An economist and a humanist, together with professors from the natural sciences, analyze familiar conceptual and policy-relevant issues from viewpoints of their respective disciplines. For example, how do we measure inequality, and at what point does it become problematic (and how do we know)? How then should it be addressed (e.g., tax code, minimum wage)? What...
Instructor: Victoria Wiet Monday & Wednesdays, 3:00-4:15 pm | Location: Sever 103
This course explores how the relatively new cultural form of the novel represented and responded to the new features of social life that characterized nineteenth-century Britain. The nineteenth century was a period of drastic historical change in which the institutions that...
Instructor: Daniel Donoghue Day & Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 12-1:15pm Course Website From its obscure origins, over its long history, and with today’s global reach, the English language has meant many things to the people who use it. It also prompts many questions. Why is pronunciation at odds with spelling? What happened to "thou"? What did Shakespeare sound like? How do we know? Why the love/hate relationship with grammar scolds? What about the future of English as a world language? Knowing the fascinating backstory of the language will give you more confidence as a writer; it also sharpens your skills as a reader as you see things you never noticed before. A final promise: geeking out will equip you to win countless arguments with friends, roommates, and family.
Instructor: Gordon Teskey Day & Time: Mondays & Wednesdays 4:30-5:45pm Course Website An introduction to the Bible, which William Blake called 'the great code of art.' The course gives an overview of the biblical writings, of the religions that arose from them, and the arts they inspired: church music, architecture, painting, and poetry. Attention will be given especially to English poetry, from the Old English Genesis to Spenser, Milton, Hopkins, Eliot, Jones, and popular songs. Even for non-religious authors, the Bible is a rich source of images and spiritual energy. Students may create art projects in response to their chosen parts of the Bible.
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.
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.
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: 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.
Instructor: Alan Niles Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45pm | Location: TBA
How did writers and audiences imagine the world before modernity? This course offers an introduction to the first 1000 years of English literature (roughly 700-1700) and the shifting terms through which writers were able to imagine the world beyond their borders. We will encounter hardy seafarers, fantastical monsters, and real and imagined peoples at the margins of Europe and beyond. We will study the genres of travel narrative, romance, epic, drama, and lyric, and the different ways these forms registered global connections, ideas of race, and cultural and religious difference. We will pay particular attention to the accelerated pace of global
encounters and connections starting in the Renaissance, and the ways that English literature was able (or not) to register new peoples and places, new forms of economic connectivity, and the violence of colonialism and empire.
Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Arrivals" requirement for the Class of 2022.
Instructor: Alan Niles Tuesday & Thursday, 9:00-10:15am | Location: TBA
This class is an introduction to Shakespeare’s writings and their representations of sex, gender, romance, love, and queerness. We will study poems about erotic and queer desire, plays that stage ideas about gender and gender fluidity, and film adaptations that bring modern perspectives to race and sexuality. Readings will include such plays as Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titus Andronicus, Macbeth, and Measure for Measure; Shakespeare’s Sonnets; and films by Derek Jarman, Baz Luhrmann, and Julie Taymor. Throughout our course, we will ask: how are the forms of gender identity and sexual expression we encounter in Shakespeare’s works familiar, or different? How might they challenge, inspire, or disturb us today?
Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Shakespeare" requirement for the Class of 2022.
Consent will be studied in four domains: Part I-the relation of consent and the body in marriage, in medicine, and in state citizenship; Part II – the act of consent and dissent in war (beginning with the dissent of Achilles in the Iliad and including readings up to the present); Part III – freedom of movement, freedom of entry and exit in citizenship (including contexts where right of movement has been denied); Part IV – consent as the basis of cultural creation. The nature of individual and collective deliberation is at the center of the course throughout. Readings include: philosophic accounts of consent (Plato, Locke, Rousseau), case law (Plessy v. Ferguson, Pratt v. Davis, Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital), constitutional writings (Federalist Papers 4, 7, 8, 23, 25, 27-29, 41; Madison’s Record of Federal Assembly; Ratification Debates ), plays (Euripides’ Hecabe, Sophocles’ Philoctetes, five U.S. suffrage plays), poetry (Iliad), films (Philadelphia Story, It Happened One Night), novels (Tale of Two Cities), and historical narratives (Thucydides selections, Underground Railroad narratives).
Note: This course fulfills the "Ethics and Civics" General Education requirement.
Old English poems love to recycle age-old wisdom in what are called “gnomic” verses. Usually expressed in laconic language and embedded in various genres of poems, the meaning of these passages can be unclear: Soð bið swicolost could be translated as “Truth is complicated.” Their prevalence, however, suggests that the wisdom they conveyed was held in universal esteem. This course will examine the structure, content, and context of gnomic verses from multiple angles. In addition to our daily translations, we will pursue questions such as: What are the sources of these passages? What ideological/religious beliefs do they reflect? How do they function within the various literary genres where they occur? What is the importance of these passages in Beowulf? We will also compare Old Norse/Icelandic and Old Irish wisdom literature (in translation) as we attempt to understand this fascinating and challenging aspect of Old English literature. Prerequisite: one term of Old English or the equivalent.
Instructor: Marc Shell Thursday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: TBA
Islands, both a part of and apart from the main, offer ready-made laboratories for linguistic, biological and political investigation. Islandness as such encourages national literature, philosophy, and vacation. Our seminar, with its ecological and philosophical focus, centers on fictional an factual islands as well as Canadian ice floes, the always changing marine coastlines of tidal islands, and Planet Earth itself, Critical readings include: Peter Sloterdijk’s Foams, Judith Shalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands, Sigmund Freud’s writings on his own world as “a little island of pain swimming in a sea of indifference,” Immanuel Kant’s “History of Lands and Islands,” and Shell’s Islandology. Literary and filmic works include Shakespeare’s Hamlet, John Donne’s argument that “No man is an island,” Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, More’s Utopia, Hae-Jun Lee’s “Castaway on the Moon,” Joseph Newman’s “This Island Earth,” and island travel (and vacation) literature chosen by us as a group. Requirements: one short paper and one term paper.... Read more about Comparative Literature 123. Isolation and Islands
How did people inhabit and view their physical environment in early medieval England? Was it life-sustaining or threatening? What was the balance between managing resources and exploiting them? How did poets and farmers, kings and saints invoke images of land and sea as meaningful symbols? The Old English literature on such questions, which is diverse and engaging, will form the basis of our in-class translations. Other assigned readings will survey environmental criticism and allow us to compare today’s perceptions with those from a distant past.
This course combines language study with the investigation of a critical theme. The narratives set for translation provide a thematic coherence as we dig into the language of Old English, which is the vernacular used in England from the sixth century until about 1100. Although some of its features remain recognizable today, Old English needs to be learned as a foreign language with its own spelling, pronunciation, syntax, and so on. The term begins with an emphasis on grammar, which will be covered in graduated steps until midterm, after which the readings and translation will take up more of our class time.
The promise of this course: you will gain the skills to translate any text in Old English; you will learn a great deal about contemporary English including weird facts your inner word-geek will love; you will expand your knowledge of environmental criticism as we examine its deep history.
This course is an introduction to the different voices, cultures, and traditions that made the first 1000 years of English literature, from Beowulf to Aphra Behn. We will study major and influential writings alongside lesser-known interlocutors—works by Marie de France, Geoffrey Chaucer, Margery Kempe, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Mary Sidney, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and more. We will engage with the (often contested) social, political, and religious contexts that gave rise to creative work. We will pay particular attention to the historical transformations of romance, epic, drama, fable, and lyric, and the ways these forms were embedded in the social worlds of their time.
Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Arrivals" requirement for the Class of 2022.
Our thoughts and feelings about identity, self-expression, and the power of the imagination draw on the British Romantic poetry of the Long Eighteenth Century--whether we've read any or not. Focusing on John Keats (his key poems, and his key ideas, about 'negative capability', the 'camelion poet', and so on), this course makes unconventional connections into the twentieth, and twenty-first century. Tracking issues of race, class, gender and sexuality, we'll bounce from Keats into war verse; African-American poetries; world/postcolonial writing; the literature of social class; feminist experimentalism; and constructions of masculinity. Concentrators will learn how to analyze poetry in both closed and open forms.
Note: This course satisfies the English Concentration "Poets" requirement for the Class of 2022; formerly offered as English 58: Poets.
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.
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.