Announcement of Classes: Fall 2020


Reading and Composition: Screens, Pages, and Visual Rhetoric in Contemporary Fiction

English R1A

Section: 1
Instructor: Catchings, Alex
Time: MWF 9-10
Location: 134 Dwinelle


Book List

Browning, Barbara: I Am Trying to Reach You; Carillo, Ellen: MLA Guide to Digital Literacy; Lin, Tao: Shoplifting from American Apparel; Ullman, Ellen: The Bug: A Novel

Description

A study from the Global Web Index reveals that internet users aged sixteen to sixty-four averaged 6 hours and 43 minutes online per day in 2019. This amounts to 102 full days of screentime per person. If people are spending nearly a third of their lives engaging screens now, what has changed about the way we engage things that have always existed off of screens? Like, for instance, a physical page from a codex book?

This course will cover three contemporary novels and examine how they represent text that is normally rendered on computer or smartphone screens. From Gmail chat to Java compilers and plaintext that has been copied and pasted, these novels work to replicate visual facets of screen-interfaces that make us use the books differently. In addition, these novels try to represent through language lives that are lived both digitally and "in reality." During this course, we will explore theories of human-computer interaction alongside the history of the book to understand precisely how the power of typography changes as it appears in different mediums. We will begin devising responses to questions that define this century: how do interfaces manipulate our sense of agency? Which holds the most revolutionary potential—smartphones, desktop computers, or books? How ethical is the "open source" mentality that underscores coding languages, Wikipedia, and YouTube?

This course will develop students’ abilities to read texts in close, granular ways, paying attention to form and taking time to understand how texts generate meaning. Likewise, students will sharpen analytical skills and express increasingly complex ideas in writing. There will be two analytical essays, a variety of assignments practicing revision, and creative exercises for brainstorming and rhetorical expression. These elements will help bridge observation to ideation to writing and revision, ultimately aiming to help students become more powerful, structured writers and thinkers. 


Reading and Composition: Genres of Plague: 1347, 1981, 2020

English R1A

Section: 2
Instructor: Hinojosa, Bernardo S.
Time: MWF 10-11
Location: 31 Evans


Book List

Julian of Norwich (trans. Windeatt): Revelations of Divine Love; Kushner, Tony: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes; Mandel, Emily St John: Station Eleven: A Novel; Sontag, Susan: Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings by Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland, anonymous medieval chroniclers, Melvin Dixon, Reginald Shepherd, Susan Sontag, and Virginia Woolf will be made available on bCourses, alongside various texts on Covid-19 and resources on the craft of writing. We will also screen David France’s documentary How to Survive a Plague and an episode from FX’s Pose.

Description

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) a pandemic. Since this announcement, the pandemic has wreaked havoc in practically every country around the world: millions of cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths have been confirmed, roughly one third of the world’s population is living in some sort of lockdown. The virus, as well as public health measures to contain it, are guaranteed to transform the global economy and society as we know it. This account of the pandemic most likely provides no new information. Covid-19 has shaped every facet of our lived experience and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

In this course, we will look to the past in order to understand our present. We will explore how writers working in different genres (prose, poetry, drama, television, documentary film, theory, and journalism, among others) have sought to capture the experience of a health crisis, an experience that is simultaneously intimate and collective. A novel (Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven) and an essay (Virginia Woolf’s “On Being Ill”), which theorize the relationship between literature and disease, will frame our engagement with texts concerning two historical moments: the recurring onslaught of the plague in fourteenth-century Europe and the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US in the late twentieth century. We will read and discuss these texts both historically and transhistorically, that is, both as cultural products of a particular moment in time and as texts that speak to our experience of pandemic in 2020. How and why did medieval poets use allegory in order to render comprehensible the social upheavals catalyzed by the plague? How have queer writers and writers of color captured the sense of loss brought about by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in their communities? Do pandemics change how we understand the shape of history? We will conclude by analyzing texts on Covid-19, many of which will be published over the course of the semester. We will read, for instance, journalistic essays, political speeches, and internet memes in relation both to the aforementioned historical crises and to our own lived experience of a pandemic.

In addition to exploring how writers have recorded pandemic, we will also cultivate the craft of writing. Indeed, the issues we read about and discuss will serve as topics, prompts, and starting points for you to plan, write, and edit your own work. Throughout the semester, you will develop your critical writing skills by producing a number of written assignments which will include both traditional academic essays, as well as other genres such as personal essays, tweets, and reviews.


Reading and Composition: Re-Visioning the "Sixties"

English R1A

Section: 3
Instructor: Koerner, Michelle
Time: MWF 11-12
Location: 80 Barrows


Description

This Reading and Composition course will focus on selected speeches, fiction, music, and visual art produced during the 1960s. In addition to providing a set of broad critical, aesthetic and historical issues to engage over the course of the semester, selected readings and films place considerable emphasis on the student movements of the decade, including the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Students for a Democratic Society, the Third World Liberation Front, and the Free Speech and Anti-War Movements.

Over the course of the semester, students will strengthen their capacities to make historically informed arguments, formulate compelling questions to guide their own research, and explore creative approaches to academic writing. Writing assignments emphasize critical engagement with historical documents and literary texts. In addition to several in-class writing exercises, students should expect to write two formal essays focused on rhetorical and literary analysis (3-5 pages), post frequently to the discussion board, and complete a final research project.

Texts: Bloom, Arthur, ed.: Takin' It to the Streets; Pynchon, Thomas: The Crying of Lot 49


Reading and Composition: Staging Desire: Sex and Sexuality in Renaissance Drama

English R1A

Section: 4
Instructor: Scott, Mark JR
Time: MWF 12-1
Location: 54 Barrows


Description

Book List: Ford, John: ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore; Marlowe, Christopher: Edward II; Shakespeare, William: As You Like It.

Other Readings and Media: Edward II (film), dir. Derek Jarman (1991).

A course reader will also be produced containing additional primary and secondary texts including works from Renaissance antitheatricalists like Philip Stubbes and Stephen Gosson, as well as modern theorists of gender and sexuality such as Michel Foucault and Judith Butler.

The drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries offers a fascinating site for the analysis of gender and sexuality as historical and theoretical constructs, rather than as the timeless and universal ‘facts’ of human experience which they are often assumed to be. In a ‘transvestite theatre’ in which all roles, male and female, are played by boys and men, assumptions regarding the absolute and fixed nature of gender difference are called into question, while the fact that scenes of heterosexual desire are played out between men creates a space for the expression of homosexual and other transgressive desires. At the level of both form and content, the early modern theatre above all underlines the status of gender as performance. We will read a set of plays produced between the 1580s and 1630s which pose gender and sexuality as central problems, studying these in conjunction with a variety of both Renaissance and modern-day texts confronting these debates. We will seek to reflect upon the immense shaping power of the societal norms which govern sex and gender, and to locate those instances where non-normative identities and sexualities assert themselves.

The broader academic purpose of this course is to develop your critical reading and writing skills, whatever your major might be. You will write and revise three papers of increasing length over the semester, and work with peers to improve your writing and critical thinking.


Reading and Composition: Four Nobelists: Great Writers of the Last One Hundred Years

English R1A

Section: 5
Instructor: Nathan, Jesse
Time: MWF 1-2
Location: 279 Dwinelle


Description

One survived World War II in Poland. Another hailed from a small island in the eastern Caribbean, an outpost on the verge of breaking free of Europe's colonial grip. One was born to a people burdened and ravaged by centuries of enslavement. Another grew up in war-torn Ireland. They came, generally, from small towns and provinces, but their lives were both rural and urban, local and worldly, and they each went on to achieve great acclaim as poets and storytellers. Each was awarded the highest literary honor there is, the Nobel Prize. In this course, we'll explore the lives and works of Czeslaw Milosz, Derek Walcott, Toni Morrison, and Seamus Heaney, considering each writer's context, how they spoke to their times, and how they spoke against them. We'll consider, too, the question of greatness—What is a "great writer," and who gets to decide? Are there timeless literary qualities? How does "great work" in one time and place resonate—or not—in another? What, in 2020, can a concept of universality possibly mean? What makes a poem so sure, so sweet, or so powerful that it lodges in our lives, never leaving us?

The broader purpose of this course is to develop your critical reading and writing siklls, whatever your major might be. Over the semester, you'll write a series of short papers and revise three of them. We'll study the summary and synthesis of materials we read, the construction of logical and persuasive arguments, the conveying of attitudes and information. You'll learn by practicing these skills, by thinking about and talking about your own efforts and those of your fellow students, and by analyzing the work of other writers.

Books: Heaney, Seamus: Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996; MIlosz, Czeslaw: New and Collected Poems (1931-2001); Morrison, Toni: Beloved; Walcott, Derek: The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013


Reading and Composition: Octavia Butler: Writing the Body

English R1A

Section: 6
Instructor: Homans-Turnbull, Marian
Time: Note new time: MW 3-4:30
Location: Note new location: 301 Wheeler


Book List

Butler, Octavia: Kindred; Butler, Octavia: Lilith's Brood; Butler, Octavia: Seed to Harvest

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings will be made available on bCourses.

Description

How do fictional identities relate to lived ones? How does a body relate to a mind, a self, or a person? And how do these relationships change as cataclysmic events change the societies in which our identities develop?    

In this course we will read four novels engaging with these questions by pioneering science fiction writer Octavia Butler: DawnWild SeedClay’s Ark, and Kindred. We will consider each text through the lenses of disability, race, and gender. We will discuss the relation of Butler’s novels—set in variously post-apocalyptic worlds both like and unlike our own—to the worlds in which she lived and we live. With the central goal of developing students' critical reading and analytical skills, we will consider what arguments Butler’s stories make about embodiment, identity, and society, and the roles of world-building and other literary techniques in making them. 

In addition to reading and thinking, we will be guided by the goal of developing your expository and argumentative writing skills. We will talk not only about how course readings make arguments, but also about how to identify compelling questions, communicate clearly in writing, and make persuasive arguments of your own. You will develop, draft, peer-review, and revise several short essays over the course of the term.


Reading and Composition: Performances of Identity

English R1A

Section: 7
Instructor: Ghosh, Srijani
Time: MWF 2-3
Location: 263 Dwinelle


Description

             "All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players."—As You LIke It, Act II, Sc. VII

We often hear people say that actions speak louder than words. We express our identities, who we are, through our actions, our performancs, our lived experiences amidst the context and structures within which we operate. We connect with our immediate socio-political circumstances, and these relations, in turn, determine our performances of our identities. Personal identity is thus not a concrete, unchangeable idea, but its performance is constantly in flux depending on the context. This will be a reading- and writing-intensive course where we will examine four plays focusing on the construction of identity through performance.

Together with our critical inquiry into modes of reading, we will practice our writing skills. We will devote plenty of time to critical thinking and essay-writing skills, paying particular attention to argumentation, analysis, and the fundamentals of writing at the college level.

Course texts (Students will have to buy the course reader and not individual plays, but I have provided the names of the plays that we'll read although I might replace a couple of them): A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen; A Doll's House, Part 2, by Lucan Hnath; The God of Carnage, by Yasmina Reza; DIsgraced, by Ayad Akhtar 


Reading and Composition: Borderline Crooks

English R1A

Section: 8
Instructor: Walter, David
Time: MW 5-6:30
Location: 262 Dwinelle


Description

A plague-ridden Thebes, an Indian reservation, a Rio slum, a U.S.-Mexico border town, the LA hood, a California women's prison. These are the settings for our examination of characters who run up against obstacles—from within themselves, their families and tribes, the economic and legal systems they live in—that lead them to make criminal choices. These choices, and the risks they provoke, taint the characters even as they dare us to care for them.

How do fiction writers, dramatists, journalists and filmmakers get us to invest our feelings in morally compromised characters? To answer this question, we will pull out the guts of their stories to examine their wiring—then try to put them back together again on our own. In the process we will examine classic attempts to say what makes an effective tale, and put to the test the idea that every type of story has "rules" that make it successful. A major segment of the course will be devoted to examining the structure of the feature film in relation to drama and the novel.

In order to prepare students for the writing typically required in college-level courses and in civic discourse, this class teaches the composition of thesis-driven argumentative essays. Students will gain practice in composing brief to medium-length arguments that are focused, clearly organized, well supported and based on accurate critical reading of assigned materials. Students will turn in one short essay of three pages followed by two larger ones of 16 pages total, all of which they will develop out of informal written reflections and drafts. In addition, they will make class presentations, and collaborate on final group projects designed to creatively tie together the themes of the class.

Book List: Oedipus Tyrannus, Sophocles (tr. Fagles); Wolf Boys, Dan Slater; The Round House, Louise Erdrich; The Mars Room, Rachel Kushner

Films: Boys N the Hood, (dir./wr. John Singleton,1991); Sin Nombre (dir./wr. Cary Jôji Fukunaga, 2009); Cidade de Deus (dir. Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund/wr. Paulo Lins, Braulio Mántovani, 2002)

Selected materials: Aristotle, Robert McKee, Judith Weston, Anabel Hernández, Quentin Tarantino, Charles Bowden


Reading and Composition: Reading and Rereading

English R1B

Section: 1
Instructor: Yniguez, Rudi
Time: MWF 9-10
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Book List

Austen, Jane: Emma; Doyle, Arthur Conan: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury; Nabokov, Vladimir: Pale Fire; Rowling, J.K.: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Other Readings and Media

Other readings by Roland Barthes, Jorge Luis Borges, Emma Court, Vladimir Nabokov, and Patricia Meyer Stacks will be made available on bCourses.  We will also screen various film adaptations of texts read.  

Description

According to Vladimir Nabokov, “one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.”  In this course, we will provide ourselves with the space to engage more deeply with texts through reading and rereading. We will do so to observe, analyze, and record what changes, what expands, and what might be lost in between the acts.  A variety of texts will lead to a variety of rationales and rewards for rereading: pleasure texts that continually heighten our investment, texts that withhold information to their ends (and beyond), texts that seem to spurn a first reader, and texts we may have read as children and approach now from a different vantage point.  To deepen our appreciation and understanding of this process, we will read a number of theoretical and critical works alongside our primary texts. These will present arguments for rereading as a political act, as a space of personal growth and reflection, and as an academic necessity. 

This course will allow for—and bring to the forefront of our learning experience—the space to focus on the rereading process necessary for critical written work.  Throughout and in between our acts of reading, we will continually work on our own acts of writing and rewriting.  


Reading and Composition: Literature’s Social Life

English R1B

Section: 2
Instructor: Wang, Jacob
Time: MWF 10-11
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Book List

Addison & Steele: The Spectator; Dr. Seuss: The Cat in the Hat; Hurston, Zora: Mules and Men; Miller, Arthur: Death of a Salesman; Starlin, Jim: Batman: A Death in the Family; Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One's Own

Other Readings and Media

Films: Stranger than Fiction (dir. Marc Forster); The Salesman (dir. Asghar Farhadi) 

Poetry by Thomas Wyatt, Surrey, George Moses Horton, Phyllis Wheatley, Jonathan Swift, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Criticism by Raymond Williams, Jonathan Culler, Walter Ong, Louis Menand, Leah Price, Robert Darnton, Pascale Casanova, Michael C. Cohen, Gerald Graff, John Guillory, J. L. Austin 

Description

Literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum, nor does it exist only in classrooms—it has a history, a context, a wider social life that affects how it is produced as well as how it is read, interpreted, circulated, and put to use. In this course, we will examine a broad range of literature— prose fiction, drama, poetry, comic books, non-fiction, periodicals—from various socio-historical contexts in order to get a sense of how to study literature’s social life. We’ll be interested in how literature imagines and relates to its social context, and in how literature itself becomes social through its conditions of production and reception.

The primary aim of this course is to develop your skills as a writer and researcher—someone who engages with other people’s work and investigates the conditions of the world around them in order to shape their own thinking and writing. Accordingly, the reading and writing you do for this class will have its own social life.

Topics include: literature and education, canon formation, literature and identity, literary economy, literary reception history, literary production history, literary anthropology, literary prizes/institutions, literary periodical/reviews, genre, media studies, history of print, history of books, Oprah’s Book Club.


Reading and Composition: Placing “No Place”: Fact and Fiction in Early Modern Utopia

English R1B

Section: 3
Instructor: Lesser, Madeline
Time: MWF 10-11
Location: 35 Evans


Book List

Bacon, Francis: The New Atlantis; Cavendish, Margaret: The Blazing World; More, Thomas: Utopia; Sword, Helen: The Writer's Diet; Winstanley, Gerrard: The Law of Freedom

Description

In 1519, Thomas More coins the word utopia, literally translating to “no place,” an ideal society which does not exist. And yet, the imaginative vision that animates his Utopia hardly emerges from “no place”: More explicitly bases the voyages of his fictional protagonist on Amerigo Vespucci’s voyages to Brazil and the West Indies. In this course, we’ll travel—from Mexico to revolutionary England to the Barbados—mapping fictional journeys of the mind onto the actual trade routes of the early modern world. Among our central questions will be: Why did utopian fiction emerge when and where it did? How did fictional utopias subvert or reify hierarchies of race, ethnicity, and gender? Can imagining a different world change the world we live in?

Our primary objective in this course will be for your writing to improve in hitherto unimaginable ways! Expect to spend more time writing in this class that ever before. I aim to teach you the critical thinking skills necessary for college-level reading and writing, but also to teach you how to write uninhibited, joyful, crystalline prose. **Please note: in order to aspire toward this utopian ideal of writing, we will be using a labor-based grading assessment method (see https://imageandtext.weebly.com/grading-labor-contract.html for a full explanation). Only enroll in this course if you are open to this unconventional method of assessment.


Reading and Composition: Imagining the Collapse of Society

English R1B

Section: 4
Instructor: Gable, Nickolas
Time: MWF 11-12
Location: 279 Dwinelle


Book List

Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid's Tale; Butler, Octavia: Parable of the Sower; Kirkman and Moore: The Walking Dead, Volume 1: Days Gone Bye; Wells, H.G.: The Time Machine

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings will be made available online via bCourses, including various short poems, selections from longer works, newspaper articles, and short stories. Examples include “The Comet” by W.E.B. DuBois, selections from Virgil’s Aeneid, articles on the Ghost Dance religion, and works of religious prophecy.

I will also screen films in class, including Children of Men and Night of the Living Dead.

Description

When a civilization falls, what becomes of those remaining? When society collapses, what is left? Is the end of the world just another beginning?

Fiction, particularly speculative fiction, has attempted to understand what might come if life as we know it were to suddenly and irrevocably change. In this class, we will examine works that contemplate life after unparalleled catastrophe. In examining works that consider the end of the world in one way or another, we will find that hope and despair are useful tools both to criticize and to reinforce ideologies. Along the way, we will encounter prophets, monsters, heroes, and the downtrodden, whose differing perspectives will help us to contemplate how identity, situation, and ability affect a person’s capacity (or even willingness) to survive and thrive when the world changes.

This class tasks us with becoming better readers and writers. Though our “texts” will take various forms—novels, poems, and films among them—we will develop and practice the skill of “close reading” to better understand and analyze our subject matter. In all cases, we will closely examine the details of the work in order to improve our own writing by producing clear, concise, and evidence-driven arguments.


Reading and Composition: Robert Frost: Education by Poetry

English R1B

Section: 5
Instructor: Laser, Jessica
Time: MWF 11-12
Location: 51 Evans


Description

"The closeness—everything depends on the closeness with which you come, and you ought to be marked for the closeness, for nothing else."

This course will study the works and thinking of Robert Frost, a poet of deceptive fame who, by seeming to need no introduction, needs an introduction at least a semester long. We will look at Frost in the context of other poets and writers on both sides of the Atlantic: his contemporaries, his influences, and contemporary poets influenced by him. Our focus will be on reading poems and understanding how they work. Our guiding question will be: how can research and critical writing be put in service of closer, deeper reading?

Our work for this course will be directed primarily at accruing materials (research, writing and insights) surrounding a particular poem or set of poems such that a final research paper will tie together the disparate materials and methods of inquiry practiced across the semester and offer a reading of that poem (or set).


Reading and Composition: Epic Romance, Novel Histories: Chronicling Fiction

English R1B

Section: 6
Instructor: Vinyard Boyle, Elizabeth
Time: MWF 12-1
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Book List

Boccaccio, Giovanni: The Decameron; Camus, Albert: The Plague; Defoe, Daniel: A Journal of the Plague Year; García Márquez, Gabriel: Love in the Time of Cholera; Shakespeare, William: Richard II

Other Readings and Media

Shorter readings will include Thucydides, Homer, Virgil, Malory, Marguerite de Navarre, Nashe, Spenser, Cervantes, Scott, Austen, Twain, and Mantel, as well as secondary criticism and theory, and will be made available as a course reader or by pdf.

Description

What does it mean to tell a history of history-telling?  What are the stakes for narrating, recording, or imagining events and eras through inherited (epic, romance) or novel genres—what is gained or lost, and what relation to past and future selves does each conceive or make possible?  How does a created sense of past inform our capacity for knowing, reimagining, or even changing our present world—and what would it mean to speak of secret or alternate histories?  This course will move through interlocking genealogies of signature (and literary) modes of history-telling, as we meditate upon and develop answers to the related questions of fiction in history, fictional histories, and a history of fiction.  We will read renaissance and contemporary translations of classical history and epic, Shakespeare’s history plays against modern renderings of nation myth, Arthurian romance and the historical novel, and novels of existential and magical realisms.  Our readings will culminate in a historical case study of real, imagined, and fictional accounts of living through plague, from the annals of ancient Greece to the modern and postmodern novel.

As we articulate a shared vocabulary and begin to explore what each of our central terms might mean—for history, for our present, for posterity—we will also think about what it means to read and write from different genres and moments in history, working through a series of short responses and assignments that build toward a final research paper.  In the process we will become more flexible and critical readers by developing our capacity to write about the facts of fiction, through the reflective lens of our own historical selves.


Reading and Composition: The New American Poetry

English R1B

Section: 7
Instructor: Dunsker, Leo
Time: MWF 12-1
Location: 235 Dwinelle


Book List

Allen, Donald (ed.): The New American Poetry 1945–1960

Other Readings and Media

A course reader containing the work of poets such as Bob Kaufman, Alice Notley, Joanne Kyger, and Stephen Jonas, along with secondary and critical work, will be available for purchase. 

Description

When accepting the National Book Award in 1960 for his poetry collection Life Studies, the poet Robert Lowell characterized U.S. poetry as a house divided between two camps: “the raw” and “the cooked.” This course will focus on what Lowell in 1960 called “the raw,” as represented by Donald Allen’s anthology The New American Poetry, 1945-1960, published that same year. This anthology introduced the work of a generation of young poets like Frank O'Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, and others, poets who would later be associated with such movements as the New York School, the Beat Generation, the San Francisco Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and more. It was intended as an angry response to the homogeneity of poetry's writers and readers, and abandons the old familiar forms (e.g. the sonnet) for new and often explosive ones. Evidence of this work's continued prescience is inscribed everywhere in Berkeley itself, from the Berkeley Poetry Walk on Addison Street to the collections of manuscripts and entire libraries of small press materials housed in the Bancroft Library. The Berkeley Poetry Conference of 1965 was even hosted in Cal Hall, and a number of the poets included in the anthology were graduates of Berkeley themselves. The cultural afterlife of the work, though, is much more far-ranging, and we will also be thinking in this vein about what makes certain poetry, or certain poets, "iconic." In short, we'll be considering not only what makes a poem, but also what makes poetry as a social activity and a way of coming together, and about all the poetry that never makes it to the page.

This writing-intensive course is designed to improve students’ skills in both writing and thinking. Over the course of the semeser, students will write and revise two papers, the first analytic and the second based on individual research. Accordingly, students will be instructed in how to locate and engage with primary and secondary sources as well as in how to properly employ them so as to advance their own original claims.


Reading and Composition: Cannibals, Collectors, Chroniclers: Fictions of Empire

English R1B

Section: 8
Instructor: Struhl, Abigail
Time: MWF 12-1
Location: 206 Dwinelle


Book List

Behn, Aphra: Oroonoko; Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe; Equiano, Olaudah: The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano; Melville, Herman: Benito Cereno; Poe, Edgar Allen: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket; Rhys, Jean: Wide Sargasso Sea

Other Readings and Media

Secondary sources will be made available via bCourses, and there will also be a screening of a film, TBD. 

Description

This class will focus on Anglo-American representations of colonial encounter from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a period of dramatic imperial expansion. What are the conventions of fictions of empire? How are figures like cannibals and collectors repeatedly deployed to express anxieties about cultural, racial, and sexual difference, and how do cannibalism and collecting serve as narrative methods as well as tropes? Why do British and American fictions represent going elsewhere to cast new light on the social problems they face at home? And how do contemporary fiction-makers find inspiration in returning to and rewriting the colonial archive?

The goal of this course is to provide instruction in the art of the research essay. Our imperial fictions will provide both material for a longer piece of writing and the opportunity to think about how writers establish their authority using (sometimes manipulating or innovating upon) historical evidence and literary convention.


Reading and Composition: Western War Literature

English R1B

Section: 9
Instructor: Furcall, Dylan
Time: MWF 1-2
Location: 31 Evans


Book List

Aristophanes : Lysistrata; Chesnutt , Charles: The Colonel's Dream; Orwell, George : Homage to Catalonia; Rankine, Claudia: Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric

Other Readings and Media

"The Wall," Jean-Paul Sartre; The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo; Red Cavalry, Isaac Babel (selections); The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein (selections); "Donelson," Herman Melville; The Disasters of War, Francisco Goya; "Looking at War," "Regarding the Pain of Others," Susan Sontag; "War Making and State Making as Organized Crime," Charles Tilly; Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (selections); "Manifesto of Futurism," F.T. Marinetti; Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf (selections); selected Vietnam War journalism

Description

Western literature has, since its inception, been preoccupied with war: war as historical and as personal event, as political and ethical crisis, as quotidian reality. Insofar as war has been a master-narrative in our conception of human society, it’s also been a master-genre of writing—and yet the means and manner by which writers have depicted and reflected upon war have varied as much from author to author as they have from epoch to epoch. “War writing” has manifested as a set of sub-genres—war reporting, war novels, war poetry, etc.—each with its own unique traditions and sets of concerns. Some authors have employed writing to document the “facts” of war; others have been concerned with how war throws into relief the relationship of the individual to the nationstate; some, such as F.T. Marinetti, have sought to simulate the violence of war in their compositional techniques; and still others reflect less on the realities of battle than on the cultural memory of war. This course will survey some of the ways that Western literature has engaged with war, in the effort of expanding and revising our notions of what war writing is, where its responsibilities lie, and what social and aesthetic aims it can achieve. 

As a composition class, the point of this course is not to “master” content. Rather, it is to hone our analytic, argumentative, and research skills, and to practice those skills in academic writing. To that end, in addition to covering poetry, fiction, criticism, memoir, and film, we will spend a significant portion of class time practicing and reviewing rhetorical strategies, logical argumentation, and research methods. 


Reading and Composition: Romantic Satanism: "Paradise Lost" and Its Radical Legacies

English R1B

Section: 10
Instructor: Sulpizio, Catherine Marcia
Time: MWF 1-2
Location: 235 Dwinelle


Book List

Blake, William: A Marriage of Heaven and Hell; Blake, William: Milton: A Poem in Two Books; Equiano, Olaudah: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; Melville, Herman: Moby Dick; Milton, John: Paradise Lost; Vivien, Renée: La Genèse profane;

Recommended: Baudelaire, Charles: Les Litanies de Satan; Hugo, Victor: La Fin de Satan; Shelley, Percy: Prometheus Unbound; X, Malcolm: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Other Readings and Media

Secondaries may include excerpts from Per Faxneld, Stanley Fish, Carolivia Herron, Jared Hickman, Christopher Hill, Islam Issa, and Reginald A. Wilburn (among others). 

Description

What does it mean to be a romantic reader of Paradise Lost? In this course, we will closely read the canonical epic poem by John Milton, before exploring its reception in a few key Romantic texts. By reading Milton alongside William Blake and Olaudah Equiano, Percy Shelley, Herman Melville, and Renée Vivien we will consider these Romantic/post-Romantic figures as readers and rewriters of Paradise Lost. In the first half of the class, we will treat the source text as a critical site where themes of absolutism, liberation, theodicy, and free will converge, while unpacking its English Revolutionary context. Yet, if as Blake suggested, Milton was “of the Devil’s party without knowing it,” in the second half of the class, we will ask how later writers seek to simultaneously claim and contest the legacy of Milton’s hierarchical Christian vision, often by recapturing its Satanic energies. By transforming Satan into a revolutionary or political rebel or decadent, these writers demonstrate how a 17th-century text can be reactivated for abolitionist, republican, and feminist purposes that far exceed Milton’s context. Towards this end, we will work towards a literary reception theory that is organized along "lines of adaptation," rather than static inheritance—allowing us to understand the author as a literary critic who renegotiates tradition.

The course will be comprised of reading the majority of Milton’s epic poem, with strategic excerpts from Blake, Equiano, Shelley, Melville, and Vivien, alongside relevant secondaries. As this course counts towards the Reading and Composition requirement, beyond developing an analytic framework for understanding Paradise Lost's literary and critical legacies, students should expect to learn the craft of research writing, primarily by composing (and revising) two research papers. 


Reading and Composition: Jewish and Black-ish: Race Relations in American Literature

English R1B

Section: 11
Instructor: Ullman, Alexander
Time: MWF 1-2
Location: 54 Barrows


Description

Judaism may be the only religion that takes an “-ish” in its adjectival form, but it’s certainly not the only identity in American culture to consider its partiality through language. As the 2014 sit-com Black-ish showed through its very title, African diasporic identity is fraught in the contemporary cultural imagination. But how does “Jew-ish-ness” differ from “Black-ish-ness”? Certainly all “ishs” aren’t the same. 

We will engage with texts and films from across the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, from The Jazz Singer to Black-ish, to ask how literature and cultural production reflect but also complicate narratives of affiliation between Blacks and Jews. How are Jewish and Black relations depicted? How is historical trauma, specifically the Holocaust and the African slave trade, made sense of in artistic representation? What happens to Jewish and Black relations as identities become more mixed, more “-ish”? And how do the relations between these two identities speak to other notions of race relations in US culture and abroad?

The goal of this course will be for students to have a deeper understanding of the historical relationship between these two identity groups and that relationship's importance to narratives about American identity at large. Students will demonstrate their understanding of this relationship's past, present, and future by writing and engaging with discussion posts on bCourses, taking weekly in-class reading quizzes, and drafting two research papers.

Texts: Bernard Malamud, The Tenants (1971); Fran Ross, Oreo (1974); Anna Deavere Smith, Fires in the Mirror (1992); Philip Roth, The Human Stain (2000); Kiese Laymon, Long Division (2013)


Reading and Composition: Sources

English R1B

Section: 12
Instructor: Bernes, Jasper
Time: MWF 2-3
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Description

While we all may be famiiar with the idea that we can learn about literature from doing research, in this course we will also see what we can learn about doing research from reading literature. How does a poet work with a medical report, a novelist with a court transcript, and what can we say about the kinds of choices they make in doing so?

In seeking answers, students in this writing-intensive course will do their own research, locating their own sources and generating their own documents. Classroom discussion and lectures will focus at least half of the time on the ins and outs of the thesis-driven argumentative essay. Students will write two short essays, followed by a longer research paper.

Texts: Gerard Graff and Cathy Birkstein: They Say, I Say; Robin Coste Lewis: Voyage of the Sable Venus; Valeria Luiselli: Lost Children Archive; Muriel Rukeyser: The Book of the Dead


Reading and Composition: Quarantine/Pandemic, Alienation/Globalization, Alone/Together

English R1B

Section: 13
Instructor: McWilliams, Ryan
Time: MW 5-6:30
Location: 89 Dwinelle


Description

Does Covid-19 have you feeling isolated and alone? Unusually connected to far-flung strangers, friends, and family members who are going through the same thing at the same time? Perhaps both? In this course, readings and essay topics will consider the peculiar mixture of solitude and collective experience that characterizes quarantine. Before discussing a selection of pandemic texts from the fourteenth century to the 2010s, we will investigate the features of this historical moment that feel all-too-familiar from more ubiquitous systems of interconnection and vulnerability. In particular, we will query ways that the virus-induced social distancing compares to feelings of alienation produced by global capitalism within texts ranging from Thoreau's Walden to zombie films to Ling Ma's recent apocalyptic novel Severance.

Research and writing will also be a major focus of our course. Over the course of the semester you will learn how to propose a research topic, respond to scholarly criticism, and produce a well-researched ten-page final paper. We will also experiment with other, briefer genres ranging from literature reviews to public-facing forms such as personal essays or op-eds.

Required readings: Henry David Thoreau: Walden; or Life in the Woods (Norton Critical Edition). ISBN 13: 978-0393930900; and Ling, Ma: Severance ISBN 13: 978-0374261597

A note on the readings: We will definitely begin with Walden— a rich criticism of consumer society and experiment in deliberate isolation—and end with Severance, so please feel free to order these texts. To keep our readings timely, other required books will be announced on the first day of class. Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (where isolation is enforced by slavery rather than chosen as a mode of protest), Colson Whitehead's Zone One (a postapocalyptic novel), and Tony Kushner's play Angels in America (about the HIV/AIDS epidemic) are potential inclusions. We will also discuss films and television episodes—such as Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, or episodes of Black Mirror—where brain-dead commuters and brain-eating zombies are portrayed as virtually indistinguishable forms of mass consumers. Finally, bCourses readings will include excerpts from writers including Boccaccio, Daniel Defoe, Herbert Marcuse, Karl Marx, as well as assorted secondary criticism.

 


Reading and Composition: Wronged Women: Violence and Gender in Early English Literature

English R1B

Section: 14
Instructor: Ripplinger, Michelle
Time: TTh 8-9:30
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Description

(Note new instructor, topic, and course description as of May 11.)

The brutal representations of sexual violence on the HBO series Game of Thrones have provoked heated debate in recent years. Under what circumstances, if any, is it ethical to represent violence against women? Can appeals to fictionality or historical realism excuse or justify these representations? Such questions may seem modern—but writing over six centuries ago, Christine de Pizan expressed a similar worry about the Romance of the Rose, a popular medieval poem which concludes with an allegorical representation of sexual assault. "What atrocity! What dishonor! [...] What good model or example could this be?" she wondered. Taking up these questions, this course examines how early English authors grappled with the ethics of representing violence against women, as well as the rich tradition of survivors expressing their anger. Together we will place medieval and early modern works in conversation with the classical myths which precede them, while also considering their relation to a line of philosophical thought as old as Plato and as recent as Columbia University undergrads' objections to Ovid's inclusion in the curriculum in 2015. Along the way we'll engage such questions as: What is the relationship between representations of women as objects of violence and the emergence of literary female subjectivity? How have women readers and writers responded to and appropriated language of sexual violence, and to what effect? Finally, what potential does medieval and early modern discourse about rape and and women's rage, coercion and consent hold for us now in the wake of the Me Too movement?

These questions will guide our thinking about works ranging from Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to Christine de Pizan's City of Ladies and Game of Thrones, but these works will be our primary subject rather than its object. As we consider how representations of violence against women became a nodal point for thinking about the ethics of literary representation, our engagement with these works will be guided by an underlying goal, which is to strengthen your skills as critical readers and writers. This course will teach you how to pose analytical questions, develop complex arguments supported by evidence, and build research skills that will be applicable for other college writing and your future career. A peer-review process will provide added support as we approach writing a college-level analytical paper as a cumulative series of individually manageable steps. By the end of the semester, you will have produced at least thirty-two pages of writing, including both drafts and revisions. 

Booklist: Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales: Fifteen Tales and the General Prologue; Ovid: Metamorphoses: The New, Annotated Edition; Shakespeare: The Poems: Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, The Phoenix and the Turtle, The Passionate Pilgrim, A Lover's Complaint; Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus


Reading and Composition: Against the Theater

English R1B

Section: 15
Instructor: Ogunniyi, Kevin
Time: TTh 5-6:30
Location: 80 Barrows


Book List

Aeschylus: The Eumenides; Beaumont, Francis: Knight of the Burning Pestle; Beckett, Samuel: Waiting for Godot; Euripides: Medea; Milton, John: Samson Agonistes; Racine, Jean: Phedre; Shakespeare, William: Coriolanus; Sidney, Philip: Defence of Poetry; Sophocles: Antigone

Other Readings and Media

(Potential) shorter readings (via PDF or course reader) from the Presocratics, Plato (Ion and The Republic), Virgil (Aeneid), Boethius (Consolation of Philosophy), Zhuangzi, Langland (Piers Plowman), Michel de Montaigne (Essays), Thomas Beccon (Displaying of the Popish Mass), The Marprelate Tracts, William Prynne (Histriomastix), Henry Fielding (Shamela), John Dryden (Mac Flecknoe), Jonathan Swift, Jeremy Collier (Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage), Lord Byron (Manfred), Lawrence Langer (Holocaust Testimonies).

Critical and theoretical readings from Kant, Jonas Barish (The Antitheatrical Prejudice), Friedrich Nietzsche (Birth of Tragedy), Martin Puchner (Stage Fright), and others.

Description

What’s in a theatre? A stage, props, audiences, actors, devices— all sustained by a general acceptance that what happens on stage is not “real.” While the theatre’s composition has remained largely stable over time, the last few centuries have seen the emergence of a category called the “theatrical,” which both informs and derives from dramatic stagecraft. Not only plays but all human actions share in this quality. Alongside theatricality, a psychological resistance to the theatre and all that it represents has emerged—what Jonas Barish calls an innate “antitheatrical prejudice.” How has this so-called prejudice manifested? Does it drive toward the abolishment of all imposture, all theatre, all literature? Why have so many plays, alongside other “theatrical” works, seemingly sought to undermine the premises of the very illusion that sustains them? Can a work be antitheatrical without also being theatrical (and the reverse)? And is antitheatricalism really just a prejudice to be dismissed?

This class will survey the genealogy of “antitheatricality,” from antiquity to the twentieth century—considering both the historical trend of opposition to the theatre as an institution, largely on religious grounds, and the more general and pervasive suspicions of ‘inauthentic’ representational practices (e.g. dandyish dress, wearing make-up, writing garishly). Hostility to and suspicion of the theatre often arise at the margins of a given text—its paratext—and so might stand for the text’s internal tension or drive to contradict itself. Using the techniques of close reading and literary analysis, we will read plays that seem to reject different aspects of the stagecraft that sustains them, writings explicitly composed to attack the stage, and works that embrace and criticize different forms and practices of “inauthenticity.” Ultimately, we will consider whether the antitheatrical can be a positive (i.e. productive) aspect of a work of literature, or even of life. 

As an R1B, this course is aimed to give students experience in reading and in writing substantial research papers informed by secondary sources. The theme reflects the purpose. While works of invective against the theatre tend to have different evidentiary standards from academic research papers, the 'antitheatricalist's' literary methods and techniques for producing rhetorical copia—e.g. the use of commonplaces, subtle “They say/I say” gestures, the mutual (and theatrical!) substantiations of the argument and the one arguing—overlap with the scholar’s and might well spur good critical writing.


Reading and Composition: Religion in the First Person

English R1B

Section: 16
Instructor: Delehanty, Patrick
Time: TTh 5-6:30
Location: 50 Barrows


Book List

Augustine, St.: Confessions; Bunyan, John: Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners; Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe; Eliot, T.S.: Four Quartets; Kempe, Margery: The Book of Margery Kempe; Robinson, Marilynne: Gilead

Other Readings and Media

Selected PDF's with poems by John Donne, George Herbert, John Milton, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Richard Crashaw, William Wordsworth

Films: Diary of a Country Priest (dir. Robert Bresson); First Reformed (dir. Paul Schrader). 

Possible Secondary Readings by William James, Simone Weil, Barbara Lewalski, Max Weber, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Caroline Walker Bynum. Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mercia Eliade, Hans Blumenberg, Charles Taylor, Ernst Kantorowicz

Description

O Lord, I truly toil at this task and labor in myself. I have become a troublesome field that requires hard labor and heavy sweat. We are not trying to explore the regions of the sky, or measuring the distances of the stars, or inquiring about the weight of the earth. It is I who remember, I the mind. It is no cause for wonder that what I am not is far distant from me; but what is closer to me than I myself?” -Augustine of Hippo

In a founding document of religious studies, William James proposed that instead of investigating theology, doctrine, or ecclesiastical organizations, a study of religion would benefit more from a study of, “the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.” This course intends to do just that. We will accomplish this difficult task through an investigation of numerous literary texts drawn from the history of Christianity that seek to represent an individual’s relationship to the divine. Our goal is not merely to better understand the psychology of the religious believer, however. Along the way we will also see how the genre of spiritual autobiography made a decisive impact on the course of English and World literature, how spiritual autobiography emerged as a dominant genre in the wake of the Protestant reformation, and how any theory or history of religion is incomplete without having recourse to the experience of the individual believer.

We will begin with brief excepts from the Hebrew Bible, primarily the Psalms, considering them both as poetry and as statements of belief or comfort in the face of adversity. We will then turn to the 4th century A.D. with Augustine’s Confessions, an extraordinary document that had dramatic influences on literature, western philosophy, and the development of Christianity. These forays into the ancient world will set up many of the questions that we will be attempting to answer throughout the semester, and they will continue to guide us as we move into the middle ages, the Reformation period, and beyond. We will consider several different genres, such as prose non-fiction, prose fiction, lyric poetry, and film, tracking how each genre presents a different relationship to our chosen subject. We will also spend a good deal of time on historical context, and we will see how the texts we read not only deal with the eternal or divine, but how they are also deeply resonant with socio-economic problems contemporaneous with their authors. To that end, we will look at the writings of recent historians and literary critics in order to get a better grasp of the issues our texts are responding to.

In addition to cultivating your critical thinking and literary analysis skills, this course will help to strengthen your academic and analytic writing. Becoming a better writer requires practice; as such, you will be required to write several essays of increasing length as the semester progresses, as well as revising your writing heavily. We will also work on improving your writing through shorter assignments such as reflections, responses, and revisions.