English 166

Special Topics: Marxism & Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Spring 2018 Lye, Colleen
TTh 3:30-5 200 Wheeler Novel
Literary Theory
Special Topics

Book List

Adiga, Arvind: White Tiger; Delillo, Don: Cosmopolis; Park, Ed: Personal Days; Tucker, Robert: The Marx-Engels reader; Yamashita, Karen Tei: Through the Arc of the Rainforest


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? In what way might we think of this as literature’s means of theorizing class as a social relation rather than an identity? We’ll be concerned with some central features of 21st-century capitalist life, such as structural racism, gendered precarity, and environmental catastrophe. We’ll turn to novels that center on various kinds of marginalized and privileged characters to consider what a difference fiction makes to the treatment and solution of large economic and political problems. 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 in Marxism is required. In addition to the books listed above, there will also be a course packet of readings. Please be sure to have Personal Days and The Marx-Engels Reader in hand in the first week, as we’ll be hitting those texts right away.

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
166/5 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
166/1 Special Topics: Marxism and Literature Lye, Colleen
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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