The rise of the individual may be dated from the publication of Jacob Burckhardt’s influential study of the Italian Renaissance in 1860. A close reading of Burckhardt’s individual, who would later evolve into the modern “subject,” provides the opening gamut in our own review of contemporary literary theory as an enterprise with distinctly ethical implications. Ethics without subjectivity is, in the modern context, unthinkable. But so is subjectivity without ethics. A brief encounter with Machiavelli is convincing on this point. The moral depravity of Machiavelli’s prince is only recognizable because we reasonably expect something more from our leaders, a sentiment that Burckhardt clearly shared.
In a purely literary context, the questions are modified somewhat, but the underlying issues are largely the same. Taking as our point of departure the Aristotelian emphasis on “action,” we will explore our interest in knowing “what happens next” in any literary text as a symptom of our engagement with that text as an ethical act. The question of what happens next, by definition, imputes to the actor motivations, desires, feelings, in effect, an imagined subjectivity, whether that actor is a character in a novel, an on-stage personality, or our next-door neighbor. The fluid movement between reality and the imagination in this respect highlights the representational nature of the subject, the fact that a representation of the subject is finally all there is.
To theorize the subject—which, as we shall see, is the essential goal of much of contemporary literary theory—is necessarily to create a paradigm for understanding the limits of the subject’s ability to act. From psychoanalytical theories, to Marxism, Structuralism, and finally post-Structuralism, “theory” has had a powerful influence on our understanding of subjective self-determination, or to put it perhaps more crudely, on our concept of freedom.
Freedom is a precondition of ethical action. Thus, in the same way that theory constrains the subject’s freedom, it also inevitably complicates the idea of ethical action. There is, in this sense, no one ethical subject, but rather a variety of ethical consequences that may be said to arise out of the modern discovery—or invention—of subjectivity. To explore the range of these ethical predicaments will be the main focus of this class.
A seminar reading of two great novelists of the English eighteenth century. The vivid fictional “histories” Richardson and Fielding produced between 1740 and 1750 made those years the most brilliant and decisive decade in the history of the English novel. All this began with Richardson’s strangely ridiculous but compelling story of Pamela, which in turn called forth Fielding’s rude burlesque Shamela and then Joseph Andrews. The same pattern of collaborative antagonism and rivalry appeared in 1747 with Richardson’s great work Clarissa, followed then by Fielding’s Tom Jones. And there is our reading: a lot!—but I have a plan for covering the texts part of the time slowly and intensively, part of the time faster and more swimmingly. We read the whole of the amazing Clarissa: a serious undertaking but a powerfully absorbing experience once you surrender to it, like being abducted by aliens. We will give due consideration also to the critical topic of the so-called rise of the novel, as understood both then and now. Some points of emphasis from the social and cultural period history will be sex, marriage, class relations, and law. No background in the period literature assumed. Please feel free to get in touch with me for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The birth of modern secularization and the explosion of modern evangelical religion are among the most crucial legacies of the nineteenth century: their consequences for modern culture cannot easily be overstated. This course will explore the literary and cultural implications of nineteenth-century religious conflict, focusing chiefly upon the period surrounding Darwin's Origin of Species. We will investigate a surprising new scholarly consensus about the relative vigor of nineteenth-century religion. And we will consider a newly-emerging model of secularization best expressed by the philosopher Charles Taylor, who writes of secularization as a condition of modern life that helps to constitute modern selfhood and that (at least historically) brings about both the destabilization and recomposition of religious forms. Readings will be drawn chiefly from a British context, but American and European parallels will be unmistakable and frequent. Expect readings to range widely from nineteenth-century science (Chambers, Darwin) to philosophy (Carlyle, Emerson, James), fiction (George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Olive Schreiner), and poetry (Barrett Browning, Tennyson).
Naturalism and the Human Animal
This class focuses on “naturalism” as a literary category and critical fiction in order to explore the relation between science, law, and literary form. Naturalism is often associated with a specific mode of French realism, taken up and amended to suit American interests in an era of complex social, economic, and political transformations at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. This approach takes naturalism as a historical category, a mode of writing associated with social Darwinism, the rejection of middle-class realism, and the embrace of fixed “laws” governing human conduct. Naturalists such as Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, and Theodore Dreiser have been understood to resist particular ideologies of American realism and embrace modes of representation targeting the working poor and subaltern classes as exemplary subjects of social meaning. But subsequent critical approaches to these modes of representation have challenged the binary of realism and naturalism, gleaning complex relations between machine and animal, production and reproduction, object and subject across the fictions of this period.
This class will use the rubric of “naturalism” to inquire into emerging representations of the human-as-animal in this period, touching on debates about nationalism, imperialism, and nature that transect journalist, legal, and literary writings, as well as debates about the human animal that carry us forward well into the twentieth century. While our primary readings will focus on the late 19th/early 20th century, our discussions will open up questions of methodology useful to students of modern and contemporary literature. Critics treated in this class raise questions about how to read political economy in relation to literary form, the way in which markets and machines are treated in new modes of print capitalism, and the radical resignification of race and gender in the shift from status to contract. Our reading will include a range of critics, as well as literary texts from the following list of authors: Henry James, Charles Chesnutt, William Dean Howells, Frank Norris, Jack London, Stephen Crane, Kate Chopin, Theodore Dreiser, David Graham Phillips, Abraham Cahan, Edith Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, Sherwood Anderson, Jean Toomer, John Dos Passos, Nella Larsen, and Djuna Barnes.
In Queer Times: Race, Sexuality and Citizenship
This seminar focuses on three eras of modern and late modern US history that exemplify what I am calling “queer times.” Nineteenth century (social) scientists introduced these odd temporalities as “arrested development,” “atavism,” degeneration,” “regression,” and, most significantly, “atavism”: that is a person, population, culture, object, or event that is deemed to be chronologically out of place. Insofar as anachronism was used to designate the survival of “primitivism” alongside of or within “civilized” nations or the persistence of “infantilism” within adults, it did little more than bundle the previous temporalities under a single name. However, anachronism was also, if less frequently, employed to signify the emergence of the future perfect conditional within the present and to code that emergence as vital to organic development—an index of normal life
These queer temporalities enter the American lexicon in the late-nineteenth century when they are taken up by biological and social scientists, medical practitioners, public officials, fiction writers, film-makers, journalists, and others. They are employed to figure both the devolution of the nation and its future perfection, to reinforce normative constructions of racial and sexual difference and to contest them. At stake in these texts is the question of self-governance and with it not only the rights and responsibilities of citizenship but the fate of US democracy.
Novels offer a complex vantage point on these queer times. I may add additional novel, but at present the required ones are: Frank Norris’ McTeague (1899); Charles Chestnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition (1902); James Baldwin’s Another Country; and Lawrence Chua’s Gold by the Inch. A course packet situates these literary works in historical and critical contexts. Engaged participation in seminar discussions, 8 page-length critical responses to assigned readings and a final 8-10 page paper are required.
This course does four things: orient the student with an overview of British modernism circa 1900-1930; provide a general background for modernity torqued toward aesthetics; engage some current critical conversations in the field of literary modernism; and allow focus on the work of particular authors.
The class is loosely organized around two heuristic rubrics, minds and matter: we will engage the topoi of embodiment and materiality, with particular attention to the status of mind or mindedness on the one hand and the modernist object on the other. Along the way the student will get a grip on the historical avant-gardes of Vorticism and Imagism—that's history—and some sense of how to do research in periodical studies, arguably one of the major legacies we have from the era—that's methodology and history.
Texts include prose (Conrad's The Secret Agent; Ford's Good Soldier, West's The Return of the Soldier; a story by Woolf), poetry (Loy, Pound, Eliot), essays and manifestos. We will regularly consult the Cambridge Introduction to Modernism (available in paperback), by the incessantly lucid Pericles Lewis.
Students will write a 1,000 word book review of a critical monograph published 2008-10; and a 20 page final research paper.
Suggested pre-class reading: A canter through Levenson's The Genealogy of Modernism for theory and Ekstein's Rites of Spring for event would be appropriate break reading. Too, check out The Modernist Journals Project online—try Blast under "journals": http://dl.lib.brown.edu:8081/exist/mjp/index.xml.
*This course is cross-listed with BCULST 587, and takes place on the UW Bothell Campus
This course explores differences, similarities, and intersections among diverse forms of writings about selves and subjectivities: diary, chronicle, memoir, witnessing, autobiography, and autoethnography. We will take up the double-sided issue of representation (as democratic value and as presentational means), so important to the writing of selves and subjectivities in their relationship to larger social and cultural orders. While autobiography is a recognizable genre within literary studies with its own (changing) canon of texts, and critical exegesis, autoethnography is a touted form within cultural studies. We will ask how these two related ventures speak to each other, what they might learn from each other, and how they are engaged in different kinds of projects. Among the texts we will consider at some length are Rigoberta Menchu's, I, Rigoberta Menchu; Carol Rambo's autoethnographies; Marguerite Duras's fictional and autobiographical exposes; Susan Howe's documentary pieces, and Renee Gladman's minimalistic fictions. Both Rambo and Gladman have been invited to UWB to read and discuss their work during the course of winter quarter. Students will have an opportunity of studying and presenting an autobiographical work of their choice and will be asked to write an autobiographical or autoethnographic piece.
The Political Thought of Frantz Fanon
Caribbean psychiatrist and revolutionary Frantz Fanon was one of the 20th century’s foremost anti-colonial theorists. His mid-century writing addresses many of the issues that concern late 20th -century postcolonial studies, including racial subject-formation, the semantics of colonial space, the relation between aesthetic culture and national liberation, the function of capitalism in colonialism and vice versa, the uses and abuses of nationalism, the dynamics of gender in decolonization, the role of intellectuals and cosmopolitans in political movements, the cultural and material operations of neo-colonialism, and the socially transformative potential of sonic and visual technology. This course focuses on Fanon’s major posthumous works: /The Wretched of the Earth/, /A Dying Colonialism/, and Toward the African Revolution. We situate these works in the anti-colonial context of their production, and through rigorous close reading work towards a fuller understanding of Fanon’s political vision. We additionally consider a variety of ways that intellectuals have applied and debated his thought.
Moving at the rate of approximately one author per week, we will examine five pairings of a famous philosophical text with (mostly) roughly contemporaneous literary writing. The aim will be to discern how the paired texts confront similar issues and thus how the philosophical texts which we read first (even when they were written later) provide approaches to understanding the literary texts. "Approaches" is the operative term, rather than "keys," because divergences in stance are as likely as convergences. After all, if there were complete correspondence, we wouldn't need to read both. Voltaire's Candide responds explicitly to Leibniz's Monadology; he is the only figure on the anticipated syllabus who had read the author with whom he is paired.
The obvious aim of this course will be to see what light philosophical readings, categories, and approaches may shed on the understanding and interpretation of literary works in various genres and from various periods. Secondarily, it will explore the "literary," rhetorical and affective dimensions of philosophical texts. Thirdly, the sequence of crucial philosophical texts can be regarded as a mini-survey of one line of development of philosophical thinking over the last four centuries; to that end, we will spend some time comparing the philosophers with one another.
The probable line-up is: Descartes's Discourse on Method with Hamlet; Monadology with Candide; Kant's Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysic with Wordsworth poems; Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals with George Eliot's Silas Marner; Heidegger's Origin of the Work of Art with Wallace Stevens poems. Students who can should read the French and German texts in the original (French for Leibniz).
Students will write a 5000-word essay on a pertinent topic, starting early in the quarter and with feedback in stages. You should decide in advance on the authors for your term paper.
Neo-sophistry and the Materiality of Rhetoric in Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
This course is a primer in rhetorical theory that provides a brief overview of the history of (Western) rhetoric and introduces various key rhetorical concepts, traditions, and debates within contemporary rhetorical theory. We will begin by reading primary rhetorical texts beginning in the classical period and ending in the early modern period, before moving into contemporary rhetorical theory post-1960s.
There are three main threads that we will consider as we work through these readings:
First, throughout the course, we will trace key debates that have shaped public attitudes towards rhetoric and have affected rhetoric’s prominence and role in education. Thus, in addition to learning about individual rhetors and discrete theories, we will strive to trace the “through lines” that appear cyclically throughout the history of rhetoric. In what political climates is rhetoric valued or held suspect? Under what circumstances is rhetoric seen as constitutive of truth, rather than as mere rhetoric that either distracts us from the truth or simply delivers it in a prettier package? What is the relationship between rhetorical training and citizen formation in difference historical periods? And so on.
Second, we will consider the usefulness of studying rhetoric (both historically and in this present moment). How and why might one study rhetoric and rhetorical force? What does it mean to analyze texts, discourses, social phenomenon, and material practices from a rhetorical perspective? What exactly is a rhetorical lens, anyway, and what is the value of thinking rhetorically? How might we best approach the teaching of rhetoric? I am also interested in our thinking about rhetorical theories quite literally as tools that enable certain kinds of vision and lines of sights—that lend us various ways of seeing (and not seeing, of course).
Third, our discipline is currently intellectually centered in what Victor Vitanza has called the third sophistic and what Bruce McComiskey has identified as the reign of neo-sophistry. Preoccupied with social epistemic rhetorical theories and pedagogies that emphasize the situatedness of truth, neo-sophistry has flourished in tandem with poststructuralism and postmodern sensibilities. As part of our foray into contemporary rhetorical theory, we will linger on this sophistic moment. What are the underlying philosophical commitments of neo-sophism? What are the limitations and liabilities of these commitments? Within the context of a neo-sophistic framework, the materiality of rhetoric (how it is embodied and enacted in various times and social spaces through everyday practices, ordinary genres, institutions, and so on) becomes paramount. But what exact is the materiality of rhetoric and how does one theorize and study it? Given our commitments to situated knowledge, how can we theorize an accompanying situated ethics? In short, we will collectively try to map the critical edges of neo-sophistic rhetoric (i.e. this social epistemic moment), call out shortcomings, consider what our lenses enable us to see and not see, and identify possible directions for research.
Texts under consideration:
Barilli, Renato, Rhetoric
Biesecker, Barbara and John Lucaites, Eds. Rhetoric, Materiality, and Politics
Bizzell, Patricia and Bruce Herzberg, Eds. The Rhetorical Tradition
Crowley, Sharon and Debra Hawhee, Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students
Jaratt, Susan, Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured
Hawhee, Debra Moving Bodies: Kenneth Burke at the Edges of Language
McComiskey, Bruce, Gorgias and the New Sophistic Rhetoric
Murphy, James and Richard A. Katula. A Synoptic History of Classical Rhetoric
Selzer, Jack and Sharon Crowley, Eds. Rhetorical Bodies
And a course pack of readings
English 570 is a credit/no credit course in which students sharpen their understanding of the technical, interpersonal, and practical elements involved in effective ESOL teaching. The course involves regular observations of ESOL classes, daily language teaching, weekly observation of other language classrooms, microteaching, seminar discussion, and written projects. No required texts. This Practicum is only open to MAT(ESOL) students; the Fall Practicum is only open to TAs.
This course provides an overview of perspectives on TESOL methodology in a “post-method era.” We will survey major issues in the field and examine current practices, with an emphasis on bridging theory, research, and practice. We will critique, develop, and adapt instructional materials for a wide variety of contexts and students.
This course aims to familiarize students with representative research
methods in the fields of applied linguistics and TESOL, examining
epistemologies, strengths, and weaknesses of various approaches. Students
will read and critique selected research in second language acquisition. In
addition they will draw on knowledge generated in the context of the class
to conduct a small piece of original research.
Creative Writer as Critical Reader: We'll be very closely reading individual poems (most in the original, some in translation), with an eye to the architectonic effects of their rhetorical and syntactical patterns in English.. Individual poem texts to be distributed. Your contributions to your grade? Two critical essays, faithful attendance at classes, and a degree of literary talent (over the latter item you have little control; over the former two items, much.)
This is an intensive prose workshop: fiction, of course, but writers in other forms, like the essay, or “life writing”, or narrative non-fiction, are equally welcome to sign up. The primary point of focus will be on student writing, but there is one touchstone book, which everyone will be expected to have read by our first meeting: Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, in whatever translation you find most congenial.
During the course, we’ll discuss aspects of the novel in great detail, and from a point of view more “writerly” than that of conventional academic criticism. We’ll follow Flaubert from his first conception of the book, through the difficulties he faced while writing it, to his realization of one of the great acknowledged masterpieces of modern fiction. To this end, it’s expected of students that they will also have read Flaubert’s letters to Louise Colet during his composition of Madame Bovary. These are collected in The Letters of Gustave Flaubert 1830-1857, edited and translated by Francis Steegmuller, and published by the Belknap Press of Harvard U.P., 1979. (Both this book, and translations of the novel, are readily and cheaply available via the internet on sites like AddAll, http://used.addall.co.)
I should add that Madame Bovary is notoriously hard to translate well, and I can’t recommend any particular translation wholeheartedly, but those by Margaret Mauldon (for the Oxford World’s Classics series), Gerard Hopkins (for an earlier edition of the Oxford World’s Classics), and Francis Steegmuller (Vintage Books) are generally well thought of. Try to avoid the earliest, and still most widely available translation, by Eleanor Marx Aveling (Karl Marx’s daughter). For our first class meeting, you are invited to ponder the question of why the first word in the novel is what it is—to which any intelligent answer will require a familiarity with the entirety of the book.
During the quarter, students will be expected to produce around 30-50 pages of writing, and to discuss each other’s work with the same attention to detail that we shall be devoting to Flaubert.
This seminar is one the four core courses developed by the campus-wide Textual Studies Program. Course credit will count toward the Textual Studies Ph. D. track in all participating departments and may count toward the Critical Theory concentration in Comparative Literature. This course is open to all graduate students and advanced undergraduates. Students completing this course will develop basic skills of literary scholarship (the use of literary archives; aspects of physical bibliography and the printing and production of books; scholarly editing; manuscript-based textual criticism) which will be of help for other courses.
The goal of this course is to challenge the assumption that textual theory and practice occupy a domain separate from literary theory and criticism, and from other disciplines such as art history, architecture, music or film studies. Confronting this territorial fallacy, the course will show that developments in contemporary theory have influenced, and at times radically altered, the direction of textual studies; and conversely, that textual scholars have often anticipated and conceptualized the speculations of theorists in intellectually provocative ways. The first part of the course will familiarize students with major theories of textual criticism and editorial traditions that address the concepts of authorship and authorial intention; the distinction between document, text, work and the physical book; "ideal" texts and transcendental hermeneutics; the relationship of biographical and sociological contexts to texts, and of creators to producers of literature; and the functions of readerships. It will also document contemporary controversies in textual editing (such as the challenge posed by Jerome McGann to established canons of editing), as well as debates about the editing of particular texts in Renaissance (especially Shakespeare), romantic (especially Keats and Mary Shelley) and modern literature (especially Joyce's Ulysses). Students completing this course will learn to scrutinize the texts they are using and develop awareness of the editorial and cultural ideologies that inform them.
The second part of the course will explore the relevance of textual theory to the study of paintings and film adaptations of literary works, focusing on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The course will involve the participation of librarians, editors and visiting faculty who will spend ample time with students in seminars, public lectures and social occasions. Visitors include the avant-garde textual scholar Randall McLeod from the University of Toronto and former UW graduate student Susan Green, currently editor of the Huntington Library Quarterly and Director of the Huntington Library Press. Assignments will include a final paper on one of the following topics: an essay on a particular aspect of textual theory; a critical edition reading text (with editorial rationale) of a poem or short story; a review of an existing edition and of controversies surrounding it; the history, transmission and alteration of a given literary or artistic work.
Dimensions of Terror(ism): Apocalypse, History, Rhetoric, Aesthetics
It may be regressive or even weird, but there are those for whom regeneration depends upon some innate embrace of ordained disaster, as if Apocalypse were in our souls. And if you don’t believe in the soul, or that soul, there are evangelicals, jihadists, and suicide bombers who apparently do, ready to bring about what the holy books have declared, or after the collapsing towers, what seemed written in the dust at Ground Zero, this “disturbing premise: namely, that the world as we know it is coming to an end in the very near future.” That prospect was formulated, after 9/11, in a Jungian study of divine vengeance and terrorism, as if updating the Qu’ran or the Book of Revelation. You may be Freudian instead of Jungian, or indifferent to psychoanalysis, or so entirely secular and unmythic, that all symbolism of the world’s end is meaningless or hysterical, and yet it’s hard to read a newspaper, watch TV, see aliens in the movies, or even play video games, without some pulsation of ultimate terror, while actual forms of terrorism spread with globalization.
With conspiracy theories too, the charges have been reversed, about who really caused 9/11. Was it really al-Qaeda or was the Bush administration complicit, as with the lies about Iraq? There are now books about that, like The Terror Conspiracy. Still, vanity of vanities, the war on terror proceeds, and while we hear of insurgencies there, there’s still anxiety here, which may be deflected now by debates over health care, deficits, or the bailing out of banks. But even for the liberal left, homeland security would be the top priority again, if (or is it when?), instead of the Empire State Building, the Space Needle were toppled by an explosion in Seattle, while a bomb went off in a baby carriage in a shopping mall in Idaho, coordinated with a car bombing off in North Dakota. Meanwhile, since that egregious day in New York, and its hypermediated images, there has been an unceasing discourse on terror and terrorism, from every theoretical, historical, or socio/political perspective, with studies of its origins, its rhetoric, and attention to the aesthetic—the most scandalous of which, perhaps, was the observation by the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, that the planes crashing into the World Trade Center produced the greatest work of art that has ever been.
Whatever you think of that—and there are those who saw it and felt the same—there will be other disturbing issues in the various books we’ll be reading, which are not literary in the usual sense, but from the provocative library accumulating, non-fiction works on the facet-planes of terror. As we read, however, we might keep in mind, say, Conrad’s The Secret Agent, the first novel on a suicide bomber, or Dostoyevsky’s Demons, or Don DeLillo’s Falling Man. We’ve not only had a copious array of novels on our dreadful theme, but the drama has been haunted by it since Euripides’ The Bacchae, though Karl Kraus tried to bring it to an end with The Last Days of Mankind. By now, apocalypse may be some literary dementia or, like Beckett’s Endgame, “finished, nearly finished,” some fatal inheritance of once-sacred wishful thinking. In any case, the immanence of terror(ism) inhabits our thought, even when repressed or displaced, and the seminar will risk engaging with it—including the historical irony that terrorists, from Menachem Begin to Nelson Mandela, may become liberators, though the liberator in power may also become a dictator.
Seminar presentations and a final essay may, in relation to the books assigned, draw upon novels, drama, and poetry as well.
Sinclair, Andrew. An Anatomy of Terror: A History of Terrorism. Macmillan, 2004. [0 330 49260 8]
Borrodori, Giovanni. Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialagues with Jurgen Habermas & Jaques Derrida. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2003. [0 226 06666 5]
Dudziak, Marl L. (ed.). September 11 in History. Duke Univ. Press, 2003. [0 8223 3242 6]
Giroux, Henry A. Beyond the Spectacle of Terrorism. Paradigm, 2006. [1 5945 240 X]
Negrin, Howard E. & Perry, Marvin (eds.). The Theory & Practice of Islamic Terrorism. Palgrave/Macmillan, 2008. [0 230 60864 7]
Redfield, Marc. The Rhetoric of Terror. Fordham Univ. Press, 2009. [978 0 8232 3124]
Simon, Joshua & Sloane, Manon. The Aesthetics of Terror. Charta Bks. Ltd. 2009. [978 88 8158 727]
Baudrillard, Jean. The Spirit of Terrorism. Verso, 2002. [1 85984 448 0]
Douglas, William A. & Zulaika, Joseba. Terror & Taboo: The Follies, Fables, and Faces of Terrorism. Routledge, 1996. [0 415 91759 X]
Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. Columbia Univ. Press, 2006.
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