English 177pm. Broadway, 1940–Present

    Instructor: Derek  Miller
    Day & Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 10:30-11:45am
    Course Website
    Cultural education usually occurs piecemeal: a novel from this period, a poem from that. Cultural works are not, however, truly isolated from each other, but rather appear as artifacts of cultural systems. This course uses cultural works to understand a single cultural system: Broadway since 1940. Comparative analyses of musical and non-musical plays will illuminate how Broadway has changed over the past seventy-five years. We will attend to economic, social, technological, and other transformations in how Broadway makes, markets, and measures its shows. Through our explorations of some of those shows, we will grasp the system’s effects on major dramaturgical strategies including approaches to plot, characterization, and staging. The course thus simultaneously surveys major works of the commercial American theater, narrates a history of Broadway since 1940, and models how to think about the relationship between that history of the Broadway system and the works it produces.

    English 90cp. Contemporary American Plays

    Instructor: Derek Miller
    Day & Time: Thursday 3-5pm
    Course Website

    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students.

    This course examines recent scripted theater by American playwrights. Readings focus on work by historically underrepresented writers, including the wave of award-winning plays by Black writers such as Jackie Sibblies Drury, Michael R. Jackson, Aleshea Harris, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Jeremy O. Harris, and others. We will consider the shape of the American theater, its response and resistance to contemporary social and political movements, and the pandemic's effects on the present and future of American theater.

    English 175pl. American Protest Literature: Paine & Wheatley to the Present

    Instructor: John Stauffer
    Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesdays 1:30-2:45pm 
    Course Website
    Examines the rich tradition of "protest literature" in the United States. The focus is on civil rights; gender & women's rights; labor; and environmentalism.  We explore how expressions of dissent have functioned as powerful "voices" of individuals and movements, and as aesthetic, political, and performative texts in specific contexts.  And we examine how historical forms of dissent have shaped today's protests.  Readings range from fiction, photography, and video to speeches, essays, poetry, and music. 

    Gen Ed 1172. Poetry in America: Writing America 1620-1850

    Instructor: Elisa New
    Day & Time: TBD 

    This General Education course will contemplate art's formative role in the development of civilizations by allowing students to trace the gradual development of America's self-conception through the lens of its poetry.

    “[P]oetry was all written before time was,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay "The Poet." When Emerson wrote these words in 1844, nearly 75 years after the Revolution, he feared America had not yet found its "seers," “sayers,” and "namers"--its poets. But Emerson's quest for "the poet" in fact applied to all those makers--essayists, orators, painters, architects, composers--whose creativity gives a culture its characteristic look and sound, its special vernacular and values. It was, in Emerson’s conception, the poet's--the artist's--integrity on which civilizations depend: a culture's attitude to its citizens and its non-citizens; the use or misuse of its natural resources; the treatment of its laborers; the standards of its schools; the meanings it assigned marriage, death, masculinity, femininity; its ideas of the spiritual, the beautiful, the entertaining--all these would be, Emerson believed, encoded in its art. What a nation's poets wrote was, finally, what that nation would become.

    Students in Writing America will read, discuss, and debate poems written for these high civilizational stakes, and they’ll explore the diverse functions poetry played in a wide variety of print venues (from newspapers and women’s magazines, to funeral programs, to farmers’ almanacs). The syllabus covers major poets from the colonial period through 1850 (including Bradstreet, Taylor, Wigglesworth, Wheatley, Freneau, Poe, Emerson, Longfellow); through these poets, students will be able to follow the emerging role of the “author” and “the arts” within American culture. But much of their study will be focused on poetry whose aims were not purely, or even primarily, literary. Beginning with the first book published in North America (The Bay Psalm Book, printed in our very own Harvard Square), they’ll read jeremiads and funeral elegies sanctioning transfers of political power, as well as political ditties of the 1770's urging patriots to give up imported luxuries like tea and silk. They’ll read selections from partisan satires and epics of the Revolution, mock-epics celebrating indigenous foods like cornmeal mush, and poetry celebrating the beauties--and exploitable resources--of the American landscape. They’ll pay close attention to how the demonization--and romanticization--of indigenous peoples in popular verse rendered native Americans figuratively extinct, even while poetry enabled some African Americans and women to achieve not only visibility, but celebrity. Writing in America students will come to understand how poetry helped Americans embrace the virtues of labor and middle class life, and how it supported emerging ideals of literacy and cultivated, and fed, robust mass cultural appetites. Throughout the semester, students will connect poetry's relationship to music, oratory, painting, statecraft, homiletics, and other expressive genres, considering throughout the role art plays not only in reflecting but in shaping distinctive cultures.... Read more about Gen Ed 1172. Poetry in America: Writing America 1620-1850

    English 90rj. Race and Jurisprudence

    Instructor: Louis Menand
    Day & Time: Tuesday 9:45-11:45am 
    Course Website

    Enrollment: Limited to 15 students.

    How has the American judicial system dealt with racial discrimination, racial segregation, racial exclusion, and systemic or institutional racism? Has the design of the American legal system made it easier or harder to remedy cases of racial inequality and injustice? What should we expect from the courts in the future?

    We study cases involving Americans of African and of Asian ancestry, beginning with Dred Scott and ending with the Harvard College admissions case. Visitors include Drew Faust, Mae Ngai, Richard Pildes, and William Lee and Felicia Ellsworth, the trial lawyers in the Harvard College case.

    The primary readings are legal documents: the Constitution, judicial opinions, and the statutes judges interpret. We’ll analyze the opinions in order to understand the legal logic that led to their outcomes. We will see, by doing this, how courts are constrained by the system that was designed by the Constitution’s framers and by the traditions of the common law. We will also consider the historical context in which these cases were decided. Two papers and class participation required.