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.
Instructor: Lee Damrosch, PhD Day & Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays 8:30-11:30am (EDT) Summer 7-week session | CRN 35000 Limited to 35 students
This course is a study of major eighteenth-century autobiographical, fictional, and philosophical texts that explore the paradoxes of the modern self at a time when traditional religious and philosophical explanations were breaking down. Writers to be read include Mme. de Lafayette, Boswell, Voltaire, Gibbon, Diderot, Rousseau, Laclos, Franklin, and Blake. Due to the condensed summer schedule, the longer works, such as...
Instructor: Tara Menon Monday, 12:45-2:45pm | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 15 students
How do we write about death and mourning? Can literature help us cope with the pain of loss? What techniques do writers employ to convey grief? Can we make the dead immortal through words? In this course, we will read (and watch) widely, from Greek plays to nineteenth-century elegies to twentieth-century memoirs and twenty-first century television. Across genres, we will pay particular attention to form and the techniques of close reading. Works by writers including: Sophocles, Tennyson, Dickinson, Auden, Hopkins, Hardy, Shelly, Joan Didion, Jesmyn Ward, Max Porter, Helen McDonald, Angie Thomas, Sonali Deranyigala.
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: Jesse McCarthy Monday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 15 students
At first glance Henry James and James Baldwin may seem worlds apart. Yet these two enormously influential writers share much in common. Both are New Yorkers; both spent a good deal of their lives as expatriates; both are celebrated for their queerness, a feature of their style as much as their sexuality. Both were serious, moralizing, and passionate observers of the ‘American Scene’; both writers are deeply committed to investigating and exploring the privacy of consciousness and the currency of experience. Henry James was James Baldwin’s favorite writer. Colm Tóibín has called Baldwin, “the Henry James of Harlem.” What attracted Baldwin to James across their vast racial and class differences? What lessons about the art of fiction can we learn by reading each in the light of the other? Not only the Jamesian influence on Baldwin—but what Baldwin allows us to see might be missing or muted in James. We will think very closely about the subject that deeply occupied both of them: America. And what America means from perspectives acquired from outside of America, looking back in. We will also investigate the expression and communication of sexuality, gender, race, class, money, politics and taste alongside assorted criticism, reviews, and other essays of interest.
Why study literary theory? Is theory a conceptual framework or a tool-kit? Is theory a companion to literary study or is it crucial for literary interpretation? These are some of the questions I propose to address in this seminar which will address literary and cultural problems that have been shaped by theoretical concerns and concepts. This course will not adopt a historical approach nor will it be a survey of “schools” of literary theory. The syllabus will focus on topics such as Power, Race, Identity, Sexuality, Environmentalism, Postcolonialism, Inequality, Poverty etc. etc. and trace theoretical contributions that have been formative in shaping the diverse discourses around these issues. . Aesthetic, political and ethical approaches will be knotted together in our conversations. The seminar will be concerned with the relation between cultural form and cultural value. Literary texts will be used in conjunction with theoretical works.
Instructor: James Wood Monday, 3:00-5:00pm | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 15 students.
A look at the complex ways in which writers represent their characters' thought in texts by Austen, Flaubert, James, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Giovanni Verga, and Woolf. More broadly, traces the development of stream-of-consciousness, from Austen's incipient mastery of free indirect style, through Flaubert's more sophisticated use of it, to Woolf's full-blown inner monologues, seeing this development as not merely a fact of English and American literature, but as a phenomenon of world literature and an element of our modernity.
Instructor: James Simpson Monday, 3:00-5:00pm Enrollment: Limited to 15 students
Fear of idolatry is a recurrent feature of Western culture. The Christian image threatens to short-circuit the flow of spirituality between humans and God, just as images of the ancient, pagan gods threaten dangerously to preserve the energies of those lascivious and vengeful deities. And images, whether secular or religious, are always...
An exploration of the emergence and development of the African American literary “tradition” from the 18th to the 20th century. Close reading of the canonical texts in the tradition, and their structural relationships are stressed.
Instructor: Katie Daily Thursday, 9:45-11:45am | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 15 students
The course aims to strengthen our understanding of the ways in which individuals creatively respond to immigration issues including diversity, equity, and justice in twenty-first century America. Through an intensive study of novels written by first- or second-generation American immigrant women, we will examine immigration’s evolution after the turn of the millennium and its relationships to power and inequity regarding questions of citizenship and belonging. Ericka Sánchez, Eristina Henríquez, Lisa Ko, Yaa Hyasi, Saher Alam, Shaila Abdullah, Chimamanda Ngozi, Adichie, Imbolo Mbue, Laila Lalami.
Instructor: Musa Syeed Tuesday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
The feature-length script is an opportunity to tell a story on a larger scale, and, therefore, requires additional preparation. In this class, we will move from writing a pitch, to a synopsis, to a treatment/outline, to the first 10 pages, to the first act of a feature screenplay. We will analyze produced scripts and discuss various elements of craft, including research, writing layered dialogue, world-building, creating an engaging cast of characters. As an advanced class, we will also look at ways both mainstream and independent films attempt to subvert genre and structure. Students will end the semester with a first act (20-30 pages) of their feature, an outline, and strategy to complete the full script.
Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a 3-5 page writing sample. Screenplays are preferred, but fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and plays are acceptable as well. Also, please write a short note to introduce yourself. Include a couple films/filmmakers that have inspired you, your goals for the class, as well as any themes/subject matter/ideas you might be interested in exploring in your writing for film.
Instructor: Josh Bell Tuesday, 6:00-8:45pm | Location: TBA Enrollment: limited to 12 students
In this workshop we will focus on the devotional poetry of John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, and GM Hopkins, looking first into certain texts of the Old Testament—Psalms, Song of Solomon, Book of Job—from which so much of devotional poetry extends. In conversation with these four poets, students can expect to build and execute their own plaintive lyric “I,” design new ecstatic/meditative soundscape, and plan and deliver the imagistic configurations that will best give them direct-line access to the God (or gods) of their own choice or invention. As this a poetry workshop, all assignments will be creative.
Instructor: Gish Jen Monday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
We have, in America, a writing culture. It is not a monolith. There is, however, a readily discernable mainstream, which may or may not suit us. In this class we will examine the historical and intellectual roots of the contemporary Western story, especially as it is taught in MFA programs, including its close association with individualism....
This course will introduce you to the fundamental elements of fiction writing. We will read a variety of work, including pieces by Alice Munro, Edward P. Jones, Joy Williams, James Baldwin, Bohumil Hrabal, Deborah Eisenberg, Yiyun Li and Ben Okri, using each text as a template for examining such aspects in fiction as tension, dialogue, point of view, arc and character. Through class discussions and a series of writing exercises, we will also pay close attention to the ways in which conventions of craft are applied and understood—and sometimes re-interpreted or subverted. As the semester progresses, the focus of the class will shift to your own work, which we will critique and discuss as a group in a workshop setting, with an eye toward drawing connections between craft principles and your own writing practice. You will later significantly revise your piece.
Supplemental Application Information
Please submit a 3-5 page sample of your own writing, along with an introductory letter, letting me know why you’re interested in taking the course and what you hope to get out of it. Also, please share a few of the novels or story collections that mean the most to you (or the ones you resist but still can’t shake) – and tell me why you chose these books.
Instructor: Joan Naviyuk Kane Thursday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Writers of literary, lyrical nonfiction negotiate complex power dynamics with their selves, communities, subjects, and readers. In this workshop we will conduct an intensive study of the craft techniques writing of creative nonfiction, focusing on the balance between the politicization of witness, descriptive detail, and narrative voice. Given that one of the great imaginative allures of lyric prose is that it can invent its audience as much as it can invent its speaker, how do writers of creative nonfiction contend with social context? What are the ways in which we can write and revise lyrically that can allow our work to depart from, evade and amplify the experiential in its collaborations with language, history, and place? We will do some generative exercises and workshopping (each writer will be workshopped at least twice per semester) as well as discussion, of course. Participants will generate drafts, revise new work, and investigate the fundamentals of the genre of creative nonfiction.
Supplemental Application Information: Applicants are requested to submit 3-10 pages of prose (double-spaced), a 2-3 page cover letter in which they may address how long they’ve been writing seriously, what previous study they have done in literary arts, any additional experiences that seem relevant to their application, what type of direct criticism and revision they are seeking from a workshop, craft approaches they would like to know more about, and discussion of any other writers in which the writers’ craft and/or ways in which the writers’ work has served as a model for the applicant’s own literary ambitions.
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.