Fall 2019 Course Offerings
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.
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.
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.
Spring 2019 Course Offerings
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
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).
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.
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 Beloved, The 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 Mercy, Love, Paradise, Home, Tar 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
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?
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 Shrew, Arden of Faversham, The Shoemaker’s Holiday, Bartholomew Fair, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, A Christian Turned Turk, The 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
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.
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 Time; The Sun Also Rises
Dos Passos, 42nd Parallel
Cather, One of Ours; The Professor’s House
Jean Toomer, Cane
Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Tender 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).
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.
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