Graduate Course Listings

Spring 2023

English 6120. Advanced Literary Theory: Queer/Crip Wastelands. W 6:10 - 8:00 PM. 3 Credits. Professor Robert McRuer.

Queer/Crip Wastelands is situated at the intersections of contemporary queer theory, disability studies, and ecotheory.  Examining the ways in which waste, devastation, and destruction have emerged as the backdrop for our present, the course will begin with a consideration of queer theory’s contestatory relationship with futurity, spotlighting in particular cip/queer responses to the queer antisocial or antifutural thesis.  From there, we will consider foundational work in environmental studies and ecotheory before moving to a thick consideration of how crip and queer theorists have intervened in those conversations.  We’ll read a wide range of books and essays, including but not limited to work by Rob Nixon, Mark Fisher, Bruno Latour, Stacy Alaimo, Lee Edelman, José Muñoz, J. Jack Halberstam, Eli Clare, Alison Kafer, Anna Tsing, and Amitav Ghosh.

ENGL 6350. Nineteenth Century I: Slippery Metaphors and Novel Forms. R 6:10 - 8:00 PM. 3 Credits. Professor Daniel DeWispelare.

This course invites graduate and advanced undergraduate students who are interested in reading deeply in the global context of nineteenth century literature, a vast body of writing that has bequeathed to contemporary readers enduring innovations in form, metaphor, material culture, and crucially, storytelling. Made up of one part history from below (cf. Rediker), one part study of nineteenth-century publishing and translation history, and one part slow, attentive reading of diverse literary representations, this course will equip students with a wide knowledge of the primary and secondary sources that occupy the center of literary conversation about the period today.

As a way in, we will highlight formally cleft terms like “revolution” (a continuation of normal orbit, but also, a total remaking of the world), “riot” (a disturbance of the peace and a successful comedic performance), “asylum” (prison and sanctuary), “sensation” (popular hit, lurid trick), “law” (a force of order, the force of the state), “uncanny” (tantalizing, repellent), etc. Readings from Charlotte Smith, Helen Maria Williams, Germaine de Staël, De Quincey, Carlisle, the Brontës, Marx, Collins, Dickens, Darwin, Multatuli, George Elliot, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Lev Tolstoy and Émile Zola will be supplemented by secondary readings by scholars like E.P. Thompson, John Plotz, Sianne Ngai, Anna Kornbluh, Daniel Heller-Roazen, Eugenie Brinkema, and others.

Participants in this course will also master some of the genres of professional scholarly writing: constructing an abstract, crafting a book review, proffering editorial feedback, compiling varied paratexts, and drafting a scholarly, or public-facing argumentative article, depending on the student’s own interests and professional goals.

ENGL 6510. Writing, Race, and Nation: Life Writing and Disability Justice. 3 Credits. Professor Jonathan Hsy.

Disability justice is an intersectional framework, created by queer disabled activists and disabled people of color, which centers communities who experience concurrent systems of oppression (such as racism, ableism, and queer phobia) with the aim of achieving collective liberation.

This seminar focuses on contemporary life writing by disabled and/or queer people of color. We will consider how disabled people of color use literary forms and performance genres to challenge Eurocentric conventions of the “memoir” or Bildungsroman and thereby craft new ways of theorizing lived experience and social transformation. We will consider multiple intellectual lineages for disability justice, including intersectional feminism, crip theory, and even psychoanalysis (via queer theory and disidentification).

The course focuses primarily on Asian American and Asian diaspora writing in the US, informed by scholarship in allied areas of Black Studies and Latinx Studies.

Authors and theorists may include Anne Anlin Cheng (The Melancholy of Race), David L. Eng& Shinhee Han (Racial Melancholia, Racial Disassociation), Cathy Park Hong (Minor Feelings), Shayda Kafai (Crip Kinship), erin Khuê Ninh (Passing for Perfect), James Kyun-Jin Lee (Pedagogies of Woundedness), José Esteban Muñoz (Disidentifications), Sami Schalk (Black Disability Politics), Esmé Weijun Wang (The Collected Schizophrenias), and Alice Wong (Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life).

Fall 2022 Course Offerings

ENGL 6100.10 – Introduction to Literary Theory. R 17:10 - 19:00. 3 Credits. Professor Tony Lopez

This course studies the foundational, historical, and current practices of literary, cultural, and critical theory.  Readings focus on aesthetics and the philosophy of literature; concepts of culture in relation to identity, politics, society, and the environment; and the institutions of literary and cultural studies.

ENGL 6130.10 – Screening Race and Gender. T 16:10 - 18:00. 3 Credits. Professor Alexa Alice Joubin

Through the lens of social justice, this graduate seminar examines cinematic representations of embodied identities. In particular, we will focus on racialized bodies, performance of sexuality, disability narratives, transgender films, feminist adaptations, class struggle, and intersectional identities in pop culture. We focus on theories that are most relevant to our contemporary political and cultural life. Students will gain fluency in the conceptual frameworks associated with ecocriticism, post-colonialism, feminism, and critical race, queer, and disability studies.

More importantly, students will learn how to apply theoretical tools to global films in the interest of producing scholarship that instigates changes. 

This course fulfills the pre-1800 requirement. In examining films about early modern and modern identities, we trace their common emotional burden. 

ENGL 6350.10 – Nineteenth-Century: “Art and the Nineteenth-Century Novel”. M 05:10pm-07:00pm. 3 Credits. Professor Maria Frawley

Upon first seeing a daguerreotype, Paul Delaroche evidently declared “from today painting is dead.” Was it the project of the nineteenth-century novel to enliven them? Accounts of the nineteenth-century novel often focus on particular forms (e.g., the bildungsroman), modes (e.g., the gothic), or publication contexts (e.g., serialization); such accounts typically chart the emergence of realism as a dominant aesthetic. This course will explore manifestations of the novel’s engagement with art, most especially painting and portraiture but also other art forms that aspire to the life-like (stage performances; the tableau; wax figures; photographs; death masks). We will explore how encounters with art, embedded within the novel, complicate our thinking about form, mode, and the realist aesthetic. Our materials will enable us to consider basic questions about ekphrasis and the nature of representation but also of animacy and the inanimate, a major preoccupation of the nineteenth-century.  Readings will range across the century and will likely include some big novels: Austen’s Mansfield Park, C. Brontë’s Villette, Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop, Eliot’s Middlemarch, Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Gray, and, if we have time to extend a bit into the 20th c., Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Students will gain experience with archival research and with pedagogy and will write a paper and abstract submittable for a conference presentation.

Spring 2022 Course Offerings

ENGL 6120.10 – Advanced Literary Theory: Queer of Color/Crip of Color Critique. W 06:10pm-08:00pm 3 Credits. Professor Robert McRuer

Although Roderick Ferguson’s Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique is generally credited with developing the concept, the critical project that Ferguson names as “queer of color critique” reaches back to women of color feminism as it consolidated in the 1970s and 1980s through the work of Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa, the Combahee River Collective, and others. José Esteban Muñoz played a key role in shaping queer of color critique at the turn of this century, and the critical endeavor is now arguably a central, indispensable component of contemporary queer theory, with numerous books and essays published in this century that stress the importance of queer analyses attentive to the necessary imbrication of race, gender, sexuality, nation, class, and capital. Disability is rarely named explicitly in these projects, even if queer of color critique is saturated with questions germane to disability studies, especially as disability studies has taken what might be seen as a “global turn” in the past few decades. Crip of color critique (a phrase circulating most recently in the work of Jina Kim) has been named as such less frequently than queer of color critique, even if it has arguably been reshaping the interdisciplinary field of disability studies during the same period (and is, again arguably, at the center of the critical project that has come to be called crip theory). This course brings together the two analytics and considers how they might be brought to bear on a range of analyses of contemporary cultures and cultural productions.

ENGL 6130.10 – Reading the Human Humanities. T 06:10pm-08:00pm. 3 Credits. Professor Holly Dugan

In this readings course, students will read and engage with a diverse set of texts selected by faculty from across our department’s four concentrations (American Literature and Culture, British Postcolonial, Crip/Queer, and Medieval and Early Modern Studies) that collectively reveal and challenge the embedded category of the human in humanities research methods. Students will practice advanced critical reading skills as well as develop pedagogies that seek to expand the disciplinary norms in literary studies, challenging the assumptions about the category of the human embedded in the humanities.

ENGL 6540.80 – Women and Writing: Gender, Race, and Disability. M 06:10pm-08:00pm. 3 Credits. Professor Jonathan Hsy

This transhistorical course explores disability and women’s life writing, focusing on how social and nonhuman environments construct gendered selfhood. The social model of disability maintains that individuals are disabled by a surrounding (social and material) environment, rather than by impairment or embodied difference in itself. This course explores how women’s life writing critiques disabling environments and engages in radically transformative worldbuilding. How does disability change the world? How can disability create new worlds? Our readings will include works by medieval European women authors as well as contemporary BIPOC artists and thinkers, and we will examine intersectional approaches to race and gender in Disability Studies along with other forms of critical theory (feminist, lesbian, queer, trans, crip). Most importantly, we will consider the stakes of autoethnography (first-person authorial positioning) in creative art, academic scholarship, and disability justice movements. Historical authors include Christine de Pizan, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Marie de France, and Teresa de Cartagena. Contemporary authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Gloria Anzaldúa, Octavia E. Butler, Audre Lorde, Sami Schalk, and Esmé Weijun Wang. Assignments include a close reading, short response papers, an annotated bibliography with abstract (suitable for a conference presentation proposal), and a conference-style presentation.

All readings are in modern English; no knowledge of earlier literatures is required.

This course is cross-listed with WGSS 6251.80 (Women and Writing)

Fall 2021 Course Offerings

ENGL 6100. Introduction to Literary Theory. W 04:10PM - 06:00PM. 3 Credits. Professor Robert McRuer.

English 6100 will introduce and briefly overview some of the major movements in critical theory—such as poststructuralism, postmodernism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism, African American and Latina/o cultural theory, postcolonial theory, queer theory, and disability studies—that have brought us to the contemporary moment in the study of culture and society. As this list should suggest, a large part of the course will consider the “cultural turn” that literary study has taken over the past few decades. Some of the questions the class will pose are: what do we mean when we talk about such vexed terms as culture, identity, language, interpretation, meaning, theory, criticism, cultural studies? What does critical theory offer us as readers and writers, as participants in various cultures, as citizens? What does knowledge in and as democracy look like? How have the new social movements transformed knowledge in and out of the academy? How does power circulate through the production, consumption, and interpretation of culture?

ENGL 6510. Writing, Race, and Nation. R 04:10PM - 06:00PM. Professor Jennifer James.

This course is an exploration of award-winning black women’s literature produced in the Literature-based but interdisciplinary in scope, this course will explore Black American writers, artists, scholars and activists who take up questions of nature, the environment, and environmental justice. Beginning with the ways that enslavement shaped perceptions of the natural environment and environmental practice, we will move into the 20th and 21st centuries to consider a range of topics: African American environmental art, thought, and praxis; how racial subjugation, such as coerced labor, has facilitated environmental destruction; how racialized space, including "dumping grounds," and "organized abandonment" has positioned Black people as environmental “others”; how food and foodways are central to discussions of Black environments, environmentalism, and environmental justice; how questions of animals and animality underlie perceptions of Blackness in relation to the natural world; how the intersection of gender and race has shaped a Black ecofeminism which challenges White and male-centered environmental theory. One of the central goals will be to think through the ways the course materials ask us to develop new frameworks and paradigms for environmental criticism in the humanities. As just one example, what are the possibilities in theorizing a Black queer ecological framework?

The objects of study will be varied. We will explore Black environmental literature, visual art and film; rethink familiar African American canonical work through an environmental lens; read Black and racially-focused ecocriticism; and end with a study of Afrofuturist/speculative environmental literature.

Material might include or be excerpted from some of the following: Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave; Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler; Harryette Mullen, Recyclopedia; Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts; Natasha Trethewey, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; Jesmyn Ward; Salvage the Bones; Ed Roberson, To See the Earth Before the End of the World; Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower; Mat Johnson, Pym; Nnedi Okafor, Lagoon; Alexis Pauline Gumbs, M Archive and/or Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Animals; Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None; Joshua Bennett: Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man;  Robert Bullard, Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots; Sonya Posmentier, Cultivation and Catastrophe: The Lyric Ecology of Modern Black Literature; Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor; Ariel Salleh, Ecofeminism as Politics: Nature, Marx and the Postmodern; Sylvia Wynters, selected essays; Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation; Carl Dean and Tia Lessin, Trouble the Water; Kimberly N. Ruffin, Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions; Sharla Fett, Working Cures: Healing, Health and Power on Southern Slave Plantations; Monica M. White, Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement; writing and art on Flint's water crisis by Pope L. and others.

ENGL 6540. Women and Writing. M 04:10PM - 06:00PM 3 Credits. Professor Kavita Daiya

This course explores 10 great contemporary works of global Anglophone fiction, graphic narratives, and theory that attempt to take the measure of our times. The twentieth century was, as noted scholars like Zygmunt Bauman and Hannah Arendt have noted, an era of migration. As more people have left their birthplace than at any other point in human history, whole cultures and communities have been reinvented by the movement of people across regional and national borders. In complex ways, women and children have borne the brunt of these changes. This course explores the literary representation of this brave new world in which the ceaseless movement of people-due to war or work, love or study, pleasure or dispossession-has altered conceptions of belonging, community, and agency. We study representations of migration through key postcolonial Anglophone literatures and graphic narratives primarily, though not exclusively, from Asia. How gender, sexuality, religion, and race inhabit and inflect these stories about belonging will be central to our investigation. We will conclude with a discussion of two international films that speak to our interest in gender, diaspora, and migration. In the process, this course invites us to consider contemporary aesthetic explorations of the gendered experience of decolonization, migration, and globalization.

Spring 2021 Course Offerings

ENGL 6130-11. Advanced Literary Theory. “Screening Race and Gender” 3 Credits. Professor Alexa Joubin.

Through the lenses of critical race and gender theories, this seminar examines cinematic representations of racialized and gender identities. In particular, we will focus on racialized bodies, performance of gender and sexuality, disability narratives, transgender theories, feminist interventions, religious fault lines, class struggle, and intersectional identities in popular culture.

ENGL 6130-10. Selected Topics in Criticism. “Resistance Literatures of the Americas” 3 Credits. Professor David Mitchell.

This class will telescope back in time to read deeply into the archive of American colonial literature (travel writing, essays, colonial records) from the 15th and 16th century conquest by Spanish, French, and British colonizers of the Americas. We will then shift focus to examples of contemporary resistance literature produced by members of an oppressed group still experiencing the shocks of colonial conquest well beyond the end of military conquest. Barbara Harlow defines resistance literature as the alternative stack of paper created to interfere with the bureaucratic records that attempt to keep minority communities in check. Our readings will take us through some of the most influential theories and literature evaluating the aftermath of the colonial conquest of the Americas through direct testimony, theories of “the Human”, revisionist Anthropology. contemporary minority novels, and theory of global relations, and, possibly depending on the pandemic, travels to DC museums for those in the area. Our readings will include: Stephen Greenblatt’s New World Encounters (Volume 6), Columbus’s “Letter to the Sovereign” (1493), Bernal Diaz’s Conquest of New Spain (1576), Michel de Montaigne’s essays “Of Cannibals” (c. 1580), Michel de Certeau’s “The ’Savage’ I” in Heterologies: Discourses of the Other (1986)Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2011), William Vollmann’s Fathers and Crows (1992) Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony (1977)Maxing Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book (1990)Sherley Anne Williams’s Dessa Rose (1986), Lisa Lowe’s The Intimacies of Four Continents (2015).

ENGL 6510. Writing Race and Nation: U.S LatinX Literature and Culture. 3 Credits. Professor Antonio López.

This course considers the fictional and non-fictional narratives, poetry, and drama of U.S. Latinx literature. It takes a historical view that stretches from the 17th century and an account of Spanish-colonial violence, travel, and imagination in what becomes Florida, the Sunshine State, to a volume of contemporary Chicanx poetry in which sounds, ideas, and typography represent human and even non-human desires for something we can call “the land.” This is to say that we will debate, propose, and range across the possible and very much messy periods of U.S. Latinx literature. In so doing, we will explore just how it is that the conjunction of Latinx and literature makes sense: how this organism, Latina/o literature, can manage to stage identities, turn the shape and force of words, and twist the plots of time and space, even as it bears and enjoys the burdens of being an “American” literary tradition. Latinx can mean something or someone in the United States (even before there was such a thing) of Mexican, Dominican, or Puerto Rican descent (even before there was such a thing); it can mean the way a short story, lyric poem, or dramatic performance behaves in creative, social ways toward (and especially against) these kinds of ethnic-racial-national signs. How does the poem “In Colorado My Father Scoured and Stacked Dishes,” say, or the novel Nilda offer us up examples of such literary behavior? How are the verbal, artistic materials of these texts sometimes sympathetic to, sometimes hostile to the very stories they tell and the very feelings they front? How are the frames we bring them (in history and theory), not to mention the frames they themselves offer up, maybe meaningful and superfluous all at once? These questions, unpacked, their pieces thrown around the room to see what intrigues, will inform the papers we will write and, crucially, revise, plus the group work we will do, which will focus on familiarizing graduate students with a critical history of Latinx literary and cultural studies.

Fall 2020 Course Offerings

ENGL 6100. Introduction to Literary Theory. 3 Credits. Professor David Mitchell

This seminar will focus on dovetailing crip, queer, and critical race studies as frameworks to consider how forms of colonial violence return to the metropoles in which they are produced. In particular, our investigations will involve analyzing tangible and intangible violence imposed upon minority (particularly variations on disabled) populations. We will move from settler colonialism in Canada to the soviet gulag, polish psychiatric institutionalization, Nazi assembly line death camps, U.S. Displaced persons detention centers, Israeli open-air prisons, and U.K.-based lethal austerity policies. Readings may include: 1) Samir Amin’s Eurocentrism (1989); 2) William Vollmann’s Fathers And Crows (1992); 3) Robert J. Lifton’s The Nazi Doctors (1988); 4) Stanislaw Lem’s The Hospital Of The Transfiguration (1955); 5) Giorgio Agamben’s State Of Exception (2005); 6) Spike Lee’s When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts (film, 2006); 7) Asma Abbas’ Liberalism and Human Suffering: Materialist Reflections on Politics, Ethics, and Aesthetics (2010); 8) Jasbir Puar’s The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability (2017); 9) Robert McRuer’s Crip Times: Disability, Globalization, and Resistance (2018).

ENGL 6452. Black Women Writers in the 21st Century: Making Black Lives Matter. 3 Credits. Professor Jennifer James.

Amidst a pandemic disproportionately killing black Americans in this country, the nation has witnessed an unprecedented number of people spilling into the streets to protest the murders of black men and women at the hands of white citizens and the police. Once again the slogan “black lives matter” has caught fire, both as an affirmative statement of the hereness and being-ness of blackness and as a part of a historical query: can black lives ever actually matter in a nation rooted in slavery and structured by white supremacy? Beginning with Saidiya Hartman’s exploration of the transatlantic slave trade, Lose Your Mother, in which she suggests that the legacy of bondage and subjugation has made her skin “a prison,” we will read black women scholars, activists and artists who analyze the matter of black lives from feminist, queer, disability and trans perspectives.

Interdisciplinary in scope, the syllabus includes fiction, film, memoir, poetry, theater, sociology, ethnography and critical theory, with particular focus on the co-constitutive violence of overpolicing and incarceration. Central to this examination, of course, is the imaginative literature published after the 2013 shooting death of Travyon Martin, which gave rise to the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and the first wave of BLM protest. As such, we will think through the ways that social and political movements intersect with and influence black literary production.

Finally, we will investigate coverage of the recent demonstrations and uprisings to consider how contemporaneous representations of state-authored and extrajudicial violence against black women differs from the representations of violence against black men.

Key texts will include Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route(2008); Christina Sharpe, In the WakeOn Blackness and Being (2017); Ava DuVernay, 13thWhen They See Us (2016; 2019); Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (2018); Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003); Jesmyn Ward, Sing Unburied Sing (2017); Dominque Morriseau, Blood at the Root and Pipeline; DaMaris Hill, A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of Black Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland (2019); Claudia Rankine, Citizen (2014); Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give (YA fiction, 2017; film 2018).

Additional selections will be assigned from sources such as Feminist Studies’ Ferguson forum; Andrea Ritchie, Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color; Beth Ritchie, Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation; Cathy Cohen, Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics; Charlene Carruthers, Unapologetic: A Black Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical MovementsShapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship; Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow;  Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project; and theoretical essays from Treva Ellison, Kimberlé Crenshaw and others.

Students will be asked to give a research presentation, produce a short essay and create a final seminar paper/project.

ENGL 6550. Studies in Genre “A History of the Novel” 3 Credits. Professor Daniel DeWispelare

This course invites all graduate students and advanced undergraduates who are interested in studying the history of the novel in historical and material terms. Over the course of the semester, we will read and discuss signal developments in the history of novelistic form. In our secondary readings, we will attend closely to the social, political, and linguistic contexts in which novels circulate. In addition, we will use local archives like the Library of Congress, Gelman Library Special Collections, and others, to examine the development of the novel as a material artifact in book historical terms.

Two thirds of the reading list will come from canonical or canon-bending novels from the seventeenth century to the late-nineteenth century, and the final third of the course will be devoted to contemporary conversations surrounding translation and the global novel. In many cases we will read entire novels in order to study the novel’s form, but we will also be reading short excerpts of longer texts, which will ideally inspire independent reading and research projects. Authors from the first two thirds of the semester may include, among others, Miguel de Cervantes, Thomas Nashe, Daniel Defoe, Charlotte Lennox, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Charlotte Turner Smith, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Mary Seacole, Harriet Jacobs, Frank J. Webb, Émile Zola, Oscar Wilde, D.H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf. During the final third of the semester we will be reading from Chinua Achebe, W.G. Sebald, Thomas Bernhard, Svetlana Alexievich, Teju Cole, Toni Morrison, Marlon James, Han Kang, Yaa Gyasi, and Maggie Nelson.

Spring 2020 Course Offerings

ENGL 6120: Queer/Crip Wastelands

ENGL 6120: Queer/Crip Wastelands

4:10 – 6:00 pm Wednesday, Phillips 629

Prof. Robert McRuer

This course is situated at the intersections of contemporary queer theory, disability studies, and ecotheory.  Examining the ways in which waste, devastation, and destruction have emerged as the backdrop to our present, the course will begin with a consideration of queer theory’s contestatory relationship with futurity, spotlighting in particular crip/queer responses to the queer antisocial or antifutural thesis.  From there, we will consider foundational work in environmental studies and ecotheory before moving to a thick consideration of how crip and queer theorists have intervened into those conversations.  We’ll read a wide range of books and essays, including, but not limited to work by Rob Nixon, Mark Fisher, Bruno Latour, Stacy Alaimo, Lee Edelman, José Muñoz, J. Jack Halberstam, Eli Clare, Alison Kafer, Anna Tsing, and Amitav Ghosh.

ENGL 6130: Disability and Environment: Crafts of Worldbuilding

ENGL 6130: Disability and Environment: Crafts of Worldbuilding

4:10 – 6:00 pm Thursday, Phillips 629

Prof. Jonathan Hsy

This transhistorical course explores disability and life writing, with a particular focus on how social and nonhuman environments construct complex expressions of selfhood. The social model of disability is a way of viewing the world that maintains that individuals are disabled by a surrounding (social and material) environment, rather than by impairment or embodied difference itself. This literature course explores how disability-centered works of art actively critique disabling environments and engage in radically transformative worldbuilding. How does disability change the world? How can disability create new or alternate worlds?

Most of the major literary works in this course are by medieval Western authors, and we will examine how embodied metaphors and rhetorics of space in Disability Studies connect to medieval literary scholarship on racial metaphors and historical processes of race-making. Students will gain exposure to Indigenous, ecofeminist, and intersectional approaches to environmental literary criticism and enmeshed explorations of race, gender/sexuality, and disability.

Medieval authors/works: Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, Gawain and the Green Knight, Marie de France, Teresa de Cartagena, Book of Margery Kempe.

Modern authors: Octavia Butler, Theresa Hyak Kyung Cha, Georgina Kleege, Carter Revard.

Theorists and critics: Brenda Jo Brueggemann, Jay Dolmage, Richard H. Godden, Geraldine Heng, Alison Kafer, Eunjung Kim, Sami Schalk, Cord Whitaker.

Assignments may include a close reading, an annotated bibliography, a presentation abstract (suitable for a conference proposal), and a conference-style final presentation.


  • Black et al., eds. Broadview Anthology of Literature, Volume 1: The Medieval Period, 3rd Edition (2017). ISBN 9781554812028.
  • Siedenspinner-Núñez, trans. Writings of Teresa de Cartagena (2006). ISBN 9780859914468.


  • Heng, The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages (2018). ISBN 9781108422789.
  • Kleege, More than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art (2018). ISBN 9780190604363.
  • Whitaker, Black Metaphors: How Modern Racism Emerged from Medieval Race-Making (2019). ISBN 9780812251586.
ENGL 6510 Race, Class, Gender and the Construction of American Identity in the works of William Faulkner

4:10 – 6:00 pm Tuesday, Phillips 629

Prof. Evelyn Schreiber

Faulkner’s novels, written between 1929-1962, offer a consistent vision of Southern Patriarchy and American Identity through his mythical Yoknapatawpha County, with its seat in Jefferson, MS.  A brilliant story teller, Faulkner crafts modernist prose that reflects the racist, misogynistic, elitist, and homophobic strands in American culture still present today, while writing at a time and place where discussions of these concerns did not exist. Willing to put his Southern culture under the microscope, with dark humor, wit, and tragic irony, Faulkner presents issues of race, class, and gender in conflict with the American Dream.  Reading his novels provides a rich offering for Americanists and others to look at socially constructed racial and ethnic identities and national myths in American culture.  Many students have read one or two Faulkner works, but there are many important works they never get to read that would augment and enrich his best-known novels.  As well, the scope of social segments of Yoknapatawpha County reveals the magnitude of his insight into American culture. The reading list includes: Sartoris, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay DyingSanctuaryLight in AugustAbsalom, Absalom!Go Down, Moses, The Wild Palms (If I Forget Thee Jerusalem), The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion. The course uses trauma theory/psychoanalysis/cultural studies to ground the discussions of social constructions of American identity.

ENGL 6550 Studies in Genre: Nineteenth-Century Life-Writing

4:10 – 6:00 pm Monday, Phillips 629

Prof. Maria Frawley

This course will explore the imbrication of “life writing” in a variety of 19-century genres – principally the novel but also letters, essays, poetry, biography and autobiography, confessional narratives, and obituary/memorial writing.  We will examine the capacious category of “life-writing” as relatively recent subject matter for literary criticism while also thinking through the ways that nineteenth-century print culture mediated its incorporation into various genres as well as its delivery to and reception by readers. Primary texts will likely include Jane Austen’s letters, Keats’ letters, Tennyson’s “In Memoriam,” Charlotte Brontë’s Villette; Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë, Samuel Smiles’ Self-Help, Mary Seacole’s The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, Harriet Martineau’s Life in the Sick-Room, Dickens’ David Copperfield, Ruskin’s Praeterita, Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol, and Gosse’s Father and Son. In addition to preparing a conference abstract and paper suitable for conference presentation, students will contribute to a class-project on little-known Victorians designed to develop research skills and explore archives newly available via an array of digital humanities initiatives.

Fall 2019 Course Offerings

ENGL 6100.10 - Critical Theory

Prof. David Mitchell

Mondays, 4:10 pm - 6:00 pm.

Increasingly “the global turn” in theory involves ways of thinking about mass exterminations. To do so, this course will examine some of the most influential theorists on related topics that all ask some version of the question: is there life that can be destroyed en masse without criminality? We will approach this difficult question from theories of war waged on civilian populations, climate change disasters, release of toxicities into public waters and air, creation of slum dwellings for workers living in poverty, militarized open air prisons, dangerous proximities to irradiated/pesticidal zones, the advent of uninhabitable geographies far into the future. Some of our key texts will include: Georgio Agamben’s “Homo Sacer”, Michel Foucault’s “The History of Madness”, Jacques Derrida, “No Apocalypse, Not Now”, Jasbir Puar’s “The Right to Maim”, Mitchell, Snyder, Antebi (eds.), “The Matter of Disability”, Mike Davis, “Late Victorian Holocausts”, Lisa Lowe’s “The Intimacies of Four Continents”,  Asma Abbas’s “Liberalism and Human Suffering”, Svetlana Alexievich, “Voices from Chernobyl”, Robert Jay Lifton, “The Climate Swerve”, among others. 

English 6350.10 - The Nineteenth Century: Romance and Revolution

Prof. Tara Ghoshal Wallace

Wednesdays, 4:10 pm - 6:00 pm.

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ begins Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities; Frances Burney’s The Wanderer opens with the words ‘During the dire reign of the terrific Robespierre….’  From Edmund Burke’s heated description of Marie Antoinette being dragged out of bed by a maddened mob of revolutionaries to Baroness Orczy’s tale of the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel, British writers have been electrified, appalled and inspired by the enormous political and cultural disruptions of the French Revolution and have produced texts full of suspense, daring escapes, dramatic confrontations, and romantic heroism.  The revolution across the Channel not only provided British writers with material for exciting plots but also a way to both celebrate and interrogate the seemingly serene and equitable social system at home.

This seminar will look at fictional and nonfictional texts from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to consider some of the ways in which British writers deployed the ‘dire’ events of the French Revolution to construct (or demystify) a vision of Great Britain that emerged from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars as a symbol of rational and benign government, one that validated its claim to be the imperial power that dominated world history for over a century. 

The course is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

ENGL 6350.10 - Twentieth Century: Asian American Literature

Prof. Patricia Chu

Thursdays, 4:10 pm - 6:00 pm.

Asians have been coming to America since 1849, but the writings of the immigrants and their descendants didn’t become “Asian American” until the word was coined, and the discipline as such was formally recognized as a response to student strikes, in 1968.  In fact, there was no such racial group in 1878 when the United States Congress created a new legal category, “aliens ineligible to citizenship,” just for Chinese, and then began to pass laws that also excluded other Asians and Pacific Islanders from immigration and citizenship—setting them apart from Europeans and placing them into a middle category, neither white nor black.

Asian Americanist scholars argue that the treatment of Asian Americans in America has always been shaped by U.S. foreign policy objectives, by the Orientalist perception of Asians as unassimilable aliens, and by a suspicion of “orientals” borrowed from European colonialism and re-framed just for America.  In response,  Asian American writers have turned from writing only about their efforts to claim identities as fully American citizens to questioning American “exceptionalism” and to reconceiving themselves as citizens of the world.  Or have they?

This course introduces Asian American literature as a tradition that questions mainstream constructions of Asian American race and ethnicity and provides alternative accounts of Asian American experiences.  We’ll discuss the political roots of the terms “Asian American” and “Asian American literature”; Chinese immigration and exclusion; Japanese American internment narratives; feminist, national, and postcolonial influences; transnational migration; theories of narrative, genre, mourning, melancholia, and loss.

Texts will be a subset of these:

  • Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss
  • Jessica Hagedorn, Dogeaters or Carlos Bulosan, America Is In the Heart. 
  • Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist
  • David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly;  Dance and the Railroad
  • Ken Liu, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories.
  • John Okada, No No Boy
  • Bui Thi, The Best We Could Do
  • Madeleine Thien, Do Not Say We Have Nothing
  • Jane Jeong Trenka, The Language of Blood or Deann Borshay Liem, First Person Plural.  (film)
  • H. T. Tsiang, And China Has Hands.
  • Ruth Ozeki, My Year of Meats
  • Alice Wu, Saving Face.  (film)

Spring 2019 Course Offerings 

ENGL 6130.10 Disability and Form

Prof. Jonathan Hsy 

Tuesday, 6:10 pm to 8:00 pm

This course examines forms of disability memoir (life writing in its autobiographical and fictive dimensions) across time and across genres.  Half of the primary texts are works by major medieval authors; the other half are works by modern disability critics/authors.

Integrating contemporary disability/crip theory with medieval literary analysis, this course thinks critically about form itself.  Are certain modes of reading and interpretation best suited to particular artistic forms (poetry, treatise, short story, film)?  Should formalist analysis of a work occlude or embrace a work's politics?  How does the artistic form of a work shape the meanings of blindness, deafness, race, queerness, embodied difference, or sensory experience?  What happens when we attend to disability not only as a topic or category of analysis but a source of knowledge and catalyst for social transformation (in thinking, feeling, acting)?

Our readings will engage with foundational critics on disability, aesthetics, and form, in addition to cutting-edge work in media studies (including theories of universal design, accessibility, and digital humanities).  Assignments will include formalist analysis of texts and media artifacts as well as theory-engaged literary criticism.

Medieval authors:  Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, Margery Kempe, Thomas Hoccleve, and Teresa de Cartagena.  Modern authors/works:  Brenda-Jo Brueggemann, Mel Y. Chen, Eli Clare, John Lee Clark, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, John Howard Griffin, Helen Keller (Story of My Life and The Miracle Worker film adaptations), Georgina Kleege, Ato Quayson, Robert McRuer, Theri Pickens, David Mitchell & Sharon Snyder

ENGL 6220.10 - Screening Race and Gender

Prof. Alexa Joubin

Wednesday, 6:10 pm to 8:00 pm

This seminar examines cinematic representations of 16th- and 17th-century plays, events and personalities from Queen Elizabeth I to Johannes Vermeer and Thomas Middleton. These narratives have been screened--projected on the silver screen and filtered by various ideologies—since 1899. Adaptation is a historical and colonial practice. In particular, we will focus on the vicissitudes of racialized bodies, performance of gender and sexuality, disability narratives, feminist interventions, religious fault lines, class struggle, and intersectional identities in popular culture. 

Films include Elizabeth I (Shekhar Kapur), Revengers Tragedy (Alex Cox), Doctor Faust (Nevill Coghill), Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Michael Hoffman), Shakespeare in Love (John Madden), Titus (Julie Taymor), Henry V (Kenneth Branagh), Richard III(Richard Loncraine), Jew of Malta (Douglas Morse), The Maori Merchant of Venice (Don Selwyn), Girl with a Pearl Earring (Peter Webber), Stage Beauty (Richard Eyre), The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper), and Anonymous (Roland Emmerich). 

ENGL 6240.10 - The Literature of Empire

Prof. Tara Ghoshal Wallace

Thursday, 4:10 pm - 6:10 pm 

This course will focus on a range of texts that address British writers' responses to Britain's Transatlantic and Asian empires.  We will consider the extent to which British writers celebrate or collude with the imperial project and ways in which they, sometimes covertly, interrogate or critique imperial ambitions and effects.

Primary texts will include works by Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Alexander Pope, Jane Austen, Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson, and we will read them in the context of historical and theoretical material on empire.

ENGL 6522.10 - Ethnicity and Identity

Prof. Evelyn Schreiber 

Toni Morrison’s range of works, covering each decade of American cultural and political life, provides a rich offering for Americanists to look at socially constructed racial identity in American culture.  Many students have read BelovedThe Bluest Eye, or Song of Solomon, but there are many stellar works they never get to read that would augment Morrison’s best-known ones.  The reading list includes: Jazz, A MercyLoveParadiseHomeTar Baby, “Recitatif,”and God Help the Child.  This reading list will be expanded as the course develops. The course uses trauma theory/psychoanalysis/cultural studies to ground the discussions of ethnicity and identity.

Fall 2018 Course Offerings

ENGL 6100 – Introduction to Literary Theory

Monday 6:10 - 8:00 pm
Prof. Robert McRuer

English 6100: Introduction to Critical Theory will introduce and briefly overview some of the major movements in critical theory—such as poststructuralism, postmodernism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism, African American and Latina/o cultural theory, postcolonial theory, queer theory, and disability studies—that have brought us to the contemporary moment in the study of culture and society. As this list should suggest, a large part of the course will consider the “cultural turn” that literary study has taken over the past few decades. Some of the questions the class will pose are: what do we mean when we talk about such vexed terms as culture, identity, language, interpretation, meaning, theory, criticism, cultural studies? What does critical theory offer us as readers and writers, as participants in various cultures, as citizens? What does knowledge in and as democracy look like? How have the new social movements transformed knowledge in and out of the academy? How does power circulate through the production, consumption, and interpretation of culture?

ENGL 6260 – Staging Sensation: Early Modern English Drama and Sensory History

Monday 4:10 - 6:00
Prof. Holly Dugan

This course will introduce you to key works of early modern drama and sensory history. Approaching performance history as including both ephemeral and phenomenological experience as well as an embodied set of skills, we’ll read a number of canonical and non-canonical English Renaissance plays that stage sensation, seeking to connect these textual traces with an archive that includes both lived experience, the space of the stage (as a geographical location, a natural sensorium, and a built environment) and cultural theories of embodied perception. By the end of the course, students will have gained familiarity with a wide array of early modern dramatists, the theatres in which they worked, and the social realm of early modern London’s entertainment industries. Students will also gain an introduction to the field of sensory studies and its methodological approaches (including its relationship to affect studies, queer theory, environmental history, and disability studies).

Dramatic Texts will include: The Taming of A ShrewArden of FavershamThe Shoemaker’s HolidayBartholomew FairThe Knight of the Burning PestleA Christian Turned TurkThe Renegado, and The Broken Heart

Theory works will include:

  • Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology
  • Atkinson, The Noisy Renaissance
  • David Goldstein, Eating and Ethics in Shakespeare’s England
  • Heller-Roazen, The Inner Touch
  • Moshenska, Feeling Pleasures
  • Smith, Hearing Green
  • Smith, Musical Response in the Early Modern Playhouse
  • Stern & Karim-Cooper, Shakespeare’s Theatres and the Effects of Performance
  • Stewart, Poetry and the Fate of the Senses
ENGL 6350 – Poetry and Poetics of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Tuesday 6:10 - 8:00 pm
Prof. Daniel DeWispelare

This course examines anglophone poetry and poetics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We will study the history of poetry and poetics in this period, especially the ways in which poetry intervened in and commented upon political and social life. Students will become familiar with a wide range of poets, canonical and noncanonical, as well as the types of publications in which poetry appeared. For example, “January, 1795,” is a poem by the brilliant poet, actress, and socialite, Mary Robinson. The poem was published during Robinson's time as regular poetry contributor to an oppositional London newspaper called The Morning Post. Beyond poetic periods, forms, and essential secondary texts, students will learn necessary and emergent vocabulary and interpretive strategies for discussing and writing about the history of poetry and poetics. This course is open to advanced undergraduate students.

ENGL 6450 – Modernism, At Home and Abroad: The Transnational Turn

Wednesday 4:10 - 6:00 pm
Prof. Chris Sten

This seminar on Modernist writing, “at home and abroad: the transnational turn,” will feature the work of several U.S. authors, including Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cather, Stein, and Wright, Dos Passos, Toomer, Larsen, and Djuna Barnes who lived in America and lived or traveled extensively in Europe and wrote fiction and essays about their experience between the First and Second World Wars. We will look at the place of Europe in the work of these writers and the growing presence of America in Europe during this time, with emphasis on domestic and international politics and the experimental, tradition-breaking character of their writing. We will also explore Modernism as an international movement in the arts, and the efforts of U.S. writers to launch a transnational American literature.

Some of the key topics to be considered include: modernity; nativism, transnationalism; commercialism; the Great War; the “lost generation”; the Jazz Age; provincialism and cosmopolitanism. Requirements include a short paper or book review on Modernism; two oral presentations; and a 15-20 page interpretive essay. The course is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates majoring in English or allied disciplines, including American Studies, Women’s Studies, and History.

Hemingway, In Our TimeThe Sun Also Rises
Dos Passos, 42nd Parallel
Cather, One of OursThe Professor’s House
Jean Toomer, Cane
Fitzgerald, The Great GatsbyTender Is the Night
Nella Larsen, Quicksand
Gertrude Stein, Three Lives
Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
Richard Wright, Lawd Today!

Theoretical and historical readings include the work of Shari Benstock (Women on the Left Bank of Paris, 1900-1940), Michel Fabre (From Harlem to Paris: Black American Writers in France, 1840-1980), Paul Fussell (The Great War and Modern Memory), Eric Homberger (American Writers and Radical Politics, 1900-1939), Walter Benn Michaels (Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism), Tyrus Miller (Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts Between the World Wars), Raymond Williams (The Politics of Modernism).

ENGL 6520 – Ethnicity and Identity: Narrating Disability, Disabling Narrative

Wednesday 6:10 - 8:00 pm
Prof. David Mitchell

Following her diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Joan Didion writes, “an attack of vertigo and nausea does not seem to me an inappropriate response to the summer of 1968” (The White Album, 15). Thus, narrative references disability as its ubiquitous engine of formal and philosophical innovation. This seminar will engage work in the field of narrative theory in order to think in more lively ways about the role of disability as a representational device. Disability serves a variety of objectives in narrative art: it metaphorizes other social crises (narrative prosthesis); it serves as phenomenological exploration of alternative embodiments, cognitive states, sensory augmentations/deprivations (simulations); it disrupts narrative seamlessness with its non-normative seizures of space, duration, and time (aesthetic nervousness); it disorders formulaic narrative patterning and storytelling methods (the secret life of stories); it symptomatizes the oedipal drive of cinema (desire in narrative); it makes silent text transform into talking books (the signifying monkey). There is no narrative form or storytelling technique that is not touched by disability’s alternative becomings. Thus, our work will involve comparative assessments of how disability resonates socially as a “least productive” embodiment (eugenics), yet serves as foundational to narrative meaning-making.

Required Books:

  • Alison Bechdel. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy. Mariner Books, 2007.
  • Joan Didion. The Year of Magical Thinking. Vintage, 2007.
  • Elephant. Dir. by Gus Van Sant. HBO Films, 2003.
  • William Gibson. Pattern Recognition. Berkeley, 2005.
  • Mark Haddon. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Vintage Contemporaries, 2004.
  • Justin Hall (ed.). No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics. Fantagraphics, 2013.
  • Anne McGuire. War on Autism: On the Cultural Logic of Normative Violence. U of Michigan P, 2016.
  • Robert McRuer. Crip Times: Disability, Globalization, and Resistance. New York UP, 2017.
  • Eunjung Kim. Curative Violence: Rehabilitating Disability, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Korea. Duke UP, 2017.
  • David T. Mitchell, Susan Antebi, and Sharon L. Snyder (eds.). The Matter of Disability. U of Michigan P, 2018.
  • Susan Nussbaum. Good Kings Bad Kings. Algonquin Books, 2013.
  • Oasis. Dir. Lee Chang-Dong. Syndicado, 2004.
  • Margaret Price. Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability in Academic Life. U of Michigan P, 2011