Announcement of Classes: Summer 2017


Reading & Composition: Sound Counsel

English N1A

Section: 1
Instructor: Young, Rosetta
Time: MW 12-2
Location: Dwinelle 225


Book List

Austen, Jane: Persuasion; Coates, Ta-Nehisi: Between the World and Me; Cole, Teju: Open City; Ferrante, Elena: My Brilliant Friend; Moore, Lorrie: Self-Help; West, Nathanael: Miss Lonelyhearts

Other Readings and Media

Also: Walter Benjamin's "The Storyteller"; Slate's "Dear Prudence"; NY Mag's "Dear Polly"; The Washington Post's Ask Amy; Dear Sugar podcast; Beyoncé's Lemonade; excerpts from Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son and Charles William Day's Hints on Etiquette (1834)

Description

(Note the changes in instructor, topic, book list, and course description for this class as of March 29.)

In his essay "The Storyteller," Walter Benjamin writes, "The storyteller is a man who has counsel for his readers," and declares "Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom." Unlike the narratives of the premodern storyteller, Benjamin sees the novel as devoid of counsel, and pictures the novelist as the "solitary individual" who is "himself uncounseled, and cannot counsel others." In this course, we will consider a host of questions related to "counsel"—or what we might now call "advice." What do we define as "advice" or "counsel"? When do we need it? And what issues do we need it for? What forms and genres do we turn to for counsel (classic literature; newspaper advice columnists; religion; podcasts; self-help books; the crowd-sourcing of Reddit and Yahoo Questions; tradition; "elders"; Wikipedia; lawyers; television; Beyoncé)? How do we give counsel when asked for it by others? And if Benjamin is right about the novel, then what is the relationship between "counsel" and the book? How do we know when we are giving bad advice, good advice, and why do we try to give it, and why do we try to receive it, when the risks seem so high? As a class, we will contemplate these questions through reading a host of different materials from a range of mediums, and students will pose answers to these issues through short written assignments and formal essays. 

In this course, students will develop the organizational, argumentative and mechanical skills to succeed in writing the college-level essay; students will write three five-page essays, including revisions, in addition to a two-page diagnostic essay in the first week of term.

This 3-unit course will be taught in Session C, from June 19 to August 9.


Reading & Composition: Senses of Magic

English N1B

Section: 1
Instructor: Alexander, Edward Sterling
Time: TTh 2-4
Location: Dwinelle 225


Book List

Berssenbrugge, Mei-mei: Hello, the Roses; Duncan, Robert: The Opening of the Field; Notley, Alice: Certain Magical Acts; Rothenberg, Jerome, ed.: Tehnicians of the Sacred; Shakespeare, William: The Tempest

Description

One common sense of the term "magic" is that the word pertains to the extraordinary, the otherworldly or the supernatural. We associate it with the belief that one can gain control over external events through special means that defy logic or rationality. In this respect, magic is seen historically to constitute a nascent or undeveloped form of the more properly scientific modes of rationality that would eventually supersede it. In this course we will consider not only this sense of magic as we find it addressed in a variety of literary representations, but also other possible senses, such as the more straightforward (if seemingly more abstract) sense that the notion of magic pertains to what we might call the "self-existence" of the world. In what ways do things already have, at their most ordinary level, a way of existing that it makes sense to call 'magical'? In what ways does the notion of magic have a sense that helps us to understand the world at this most basic level? Why might literary study be a privileged site in which to ask these kinds of questions?

Most of the focus in the course will be on developing skill in essay writing at a college level and as close-readers of literary works. Our main focus will be on the mechanics of essay composition, including thesis statements, providing evidence to substantiate claims, and constructing paragraphs and sentences. We will also cultivate our sensitivity to the ways different writers present a particular sense of the world through their use of language. While we are learning to read for distinctiveness, we will also be learning how to describe accurately and make arguments about the significance of what we have noticed during our reading experiences.

Over the course of the summer, students will hone their skills in academic writing through a series of written assignments, revisions, in-class exercises, and peer workshops.

This 3-unit course will be taught in Session C, from June 20 to August 10.


Reading & Composition: Perpetual Decadence

English R1A

Section: 1
Instructor: Creasy, CFS
Time: MTuW 1:00-3:30
Location: 237 Cory


Book List

Moore, Alan: From Hell; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sign of Four; Stevenson, Robert Louis: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Other Readings and Media

A course reader that may include excerpts from Max Nordau, Oscar Wilde, Max Beerbohm, Vernon Lee, Henry James, Walter Pater, W.B. Yeats, Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson, Arthur Symons, Sigmund Freud, Gottfried Benn, Ezra Pound, Mary Butts, Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy, Samuel Beckett, and others.

Visual Art may include works by J.M. Whistler, Aubrey Beardsley, James Ensor, Walter Sickert, Jack B. Yeats, and others.

Film and Television may include: Penny Dreadful.

Description

Please note the changes in the instructor, topic, book list, and course description for this section of English R1A (as of April 14).

Discourses of decadence (etymologically, de- down + cadere to fall), responding to crises about history, science, and culture, have been haunting us for longer than we know. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the anything-but-falling ratings of the current television program Penny Dreadful, ideas of decadence, decay, and degeneration have been lodged within the European and American imaginary. This course will approach decadence in the cultural—and, more specifically, literary—history of the last century or so, in order to think history as decadence. We will begin with the end of the 19th century (with its concern that the fin de siècle might be, as Oscar Wilde put it, the fin du globe) and then move to modernist and more contemporary appropriations and revisitations of the idea of the fallen, the belated, and the dangerously degenerate. Along the way we will consider issues of modern urban life, transgressive sexuality, and (often pseudo-) scientific discourses of decay. We will focus primarily on novels and poems, but we may also consider painting, films, graphic novels, music, and television. The course aims to provide students with a sense of what literary criticism offers as a mode of engaging with culture—in its more rarefied as well as more popular forms—and as a mode of interrogating the historical and aesthetic contours of our own world.

Beyond the 'intrinsic' interest of these works, our readings will open onto the underlying pragmatic goal of this course, which is to facilitate the development of your critical reflection and writing skills. We will use the questions that this material poses of us, as well as those we pose of it, to construct persuasive and cogent arguments out of them, writing progressively larger essays with progressively more sophisticated conceptual substance. The summer session will begin with a short diagnostic essay, followed by two essays of increasing length. A peer review process will help you as you revise at least two of these papers. In all, you will produce at least thirty-two pages of writing over the course of the summer session—including drafts and revisions. But we will endeavour to bear in mind how each of these steps may transform that "all"—that is, the whole process of our learning.

Please note that the textbooks for this course will be available at University Press Books, on Bancroft Way.

This 4-unit course will be taught in Session A, from May 22 to June 28.


Reading & Composition: Electoral Fictions

English R1A

Section: 2
Instructor: Mansky, Joseph
Time: TuWTh 1:00-3:30
Location: 85 Evans


Book List

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay: The Federalist Papers; Naipaul, V. S.: The Suffrage of Elvira; Shakespeare, William: Coriolanus

Other Readings and Media

Course reader including short stories by Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Chinua Achebe, and Sterling A. Brown; speeches by Susan B. Anthony, Emmeline Pankhurst, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Barack Obama, among others; and a selection of recent articles and op-ed columns.

Television and Film: The West Wing (TV series, 1999-2006); House of Cards (TV series, 2013-present); No (film), dir. Pablo Larrain (2012).

Description

In modern democracies, voting is the primary way in which the average citizen participates in politics. Throughout history and around the world, however, elections have been plagued by corruption and propaganda, racism and sexism. This course explores voting's power and problems across literature, speeches, polemic, television, and film. Who gets to vote? What can voting achieve? What are the limits of voting? We will read key texts from the women's suffrage movement and the civil rights movement; we will study Shakespeare, science fiction, and satire; we will examine works from the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa. Across these different cultures, historical moments, and political contexts, we will investigate voting not only as a form of political participation but also as a human practice inevitably bound up with issues of race, class, gender, and power. As we explore these questions over the course of the summer, you will hone your skills in critical reading and writing.

This 4-unit course will be taught in Session D, from July 5 to August 10.


Reading & Composition: Black Radical Thought, From David Walker to Kendrick Lamar

English R1B

Section: 1
Instructor: Muhammad, Ismail
Time: MTuW 2:00-4:30
Location: 214 Haviland


Book List

Douglass, Frederick: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; Dubois, W.E.B.: Souls of Black Folk; Jacobs, Harriet: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Larsen, Nella: Passing; Rankine, Claudia: Citizen

Other Readings and Media

Film: Khalil Joseph, "Until the Quiet Comes (Short fillm, 2012); Khalil Joseph, "m.A.A.d. City" (Short film, 2014); Kendrick Lamar, "Alright" (Music video, 2015); Beyoncé, "Lemonade" (Short Film/Music video, 2016)

Music: Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

A course reader, including short texts by David Walker, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Mackey, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, will be provided.

Description

(Note the changes in instructor, topic, book list, and course description for this class as of March 29.)

In this course, we'll consider the origins and concerns of a radical African American intellectual tradition. Working with a variety of texts, including slave narratives, poetry, music, and film, we'll trace the debates that structure black radical thought, with special attention to the political and social concerns that occasion such thought. What constitutes a distinctly African American tradition of political and social discourse? In what ways is this tradition central to the history of American democratic politics? How does it diverge from such politics in search of more utopian possibilities? What is this tradition's relationship to American capitalism? How do these texts articulate "blackness" while shying away from essentialist identity politics? How and why do conceptions of race/racism intersect with gender/sexuality? What is the connection between blackness and queer or otherwise non-normative gender/sexual identities? What has changed in American life as a result of black radical thought? What issues persist despite it?

Throughout this course, you will be working to find and improve your voice as both a critical writer and researcher. You will write two short essays to sharpen your close reading and writing skills. In addition, you will conduct short biweekly research assignments into topics that you find particularly interesting. These assignments will form the basis of a research paper on how a literary, cinematic, or musical text investigates an historical problem of your choosing. These papers will meditate on aspects of race, class, and/or gender. We will hone skills like sentence craft, effective argumentation, critical thinking, source gathering, and proper use of secondary materials.

This 4-unit course will be taught in Session A, from May 22 to June 28.


Reading & Composition: The Undiscovered Country

English R1B

Section: 2
Instructor: Lorden, Jennifer A.
Time: MTuW 2:00-4:30
Location: 87 Evans


Book List

Calvocoressi, Gabrielle: The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart: Poems; Delanty, Greg, ed.: The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation; Faulkner, William: As I Lay Dying; Morrison, Toni: Beloved; Shakespeare, William: Hamlet

Other Readings and Media

Film Screening: Sunset Boulevard (we will be screening this in-class)

Description

Please note the changes in the instructor, topic, book list, and course description for this section of English R1B (as of April 14). 

The experience of death is one of the most difficult, yet most urgent, to imaginatively represent in literature. Since, of course, no writer can offer a firsthand account of that "undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns," each who seeks to deal with the subject of death must resort to myriad creative strategies to paint a portrait of death that is, so to speak, true to life. This class will approach one category of such representations, those in which a main character or group of characters is dead from the very beginning of the narration. How does the presence of the dead function in a work of literature, and what do these texts suggest about the way death functions in life?

For the purposes of this class, of course, our primary concern will be to develop critical arguments from these texts. You'll share your findings though in-class discussions and writing workshops and discover ways to construct arguments from such disparate genres of writing. You'll write two research papers and revise one of them, in addition to a short initial diagnostic excercise.

This 4-unit course will be taught in Session D, from July 3 to August 9.