This seminar will explore the history and philosophy of prison with particular reference to the role of literature and art in rehabilitation and decarceration. We will study plays, poetry, and performances that depict incarceration, as well as works written and developed by incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals. We will discuss the efficacy of prison arts programming and explore themes of justice, racism, and identity as they relate to incarceration across a diverse set of texts from sociology, performance studies, autobiography, and psychology. Authors include Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander, Anna Deavere Smith, Michel Foucault, Suzan-Lori Parks, Samuel Beckett, Rena Fraden, Naomi Wallace, George Jackson, and others.
Instructor: Marc Shell Day & Time: TBD | Location: TBD
How has literature influenced the rhetoric and philosophy of disability? This seminar considers literary and cinematic works that focus on the body (deafness, blindness, and paralysis), the mind (madness and trauma), and language (muteness, stuttering, and dyslexia). Special attention to the disabling and enabling aftermaths of pandemics and to the effects of modern prostheses. Readings include chapters from the King James Bible and works by Brecht, Hitchcock, Keller, Martineau, Milton, Morrison, Shakespeare, Shaw, and Trumbo.
What is the status of memory in contemporary Asian American literature? We explore how remembrance and forgetting, both individual and collective, help constitute panethnic Asian America as an imagined community. What conflicts of memory are inherited from legacies of war, exclusion, and migration? How does memory inform responses to present injustices and the ways people narrate the past and imagine the future? Other topics: form; affect; multimedia memory; memory as work or labor; mourning and history; memorialization and monuments. Novels, short stories, graphic narratives, and poetry may include works by: Cathy Park Hong, Jhumpa Lahiri, Aimee Phan, Yiyun Li, Ocean Vuong, Mira Jacob, Gene Leung, Mohsin Hamid, Viet Thanh Nguyen, among others.
This seminar looks at the expanding range of genres, forms and strategies pursued by modern and contemporary authors who want to represent LGBTQ+- lives, communities, bodies and selves; poems and performances, novels and stories, YA (young adult) fiction and science fiction, memoirs and graphic novels, will all be represented, along with a light frame of what's usually called queer theory and some points of comparison, or contrast, from earlier centuries. Bechdel, Audre Lorde, O'Hara, Whitman, Walden, and many others.
For students who have a reading knowledge of Old English, this seminar will build upon that competence and offer new directions to pursue. How do we define a riddle? What’s the difference between it and other kinds of enigmatic discourse? The genre of riddles opens up questions concerning the relation between language and reality, human perception, and the construction of meaning.
The material of this course consists of the following exceptionally rich late medieval and early modern Trojan materials: Chaucer’s House of Fame; Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde; Lydgate’s Troy Book (Book 2); Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid; and Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. We will be guided into these materials by the inter-related topics listed in the course title. Wherever possible and appropriate, we will absorb the publication conditions and media of these texts and/or performances.
Major poets and poems from T.S. Eliot and Marianne Moore almost to the present day: we may also read, among others, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Lorine Niedecker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Bernadette Mayer, J F Herrera, James Merrill, C. D. Wright, and Terrance Hayes. Appropriate both for students who know some of these poets well, and for those relatively new to the study of poems.
Instructor: Homi Bhabha Day & Time: TBD | Location: TBD
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.
What deepens your grasp of Old English grammar, improves your translation skills, and ends with a creative project? At times child’s play, at times deadly earnest (think of Oedipus and the Sphinx), enigmatic puzzles have fascinated us for many centuries. They were particularly prolific in the earliest literature in English, including over ninety poetic riddles in the Exeter Book. We will translate a number of such riddles, read many more in translation, and speculate on the philosophical questions they raise about language and meaning. The semester will end with a creative project. Prerequisite: one term of Old English.
This course focuses on Milton’s most famous work, Paradise Lost, the greatest long poem in English and the only successful classical epic in the modern world. Milton went totally blind in his forties and composed Paradise Lost by reciting verses to anyone available to take them down, like the blind prophets and poets of legend. Yet the questions he...
Instructor: James Wood Day & Time: TBD | Location: TBD
In this class, we will examine novels and short stories published since 1945 in Britain and the United States. Though certain themes naturally emerge -- belonging and not belonging; immigration and emigration; estrangement, race and post-colonial politics; liberalism and the importance of "noticing" others; the role of realism and the various postmodern movements in reaction to realism -- the primary emphasis is on learning how to read slowly, and learning how to enjoy, appreciate and properly judge a living, contemporary literature.
What does is it mean to be, or feel as, a woman? This course will survey major female authors from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries who ask these questions in their novels, plays, and essays. In our lectures, we will move through literary explorations of womanhood in Modernism, to Expressionism, the Feminist movements, and on to contemporary questions of trauma, reproductive rights, love, activism, sexuality and gender identity, race, sexual exploitation and abuse, camaraderie, unity, and comedy. Authors include Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Djuna Barnes, Sally Rooney, Alice Birch, Elena Ferrante, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Final assignment will be a creative project of your own design based on course themes and materials.
This course introduces students to the poetry, literary prose, and artful correspondence of one of the major poets of the twentieth century, considering her innovations in all these genres. We will look at her writing in multiple genres alongside the mid-century shift from ‘closed’ to ‘open’ verse forms, and relate stylistic issues to the intellectual and social changes, and political and historical developments of the period. Bishop’s critique of received ideas about nationality, race, power, gender, sexual orientation, and the overlap between culture and nature, is connected with her status as a cosmopolitan poet with links to Canada, the U.S. and Brazil. ‘Others’ refers both to how her writing comes to terms with the (sociopolitical) reality of other people, and to the comparisons we’ll draw between her writing and that of other poets.
Close readings of major 20th-century writers in the context of cultural history. (I) From the Harlem Renaissance to the Federal Writers' Project: Alain Locke, Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, Jessie Fauset, George Schuyler, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright. (II) From World War II to the present: Ralph Ellison, Ann Petry, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, Ishmael Reed, Charles Johnson, Rita Dove, Colson Whitehead, Paul Beatty.
When Aldwyn Roberts, famed Trinidadian calypsonian “Lord Kitchener,” landed in England, he commemorated the event by singing “London Is the Place for Me,” a song celebrating the beauty and hospitality of his “Mother Country.” Roberts was a passenger onthe ship Empire Windrush, whose 1948 arrival from the West Indies signaled a new era of migration to the UK from its colonies, many of which would gain independence over the next fifty years. But was Britain the place for them? As many discovered, making a home there was a fraught process, fueled by long-existing structures of racial prejudice that continue and evolve to this day.
This course explores the cultural politics of British identity after 1945: a period whose social and political upheavals both radically redefine and conservatively re-entrench “British” as a category of analysis. From the 1958 Notting Hill race riots to current-day Brexit, national belonging has always been a complex and contested process, one that fuels myriad forms of desire and alienation. During our time together, we will ask: how do artists and theorists engage with problems of inequality, histories of empire and migration, politics of race, sexuality, and class, and practices of community-building? How do they respond to these aspects of modern social life, as well as re-imagine what that sociality might look like? We will approach these questions by focusing on Black and Asian British literatures—including works by authors Buchi Emecheta, Bernadine Evaristo, Jackie Kay, Hanif Kureishi, Andrea Levy, Daljit Nagra, Caryl Phillips, Salman Rushdie, Sam Selvon, Kamila Shamsie, Warsan Shire, and Zadie Smith—as well as selections from the fields of postcolonial, feminist, and cultural studies.
What challenges and opportunities arise for artists and writers working under dire conditions—martial, political, medical, and natural states of emergency? To what extent are such exceptional conditions the rule (as Walter Benjamin proposed)? Co-taught by Stephen Greenblatt (English) and Joseph Leo Koerner (History of Art), this course...
Instructor: Elisa New Day & Time: TBD | Location: TBD
This fall, over 500 high juniors and seniors and teachers from Title One high schools across the country (from New York City, LA, San Diego, Flint, Pontiac, Hartford and rural Louisiana and New Mexico) have enrolled in the Poetry in America and Harvard Extension School's national pilot of the online Poetry in America: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop.
The Public Humanities Practicum, co taught by course Poetry in America director Elisa New and National Education Equity Lab director, Leslie Cornfeld, will provide students in FAS, GSE, and HKS the opportunity to embed within, study and evaluate how college level humanities instruction may promote college readiness, intellectual and emotional growth and civic cohesion-- and to weigh the implications of this model for broad educational public policy. Students in the course will be allowed to focus individual final projects in 1) public policy 2) humanities instruction or 3) media and educational design.
Public humanities are becoming increasingly central for careers both inside and outside of academia. This workshop, which is open to beginning and advanced graduate students, introduces participants to the tools they need to address audiences other than specialists in their own field. These tools range from writing op-eds based on dissertation research to writing general interest books, and also include book reviews, podcasts, social media strategies and more. While we will discuss some historical context, the emphasis is on practice and skills. Our work will be supplemented by visits from editors and literary agents. Because the course is a workshop, enrollment is limited to 12.