Screen-theory (Mulvey, Comolli and Narboni)
- Selections from Wittgenstein
3. Everything we see could also be otherwise.
Everything we describe at all could also be otherwise.
Here is a starting place for film analysis: everything we see on the screen could also be otherwise. Can we use that proposition as a starting point for evaluating filmmakers’ choices?
Readings for this section:
- Perkins: Film as Film
- Perkins: selected essays
- Klevan: selected essays
4. And why was I drawn to these shots?. . . I thought they were gently mysterious, and that they were significant. They asked questions of me. As the film [Meet John Doe] continues, the memory of the shots kept returning. My instinct was that because these shots were like that they might give me a key to the whole film, and open it up in new and rewarding ways.
Here’s a method: use a cinematic detail (a scene, a shot, an object, a gesture, an effect of light) that you find simultaneously intriguing and mysterious as a starting point for film analysis.
Readings for this section:
- Cavell: selected essays and interviews
- Klevan: selected essays and interviews
Grades based on the following:
- Weekly reading quizzes
- Class participation
- Two oral presentations
- A short mid-term paper (5–7 pages)
- A longer final paper (12–14 pages)
We will often watch two movies a week, mostly classic Hollywood.
Studies in Film: Weimar Cinema
This course covers the classic cinema of the Weimar Republic, including such films as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, The Golem, and M. The course will be organized around the tensions of modernity. We will address the origins of genre, such as science fiction, melodrama, mountain film, and the city film. We will pay particular attention to gender and sexuality in such films as Pandora’s Box, Different from the Others, Joyless Street, The Blue Angel, and Girls in Uniform. Urban space will feature as a central topic in discussions of Berlin: Symphony of a City, The Last Laugh, Asphalt, and People on Sunday. A postcolonial approach to cinematic orientalism will guide our discussion of Prince Ahmed and The Indian Tomb. In addition to discussing films framed by aesthetic, institutional, and socio-political concerns, we will also emphasize early, contemporary, and very recent approaches to Weimar Cinema. Authors might include Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, Bela Balaczs, Lotte Eisner, Sabine Hake, Heide Schlüpmann, Miriam Hansen, Anton Kaes, and Christian Rogowski. Knowledge of German is not required for this course.
Jean-Luc Godard: The Films & the Critical Writing
“A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order.” In honor of his eightieth birthday, this seminar will look at the writing and cinema of Jean-Luc Godard, one of the most prolific, innovative, and consequential of filmmakers. From his beginnings as critic at first the Gazette and then at Cahiers du Cinéma, to his groundbreaking early films associated with the French New Wave, through his Dzega Vertov collective ventures, to his increasingly complex montage and sound experimentation, we will analyze Godard’s films, as well as some of the films he admired as critic. Particular attention will be paid to visual design, montage, and the multiple functions of the sound track in his films. We will read the recent books in English devoted to his career, to be supplemented by reserve readings of historical Godard criticism. Godard will serve as a way of thinking about film theory and narrative theory, so the reading list will also include a wide range of theoretical essays. One such example is Barthes’s S/Z, read so as to understand hermeneutic, symbolic, and semic coding in their suspended and stretched inscriptions in Godard’s works.
Seminar participants will have a wide range of research opportunities available for their seminar papers, including comparing other filmmakers, artists or writers to Godard’s praxis, focusing on historical, contextual research, or focusing on new approaches to Godard’s corpus. We will question biographical and auteurist assumptions, even while we consider how those approaches substantially affect how we look at Godard for obvious reasons. We will consider what other talents have contributed to these films: cinematographers, actors, editors, producers. Godard may be the most intertextual of filmmakers, so the seminar will invite intertextual approaches. Those able to research in French or other languages will be encouraged to do so. Active participation in seminar, including participation through the sakai course website, will be required. There will be powerpoint illustrated class presentations and a final paper, to grow out of earlier assignments of prospectus and outlines. All Godard works available on DVD will be on reserve for the course, and while we will screen many of the key films in class, seminar participants should be prepared to screen works in addition to the ones we have time to include as course screenings.
Books may include:
- The Cinema Alone : essays on the work of Jean-Luc Godard, 1985-2000 edited by Michael Temple and James S. Williams.
- For ever Godard ed. Michael Temple, James S. Williams, Michael Witt.
- Jean-Luc Godard: Interviews ed. David Sterritt.
- Godard; Images, Sounds, Politics. Colin MacCabe; text, Colin MacCabe, with Mick Eaton and Laura Mulvey.
- Godard on Godard.
- Cahiers du Cinéma: The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave .
- Cahiers du Cinéma: 1960-1968: New Wave, New Cinema, Reevaluating Hollywood.
- Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy, Colin MacCabe.
- S/Z, Roland Barthes.
- The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft, Anne Friedberg.
You are very, very kind in your hints as to the sort of Composition which might recommend me at present, & I am fully sensible that an Historical Romance . . . might be much more to the purpose of Profit or Popularity, than such pictures of domestic Life in the Country Villages as I deal in –but I could no more write a Romance than an Epic Poem. – I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my Life; & if it were indispensable for me to keep it up & never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first Chapter.
–Jane Austen (letter to James Stanier Clarke, April 1,1816)
This course will focus on Austen’s writing (including juvenilia, letters, published novels, and uncompleted texts) in the context of the literature, culture, and politics of her time. We will study Austen’s relationship to other writers of the period. We will also discuss several recent film adaptations of Austen’s fiction, considering the ways that such films re-imagine the past that Austen’s novels represent.
Readings (subject to some change):
- Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life
- Catherine and Other Writings
- Northanger Abbey
- Sense and Sensibility
- Pride and Prejudice
- Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon
- Mansfield Park
- Belinda (by Maria Edgeworth)
Students will write one report on one of Austen’s contemporaries and a 20-page seminar paper written in stages (proposal, mock conference paper, completed paper).
Victorian Popular Novels
This course will explore “popular” and emerging genres in the nineteenth century novel, especially between 1830 and 1890. We may cover the historical, silver-fork, gothic, sensation, domestic, religious and/or adventure novel, to name a few. We will also interrogate the notion of the popular and the history of “taste.” Over the next few months, I will narrow this down considerably – there is such a variety of popular work and ways to approach it in this period that I will probably organize the course in either four subgenres or three to four themes. If you know you plan to take the course, feel free to email and let me know your interests – I will try to shape the syllabus around the needs of the participants as much as possible.
Authors may include Bulwer-Lytton, Catharine Gore, Oliphant, Trollope, Ellen Wood, Braddon, Kingsley, Collins, Dickens, Yonge, Corelli and/or others. Critical readings may include Bourdieu, Altick (The Common Reader), Armstrong (How Novels Think, Desire and Domestic Fiction), Eric Auerbach (Mimesis) among several others. I shall divide the reading between novels, narrative theory, literary criticism, and historical materials designed to help us think through the idea of the popular as it relates to reading in this period.
The course will require a turn at discussion leading, eight short response papers, and a seminar paper of 21–25 pages.
Writing Theories & Practices
This course introduces you to perspectives on writing and the teaching of writing in colleges and universities. It aims to give you historical and theoretical contexts in which to place your emerging teaching career. Expect to do much writing and reading.
The World of Langston Hughes
This course employs an interdisciplinary approach and seminar format that requires students to familiarize themselves with Langston Hughes’s literary work as well as the socio-political atmosphere that were the subjects of some of his writings. Discussion topics include the Harlem Renaissance, African American drama, the blues tradition in poetry, and the international sociopolitical climate in which Hughes lived. In discussing the literary work and political life of Langston Hughes, the seminar participants will critically assess how Hughes fared as an American writer and social critic.
- MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers 7th Edition.
- Bernard, Emily, Ed. Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten.
- Berry, Faith. Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem
- __________, Ed. Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Writings of Langston Hughes.
- Hughes, Langston. The Big Sea: An Autobiography.
- __________. I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey.
- __________. Not Without Laughter. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1969, 1995)
- __________. Selected Poems of Langston Hughes.
- __________. Five Plays by Langston Hughes. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1968)
- __________. The Ways of White Folks. (New York: Vintage/Random House, 1990)
- Tracy, Steven C. Langston Hughes & the Blues.
- Ten weekly reaction papers to readings and film screenings
- Two oral presentations on weekly readings and film screenings
- One 3-page annotated bibliography of the “essay-in-progress”
- One 8-page “essay-in-progress” (rough draft of a conference paper)
- One oral presentation of an “essay-in-progress”
Consumer Society & Commodity Culture
Over the last several decades, consumerism has been a hot topic in literary, historical, and cultural studies. Some have sought to locate examples of a commodity culture in ever-more diverse times, places, and texts, while others have debated the liberatory and creative potential in acts of consumption. In the face, however, of recent events (especially struggles to address global warming and the nearly-diverted 2008 economic crisis in which American consumer debt figured centrally) it is time to look again at consumer society as a concrete historical entity, at commodity culture as a force in the production of economies, nations and individuals, and at our intellectual investments in this topic. This course will survey some of the key theoretical texts in discussions of consumerism (Marx, Mauss, Debord, Baudrillard…), as well as historical studies of consumerism and the emergence of consumer society. Topics will include consumer citizenship and activism, gender and consumption, anti-consumerist movements (including environmentalism, consumer protection, voluntary simplicity, and some forms of feminism).
Because of my own specializations and my views on the topic of consumer society, this course will likely have a historical bias toward the 20th century U.S. The class should, however, be of interest not only to Americanists, but to those working in theory and cultural studies as well.
Theory’s Child and the Subject of Children’s Literature
This course tracks theory’s child and/or the child in theory, with an eye toward the subject of children’s literature. We’ll consider the child in, through and across such disciplines and projects as Romanticism, history, philosophy, Marxism, the social sciences, education, cultural studies, and the posthumanities, with special attention to psychoanalysis and queer theory. Students will develop individual research projects that may or may not take up the subject of children’s literature.
Required are regular participation, one or two short writing assignments, and a longer seminar paper (20-25 pp.).
- Excerpts from Walter Benjamin, Melanie Klein, Wilhelm Reich, Avital Ronell, D. W. Winnicotti, Hermine Hug-Hellmuth, Jacques Lacan, John Bowlby, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Carl Jung, Adam Phillips, Henri Lefebvre, Jane Thrailkill, Karin Lesnik-Oberstein
- Philippe Ariès, Centuries of Childhood
- Virginia Blum, Hide and Seek
- Steven Bruhm and Natasha Hurley, Curiouser
- Karen Coats, Looking Glasses and Neverlands
- Lee Edelman, No Future
- Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality; A Case History of Obsessional Neurosis
- Christopher Fynsk, Infant Figures
- Susan Hancock, The Child that Haunts Us
- Chris Jenks, Childhood
- Perry Nodelman, The Hidden Adult
- Carolyn Steedman, Strange Dislocations
- Kathryn Bond Stockton, The Queer Child
Bridging the Pernicious Chasm: Utopia, Dystopia, & Science Fiction
As long as man concentrates his interest contemplatively upon the past or future, both ossify into an alien existence. And between the subject and the object lies the unbridgeable “pernicious chasm” of the present. Man must be able to comprehend the present as becoming. He can do this by seeing in it the tendencies out of whose dialectical opposition he can make the future. Only when he does this will the present be a process of becoming that belongs to him.
–Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness
In a well-known essay, which we will read this semester, Fredric Jameson argues that the “deepest vocation” of science fiction is “over and over again to demonstrate and to dramatize our incapacity to imagine the future, to body forth, through apparently full representations which prove on closer inspection to be structurally and constitutively impoverished, the atrophy in our time of what Marcuse has called the utopian imagination, the imagination of otherness and radical difference.” Rather than a critique of science fiction, Jameson argues that this failure is the genre’s strength, as in this way science fiction’s “multiple mock futures serve the quite different function of transforming our own present into the determinate past of something yet to come,” and thus enable us to perceive the present as history, what Georg Lukács refers to in the epigraph above as “a process of becoming.”
This semester, we will explore the path by which Jameson arrives at this conclusion, including its roots in the wide-ranging discussion of utopia offered by Ernst Bloch and the groundbreaking formulation of science fiction as the “literature of cognitive estrangement” offered by Darko Suvin, by examining some of the key texts in the development of the theorization of three deeply interrelated fields of inquiry: those of utopia, dystopia, and science fiction. Along the way, we will examine such issues as utopia as both a modern literary form and as a cultural hermeneutic; the political stakes in the emergence and flourishing during the last century of utopia’s dialectical inversion, the dystopia; some of the approaches we can take to the study of a literary genre; and the still vital importance of science fiction as a way of thinking our global present.
Our readings will primarily be composed of key theoretical statements, including many of the following: Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope, Volume 1; Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre; Mark Rose, Alien Encounters: Anatomy of Science Fiction; Marlene S. Barr, Feminist Fabulation: Space/Postmodern Fiction; Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions; Tom Moylan, Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia; Carl Freedman, Critical Theory and Science Fiction; Paul K. Alkon, Origins of Futuristic Fiction; John Huntington, Rationalizing Genius: Ideological Strategies in the Classic American Science Fiction Short Story; Vivian Sobchak, Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film; Steven Shaviro, Connected, or What It Means to Live in the Network Society; Roger Luckhurst, Science Fiction; Marlene S. Barr, ed., Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction's Newest New-Wave Trajectory; John Rieder, Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction; Sherryl Vint, Bodies of Tomorrow: Technology, Subjectivity, Science Fiction; Lisa Yaszek, Galactic Suburbia: Recovering Women’s Science Fiction; Mark Bould and China Miéville, eds., Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction. Students will also be asked to use these works as jumping off places for their own explorations in utopian, dystopian, and science fiction literatures and film.
Women & Race
This course looks at women’s literary and critical responses to gendered race relations in America from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, from Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl through the Second Wave Feminist Movement, to Toni Morrison’s Paradise (which opens with a reference to the murder of a white woman who is never clearly identified, indicating that the women’s struggles the novel encompasses are cross-racial, borderless and shared). Students will trace and analyze how racially different women during the period under review talk about each other, coop and reject each other, or, simply, ignore each other as they negotiate gendered social, political, and domestic challenges.
Pre-Modern English Poetry and the “tre corone” of Italy
In this course students will read, in translation, all of Dante’s Comedy, substantial parts of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and a selection of Petrarch’s rime sparse, as preparation for reading three later English masterpieces: 1) Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, the first poem of its kind in English and, in effect, a transvaluation of classical “epic” through Chaucer’s encounter with the “tre corone”; 2) Henryson’s “Testament of Cresseid,” perhaps the major text of the so-called “Scottish Chaucerians,” and a crucial document in their agon with Chaucer and his transumption of the fin’amors heritage; and 3) Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, perhaps the archetypal “problem play” and certainly a very disturbing examination of eros and transcendence, prompted in part by Chaucer and his reading of the “tre corone.”
Books for the course will include the just completed translation of the Comedy by Jean and Robert Hollander, the Oxford World Classics translation of the Decameron by Guido Waldman, Robert Durling’s translation of Petrarch’s rime, Barry Windeatt’s edition and modernization of Chaucer’s Troilus, the TEAMS/METS edition of Henryson’s “Testament,” and the Bevington edition of Shakespeare’s Troilus for the Arden Shakespeare.
Assessments will be based on class participation and either two essays of 15 pages each or one essay, a research project, of 30 pages.