American Literature to 1820
Taste, pleasure, aesthetics, sensation: a revived attention to the language of feelings and sensations is driving the field of early American literary studies and is the focus of this seminar, from Mary Rowlandson’s hunger, to gender-nonconforming Revolutionary Deborah Sampson’s “precipitous sensations,” to Phillis Wheatley’s pleasures, to the language of flesh and appetite in Equiano’s narrative.
Week by week, through helpful overviews about the changing field of early American studies, guided discussion of primary texts, and carefully culled secondary readings, we will gain an understanding of how the study of taste and feeling animates our approach to the early American canon, driving new work transatlanticism, the Black Atlantic, gender and sexuality, aesthetics, and the new formalism.
The seminar is also designed to familiarize all students (even those new to the study of early American literature) with key texts and genres in early American literary history (poetry, early seduction and gothic novels, slave narratives, captivity narratives, travel writing), a particularly essential grounding if you hope to teach an early American survey course or are following the American Literature graduate track and need an early period course.
Primary authors will likely include Edward Taylor, Mary Rowlandson, Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Franklin, John Marrant, Herman Mann, Hannah Webster Foster, Charles Brockden Brown.
Secondary Work (much published in the last five years) includes essays or book excerpts from Jordan Alexander Stein, Dana Luciano, Tara Bynum, Vincent Woodward, Michael Warner, Greta LaFleur, Ed Cahill, Abram van Engen, Bryan Waterman, Chris Castiglia, Pete Coviello, Chris Looby, and others.
Periodic sessions of the the course will be devoted to undergraduate pedagogy, holding space for creative assignment design and collaboration: what creative way might you teach this text in the undergraduate classroom?
Final project offers a choice between a syllabus design project, a seminar paper, or a conference paper.
Times: W 9-11
US Capitalism and the Novel
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2007–9, artists of a variety of fiction and nonfiction genres and media were presented with what seemed to many like a new representational challenge: how to conceptualize and represent something as seemingly vast and abstract as the political-economic system itself? Yet the US—the nation-state most closely associated with the globally dominant form of capitalism—has been the site for a long history of novels that have taken on just this representational project.
This class will serve a couple of purposes. First, it will provide something like a survey of American novels of the twentieth and twenty-first century that engage with US political economy and its related themes. Second, it will introduce students to some of the economic history of the US of this same time period. We will also read literary criticism that address questions of, among other things, genre, form, and literary history.
We may read works of fiction by William Dean Howells, Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, Abraham Cahan, John Dos Passos, Richard Wright, Russell Banks, Jess Walter, Peter Mountford. History, theory, and criticism by Walter Benn Michaels, David Harvey, Fredric Jameson, Ellen Meiksins Wood, among others.
Students will be responsible for approximately 25 pages (7500 words) of formal writing, tailored to their academic needs and interests.
Times: R 6-8
Graduate Fiction Workshop
This course is for MFA degree candidates in fiction only. Basically, it will be run in the “traditional” writing workshop fashion—writer silent while his or her work is discussed. The emphasis this semester will be on structure. Both short stories and excerpts of novels are welcome. Optimally, students will turn in pieces that they have taken as far as they can on their own. The workshop should be a venue to test the waters, to try new things, to present first drafts as well as polished works, but ONLY after the writer has struggled with it to the nth degree. The idea is for students to rigorously challenge themselves. Everyone not presenting work should take their jobs as critics and editors as seriously as they take their own writing.
Attendance is important.
My job as mentor is to help each individual student develop his/her drafts into full-fledged fiction. I don’t believe my role is to make students feel better about their writing, but to give students honest criticism.
Reading will be assigned on an individual basis.
Times: T E1-E3
Fiction in Drag
This course will focus on novels and stories that present themselves as things other than novels and stories: diaries, letters, email exchanges, album liner notes, newsletters, and, in one very famous case, a poem. We will read examples of “fiction in drag” and take a stab at writing it. Books and stories to be considered may include:
- Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire ( novel as poem and commentary in footnotes)
- John Banville, The Untouchable (novel as journal/private memoir)
- Alan Gurganus, “Preservation News” (story as newsletter)
- William Boyd, Any Human Heart (novel as collected journals of an imaginary writer, spanning his entire life and including footnotes and index)
- William Boyd, Nat Tate: An American Artist, 1928-1960 (novel as biography/monograph)
- Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea (novel as diary)
- Christopher Miller, Sudden Noises from Inanimate Objects: A Novel in Liner Notes
- Muriel Spark, The Ballad of Peckham Rye (novel as ballad)
- Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation (novel as fragments from a journal, sort of)
- Nicholson Baker, Vox (novel as phone-sex conversation)
- Michael Frayn, The Trick of It (novel as letters)
- Rick Moody, Hotels of North America (novel as TripAdvisor reviews)
- Aaron Thier, The Ghost Apple (novel as collection of documents, including newspaper articles, minutes of faculty meetings, a slave narrative, a tourist brochure, a police report, and a guide to avoiding getting a cold)
Times: M E1-E3
Graduate Poetry Workshop
Whenever [the Mauretania] was asked by a French island, “What ship are you?” she would reply, “What island are you?”
Terry Coleman, The Liners
Obree [in manufacturing his record-breaking bicycle] famously used bits from his washing machine and a piece of metal recovered from an Ayrshire road, as well as a training programme fueled by marmalade sandwiches.
TLS, July 14, 2006
Apsley Cherry-Garrard described polar exploration as the “cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time that has ever been devised.”
TLS, July 14, 2006
When asked if he had ever tried out the [swimming] stroke in the water, Sir Nicholas replies, “No Sir, but I swim most exquisitely on land. I content myself with the speculative part of swimming. I care not for the Practick.”
—Sprawson, Haunts of the Black Masseur
We’ll find a place for absurdity and laziness within the high seriousness of verse and hope that between studies cheerfulness will keep breaking in. The workshop will include readings in the poetry of the past century as well as the poetry of the age—that is, modern American, British, and Irish poetry, all in service of meticulous discussion of your own delightful work. Also, philosophical dentistry and fan-dancing.
an anthology of modern poetry
four volumes of postwar poetry
Times: T 9-11
Psychoanalysis and Social Theory
Taking as a touchstone Erich Fromm’s classic Escape from Freedom, and integrating Fromm’s critique of authoritarianism with that of George Orwell, the seminar will investigate the uses of a humanistic psychoanalysis in reading texts principally from the early modern period. Additional psychoanalytic perspectives will be provided by D. W. Winnicott’s Playing and Reality and Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks. The literary readings will include More’s Utopia, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Jonson’s Volpone, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, and Butler’s The Way of All Flesh. Requirements include an oral presentation, weekly one-page responses to establish competence in writing, and one fifteen- to twenty-page paper.
Times: M E1-E3
Literary Theory: Forms—The Structuralist Revolution
Books against structuralism (or those against the “New Novel”) are strictly without importance; they cannot prevent structuralism from exerting a productivity which is that of our era.
—Gilles Deleuze, “How Do We Recognize Structuralism?”
A question: how much is “our era” still that to which Deleuze refers in the closing lines of his 1967 essay? In his own landmark intervention, “Periodizing the 60s,” Fredric Jameson claims that it was by way of the revolution of structuralism that what we now think of as theory came into being; and more recently, in Valences of the Dialectic (2009), Jameson maintains that it was through structuralism that “dialectical thought was able to reinvent itself in our time.” The achievements of structuralism thus remain foundational for our scholarly labors, its guiding assumptions, practices, and procedures ingrained deeply in the fabric of the modern literary and cultural critical enterprise. While many students today remain familiar with the names of the major players in the structuralist revolution, and may even have a general sense of the movement’s contours, engagements with the texts themselves have waned considerably in recent years. Our seminar will counter this trend by returning to the scene of structuralism, and reading anew both major texts in the tradition—some of which have been translated anew in the last few years— and work influenced by it, as well as a few contemporary parallels. Our goal thus will be neither to write intellectual history nor critique—let the dead bury their dead there—but rather to re-animate the possibilities for reading and thinking that structuralism made available, as much for our era as its own. Readings will include many of the following: Ferdinand de Saussure, The Course in General Linguistics; Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques and Structural Anthropology; Roland Barthes, Mythologies and S/Z; Jacques Lacan, Seminar II: The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Techniques of Psychoanalysis and Seminar XX: On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge; Louis Althusser, Reading Capital and On the Reproduction of Capitalism; Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language and Tales of Love; A. J. Greimas, Structural Semantics and On Meaning; Michel Foucault, The Order of Things and The Birth of Biopower; Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus and What is Philosophy?; Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology; Paul de Man, Aesthetic Ideology; Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious; Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire. Also recommended is François Dosse’s two-volume, History of Structuralism.
Times: W 6-8
The Modernisms of Film
Modernism has many different definitions, and some of these are linked to the various disciplines to which the term modernism has been applied: literature, film, the plastic arts, music, architecture. This course will look at modernism in film in relation to those varied concepts and histories. We will start with two weeks devoted to the films of Michelangelo Antonioni ( l’Eclisse, Deserto Rosso), two on Jean-Luc Godard (Pierrot le fou, Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle), then three weeks on women directors as modernists: Anges Varda Le point court, Marguerite Duras India Song, and Chantal Akerman Je tu il elle. Throughout this investigation, we will consider how architecture and architectonics figure into a filmic notion of modernism, and look at the correlates in painting and sculpture. From here we will turn to a different concept of modernism, introduced by Miriam Hanson as “vernacular modernism,” that considers all of early film history as a form of modernism, despite its grounding in conventions of 19th-century realism and Victorian melodramas. This will be linked to recent historical investigations of modernism in literature as responding to the introduction of film. We will also consider the particular Soviet revolutionary definitions of modernism, linking to cubo-futurism, in which parallel developments in montage film followed on movements in painting, architecture, and theater. What ties these later two concepts of modernism to our initial one are elements of abstraction and reconfigurations of spatial and temporal structures. We will consider modernism in Japanese cinema in its connection to traditional Japanese aesthetics. Finally we will consider how modernism still resonates in the art cinema in the contemporary moment, and what modernism means in the context of the post-modern.
Readings will be drawn from a wide range of theoretical, analytical and historical sources, some pertaining to film, while others address other arts.
Seminars will be participatory and supplemented by CANVAS participation. We will have a trip to the Harn Museum of Art. A series of short assignments and a major 25 page paper will be required. Creative Writing participants will have the option of a creative final paper that displays deep engagement with the work of the seminar.
Times: M 6-8
Screenings: R E1-E3
All Joking Aside: The Art and Craft of Comedy
There are three components in this course whose aim is to study stage comedy from the aesthetics to the practical, from a genre for contemplation to one anticipating being staged before an audience.
On Tuesdays, we will perform (on-book—no worries here) scenes from short comedies, all in the anthology Laugh Lines, edited by Eric Lane and Nina Shengold. The plays range from the conventional (Christopher Durang’s Wanda’s Visit) to Jacquelyn Reingold’s surreal 2 B (Or Not 2B), where a bee seduces a lovelorn woman to become the queen of the hive, to the black comedy of Elaine May’s The Way of All Fish. We will learn about comedy—its rules, what makes it funny, what options the comedic actor can take to enhance the audience’s reaction–by actually doing it.
During this same time the students in the seminar will function—with my gratitude–as “editorial consultants,” as we discuss the plays we are doing in the context of a book I’ve written with the New York director Brian Rhinehart, Acting Comedy in the Theatre: The Art and Craft of Performing Comedy, to be published later in the year by Methuen/Bloomsbury.
On Thursday we will be in rehearsal for a two-hour show, An Evening with Tom Stoppard, a collage of the playwright’s best comic scenes–with lots of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in the script–that we will stage at the end of the semester in Ustler Hall on campus. In this instance, every seminar student will get 4-6 scenes to perform, on-book.
If you have any questions or thoughts, just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Times: T 4, R 4-5
Comparative Settler Colonialisms
Settler colonialism has often been marginalized within postcolonial studies which have focused largely on colonization and decolonization in places such as Kenya, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, or French Indochina. This course attends to the different theories, practices, and literatures of settler colonialisms–marked by large populations of Europeans who have moved to places not simply as functionaries of a colonial power but to live permanently while enjoying the privileges of a ruling race. While the structures of some settler colonialisms have been dismantled and others still continue, the effects of settler colonialism are present to date. This course will focus on the theories and literatures of settler colonialism by focusing on five sites: North America, Hawai’i, Algeria, Palestine, and South Africa. We will study the specific constructions of race in different settler colonial contexts and the intersection of colonial racism and gender. We will read works by both settlers and the colonized in order to understand questions of indigeneity, sovereignty, racial politics, occupation, nationalism, the politics of recognition, and revolutionary solidarity. I’m not sure exactly which texts I’ll use but will most likely include the following: Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks, Djebar’s Women of Algiers in Their Apartments, Daoud’s The Mersault Investigation, Nongena The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena, Coetzee’s Disgrace, Shehadeh’s Palestinian Walks, Said’s After the Last Sky, Treuer’s Prudence, Erdrich’s Love Medicine, Davenport’s Song of the Exile, and Kanae’s Islands Linked by Ocean. Requirements: two oral presentations, 5–6 reading reflections, 20-page seminar paper.
Times: T 3-5
Womanist Intellectual Thought
“When you really look at the stereotypes of Black women, the worst you can say about them, that is once you disregard the vocabulary and the dirty words and deal with the substance of what is being said, is quite complementary. Think about it. What is being said is that Black women are wonderful mothers and nurturers (mammies), that we are sexually at home in our own bodies (oversexed), and that we are self-sufficient and tough (henpecking and overbearing). And isn’t that exactly what every woman wants to be: loving and nurturing, sexually at home in her body, competent and strong?”
—Toni Morrison in an interview with Ebony Magazine, July 1988
The obscure position of African American women in the record of American intellectualism has resulted in a consensus among the uninformed that the phrase “black womanist intellectual” is an oxymoron. This seminar disputes that assumption by focusing on black women’s intellectual traditions and challenging imposed boundaries that define intellectualism. Students will examine the intersection of the public intellectual, academic, and political theorist while discussing the influences of black female intellectuals in the development of literary and cultural criticism, education, law, and American (as well as global) social and political issues.
Since Alice Walker introduced the term “womanism” in 1983, critics have both embraced and rejected it. Black theologians and sociologists were the quickest to accept the label as one offering opportunities for a specific type of critical engagement: namely, womanist ethics and liberation theology. They have also been the most influential in defining (and redefining) the boundaries of its use. The value of womanist intellectual thought to theoretical and activist discourses–especially when we consider black/white feminist relationships–has been criticized as offering nothing more to feminism than an analysis of the white woman as other. In this light womanism has been misunderstood and redefined. With these thoughts in mind the primary objective of this course is to answer the question “what is womanism?” Is it as Audre Lorde once charged an “attempt to disclaim being feminist”? Is it an umbrella term for a distinctly humanist approach to equality and social tolerance? Or is it something more…something revolutionary, liberating, and necessary?
A second objective of the course is to introduce a few uses and abuses of womanism as a theoretical discourse and as a platform of women’s activism. Our discussions will address questions such as who can be a womanist and what exactly does this identity mean in terms of bridging the still obtrusive gap separating black and white feminists? What are the problems and issues that sustain this gap and how can they be challenged or addressed? How does the black feminist differ from the womanist? Is there a need for such distinctions? What is the relationship of community, family, religion, and spirituality to womanism? We will also consider the definitions of an intellectual. What is an intellectual and how is this identity constructed? How does the public intellectual differ from the academic? What is low and high culture (or low and high theory) and how does womanism address these distinctions? How are the activist and public intellectual viewed by advocates of womanism? And, finally, we will examine womanism as a potential mobilizing force for a global humanist movement of empowerment.
Format: Class sessions include lectures, student presentations, and class discussions.
Times: M 9-11
Poetry and Childhood
Poetry is the earliest (and perhaps the most ancient) form of literature for children. It is, arguably, one of the primary ways that a child tunes her/himself to his/her world — through the rhythms of lullabies, the absurdities and cultural information of nursery rhymes, and the sophisticated verbal play of nonsense verse; from verse fables and other didactic forms to satires and parodies of these same cautionary works; and from fantasies and the lyricism of the picture book to contemporary verse novels. Through a broad range of readings, many from the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, the seminar will explore many of the essential ways in which poetry is folded into the rhythms of childhood. The weekly writing assignments as well as the final, major project for the seminar will be creative in nature.
Times: T 6-8
In 2004, UF Professor Donald Ault founded ImageTexT, an MLA-indexed “university-based, peer reviewed journal that focuses on the theory, history, and critical analysis of comics.” In the past twelve years, ImageTexT has received international recognition for its publication of scholarly articles that address crucial topics in the emerging field of comics studies. Moreover, it has sponsored an annual conference that regularly draws panelists not only from North America but also from such countries as Belgium, the U.K. Finland, and Korea. If ImageTexT has succeeded fulfilling Professor Ault’s founding vision of a journal – or in fact, an institution – that fosters the scrupulous academic study of comics, this is in large part because UF graduate students historically have played a major part in its production.
The purpose of this seminar, then, is to provide newly-arrived graduate students with an opportunity both to study the theoretical and critical texts that inform the journal’s scholarly vision and to gain hands-on practice in its production. To this end, the seminar will involve two major components. First, participants will read and discuss major works in comics studies and visual rhetoric (e.g., by W.J.T. Mitchell, Scott McCloud, Thierry Groensteen, Jan Baetens and Hugo Frey, and Charles Hatfield). Students will also read the works of UF faculty members who have variously contributed to the academic study of comics and visual rhetoric. Second, participants will take part in tutorials offered by ImageTexT’s managing staff and in turn submit materials that contribute to the production of the journal and its annual spring conference.
This class will not involve a traditional seminar paper. Rather, students will be graded on the basis of class presentations as well as individual contributions to ImageTexT (e.g., a copy-editing assignment, a book review assignment, a sample conference proposal draft, and a conference organizing assignment).
Times: T 9-11