FALL 2012 GRADUATE COURSE DESCRIPTIONS
ENG 565K Fictions of War and Empire
This course explores contemporary fiction probing violent conflicts emerging out of the colonial encounter. The fiction in the course probes the relation between imperialism and war; colonizers and indigenous peoples; citizenship and immigration; and other issues of contemporary interest. The course will provide an introduction to postcolonial theory and explore its relevance to the fiction produced in English-speaking nations with a variety of colonial histories and cultures. Writers studied may include Atwood, Díaz, Morrison, Lee, Walker, McCarthy, Mootoo and others. Students will write a short paper and a longer research paper and participate in a group presentation.
ENG 572L Neuroaesthetics
In the visual age, what good is literature? Is it just an extraneous, antiquated form? This is a question we have needed to answer in the humanities, and recent developments in neuroscience argue for the central importance of literature in human development. Particularly work in the field of emotion research and consciousness studies about primary process and secondary, self-conscious emotions, along with work on mirror neurons and consciousness, reveals that literature and other aesthetic arts may play an important part in brain function by helping us to develop self-awareness, a kind of mind-reading that makes us aware of other minds. Literary identifications create "affective maps" that make us aware of how we process information from the world around us (cultural learning), and how that learning, in conjunction with the primary, evolutionarily-based emotional processes, contributes to identity and pro-social building blocks like empathy and human systems such as morality. Books may include: Jaak Panksepp, The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions; V.S. Namachandran, The Tell Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human; Stephen Porges, The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, Self Regulation; Antonio Damasio, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Self-Conscious Brain; Patricia Churchland, Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells us About Mornality; Lisa Zunshine, ed. Cognitive Cultural Studies; and works of fiction and creative non-fiction.
ENG 572P Symbolism of Popular Culture
A philosophical and psychological study of the features and meanings of popular culture in the US, particularly celebrity, music, the web, television, tattooing, texting, eating, drinking, facebooking, sports, and romantic and familial love. Especially appropriate for MATs. Principal text: Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History. Lecture and Discussion. Daily writing. Two papers.
ENG 572R Michel Foucault & Edward Said
This course examines the major schools in literary and cultural theory. We read closely a number of important theoretical texts while thinking about what relation exists between the different intellectual projects called theory (deconstruction [Derrida], new historicism, cultural criticism [Williams], psychoanalysis [Freud], Marxism, post- colonialism[Said], and gender studies are only a few.) We also ask and ask again the more general question: What is theory, anyway?
ENG 572W Politics and Forms of Art
This course will deal with 20th century episodes in which some forms of art (especially associated with music, painting, and poetry) that once assisted in the establishment and maintenance of political power were redirected toward alienation and interruption, even the breaking of frames of dominant political power. The art-anti-art Dada "movement" will be important to our discussion. Two basic sets of reference will be the socially/politically "stabilizing" presence of the long tonal tradition in Western music and representationalism in painting and poetry. We will be concerned with some ways in which those traditions were turned and departed from for the sake of disrupting a dominant political/cultural status quo.
ENG 593G Modern Criticism and Theory
This graduate seminar surveys the field of contemporary literary theory and its major approaches, themes, thinkers, and debates. Our readings and discussions will be organized as an introduction to a set of important ideas and thinkers, and around varying approaches to theory. The class's intention is to provide you with basic literacy in contemporary theory and to help you probe more deeply the ideas and approaches that you find most stimulating and useful for your own future research. In examining the current state of the field, we will explore the possibilities that contemporary theory offers for innovative critical thinking.
ENG 593S Intro to Sound Studies
Noise In this class, students will investigate the socially constructed concept of "noise" as a site of contestation and a keyword in the production of racial and social difference in the United States. We will address "noise" as a keyword in the vein of Raymond Williams, examining the function of its traditional definition as "unwanted sound" and tracing the shifting border drawn to distinguish "sound" from "noise" — and quite often "us" from "them"—in Western culture. Color lines are not just visual and spatial, but they are profoundly sonic. This course is broad introduction to the emerging field of Sound Studies, an interdisciplinary site of inquiry into audio culture from multiple vantage points: historical, theoretical, textual, and material. The interdisciplinary field of Sound Studies has recently emerged in the U.S. and Britain to question the visual paradigm dominating contemporary scholarship across the disciplines and to develop a complex and nuanced understanding of the historical relationships between sound, society, and power. In addition to unearthing histories of lost, forgotten, and ignored sounds, Sound Studies addresses how sound—and ideas about sound—are embedded in our institutions, technologies, laws, histories, and cultures. To structure your introduction, we will perform a loose historiography that tracks the concept of "noise"—a key site of contestation in Sound Studies—across the various disciplinary sites that have given rise to the field. We will address "noise" as a keyword in the vein of Raymond Williams, examining the function of its traditional definition as "unwanted sound" and tracing the shifting border drawn to distinguish "sound" from "noise" — and quite often "us" from "them"—in Western culture. Through a multi- and interdisciplinary analysis, we will analyze "noise" as a socially constructed influence in the production of racial and social difference in the United States. Using the filter of "noise," each class meeting focuses on how and when inquiries into sound have emerged across the disciplines. For every disciplinary site, we will read research that has come to be "canonical" in the field—I use quotes here, as Sound Studies is still fairly fledgling—new "hot" work that engages interdisciplinary methods, and pieces that I argue are "overlooked gems" that should be considered under the rubric of Sound Studies. We will pay special attention to the methodology and research methods of each piece, tracing how the interdisciplinary field of Sound Studies has both challenged traditional disciplines and emerged from them. In our inquiry, we will address key questions like: What distinguishes sound from noise? How and why has "blackness" historically been linked to "noise" in American racial formation? What is the connection between "noise" and power: socially, politically and legally? What is "white noise"? Why have particular black American musical forms like jazz, rock and roll, and hip hop, been labeled "noise" by the dominant culture? Conversely, how has "noise" been used as resistance within black American culture? "The graduate version of this course will demand a much deeper engagement with theory, lengthier and more extensive writing assignments (including original research), a visible/audible online presence, as well as more frequent in-class presentations of work."
ENG 641 Fiction Workshop
This course is designed to give graduate students an intensive study and practice in writing fiction. The focus is on student work, sharing in the workshop format; however, we will also read a variety of short story collections and novels, discussing elements of structure and technique in class, along with reading response blogs posted on Blackboard. There will be exercises designed to help the individual student push his/her work forward, practicing craft and potentially generating story ideas. Three complete stories or novel chapters are expected from each student, along with revisions. Please note: This course is open to graduate students admitted into the M.A. or Ph.D. Program in Creative Writing. Other graduate students may enroll if there is sufficient space, with permission of professor, based upon a writing sample of 2-3 stories.
ENG 643B Creative Non-Fiction
This course focuses on creative non-fiction as a literary form that uses one's life and research as material for transformation into creative writing that is as much a work of art as is fiction or poetry, and includes the graphic memoir. How does one render experience with both truth and beauty, content and technique? Creative non-fiction comes out of the long literary tradition dedicated to verisimilitude in writing, but a primacy is placed on beauty of form and language as well. It puts into practice what neuroscience is just beginning to discover about the operation of memory: its plasticity and impact on behavior, the way the implicit memories of our primary process emotions, of which we have no consciousness, hold and shape our explicit memories, and the way the act of writing can transform memory, experience, and the very ontology of our lives. This is a writing/workshop course in which we will read other works of creative non-fiction in order to learn the techniques specific to the genre. Readings may include work by Nick Flynn, Steven Church, Mark Doty, Alison Bechtel, Jeanette Walls, and others.We will focus on the development of writing voice, the operation of memory, use of perspective and point of view, how to do research for creative writing, and how to use the techniques of poetry and fiction to tell your own story, or the story of a particular non-fiction subject, in a crafted, artistic way. The first part of the course will be devoted to reading, and the second to work-shopping your own writing. Registration is by permission of instructor through submission of student's portfolio. Send 5 pages of fiction or creative non-fiction to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as the registration period begins.
ENG 655A The African Novel
This course will explore the development of the novel in Africa both historically and thematically. On the other hand, we shall trace the formal growth of th genre, beginning with its emergence from the oral narrative traditions of the continent, through its attachment to certain European trends and techniques, to its present achievement in blending various traditions (African and non-African) in the presentation of key problems in contemporary African sociopolitical life. On the other hand, we shall examine some of the key concerns that have occupied one generation of writers after another: e.g., the European presence; relationships between tradition and modernity; apartheid; failures of the post-independence leadership; women in African literature and society.
ENG 673D Deleuze: Cinema/Lit/Philosophy
This course centers on Gilles Deleuze's writings on literature & film and places them in the context of his philosophical work. Questions guiding the seminar include: what is the power of minor literature and modern film? How do we understand the relation between philosophy, film, and literature? What is the importance of time in art? Readings (besides texts by Deleuze) include Masoch, Proust, Kafka, Melville; screenings include films by Orson Welles, Dreyer, Buñuel, Fellini.
ENG 673L Ethics
This seminar will consider three moments in the history of Ethics: the Aristotelian, the Kantian, and the Levinasian moments. At each point we will pay attention to the construction of the ethical agent and the ethical relation. The rest of the time will be spent considering critics of one or more of these approaches, including Dussel, Frye, Nietszche as well as those writers that look at ethics starting the reflection with a focus on relations of domination.
ENG 674B Walter Benjamin
Over the last decades Benjamin has emerged as one of the most important critics and theorists of the 20th century. The rich and varied work of this idiosyncratic thinker has become crucial for our readings of modernism and modernity, seminal for the discipline of urban semiotics, full of inspiration for the study of the relation of literature, art and technology, and provocative in its theses on history and historiography. Nevertheless, for all their momentous influence, Benjamin's texts strangely resist assimilation. He engages in a writing that is often deliberately literary and multivalent, and that aims at a conscious and active mode of reception. This seminar will address this irreducibly literary and self-reflexive dimension of Benjamin's writing by reading many of his most important works that play a vital role in the contemporary study of literary practice and culture. The focus will be on topics like Benjamin's study of media and technology, especially photography and film, and their impact on literature and culture, his writings on allegory in early modern drama (German, Spanish, English), and his turn to the dialectical image, his study of modern poetry and literature (Baudelaire, Proust, Kafka), his essays on Avant-garde movements (Surrealism) and urban spaces (Arcades-Project), and his theoretical essays on language, translation, history and memory.
ENG 674D Silence, Clues: Lit History Now
The steady broadening of the canon in the past twenty years raises far reaching questions about literary history as a field of inquiry. By calling attention to the neglected works of women writers, to the rich literatures of postcolonial countries, or to hybrid texts that used to be considered marginal, scholars have repeatedly brought into question the specific silences of literary history. Another productive strategy for expanding the canon has been to examine a well known literary work in relation to lesser known texts or to historical documents. A forgotten or overlooked text often served as the clue that prompted the revision of long accepted narratives. This seminar explores the consequences of these widespread changes for the project of writing literary history. On what terms is it possible, or desirable to construct such narratives now? In what ways does attention to cultural or historical contexts inflect literary history? How does a newly conceived literary history grapple with the problem of aesthetic value? These broad questions serve here to suggest the range of issues we may discuss. Tentative reading list: Lindberg-Wada et al. Studying Transcultural Literary History Hutcheon and Valdés, Rethinking Literary History: A Dialogue on Theory Ginzburg, Carlo. History, Rhetoric and Truth Smith, Barbara Herrnestein, Contingencies of Value.
ENG 674W Archiving Machines
In a whole range of disciplines and, in fact, beyond the limits of academe, the archive has today become the object of intense debate. In part, this has been due to the rise of memory studies, bolstered by the collapse of regimes and their machineries of record and erasure, and, in part, to the popularization in the museum world of the curatorial notion of an archival mode in contemporary art. At the same time, new digital technologies and the growth and dispersal of social media have turned attention to the dissemination of practices of archiving. What has often been lost in these discussions, however, is the history of archiving technologies as a surface of appearance bound not only to new systems of inscription, storage and retrieval, but also to a profound mutation in the political axis of representation. This seminar will pick its way across this literature and this history, worrying about the consequences of our belief that truth and justice may be found in the archive.