Spring 2024 English
A survey of extraordinary writing, ideas, characters, and voices from the medieval period through the 18th century. We read diversely from Chaucer to Shakespeare, Milton, Austen and others, to trace the origins of our own modernity. What did reading and writing mean in the early modern world? Are they different today? We examine England in relation to the globe, and we ask who gets included and excluded from "great books." What do people, places and situations that existed on the margins of early English society and literature teach us about the problems we currently face? Does seeing things their way help us view our own world differently?
This course introduces students to the range of the essay form as it has developed from the early modern period to our own. The class will be organized, for the most part, chronologically, beginning with the likes of Bacon and Hobbes, and ending with some contemporary examples of and reflections on the form. It will consider how writers as various as Sidney, Hume, Johnson, Emerson, Woolf, C.L.R. James, and Stephen Jay Gould have defined and revised The Essay. Two lectures, one 50-minute preceptorial.
If we remember one thing about ancient myths, it is not to read them literally: Icarus didn't really fall into the sea because he flew too close to the sun. In this class, we will explore the frequently contentious debates about how to interpret myth as they played out in Europe from about 1500-1750. As we shall see, writing about myths ("mythography") mattered to the early moderns as a powerful way of making arguments about topics including politics, philosophy, religion, science, and sexuality. We will consider the histories of literature, ideas, and visual art, and treat authors ranging from Boccaccio and Machiavelli to Milton and Newton.
A survey of classic texts written for children from the past 200 years in (primarily) England and America. We will examine the development and range of the genre from early alphabet books to recent young adult fiction. We'll try to put ourselves in the position of young readers while also studying the works as adult interpreters, asking such questions as: How do stories written for children reflect and shape the lives of their readers? What can children's literature tell us about the history of reading, or of growing up, or of the imagination itself? In the process we will consider psychological and social questions as well as literary ones.
This class considers short poems of the 16th and 17th centuries that are variously concerned with love, desire, and sexual intimacy. What are the modes of address in the erotic lyric? How do poems represent the subject and object of desire, and how do they represent the ethics of the erotic encounter? What is the social, political, and philosophical work of a personal and intimate poetry? Alongside a wide range of poems (including at least one contemporary collection placed in dialogue with the earlier poems), the course will include several short theoretical readings on the representation of desire.
This class covers the second half of Shakespeare's career, with a focus on the major tragedies and late comedies.
The flamboyant second generation of British Romantics: Keats, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Byron, Hemans, Jewsbury. Careful attention to texts--ranging from novels, to odes, to romances, and modern epics--in historical and cultural contexts, with primary focus on literary imagination.
A study of the development of American literature within the context of the shifting social, intellectual, and literary conventions of the period. Emphasis will be on the artistic achievement of writers such as James, Howells, Chesnutt, Crane, Wharton, Cather, Hemingway, and Faulkner.
How can literature and film bring to life ideals of environmental justice and the lived experience of environmental injustice? This seminar will explore how diverse communities across the globe are unequally exposed to risks like climate change and toxicity and how communities have unequal access to the resources vital to sustaining life. Issues we will address include: climate justice, the Anthropocene, water security, deforestation, the commons, indigenous movements, the environmentalism of the poor, the gendered and racial dimensions of environmental justice, and the imaginative role of filmmakers and writer-activists.
What happens to narrative when writers aspire to write the world? How has globalization transformed not only the way novels are produced but also the internal form of the works themselves? We'll read novels that overtly strive for a fuller picture of some social or conceptual whole (e.g., migration, climate change, labor, the Internet), especially where they thematize the impossibility of such a project. Students will learn advanced methods for reading literature's relation to society by examining how writers play with scale, link parts to wholes, and provincialize worlds while rendering the seemingly provincial or mundane worldly.
Spring 2024 Cross-Listed
A survey of 20th- and 21st-century African American literature, including the tradition's key aesthetic manifestos. Special attention to how modern African American literature fits into certain periods and why certain innovations in genre and style emerged when they did. Poetry, essays, novels, popular fiction, a stage production or two, and related visual texts.
Why did three American genres become classics in the same twenty-year period, 1936-1956? Part of the answer lies in global disruptions that unsettled codes of behavior. Part lies in film innovations that altered cinema itself. But more than this intersection of social and formal transformations, the decisive answer lies in a handful of directors who reconfigured gendered relations in three generic forms. The surprising correspondences that emerge among these classic films, if also the obvious divergences even within single genres, that will focus our discussion.
Can reality television offer a new theory of reality? This course examines a prominent aspect of US popular culture--structured reality television programs--to explore questions of reality central to the Western intellectual tradition. Each week, we pair philosophical or theoretical texts with episodes of reality television, and see how these programs can elaborate, contravene, or reframe our conceptions of reality. Some questions include: What is reality, anyway, and why do we care about it? How do we know we're looking at reality? How is reality made, and can reality television do anything else than reflect its structures?
What is the relationship between race and genre? Through a survey of major works and debates in Asian American literature, this course examines how writers employ a variety of generic forms--novels, comics, memoirs, film, science fiction--to address issues of racial and ethnic identity, gender, queerness, memory, immigration, and war. By placing racial formation in relation to social, economic, and intellectual developments, we will explore the potential of literary texts to deepen our historical understanding of Asians in the U.S. and beyond, and probe into what labeling a work of literature as "Asian American" allows us to know and do.
The origins and nature of English vocabulary, from Proto-Indo-European prehistory to current slang via Beowulf. Emphasis on linguistic tools and methodology. Topics include the Greek and Latin elements of English, the wonders and complexities of reading and translating ancient texts, the study of language families.
Fairy tales are among the first stories we encounter, often before we can read. They present themselves as timeless--"Once upon a time..." - yet are essentially modern. They are often presented as children's literature, yet are filled with sex and violence. They have been interpreted as archetypal patterns of the subconscious mind or of deep cultural origins, yet perform the work of shaping contemporary culture. They circulate in myriad oral variations, and are written down in new ones by the most sophisticated literary authors. In this course we will explore the fantasy, enchantment, labor, and violence wrought by fairy tales.
This workshop will expose participants to some of the most dynamic, adventurous environmental nonfiction writers while also giving students the opportunity to develop their own voices as environmental writers. We'll be looking at the environmental essay, the memoir, opinion writing, and investigative journalism. In the process we'll discuss the imaginative strategies deployed by leading environmental writers and seek to adapt some of those strategies in our own writing. Readings will engage urgent concerns of our time, like climate change, extinction, race, gender and the environment, and relations between humans and other life forms.
Why does sex work raise some of the most fascinating, controversial and often taboo questions of our time? The course explores the intricate lives and intimate narratives of sex workers from the perspective of sex workers themselves, as they engage in myriad varieties of global sex work: pornography, prostitution, erotic dance, escorting, street work, camming, commercial fetishism, and sex tourism. Themes include: the 'whore stigma,' race, class and queer dynamics; law, labor and money; technologies of desire and spectacle; dirt, marriage and monogamy; carceral modernity; violence, agency and, above all, strategies for social transformation.
Feminist Futures explores the way in which recent writers have transformed science fiction into speculative fiction - an innovative literary form capable of introducing and exploring new kinds of feminist, queer, and multi-cultural perspectives. These books confront the limitations imposed on women and imagine transformative possibilities for thinking about gender roles and relationships, the body, forms of power, and political and social structures.
What does it mean to look at language? What does it mean to read art? Focusing on the intersection of language and visual art in modernist and avant-garde experiments of the 20th and 21st centuries, we study such phenomena as the global rise of concrete and visual poetry, language-based conceptual art, and score-based performances. Utilizing methods drawn from art history, literary studies, history, and philosophy, students explore close looking and reading in relation to such topics as medium, representation, abstraction, networks. Students also as engage material practices by realizing instruction pieces, assembling magazines, etc.
How can computational tools help us to understand art and literature? This seminar offers an introduction to the 'big tent' that is called Digital Humanities (DH), emphasizing the integration of computational methods in the study of humanities. The course covers a range of digital tools and approaches designed to organize, explore, and narrate data-driven stories. Course topics will range from a critical reflection on the boundaries - or boundlessness? - of DH research, to the creation of digital cultural artifacts. Students will learn about a variety of theories and methodologies, actively engaging with a broad array of digital tools.
In this community-engaged class, students will be invited to learn about the dynamic history and role of the arts in Trenton through conversations with local artists and activists. Students will develop close listening skills with oral historian/artist Nyssa Chow. Readings include texts about urban invisibility, race, decoloniality, and public arts policy. Students will participate in the development of a virtual memorial and restorative project by Trenton artist Bentrice Jusu.
In this course students will be reading works from the Latinx literary canon as a survey of diverse Latinx voices. Through the course theme, students will examine how select Latinx authors write about community, identity, race, gender, resistance, and culture in a manner that captures The Latinx Experience. Selected texts will showcase how home is contested as their characters navigate their lives 'here' and 'there' via notions of diaspora, migration, and belonging, languages, and borders. This course analyzes Latinx literary works, including the course novels, Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Sabrina & Corina, and The House on Mango Street.
The poetries of Latin American nations and the United States, like the histories of the American hemisphere, are in many ways intertwined and wrapped up in the legacies and continuities of imperialism and displacement. This course offers an exploration of the ways in which Latin American and U.S. literatures intersect, especially at pivotal moments of hemispheric political history: (1) the "Good Neighbor" era, (2) inter-American Cold War, (3) US military invasions, (4) second-wave neoliberalism, (5) present day. We pay particular attention to Latin American and Latinx writers, cultivating a South-to-North comparative approach.
A hands-on approach to this interdisciplinary field. We will apply key readings in performance theory to space and time-based events, at sites ranging from theatre, experimental art, and film, to community celebrations, sport events, and restaurant dining. We will observe people's behavior in everyday life as performance and discuss the "self" through the performativity of one's gender, race, class, ability, and more. We will also practice ethnographic methods to collect stories to adapt for performance and address the role of the participant-observer, thinking about ethics and the social responsibilities of this work.
This course explores how the drama of ancient Athens is restaged and rewritten for today's audiences. Students will read plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes to confront the interpretative and performative challenges they offer on the page and on the stage - as well as the opportunities they provide contemporary playwrights to speak to the present moment. Our research will be enhanced by recorded productions preserved online, and if available, by live performances.