Kant, "What Is Enlightenment?"; Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment; Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment; Foucault, "What Is Enlightenment?" Siskin and Warner, This Is Enlightenment; John Bender, Ends of Enlightenment. The questioning and examining began early and continues. We will consider some of these inquiries and will scrutinize some of what lies behind them. Designed as a survey of major texts from and about the long eighteenth century, the course will feature major philosophical texts and literary classics in prose and verse.
Post-Post-Structuralism: Resilience, Resistance, and the Return of the First Person Singular
What—dare we ask who?—comes after the “death of the subject”? The need for more robust human rights and environmental justice theories and practices demonstrates the need for a footing in something other than the post-structuralist, post-Enlightenment rejection of universals and the categorical proclamation of the death of the subject.
Anthropologist João Biehl contends: “What is outside biopower? Traversing worlds of risk and scarcity, constrained without being totally over-determined, people create small and fleeting spaces, through and beyond classifications and apparatuses of governance and control, in which to perform a kind of life bricolage with the limited choices and materials at hand (including being the subjects of rights and pharmaceutical treatments made available by state and non-state actors).” Biehl’s prize-winning Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment, is a study about a poet’s creativity—an “outsider artist”—emerging from a zone of abandonment and abjection. It counters facile theoretical classifications of such existence as “bare life” (Agamben): “Whether in social abandonment, addiction, or homelessness, life that no longer has any value for society is hardly synonymous with a life that no longer has any value for the person living it.”
Biehl’s work attests to what Michel de Certeau had earlier identified as the stubborn resilience and creativity of everyday practice, the arts of “making do” against the grain of the grid of modern discipline. This course examines emerging contemporary efforts toward the positive recovery of the generative possibilities of life and distributed agency without relapsing into a naïve existentialist heroic individualism on the one hand, or the determinism of impersonal structures on the other. To realistically accept what is given is not to legitimize it, but instead to engage it with critique and to enact satisfying microtopias rather than projecting utopias. The concept of “post-post-structuralism” is offered not as a unified theory, but rather as an aggregate of parallel attempts to overcome the disabling generalizations embedded in poststructuralist theorizing.
Breaking with the postmodern concept of subjectivity, contemporary phenomenology (Alfonso Lingis) offers one avenue of recuperating the force of the “first person singular” that is evident in individual experience, affect and ethical commitment. To overcome the sterile polarities (“nature”—“culture”) of the recent culture wars, sociologist of science Bruno Latour rethinks the dynamic networks operative between agents (both human and non-human) and our environment. Philosopher Jean-Luc Marion proposes what might be the most compelling answer to who comes after the “subject” in his analysis of “the given”—she to whom phenomena must be given if there are to be phenomena at all.
We will test our ideas in close readings of contemporary post-apocalyptic fiction that depicts survival, resilience and resistance after the destruction of mankind and all modern disciplinary regimes.
Required books will include:
Alfonso Lingis, The First Person Singular
João Biehl, Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment
Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life
Catherine Belsey, Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction
Margaret Atwood, Oryx &Crake
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Further shorter readings by: Bruno Latour; Jean-Luc Marion; Peter Sloterdijk; Nigel Thrift; Isabelle Stengers; Deleuze/Guattari; Pheng Cheah
Written Assignments: mock review of journal article and 15-page research paper
Catalog Description: A study of the major issues in literary criticism and theory since about 1965.
18th- and 19th-century England witnessed the unprecedented popularity of the aesthetics of the sublime (in its two primary incarnations: the Longinian and the Burkean sublime), as well as the emergence of the counter-aesthetics of the picturesque, which introduced the following important changes in sensibility and cultural practices: 1) an investment in the contemplation of landscape as a regular activity, requiring expertise in Italian, Dutch and British landscape painting; 2) a preference for nature in its rough, varied and intricate forms that led to a change in British garden design, from the formal garden to extensive gardens that imitated the look of a wild, uncultivated stretch of land; 3) the preference for Gothic over Greco-Roman architecture and for landscape painting over the traditional genres of historical and portrait painting; and 4) the obsession with ruins and dispossessed people, such as gypsies, beggars and rural workers, who are represented as figures of narcissistic self-sufficiency. In this course we will be especially interested in studying the interaction between the aesthetics of the sublime (with its focus on transcendence, the monumental, the terrifying and the heroic) and the aesthetics of the picturesque (with its preference for aged over young people, and destitutes over heroes). These features of the picturesque are expressive of the fear of monumentality and violence in this period of vast political and social upheaval (The French Revolution) and economic change (the agrarian revolution which changed the face of the English countryside). We will also explore the political implications of various aesthetic theories, wondering for example, why Richard Payne Knight ends a work which promotes the new ethos of the picturesque in landscape gardening with a defense against the charge that his “system of rural embellishment resembles the democratic tyranny of France.”
Readings for the course include selections from treatises on the picturesque (by William Gilpin, Uvedale Price and Richard Payne Knight) and on the sublime (Longinus, Edmund Burke, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schiller, and Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel), as well as representative works by British Romantic writers (Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley and William Wordsworth). The course will also focus on the study of Dutch, Italian, German and English landscape painters of the 17th- through the 19th-century, as well as the post-modern sublime, as defined by Slavoj Zizek, Philippe Lacou-Labarthe, Jean-Francois Lyotard and Theodor Adorno.
Secularization and evangelical religion are among the most crucial legacies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: 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 The 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, though American and European parallels will be unmistakable and frequent. Expect readings to range widely from nineteenth-century science to philosophy, fiction, and poetry.
The Newly Black Americans: Modern and Contemporary Black Immigrant Writing.
Much of the attention to American immigrant literature has tended to define the category of immigrant in ways that exclude black writers who have arrived in America from the early 20th century to the current moment. These are not marginal figures: they have had a major impact on American literature and cultural politics and have always been central to the various conversations and debates about race, racial formation, Diaspora, colonialism and assimilation. They have been, however, read through a lens shaped by American racial priorities and via critical techniques that reduce them to the privileged black/white binary that guides American racial discourse. Because the political priorities and aesthetic concerns of these writers are often quite distinct from what was and has become conventional or institutionalized notions of race, culture, or criticism, this class focuses on how these writers in fact challenge, complicate and update what has come to be known as “black” in America. Using a selection of American writers originally from the Caribbean, Europe, England or Africa our goal is to study their distinct perspectives and historical frameworks, which emerge from a unique position—in between (at least) two distinct Americas, one African-American and one white.
This course will introduce students to the foundational theories of visual
culture, thinking through the development of visual culture theory from the
frankfurt school, including the early semiotic applications, then on to british
cultural studies attempts to bridge frankfurt school neo-marxism and
structuralist semiotics, and later foucauldian-inflected analyses of
modernity's urge to scopophilic violence. In keeping with the ambitions of a
foundational course, we will explore the context-specific
implications of these investments by considering two 'test cases' along the
way: the WPA coverage of poverty and labor, and the abu ghraib photos/videos.
All readings will be in a course packet. students are required to help animate
class discussions, write a final conference-length paper, complete with
abstract-proposal and cover letter.
"Race, Capital, Intimacy: Epistemological Problems in American and Ethnic Studies"
This course examines the rise of intimacy as a crucial critical term for a variety of critiques currently being staged in American and Ethnic Studies. We will read across disciplines: historians, literary critics, psychoanalysts, queer scholars, etc. In addition to studying different methods for engaging with 'intimacy,' we will ask how these varying engagements critique or rework dominant ways of thinking about race and capital in American and Ethnic Studies. Primary texts will include films and novels.
Fashion and Modernism
"It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances." –Oscar Wilde
It is arguable that to be modern is to be in, or a, fashion. Perhaps as a result, from Baudelaire to Woolf, modernists have been invested in fashion. "Fashion and Modernism" examines some aspects in the constellation of English and European sartorial culture circa the mid-nineteenth century through the 1930s, with a few dips into America, and accessories. "Fashion" in this context means both clothing and style, and while a major motif of the course is the consumption of female fashion, we will also explore the history of the dandy, theories of ornamentation, emergent forms of urbanism, spatiality, and embodiment. Topics will include shopping/the rise of the department store; anti-ornament and anti-fashion; the flâneur/flâneuse; fashion of the historical avant-garde, and literary and visual archival instances foregrounding the fashion industry. Readings will range from the literary, the contextual, the theoretical, and the sociological(ish).
"F&M" is a reading-intensive seminar. Students will be responsible for one class presentation and a final paper employing some archival historical material from the modernist era, for instance culling from a period Vogue.
NOTE: Students are strongly urged to have taken at least one previous course in British, American, or European modernism. The methodology will be an historical one focused on the specified time period; this class does not deal with contemporary fashion. Prior to the first class, have (re)read Andreas Huyssen, "Mass Culture as Woman" from After the Great Divide, and make a dent in Zola's Au Bonheur des dames (The Ladies’ Paradise), in the Nelson translation. All readings will be in English.
"The Business of Strangers: Cultural Critique/Corporate Americas"
“They are the ones of our middle class who have left home, spiritually as well as physically,” wrote William H. Whyte in The Organization Man, his groundbreaking 1953 analysis of the effects of corporate culture on the American employee. “They are caregivers of corporations, which would be more satisfactory if corporations were not essentially balance sheets,” writes Roger Ebert in his 2011 review of the feature film The Company Men.
Who are “they”? How are they represented and received in the past, but particularly in the present, and especially in light of the Enron and BP scandals, the wild fluctuations of Wall Street, this seemingly-endless “Great Recession”? —What about these clerks and caregivers, interns, junior executives, and CEOs? What are their values and lifestyles and struggles as represented both by business disciplines dedicated to improving workplace productivity and by literary fiction and film reflecting the consequences of those business initiatives on the lives of American workers and the global society at large?
Those are the essential questions of this course, one that investigates the strange yet often intimate associations between U.S. business and literary cultures: the business of strangers. Seminar topics include the character of the “cultivated” corporate worker, from the strong individual to the merely dispossessed to the balance sheet statistic cast in settings and plot complications both real and imagined—the differences and similarities between Donald Trump as staged in The Apprentice and Donald Draper in the home and office theaters of Mad Men.
Course readings will vary in genre and historical period: from theoretical analyses of organizational governance posited by academic researchers, especially cultural critics, to assessment by insider business industry specialists. Thus we might apply both Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and business ethics professor Joseph Badaracco’s leadership principles in Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership through Literature to Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, The Scrivener” or Douglas Coupland’s “Microserfs.”
Along with these titles, other print and film texts will be drawn from the following list: Joel Bakan, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power; Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt; David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross; Daniel Orozco, “Orientation”; Walter Kirn, Up in the Air; Jason Bateman, Up in the Air; Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho; Mary Harron, American Psycho; Neil Labute, In the Company of Men; Patrick Stettner, The Business of Strangers; John Wells, The Company Men; David Frankel, The Devil Wears Prada; R. J. Cutler, The September Issue.
Texts and themes abound. We’ll sort through and review them in seminar discussions, short presentations and written analyses, the quarter concluding with your writing a final 10-12 pp. researched essay that lies within the scope of this course.
This course involves intensive study of the poems of Yeats and Eliot (as far as I know, the two greatest English language poets of the 20th century), and intensive reflection on the techniques of reading that we will be using. In recent decades, the notion of “the poem itself” has become deeply suspect; it is thought that there is no poem itself because poems are whatever interpretive schemas make of them; or else that there is no poem itself because the poem is transected by historical and political forces that pull it in diverse directions, and which were not under the control of the poet. The notion that interpretation should submit itself to the poem, rather than submitting the poem to it, is thought to be “formalism,” a dimly understood bogey that is thought to be based on naïve notions of various sorts, and to reflect reactionary political views. Usually “formalism” is identified with the New Criticism. This course will propose to you that this whole complex of ideas is confused and mistaken. The New Critics, for example, can be mistaken for formalists only by someone who has no idea what formalism is. The Russian Formalists, by contrast, really were formalists; unfortunately, hardly anyone talks about them. Strangely enough, their fundamental notion was not form but technique. They were not interested in the poem as “verbal icon,” but in the social reservoir of acquired and accumulated know-how into which poets are apprenticed, and the impersonal productive process by means of which poems are then crafted as verbal artifacts, on the basis of this know-how. We will read Yeats and Eliot using a sort of “neo-Russian Formalism.” I call it “techne theory.”
This course is both a seminar on the theory of literary translation and a workshop in which we will share, revise and refine our own translations?in?progress, working individually or in pairs. We will read and discuss major theoretical texts that make up the field of translation studies, including works by Walter Benjamin, Gayatri Spivak, Emily Apter and David Damrosch, together with essays on the practical and linguistic dimensions of translation by Robert Blye and André Lefevre, as well as personal reflections by two prominent contemporary translators, Edith Grossman and Gregory Rabassa. In our discussions, we will consider questions of translatability, fidelity, the hierarchical division between original texts and their translations, and the charged politics of translation. Throughout the semester, we will compare different translations of literary texts, in order to examine how each version works, and will discuss how translators make decisions on language, style, format, and cultural equivalency.
With regard to the practical dimension of the seminar, we will devote roughly equal time to practicing translations of poetry, fiction and personal essay. At the end of the term, each student will turn in a portfolio of these translation exercises (one each in poetry, fiction and personal essay), each finalized and accompanied by a critical translator’s introduction.
The prerequisites for this class include demonstrable fluency in reading literature in a language other than English. Please bring to the first class meeting three xerox copies of between two and four untranslated poems that you would like to translate.
Film: The Woman with the 5 Elephants (2009, dir. Vadim Jendreyko).
Edith Grossman. Why Translation Matters. New Haven: Yale UP, 2010, 160 pp, $10.18. ISBN-10: 0300171307
New Directions in Science Fiction
This is a course in recent science fiction, which is designed both for students with research interests in the genre and students interested in other critical topics that might be addressed through science-fictional works. We will begin by briefly reviewing the history of the genre and debates about how to define it, both by writers or editors and theorists like Darko Suvin. We will then proceed to a series of novels and stories that are representative of new movements within science fiction, including post-cyberpunk; posthuman or post-Singularity narratives; mundane SF; new baroque space opera; new wave fabulism (or “evaporating genres”); the New Weird; and steampunk. But we will also be doing readings that are representative of the genre’s dialogue with critical conversations on the status of race and the history of colonialism; on feminism, sexuality, and biopolitics; on environmentalism and ecocriticism; on post-9/11 surveillance technologies and the politics of homeland security; on the possibilities of artificial intelligence and its cultural significance (a case study in the relation between science and science fiction); and on techniques of self-modification, bodyhacking, and cognitive manipulation. The readings will include at least one sequence of poems (Lai), and we will pay some attention to visual culture, especially film, but possibly including some television and graphic novels. Assignments will include an option to write two shorter papers or one longer, final paper, with the possibility of doing an independent study to expand it into a longer research project.
We will read the following works:
Nalo Hopkinson, Report from Planet Midnight
Larissa Lai, Automaton Biographies
Ted Chiang, The Lifecycle of Software Objects (available online)
Ian McDonald, Cyberabad Days (selections)
Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl
Hannu Rajaniemi, The Quantum Thief
Cory Doctorow, Little Brother
Gwyneth Jones, Life
Sean Wallace, ed., The Mammoth Book of Steampunk (selections)
Additional short stories by writers including Nnedi Okorafor, Bruce Sterling, Alastair
Reynolds, Kelly Link, China Mieville, and Nisi Shawl; and critical essays
This course is an introduction to some of the major approaches to studying oral and written texts. We will examine and practice various analytic perspectives, including conversation analysis, corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis, genre theory and analysis, pragmatics/speech act theory, sociocultural theory, and interactional sociolinguistics. We will apply these approaches to a variety of (con)texts; possibilities include the mass media and popular culture, "naturally occurring" conversation, institutional settings, classroom interaction, legal and policy documents, and other texts of special interest to seminar members. We expect students from a range of disciplinary perspectives. What unites us will not be the questions we ask (although we will systematically engage issues of power) so much as where and how we look to answer them: in discourse and its analysis. Our goals are threefold: 1. to acquaint students with approaches to and research in discourse analysis; 2. to provide a forum for evaluating this work; 3. to provide students opportunities to engage discourse analytic methods in relation to those texts/sites/questions of consequence to them.
The story of English tells of the dramatic changes to the English language over the past 1200 years – from an inconsequential offshoot of west Germanic spoken on a little island off of the North Sea to an international language spoken by nearly one and a half billion people. This journey carried the language from Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons – nearly unrecognizeable to 21st-century speakers of English – to the many varieties of English in the 21st century world. The journey is a literary one, documenting the changes in the language of texts. It is historical, presenting harrowing narratives of conquest and subjection, wars and treaties. But most of all, it is a story of people – peasants and kings, dictionary writers and illiterate apprentices, pilgrims and immigrants, CEOs and surfers – the individuals whose communicative needs shaped the changing English tongue.
We will study the stages in the development of English (Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English and present-day Englishes) to consider changes in the sound and construction of the language. The goal of this course is to create proficiency in the phonological, syntactic, morphological, sociolinguistic and pragmatic evolution of English. No previous experience with language study or linguistics is required. Students will be encouraged to apply the material to their own areas of interest, since English language history provides useful tools for cultural studies, literary historical studies, colonial and post-colonial studies, language studies, and the teaching of writing.
This credit/noncredit course aims to extend student teachers¢ understanding of the technical, personal, and practical elements involved in effective language teaching by bringing together multiple tools. These include regular classroom practice scaffolded by a master teacher, observations of veteran teachers, journaling, observations of peers, reflective inquiry, self-evaluation, group support in regular seminars, videotaped microteaching, analytical lesson reports, and peer evaluation.
One of the four required core courses in the Graduate Textual Studies Program, this seminar offers an introduction to bibliographical resources for the study of printing as an art and as a means of textual transmission; a practical view of hand and machine press printing; introductory surveys of analytic and descriptive bibliography, of the history of the book and book production, and of current textual theories; as well as practical experience in editing printed texts.
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