Inspired by the New York Times 1619 Project published this year, this course looks closely at the public history and popular memory of slavery in the Americas, especially the United States and the Caribbean. The primary goal will be to review the historical, literary, and cultural archive of the slavery era—foregrounding black voices and the testimony of the enslaved—and then to put that archive into conversation with contemporary sites of public memory: digital sites such as the interactive archive and memorial Slave Voyages, embodied sites such as the plantation-museum culture of Tallahassee, performance sites such as Dread Scott’s upcoming Slave Rebellion Reenactment (of the 1811 German Coast Uprising), and literary sites such as Edward P. Jones’ The Known World. In every case, we will be thinking about the material rhetorics of history and place, and what kind of truths are revealed—or silenced—by storytelling practices and representations in what Saidiya Hartman calls the “afterlife of slavery.” Participants can also expect to gain an understanding of recent scholarly-historical work that is itself trying to transform our popular narratives and knowledge—for example, by highlighting the constitutive relationship between slavery and global capitalism, slavery and settler colonialism, slavery and the US legal system.
Requirements: This course satisfies the requirement for coursework in the following Areas of Concentration: American Literary and Cultural Studies to 1900; African-American Literary and Cultural Studies; and Colonial, Postcolonial, and Transnational Literary and Cultural Studies. This course also meets the Alterity requirement.
2019 was the 400th anniversary of the 20-something Africans brought to Point Comfort, Virginia, beginning slavery in the British colonies that would become the United States. Even with the public histories around 1619 (including the New York Times Magazine,) the average person knows little to nothing about the lives of the enslaved or their dogged resistance. This course will take on the “peculiar institution” and its afterlives. We will read multiple slave narratives, both personal and historical accounts of the Underground Railroad, African American literary theory, and literary reimaginings of slavery.
And yes, we’re reading Beloved. Rest in Peace, Toni Morrison.
How does a poet write a long poem? Homer, Dante, and Milton did it, but in the last two hundred years poets have turned to sequences to write a longer poem. The first hour of our class will be devoted to discussing a sequence by one poet with the emphasis on strategies for plundering the piece for your own work. We'll begin with Shakespeare's Dark Lady Sonnets and end with Terrance Hayes's American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins. Other poets will be Keats, Rimbaud, Whitman, Dickinson, Sexton, Plath, Ginsberg, and Anne Carson.
The final two hours of the class will be a workshop of your original poems with a new poem due each week. Two weeks after I return the poems with my comments, a revision is due. In workshop I like to emphasize the nurturing of each student's poetic voice rather than reaching for an abstract perfect poem. Taking risks is encouraged.
The objective of this course is to initiate postgraduate students into the ongoing, institutional conversation called theory and/or cultural studies. If the objective is achieved, students should leave the course with a rudimentary historical understanding of not a single theory, ideology or perspective but with an understanding of how current controversies, schools, and practices within literary theory and philosophy (the two on occasion elided) have developed, and with an overview of some questions, topics, and problems that organize contemporary critical practice and philosophical thought. The course is thus not an in-depth study of any particular critical or theoretical approach, but more of an overview of theoretical possibilities, including those of digital humanities and the changing landscape of theoretical study in a digital, electronic world.
Over the course of the semester, then, we will read any number of texts that have been formative for the ways that literary, theoretical and/or cultural studies are conducted today. Some of these texts will themselves attempt to provide an overview or history of critical problems (Belsey and Rabate, say). Others will argue a fundamental position, or they may critique and reinterpret earlier texts (Deleuze, say). Some of the questions we will confront are (but are not limited to): in the sciences practitioners “do science,” but what do we “do” in literature; how do we “do literature”? That is, what precisely do literary theorists, cultural critics and/or literary critics study? What, if anything, distinguishes a specifically literary use of language from other uses? What is the relation of a literary text to the historical changes or political conditions contemporary with it and in subsequent eras? Is the text historically stable or fluid? Where and how do sexuality, gender, race reveal themselves through language? How are art works inflected by gender, race or other ideologies? What is an author, a text, a word, a meaning? How does the writing of an individual relate to the group(s) of which she’s a member? How do cultural systems function? How does text function in a post-Gutenberg world where text has become a verb. How has literary study altered in the midst of the Gutenberg Project.
Although it will be difficult not to get into debates over the correctness of any of the theories we study, we will try to avoid such entanglements as much as possible, since our primary aim will be to understand rather than to judge them. This kind of distance and restraint may not always be possible, but we'll make it an aim.
ENL 5206: Studies in Old English Language and Literature is an introduction to the language and literature of Anglo-Saxon England. The cultural and historical entity that we refer to as “Anglo-Saxon England” lasted from about 500-1200. This period saw the production of literature, art and other cultural institutions that are still with us today. In this course we will explore the language of the Anglo-Saxons, focusing for the first six weeks on learning to translate what to many would appear to be a foreign language, but which in reality is the ancient ancestor of our own. Our choice of texts will allow us to gain some insight into how the Anglo-Saxons thought about this life and the one(s) to come, as well as the literary forms they gave such cultural expressions. We will read both poetry and prose from this era that deals with the timeless themes of life and death, from The Dream of the Rood to excerpts from King Alfred’s translation of the De consolatione Philosophiae. No prior knowledge of Old English or any other synthetic language (such as Latin or German) is required or assumed.
Tell-all memoirs, gossip columns, fashion reporting, unauthorized biographies—these genres so central to today’s celebrity-obsessed culture have their roots in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This course will examine the birth of celebrity culture in the Romantic period. In the period, readers’ voracious appetite for private information about authors shaped literary production and reception. Ready work by authors including William Wordsworth, Lady Caroline Lamb, Mary Shelley, and especially Lord Byron—often recognized as the first celebrity—we will examine how Romanticism’s central texts engaged explicitly and implicitly with debates about celebrity and the boundaries between public and private life.
“ '. . .As a woman, I have no country. As a woman, I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.' ” --Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
This course is premised on the notion of travel and mobility as feminist issues. From Chaucer's Wife of Bath onward, womxn who "get around" have been viewed with fascination and loathing by masculinist-xenophobic ideologues, and female mobility (when not enforced by "the traffic in women") has been stigmatized, eroticized, exoticized, and demonized. At the same time, having the means to travel—and the intellectual and spiritual freedom travel proffers—can be celebrated as marks of an individual womxn's empowerment within a given culture. Course readings include, but are not limited to: Aphra Behn, Oroonoko; Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre; Hélène Cixous and Catherine Clément's The Newly-born Woman;; Toni Morrison's Sula; Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea; Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out and Orlando; The course will conclude with a discussion of more recent, popular, travel memoirs by womxn such as Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and Cheryl Strayed (Wild).
NB. My courses are NOT TECH FRIENDLY. Students are required to purchase HARD COPIES of the assigned texts and (ADA exceptions aside)
Books are eloquent witnesses to their own creation and reception. Each leaf bearing inked impressions of long-recycled letterforms and elegant autograph marginalia speaks to the eyes and the hands and the minds of those who made those marks. Watermarks hiding in the fibers of the paper hint at the aesthetic desires of those who twisted wire profiles into miniature icons and sewed them onto the waiting paper mould. Because it involves careful listening to what an object tells us, this course might also be called “The Autobiography of a Book.” It complements more theoretically and sociologically oriented History of the Book offerings by approaching the book as a physical artifact, exploring various methods of bibliographical analysis, and engaging in current scholarly debates. The syllabus consists of three dove-tailed sections: enumerative, where we will compile a list of books according to some organizing principle (author, journal index, printer or publisher, etc.); descriptive, where we will prepare a full bibliographical description of a book or books from their enumerative list; analytical, where we will write an essay suitable for publication in a bibliographical journal, preferably something dealt with in the first two sections.
What is the role of the imagination and aesthetics in an age of ecological predicaments? How can we respond creatively—as scholars, teachers, artists, and activists—to the environmental devastation human activities have caused on Earth? This course grapples with the relationship between aesthetics, politics, and the material realities of living on a damaged planet, in the ruins of coloniality, racial capitalism, and manmade natural disaster. Through our engagement with cultural and aesthetic productions, from Karen Tei Yamashita’s environmentally-inflected magical realist fiction to the speculative imaginaries of Octavia Butler and Larissa Lai, we will explore how issues of race, difference, space, community, and humanity are re-envisioned within conditions of ecological crisis. To deepen and contextualize our discussions, we will draw on the scholarship of critics such as Donna Haraway, Ursula Heise, Rob Nixon, Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, Anna Tsing, and others who emphasize the need to develop alternative imaginaries and practices for inhabiting the planet, building cross-species alliances, and thinking posthuman futures.
Texts may include:
- Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (2003)
- Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower (1993)
- Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (2004)
- Larissa Lai, Salt Fish Girl (2002)
- Indra Sinha, Animal’s People (2009)
- Karen Tei Yamashita, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (1990)
Requirements: This course satisfies the requirement for coursework in Colonial, Postcolonial, and Transnational Literary and Cultural Studies. This course also meets the Alterity requirement.
Like many educational reform movements, Writing across the Curriculum (WAC) has several origin stories--one in writing to learn, another in learning to write, and a third in learning about how writing works in different fields, contexts, and cultures. While WAC programmatically has experienced some interesting successes and failures, its more recent focus on Writing in the Disciplines (WID) has revealed important similarities and differences in writing—in terms of epistemologies, genres, and discourse communities—as writing informs disciplines defining the academy. Put another way, the writing in philosophy looks very different than the writing in mechanical engineering. Given this diversity in writing, we’ll take up a central question: how do writers (learn to) take what they can do in one writing situation, and what they know about writing (in that situation), and apply, use, re-use, and repurpose it appropriately for a different rhetorical situation?—a question at the heart of both theories about how writers develop over a lifetime and ways writing curricula supporting them can be designed. In this course, we’ll consider the “writing transfer question” from multiple perspectives, among them learning theory, cognitive science, writing development theory, writing curricula and co-curricula, writing programs, multi-media, and multilingualism. Required texts include Beaufort’s College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for Writing Instruction; Nowacek’s Agents of Integration, and Yancey et al.’s Writing Across Contexts: Transfer, Composition, and Sites of Writing. We’ll also sample from several open source volumes, including WAC for the New Millennium: Strategies for Continuing Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Programs; WAC and Second-Language Writers: Research Towards Linguistically and Culturally Inclusive Programs and Practices; Contemporary Perspectives on Cognition and Writing; and Critical Transitions and the Question of Writing Transfer in addition to reading many journal articles and book chapters. By the conclusion of the course, students will understand a fuller history of writing in higher education and will develop a beginning understanding of how disciplines define and employ writing to take up specific kinds of questions, explored through specific methods and data sources, and reported out in specifically sanctioned genres. In addition, students will be able to define the transfer of writing knowledge and practice, trace the competing theories informing it, and learn about the research supporting those theories as well as the research questions currently being explored. Requirements for the course will include two-three short projects, a longer project, and an electronic portfolio.
This course will center on the relationship between literature, theory, and science by focusing on the figure of the monster. The human imagination is capable of producing the most outlandish and distorted forms: we will call this the monstrous. Throughout history, the monstrous has been the terrifying representation of a space where curiosity, love, fear, and disgust come together to haunt human beings. More importantly, the monstrous often sparks debates on identity, difference, providence, the laws of nature, gender, and race. But, also, science and philosophy have to deal with the deformed, the organically distorted, the preternatural: we will call this monstrosity. Scientific and philosophical discussions on monstrosity ultimately deal with issues pertaining the order of nature, genetics, and theology. As we will see, science and philosophy often struggle alongside literature to understand deformity and monstrosity. In the 20th and 21st centuries, film also becomes a meaningful stage for a dialogue between nature and human imagination. Throughout this semester we will see how they influence one another as they establish fascinating dialogues. The course will have a particular focus on early modern transatlantic topics, but will not be restricted to that period. In order to understand contemporary ideas and literary representations of monstrosity and the monstrous we will go on a journey that will take us from antiquity to the 21st century and that will include ancient history and literature, Medieval bestiaries, Renaissance scientific treatises and theater plays, twentieth-century novel, evolutionary biology, theory, philosophy, and film. All reading will be done in English translation, although any student wishing to read in the original language(s) is welcome and encouraged. Some of the authors we will read are Aristotle, Pliny, St. Augustine, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Paré, Canguilhem, Foucault, Lessing, and more. We will be watching films by Cocteau, Herzog, Kent, Romero, and more.
Graduate students working on their thesis or dissertation can register for regularly-scheduled one-on-one Reading-Writing Center support at the same time and place, and with the same tutor every week. A total of 30, 60, or 90 minutes per week translates to 1, 2, or 3 credits. Writers who register have the advantage of a structured framework of support with accountability, including a tailored schedule agreed with the individual tutor, at any stage of their writing process; they also benefit from the RWC’s focus on the process of writing. An RWC tutor provides another pair of eyes in matters of organization, structure and flow, up to sentence level; we can also help with feedback on clarity, including academic language, the integration of research, and styles of citation; and we advise on techniques for getting started with writing, for maintaining your pace, and for becoming better proofreaders and editors of your own work, among other skills. Initial scheduling of regular appointments will be to suit each student’s schedule.
During the Spring 2020 semester, Digital Scholars will focus its programming on “Using the Humanist’s Tools,” and will combine discussion on a select set of articles and chapters with hands-on explorations of tools for translation, text mining, data cleaning, and curation. We'll gather for five or six meetings over the semester, joined by the “Digital Scholars” interest group writ-large, and on variable Wednesdays and Fridays. Meeting topics and tools will be announced prior to the start of the term; readings will be provided two weeks in advance of each meeting. Past meetings with descriptions and reading lists are archived at https://digitalscholars.wordpress.com/events-archive-2/. Interested students must please contact Tarez Graban before the winter break to enable advanced scheduling of our meetings.
This seminar is focused on getting your novel up and running, on making its first 100 or so pages strong enough that the book moves solidly beyond the realm of file-drawer novel. If you are farther along, that's fine, too; I'll meet one-on-one with each student to create a custom-built plan that's in the best interest of the book. You'll run about 20,000-30,000 words worth of work through class workshops, ideally in three or four workshop slots (exactly how much you turn in to the class, and in what-sized chunks, will also be tailored specifically to you). Nothing will come before the workshop unless the whole class has read the entire novel up to that point. If, by the end of the term, your novel is working reasonably well, you may pursue course credit for it (as a DIS or via dissertation/thesis hours) for the summer and fall of 2020. This course is not just a fiction workshop that focuses on novels instead of stories; it's a chance to hyperfocus on the craft of novel writing and follow in the footsteps of a long line of writers whose debut novels took shape in this seminar.
In the early modern period, theatre audiences depended greatly on the auditory to convey meaning. While performance theory, critical race theory, and theatre more broadly are often heavily anchored by the visual, this class amplifies the aural soundscape to attend to early modern theatre as acoustic ethnic theatre. We aim to hear the plays, and with that, reexamine how cultural differences are constructed through sound.
This class will focus on translation scenes, the sound of wordplay, the aural soundscape (including music), and accents that are all present in Shakespeare’s dramatic literature. Moving beyond the written text to engage other elements of theatre, the class will consider competing ideas of Original Practices as well as the efficacy of language and accents when layered onto the text in performance today. We will question how aurality shapes and reflects notions of ethnicity, race, class, “Othered” characters, and foreign settings. Examining the plays, historical performance conventions, and contemporary performance, how does the aural soundscape frame our understandings of the plays, settings, and characters? How is sound conveyed through textual markers and how does that effect change over time with different audiences and readers, advancements in theatre technologies, and reception theory?
Secondary texts will include essays from sound studies, translation theory, critical race and ethnicity studies, original practices and performance theory, reception theory, and essays on the plays and the sensorium.
Study of Paradise Lost and selected earlier verse, with particular emphasis on close reading, gender dynamics, and the intersection of classical and Christian traditions.
Requirements: This course satisfies the requirement for coursework in the following Areas of Concentration: Pre-1900 Literature and Culture.
In 1807 Britain’s parliament passed the Act To Abolish the Slave Trade; in 1833, the Emancipation Act was passed, effective August 1834 with the implementation of the Apprenticeship period, followed in 1838 with “full freedom.” In this course, we will examine what Ian Baucom in Specters of the Atlantic describes as the “piling up” of history, contextualizing the events that shaped the “fatal Atlantic beginning of the modern”—Caribbean slavery—and leading up to these landmark legislations. The discourses of rebellion, slavery, and abolition that provide this context cross generic and chronological lines: our enquiries begin in the Restoration period, with Henry Neville’s “porno-topia,” The Isle of Pines (1668) and Aphra Behn’s novella recounting the story of the rebellious slave Oroonoko; moving into the eighteenth century, we’ll not only encounter proplanter georgic poetry like James Grainger’s four-book The Sugar-Cane and ameliorist novels like William Earle’s Obi, but also colonial narratives like Earle’s source text, Dr. Benjamin Moseley’s account of the runaway-slave-turned-highwayman, Jack Mansong, the “Terror of Jamaica” and planter-historian Edward Long’s description of Tacky’s Revolt in his History of Jamaica. These reports, along with slave narratives by Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince and oral histories from Jamaica’s Maroon communities bring alive what Caribbean historian Hilary Beckles calls “one protracted struggle launched by Africans and their Afro-West Indian progeny against slave owners”—a struggle that spanned more than three centuries.
As we explore the complexities and contradictions embedded in these narratives—rife with racialized stereotypes and, to our eyes, highly problematic assumptions about agency and identity—we will also work to avoid the “facile normalization of the present” (David Scott, Conscripts of Modernity). In other words, we will refuse to essentialize differences between “us” and the historical “them” of our enquiry, and look to these texts for our “now.”
Aphra Behn, Oroonoko
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
William Earle, Obi; or, The History of Three-Fingered Jack
Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative
Cynric R. Williams, Hamel, the Obeah Man
History of Mary Prince
H. G. De Lisser, White Witch of Rose Hall
Marlon James, Book of Night Women
This course examines theories of popular culture and media in the context of the emergence of mass culture and focuses on the evolution of media in the digital era. We will take seriously George Lipsitz's claim that "perhaps the most important facts about people have always been encoded within the ordinary and the commonplace." Paying particular attention to the relationship between literature and popular culture, we will analyze strategies of reading and reception as well as constructions of ideology in this material, including categories such as gender, race, class, and nation. The course interrogates designations such as "high," "pop," "mass," and "folk" as well as concepts of subculture, counterculture, and youth culture. We will focus particular attention on television and popular music case studies, although we will also consider film, new media, popular fiction, advertising, and fan culture. We will explore key theories and methodologies, including cultural studies, media studies, audience studies, feminist theory and gender theory, critical race theory, ecocriticism, and postmodernism. We will also consider key media trends such as media convergence, transmedia storytelling, participatory fan culture, serialized narratives on television, authenticity projections in music, on-going fascination with the "folk" such as the Americana roots music movement, interactive digital videos and films, Jason Mittell's theory of "complex TV," the evolution of reality TV and documentary, and the complex status of truth claims in the digital era. Our focus will be on U.S. culture, but we will consider questions of globalization and make use of transnational critical frameworks.
Requirements: This course satisfies the requirement for coursework in the following Areas of Concentration: Post-1900 Literary and Cultural Studies; the History of Text Technologies (reception conceptual area, Film/TV media). This course fulfills 3 credit hours of the academic requirement for the Certificate in Editing and Publishing. If a student has already met the academic requirement, the course can count for additional credits toward the 12-hour Certificate.
Identity is a recurrent theme in Caribbean literature. Therefore, Caribbean women writers use the bildungsroman form to illustrate the historical period of the region’s development through the young protagonist’s development from childhood. This course will interrogate Caribbean women writers from a multiplicity of complex social positions and an array of transnational contexts —including Jamaica, Belize, Cuba, Haiti, and Trinidad. Students will be encouraged to privilege keywords by examining different literary, cultural, theoretical and political approaches. Some keywords to be considered are: Creolization, Exile (Ex/Isle), Mother Tongue, Othermothering, and Intersectionality.