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    English 190ve. Voices of Environmental Justice

    Instructor: Sarah Dimick
    Monday & Wednesday, 3:00-4:15pm | Location: TBA

    This course considers the relationships between systems of human injustice and environmental issues—including industrial disasters, ocean acidification, and resource extraction. We examine environmental justice writing and artwork with a transnational, interconnected approach. For example, we ask how the Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa’s writing on oil pipelines in the Niger Delta anticipates Native American protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. We draw connections between a poem documenting silicosis in the lungs of West Virginian coal miners and a novel portraying the aftermath of the Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal. We compare a nonfiction account of Kenyan women resisting deforestation and an iPhone app reclaiming public access along the Malibu coast. We explore questions of voice, genre, and narrative, cataloguing the strategies writers and artists use to reach a global audience. 

    English 182bf. Black Science Fiction

    Instructor: Namwali Serpell
    Monday & Wednesday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA

    This course addresses two genres—black fiction and science fiction—at their point of intersection, which is sometimes called Afrofuturism. Our term “black fiction” includes texts that issue out of and speculate about the African-American experience. Our term “science fiction” comprises texts that speculate about alternative, cosmic, dystopian, utopian, and future worlds. Overlapping and mutually transforming concepts include: genetics, race, diaspora, miscegenation, double consciousness, technology, ecology, biology, language, history, futurity, space (inner and outer), and the alien. We will consider the short stories, novels, comics, film, television, and music of black science fiction.

    English 111. Epic: From Homer to Star Wars

    Instructor: Leah Whittington & Vidyan Ravinthiran
    Monday & Wednesday, 3:00-4:15pm | Location: TBD

    Epic is one of the most enduring and far-reaching forms of artistic expression. From the heroic poems of the ancient Near East to modern films of quest and adventure, epic speaks to the shared values and collective aspirations of cultures, peoples, and communities. But if it’s formal conventions and thematic interests endure, epic changes over time. In this course, you will study the historical and literary evolution of epic as it moves from oral verse into new genres and media, reading texts from the ancient Mediterranean alongside works of poetry, fiction, and cinema from early modern Britain, twentieth-century America, and the contemporary Global South. We will look at some texts in their entirety and others in extracts, focusing on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Derek Walcott’s Omeros, The Mahabharata (in prose and film versions), and George Lucas’ Star Wars, with detailed analysis of Gwendolyn Brooks’s American epics on Black life, Annie Allen and In the Mecca. If issues of identity, belonging, and community have always been explored in epic, what is the place of epic in a pluralist multi-culture? What are our contemporary epics today? 

    English 162bb. Broadway Bodies, or Representation of the Great White Way

    Instructor: Derek Miller
    Tuesday & Thursday, 10:30-11:45 am | Location: TBA

    To many of its fans, Hamilton poses a problem. How can a show that presents so many talented artists of color represent a white-washed American history? And how should we evaluate the show’s impact when sky-high ticket prices make it accessible primarily to a wealthy (read: white) audience? In its aspirational embrace of a multi-ethnic America and its failure fully to realize that promise, Hamiltonembodies the paradox of Broadway. This course examines that paradox since World War II, particularly as it pertains to multiple aspects of identity including race, gender, sexuality, and disability. We will examine how shows such as South Pacific, with its famous anti-racist anthem, or M. Butterfly, which explored the intersections of Orientalism, gender, and sex, temper their inclusive representations to appeal to wide commercial audience. Broadway is a particularly fertile ground for exploring these issues because theatrical performances always call attention to the performative nature of subjectivity: that is, who you are is a product of what you do. As we shall see, though, theatrical performatives risk being “infelicitous,” in the words of philosopher J.L. Austin: instead of affirming the subjects they represent, the performances can turn those subjects into mere theater. Our starting assumption is that many Broadway stake-holders genuinely desire broader representation in and for their work, but that the structure of the industry constrains how these shows challenge the status quo. To understand those constraints we will ask what stories Broadway tells, who sees them, and how they are marketed—while always attuned to “who tells your story.”

    English 173bl. The Black Lyric

    Instructor: Tracy K. Smith
    Thursday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: TBA

    African American poets have long embraced the private freedoms of the lyric poem—freedom to claim the authority of an uncontested first person “I”; freedom to wrangle language into new and startling forms; freedom to depart as needed from the strictures of linear reality. And yet, from its earliest iterations, African American poetry has also concerned itself with correcting and complicating the official narrative of Black life and Black subjectivity in America. This course will explore the means by which Black poets have innovated upon the lyric tradition to accommodate a sense of allegiance to a collective. In this tradition, the lyric poem has become a powerful tool with which to ponder the dynamics of self and other, intimate and political—and justice and injustice. Course readings will include work by seminal 20th Century American figures such as Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden and Lucille Clifton, as well as contemporary voices like Jericho Brown, Tyehimba Jess, Morgan Parker, Eve L. Ewing and others. We will also devote attention to lyric corollaries in film, music, visual art and performance. Students will be encouraged to respond to course themes and texts in both critical and creative form.

    Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Poets" requirement for the Class of 2022.

    English 90b. James / Baldwin

    Instructor: Jesse McCarthy
    Monday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    At first glance Henry James and James Baldwin may seem worlds apart. Yet these two enormously influential writers share much in common. Both are New Yorkers; both spent a good deal of their lives as expatriates; both are celebrated for their queerness, a feature of their style as much as their sexuality. Both were serious, moralizing, and passionate observers of the ‘American Scene’; both writers are deeply committed to investigating and exploring the privacy of consciousness and the currency of experience. Henry James was James Baldwin’s favorite writer. Colm Tóibín has called Baldwin, “the Henry James of Harlem.” What attracted Baldwin to James across their vast racial and class differences? What lessons about the art of fiction can we learn by reading each in the light of the other? Not only the Jamesian influence on Baldwin—but what Baldwin allows us to see might be missing or muted in James. We will think very closely about the subject that deeply occupied both of them: America. And what America means from perspectives acquired from outside of America, looking back in. We will also investigate the expression and communication of sexuality, gender, race, class, money, politics and taste alongside assorted criticism, reviews, and other essays of interest. 

    English 90wb. Women on Being, Belonging, and Constructing

    Instructor: Katie Daily
    Thursday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    The course aims to strengthen our understanding of the ways in which individuals creatively respond to immigration issues including diversity, equity, and justice in twenty-first century America. Through an intensive study of novels written by first- or second-generation American immigrant women, we will examine immigration’s evolution after the turn of the millennium and its relationships to power and inequity regarding questions of citizenship and belonging. Ericka Sánchez, Eristina Henríquez, Lisa Ko, Yaa Hyasi, Saher Alam, Shaila Abdullah, Chimamanda Ngozi, Adichie, Imbolo Mbue, Laila Lalami. 

    English Cbn. Creative Nonfiction: Before and Beyond the (Imaginary White) Reader

    Instructor: Joan Naviyuk Kane
    Thursday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

    Writers of literary, lyrical nonfiction negotiate complex power dynamics with their selves, communities, subjects, and readers. In this workshop we will conduct an intensive study of the craft techniques writing of creative nonfiction, focusing on the balance between the politicization of witness, descriptive detail, and narrative voice. Given that one of the great imaginative allures of lyric prose is that it can invent its audience as much as it can invent its speaker, how do writers of creative nonfiction contend with social context? What are the ways in which we can write and revise lyrically that can allow our work to depart from, evade and amplify the experiential in its collaborations with language, history, and place? We will do some generative exercises and workshopping (each writer will be workshopped at least twice per semester) as well as discussion, of course. Participants will generate drafts, revise new work, and investigate the fundamentals of the genre of creative nonfiction.

    Supplemental Application Information: Applicants are requested to submit 3-10 pages of prose (double-spaced), a 2-3 page cover letter in which they may address how long they’ve been writing seriously, what previous study they have done in literary arts, any additional experiences that seem relevant to their application, what type of direct criticism and revision they are seeking from a workshop, craft approaches they would like to know more about, and discussion of any other writers in which the writers’ craft and/or ways in which the writers’ work has served as a model for the applicant’s own literary ambitions.

    Apply via Submittable (deadline TBA)

    English 10. Literature Today

    Instructors: Kelly Rich & Teju Cole
    Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA
    Course website

    All literature was contemporary at some point, but the literature that is contemporary now provides special opportunities for enjoying, questioning, and understanding the world. Literature Today focuses on works written since 2000—since most of you were born. It explores how writers from around the world speak to and from their personal and cultural situations, addressing current problems of economic inequality, technological change, structural prejudice, and divisive politics. We will encounter a range of genres, media, and histories to study contemporary literature as a living, evolving system. The course uniquely blends literary study and creative writing—students will analyze literature and make literature. The conviction that these practices are complementary will inform our approach to readings and course assignments.

    Note: English 10 is one of the required Common Courses for the English concentrators in the Classes of 2023, 2024, and 2025. The course is designed as a “gateway” course for first and second year students, but it is open to all undergraduates.

    English 176tm. Toni Morrison

    Instructor: Namwali Serpell
    Monday & Wednesday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA
    Course Website

    This course is a survey of the work of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison from 1970 to 2012, including most of her novels, a few nonfiction essays, a short story, and a play. We will consider her literary antecedents; follow her influence on contemporaries and future writers; trace the social, historical, and political contexts and implications of her work; and explore the critical interventions she made in historiography and literary criticism. Throughout, we will focus on Morrison’s rich and complex aesthetic project: how it came into being; how it resonates with a great range of philosophical questions from epistemology to ethics; and how it changed over time.

    English 179h. The Harvard Novel

    Instructor: Beth Blum
    Tuesday & Thursday, 10:30-11:45am | Location: TBA
    Course Website

    This course introduces the genre of the “Harvard novel,” from W.E.B. Du Bois's notes toward his fictional work "A Fellow of Harvard" to Elif Batuman’s The Idiot and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, in order to examine Harvard’s cultural meaning and significance. It brings together novels (and films) where Harvard offers the narrative setting, supplies a character’s backstory, or even serves as a character in its own right. We will address themes of tradition, access, privilege, race, anxiety, competition, and canonicity.  

    English 181a. Introduction to Asian American Literature: What Is Asian American Literature?

    Instructor: Ju Yon Kim
    Tuesday & Thursday, 12:00-1:15pm | Location: TBA
    Course Website

    Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers (1974) was one of the earliest attempts to collect writings that were, to quote the editors, “exclusively Asian-American.” Yet as their lengthy—and controversial—explanation of the selection process makes clear, Asian American literature defies neat categorization. This course is both a survey of Asian American literature and an introduction to ongoing debates about what constitutes Asian American literature. We will study a variety of literary genres and ask how formal and stylistic conventions, as well as shifting sociohistorical circumstances, have shaped conceptions of Asian American literature.

    Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Migrations" requirement for the Class of 2022.

    English 197gr. Gender and Representation

    Instructor: Glenda Carpio
    Wednesday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: TBA
    Course Website

    Margaret Atwood is often asked if the The Handmaid’s Tale is a “feminist” novel. Her response: “If you mean an ideological tract in which all women are angels and/or so victimized they are incapable of moral choice, no. If you mean a novel in which women are human beings — with all the variety of character and behavior that implies — and are also interesting and important, and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure and plot of the book, then yes. In that sense, many books are ‘feminist.’” This course focuses on such feminist books. It explores issues of perspective: what happens when an author writes from the perspective of a woman? Since taking this perspective does not depend on biology, we will explore authors from a variety of backgrounds, especially those whose class, race, and/or ethnicity add another dimension. We’ll focus on contemporary Anglophone novels and drama.

    English 90wl. The Future of World Literature

    Instructor: Martin Puchner
    Tuesday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: TBA
    Course Website
    Enrollment: Limited to 15

    The course serves as an introduction to world literature and aims to ask big-picture questions: when and under what circumstances did written stories first emerge? How were they stored? And how will they be transmitted to the future?

    The first part is exploratory and is based on working with the Norton Anthology of World Literature. We’ll read widely across 4000 years of literature, and, using the Norton introductions and headnotes for guidance, assemble the big picture of literary evolution. Topics of discussion will include the dynamics of writing technologies from Mesopotamian clay tablet to the internet; the emergence of new genres; the increasing differentiation of literature into religious, historical, political, and fictional stories; and the changing marketplace of world literature. Readings include the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Analects of Confucius, the Arabian Nights, The Tale of Genji, the Popol Vuh, and the Epic of Sunjata.

    The second part is a laboratory. Working individually and in groups, we’ll devise strategies for preserving literature for the future. Which texts and types of literature should we select? How should we store them to assure their survival? And how can we communicate the significance of these texts to humans living in the distant future? This laboratory workshop will give us a chance to challenge existing canons and to envision the literature of the future. Readings and selections for the second part to be chosen by students.... Read more about English 90wl. The Future of World Literature

    English 184cf. City Fictions

    Instructor: Tara Menon
    Monday & Wednesday, 9:00-10:15am | Location: TBA
    Course Website

    Cities are composed of contradictions: playgrounds for the rich and sites of concentrated poverty, highly organised and totally chaotic, an endless party and the loneliest places on earth. How do we write about them? In this course, we will examine how a range of writers represent city life in four major metropolises: London, Bombay, New York, and Tokyo. We will focus primarily on one book set in each of these cities—Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, Teju Cole’s Open City, and Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station—and supplement our reading with short stories, journalism, sociology, and movies by writers including: Zadie Smith, Edith Wharton, James Baldwin, Katherine Boo, Spike Lee, and more. 

    What techniques do fiction writers, journalists, and filmmakers use to capture the constituent features of life in urban environments? How do these narratives represent social interactions? How do they depict interiority and consciousness? What kinds of characters are included in the field of vision? What kind of labour, if any, is represented? How, if at all, does the identity of the writer shape the stories they are telling? Other topics under consideration: class, race, gender, industrialisation, finance, greed, alienation, strangers, estrangement, economic inequality, cosmopolitanism, crime, immigration. 

    English 287ag. Black Literary Avant-Gardes: Graduate Seminar

    Instructor: Jesse McCarthy
    Thursday, 3:00-5:00pm
    Course Website
    ​​​​​​​Enrollment: Limited to 15

    In his classic manifesto “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” Langston Hughes declared that his generation of artists and poets—upstarts coming of age in the roaring twenties—was determined to build what he called “temples for tomorrow.” How should we read that phrase today? Recent debates in Black Studies and in African American Literature over temporality, periodization, affect, and antagonism, suggest that we may not have an adequate theory of the avant-garde, or at least we may need to update the one we inherit from Poggioli (1968). By revisiting the avant-garde, we renew a concept that touches on a wealth of topics of interest to contemporary theoretical and methodological debates: taste, politics, publics and counter-publics, signifying, archives, transnationalism, translation, incompleteness, failure, and the circulation and manipulation of new medias. There are also the classic questions: Who gets to decide what constitutes an "avant-garde" or avant-gardes? What is the relationship between avant-garde artistic movements and political or militant ones? This course will explore all of these themes comparatively, with readings drawn from poems, plays, novels, and films, and we will range widely across the African diaspora, without neglecting important formations in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America.... Read more about English 287ag. Black Literary Avant-Gardes: Graduate Seminar

    English 90ls. Literacy Stories

    Instructor: Deidre Lynch
    Thursday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: TBD
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    This course investigates literacy, literacy instruction, and literacy movements past and present, in theory and practice. Engaging with recent fictions and memoirs by authors such as Elena Ferrante and Ocean Vuong, with African-American slave narratives, laboring-class autobiographies, and other texts from the 19th century, and with materials from the history of alphabet books and children’s literature, “Literacy Stories” investigates the rich, ambivalent ways in which literature has depicted the literacy needed to consume it. Given under the auspices of the English Department and Harvard’s Mindich Program for Engaged Scholarship, “Literacy Stories” also involves collaborations with, and volunteer work for, various community organizations devoted to literacy advocacy and instruction.

    This class will give us the opportunity to reflect—something we’ll do in part by learning from our community partners about the many ways of relating to texts that flourish beyond campus—on the contradictory ways in which we value reading. We’ll consider, for example, the friction between solitary and social reading: how the pleasures of this activity lie sometimes with how it separates us from others and sometimes with how it connects us. We will be thinking about literacy’s long-standing association with individual self-determination and thinking about how that association is put into question whenever people’s reading matter gets weaponized as an instrument of their domination. Literacy, the literary and theoretical texts on the syllabus will alike remind us, has a politics. Learning to be literate often involves experiences of unequal power relations and exclusion. Reading with (rather than “to” or “at”) others is an ethical challenge—one that humanities concentrators especially ought to explore.

    The writing assignments you will do for “Literacy Stories” will join together academic analysis with personal narrative and social reflection. They will likely encompass regular short responses to the assigned texts, journal entries that reflect critically on what you have been learning from your volunteer work beyond Harvard, and interviews with literacy advocates and community organizers. The capstone project for the seminar will be a memoir—your own literacy story-- reflecting on your own memories of reading instruction and integrating those memories with your experiences in the community over the course of the semester.

    Note: this course can be credited toward the Graduate School Education’s secondary field in Educational Studies.

    ... Read more about English 90ls. Literacy Stories

    English Cajr. Investigations: Journalism and Social Justice: Workshop

    Instructor: Jill Abramson
    Wednesday, 3:00-5:45pm | Location: TBA
    Course Website
    Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

    This advanced seminar focuses on investigative reporting about social justice issues and cases. Readings will cover school resegregation, housing and homelessness, health care and economic inequities, among other subjects. Class members will learn how to use documents, transcripts and other materials in their reporting.

    The emphasis of the course is on investigative writing techniques, story ideas, voice and narrative framing.

    Students will be required to write two investigative articles, one involving a group reporting project and another on an original subject chosen by each student. There will be intermittent, shorter writing assignments. Grades are based on written work and class participation. Guest speakers will include many of the journalists whose articles are included in class reading assignments.

    Supplemental Application Information: The application should include a letter saying why the student wants to take the workshop, why writing and journalism interests them, and which websites, magazines, newspapers and other news sources they read. A writing sample is optional for this course application.

    Apply via Submittable (deadline: Sunday, August 22 at 11:59pm EST)

    English Cbn. Creative Nonfiction: Before and Beyond the (Imaginary White) Reader

    Instructor: Joan Naviyuk Kane
    Tuesday, 9:00-11:45am | Location: TBA
    Course Website
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    Writers of literary, lyrical nonfiction negotiate complex power dynamics with their selves, communities, subjects, and readers. In this workshop we will conduct an intensive study of the craft techniques writing of creative nonfiction, focusing on the balance between the politicization of witness, descriptive detail, and narrative voice. Given that one of the great imaginative allures of lyric prose is that it can invent its audience as much as it can invent its speaker, how do writers of creative nonfiction contend with social context? What are the ways in which we can write and revise lyrically that can allow our work to depart from, evade and amplify the experiential in its collaborations with language, history, and place? We will do some generative exercises and workshopping (each writer will be workshopped at least twice per semester) as well as discussion, of course. Participants will generate drafts, revise new work, and investigate the fundamentals of the genre of creative nonfiction.

    Supplemental Application Information: Applicants are requested to submit 3-10 pages of prose (double-spaced), a 2-3 page cover letter in which they may address how long they’ve been writing seriously, what previous study they have done in literary arts, any additional experiences that seem relevant to their application, what type of direct criticism and revision they are seeking from a workshop, craft approaches they would like to know more about, and discussion of any other writers in which the writers’ craft and/or ways in which the writers’ work has served as a model for the applicant’s own literary ambitions.

    Apply via Submittable (deadline: Sunday, August 22 at 11:59pm EST)

    ... Read more about English Cbn. Creative Nonfiction: Before and Beyond the (Imaginary White) Reader

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