English 166

Special Topics: Marxism and Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2017 Lye, Colleen
MWF 1-2 225 Dwinelle Novel
Literary Theory
Special Topics

Book List

Adiga, Arvind: White Tiger; Lanchester, John: Whoops!; Martin, Randy: The Financialization of Daily Life; Ong, Han: Fixer Chao; Ozeki, Ruth: All Over Creation; Park, Ed: Personal Days; Tucker, Robert: The Marx-Engels Reader; Volosinov, Valentin : Marxism and the Philosophy of Language; Whitehead, Colson: Zone One; Williams, Raymond: Marxism and Literature


For the past thirty years, it’s become a cliché that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Yet, ever since the 2008 financial crash, there’s been rising popular consciousness of capitalism’s crisis-bound character and, therefore, its historicity and potential transformability. What part has contemporary literature played in the promotion of this consciousness? It is customary to think of literature as uniquely suited to building empathy, helping us imagine the lives of others. But literature also aspires to representing the abstract social forces that set determinate limits and conditions upon individuals’ exercise of freedom. How does literature’s peculiar means of connecting experience and structure, part and whole, individual and totality offer an actionable theory of capitalism’s lived experience? We’ll read contemporary theories of ecological crisis, financialization, debt, gendered precarity, and structural racism that are some of the central features of 21st century capitalist life (Randy Martin, John Lanchester, Kathy Weeks, Jason Moore, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, etc.). We’ll turn to novels that center on various kinds of precarious characters to consider what a difference fiction makes to the treatment and solution of large economic and political problems (Arvind Adiga, Han Ong, Ruth Ozeki, Ed Park, Colson Whitehead). Along the way, we’ll get acquainted with some classical and more recent Marxist works of literary and aesthetic theory (e.g. Bakhtin, Volosinov, Raymond Williams, Lukacs, Jameson) so as to acquire the necessary analytical tools for making links between literature and political economy. This is a theory-heavy course and best suited to students who are really interested in working with some difficult theory, though no previous background is required. In addition to the books listed above, there will also be a course packet of additional readings. (Do not, however, purchase any books until after the first class meeting when the syllabus will have been finalized).

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2019
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Gothic Duncan, Ian
166/2 Special Topics: Marxism and Literature Gonzalez, Marcial
166/4 Special Topics: Poetry and Prose of Race and Social Class Giscombe, Cecil S.
166/5 Special Topics: Asian American Literature - World, Nation, Locality Leong, Andrew Way
166/6 Special Topics: Realism, Then and Now Cordes Selbin, Jesse
166/7 Special Topics: Anton Chekhov Muza, Anna
Fall, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/2 Special Topics: Alfred Hitchcock Bader, Julia
166/3 Special Topics: Journeys: British World-Building, c. 700-1700 Miller, Jasmin
166/4 Special Topics: "this morning's minion": Sonic Mysticism in Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson Stancek, Claire Marie
166/5 Special Topics Le, Serena
Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Comedy & Violence Flynn, Catherine
166/2 Special Topics: Romantic Science Goldstein, Amanda Jo
166/3 Special Topics: Classical & Renaissance Drama Knapp, Jeffrey
166/4 Special Topics: Marxism & Literature Lye, Colleen
166/5 Special Topics: Emily Dickinson Shoptaw, John
166/6 Special Topics: Speculative Fiction Jones, Donna V.
Summer, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/1 Special Topics: Speculative Fictions, Possible Futures O'Brien, Geoffrey G.
166/2 Special Topics: Games of Thrones, Medieval to Modern Strub, Spencer
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/3 Special Topics: Black Science Fiction Serpell, C. Namwali
166/4 Special Topics: Writing Poetry and Nonfiction, Writing as Social Practice Giscombe, Cecil S.
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
166/2 Special Topics: Studies in Literature and Environment (Shelter and Weather) Francois, Anne-Lise
166/3 Special Topics: Slavery and Conspiracy Wagner, Bryan
166/4 Special Topics: Literature in the Century of Film Goble, Mark
166/5 Special Topics: Modern Irish Literature Falci, Eric

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