Fall 2017 Seminar Descriptions

Undergraduate Seminars

ENGL 4925 Practicum in Literature and Language

WordsUncaged: The Prison, the University, and Critical Pedagogy, Mon/Wed 12:15pm-1:30pm with Dr. Bidhan Roy

This course applies Raymond Williams theory of "critical literacy" to the extramural uses of literature in prison, with an emphasis on texts written about or generated from within correctional institutions. The course uses the WordsUncaged Project, a prison literacy and education program, as a vehicle for combining pedagogy, community engagement, and literature.

Graduate Seminars

ENGL 5100 (formerly 505) Seminar in Language and Literacy

Literacy in Mesoamerica: the Case of Oaxaca, Tuesday, 6:00pm-8:45pm with Dr. Aaron Sonnenschein

In English 5100, we will investigate core issues surrounding literacy by looking at social, historical, and linguistic approaches to this important issue. This course will examine the history of literacy in indigenous communities in Mexico, focusing on the development of literacy in the pre-Columbian and Colonial eras through the examination of documents and the historical record and on perspectives on literacy in the Colonial and Modern eras and concentrating on the history of literacy in the Zapotecan languages. In addition, this course will look to the future, investigating how new media (texting, chatting, discussion boards, social media, and so on) change our perspective of what constitutes literacy in our ever changing world and how such new media may be used in language revitalization efforts and in other areas.

ENGL 5190 (formerly 510) Proseminar in Literature

Beyond the World of Dick and Jane: The Politics of Children’s Literature, Monday, 6:00pm-8:45pm with Dr. Caroline McManus

Literary texts categorized as “children’s literature” are not (and never have been) apolitical. Indeed, these texts constitute a significant source of foundational cultural ideologies that individual subjects reproduce, reject, and redefine as they mature. This seminar will ask participants to explore the ways in which 20th- and 21st-century Anglo-American children’s literature (primarily picture books, novels, poetry, historical fiction, and life writing) engage and refract sociopolitical practices and concepts, such as the formation of national, ethnic, and gender identities; political power and agency; immigration; economic and class structures; consumption and the natural environment; democratic processes and civic participation; educational philosophies; race relations; family formations and caregiving theories; violence and war; media reportage and “truth-telling”; the administration of justice, and much more. How, we will ask, might high quality works of children’s literature foster creative, critical, and interdisciplinary thinking about the “political”? Students will apply a range of critical methodologies to the assigned texts; the course will emphasize close reading and historical contextualization of visual and verbal texts.

ENGL 5190 (formerly 510) Proseminar in Literature

Postcolonialism, Wednesday, 3:05pm-5:50pm with Dr. Atef Laouyene

This seminar will serve as a general introduction to postcolonial literature and criticism. A key concern of this writing is to examine the impact of colonization on native populations and the struggle of the latter to restore their cultural heritage and rebuild their economies and communities. This seminar will introduce students to a number of prominent postcolonial writers (Chinua Achebe, J. M. Coetzee, Tayib Salih, Salman Rushdie, Fadia Faqir, Derek Walcott, and Jean Rhys) whose works contributed to this effort of decolonizing indigenous histories and cultures and envisioning a postcolonial future that takes into account the changing dynamics of global power and the emergence of new-style empires. Key critical essays by influential postcolonial theorists (Fanon, Said, Bhabha, Spivak) will also be read and debated, thus providing a theoretical and conceptual framework for understanding the specific thematic concerns that animate the field of postcolonial literature. Class discussions will cover a wide range of topics, such as empire-building and racial thinking, discourse and counter-discourse, diaspora and cultural identity, globalization and the postcolonial world.

ENGL 5190 (formerly 510) Proseminar in Literature

Emotional Storms, or, Contemporary Gay Fiction, Thurs 6:00pm-8:45pm with Dr. Ben Bateman

Since the 1980s, U.S. gay fiction has been nearly synonymous with HIV/AIDS fiction, just as in the years preceding the 1980s it was synonymous with stories of closeted sexuality, stigma, and secret desires. But with the advent of gay marriage and of therapies that successfully prevent or manage HIV, contemporary gay novelists are free to explore other facets of gay life or to downplay the importance of sexuality in the lives of their now normalized protagonists. Indeed, gay fiction has taken on new life in the past few years, as evidenced by the distinguished awards bestowed upon some of its authors. But contrary to the expectation of a happy or hopeful turn, much of the critically celebrated gay fiction of late is darker than ever; its characters are suicidal, self-exiled, and mired in negative feelings that contradict the positive messaging of mainstream gay rights organizations and popular media. This course uses psychonanalytic theory—specifically object relations theory—to explore gay subjectivity’s lingering attachments to bad moods, shame, stigma, regret, and self-harm. The novels we will discuss (a couple not so contemporary) illustrate that the trauma of homophobia does not disappear simply because rights are finally bestowed, but they also make a case, perhaps controversially, for an intimately critical connection between queerness and, for example, loneliness. Ultimately we will consider how these novels’ collective refusal to be happy functions as a potent critique of neoliberal happiness schemes and self-help mantras. The contemporary gay man, that is, can be a glum comrade to what Sara Ahmed, thinking in terms of gender, calls the feminist killjoy. Of course, we will also sensitively inhabit the alternating spareness and excess of these novels’ gorgeous prose—beauty relegated to form when the rainbow is not enough.

ENGL 5400 (formerly 560) Seminar: British Literature

The Orient and the Oriental Tale in the Long Eighteenth Century, Wednesday, 6:00pm-8:45pm with Dr. Nicole Horejsi

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the French translator and Orientalist Antoine Galland brought the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments to Europe. Soon translated into English, the Nights continued to enthrall audiences throughout the century, competing even with the epics of Homer and Virgil: indeed, Horace Walpole exhorted a female correspondent, “read Sindbad the Sailor’s voyages, and you will be sick of Aeneas’s.” This seminar will examine the powerful vogue for Oriental tales in eighteenth-century British literature, beginning with the Arabian Nights and tracing its influence especially through drama (Dryden, Manley, Pix) and the developing novel (Haywood, Johnson, Sheridan, Beckford), on to the birth of “Romantic” Orientalism often marked by the publication of Walter Savage Landor’s Gebir. What does the Orient—or rather Orients—come to symbolize and evoke for writers and audiences in the long eighteenth century? How might we begin to explain its popularity and appeal? Questions of gender and alterity will also take center stage as we consider how British writers used the Orient to engage with various cultural “others” in the popular imagination.