English 165

Special Topics: Family Histories from the Margins


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Spring 2020 Wilson, Evan
TTh 3:30-5 54 Barrows

Book List

Ball, Edward: Slaves in the Family; Bronte, Emily: Wuthering Heights; Butler, Octavia: Kindred; Faulkner, William: Absalom, Absalom!; Hartman, Saidiya V.: Lose Your Mother; Morrison, Toni: Beloved

Other Readings and Media

A selection of articles and excerpts introducing the history and anthropology of the family, along with a smattering of genealogical articles

Description

This seminar will explore the fraught status of families in literature and what it means to write about one’s own family. The family has generated a diverse range of literary and textual forms, from the list of “begats” in the book of Genesis to the family drama or epic that arcs across multiple generations. We’ll consider how families and their distinctive structures and problems call forth and shape narratives. As we’ll see, the discursive construction of a family depends on the social structures of class, wealth, race, and political power in which that family operates.

Each of our texts works in or from marginal spaces, including geographical margins (the Yorkshire moors), narrative margins, and the margins of the archive. A recurring theme of our readings is the problem of writing about families shaped, torn apart, or made archivally invisible by chattel slavery, which dictated that its subjects could be separated and exchanged at will—that they had no history and no public identity as members of families. Our novels and nonfiction texts may ultimately show how building a narrative can have an intimate connection to the act of finding, or claiming, a family of one’s own.

One of our goals will be to explore how our own senses of family shape the way we read and write. Accordingly, you will do some personal writing in addition to writing about our texts.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

spring, 2020

165/1

Special Topics: Traditions of Mourning and the Representation of the Holocaust

165/2

Special Topics: Enlightenment & Romance: Scotland in the 18th Century

165/3

Special Topics: On Lies, Lying, and Post-Truths--A Reading- and Writing-Intensive Investigation

Nadaff, Ramona
fall, 2019

165/1

Special Topics: Utopian and (mostly) Dystopian Movies

165/2

Special Topics: The Pleasures of Allegory

spring, 2019

165/1

Special Topics: Global Tudors

Honig, Elizabeth

165/2

Special Topics: 21st-Century U. S. Poetry

165/3

Special Topics: John Milton's Last Poems

165/4

Special Topics: The Art of Writing: The Visible Made Verbal

165/5

Special Topics: Note: See English 165 section 6

165/6

Special Topics: Nabokov and Naipaul

165/7

Special Topics: The Materialist Epic

165/8

Special Topics: American Humor

165/9

Special Topics: The 1890s

fall, 2018

165/1

Special Topics: Oscar Wilde and the Nineteenth Century

165/2

Special Topics: The English Department

165/3

Special Topics: Literature and Media Theory

165/4

Special Topics: The Ecology of Utopia

165/5

Special Topics: Reading Walden With Care

165/6

Special Topics: Hardly Strictly Lyric Poems

165/7

Special Topics: Utopian and (mostly) Dystopian Movies

spring, 2018

165/1

Special Topics: H.P. Lovecraft in His Tradition

165/2

Special Topics: Handel's Art in Setting English Words to Music

165/3

Special Topics: Is It Useless To Revolt?

165/4

Special Topics: Neo-Slave Narratives

165/5

Special Topics: Incarcerations: The Literature of (Physical, Mental, Spiritual) Imprisonment

fall, 2017

165/1

Special Topics: Genres of Free Speech

165/2

Special Topics: Art of Writing

spring, 2017

165/1

Special Topics: The Graphic Memoir

165/2

Special Topics: Incarcerations: The Literatures of Physical Confinement and Spiritual Liberation


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