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Graduate Course Offerings

Graduate Course Offerings - Fall 2017

English 6510  Chu
Writing, Race, and Nation: Asian North American Literature.

Asian American and Canadian writers have created a  historiographic, metafictional tradition that questions the marginalization of Asians in official histories, creates alternative stories, and teaches readers to question the conventions for storytelling and the creation of historical memories.  This tradition challenges us to reconsider popular representations of Chinatown, the World War Two internment of Japanese Americans, the Vietnam War, the Cultural Revolution; and the ideological functions of the American bildungsroman.  We'll read great books old and new by David Henry Hwang, Maxine Hong Kingston, Chang-rae Lee, Ruth Ozeki, Madeleine Thien, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and others.


English 6100 DeWispelare
Introduction to Literary Theory

This course studies the influential body of writing called “theory,” which is writing that addresses the following question: “How can a researcher account for a cultural object or pattern at a particular moment and in a particular context?” Some specifications are in order as they relate to the topics and goals of the class.  By “cultural object,” I mean books, films, architecture, photography, visual art, digital expression, and other examples of aesthetic practice, as well as their specific forms of circulation and dissemination pertaining to these practices.  By “context,” I mean those varied economic, historical,

On another level, this is a course in specific methods that are often deployed in literary and cultural criticism.  Students will gain fluency in the terminology and conceptual frameworks associated with idealism, materialism, Marxist criticism, psychoanalytic criticism, structuralism, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, new historicism as well as critical race, sex, gender, and disability studies.  By mastering the basic contours of these diverse ways of interpreting artistic and cultural phenomena, students will be equipped to pursue more advanced courses in literature, philosophy, history, cultural studies, and even political theory.  In terms of literature in particular, we will also talk at length about advanced conceptions of form, genre, language, and aesthetics.   

Students who complete this course will become familiar with canonical and emergent paradigms of thought that attempt to interrogate the premises of culture.  In this spirit, students can expect to excerpts from canonical figures of the critical theory tradition, thinkers like Wollstonecraft, Marx, Freud, Saussure, Woolf, Adorno & Horkheimer, Derrida, Foucault, Spivak, Said, Butler, and Rich and also expect to read and debate parts of recently heralded works by scholars like Sianne Ngai, Édouard Glissant, Sophie Wahnich, Ian Baucom, Achille Mbembe, Arif Dirlik, Lauren Berlant, Sarah Ahmed, Saba Mahmood, Jane Bennett, Timothy Morton, Paul B. (Beatriz) Preciado, Jack Halberstam, and others.  

Using these theorists as touchstones, we will approach theory as, among other things: (1) dissensual thought work that tries to expand the horizons of the aesthetic realm by acting on the political and, vice versa, thought work that tries to expand the horizons of the political realm by acting in and through the aesthetic.  It is for this last reason that we will come to see theory as (2) an experimental genre of nonfiction prose a genre that, in the words of Michael Warner, is “designed to be a placeholder for a future public.”  Finally, we will approach theory as (2) a set of tools and procedures to be used in configuring close readings, arguments, and larger-scale attempts to grasp culture’s irreducible complexities from our own individual angles. 

Several works of contemrporary fiction and one film will  also be assigned.  Fiction: Thomas Bernhard, Extinction (1986); W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (1995); Chris Krauss, I Love Dick (1997); Svetlana Alexievich, Voices from Chernobyl (2006); and Maggie Nelson, The Red Parts (2007).  Films: Michael Winterbottom, In this World (2002


ENG 6260 Alexa Alice Joubin
Screening Shakespeare

Shakespeare has been screened--projected on the silver screen and filtered by various ideologies—since 1899.What critical resources might we bring to the task of interpreting performances on film, television, in digital video, and as filmed theatre pieces?

This seminar examines the adaptation of Shakespeare as a historical and colonial practice, concluding with contemporary case studies. 

Theories covered include postcolonial criticism, disability studies, cultural materialism, gender theories, critical race studies, film and auteur theories, and performance theories. 



ENGL 6520: Mitchell
Ethnicity & Identity -- The Necropolitics of Globalization

This seminar will apply Disability Studies, Queer Theory, and Critical Race Theory to what we will call “the geopolitics of expendability” through world literature (largely translated into English).  Our guiding critical conversations will circulate around the relationship between forms of totalitarianism/authoritarianism and how environmental necropolitics target crip/queer/racialized populations directly and indirectly.



English 6620 Alcorn
Trauma and Memory

This course will examine: first,  trauma as a condition of culture, as an adaptive cognitive style, and as a cognitive challenge, and second traumatic memory, as both a personal and a collective witnessing of  war, genocide, slavery and other natural disasters..   Attention is given to the historical development of the concept, the debates in psychiatry and psychology about the concept, and the literary use of the concept.  Representative authors include Tony Morrison, Arundhati Roy, Pat Barker, Virginia Woolf, Art Spiegelman, Dorothy Allison, and W.G. Sebald.  An historical emphasis is given to literature from WWI and after.  




Graduate Course Offerings - Fall 2016



Introduction to Literary Theory

T 4:10-6:00 p.m.






M 3:30-6:00 p.m.


Offering an overview of contemporary strands in ecocriticism, this seminar is organized around the figure of Noah’s Ark, a gated community of preservation and endurance that has offered a powerful trope for imagining survival in a time of climate change, an “arkive” of catastrophe stories that intermixes the ancient with the Anthropocene.

This seminar welcomes anyone with ecological interests and includes environmental as well as well traditional research projects and thinking.




Transnational England: The Literature of Empire

R 3:30-6:00 p.m.


This course will focus on a range of texts that address British responses to its 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, Jane Austen, Walter Scott, and Charlotte Brontë, and we will read them in the context of historical and theoretical material on empire.


The seminar is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates.




Forms of Cultural Anxiety in the Nineteenth Century

3:30-6:00 p.m.


This seminar will explore several examples of “cultural anxiety”--uncertainty, fear, hostility--resulting from colonialism, slavery, the commingling of races, and other forms of cultural or cross-cultural encounters in the nineteenth century.  Poe’s Pym and Melville’s Typee and Moby-Dick provide early instances of cultural animosity or fear in the context of colonialism; Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance in the context of gender and utopia; and Brown’s Clotel, Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom, Jacobs’s Incidents, Wilson’s Our Nig, in the context of slavery and the slave trade; and Harper’s Iola Leroy and Chesnutt’s Marrow of Tradition in the context of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and white supremacy.  Related themes of the course include identity, embodiment, trauma, passing, and resistance.  Critical studies include work by Priscilla Wald (Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form), Justin Murison (The Politics of Anxiety in Nineteenth-Century American Literature), Franz Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth), Eric Sundquist (To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature), Judith Herman (Trauma and Recovery), and David Hillman and Ulrika Maude (The Body in Literature).  Requirements include oral reports, a review of scholarship, and a 15-20 page essay modeled after the publishable article.   





Independent Research




Folger Institute Seminars I





Thesis Research




Thesis Research




Dissertation Research