Freshman Seminar 63n. Narrative Negotiations: How do Readers and Writers Decide

    Instructor: Homi Bhabha
    Wednesday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: TBA

    Narrative Negotiations explores narrative “voice” in a wide range of literary and cultural texts. Narrative voice is a lively dialogue between the author and the reader as they engage in the experience of determining the value and veracity of the narrative: whose story is it anyway? The writer creates the imaginative universe of character, plot, emotions and ideas—she seems to be holding all the cards; but it is the reader who rolls the dice as she draws on her human experience and moral values to question the principles and priorities of the storyteller. The game of narrative becomes deadly serious when storytelling confronts issues of colonialism, slavery, racial profiling and gender discrimination. Is the right to narrative restricted to those who have suffered the injustices of exclusion? What is my responsibility as a storyteller—or a reader—if I am a witness to violence, or an advocate against injustice, but my life-story is one of privilege, protection and security? What is the role of the politics of identity or cultural appropriation in determining whose story is it anyway? Throughout the seminar students will be encouraged to draw on their own histories, memories and literary experiences as the enter into the world of the prescribed readings. For the final assessment I hope students will choose critical and creative ways of telling their own stories, or the stories of others who have captured their imaginations. Seminar participants will be required to come to each class with two questions that pose issues or problems based on the texts that are important for them, and may prove to be significant for their colleagues. I will invite members of the group to pose their questions and start a discussion.

    English 91r. Supervised Reading and Research

    The Supervising Reading and Research tutorial is a type of student-driven independent study offering individual instruction in subjects of special interest that cannot be studied in regular courses. English 91r is supervised by a member of the English Department faculty.  It is a graded course and may not be taken more than twice, and only once for concentration credit. Students must submit a proposal and get approval from the faculty member with whom they wish to work.

    Proposed syllabi and faculty approval must be submitted and verified by the English Department Undergraduate Office by the Course Registration Deadline.

    English 99r. Senior Tutorial

    Supervised individual tutorial in an independent scholarly or critical subject.

    Students on the honors thesis track will register for English 99r in both the fall and spring terms. 

    English 210. Early Middle English Identitites

    Instructor: Daniel Donoghue
    Wednesday, 12:00-2:00pm | Location: TBA
    ​​​​​​​Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    This course investigates linguistic, individual, and national identities in early Middle English literature, and as such the course itself has multiple identities. On a basic level it is an introduction to the English vernacular of 1100 to 1300, a period of great flux without a “standard” such as the one that existed in late Old English (West Saxon) and the other that emerged at the end of the fourteenth century (London). Not only are there significant differences in dialect, but even within similar dialects orthographic conventions could vary from one scribe to the next. Because nearly every text has its linguistic idiosyncrasies, the end of many of our meetings will analyze the language of the text set for discussion the next week in order to make the week’s reading a little easier. The earlier and more challenging texts have facing-page translations. 

    This is also a period of great experimentation in genres, with some innovations that took hold and others that fizzled out, such as the verse chronicle of Lawman. Dame Sirith is the only surviving fabliau in English until Chaucer resurrected the genre. Is there anything later quite like The Owl and the Nightingale? Does Ormulum deserve the obscurity it has slipped into? Some genres like saints’ lives were inherited from Old English and with sources in Latin. Others like family romances arose in response to changing social conditions unique to the period. The “false starts” are often as interesting as the genres that continued.

    English 276lr. The New Negro Renaissance, 1895 - 1930

    Instructor: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
    TBA| Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    This course traces the history of the metaphor of a “New Negro” from its inception at the dawn of Jim Crow to the end of the New Negro Renaissance in the Great Depression. The period of Reconstruction (1865-1877), following the American Civil War, ushered in a “Second Founding” of the nation through the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, establishing birthright citizenship, due process and equal protection of the laws, and the right to vote for black male citizens. While revolutionary, the period of Reconstruction was also short-lived, and the long, violent roll-back against it, curiously known as the “Redemption,” witnessed the curtailing of these rights along with the rise and institutionalization of Jim Crow segregation in what one newspaper editor coined the “New South.”  A key aspect of Redemption was a propaganda war designed to debase the image of African Americans, and thereby justify the deprivation of their rights. Resisting it, African Americans, starting in the mid-1890s, employed the concept of a “New Negro” to combat racist images of an “Old Negro” fabricated by apologists for Jim Crow. The trope of a New Negro underwent several revisions between the 1890’s and 1920’s, when—in the midst of the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North—the Harvard-trained philosopher, Alain Locke, revised and appropriated the term  to describe a remarkable flowering of art and literature that he named “The New Negro Renaissance,” and which later would be labeled “The Harlem Renaissance.”

    English 280ql. Queer and Trans Literature and Criticism

    Instructor: Stephanie Burt
    Monday, 12:00-2:00pm| Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    Queer and trans literary writing now, its parallels and its precursors, from late medieval to the present day, along with useful ideas about it. Some history, some theory, but mostly queer and trans and queer-adjacent literature. Marlowe, Rochester, K. Phillips, Wilde, Rich, Baldwin; some primary texts determined by *your interests,* including less-often-studied genres and media such as graphic novels and YA.

    English 290mh. Migration and the Humanities

    Instructor: Homi Bhabha & Mariano Siskind
    Wednesday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    By focusing on literary narratives, cultural representations, and critical theories, this course explores ways in which issues related to migration create rich and complex interdisciplinary conversations. How do humanistic disciplines address these issues—human rights, cultural translation, global justice, security, citizenship, social discrimination, biopolitics—and what contributions do they make to the “home” disciplines of migration studies such as law, political science, and sociology? How do migration narratives compel us to revise our concepts of culture, polity, neighborliness, and community? We will explore diverse aspects of migration from existential, ethical, and philosophical perspectives while engaging with specific regional and political histories.

    English 294z. On Beauty

    Instructor: Elaine Scarry
    Thursday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    Philosophic and literary accounts of beauty from Greek through modern, including Plato, Aquinas, Dante, Kant, Keats, and Rilke. In addition, the major arguments against beauty; and its stability across four objects (gods, gardens, persons, and poems).

    English 298dh. Methods in Digital Humanities

    Instructor: Derek Miller
    TBA | Location: TBA
    Conference seminar course (open to both undergraduates and graduates)

    This course introduces practical skills in programming for the Digital Humanities (DH) while also investigating the theories and debates that continue to define that field. We will focus primarily on DH’s applications to research questions in the humanities rather than on any pedagogical or archival uses. The course is designed with a firm belief not in DH’s righteousness—indeed, we will devote considerable time to critiques of the field—but rather in the necessity of grappling with its ideas and practices in an informed manner. To that end, our exploration of DH methods will involve considerable work in computer programming (though you need have no prior knowledge of those skills). Our practical work with coding and with pre-fabricated digital tools will give us the tools to understand what happens to our thinking when we think about the humanities with computers.

    English 320. G1 Proseminar

    Instructor: Nicholas Watson
    Wednesday, 9:00-11:45am | Location: TBA

    The first-year proseminar (taken in the spring semester of the first year) introduces students to the theories, methods, and history of English as a discipline, and contemporary debates in English studies. The readings feature classic texts in all fields, drawn from the General Exam list. This first-year proseminar helps students prepare for the General Exam (taken at the beginning of their second year); it gives them a broad knowledge for teaching and writing outside their specialty; and it builds an intellectual and cultural community among first-year students.

    Note: This seminar is only for first year graduate students in the English Department.

    English 330. G2 Proseminar

    Instructor: John Stauffer
    TBA | Location: TBA

    This second-year proseminar has a two-part focus:  it introduces students to the craft of scholarly publishing by helping them revise a research paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal by the end of the course.  It thus gives students the tools to begin publishing early in their career.  It also introduces students to the growing array of alternative careers in the humanities by exposing them to the work of scholars who are leaders in fields such as editing, curating, and digital humanities.  

    Note: Open to English graduate students only. Prerequisite: For G2+ students

    English 189vg. Video Game Storytelling

    Instructor: Vidyan Ravinthiran
    Monday & Wednesday, 10:30-11:45 am | Location: TBA

    Although this course touches on blockbuster games—“ludo-narrative dissonance” and India’s role in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy; racism, satire, and the white-saviour narrative in the Far Cry franchise; Ayn Rand, US history and the illusion of gamer choice in Bioshock—it’s primarily concerned with indie titles which explore alternative forms of storytelling. More specifically, it’s about games pilloried—rather as free verse poetry is bashed as “just chopped up prose”—as mere “walking simulators”, in which there’s more exploration than action, more narrative than gameplay. These qualities have migrated into bigger titles like Death Stranding, as developers prioritize discovery over destruction, asking us to think differently about our relationship to game environments. We’ll examine the gendered deconstruction of horror-codes in Gone Home, and how the house-exploration theme plays out differently in What Remains of Edith Finch?; consider outsiderhood and English village life in Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture; the connection between pastoral and paranoia in Firewatch; and exploded conventions in The Stanley Parable. 

    English 192. Political Theatre and the Structure of Drama

    Instructor: Elaine Scarry
    Monday & Wednesday, 1:30-2:45 pm | Location: TBA

    The estranged, didactic, intellectual theatre of Brecht, and the ritualistic, emergency theatre of Artaud serve as reference points for a range of American, English, and Continental plays. The unique part played by "consent" in theatrical experience. Emphasis on the structural features of drama: establishing or violating the boundary between audience and stage; merging or separating actor and character; expanding or destroying language. Readings include Brecht, O'Neill, Artaud, Genet, Pirandello, and such earlier authors as Euripides and Shelley.

    English 195bd. The Dark Side of Big Data

    Instructor: Maria Dikcis
    Tuesday & Thursday, 10:30-11:45 am | Location: TBA

    Does it sometimes feel like Instagram ads are listening a little too closely to your conversations? Have you ever wondered if certain corporations might own images of your face? Today, fears abound that algorithms are not only populating our lives with annoying targeted advertisements but might also be creating the most unequal societies that have ever existed. In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will explore key methodological overlaps and differences between humanistic and scientific approaches to the phenomenon known as Big Data, or enormously large data sets that are analyzed by computer software to reveal patterns associated with human behavior and communications. In particular, we will focus our attention on the dark side of Big Data, which is increasingly embedded with harmful biases against women, people of color, immigrants, and low-socioeconomic status communities. Our inquires will thus concern a wide array of issues that stem from the misapplication of Big Data, such as data discrimination, biased artificial intelligence, search engines that reinforce racism, predictive policing, and surveillance capitalism, as well as how these issues intersect with race, class, gender, and citizenship. We will ground these discussions about contemporary theories of Big Data in engagements with a number of literary texts, films, and new media artworks. These cultural case studies range from a poetry collection exploring anti-Blackness and the carceral state, a documentary on social media data scandals, a glitch feminism manifesto, a memoir about working at an fulfillment center, queer video games, and robot love poems.... Read more about English 195bd. The Dark Side of Big Data

    Humanities 10b. A Humanities Colloquium: From Ralph Ellison to Homer

    Instructors: Stephen Greenblatt, Louis Menand, Jesse McCarthy, Beth Blum, Kathleen Coleman, Ambrogio Pistoja
    Tuesday, 10:30-11:45 am | Location: TBA

    2,500 years of essential works, taught by six professors. Humanities 10b will likely include works by Homer, Sappho, Sophocles, Virgil, Dante, Boccaccio, Montaigne, Austen, Du Bois and Joyce, along with the Book of Genesis. One 75-minute lecture plus a 75-minute discussion seminar led by the professors every week. Students will receive instruction in critical writing one hour a week, in writing labs and individual conferences. Students also have opportunities to participate in a range of cultural experiences, ranging from plays and musical events to museum and library collections.  

    Note: Humanities 10a and 10b will count as "Open Electives" for English concentrators. The course is open only to first-year students. Students who complete Humanities 10a meet the General Education distribution requirement for Arts & Humanities. Students who take both Humanities 10a and Humanities 10b fulfill the College Writing requirement. This is the only course outside of Expository Writing that satisfies the College Writing requirement. No auditors. The course may not be taken Pass/Fail.

    English 20. Literary Forms

    Instructor: Nicholas Watson
    Tuesday & Thursday, 12:00-1:15pm | Location: TBA

    Enrollment: Limited to 27 students

    This foundational course for English concentrators examines literary form and genre. We explore some of the many kinds of literature as they have changed over time, along with the shapes and forms that writers create, critics describe, and readers learn to recognize. The body of the course looks to the great literary types, or modes, such as epic, tragedy, and lyric, as well as to the workings of literary style in moments of historical change, producing the transformation, recycling, and sometimes the mocking of past forms. While each version of English 20 includes a different array of genres and texts from multiple periods, those texts will always include five major works from across literary history: Beowulf (epic), The Winter’s Tale (tragicomedy or romance), Persuasion (comic novel), The Souls of Black Folk (essays; expository prose), and Elizabeth Bishop’s poems (lyric). The course integrates creative writing with critical attention: assignments will take creative as well as expository and analytical forms.

    Note: English 20 is one of the required Common Courses for English concentrators and Secondaries and is a limited enrollment course which will prioritize sophomores and first-years; juniors and seniors who want to take it as an elective will be considered for any remaining spots. Enrollment priority exceptions may be made for people changing concentrations or presenting other notable reasons

    English 97. Sophomore Tutorial: Literary Methods

    Section 1 Instructor: Beth Blum
    Tuesday & Thursday, 12:00-1:15pm | Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    Section 2 Instructor: Anna Wilson
    Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students

    This course, taught in small groups and required for concentrators, introduces theories, interpretive frameworks, and central questions about literature and literary media. What do we do when we read? What is an author? What do we mean by “literature” itself? How might we compare and evaluate interpretations? How do the historical, social, cultural, and legal frameworks around a text shape its meanings and its effects? Combining major critical and theoretical writings with primary works, the course investigates how literary production and interpretation are informed by philosophical and aesthetic traditions, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, national and post-colonial identities, and the material forms in which literature circulates, from parchment books to the internet. Students will also practice fundamental literary research methods through close engagement with Harvard libraries.

    Note: English 97 is one of the required Common Courses for English concentrators and is open to sophomores and first-years planning to concentrate in English. Enrollment priority exceptions may be made for people changing concentrations or presenting other notable reasons.

    English 103g. Advanced Old English: Scribes and Manuscripts

    Instructor: Daniel Donoghue
    Monday & Wednesday, 10:30-11:45 am | Location: TBA

    Building on the basic grammar and translation skills learned in English 102, this course introduces students to Old English literature in its most immediate context: the manuscripts that preserve their earliest copies. The weekly task of translation will be supplemented by consistent attention to the manuscript contexts of Old English literature. The texts will include selections from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the OE Genesis with its illustrations, Exeter Book Riddles, Beowulf, and others. The instruction will guide students through basic principles of manuscript study. As a special event we will invite a professional calligrapher to instruct students—equipped with a goose quill!—on the traditional skill of calligraphy. At the end of the term, with the help of personal coaching, each student will edit and translate manuscript folios in a collaborative edition of an Old English text.

    Recommended Preparation: English 102.

    Students who complete both English 102 and 103 with honors grades will fulfill the College language requirement and the English Department’s Foreign Literature requirement.

    English CAFR. Advanced Fiction Workshop: Writing this Present Life

    Instructor: Claire Messud
    Thursday, 3:00-5:45 pm | Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

    Intended for students with prior fiction-writing and workshop experience, this course will concentrate on structure, execution and revision. Exploring various strands of contemporary and recent literary fiction – writers such as Karl Ove Knausgaard, Rachel Cusk, Chimamanda Adichie, Valeria Luiselli, etc – we will consider how fiction works in our present moment, with emphasis on a craft perspective. Each student will present to the class a published fiction that has influenced them. The course is primarily focused on the discussion of original student work, with the aim of improving both writerly skills and critical analysis. Revision is an important component of this class: students will workshop two stories and a revision of one of these.

    Supplemental Application Information: Please submit 3-5 pages of prose fiction, along with a substantive letter of introduction. I’d like to know why you’re interested in the course; what experience you’ve had writing, both in previous workshops and independently; what your literary goals and ambitions are. Please tell me about some of your favorite narratives – fiction, non-fiction, film, etc: why they move you, and what you learn from them.

    English CACW. Advanced Creative Writing Workshop

    Instructor: Paul Yoon
    Wednesday, 12:00-2:45 pm | Location: TBA
    Enrollment: Limited to 12 students

    Advanced fiction workshop for students who have already taken a workshop at Harvard. You will be responsible for participating in discussions on the assigned texts, the workshop, engaging with the work of your colleagues, and revise your work. The end goal will be to produce 2 short stories, or 2 chapters of a novel, to be submitted as your final portfolio.