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Graduate Course Descriptions

Spring 2017 Graduate Classes

English 6260: Studies in Literary Traditions
Professor Craig Dworkin | 3613 LNCO; X: 1-3022
Wednesday |11:50 am – 1:10 pm | LNCO 3870

Seminar in Poetic Forms

This seminar will sketch the contours of what Fred Moten calls "the Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition": a resistance born at the intersection of avant-garde music, radical politics and a philosophy of blackness. Evie Shockley identifies such work as part of a "renegade poetics": one perpetually rebelling against both the canons of "African-American" and "avant-garde" literatures. Accordingly, the class will aim to complicate, confuse, and provocatively prod such categories, with implications for how we have told — and how we are going to be telling — literary history.


Week 1: Aimé Césaire: Cahier d'un retour au pays natal

Week 2: Melvin Tolson: Libretto for the Republic of Liberia

Week 3: Langston Hughes: Ask Your Mama / Gwendolyn Brooks: Riot

Week 5: N.H. Pritchard: The Matrix / Echoes

Week 6: Russell Atkins: Spyrytual / De Leon Harrison: selected poems;

    Lorenzo Thomas: Dracula

Week 7: Amiri Baraka: selected poems/ Sun Ra: selected broadsides

Week 8: Cecil Taylor: Chinampas

Week 9: Harryette Mullen: Muse & Drudge / Erica Hunt: Piece Logic

Week 10: Will Alexander: Stratospheric Canticles/ Kamau Braithwaite: Shar

Week 11: M. NorbeSe Philip: Zong!

Week 12: Fred Moten: Hughson's Tavern

Week 13: Renee Gladman: To After That

Week 14: Cecil Giscombe: Prairie Style

Week 15: LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs: Twerk

English 6640: 19th Century British literature
Professor Jessica Straley| 3425 LNCO; X: 1-3126
Tuesday - Thursday |2:00 pm – 3:20 pm | LNCO 3820

The Cult of Childhood

When scholars talk about “the Victorian cult of childhood,” they are referring to the idealistic portrait of the innocent, unspoiled child that dominated nineteenth-century literature – from Romantic poets like William Blake and William Wordsworth to Victorian authors and children’s writers like Charles Dickens and Frances Hodgson Burnett – as well as political calls to end child labor, to mandate elementary school for everyone, and to protect the vulnerable from physical abuse. But this “cult” also had a dark side. Alongside the image of the well-bred, upper class, white child who neatly fit the Romantic mold of childhood innocence were boys and girls who fell short of that ideal. By the century’s end, for example, words like “hooligan,” “street Arab,” and “juvenile delinquency” offered an entirely different vocabulary to categorize youth. Even depictions of children not marked as orphans or criminals challenged the earlier insistence on simplicity and goodness. This course will explore the wonder and the weirdness that comprised the Victorian cult of childhood.

Literary works under consideration might include Dickens’s Oliver Twist, George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Christina Rossetti’s Speaking Likenesses, Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, Arthur Morrison’s The Child of the Jago, and Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. We will also read contemporary political, legal, and medical constructions of childhood, focusing on issues such as child labor, elementary education, parenting advice, child criminality, childhood sexuality, evolution, and psychoanalysis. We will interrogate how the Victorian child became central to debates about moral values, cultural fears, and the possibilities for and limitations of human subjectivity.

English 6680: Studies in 20th Century American Literature
Professor Stacey Margolis| 3523 LNCO; X: 1-7610
Tuesday - Thursday |12:25 pm – 1:45 pm |

The Birth of Anthropocene Fiction

In this class we will examine the earliest American fiction and film that addresses itself to the problems of living in a “post-natural” world. Texts will include speculative fiction about post-apocalyptic civilizations (such as Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood, Marge Piercy’s He, She, and It, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars), as well as theoretical work about the anthropocene, posthumanism, deep time, and object-oriented ontology by scholars like Ursula Heise, Bill McKibben, Wai Chee Dimock, Cary Wolfe, Bruno Latour, Jane Bennett, and Slovoj Zizek. We will also read (and watch) texts that, while not addressing climate change specifically, ask how the rise of this manipulated environment might change our relation to time, to the idea of the human, and to our sense of obligation to future generations. Over the semester, students will be expected to develop their own research projects and present their findings to the class.


Texts will include:

Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)

Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5 (1969)

Ursula LeGuin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971)

Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker (1980)

Octavia Butler, Lilith’s Brood (1987-89)

Marge Piercy, He, She, and It (1991)

Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars (1992)

Donnie Darko, dir. Richard Kelly (2001)

WALL-E, dir. Andrew Stanton (2008)

Her, dir. Spike Jonze (2013)

Bill McKibben, The End of Nature (1989)

Ursula Heise, Sense of Place and Sense of Planet (2008)

Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter (2010)

Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? (2010)

English 6810: Digital Humanities: History, Theory, Praxis
Professor David Roh | 3426 LNCO; X: 1-3395
Tuesday-Thursday |2:00pm – 3:20 pm 

What are the digital humanities?  Attracted to its performativity, some hail it as literature 2.0 and savior of the humanities; others (understandably) look askance and question its place in the academy. The difficulty in defining an emerging field is its pliant nature; thus, while designed as a survey of the field's theory and applications, this course is also constructive.  It examines the historical context of technological ruptures such as writing, print, computing, and digital networks; it interrogates what is exactly “new” about the digital humanities.  We will also investigate new media theory and paradigmatic texts - how do we theorize the electronic text or digital archive?  A hybrid of history, theory, applications, and exercises, this class delves into the complications of transition – how the digital humanities challenges old paradigms and creates new terrains of scholarship.  Note: there are no technical requirements beyond a standard understanding of computing.

Reading Materials

Primary Texts: Gold, Matt, ed. Debates in the Digital Humanities.
Secondary Texts: Various (available on Canvas under “Reading Materials”)

Course Requirements

1) Weekly Reading Response (10%). 250-300 words. Your reading response should consist of your reactions, comments, questions, including at least two replies (of any length, as long as it has substance) to posts by your fellow classmates.

2) Discussion Presentation & Moderation (10%). One week, you will take on the role of discussion leader and moderator. 

3) Midterm Project (20%). Create a Text Encoding, Data Visualization, Data Map, or Topic Model object.

4) Final Paper or Project Oral Presentation (10%). 10 minutes. The assignment includes viewing a classmate's presentation, and offering constructive criticism.

5) Final Project/Research Paper (50%)

English 6810-002/EHUM 6900: Posthumanist Theory and Practice: Thinking, Writing, and Making the Posthuman
Professor Diana Leong | 3524 LNCO; X: 5-9178
Monday |3:05pm – 6:00 pm 

From Enlightenment notions of the autonomous, rational subject, to contemporary forms of scientific racism and eugenics, theories of “the human” have long been leveraged to justify social inequalities and maintain oppressive arrangements of power. In response, communities of color have developed protest traditions that simultaneously agitate for inclusion in the ranks of humanity and for a complete re-envisioning of what “the human” could be. This latter tradition has become increasingly significant as a notable growth in ecological disasters, combined with advancements in genetic science, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology, have again thrown our understandings of “the human” into crisis. These matters of global concern have precipitated a renewed interest in the thinking, writing, and making of the posthuman as it relates to the most pressing ethical concerns of our contemporary moment. In what ways have climate change, global pandemics, and biodiversity loss demonstrated our profound entanglement with natural systems? How have recent manipulations of the genome transformed our ideas about species and race? How do biotechnologies and cybernetics reveal intelligence, agency, and creativity as properties no longer unique to the human? And how can the figure of the posthuman ground a more comprehensive social and environmental ethics? This course will track the development of contemporary posthumanist theory and practice to examine how they propose alternative modes of being human. Through careful investigations of critical animal studies, the new materialisms, bio-art, cyborg theory, and narratives of “life itself,” we will explore as a central question: Have we ever really been human?

Required Texts:

Octavia Butler, Dawn

William Gibson, Neuromancer

Barbara Gowdy, The White Bone

Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

William Myers and Paola Antonelli (eds.), Biodesign: Nature, Science, Creativity

Hugh Raffles, Insectopedia

Additional readings to include texts by Donna Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles, Cary Wolfe, Jane Bennett, Sylvia Wynter, and others. 

English 7000: Experimental Forms
Professor Lance Olsen | 3419 LNCO; X: 1-3199
Tuesday |4:35pm – 7:30 pm | LNCO 3820

This semester we shall ask ourselves a deceptively straightforward question: How, if at all, can we write the contemporary rather than rewriting the past? To begin to begin to answer, we shall keep in mind Heidegger’s observation that not-being-at-home is a more fundamental human condition than being-at-home as we investigate how the possibility space called innovative writing may become richer by living alongside, in, and/or among several art forms and genres at once. What might happen, for instance, at the intersection(s) of fiction/poetry/nonfiction and photography, collage, music, architecture, painting, literary theory, new-media composition, book arts, critifiction, the lyric essay? Medical textbooks, car manuals, movie subtitles, indexes, footnotes, menus, comics, tables of content, appendixes, news reports, the safety card in your airplane seatback, video games? In other words, our goal will be to explore the productive energies of liminal zones, hybridization, pla(y)giarism, the permeability of formal and generic boundaries that might give rise to interesting and illuminating configurations.  Along the way, I shall invite us to resist, rethink, and/or expand such notions as “the workshop” and “the workshop critique”; “narrativity”; writing’s “past,” “present,” and “future”; and the pragmatics of the current literary marketplace—all in order to bring into greater relief why and how we do what we do.

Required Texts: Jen Bervin, Nets (2003); Anne Carson, Nox (2010); Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee (1982); Young-Hae Chang & Heavy Industries, Traveling to Utopia and Bust Down the Door (ca. 2000, online); David Clark, 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein (2009 online); Raymond Federman, Double or Nothing (1971); Shelley Jackson: Skin Project (ongoing, online); Renee Gladman, Event Factory (2010); David Markson, The Last Novel (2007); Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri and Laurence Hyde, Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels (2007); Maggie Nelson, Bluets (2009); Steve Tomasula, VAS (2004); Lidia Yuknavitch, Small Backs of Children (2015).

English 7040: Poetry Workshop
Professor Katherine Coles | 3417 LNCO; X: 1-7868
Monday |4:35pm – 7:30 pm | LNCO 3820

In English 7040/Poetry Workshop, we will concentrate on writing and explicating poems and on reading and discussing books of poetry (and, in one case, lyric fragmentary prose) by visiting writers.  In particular, we will consider ways in which form and content interact, inform, and generate each other, with an eye toward broadening our range of possible responses to the poem as it emerges.  In addition, students will undertake mini-courses of reading in non-literary subjects they would like to bring into their poems. 


Hu, Tung-Hui: MINE
Paperback: 66 pages
Publisher: Ausable Press (January 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1931337330
ISBN-13: 978-1931337335

Swensen, Cole: THE GLASS AGE
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Alice James Books; First Edition edition (January 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1882295609
ISBN-13: 978-1882295609

Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Roof Books (January 1, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1931824150
ISBN-13: 978-1931824156

Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: Milkweed Editions (January 7, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1571314571
ISBN-13: 978-1571314574

Hardcover: 112 pages
Publisher: Marian Wood Books/Putnam (March 20, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399165460
ISBN-13: 978-0399165467

McCombs, Davis: LORE
Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: University of Utah Press (April 30, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1607814811
ISBN-13: 978-1607814818 

Hoang, Lily: A BESTIARY
Paperback: 156 pages
Publisher: Cleveland State University Poetry Center (April 15, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0996316744
ISBN-13: 978-0996316743

English 7450: Narrative Theory & Practice
Professor Michael Mejia | 3611 LNCO; X: 1-5687
Wednesday |4:35pm – 7:30 pm | LNCO 3820

…and we're surrounded by narrating forms, of course, embedded in them, conforming to them, even as we work, as artists, to manipulate, even to the point of breaking, the multitude of those forms we've inherited, and perhaps accepted (intentionally, tacitly)—not just literary forms, but social, cultural, economic, physical, political, material, rhetorical, sexual, racial, etc. These forms may serve as containers, in a sense, but then we want them to be plastic, pliable, to grow extensions, cavities, windows, hollows, bulges, to accommodate that with which we fill them, to allow for not just what we plan, but also that which might occur—re- or deformations—when these skins press against the reader's palm (…or eye…or eardrum…or etc.), or when (!) we allow something more to be exposed, to leak out into the vacant spaces or to force new ones, something extra that may enrich and even challenge, overwhelm, or destroy the whole project.

Or we might think of these forms as more skeletal—retractable and extendable—possible beasts on which accumulate varieties of organ and sinew, coming to life almost unexpectedly in the last seconds, new little monsters—horrifying, embarrassing, liberating—expressions of our situation whose general shape may still recall something known, even as they stride off, each with a unique and subtle gait. Before disappearing over the horizon and out of reach, this one looks back, quite deliberately, and you're certain it's the face from the dream, the vision, the one you could never otherwise share. Leaning back, you consider, or re-consider, how you chose to attach this to that, what lay behind what had previously seemed like an intuitive act, how, in fact, you may have been preparing (or something has been preparing you) for that decision for years, your whole life, and now, only in this context, in this weird body, that face so like how you imagine your own, does that history of thought and feeling make sense…or start to. You lean forward, squinting, straining for a last glimpse, looking for it to return, and in your ear you hear yourself narrating a highly detailed, but not quite accurate physiognomy that is, in fact, that of the next thing—a correction, an addendum—already stepping out through the laboratory door. In your hand, the magnifying glass….

In this course, we'll gather creative literary and critical works together in a series of conversations about desires expressed as texts, about how these desires are narrated and how narrative desires, in their articulation and on reflection, are shaped and electrified by critical questions and concerns (theory, philosophy, etc.). Among the things we'll work to understand is what each of our texts seems to believe and wants to know and/or do, how the individual performance attempts to articulate these beliefs, actions, and questions (through form and style as much as content), and what's left for us to produce in the gaps—as critique, interpretation, and creative response or extension. Throughout, we will be precise in our attention to detail and catholic in our materials, considering narrative acts in (at least) sound and still and moving images alongside text, seeking to examine the influence on "writing" we derive from other media, and also to (more firmly) establish methods of writing and writing about [our] writing that draw on the affordances other media provide.

Some works under consideration will be texts by Roberto Bolaño, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Carole Maso, Diane Williams, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marc Anthony Richardson, Max Ernst, Sophie Calle, Italo Calvino, and Sei Shōnagon; music by David Bowie and John Cage; and films by Alfred Hitchcock, Nicholas Roeg, Chris Marker, François Girard, and Wong Kar-Wai.


Required Texts and Materials:

  • Bolaño, Roberto. Distant Star. New Directions. ISBN-13: 978-0811215862.
  • Bowie, David. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
  • Calle, Sophie. Suite Vénitienne. Siglio. ISBN-13: 978-1938221095
  • Calvino, Italo. Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Mariner Books. ISBN-13: 978-0544146679.
  • Castellanos Moya, Horacio. Senselessness. New Directions. ISBN-13: 978-0811217071.
  • Ernst, Max. Une Semaine de Bonté. Dover Publications. ISBN-13: 978-0486232522.
  • Maso, Carole. The Art Lover. New Directions. ISBN-13: 978-0811216296.
  • Richardson, Marc Anthony. Year of the Rat. Fiction Collective 2. ISBN-13: 978-1573660570.
  • Rivkin, Julia and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Blackwell Publishing, 2nd edition (2004). ISBN-13: 978-1405106962.
  • Robbe-Grillet, Alain. Project for a Revolution in New York. Dalkey Archive Press. ISBN-13: 978- 1564787828.
  • Shōnagon, Sei. The Pillow Book. Peguin Classics. ISBN-13: 978-0140448061
  • Williams, Diane. Excitability. Dalkey Archive Press. ISBN-13: 978-1564781970.

English 7740: Advanced Seminar in Literary Theory
Professor Vincent Pecora | 3415 LNCO; X: 5-9317
Monday-Wednesday |1:25 pm – 2:45 pm | LNCO 3870

Topic: Heidegger as Symptom

It is common enough in literary studies to acknowledge the work of Martin Heidegger as a primary source for subsequent existentialism, deconstruction, phenomenology, and even much that now goes under the rubric of “thing theory.” But there may be just as much reason to treat Heidegger as a symptom of his age, that is, as a philosopher who expresses major intellectual currents of the twentieth century and thus emerges as a powerful manifestation of the deeper contradictions, turmoil, and catastrophes of the period. In this sense, Heidegger becomes a symptom of all sorts of discourses that shape what we in literary studies like to call modernism—discourses about the sacred and the secular, rational concepts and lived experience, land and sovereignty, belonging and alienation, poiesis and technology, language as expression and as the mimesis of dwelling, and the politics of identity and difference. We will read selections from the early commentaries on religion (e.g. The Phenomenology of Religious Life), major phenomenology (Being and Time), the Nazism and anti-Semitism of the 1930s (the Black Notebooks), and the late work on language-as-dwelling  (as in the collection Poetry, Language, Thought), but we will also be addressing a number of figures—including the apostle Paul, Augustine of Hippo, Meister Eckhart, Martin Luther, Ferdinand Tönnies, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida, among others—whose work either prepares, parallels or responds to Heidegger’s writing. We will use E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India as a literary anchor.

Attendance and participation is expected at all classes.

-An in-class presentation of approximately 20 minutes.
-A final term paper of 20 pages or so, due Apr. 30.





Last Updated: 12/15/16