English 250

Research Seminar: Studies in Pastoral: The Itinerant/Iterative Commons

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2020 François, Anne-Lise
W 3-6


The ambition of this class will be twofold—to address some of the formal possibilities specific to calendric forms such as the natural history or travel journal (Matsuo Bashõ, Gilbert White, Dorothy Wordsworth, John Clare, Henry David Thoreau, Derek Jarman) and to ask about literature's role in shadowing the commons as a persistent alternative to the expropriative and enclosing logics of capitalism and settler colonialism. With respect to the first, we will ask about the different relations to past and future time housed within a form not defined by narrative development, plot or argument but by iteration and incremental redundancy—a form in which one entry does not build on another even as it relies on there being a next or another time.

What features does the journal form share with other circulatory forms such as poetic sequences and song cycles associated with pastoral?

What is the relation between seasonal time, rhythmic time and common time or everyday time? What are the temporal commons?

What weight do literary examples have as counter-practices of the transient, provisional, fugitive and itinerant, in contesting the logic of scarcity and insecurity that drives over-production and accumulation in storage- and surplus-economies? We will also ask about the fate of the material commons in a time defined by mandated online instruction and by the artificial division between a class of precariat workers deemed "essential" and a class of people who are also if differently cut off from the means of production by the order to stay at home. Where is the "open" or "common ground"?

Other keywords we will seek to define in relation to one another: subsistence; maintenance; precarity; the undercommons (Moten/Harney), the indigenous commons; idlers-vagrants-commoners; beating the bounds; non-work/anti-work/inoperative time; phenology and the Anthropocene; ephemera, detritus, accumulation

One inspiration for this seminar is the 2020 ACLA seminar co-led by Joseph Albernaz and Lenora Hanson, "Attritional Catastrophe: Accumulation, Enclosure, Commons


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