Department's listing of courses for the 2023 Fall semester:
Migration, whether voluntary or forced, planned or unexpected, whether prompted by war, violence, political instability, economic pressures, or, more positively, a passion for discovering new places, has been an enduring feature of the human experience since the dawn of history. Stories of migration can describe suffering, loss, and grief, or, alternately, joy and hope for the future.
Sometimes, they describe both. Migration takes many forms: refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, long-term travelers, international students, nomadic peoples and, more recently, digital nomads, can all be classified as migrants. Similarly, migration paths vary from easy and fun – such as when digital nomads board a plane for dream destinations where they will work remotely – to traumatically turbulent – such as when refugees, in desperation, board unsafe vessels to cross the Mediterranean or Caribbean Seas, or wait for days with just a few belongings at the Ukrainian- Polish border. In this class, we will explore migration memoirs: the stories written by the migrants themselves as they recount their experience. We will consider a range of migration contexts and geographical and cultural settings, as well as different storytelling formats, including memoirs written by acclaimed authors, and personal stories collected from everyday immigrants. We will discuss the complex relationship between memory and narrative, and memory and self. Some themes that we will explore include loss, grief, and trauma, language barriers and multilingualism, discrimination, self-discovery and the remaking of identities, and belonging. In addition to written memoirs, we will discuss multimodal texts, digital stories, and stories told through social media.
Sex is, undeniably, everywhere. Despite its prevalence, there seems to be little consensus about what exactly sex is. This course will not attempt to answer that once and for all, but use this confusion to ask more questions.
To do so, we will turn literature and other arts, which have always been inspired by cultural anxieties concerning sex. Our primary texts will include novels, poetry, films, and music from different time periods and cultures. Whetherwe’re considering Flaubert’s "Madame Bovary,"
Kubrick’s "Eyes Wide Shut," or Lil Nas X’s “Montero,” we will analyze how these texts depict sex in all its paradoxes and ask questions like: What is the nature of sexual difference (male/masculine vs. female/feminine)? Is sex biologicalor social? Who can have sex? How is sex related to sexuality and gender? Why is sex so hard to define?
Additionally, we will bolster our literary and artistic readings with selections from foundational texts in sexual thought, including philosophy, sexology, psychoanalysis, gender studies, and queer theory. Reading thinkers like Freud,Foucault, Butler, Spillers, and more, we will examine significant theories of sex throughout history to see how they may bear on our contemporary
context. Assignments will include weekly reading responses (250 words), a mid-term paper (4–5 pages), and afinal paper (6–8 pages). As a writing-focused course, there will be time devoted to workshopping and opportunities forrevising. No prerequisites or exams.
Why do we tell ghost stories? And why are ghosts stories so often about a house? What is so enduring and provocative about the idea that a place is haunted that continues to fill seats in movie theaters and unable to put books down? This course will take a tour through the haunted houses of 20th and 21st century literature and films. Along the way, we’ll encounter the uncanny, doppelgängers, apparitions, ghostly occupations and other unexplained phenomena as we try to reckon with why we love to be terrified, and what we find terrifying can reveal about us and our society.
Beginning with Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, we will trace a history of the 20th century preoccupation with thehaunted house leading to our contemporary moment. Our survey of literature and film will consider a variety of hauntedlocales like remote Irish country manors in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September, plantations in the Caribbean andthe U.S. South in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, desolate hotels and motels in the American West, and modern mansions in South Korea as we consider who—and what—has been haunting thesedwellings. We will question what it means for some place (or even someone) to be haunted, and what this can tell us aboutour past, present, and future. We will end by considering films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and Bong-joon Ho’s Parasite to think about how even in an age of increased skepticism we have not been ableto give up the ghost story and grapple with the conditions that create ghosts in our lives.
Evaluation: Class participation, weekly blog posts (250 words), close reading assignment (4-5 pages), and final paper (8-10 pages).
If politically biased news outlets and social media memes have taught us anything, it’s that the “doomer” mentality isundoubtedly “in” right now. We seem to inhabit a moment where it’s near impossible to go a day without being reminded ofAmerica’s impending implosion–whether it be nuclear war, the melting polar ice caps, or the thriving underbelly ofthe Internet in the form of incel and fascist culture. But what if we were to discover that all of these concerns were aptly foreshadowed by literature from the previous century?
This course looks towards works of American literature from the 20th Century that, in some way, imagined thedownfall of American society as they knew it. In each novel, we’ll note familiar tropes of the apocalypse while also expanding our notion of what “apocalypse” can be as we analyze the political and cultural justifications for yet another end of the world. As we watch America crumble over and over again, we’ll see how these authors point to shockingly familiar problems, from the mechanization of American culture in Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust (1939), to the
problem of mass incarceration and race in Richard Wright’s Uncle Tom's Children (1938), to censorship and government control in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953), and even the poisoning of our environment and bodies in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962). We’ll also incorporate a few films like George Romero’sNight of the Living Dead (1968) and Francis
Lawrence’s adaptation of I Am Legend (2007) to bridge our inquiry to the visual medium as well.
While we witness the carnage unfold, however, we’ll pay special attention to the idea that, to break somethingdown, you have to build something up. How do each of these authors imagine a particular vision of America before itsinevitable unraveling? And in this perpetual process of collapse, is there a vestige of hope–some decipherable messagethat might jolt us onto a timeline where America isn’t certainly doomed?
Assignments: Weekly short discussion posts (250 words) and two writing assignments (one 5-6 pages, one 7-8pages). No prerequisites, no exams.
This class offers an introduction to English poetry from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present. We’ll look at a wide range of forms, from riddles and runes to sonnets and songs, considering the powerful experiments in sound and sense that have shaped the English poetic tradition. We’ll read the work of some of themost influential and exciting poets in the language, such as Shakespeare, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes. In addition, we’ll discuss the writing of contemporary poets, exploring the poetry communities that havegrown in the last few years and taken new forms with the onset of the pandemic. Along the way, we’ll learn techniques for understanding and analyzing poems, including cutting-edge theories at the intersection of literary criticism andlinguistics. Students will also engage in creative experiments and responses to poetry.
This course focuses on U.S. popular culture and literature in a time when being queer and homosexual meant essentially thesame thing: that something was wrong. Hovering around the era of the Stonewall rebellion (1969) and the first part ofthe HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s-mid-90s, we will consume and contextualize modes of queer/homosexualself-representation and media that, each in their own way, have something to teach us about how it felt to bear andtranscend the burden of this “something wrong.” To do so, the course will seek out the widest (and wildest) possible visions of homosexual subculture and queer self-presentation. We will read and analyze modes of homosexual expression, style, and aesthetics designed to force us into a confrontation with our ownpresentist assumptions about what it meant to be seen as and to see oneself as sexually abnormal in this not-too-distantqueer past.
Our syllabus will be populated with some names that are recognizable and even quintessential (James Baldwin, AudreLorde, Susan Sontag, Andy Warhol) and others that are more obscure and marginal in nature (Quentin Crisp,Dorothy Dean, Valerie Solanas). We will also seek out campy, so- called gay icons from popular culture (JudyGarland, Liberace, Little Richard, Grace Jones), reading them as figures that move between straight society and thehomosexual subcultures that exist in its shadows. We will learn how to place these texts and personae in context and askourselves what it means to consume them in a way that shows fidelity to their own internal, admittedly sometimes strangeand estranging, styles and logics.
Although this introduction to creative writing will feature (some) poetry, students who enroll in this class should be focused primarily on composing works of prose—in particular, works of fiction. In addition to exploring elements of the craft—setting, characterization, voice, point of view, and so on—this class seeks to explore the ways in which storytellers are engaged in ongoing “conversations” with one another. Asa class, we’ll explore explicit responses writers have made to the work of others. In poetry, for instance, the firstline of Langston Hughes’ “I, Too” forms an “answer” to Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” In fiction, we might read Joanna Pearson’s “Riding” as a response to “Little Red Cap” by the Brothers Grimm, or explore how Nathan Englander’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” replies to Ray Carver’s “What We Talk About WhenWe Talk About Love” (a story which is itself a “cover” of Plato’s Symposium).
Through our own writing and through the careful reading of others’, we’ll explore a literary “grammar” before situating ourselves in ongoing and ever-evolving conversations of storytellers.
The word, the line, the sentence; the image, the thought, the story – these will be our building blocks as students explore and experiment, write, workshop, revise, and polish substantive work in three genres: poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Along the way, we will analyze published examples of each genre for inspiration and ideas.
Toby Martinez de las Rivas
A multi-genre course designed for students who have little or no previous experience producing imaginative literary texts. This course does not count toward the English major, but would count toward the minor in creative writing. Taught by Blackburn Distinguished Artist Toby Martinez de las Rivas.
This course will introduce students to the three dominant forms of creative writing: poetry, creative non-fiction, fiction.
The goal of the class is to teach the student sensitivity to language, character, and narrative. There will be awriting assignment every day. The expectation is that the writing will build a certain muscle memory that will makereal some of the theoretical things we will discuss in class. Expect one and a half hours of work a day.
This course will reckon with representations of the region of the United States that, as William Faulkner describes inAbsalom, Absalom!, has been “dead since 1865 and peopled with garrulous outraged baffled ghosts.”
The historical lens of slavery produces a condition of grotesquerie that itself has blossomed into fields of insanity. Ourtour of the South will seek these out, focusing in on the unsavory, haunted and peculiar figures we meet along the way—figures, who, according to O’Connor, are “not images of the man in the street…[but] images of the man forced outto meet the extremes of his own nature…the result of what our social history has bequeathed to us, and what our literaryhistory forces our writers to attempt.”
So, rather than consider works that romanticize or apologize for the South’s sordid history, our syllabus will bepopulated by works that offer distorted visions of Southern life, history and culture.
We will consider depictions of the South in fiction (novels, plays and short stories), music (country, blues, bluegrass,gospel), film and television. This evolving character analysis of the region will tend toward the fantastic, terrible and estranged. With this in mind, your assignments will help you develop strategies for understanding and writing about forms of representation that are, in and of themselves, uncanny and highly stylized.
This course uses literary works (mainly novels) and popular culture (video games, TV shows, social-media born fiction) to introduce two key concepts for literary and digital cultural study: fictionality and virtuality. The fictional and the virtual explain how stories immerse us in their worlds: why we can’t put a book down, binge watch our favorite shows, and game for hours. Whatever your pleasure (reading, watching, playing), your immersion in a familiar art form is usuallypreconditioned by the knowledge that it is not real even if it feels real. But what about when art forms are new? In the18th century, novel readers did not yet know what they were reading. They thought novels were autobiographies andcharacters were real people. Today, when we go online and use social media, we encounter real people who behave like fictional characters. We see parody accounts, curated personas, avatars, deep fakes, and all sorts of other techniques forvirtualizing the self. In thinking about the entwined history of fictionality and virtuality, we will gain perspective on acontemporary world in which readers and viewers, for better and worse, have become players and participants.
Possible Texts (not all will make the final cut): Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe; Minecraft (game); Jane Austen, Prideand Prejudice; Ever, Jane (game); Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet; Sherlock (TV show); H.P. Lovecraft stories; Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom; Lovecraft Country (TV); William Gibson, Neuromancer; Teju Cole’s Twitter projects; Ayad Akhtar, Homeland Elegies. Short writing assignments; critical and creative options with opportunity for revision.
Greed, Vanity, and Laughter: Renaissance Theater and the Urban Vices.
Renaissance London was crowded, expensive, and in the middle of a commercial and social revolution, where gallants, rising merchants, refugees from continental wars, and greedy criminals uneasily shared the same urban landscape. This course uses traditional literary methodologies alongside some computational tools to study how Tudor and Stuart playwrights, such as William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Middleton, used satire, comedy, andeven tragedy to criticize city-life.
The computational approach will teach you—from the ground up—how to explore and track how theseinnovative writers reshaped and redeployed classical rhetorical texts (from Aristotle to Horace to Quintilian) to betterunderstand their times. We will study how elements and characters common to these plays—the perpetual busybody, the“city-vices,” and the focus on the urban
landscape itself—were used by different authors to construct moral vocabularies to criticize real- life problems. We willpair this computational approach with interpretive techniques central to literary studies, learning about the history of Tudorand Stuart England, the development of commercial English theaters, and the bewildering, but fascinating landscapeof Renaissance London and its literature.
No mathematical prerequisites and no prior familiarity with Renaissance literature necessary.
This creative nonfiction course centers on the idea of crossing borders. What kinds of borders should an ethical,empathetic person attempt to cross in writing, in life? Are there borders that should remain uncrossed? If so, how do we know?
While the class is open to any student who wants to improve their writing and observational skills, it may be of particular interest to those who have participated in—or plan to participate in— DukeEngage, a study abroad program, or Duke's Hart Leadership Program. These students may wish to focus at least some of their writing and thinking on geographical border crossing and the questions that raises, such as: how does one write critically—or sympathetically—about a culture outside one's own without being arrogant or elitist? How much can any non-native expect to understand about a country--or culture--not their own? What is the most effective, as well as ethical, proportion of inward focus and self-reflection vs. outward focus and rich description for the writer who strives to vividly bring a particular culture to life for the reader?
Over the course of the semester, students will write multiple drafts of two essays, as well as weekly shorter, more informal exercises and reading responses. The class will include “workshopping,” in which students discuss drafts of each other’s work, as well as individual conferences with the professor, peers, and the Duke Writing Studio. Trips to hear visiting writers will also occur.
This course will engage in creative reading and writing to develop familiarity with widely sweeping traditions ofpoetry. We will spend significant time thinking about craft – the choices that writers make about what words to use, howto arrange them, and what alternatives they have discovered – as we seek to join a writing community that stretches acrosstime and space. Because we are living through a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted poor and working classpeople, the elderly, and Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people, we will be particularly attentive to the creative example of writers of these backgrounds. This class is open to all students regardless of their experience with reading andwriting poetry, but the expectations for participation will be high.
Students will write multiple versions of poems and learn to give and receive feedback anchored in observation rather than preference and interpretation. The culmination of the class will be a chapbook length portfolio ofpoems (roughly 25 pp) and a reading.
Poetry, as Mill wrote, is feeling confessing itself to itself. A comma, an ellipse, a sudden line-break, each express emotion.
This class will attempt to inculcate sensitivity to poetry both through a great deal of writing and by examining certaingenres and sub-genres. There will be a writing assignment every day. There will be a number of close readingassignments every week. Expect one and a half hours of work a day.
As writers of fiction, we try to go beyond the surface and delve deep into uncomfortable emotions: desire, sexuality, loss,belonging, madness, personal and historical trauma. We start with our own raw experiences, but all too often and endup self-censoring or resorting to clichés and conventional narrative strategies. How then do we create fresh works ofinsight, clarity and narrative power?
In this class we will learn from contemporary writers who have successfully engaged this difficult terrain. Readinglike writers, we will take apart published work to learn craft issues like point-of- view, time management,characterization, and dialogue. Since writing the unspeakable depends on creating innovative forms, we will also learnto re-invent classic story structures.
Readings include contemporary writers such as Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, Sam Shepard, Haruki Murakami, Lauren Groff, Edward P. Jones, and Justin Torres.
This is an introductory level fiction writing workshop. No previous experience is required. A workshop differs from othercourses in the fact that in a workshop, we are able to look at works in progress. Therefore we will focus on processand productive feedback. Keep in mind that the word “workshop,” in its most traditional sense, refers to a place(such as a cobbler’s workshop) where things are built or repaired, not torn down and destroyed. However, also keep inmind that the repairing may necessitate taking something apart and reassembling it.
In this course, we will study, discuss, and practice all of the fundamentals of fiction: setting, tone, character, dialogue,point of view, scene, symbols, and plot. Throughout the semester, you will build a repertoire of fundamentals, a sort of toolbox that you can carry with you for the rest of your writing life.
Reading is just as important to this course as writing. There is no better way to learn to write than to read deeply andbroadly. We will read, dissect and discuss short prose pieces during each class period.
We will use Josip Novakovich's Fiction Writer's Workshop as well as a series of selected short stories that I will upload to Sakai.
Our focus will be on the essay as you explore and experiment with techniques, structures, and themes for describing theplaces, stories, and things you care about. Over the course of the semester, students will work on creative exercisesleading through workshops and revision to the production of three longer essays. Along the way, we will read and discussselected examples of published creative nonfiction to help us develop techniques for creating our own. No previous creative writing experience is required for this course.
This course in modern American literature will begin with major figures of the WWI period and will move through the decades up to the 1960s. Most of the course will be devoted to novels, but we shall also look at such major poets as T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Edna St Vincent Millay, and William Carlos Williams. Although our primary interest will be to understand and appreciate the specific works we study, we shall also consider the larger cultural and intellectual context relevant to each writer. In addition to the poets already mentioned, this course will study prose works by Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Hemingway, Carson McCullers, Saul Bellow, Richard Wright and/or Toni Morrison, and John Updike.
Exams: Three hour-long exams and a terminal quiz. There will be NO 3-hour final. Term papers: Oneterm paper, about 5-7 pages.
Grade to be based on: exams 75%, term paper 25 %.
Black lives have always mattered to Black people, and literature has been a crucial way to articulate the beautyand power of Black culture within and beyond its bounds. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 crisis police violence, and incarceration call for the study of Blackness from a cultural, historical perspective. The term “Black” hasbeen used in multiple ways since the 15th century, influenced by race-thinking, colonization, and slavery. This coursewill focus on how diverse Black cultures think with and about each other. Beginning with the 17th centurybiography of an Ethiopian nun who resisted colonization, we will turn to writers like Phillis Wheatley, Mary Prince andMaria Stewart who used their words to call for Black freedom in the 18th and 19th centuries. How did African, Caribbean,and U.S. Black women envision freedom. What are the connections between their work and black women’sleadership in today’s Black Lives Matter movement?
In the wake of emancipation and the struggle for full civil, and human rights involved thinking Blackness in an international framework of solidarity. This was never easy. We will turn to a question first formulated by CounteeCullen, a leading poet of the Harlem Renaissance: “What is Africa to me?” For African Americans, the continentbeckoned as a site of origin, as we will see in Maya Angelou’s memoir of her years in Ghana, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, and Saidya Hartmann’s moving account of her study trip there, Lose Your Mother. African writers also reflected on what pan-African,nationalist, and later, Afropolitan ideas meant for what “Africa” meant. We will welcome author Novuyo Tshuma as we read her multi-generational political novel, House of Stone. In closing we will return to the immediate prompots for this topic: anti-black violence and COVID’s disproportionate impact on black and brown communities.
This class focuses on literature but also includes film, non-fiction, and scholarly articles. No experience inliterary study is expected, and grades are based on class discussion, short reflection papers, and an extendedessay or creative project. There are no exams in this class.
Thomas Pfau & Corina Stan
No honor given to an author is more celebrated than the Nobel Prize in Literature, which has been awarded annually by the Swedish Academy since 1901. The list of recipients of the prize includes many of the most famous writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Winners include William Butler Yeats, Thomas Mann, Luigi Pirandello, Eugene O’Neill, Gabriela Mistral, Herman Hesse, André Gide,
T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Pär Lagerkvist, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, John Steinbeck, Jean- Paul Sartre, NellySachs, Yasunari Kawabata, Samuel Beckett, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Pablo Neruda, Isaac Bashevas Singer, CzesławMiłosz, Elias Canetti, Gabriel García Márquez, Wole Soyinka, Naguib Mahfouz, Octavio Paz, Nadine Gordimer, DerekWalcott, Toni Morrison, Seamus Heaney, Günter Grass, Gao Xingjian, V. S. Naipaul, J. M. Coetzee, Harold Pinter, OrhanPamuk, Doris Lessing, Herta Müller, Mario Vargas Llosa, Mo Yan, Alice Munro, Svetlana Alexievich, Bob Dylan, Olga Togarczuk, Louise Glück, Abdulrazk Gurnah, Annie Ernaux. In this class, we’ll have a chance to read (and sometimes to watch or listen to) a selection of novels, short stories, dramas, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction, and songs written by artists from Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East who have won the NobelPrize in Literature. Over the semester, we’ll follow the historical arc of modern world history, politics, and culture as represented in many of the most influential, popular, and celebrated works of world literature. We’ll reflect on the impact of two World Wars, the rise of fascism andcommunism, the Holocaust, the collapse of European and Asian colonial empires, the Cold War, the struggles for independence on the part of new nations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the collapse of the Soviet Union and therise of the American political and economic imperium, the emergence of the European Union and a new (highly controversial and contested) global culture. To be sure, we’ll also consider the many and various revolutions inliterary art that have characterized the modern age, from naturalism and realism to modernism, surrealism, expressionism, magical realism, and post-modernism.
READING ASSIGNMENTS: All readings will be in English or English translation (students who can will be encouraged to read works in the original languages). Readings are likely to include some selection of the following: poetry byYeats, Mistral, Eliot, Sachs, Neruda, Walcott, Miłosz, and Heaney; short fiction by Mann, Gide, Hesse, Faulkner,Lagerkvist, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Kawabata, Solzhenitsyn, García Marquez, Mahfouz, Gordimer, Morrison, Grass,Coetzee, Müller, Vargas Llosa, Mo, and Munro; drama by Pirandello, O’Neill, Sartre, Camus, Beckett, Soyinka, Gao, andPinter; essays, memoirs, and creative non-fiction by Singer, Canetti, Paz, Pamuk, Lessing, and Alexievich; songs by Dylan.
TERM PAPERS: Two short essays and one final research paper.
GRADE TO BE BASED ON: Essays and in-class participation. Attendance is mandatory. ADDITIONALINFORMATION/COMMENTS: This course will mix lectures with in-class discussion.
In this class, students will collaboratively write a "Shakespearean" play. Over the course of the semester, we will use the creation of a play to get as close as possible to Shakespeare's drama. Our aim will be to become first-class forgers,which will require us to become first-class scholars. Major areas of emphasis will include language and linguistic history, narrative and sources, theatrical companies, actors, and the possibilities of staging, and the arc of Shakespeare's career. In order to prepare, we will read plays by Shakespeare and examine his sources. We will alsoread a significant amount of scholarship both together and independently. This is a research-intensive class for students who are excited about delving as deeply as possible into Shakespeare's world and words.
Although America has often projected the image of a shimmering New World, there always has been a shadowrealm beneath the surface. This course concentrates on various tales of the supernatural (including the occult,mesmerism, mad science, ESP, body invasion, witchcraft) as well as the darkly psychological (suppressedmemories, traumatic dreamscapes) that run throughout American literary and cinematic history. While these narrativesreveal the spectral truths beyond everyday perception, they also unveil humans’ hidden natures, our persistent attractionto the mysterious and forbidden. With a concentration in the 19th century but stretching into the 20th and 21st, this coursefurthermore examines the historical conditions that produced these tales. With supplementary readings about earlyAmerican witchcraft, spiritualism, and psychology, the course grounds primary texts in a record of unsettling real-lifeoccurrences. Similarly, we explore how the American landscape offers distinctly fertile ground for such stories.Its history steeped in blood and sin, the United States remains forever haunted by the ghosts of its past and theuncertainties of its future.
The syllabus features stories by Edgar Allan Poe (“The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Ligeia”), Nathaniel Hawthorne (“Young Goodman Brown,” “The Birthmark”), Henry James (The Turn of the Screw), and Louisa May Alcott (Behind a Mask). It also includes several films (Sleepy Hollow, The Shining, and Get Out) and television shows(Twin Peaks). Evaluation is based on weekly response posts, two mid-length formal essays, and an oral presentation.Also, as this class is a discussion seminar, most of our time—and a sizeable percentage of the evaluation—will focus onclass participation. No prerequisites necessary. Counts for Area II requirement or elective.
African American literature is rooted in protest. The field’s foundational works respond to the institutions of Africanslavery and anti-black racism. Yet, even while emerging from a protest against slavery’s fundamental violence,African American literature celebrates the freedom and hope that come with resistance to oppression. This course willintroduce students to canonical African American literary works of the nineteenth century and the best ofcontemporary fiction and poetry that builds on these stories of protest and resistance.
Far from being conventional, nineteenth-century African American autobiographies, novels, and poetry pushed the boundaries of literary expression. Invoking ideas from the Age of Revolution, this literature challenged the United States to live up to its ideals of equality and freedom for all. It expanded the sense of what kinds of language counted as valuable by mixing dialect with the elevated diction of Romanticism and sentimentalism. Twentieth-century works of African American literature often directly revisit the themes and stories of these earlier texts about captivity and rebellion. Calling on contemporary literary developments like science fiction, magical realism, and cross-genre writing, this literature considers the long afterlives of racial slavery while cultivating practices of self-discovery and collective joy.
Texts will be drawn from the following:
19th century: Frederick Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom, Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave, Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig, and the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and Paul Laurence Dunbar. 20th/21st century: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Octavia Butler’s Parable of theSower, Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, Terrance Hayes’ American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin.
Where appropriate, the course will include film or television versions of these works.
Grades for the class will be based on participation in discussion, a reading log, two short analytic papers, and a finalproject that can take the form of a longer critical analysis or a research paper into an aspect of the course’s topics.
Beginning with some medieval ballads, this course will sample the shorter works (no epics!) of such classic writers as John Donne, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Tennyson, the Brownings, A. E. Housman,William Butler Yeats, Dylan Thomas, and Philip Larkin. From the American side of the ledger, we will, as time permits, draw upon such writers as Anne Bradstreet, Phillis Wheatley, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Edna St Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, and Allen Ginsberg. The coursealso figures to rescue some non-classic but very fine poems from undeserved oblivion.
Three hour exams (no 3-hour final exam) and a couple of papers.
The goal of the course is to deepen students’ engagement with the history and practice of poetic art in the twentieth and twenty first century. Reading assignments will be drawn from the canon of post WWII avant-guarde poetry and literary art. Lectures will provide an historical and cultural context for the works weare reading, and about the controversies and challenges that inform the poetics of the late nineteen forties to the present.The course proceeds from the premise that a deeply internalized command of literary history is critical to thedevelopment of any serious writer. Students will be expected to read closely, to acquire an overall grasp of modernismand its development into what is now called the postmodern, and above all to participate in discussions.
Further, students will be expected to investigate on their own initiative the texts towards which their own writing leadsthem. In class and out of class we will explore the possibilities for contemporary poetic practice suggested by earlierworks. We will look at a wide range of poems with attention to both how they are made and to the personal urgency thatmakes the poem more than an exercise, that creates surprise or sorrow or exhilaration in the reader. Our main focus will be on writing poems, or creating letter-based artworks, and on developing both a critical and a generous approach to each other’s work.
In this course we will build on the concepts outlined in “ENGL 221S – Introduction to the Writing of Fiction.” Now that you are familiar with the basic skills of fiction writing it is time to refine those techniques and dig more deeply into your own sources of inspiration. What are the abiding images that come up in your work over and over again? What craft techniques do you feel most strongly about? Where are your weaknesses? This is a generative course. We will draft lots of material and workshop, redraft and redefine the pieces you feel most passionate about. We will read both craft essays and literary examples each week as well as reading the work we create in class. Students will have theopportunity to workshop two full length pieces as well as many shorter weekly free writes. All types of fiction are welcomes in this class including but not limited to speculative, scifi, and fantasy.
In this class we will feel our way into late medieval life and worldview (1300-1500) through engagement with a wide selection of the period's most enduring writings. Texts may include the following: Dante’s early love poetry in La VitaNova ("the new life") as well as excerpts from the Divine Comedy; a selection of Arthurian legend, including Gawainand the Green Knight and Malory's "The Quest for the Holy Grail"; several of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; and finally,two of the period's mystical masterpieces, the Cloud of Unknowing and Julian of Norwich's Showings. Our primary aim is not critical distance but imaginative inhabitation: we will recruit all of our faculties toward what Hans Georg Gadamer dubbed a "fusion of horizons"—a merging of medieval and modern perspectives for the creation of a new frame of knowledge. To help us gain access to these writings—which may at first seem foreign—we will employ those modern authors best at illuminating what is crucial for today in medieval literature: Charles Williams, Caroline Walker Bynum, and Henri de Lubac will appear at key junctures. Even as we engage these influential interpreters we will seek, as a class, our own experience of this potent literary period—an experience which is, inGadamer's phrase, "written anew by every new present."
All texts save one will be read in modern english (unless a student wishes for a greater challenge, which will certainly be permitted). Together, we will work our way through one Canterbury Tale in the original Middle English. Noprevious experience is needed for this task, and you will be provided with all the help you need! Major assignments: two major papers of 2,000 words each.
Climate change, resource exhaustion, an increase in natural disasters, from tornados, hurricanes, floods to droughts, heat domes, earthquakes, and, of course, pandemics: these, we are told, are problems with “the environment.” We are living, it seems, in the Age of the Anthropocene, when humanity has become a geological force.
Racism, unprecedented poverty, inadequate health care, and urban blight in the midst of rising affluence: these, too, are problems with “the environment.” The world population has exceeded eight billion; we are putting increasing pressure on the planet, with dangerous consequences, as the covid pandemic has made so starkly clear. Social hierarchies and inequities, as we have seen over time, take their toll on every aspect of the planet; the natural and social worlds are fully integrated entities.
So, what is this “environment,” and why does this question matter, now more than ever? How might a betterunderstanding of how that term is circulating and being used help us move beyond our impasses and think productivelyabout how to live more justly, compassionately, and responsibly in our world? What can we learn from the stories wetell about the environment in fiction, film, and the mainstream media/journalism as well as in scientific, legal, andpolitical documents? How might we change that story, and with what consequences?
This class will address these questions by considering the global and the local, with special attention to the veryground on which Duke is standing: the Southern Piedmont, the city of Durham, the Duke campus, and the Duke Campus Farm. Beginning with early human settlement, when the earth began to get a human-natural history of its own, we will consider three historical moments — settlement; plantation culture and enslavement, and the ongoing struggles for Civil Rights from the late 1960s into the Environmental Justice and Environmental Health movements in the present—to show how science, law, and cultural forms (literary, cinematic, and scientific works, legal cases, policy documents, and news media) contribute to the changing idea of “the environment.” The class will include visits to Duke Forest and the Duke Campus Farm and a walking tour of downtown Durham.
We will trace the idea of the environment not only across time, but also across geographical space, as we consider how ideas take root locally, and also circulate through social, cultural, economic, legal, political, agricultural, academic, and other networks, reshaping the ever-changing relationship between the local and the global.
The computer running your spaceship has turned homicidal; you have crash landed on a planet run by talking apes. Yourlittle sister can read your mind; your future is revealed in the DNA sample taken moments after your birth. From spacetravel to time travel, from mind control to genetic manipulation, from aliens to sentient robots, no genre has more fullycaptured—and influenced-- the relationship between important scientific discoveries and profound geopolitical andsocial transformations than science fiction. It registers the anxieties and hopes, the terror and the anticipation thatcomes with scientific innovation and social change. This class will consider science fiction film from its rise in the1950s through the present. From its earliest years, science fiction film offered an important mode of engagingprofound social changes and of imagining ethical responses to them. In its depiction of the future or of other worldsentirely, it offered a template for rehearsing a variety of outcomes for contemporary dilemmas, from the culturalnegotiations of the multi-galactic crew of the starship Enterprise in Star Trek to the consequences of genetic determinismin the sterile world of Gattaca. And it staged explorations of human potential and limitations in the Atomic Age throughsuch scenarios as the discovery of alternate universes and mental dimensions, the implications of human evolution and thecreation of artificial intelligence, encounters with alien beings and worlds, and the ultimate unthinkable that was neverreally far from the human imagination: the consequences of full-scale nuclear war. Since its proliferation in the post-warperiod, this cinematic genre, with its fantastical settings, imaginative plotlines, and inventive special effects, hasdramatically registered collective responses to the radical scientific innovations and geopolitical transformations thathave characterized the second half of the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty-first and has forgednew mythologies for the contemporary world.
This class will be organized around the relationship between scientific innovation and social and geopoliticaltransformation: how, for example, the threats of nuclear war and the exhaustion of environmental resources, discoveries invirology and genetics, and the innovations in cybernetics and artificial intelligence all intersect with decolonization andglobal development, race relations, and new social and geopolitical configurations. We will explore how sciencefiction film registers and responds to the contours and uncertainties of a changing world: to the challenges to theconcept of human being and to the survival of the species. We will consider both how the films stage the dilemmasemerging from scientific and social change and how they posit responses to them. We will explore the cinematicinnovations, the social criticism, and the mythological imaginings of science fiction film.
If you have never binged on Madonna videos, especially those of the 1980s in the chronological order released as “The Immaculate Video Collection,” you have a treat in store: they play together as a coming-of-age and coming-into-power novel in the great American Romantic tradition but with a special twist—that of a Pagan-Catholic Girl Living in our Anti-Materialist Protestant World! A blast, then, from ageneration past or more, make-overs and face-overs in the interim notwithstanding.
How so? My plan is to consider Madonna’s storied radiance—including her troubling of Theory’s paranoic constructions and its left-right political mappings—in the context of the major art- trajectories upon which she consciously draws. The “break out” song-and-dance routines of American musical comedy turnout to be as wittily gender-bent (Monaco, The Wizard of Oz, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) as elsewhere they are campily exploitative (Gilda, Bye-Bye Birdie, Flower Drum Song) or darkly sophisticated (Monaco, Oklahoma, Rocky Horror). Madonna’s winking redeployments hail the consumingmale gaze, yes—as demystified by John Berger and Laura Mulvey, Hélène Cixous and Judith Butler. But theyalso comment upon and almost invariably redirect its sexism and hetero-presumption (women have always been hermajority consumers), generating “sexual personae” of pop-mythic stature that bring Camille Paglia’s gay opticsinto enfleshed performance—if not always, alas, complete clarity or total persuasion.
That the Divine Ms. Ciccone (whose own mother named her “Madonna”!) grew up in suburban Detroit meantimmersion as a youngster in the black popularizations of Motown and through them the Italianate renderings ofthe Jewish-composed classic American songbook realized on the ‘50’s Vegas stage: constellation of old-timeyinfluences that Madonna absorbed well before her sojourns in the black-latino discos of the Meat Packing District andthat would come to distinguish her aspirations and operations, for better and for worse, from her otherwise convergentgenius peers (lordly Prince, edgy Grace, self-immolating St. Michael). Next up, Lady Gaga?
We are not over yet: in a couple of surprisingly good actress-stints in fun films, Madonna brought first downtown gear of the naughty-nun variety (Desperately Seeking Susan) and then retro- Hollywood glam (Dick Tracy) into the mainstream—instantaneous fashion-force that troubled even the torch-bearers of power feminism, who had otherwise hailed her as their crown-goddess. In the meantime, the era’s most auteur directors responded both to her celebrations of cross-gender no- holds-barred femininity (at the height of the AIDS epidemic) and to her insistence on cross-racial identifications (in the immediate wake of the Howard Beach/Bensonhurst brutalities), with the theoreticians excitedly following suit, whether yeah or nay. For instrance, David Lynch’s Sedgwickian Blue Velvet (1986) outed a much more disturbing form of suburban female investment in the male homosexual underground than Madonna’s Vogue-ing; SpikeLee’s Do The Right Thing (1989) ignited an explosion in Italian-black Bensonhurst despite and partly because of its Madonna- esque carnival; and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), with its cine-sophistication, staged a doubled-over yet wickedly resurrectionist white-black male-bonding that outgunned even Madonna’s bi-race Rom-com celebrity antics (Dennis Rodman! then Tupac), in utterly Fiedler-esque fashion. How can getting this smart be this entertaining?
Paradoxically, when it comes to Madonna’s iconic art, the more we understand its detailed revisionism, the more expansive its relevance and indeed, the more compelling its ontologies. That goes, also paradoxically, for her strongest rivals, too.
This course examines language as a social practice, focusing on different aspects of its role in social life. Topics addressed in the course include: language and social identity, such as ethnicity, social class, age, and gender; variation in language, including dialects, accents, and registers; multilingualism and language contact; new languages such aspidgins and creoles; language, culture, and intercultural communication; language and ideology; language in education and in the media.
Through the discussion of these topics and homework including reading and small research projects, students are introduced to key concepts, theories, and methods in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology.
Advanced Writing Workshops build on the work done at the intermediate level, and are intended for the mostwell-prepared and gifted creative writing students. Pre-requisite: English 320S or consent of the instructor if prior workmerits admission to the class (as judged by the instructor).
Building on concepts outlined in “ENGL 221S – Introduction to the Writing of Fiction” and “ENGL 321S – Intermediate Fiction Workshop,” students will focus on producing excellent fiction for their next audience: shortstories/novellas/novel excerpts that glitter enough to catch the eye of an agent, a publisher, or an MFA committee.As we write and workshop, we’ll pursue a parallel study of the Science Fiction genre. How have writers like MargaretAtwood (Blind Assassin), Octavia Butler (the Patternist trilogy), and Ted Chiang (Stories of Your Life and Others) employed the conventions and tropes of Sci Fi to surprise and delight their readers? As we study and learn from the work of these authors, and as we hone our own writing, we seek to answer bigger questions: can the conventions of the Sci Fi genre (the conventions, for that matter, of any genre) serve not only as helpful reference points, but also as points of creative departure, for writers struggling with form and structure?
This is a course about genre and psychology in Victorian literature and in Victorian Studies. Its aims are literary,historical, and theoretical. We’ll be reading a range of Victorian novels that reflect the emergence of popular new genres in the last half of the nineteenth-century: detective fiction, sensation fiction, Victorian gothic, imperial romance.We’ll also read Victorian extra-literary writing about what the Victorians called “Science of Mind,” and scholarship in Victorian studies that focusses on the genres of gothic and sensation fiction.
What books to order: Charles Dickens, Bleak House, Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins, Armadale,Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret, Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla, H. Rider Haggard, She, Thomas Hardy,Tess of the D’Urbervilles. These are Victorian novels, so it means that
most of them are long and it will be much easier for you to navigate them in print. You might want to get started on the reading over the summer—Bleak House, Armadale, and Tess in particular take some time to read. (The othernovels are beachier, though!)
This course is also designed to help you develop your scholarly writing skills in two forms—the conference paper and thearticle-length graduate seminar paper. Depending on your individual needs and goals, you’ll choose one of two writingoptions: A) two separate 10 page conference papers, the first due before midsemester, the second at the end. You’ll writeabstracts for these papers before the full papers are due, and you’ll revise the first conference paper or B) one ten-page conference paper due before midsemester, to be expanded into a 20 page article-length paper that will be revised atleast once by the end of the course. There will also be some in-class presentation.
Advanced undergraduate English majors who are interested in learning how to write longer research papers--eitherbecause they think they might want to apply to graduate school, or because they want some independent research experience before they write distinction essays--are welcome in this class. This course carries R and W designations,which means that you need to be prepared for a heavy reading load, and a lot of writing.
“The South Got Something to Say”:
The Contemporary Black South in Literature & Popular Culture
This course explores contemporary representations of the Black US South in African
American literature and culture. While more than 90% of African Americans lived in the US South in the early 20th century, by the 1970s, more than 50% had fled the region, pushed by the persistent threat of anti-black violence and oppression and pulled by the promise of better socioeconomic opportunities in the US North, West, and Midwest. Following the legislative gains of the Civil Rights Movement and “northern” urban decline, however, the 1990s witnessed a reverse migration, such that more than 50% of black Americans now reside in the South again. This demographic shift has produced a cultural shift—a black southern renaissance, if you will, whereby contemporary artists and scholars are reimagining the region as a viable present and future for black Americans, even as they continue to grapple with its tortured past. Journeyingthrough rural Mississippi and the Carolinas to urban centers such as Atlanta, Memphis, New Orleans, and Houston, we will interrogate the geographic and cultural diversity of the contemporary Black South. We will read a range offiction (by Gayl Jones, Jesmyn Ward, Randall Kenan, Kiese Laymon, etc.) and scholarship (by Imani Perry, E. Patrick Johnson, L.H. Stallings, etc.) that grapples with the intricacies and contradictions of contemporary black southernidentity, not only in relation to whiteness, but the region’s fast-growing Latino population as well. We may also examine depictions of the region in media and pop culture, e.g., TV shows Atlanta and Queen Sugar; Hip Hop artistsOutKast and Big
Freedia; and experimental films such as Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
This course is a hybrid between an upper-level undergraduate seminar and a graduate seminar. The graduate discussion section (which will meet for one additional hour, once a week) will include a range of critical and theoretical works that cut across literary, cultural, media and performance studies,African American Studies, New Southern Studies, gender and sexuality studies, geography, anthropology, and sociology.
Versions of Charity and its Impediments:
Thomas Aquinas, William Langland, and Corpus Christi in the Later Middle Ages
In this course we will explore the theological virtue of Charity. We will study three medieval versions of charityand its impediments across widely different genres. As the title indicates, I want us to consider both the forms thisvirtue takes and the specific impediments each writer considers. This means we will be thinking about charity as aform of life in specific communities (church, polity, society) with their own impediments to the virtue, their ownhabitual sins. For both Aquinas and Langland, Charity shapes our understanding of sin’s effects on the individual personand the community. For both Aquinas and Langland, the Incarnation is the eminent and decisive expression ofGod’s Love. And so it is for the feast of Corpus Christi and its plays performed in medieval York.
We set out with the innovative, dazzling account of Charity offered by Aquinas in Summa Theologiae II-II.23–46. You should have read this BEFORE the first class. We will begin our exploration of Aquinas’s teaching byconsidering his “modi loquendi,” the way he leads us to understanding through a dialectical account ofarguments against the positions he favors. His modes of writing are inseparable from what he teaches, just as theyare for poets like Langland and the Corpus Christi plays. We will also need to think about what virtues, habits and vicesare in Aquinas's Summa and the place of the teaching on Charity within the whole work, especially in relation toFaith and Hope. We will certainly conclude our study of Aquinas by some consideration of Part III, the Life ofChrist and the Sacraments. You will want to read Aquinas in one of the parallel-text (Latin/English) editions.
From Aquinas we will jump over a hundred years to Langland’s great poem, Piers Plowman, in which the exploration of Charity (Deus Caritas, as Holy Church proclaims in Passus I) and the impediments to Charity are central. This is a demanding allegorical, dialectic, and visionary poem which I hope to introduce carefully to those unfamiliar with it, as well as introducing some of the differences between the contexts of Aquinas and Langland, writing in late 14th century England during the Great Schism. If you have not studied Middle English, read the poem in an excellent moderntranslation by George Economou, William Langland’s Piers Plowman: The C Version (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996, paperback). We will be studying the final version of the poem, known as the “C Version,” and this is edited in a superbly but simply annotated version by Derek Pearsall: Piers Plowman: A New Annotated Edition of the C-Text (2ndedition, Liverpool University Press/Exeter University Press, 2008, paperback). Even if you are reading the poem in Economou’s translation, you will find it well worth reading this alongside Pearsall’s edition because of its thorough “Introduction” and annotations. Langland’s Piers Plowman explores a very wide range of issues, showing the scope of charity in medieval Christianity: from “Deus Caritas” to vexed questions concerning almsgiving, mendicancy, and thetreatment of the working poor. Above all, the
poem is an extraordinary search for Charity: a contemplative, satirical, allegorical, and visionary search deploying Scripture and shaped by the liturgy from Passus XVIII.
We conclude the course with an exploration of Corpus Christi. Aquinas wrote the liturgy for this feast, and around it thelater Middle Ages developed a great festival which included performance of the cycle of plays organized andperformed by the laity, particularly urban guilds (hence “mystery” plays). We will read the York version of thesein a selection edited by Richard Beadle and Pamela King, York Mystery Plays: A Selection with Modernized Spelling (Oxford World Classics, paperback).
The best introductions to Aquinas for this course are probably the following: Mark Jordan, Teaching Bodies:Moral Formation in the Summa of Thomas Aquinas (Fordham University Press, 2016)—a superb example of howto read Aquinas's Summa, and much else; Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford UniversityPress, 1993). He also has published an excellent guide to the Summa Theologiae: Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae: A Guide and Commentary (Oxford University Press, 2014). I urge all participants in this seminar tohave read, before the first meeting, Eamon Duffy’s great book on “traditional religion” and its smashing in the English Reformation, The Stripping of the Altars—use either the 2nd edition with a new preface (Yale UniversityPress, 2005, paperback) or the celebratory 3rd edition recently published by Yale. For Langland, the best introduction toPiers Plowman remains an essay by Elizabeth Salter, “Piers Plowman: An Introduction,” chapter 5 in the collection of her essays entitled English and International: Studies in the Literature, Art,and Patronage of Medieval England (ed. Pearsall and Zeeman, 1988); together with Nicolette Zeeman, The Arts ofDisruption: Allegory in Piers Plowman (Oxford University Press, 2020). On Corpus Christi, alongside Duffy read MiriRubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1991) and especially the extremely fine book by Sarah Beckwith: Signifying God: Social Relations and Symbolic Act in the York Corpus Christi Plays (Chicago University Press, 2001).
A note on class format, expectations, and grading: This class is a seminar, so attendance and participation are mandatory. Laptops (and other electronic devices) are not to be used in class, except for approved assistivetechnologies. A seminar is a dialogic form of learning, very different to a lecture class. In my experience, laptops act as an impediment to the kinds of attention and communication I consider essential to a flourishing seminar. Also, since we will have more than enough to chew on already, please refrain from eating during class.
The grade will come from one essay of not more than 25 pages to be handed in during or before the final class.
This course is intended for graduate students who plan to research in some area of novel or narrative studies.(Advanced undergraduates writing honors theses on the novel may enroll with permission from instructors.)
This course examines a set of concepts that should provide access to 1) the modes of thinking that characterize novels across the modern period and several different national traditions, 2) the various ways that critical theory has defined those concepts, and 3) reading the novel as a concept- driven argument with other disciplinary discourses, including critical theory. Indeed, we have organized the course itself as such an argument.
This course begins by considering why a long and robust tradition of critical theory focused on the novel and its attempt tothink about the modern world in dialectical terms has encountered some kind of cultural-historical limit where it can nolonger do so. Yet novels continue to be written, taught in classrooms, and circulated for the pleasure and edification ofliterate populations. The uneven development of theory and fiction in this respect invites us to go back to the “fathers” of novel theory—Georg Lukács and Mikhail Bakhtin—and see whether they might have built in a shelf life forsubsequent theories based on those conceptual foundations.
The second half of the course will turn the tables on theory. Reading certain critical concepts through the lens of the novel, we want to consider whether novels have taken up the task of critical theory and how they ask us to modify our critical thinking accordingly.
- class participation,
- the facilitation of a seminar,
- and a written assignment of 12-15 pages.
In preparation for the course, we ask students to read 4 core texts that we will use throughout the semester:
- Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe,
- Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary,
- Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway,
- Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence.
The required critical readings are listed on the syllabus and, for the most part, available on line.
For the writing assignment, we have in mind a Vademecum of Critical Concepts to which each student will contribute a significant piece.
- This assignment takes it as given that the novel “thinks” with certain concepts — some of which dodouble duty as components of critical theory — and invites us to do the same.
- After spring break, the class will decide which concepts merit inclusion in this handbook, and eachmember will select one as the basis of his or her contribution to this project.
- This assignment will require students to provide a state-of-the-art definition of the concept as it operatesin critical theory and then select two or three novels that assess the relative advantages and limitations of thatconcept. How, if at all, do these novels require us to
correct or supplement critical theory’s formulation of that concept?
This course provides students with a concise historical and theoretical overview of university- based literary criticism,with the goal of enabling graduate students to better understand—and hence, situate their own projects within—thehistory of their discipline. We will focus on a number of key twentieth- and twenty-first century methodological orientations and movements, such as new criticism, structuralism, deconstruction, Foucauldian poststructuralism, feminism, postcolonial criticism, critical race studies, and possibly a few others, depending on the direction(s) in which our conversations go. We will also consider how these movements relate to both the changing structure ofthe university and to non-university publics across this period. This course does not aim to provide a snapshot of the fieldat the current moment; rather, it provides a history of the developments that have led to the current state of the field.