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.
Enrollment: Each section is limited to 12 students
Open by application to both undergraduates and graduates. Class lasts 3 hours and includes the study of poetic practice in conjunction with the discussion of student work.
Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a portfolio including a letter of interest, ten poems, and a list of classes (taken at Harvard or elsewhere) that seem to have bearing on your enterprise.
Instructor: Homi Bhabha & Mariano Siskind Wednesday, 3:00-5:00pm 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.
Instructor: Russ Rymer Thursday, 3:00-5:45pm Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
This is a seminar in creative nonfiction writing that will take science and the environment as its subject matter. Students will research and write a series of magazine-style articles about science or scientists, intended for a general readership. Along the way, they will hone their interviewing and research skills and expressive capabilities, while contending with issues of factual accuracy, creative license, authority, and responsibility, along with the basic tenets of longform nonfiction. Ultimately students will explore the ways that hard science and subjective prose are interrelated forms. No prior experience with science is required.
Instructor: Kelly Rich Wednesday, 12:45-2:45pm | 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
This course is a survey of the work of the literary theorist Roland Barthes. We will read a selection of his eclectic, rangy, and influential writing, alongside responses to it by authors from Derrida to Sontag to Eugenides. We will use this corpus of writing to explore crucial currents in theory, criticism, and fiction from the sixties to today, including authorship, reader response, phenomenology, structuralism and its aftermaths, cultural studies, queer studies, media studies, affect theory, postcritique, and the theory novel.
Instructor: Sam Marks Tuesday, 12:00-2:45pm Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
This workshop is a continued exploration of writing for the stage, with an eye towards presentation. The semester will culminate in a staged reading of each student's work for the Harvard Playwrights Festival. Each reading will be directed by a professional director. Students will be encouraged to excavate their own voice in playwriting and learn from the final presentation. The class will examine the design of the stage, the playworld, and the page. Students will attempt multiple narrative strategies and dialogue techniques. They will bolster their craft of playwriting through generating short scripts and a completed one act. Readings will include significant contributors to the theatrical form such as Caryl Churchill and Samuel Beckett as well as contemporary dramatists such as Annie Baker, Jackie Sibbles Drury, Branden Jacobs Jenkins, and Jeremy O. Harris.
Supplemental Application Information: Prior experience in writing the dramatic form is strongly encouraged. Please submit a 5-10 page writing sample (preferably a play or screenplay, but all genres are acceptable). Also, please write a few sentences about a significant theatrical experience (a play read or seen) and how it affected you.
Comics and graphic novels, or sequential art, are one of the world’s great storytelling media: we’re going to learn how to read them, how to talk about how they get made and how they work, how to understand—and how to enjoy— some of the kinds of comics and graphic novels (that is, some of the genres) that make up the history of this medium in the modern English-speaking world. That history has three strands, which cross and re-cross, but which need to be understood independently, and we will see all three: short-form strip comics, designed for newspapers beginning in the 1890s and now flourishing on the Web; action-adventure and superhero comics, invented in the late 1930s, transformed in the 1960s and again in the 1980s, usually created by teams, and important to popular culture today; and a third strand beginning with “underground” or “alternative” comics or comix (with an x) in the 1960s and evolving into long form graphic novels, often created by single writer-artists, today. That history comes with visual references, which you will learn to recognize; comics also comes with its own set of theoretical terms, which you’ll learn to use. Comics today share a medium (pictures and usually words in sequence) but belong to several genres: we’ll learn how to talk about them, and how they’ve evolved.You’ll get the chance to make comics, and to figure out how creators collaborate, advocate, distribute, and sometimes even earn a living from the comics they make, but the course will focus on existing comics, from McCay to Bechdel, from Kirby to Ms. Marvel— as events in culture and as works of art.
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.
Junior Tutorial Preference Forms will be sent to students the week of 7/6/21. Junior English Concentrators interested in enrolling in English 98r should complete this form or be in touch with Lauren Bimmler.
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.
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 in the Classes of 2023, 2024, and 2025 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.
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?
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.”
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.
Instructor: Ju Yon Kim Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA
This course will examine horror—defined expansively to include the uncanny, the abject, the monstrous, and the ghostly—in American literature, considering its formal and aesthetic implications and its relationship to major cultural and social issues. What are the methods and theories that critics have used to study horror in literature? How and to what effect have works of American literature used horror to reflect on contemporary social concerns or to depict historical events? We will explore a range of literary works from the nineteenth century to the present next to critical and theoretical studies of horror and the Gothic.
Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Migrations" requirement for the Class of 2022 and was formerly offered as English 60a. Migrations: American Horrors.
Instructor: Philip Fisher Monday & Wednesday, 10:30-11:45am | Location: TBA
A survey of the 20th-century novel, its forms, patterns of ideas, techniques, cultural context, rivalry with film and radio, short story, and fact. Wharton, Age of Innocence; Cather, My Antonia; Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms and stories; Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury and stories; Ellison, Invisible Man; Nabokov, Lolita; Robinson, Housekeeping; Salinger, Catcher in the Rye and stories; Ha Jin, Waiting; Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station. Stories by James, London, Anderson, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Gaitskill, Wallace, Beattie, Lahiri, and Ford.