Announcement of Classes: Fall 2021


Reading and Composition: Cider, Milk, Sugar, Wool; Poetry and the Art of Cultivation

English R1A

Section: 1
Instructor: Bircea, Jason
Time: MWF 9-10
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Book List

Williams, Raymond: The Country and the City

Other Readings and Media

(all available as a course reader or online): Virgil, Georgics; John Philips, Cyder; Stephen Duck, The Thresher's Labour; Mary Collier, The Woman's Labour; John Dyer, The Fleece; James Grainger, The Sugar-Cane; Ann Yearsley, Clifton Hill; Robert Bloomfield, The Farmer's Boy

Description

What’s right for bringing abundance to the fields; 
Under what sign the plowing ought to begin,
Or the marrying of the grapevines to their elms; 
How to take care of the cattle and see to their breeding;
Knowing the proper way to foster the bees
As they go about their work; Maecenas, here
Begins my song.
—Virgil’s Georgics
 

What should we make of a poem that proposes to instruct its readers on the proper methods for manufacturing cider? Or on how to care for one’s sheep or cultivate sugarcane on a colonial plantation (and presumably, grow wondrously rich off of slave labor)? What, in short, should we make of poems that seek to impart knowledge about the “science” of agricultural labor? Are such poems simply agricultural almanacs in verse? And if not, what kinds of aesthetic experience do such poems provide? How seriously should we take their didactic aims? 

We’ll begin the course by reading selections from Virgil’s Georgics, a classical poem that announces itself as a song specifically about agriculture and rural occupations. We’ll then turn to 18C-British adaptations of Virgil’s poem, including John Dyer’s The Fleece (1757) and John Grainger’s The Sugar-Cane (1764). Attending to 18C poems about labor, cultivation and commerce, we'll explore how poets in the period accounted for the ongoing transformations in rural and urban life occasioned by agricultural and industrial “improvement”, imperial expansion and global trade. A substantial portion of our reading will be devoted to the work of laboring-class poets such as Stephen Duck, Mary Collier, Ann Yearsley and Robert Bloomfield.  


Reading and Composition: Myth, Politics, and the African Novel

English R1A

Section: 2
Instructor: Dunsker, Leo
Time: MWF 10-11
Location: 72 Evans


Book List

Achebe, Chinua: Arrow of God; Armah, Ayi Kwei: The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born; Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o: Devil on the Cross; Tutuola, Amos: The Palm-Wine Drinkard

Other Readings and Media

Further primary and secondary texts will be uploaded to bCourses.

Description

This course focuses on African novels written during the latter half of the twentieth century. These works emerge from a variety of national contexts, and all respond to the process of decolonization taking place during this period. Many African writers adopted the form of the European novel in order to explore questions of political, economic, and cultural hegemony, but how and why did they deploy this alien form to contain, narrate, and represent native experience? and why did they so often choose to do so in the very language of empire itself? The search for answers to these and other questions led African writers to consider the modern European novel against the backdrop of older indigenous narrative forms – mostly myth and folktale – with some rejecting the latter for the former but more pursuing a reconciliation between these two. But then what might it mean that the U.S. taxpayer financed much of the world’s engagement with the literature, modern and mythic, of the African continent?

This course is dedicated ultimately to the cultivation of students’ writing and thinking skills, and so a great deal of time will be devoted to practicing the elementary techniques of summary, synthesis of ideas, and logical argument. Students will complete regular shorter papers in which they will explore the texts and themes of the course, which will become the basis in turn for peer review exercises and written reflections on the process of writing and revision.


Reading and Composition: The American City - From Segregation to Climate Change

English R1A

Section: 3
Instructor: Beckett, Balthazar I.
Time: MWF 11-12
Location: 55 Evans


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 
 
 
 

Description

 

The American city is an incredibly complex and dynamic organism—and the subject of a great body of literature, both fiction and non-fiction. This course will trace and critically engage how American urban development has been written about from the late nineteenth century to today. We will follow how writers have addressed the dramatic changes that American urban spaces underwent from the progressive era, turn-of-the-century segregation, and the experience of the Great Migration to redlining, white flight, and suburbanization in the wake of the New Deal. Studying metropolitan areas across the nation—from New York City to the Bay Area and from Chicago to New Orleans—this course asks students to write critically about urban development from the battles over “urban renewal” and the anti-eviction campaigns of the Civil Rights era to the impact of 1970s neoliberal policies, the “war on drugs” and militarized policing, and the urban uprisings of the early 1990s. We will end this semester by studying how writers address the impact that hyper-gentrification and climate chaos (from disaster capitalism to grassroots organizing) have on American cities today. 

Over the course of the semester, we will develop critical thinking skills and learn to express our thoughts in argumentative writing.  Students will write and revise four short essays (a total of 32 pages), ranging from a close reading to a self-reflection and an exercise in literary scholarship.


Reading and Composition: The Novel and the Police

English R1A

Section: 4
Instructor: Geary, Christopher
Time: MWF 12-1
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Book List

Defoe, Daniel: Moll Flanders; Hopkinson, Nalo: Brown Girl in the Ring; Rosenberg, Jordy: Confessions of the Fox

Other Readings and Media

Other readings will likely include short stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as shorter excerpts or pieces by Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Cesare Beccaria, Jeremy Bentham, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, Angela Davis, Cedric Robinson, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Fredric Jameson, John Bender, D. A. Miller, Eve Sedgwick, Stephen Best, Sal Nicolazzo, Robyn Maynard, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Jackie Wang, and Alex Vitale.

Description

Abolish the police! Defund ICE! Free them all! The wave of protests across the global north last summer over the brutal killings of Black people by police initiated a profound cultural shift, massively amplifying Black Radical critiques of racial capitalism and the carceral state. In this course, we will study some path-breaking works of this abolitionist political theory, as well as the writings of several early proponents of police and prisons and some foundational theories of ideology and the state.

In this light, we will also then revisit some recent debates in literary studies about the politics of literary form and cultural criticism. In his classic study, The Novel and the Police, D. A. Miller detected an intimate collusion between police power and narrative technique in the realist novel. Indeed, the novel emerged as a genre in English literature just as carceral institutions such as prisons and plantations were coming into force, and several early English novelists were involved in the organization of Britain’s first professional police force. However, in recent years, arguments such as Miller’s have been indicted by many critics for relying on a “hermeneutics of suspicion” that approaches every text like an ideological crime scene and over-rates the carceral function of literature.

But is the connection between the novel and the police just a red herring? Or are novels, like prisons, obsolete? What can novels tell us about the history of the carceral? Can they help us envision its end? Why is critical reading so consistently figured as police work? What would a consciously abolitionist literary criticism look like? With these questions in mind, informed by our political-theoretical readings, we will read a range of novels, from an early experiment with criminal autobiography to some classic detective stories, to an Afrofuturist dystopia of the broken-windows era and a contemporary trans reimagining of the eighteenth-century origins of policing.

As we explore these issues, you will also practice your skills of critical analysis and textual interpretation by writing, workshopping, and revising a series of (very) short papers. In these papers, you will have the freedom to focus more on our political-theoretical or literary-critical readings as best serves your own interests.


Reading and Composition: Ornament and Rhyme

English R1A

Section: 5
Instructor: Reid, Angus
Time: MWF 1-2
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Book List

(to be posted on bCourses): Tommy Thumb’s Songbook ; Blake, William: Songs of Innocence and Experience; Ross, Kristin: Communal Luxury; Sasha John, Aisha: I Have to Live

Other Readings and Media

Critical and theoretical readings from Milton, Thomas Sheridan, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Marx, William Morris, Adolf Loos, Siegfried Kracauer, Audre Lorde, Kristin Ross, Krista Thompson, Saidiya Hartman, and Anne Cheng. 

Description

In a 1913 essay, entitled “Ornament and Crime,” Austrian architect Adolf Loos makes the claim that “ornament inflicts serious injury on people’s health.” Ornament, we are told, is regressive, childlike, and—as the title suggests—criminal. A similar line of thought runs through the history of English poetry, linking the ornamental with rhyme. From Thomas Sheridan’s argument against rhyme as a “trifling and artificial ornament,” to Wordsworth’s call for a “more naked and simple style,” English poetry has often been depicted as encumbered by the ornamental. Far from a neutral critique, this mode of thought has explicitly linked ornament and rhyme with the feminine, the racialised, and the infantile. 

Beginning with examples from the late 17th to early 19th century, and ending in the present, this course will address ornament and rhyme as a pair of intertwined aesthetic terms. Our inquiry will look to nursery rhymes, lyric poetry, visual art, and fashion, as well as critical and theoretical readings. As a central question, we will ask why both ornament and rhyme have been continuously pathologised. On the other hand, we will try to understand how they have been used in the formation of (sometimes revolutionary) social and political collectivity. How do these two phenomena fit together, and what is the fate of the ornamental in the present? In this context, we will take a necessarily capacious view of both terms, reading them alongside questions of tautology and redundancy, minimalism and excess, and luxury and poverty. Our discussions will address canonical literary and aesthetic texts, contemporary poetics, and selections from the fields of Marxism, Feminism, Black Studies, and Asian American Studies. Through these readings, we will observe the often-vexed transformation of both ornament and rhyme across different social and historical contexts. Finally, we will ask why and how ornament and rhyme bring us pleasure—what are the political, social, and aesthetic stakes of this pleasure, and why has it so often been viewed with suspicion? 

As a section of R1A, we will spend a considerable amount of time learning how to write academically. Assignments will include a number of short essays (which we will workshop), exercises in close-reading, and brief definitions of essential terms or keywords. Following the theme of the course, time will be spent addressing the question of style. We will consider the value of the ornamental within academic writing, and ask whether rhyme—broadly construed—might be a way of building argument. 


Reading and Composition: Poetry as Philosophical Genre

English R1A

Section: 6
Instructor: Serrano, Joseph
Time: MWF 8-9
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Other Readings and Media

All readings, which will be available on bCourses, will be posted soon.

Description

Can we read a poem as a work of philosophy? As the philosopher Pierre-François Moreau has suggested, when reading philosophical works, it is all too easy to succumb to the idea that all genres and styles are nothing more than the unessential or superfluous exterior of a properly philosophical content. To read a philosophical text in this way very often means extracting the philosophical kernel from its unphilosophical shell. But, Moreau argues, we need to appreciate the fact that the “style of philosophical expression is, on the contrary, essential to what it expresses, and there can be systematic reasons for choosing such-and-such a form of exposition for a system.” We will begin by following Moreau’s observations and explore the following questions: what does it mean to read poetry as philosophy? How does this form of knowledge differ from that of other philosophical genres, such as the Platonic dialogue or Lockean essay? What type (or genre) of truth does poetry yield? How does it think? How and what does it know?

 

The aim of this course is to attend to what we will call the materiality of philosophical writing. What is unique or singular about each work? In addition to developing the ability to be generous, perceptive, and active readers, students will nurture their own writing practices by producing essays throughout the course. We will also experiment with writing in other (philosophical) genres.


Reading and Composition: Writing American Nature

English R1A

Section: 7
Instructor: Warren, Noah
Time: MWF 2-3
Location: 134 Dwinelle


Book List

Kimmerer, Robin Wall: Braiding Sweetgrass; Thoreau, Henry David: Walden, Civil Disobedience, and Other Writings (Norton)

Other Readings and Media

PDF excerpts:

Thomas Carlyle, “Signs of the Times”

Jonathan Edwards, “On the Spider” and “Sinners”

Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative

Benjamin Franklin: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Margaret Fuller: Summer on the Lakes

Lewis and Clark, Journals

Mary Rowlandson, Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration

Charles Wilkins, The Baghvat-Geeta

Description

For hundreds of years after the Columbian encounter, the phrase “American Literature” was an oxymoron and an impossibility. The hemisphere boasted no nations that Europeans had the ability to recognize as such—rather, colonies dependent on their respective empires, the continually redefined unorganized space on their maps, and the Native peoples whose political and cultural organization was opaque to those empires. What we now understand as “Literature” — language made to be interpreted as art — would have been as unfamiliar as the parallel cordon, “Science”. Instead, texts written in the New World predominantly took the form of journals, letters, expedition narratives, bureaucratic records, and sermons.

 

This class will explore the legacies of these varied genres in American nature writing since the mid-1800s. We’ll spend half the semester working through Thoreau’s Walden, supplementing it with short samples of the genres listed above. As we read, we’ll write both critically and exploratively, learning how to use the different tools and perspectives these genres permit in our own research and expression. Later in the term, we’ll see how these anti-“literary” inheritances play out in the late 20th century, and how the line between “literature” and “science” is complicated from angles both old and new.

 

This is a writing-intensive course. Students will turn in a three-page essay in the second week, a five-page essay in the fifth week, a seven-page essay in the eighth week, and a nine-page final essay. To build their skills to this point, students will draft, revise, and workshop, developing strategies to break up large assignments into manageable units of thinking and drafting.


Reading and Composition: Sexual Ethics in Feminism and Fiction

English R1A

Section: 8
Instructor: Nyiri, Jesse
Time: MWF 3-4
Location: 41 Evans


Book List

Burney, Frances: Evelina; Defoe, Daniel: Moll Flanders; Haywood, Eliza: Fantomina; Sterne, Lawrence: A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; Tennyson, Alfred: The Princess

Other Readings and Media

Other readings by Immanuel Kant, bell hooks, Sigmund Freud, Gayle Rubin, Catharine MacKinnon, Audre Lorde, and Judith Butler will be made available on bCourses.

Description

In this class, we'll read English fiction of the 18th and 19th centuries alongside American feminist writing of the late 20th century to look for answers to the following questions: Can sex be ethical—perhaps even good? Is desire ever sympathetic or benevolent? If not, can selfish sexualities at least be brought together through mutually beneficial exchanges? Do such exchanges make “sexual commerce” seem a little too, you know, commercial for polite society? What other political economies structure and constrain sexual ethics? Is virtue ever rightly valued on the marriage market? When prevailing sexual values do more harm than good, what changes might bring about more ethical sexual relations? Would such changes involve changing sex itself? Does that question call for a different answer if “sex” refers to what one is rather than what one does?

This course brings together historically disparate frameworks for thinking about the ethics of sex/gender systems and of sexuality. These unlikely juxtapositions will help us assess the limitations and unintended consequences of the sexual theories we'll encounter. Hopefully, in thinking through constructions that won't work, we will begin to think toward some that could. 

This is a writing-intensive course oriented toward helping students develop complex and precise questions, arguments, and close readings. Regular short responses will accompany a series of formal writing assignments.


Reading and Composition: Near Futures

English R1A

Section: 9
Instructor: Bernes, Jasper
Time: MWF 8-9
Location: 305 Wheeler


Description

This writing-intensive course will familiarize students with the principal elements of the academic essay, from sentence grammar and paragraph construction to the development of original argument. When not writing, or reading about writing, students will focus on Kim Stanley Robinson’s Ministry of Future, an optimistic work of speculative fiction that describes global reconstruction in the face of climate change. Published as an e-book in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, the novel engages issues central to any discussion of political change in the twenty-first century, and will provide students with many opportunities for meaningful inquiry.


Reading and Composition: Near Futures

English R1A

Section: 10
Instructor: Bernes, Jasper
Time: MWF 12-1
Location: 305 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 

Description

 

This writing-intensive course will familiarize students with the principal elements of the academic essay, from sentence grammar and paragraph construction to the development of original argument. When not writing, or reading about writing, students will focus on Kim Stanley Robinson’s Ministry of Future, an optimistic work of speculative fiction that describes global reconstruction in the face of climate change. Published as an e-book in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, the novel engages issues central to any discussion of political change in the twenty-first century, and will provide students with many opportunities for meaningful inquiry.

 


Reading and Composition

English R1A

Section: 11
Instructor: Jacoby, Leslie
Time: TTh 2-3:30
Location: 204 Dwinelle


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 
 
 

Description

 

 

 
 


Reading and Composition: Love

English R1A

Section: 14
Instructor: Laser, Jessica
Time: TTh 9:30-11
Location: Online


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 
 
 

Description

 

This writing-intensive course will study love, one of the great unifying themes of literature. Is love a construct we take from literature or is literature a construct we have created to help us express, even to access, love? Do we write love or does love use writing to show us what it is? “If love and sex were easier / we would choose something else/ to suffer,” writes poet June Jordan, turning love from something suffered to a respite from suffering in the break of a line. If literary analysis shapes our understanding of love, then it is urgent that we become dexterous in literary analysis. This semester, toward such dexterity, we will read poems, short stories, letters and essays that offer themselves as statements of or about love.

Students will be expected to produce weekly reading responses, and to write and revise three essays that showcase an increasing ability to make convincing arguments about the readings at hand. We will cultivate the skill of attentive reading and, through class discussion and workshop, apply it to students’ own writing in addition to the course texts.

 
 
 


Reading and Composition: Borderline Crooks

English R1A

Section: 15
Instructor: Walter, David
Time: MWF 4-5
Location: 6 Evans


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 
 

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.

Texts

Oedipus Tyrannus, Sophocles (tr.Fagles)

Wolf Boys, Dan Slater

The Round House, Louise Erdrich

The Mars Room, Rachel Kushner

Films

Boyz 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: The American City - From Segregation to Climate Change

English R1A

Section: 17
Instructor: Beckett, Balthazar I.
Time: MWF 8-9
Location: 206 Dwinelle


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 
 

Description

 

The American city is an incredibly complex and dynamic organism—and the subject of a great body of literature, both fiction and non-fiction. This course will trace and critically engage how American urban development has been written about from the late nineteenth century to today. We will follow how writers have addressed the dramatic changes that American urban spaces underwent from the progressive era, turn-of-the-century segregation, and the experience of the Great Migration to redlining, white flight, and suburbanization in the wake of the New Deal. Studying metropolitan areas across the nation—from New York City to the Bay Area and from Chicago to New Orleans—this course asks students to write critically about urban development from the battles over “urban renewal” and the anti-eviction campaigns of the Civil Rights era to the impact of 1970s neoliberal policies, the “war on drugs” and militarized policing, and the urban uprisings of the early 1990s. We will end this semester by studying how writers address the impact that hyper-gentrification and climate chaos (from disaster capitalism to grassroots organizing) have on American cities today. 

Over the course of the semester, we will develop critical thinking skills and learn to express our thoughts in argumentative writing.  Students will write and revise four short essays (a total of 32 pages), ranging from a close reading to a self-reflection and an exercise in literary scholarship.

 
 


Reading and Composition: Re-Visioning the "Sixties"

English R1A

Section: 18
Instructor: Koerner, Michelle
Time: MWF 10-11
Location: Online


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 

Description

 

This Reading and Composition course will focus on selected film, 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 semester, this course places considerable emphasis on shared student research, critical discussion, and writing.

Topics covered include the civil rights, student and anti-war movements as well broader social issues of the 1960s (primarily within a U.S context).

Students should expect to strengthen their capacities to make historically informed arguments, formulate compelling questions and share their research with their peers. Formal assignments aim to encourage creative approaches to historically situated writing by emphasizing critical engagement with primary documents, films, political speeches, and literary texts. In addition to several informal written reflections, students will also compose two formal essays (3-4 pages) and complete a final research project.

 


Reading and Composition: Re-Visioning the "Sixties"

English R1A

Section: 19
Instructor: Koerner, Michelle
Time: TTh 11-12:30
Location: Online


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 

Description

This Reading and Composition course will focus on selected film, 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 semester, this course places considerable emphasis on shared student research, critical discussion, and writing.

Topics covered include the civil rights, student and anti-war movements as well broader social issues of the 1960s (primarily within a U.S context).

Students should expect to strengthen their capacities to make historically informed arguments, formulate compelling questions and share their research with their peers. Formal assignments aim to encourage creative approaches to historically situated writing by emphasizing critical engagement with primary documents, films, political speeches, and literary texts. In addition to several informal written reflections, students will also compose two formal essays (3-4 pages) and complete a final research project.


Reading and Composition: Re-Visioning the "Sixties"

English R1A

Section: 20
Instructor: Koerner, Michelle
Time: TTh 2-3:30
Location: Online


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 

Description

 

This Reading and Composition course will focus on selected film, 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 semester, this course places considerable emphasis on shared student research, critical discussion, and writing.

Topics covered include the civil rights, student and anti-war movements as well broader social issues of the 1960s (primarily within a U.S context).

Students should expect to strengthen their capacities to make historically informed arguments, formulate compelling questions and share their research with their peers. Formal assignments aim to encourage creative approaches to historically situated writing by emphasizing critical engagement with primary documents, films, political speeches, and literary texts. In addition to several informal written reflections, students will also compose two formal essays (3-4 pages) and complete a final research project.

 


Reading and Composition: Poetry of California

English R1B

Section: 1
Instructor: Nathan, Jesse
Time: MWF 9-10
Location: 315 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 
 

Description

 

Poetry won’t give you the news, as William Carlos Williams said, and it won’t tell you how to avoid traffic in Los Angeles or where to find the best burritos in the Mission. But it can offer a profound glimpse into the spirit—or spirits—of a place. California, land of wondrous natural resources and state shaped by big visions and reckless desires, is no exception. To ask what kind of poetry is made in this state is to ask what kind of poetry California is. Artists of all sorts have long thrived in the Golden State. Why? What have they found here? How have they described it, defined it, or challenged its myths and failings? In this introductory course, we’ll read through the history and zeitgeist of California by way of its poetry, from the art’s roots here to its present-day possibilities, searching as we go for the California dream, for its meaning and its magic and its waking reality.

The broader purpose of this course is to develop your critical reading and writing skills, whatever your major might be. Over the semester, you’ll write and revise three papers of increasing length. 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.

 


Reading and Composition: Sick

English R1B

Section: 2
Instructor: Cohan, Nathan
Time: MWF 10-11
Location: 35 Evans


Description

This course teaches critical reading, writing, and researching skills through a survey of sickness as a bodily and social condition;, and as a literary resource and mode. Students will practice formal analysis of texts in a variety of media including fiction, memoir, poetry, and film, and will enter into existing critical conversations after reading some theories of sickness as a cultural phenomenon and as an ambivalently communicable experience. Topics will include historical conceptions of the body and disease, the healthiness or sickness of literature in general, and fictional, sometimes fantastical diseases. Readings and viewings will likely include works by Hervé Guibert, Susan Sontag, D.A. Miller, Octavia Butler, Nicholas Ray, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and more to be finalized.

Students will write, peer-review, and rewrite a series of literary-critical essays, with the goal of fostering attentive reading and viewing, imaginative analysis, and bold writing. As this course fulfills the R1B requirement, we will focus on scaling progressively longer essays and incorporating research.


Reading and Composition: Autobiography in Experimental Literature

English R1B

Section: 3
Instructor: D'Silva, Eliot
Time: MWF 10-11
Location: 61 Evans


Other Readings and Media

 

Readings  will include work by Chantal Akerman, Stan Brakhage, Sophie Calle, Michelle Citron, Lyn Hejinian, Bernadette Mayer, Marlon Riggs and Jeff Wall.

 

Description

 

How and why might you choose to document your own life? What are our motives for putting our lives on the page – to understand ourselves better, to memorialize others, to leave something of ourselves to future generations? Taking up these questions, this writing and research course introduces students to literary and cinematic texts that challenge conventional understandings of autobiography. Our focus will be on 20th and 21st century experiments in autobiographical form – poetry collections, novels and films that dramatize the act of autobiographical writing and propose alternatives to received autobiographical modes in which the writer tells the story of their life. From Bernadette Mayer’s Memory (1971) to Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019), the texts included in the course all struggle with the autobiographical process, attempting to accommodate the stream of life from which they emerge rather than fitting it into a readymade narrative. 

      Over the semester, students will get to know a few works of autobiography and write small-scale responses to them. Examples of these mini-projects are: paper proposals, source analysis, annotated bibliographies. After break, students will choose a writing skill that they would like to improve for their final research paper, which they will continue to develop in small groups for the remainder of the semester. Meanwhile, in class, we will focus on thematic questions, with special consideration given to how our cultural obsession with personal identity coexists with the autobiographical imperative for a single, essential self. 

 


Reading and Composition: The Mystery to a Solution—Or, on “slow reading”

English R1B

Section: 4
Instructor: Choi, 최 Lindsay || Lindsay Chloe
Time: MWF 11-12
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Book List

Clark, T.J.: The Sight of Death; Nakayasu, Sawako: Mouth: Eats Color; Philip, M. Nourbese: Zong!

Other Readings and Media

Course Reader, including secondary texts and shorter poems, which may include: 

Sina Queyras, “On Encountering Zong!

Zeno’s paradoxes of motion

Frank Kermode, “The Carnal and the Spiritual Senses” (from The Genesis of Secrecy)

Saidiya Hartman, excerpts from Lose Your Mother

Lyn Hejinian, “The Rejection of Closure” and excerpts from My Life

Julio Cortazar, “Blow-Up”

 

Films:

Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon;

Francis Ford Coppola, The Conversation; (optional) Michelangelo Antonioni, Blow-Up (optional); Ciro Guerra, Embrace of the Serpent (optional)

Description

In this course on “slow reading,” our focus will be on the literature of iteration, revision, and repetitive revisiting, with a lurking fourth term: enigma. What draws us to look at the same text again and again—and must this mystery have a “solution”? Alongside poems, short stories, and novels, we’ll be reading critical texts that also emphasize reading slowly and iteratively—and, in our work together, either theorizing the use of “slow reading” or modeling it in practice.  

Over the course of the semester, we’ll be thinking about the relationship of iteration to iteration, and of what reveals itself or becomes apparent between revisions. What are the stakes, desires, and hopes attendant to moments of repetition? What might one learn from dwelling on a text—spending extended amounts of time with it, and revising (or re-visioning) your knowledge of it day by day? And what might be the relationship between this repetitive seeing and interpretation? The aim of this course will be to exercise our skills in reading and writing on literary texts, and to think critically about our analytic methods, as well as how, why, and to what end we might believe that they work.


Reading and Composition: A Thing or Two

English R1B

Section: 5
Instructor: Elias, Gabrielle
Time: MWF 11-12
Location: 180 Social Sciences


Description

This course and its reading list share a preoccupation with things. Together we will explore the unique challenges of representing objects in literature and the innovations that have arisen out of confronting the medium’s (that is, language’s) constraints. The examples we'll encounter in our reading—we’ll consider food, a chest of drawers, a television set, among other things—will prompt us to ask questions about the use of objects. We will think about objects in relation to mood, affect, memory, about personal connections to objects and the relationships objects establish and foster. Our focus will be on literature from the 20th century to the present, but we will also reference both visual art and the internet on occasion. 

This course, as its number indicates, is also centered on composition. Your writing and thinking about the topic will play a large role in shaping our conversations. You will work on developing an effective, personalized writing practice that you can take with you beyond this class.

 

Readings may include: Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, Jean Toomer’s Cane, Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood, Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel,” Tan Lin’s Insomnia and the Aunt, Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot


Reading and Composition: Monsters in English Literature

English R1B

Section: 6
Instructor: Gable, Nickolas
Time: MWF 12-1
Location: 124 Wheeler


Book List

Beowulf; Kirkman, Robert: The Walking Dead Vol. 1; Matheson, Richard: I Am Legend; Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein; Stevenson, Robert Louis: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Wells, H.G.: The Time Machine

Other Readings and Media

Additional required and recommended readings will be made available online via bCourses, including shorter poems, selections from longer works, short stories, and secondary sources. Any films or TV episodes will be screened in class.

Description

Undead hordes, bloodthirsty beasts, and uncanny human hybrids are nothing new to the human imagination; the literature and folklore of most (if not all) human cultures is full of tales that bring our imagined fears to life.

In this course, our readings will focus on depictions of many creatures in English literature that have been described as “monstrous,” beginning over one thousand years ago and reaching to the 21st Century. Our research will take us even further back, looking to the ancient mythology and folklore that inspired and influenced later depictions of monsters. Along the way, we will track how different monsters have evolved over time and space and how the definition of “monstrous” has been adapted for each age and place. We will confront that which is uncomfortable, strange, and humorous along the way, using our explorations to try to understand the human fascination with these monstrous creations.

Our main goal in this class is to become better readers, writers, and researchers. To do this, we will develop the skill of “close reading” to better understand and analyze our subject matter. We will “close read” all the media we encounter in this class—even visual media such as comics and films—by paying close attention to detail, which will help us to improve our own writing by making it as clear, concise, and evidence-driven as possible.


Reading and Composition: Wild(ish) America

English R1B

Section: 8
Instructor: Tomasula y Garcia, Alba
Time: MWF 12-1
Location: 104 Wheeler


Book List

Austin, Mary: The Land of Little Rain; Dillard, Annie: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; Fowler, Karen Joy: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; Hemingway, Ernest: The Old Man and the Sea; Morrison, Toni: Beloved; Vandermeer, Jeff: Annihilation; Vann, David: Goat Mountain

Other Readings and Media

All other course material will be made available through bCourses

Description

The perceived divide between humans and the natural world has been defined as one of the most important frameworks under which our thoughts and behaviors are constructed. This has unquestionably been the case in the United States, whose landscapes and all they contain, from the country’s foundation to the 21st century, have been primarily framed and utilized as raw resources for human enterprises. Yet American literature—from its earliest examples to today’s offerings—is filled with a rich diversity of depictions of the natural world and human-nature interactions. From white whales that encapsulate the awesome terror of the nonhuman world (and all the paradoxical human sentiments such terror inspires) to explicit love for parasitic insects that exemplify nature’s violent yet wondrous diversity, the United States has witnessed not only a wildly manifold and changing landscape, but a wildly diverse body of writings on nature. In this course, we will examine but a few of the ways in which relationships between humans and nature are represented in American literature; what histories, perceptions, and biases inform such representations; and what the real-world consequences of particular representations may be. We will gain a sense of how writing can influence feelings about nature, open up a space to interrogate ingrained assumptions about nature, and even shape major political decisions regarding the natural world. A few broad questions we will consider during this class include: What precisely is nature? How have particular American cultures (or even particular individuals) opposed or embraced it, and why? And how have certain human identities and behaviors been elevated “above” nature, stigmatized as “unnatural,” or even denigrated because of their supposed closeness to nature? With the goal of developing your writing and research skills, we will primarily devote class time to discussing the course reading, with the goal of fostering critical thinking through a combination of lecture material, question and answer, and group discussion. We will also spend time preparing for papers by building writing, editing, and research skills.


Reading and Composition: Afro-Asian: Solidarities and Stereotypes

English R1B

Section: 9
Instructor: Hu, Jane
Time: MWF 1-2
Location: 254 Dwinelle


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 

Description

 

What did “Yellow Peril Supports Black Power” once mean and how has it come to shift over time? This course explores the cultural and political representations of Afro-Asian connections: from the radical Third Worldist movements of the 1960s that led to the founding of U.S. ethnic studies up to our present moment. We will study key flashpoints in Afro-Asianism, from Cold War Afro-Asian solidarity to the “Black-Korean” conflict and the L.A. riots to current discourse around anti-AAPI hate crimes and policing. In addition, students will further examine how this history has been represented in popular media (TV, newspapers, social media) and popular culture (novels, songs, films). How are these histories of political action and affiliation reimagined, altered, or even erased through cultural representation?

Critical texts may include writing by Vijay Prashad, Bill Mullen, Robin Kelly, Susan Koshy, Claire Kim, Gary Okihiro, Daryl Maeda, Daniel Kim, Anne Cheng, Mark Chiang, Colleen Lye, Lauren Michele Jackson, and Jay Kang. 

Cultural texts may include fiction by Frank Chin, Paul Beatty, Charles Yu, and Bryan Washington; as well as films such as Enter the Dragon (1973), Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1987), Do the Right Thing (1989), and Rush Hour (1989).

 


Reading and Composition: Writing Politics

English R1B

Section: 10
Instructor: Wang, Jacob
Time: MWF 1-2
Location: 122 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

Possible texts/authors include: Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip; How to Do Things with Words by J. L. Austin; Port Huron Statement; Amanda Gorman; George Orwell; Winston Churchill

Description

When we think of politics, we probably picture politicians debating, people organizing, or some sort of voting process. But are there other ways of “doing” politics, other appropriate verbs? This course will think about how we can associate the verb (or noun) “writing” with political processes and actions. What makes writing political – its content, context, intention, style, effects? What does writing do with regards to politics – represent, critique, persuade, legislate, inform, demand, inspire? Are there certain genres of writing more amenable to politics than others? Does it matter if politicians are good writers? We’ll explore these questions by looking at writings in a variety of genres (poetry, novel, essay, legal document) and media (performance/speech, newspaper, pamphlet, Twitter), and thinking about how, or if, they are political. To do so, we’ll also want to reflect on what it means to be political in the first place.  

The primary aim of this course is to develop your skills as a reader, 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. We’ll achieve this aim through a regular series of shorter writing assignments that will culminate in longer essays.


Reading and Composition: Poetic Proofs

English R1B

Section: 11
Instructor: Forbes-Macphail, Imogen
Time: MWF 2-3
Location: 41 Evans


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 

Description

“The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s, must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.” — G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology

Is there anything poetic about a mathematical proof? Can the beauty of an artwork be distilled into a mathematical formula? In this course, we will investigate both how mathematicians think about the beauty of their subject, and how mathematical principles might help us to understand the aesthetic qualities of literature and the arts. We will read beautiful mathematical equations and proofs with the same degree of attention that we ordinarily devote to poetry, and analyze written texts with the kind of rigor and logic often associated with mathematics. We will also cultivate our own writing abilities, thinking about how to structure our ideas in ways that are both logical and aesthetically compelling. There is no expectation that you will come to this class with specialized mathematical knowledge, but you should expect to attempt some mathematical exercises throughout the course. You are also encouraged to bring your own disciplinary knowledge to the classroom, as you think about what constitutes beauty in your field. While the readings will concentrate principally on literature and mathematics, there will also be opportunities to consider aesthetics in music, the visual arts, textiles, and the sciences, amongst other topics.


Reading and Composition: Utopian Feminisms

English R1B

Section: 12
Instructor: Sutton, Emily
Time: MWF 2-3
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Book List

Butler, Octavia E.: Parable of the Sower; LeGuin, Ursula: The Left Hand of Darkness; Russ, Joanna: The Female Man

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings will be posted to bcourses

Description

Amid the COVID pandemic, an oddly utopian undercurrent has emerged in political discourse. The experience of such a radical upheaval of our lived experience, let alone the rapid enactment of policies long deemed unrealistic, has led to a renewed willingness to think bigger. Could the “new normal” actually be a radical change for the better? This class will explore the promises and perils of utopianism, with a specific focus on feminist politics from the 1960s to the present moment. We will read explicitly utopian novels by Ursula LeGuin, Joanna Russ and Octavia E. Butler, as well as polemical texts that tap into utopian aspirations, such as Valerie Solanas’ outlandish SCUM Manifesto. This science-fictional mode has proven a compelling tool for radically reimagining our world, but it has often been mired in transphobia, essentialism, and racism. Throughout the semester, we will both map this complicated legacy and consider the interpretative and imaginative possibilities it may still hold for us now.

As well as exploring these ideas in depth, this class will be focused on developing your abilities to write and think critically at a college level. Along with discussions of our primary texts, you will develop these skills in weekly writing workshops. Building on a series of smaller assignments, peer edits and revisions, you will work your way towards producing a research essay that integrates secondary sources into your own original analysis of a literary text.


Reading and Composition: Thinking with Literature, Art, and Film

English R1B

Section: 13
Instructor: Ostas, Magdalena
Time: MWF 3-4
Location: 233 Dwinelle


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 
 
 
 

Description

 

Do poems take up truths? Can a novel be a way of thinking about something? What can you learn—about yourself, about others, about the world—from a film? This course considers the ways that literature, art, and film are not only a part of our creative imaginations but also central sources of insight into what is real and actual. How do fictional and imaginative works touch what is worldbound? How do they help us see, hear, and understand our world?

All of the course readings will help us think about central philosophical questions—Who are we? How should we live? What do we know?—in compelling ways. We will read broadly across genres, forms, and national traditions. Texts will include poetry (William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Langston Hughes), narrative (Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka), drama (Samuel Beckett), film (Alfred Hitchcock, Agnès Varda), and cultural theory and philosophy (Plato, Nietzsche, Roland Barthes, Toni Morrison). 

As a course in the Reading and Composition sequence, this class will focus on developing your skills in critical thinking and clear, graceful, persuasive written expression in the form of the academic essay. We will practice writing and reflect on writing regularly and frequently. Students will write two formal papers, each with revisions, and a final research paper. Other requirements include attendance, engaged and active class participation, and informal writing assignments. All are welcome. 

 


Reading and Composition: Octavia Butler: Writing the Body

English R1B

Section: 14
Instructor: Homans-Turnbull, Marian
Time: TTh 8-9:30
Location: 200 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 does a body relate to an inner self, a mind, or a person? How does a body relate to an outer world? 

This course will consider the particular ways in which fiction can explore these questions. We will focus on three novels by speculative fiction writer Octavia Butler: DawnWild Seed, and Kindred. With the help of a selection of critical and historical essays, we will consider Butler’s novels through the lenses of disability, race, and gender—and develop students’ research skills by using novels and essays to illuminate each other. Practicing critical reading skills, we will consider the arguments Butler’s stories make about human identity, and the role of literary and rhetorical techniques in making them. We will consider the ways critical arguments in turn make use of stories. 

We will be guided, finally, by the goal of developing your writing skills. We will talk not only about how course readings make arguments but also about how to identify compelling research questions, engage in critical conversations, and make persuasive arguments of your own. Student writing will constitute an important third category of course material: in addition to regular reading responses, you will develop, draft, peer-edit, and revise two essays including a final research essay. 


Reading and Composition: Thought Experiments

English R1B

Section: 15
Instructor: Vinyard Boyle, Elizabeth
Time: TTh 5-6:30
Location: 180 Social Sciences


Book List

Cavendish, Margaret: The Blazing World; Larsen, Nella: Passing; Radcliffe, Ann: Romance of the Forest; Shelley, Mary: The Last Man; Woolf, Virginia: Flush; de La Fayette, Mme.: Princesse de Clèves

Other Readings and Media

Shorter readings will include selections from Christine de Pizan, Frances Burney, Octavia Butler, and the writings of Plato, Aristotle, René Descartes, John Locke, David Hume, and Étienne Bonnot de Condillac.

Description

In his 1641 Meditations, René Descartes made the claim that cogito ergo sum – thought entails existence, but nothing further may be given.  Fifty years later, John Locke posited the mind as a tabula rasa, an impressible space where ideas come from the world of things rather than any prior or anterior memory.  David Hume would come to similar conclusions, that therefore all abstractions – even the idea of universals – must in fact be combinations of particular experiences, imagining consciousness as a material cabinet where such perception-objects are stored and recombined.  What is the status, then, of that which is conceived or constructed by the human mind?  How do the categories of perception and imagination register shifts in experimental consciousness?  Where do we locate the reality of the extended thought experiment?

 Beginning with such philosophical queries, this class will take up a particularly persistent strain of experimental thinking through the history of literary fiction, texts that simulate and examine the nature, limits, and possibilities of experience, as well as the philosophical implications for thinking through or dwelling in such possibilities.  In the process, we will explore the terms of such as-if imaginings, as we ponder alongside them the peculiar nature of the human that such linguistic play makes possible.  What is the status of the reality defined through speculative or mimetic realism?  How do we reckon with the seeming being-ness of our fictional selves, characters who appear to narrate their realities into existence?  Along the way, we will read works both ancient and modern, encountering the experiential through disparate modes of rational and sensational knowledge: from classical and enlightenment philosophy, to medieval dream vision and renaissance speculative fiction; from the historical novel and gothic romance, to a modernism that posits consciousness at the limits of linguistic coherence and identity.  We will also learn to think of our own writing as thought experiments in reading, as we push ourselves in what we can articulate as meaning – and as meaningful collective response – reading closely and deeply as we work through a series of short papers and assignments that will culminate in a long final paper.


Reading and Composition: Obscene Comedy

English R1B

Section: 16
Instructor: Ripplinger, Michelle
Time: TTh 5-6:30
Location: 104 Wheeler


Book List

Boccaccio, Giovanni: The Decameron; Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales; Kempe, Margery: The Book of Margery Kempe; Shakespeare, William: All's Well That Ends Well

Description

We commonly use the word “obscene” to describe sexual and excremental parts and functions of the body, whether it be a double entendre or explicit scatological reference. But like its Latin root obscenus, which means filthy, repulsive, and possessing the power to stain or contaminate, the word also carries a distinctly moral valence. The idea of the obscene not only rests on the assumption that these body parts and functions are dirty and shameful. It suggests that the words that describe them or artworks that represent them are dirty and shameful as well. In spite of such concerns, we laugh at ribald talk and dirty jokes precisely because they violate these social taboos; at least part of the pleasure lies in witnessing the exposure of something that should supposedly remain hidden.

In this course, we’ll consider how medieval and early modern authors grappled with the tension between obscenity’s ability to offend, revolt, and shock us, on the one hand, and to amuse, delight, and entertain us, on the other. Our readings will include a tale that is an elaborate fart joke (Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales); a riddle whose answer could be either an onion or a penis; medieval manuscript images, including a nun picking penises from tree; and a play whose plot hinges on an elaborate bed-trick (Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well). Along the way, we’ll consider such topics as: the relationship between obscenity and the prevailing social order (i.e. whether it is emancipatory or a tool of social control); the ethics of representation, including the place of obscenity and pornography in feminist thought; censorship; gender, sex, and power; interpretation and the role of the reader; erotic desire and the grotesque; and more.

While obscene comedy will be our primary subject, the underlying object will be to grow as critical readers and to learn to write more clearly and persuasively about difficult and complex topics. This course will teach you how to pose analytical questions, develop complex arguments supported by evidence, and build research skills applicable to other college writing as well as writing outside the university. The course will consist of three assignments: a short paper of literary analysis, a more substantial research paper, and a final creative project. In this final creative project, you will have the opportunity to place this history of ideas about obscenity and the ethics of representation in conversation with the present, and to consider what potential it might hold for us now.

 

Please Note: While some of the readings will be in Middle English, no prior knowledge of Middle English is required to take this course.


Reading and Composition: Poetry of California

English R1B

Section: 17
Instructor: Nathan, Jesse
Time: MWF 10-11
Location: 315 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 
 

Description

 

Poetry won’t give you the news, as William Carlos Williams said, and it won’t tell you how to avoid traffic in Los Angeles or where to find the best burritos in the Mission. But it can offer a profound glimpse into the spirit—or spirits—of a place. California, land of wondrous natural resources and state shaped by big visions and reckless desires, is no exception. To ask what kind of poetry is made in this state is to ask what kind of poetry California is. Artists of all sorts have long thrived in the Golden State. Why? What have they found here? How have they described it, defined it, or challenged its myths and failings? In this introductory course, we’ll read through the history and zeitgeist of California by way of its poetry, from the art’s roots here to its present-day possibilities, searching as we go for the California dream, for its meaning and its magic and its waking reality.

The broader purpose of this course is to develop your critical reading and writing skills, whatever your major might be. Over the semester, you’ll write and revise three papers of increasing length. 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.

 
 


Reading and Composition: Poetry of California

English R1B

Section: 18
Instructor: Nathan, Jesse
Time: MWF 11-12
Location: 301 Wheeler


Other Readings and Media

 

 

 

Description

 

Poetry won’t give you the news, as William Carlos Williams said, and it won’t tell you how to avoid traffic in Los Angeles or where to find the best burritos in the Mission. But it can offer a profound glimpse into the spirit—or spirits—of a place. California, land of wondrous natural resources and state shaped by big visions and reckless desires, is no exception. To ask what kind of poetry is made in this state is to ask what kind of poetry California is. Artists of all sorts have long thrived in the Golden State. Why? What have they found here? How have they described it, defined it, or challenged its myths and failings? In this introductory course, we’ll read through the history and zeitgeist of California by way of its poetry, from the art’s roots here to its present-day possibilities, searching as we go for the California dream, for its meaning and its magic and its waking reality.

The broader purpose of this course is to develop your critical reading and writing skills, whatever your major might be. Over the semester, you’ll write and revise three papers of increasing length. 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.

 


Reading and Composition: Enthusiasms: The Amateur Critic Then and Now

English R1B

Section: 19
Instructor: Zeavin, Hannah
Time: TTh 8-9:30
Location: 305 Wheeler


Description

Hobbyists. Amateurs. Laypeople. Obsessionals. Devotees. Typically, when we do literary study, we look to the expert: someone who has trained for decades and is paid to know (and to teach). We will instead invest a semester in looking to the history of criticism that comes from beyond the university, and adjacent to it, tracing the relationship between those who are paid to know, and those who do it without compensation. We will look at (and write in) the forms of critique produced by “amateurs” and para-academics: the personal essay, the hot take, the blog, the scrapbook. With a focus on questions of work, what it means to belong (or not), and the effects of the digital age, we will read a wide variety of critics, whether they be canonized, minor, or even—internet influencers.