Lower Division (1000–2000) Special Content Courses
Note: Course numbers listed in the table below are linked to course descriptions. Descriptions will open in a new web page in this window. Use your browser’s “back” function to return to this page.
Topics in American Literature and Culture: Mine of Our Mind: Black Women’s Speculative Fiction
This course will interrogate the speculative fiction genre though the lens of black women writers. It offers a foray into key debates that surround contemporary genre fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) written by black women. We will also examine the concept of speculative fiction itself, attempting to define it within the black feminist literary aesthetic. We will seek to answer these questions: Do Black Women Spec Fic Writers stay true to the basic concepts and ideas of speculative fiction? How do they push the boundaries? Text will include Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, and the lyrics and artistic short film (music video) of Archandroid by Janelle Monae.
Times: M W F 7
Topics in American Literature and Culture: Graphic Memoir
This course addresses graphic memoir in American literature by analyzing the often idiosyncratic methods that comics creators employ when illustrating their personal memories. Graphic memoir allows for vibrant student engagement through the wide breadth of social issues covered within the genre, including disability, race, ethnicity, queerness, gender, climate change, and trauma. As such, this course places an emphasis on student analysis of each assigned text’s formal properties while considering themes and issues. Throughout the course, students will produce weekly writings that engage comics theory and articulate what unique formal elements a creator uses in their memoir. For longer writing assignments, students will construct and sustain arguments that examine these formal elements as well as specific issues and comics criticism. In short, through writing and class discussion, students will answer the course’s guiding question: what are the strengths, weaknesses, and possibilities of depicting memoir through the comics medium?
Times: M W F 3
Topics in American Literature and Culture: Cyberpunk, Post-Cyberpunk, and Technical Revolution
This course will examine the genre of cyberpunk: alternate futures where corporations and technology contribute to breakdowns in social order. In addition, the course will account for the ways cyberpunk (and post-cyberpunk) futures speak not only about (im)possible futures, but also about the contemporary American moment(s) that engendered these visions. We will also take up the issue that James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel raise in Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology: what if “emerging technologies will change what it means to be human.” This course will explore how technology and corporations affect literature, politics, and the calculus of what it means to be a contemporary American. Readings will include William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Pat Cadigan’s Mindplayers, and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. We will also examine critical articles, current events, social media, video games, and recent technological innovations to consider what the genres of cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk say about multiple facets of the contemporary American identity.
Times: T 8-9, R 9
Topics in American Literature and Culture: Illness
In its various forms, illness can simultaneously fascinate and repulse individuals who might speculate about its origin as well as the possibility of contagion. Stemming from this curiosity, this course examines literary and cultural representations of physical and mental illness, including changes in its diagnosis and treatment. In addition, we will explore the figurative function of illness in literature.
Of particular interest are the ways in which illness and the potential (real or imagined) for infection are used to stigmatize and marginalize women, people of color, and queer individuals. We will also examine who has the authority to diagnose and treat illness, and the difference between curing and treating illness. Possible course texts include: Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963), Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors (1979), Angie Cruz, Soledad (2001), Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying (2007); Junot Díaz, selected stories, and Toni Morrison, A Mercy (2008).
Times: M W F 7
Honors Poetry Writing
This is an introductory poetry workshop. We will study poetic forms, traditional and non-traditional, write imitations, and discuss canonical and contemporary poems in English.
Times: T 6-8
Topics in Composition: Writing About Dangerous Women
In her novel Dare Me, Megan Abbott writes, “There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.” In the midst of the “post-Gone Girl” era, there has been a recent surge of female writers in the often male-dominated genre of crime fiction, including Gillian Flynn, Megan Abbott, Tana French, and Paula Hawkins. These books often deal with themes of vicious and dangerous femininity, following women on both sides of the law. This course will trace the archetype of the dangerous woman through a variety of texts and media across history, from figures in Greek and Biblical narratives through witches, vampires, and Hollywood’s femme fatale. We will reflect upon the recent surge of female villain protagonists within our contemporary cultural context, exploring the motivations behind this trend. We will question whether or not these depictions reclaim the demonized woman and femme fatale archetype, opening up possibilities for women to be drawn more complexly in fiction, or if this trend belies an anti-feminist backlash and unearths anxieties about the expanding possibilities of women’s agency. Throughout the course, we will consider the attributes that deem women “dangerous,” varying from murderous crimes, such as filicide; deviant sexuality, including sexual agency and queerness; and abject bodies, such as the bodies of disabled women and women of color.
Times: M W F 6
Topics in Composition: The Paranormal and the Academy
The prevalence of movies and shows such as Paranormal Activity and Ghost Hunters points to our cultural moment’s increased attention to the paranormal. This course will explore how multiple academic disciplines interpret and analyze what we term the paranormal. We will also focus on writing in different disciplines, drawing on the Bedford/St. Martin’s Guide to Genres. How do we engage with the paranormal in multiple academic genres? First investigating ghosts in literature, we will uncover and analyze the meanings that writers and scholars attribute to the supernatural in fiction. Next, we assess how the social science fields view the paranormal by looking at studies from psychology and sociology. Finally, we will address how key scientific fields explain the supernatural. Students will build a comprehensive understanding of how the paranormal signifies in modern and contemporary culture.
Times: M W F 3
Topics in Composition: Writing About Invention
Writer’s block—the condition in which one is unable to invent new work—predates even writing itself. This frustrating phenomenon is familiar to both novice and expert writers. Even Socrates experiences it in Plato’s Phaedrus dialog. Invention (from the Greek invenire, “to find”) was one of the five canons of rhetoric. It was central to Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric, “discovering the available means of persuasion.” Indeed, some see it as the central force behind the other four: arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Invention has also evolved alongside the shifts from orality to literacy—and from what Gregory Ulmer characterizes as the move from literacy to electracy. This course traces conversations about rhetorical invention from ancient Greece (and before), to romantic conceptions of the genius, and finally to contemporary discourse on composition theory. Through the lenses of academic disciplines, new technologies, and legal restrictions, we will consider who owns the rights to creativity and invention. The course will also challenge students to consider the ways in which we relegate concepts of creativity to certain disciplines and individualize the process of invention. Drawing from influential composition theorists and from creative writers talking about how they invent, we will examine process- and product-based models for composing. The course will also examine the emerging potential of technologies such augmented reality to remix, revolutionize, and redefine the ways we compose, create, and invent in digital space. Students will unleash their inventive powers as writers and digital makers.
Times: M W F 7
Topics in Composition: Sports in American Culture
From Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier in baseball to Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe’s refusals to stand for the national anthem, sport has always been implicated in wider aspects of the American experience. This course examines the impact of sport in American life through literary and other cultural productions. While issues such as race, inequality and identity reverberate throughout the sports talk world on a daily basis, the academy often ignores this vital discourse or pays it superficial attention. The aim of this course is to not only trace the long-standing connection between the literary and sporting world in the U.S., but to also examine some of the mythmaking in American sports through the lens of literature. Some of the authors we will read for this class include Jack London, August Wilson, Bernard Malamud, Megan Abbot and Ben Fountain.
Times: M W F 4
Topics in Composition: Writing About Remembering and Forgetting
The study of remembering and forgetting is a historical project, affective, and political project. To remember is to excavate and collect a happening from the running timeline to “keep it in mind,” and to forget is to nail an event to its historical moment and never let it rebound to our consciousness. Yet as we try to forget, certain things in the past keep haunting back in forms of trauma, terror, or melancholy. And as we try to remember, their loss renders us in a state of feeling self-doubt, depressed, or failure. The study of remembering and forgetting urges us to think critically and ask whose history counts, whose time we are living in, and how we could fathom a new way of living in the world that goes beyond the nation-state. Rob Nixon reminds us of communities who are “physically unsettled and imaginatively removed, evacuated from place and time and thus uncoupled from the idea of both a national future and a national memory.” In this course we will study literature and films that take up central questions of memory and loss, nostalgia and self-discovery, temporality and spatiality, longing and belonging, complicated by issues of gender, sexuality, race, and diaspora. We will grapple with questions such as: how does the (in)ability to remember or to forget transform one’s lived experience of cultural, intellectual, and emotional undertakings? What roles do remembering and forgetting play in conceiving possibly new forms of sociality and world-making?Authors will likely include Jonathan Franzen, Alain Robbe-Grillet, José Saramago, Milan Kundera, and Kazuo Ishiguro.
Times: M W F 5
Topics in Composition: Writing About Archives
In this course, we will read and write about archives and the act of archiving. We will work to expand the definition of “archive” beyond the act of preserving historical materials and/or the place in which such materials are stored. We will critically and creatively engage with questions of access, use, and space—particularly in light of digitization and its impact on the processes of archiving and archival work. What is an archive? What are the purposes and implications of archiving? Does the act of preservation recognize value, or does it ascribe value? What is left out, lost, or ignored? What happens when preservation efforts fail? Exploring archives broadly will allow us to interrogate the related cultural practices of preservation, recognition, and omission, as well as connect the act of archiving to conceptions of identity, community, memory, and legacy. Readings will include academic and creative works related to archives and the act of archiving, as well as a variety of archived materials. We will make use of the archives available at UF in addition to print and digital resources. Through these explorations, we will consider not only institutional and communal archives, but also reflect upon our own practices of archiving, whether intentional or not.
Times: T 8-9, R 9
Writing Through Media: Metamorphosis
From Ovidian nightmares and animal husband tales to Victorian Gothic and MTV’s Teen Wolf, cultures across the globe have demonstrated a millennia-old preoccupation with metamorphosis, hybridity, and shapeshifting. A being that can move between worlds, identities, values, and physical bodies, the shapeshifter presents a perfect metaphor for our times—transgressing and blurring the boundaries between good and evil, human and animal, male and female, concrete and abstract, and high and low culture. In this course, students will engage with cultural studies, fandom studies, queer theory, and adaptation/remix theory through close readings of metamorphosis texts from different genres, mediums, and historical periods. These texts not only place metamorphosis at the center of their narratives, but also incarnate transformation in some way: whether they changed literary forms (Apuleius’ The Golden Ass), offer radical retellings (Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber), inspire transformative fan practice (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), or experiment with medium (Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth, hit podcast Welcome to Night Vale). Writing assignments in this course will be experimental and creative and will require students to engage with a number of digital platforms and methods of production, including a reflective tumblr blog and a film review. The final project invites students to produce a short transformative adaptation/retelling in a creative medium of their choice, accompanied by an explanatory essay.
Course texts may include the following:
Films, television, and other media we explore may include:
Times: M W F 6, M E1-E3
Writing Through Media: Social Media Trends
Students will write about and research social media trends. In the context of this course, writing is defined under its broader multimodal conception that includes text, image, audio, video and any other digital artifact used to make or remix meaning. Trends are popular and sometimes viral topics that circulate among social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Vine, Tumbr, Instagram, Reddit, and many others. Students for this course investigate trends within Twitter, Tumblr, or Google Trends to visualize trend data and to understand the way writing moves, circulates, and changes over time. During weekly workshops, students learn to collect data using MassMine and work collaboratively to create data visualizations and infographics about their research. Many of the readings for this course focus on data literacy, on constructing arguments through data collection and visualization, and on the design of research presentations. All of the work students complete during the semester builds toward the final project in which students deliver their semester-long trend research in an oral slideware presentation. Through the use of online discussion forums and classroom workshops (screening time), the trending topics and digital artifacts students choose will provide thematic content for the course—allowing collaborative invention to emerge from the combination of technical practice and engaged discussion.
Times: M W F 5, W E1-E3
Writing Through Media: The Visual Figurative—Cartoons, Puppets, & Claymation
KEVIN COOLEY: The Visual Figurative: Cartoons, Puppets, and Claymation
In his 2011 work, The Queer Art of Failure, Jack Halberstam claims animation can open “new narrative doors and lead to unexpected encounters between the childish and the transformative.” His book draws on an archive of Pixar films to showcase the fresh perspectives that “low theory” can bring to our thinking about the world. Drawing on Halberstam, semiotics, and visual rhetoric, this course will examine narratives that use visual icons to stand in for other concepts: mainly, the drawn figures of the comic and the cartoon, the representative figure of the puppet, and the convergence of these approaches in stop-motion animation. Our class will examine the formal properties of these visual modes of communication and storytelling, analyze popular and obscure texts composed within them, and agitate common conceptions of their rhetorical value and their possible audiences.
Literary analysis of texts that include drawn media, puppets, and posable models is an important aspect of this course. Our intellectual foray into the visually figurative will also require us to write through it in addition to writing about it. This writing through the visual figurative will take the form of creative, argumentative projects within any combination of what we will be considering its three primary categories: drawn media (comics and cartoons), puppetry, and stop-motion animation.
Texts for viewing and analysis may include:
Times: M W F 4, T E1-E3