Spring 2016 Course Descriptions

Literature and Writing Studies

Creative Writing


same as BTW 402

This is a course in English linguistics. We will study the English language: how we use it; how it uses us. We will learn and practice techniques for describing English, both its words and sentences and larger elements of discourse in context. We will look at the social, historical, and political forces that shape language and its use. And we will suggest ways to use what we learn about language both in the classroom and in the professional world.
Text: Curzan, Anne, and Michael Adams, How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction, Latest edition.

same as EIL 422

Adaptation of modern English grammar to meet the needs of the ESL/EFL teacher, with special emphasis on the development of knowledge and skills that can be used in the analysis of the syntax, lexis and pragmatics of English.

418 1U/1G SHAKESPEARE, L. Newcomb. TUTH 11-12:15

This course explores seven Shakespearean plays from a range of dramatic genres. We’ll look especially at the features that made these plays popular in their day: their open staging, their playful language, their laying bare of the period’s familial, national, gender, and racial tensions. We'll also consider how the meanings of ‘Shakespeare’ proliferate through the constant, sometimes subversive, reinvention of the plays by literary critics, performers, and adapters world-wide. That diversity compels us to use multiple interpretive frames to look at the plays: close reading; informal staging; film analysis; feminist, historicist, postcolonial, and queer studies critical approaches. Be ready for proactive discussion, performance experiments, a library visit, and attending at least on Shakespeare play on campus, as well as special events marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death this April. Written assignments include informal writings, two focused short papers, a longer paper based on guided research (7-9 pp.), and a final exam.

TEXTS: (these print editions are required): Greenblatt et al, eds., Shakespeare: Essential Plays (3rd edition, 2015, ISBN 978-0-393-93863-0); McDonald, ed., Bedford Companion to Shakespeare (2nd edition, ISBN 978-0312248802); at least one individual play edition.

423 1U/1G MILTON, Gray. TUTH 12:30-1:45

This course introduces you to one of the greatest British writers—John Milton. Milton was a blind seer, a regicidal prose-writer, and an inspired poet. He also wrote arguably the most ambitious English epic, one that aimed to explain the origins of life itself: Paradise Lost. This class will explore Milton’s prodigious and ostentatiously learned output in the context of his own life and the historical turmoil of the mid-seventeenth century that transformed it. We will focus on the complex issues of religion, gender, and politics he engages, looking at his often contradictory responses to the ideas, literature, and men and women of his time. We will also trace his carefully crafted public image, thinking about Milton’s view of the role of poetry and polemic within a revolutionary historical context.

428 1U/1G BRITISH DRAMA 1660-1800, Markley. TUTH 9:30-10:45

This course will cover some of the major works in British drama written between 1660 and 1720. We will pay particular attention to the social, cultural, political, and economic contexts of theatrical performance, and we will discuss the major issues that find on their way onto the London stage: sexual morality, the role of women in a patrilineal society, and the problems of empire, trade, and colonialism. Because the Restoration period (1660-1700) featured the popular and critical success of women dramatists, notably Aphra Behn and Susan Centlivre, and we will devote a good deal of attention to the ways in which these playwrights appropriated the conventions of the seemingly antifeminist genres of wit comedy. In addition to these women dramatists, we will read and discuss plays by George Etherege, Thomas Southerne, William Wycherley, Thomas Otway, Thomas Shadwell, and William Congreve. There will be two papers of critical analysis, a midterm, and a final examination.
A word of caution (or perhaps inducement): the comedy of the period is often explicitly sexual, and seduction, adultery, and libertine critiques of religion are commonplace. The tragedies we will read include scenes of torture, incest, and general bloodletting.

450 1U/1G AMERICAN LIT 1865-1914, Hutner. MWF 11

This half century represents one of the most exciting eras in all of US literary history, since it addresses how the post-Civil War America struggled to reunify and its search for order amid the demanding challenges of modernization. These struggles included the failure of Reconstruction, which laid the groundwork for racial tension that continues to this day; the influx of immigration, which generated social tensions with which Americans must still face; the rise of industrialization and its legacy of economic booms and collapses, and its long-lasting consequences of income inequality. US novelists and poets addressed all of these concerns and especially gave literary expression to the effects these larger forces exerted on intimate life, the world of close personal relations. Students will also learn about the various movements—artistic and philosophical—designed to address these issues and the ways they prepare us to understand the origins of our contemporary anxieties. Some of the writers whose names are well known to students, like Whitman, Twain, Eliabeth Stuart Phelps and W.E.B. Du Bois; some were celebrated in their day but fell out of critical favor; others are enjoying renewed attention. But all contribute to the complex and dramatic story of the birth of modern America. Students can expect a few short papers and hourly exams.

451 1U/1G AMERICAN LITERATURE 1914-1945, Parker. MWF 10

This course will sample American poetry and fiction from between the world wars, closely studying a set of individual writings and their roles in literary and cultural tradition. Along the way, we will ponder literary responses to changing gender and race relations, World War I, the roaring twenties, and the Great Depression. We will also consider the growth of Modernism and its revolutions in literary form as well as the relation between experiments in literary form and the era’s social and political conservatisms and radicalisms. We will read work by some of the most celebrated writers in American literature—Ernest Hemingway (short stories), William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury), and T. S. Eliot—as well as equally amazing work by less canonized or more recently canonized writers, including poetry by Langston Hughes and a selection of Imagist poets, Nella Larsen’s Passing, Dorothy Parker’s short stories, Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, James M. Caine’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, Tom Kromer’s Waiting for Nothing, and Carson McCullers’ The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. (These writers and titles provide only a tentative list, but the list gives a picture of the course-plan in progress.) This course offers you the chance to read one of the stunningly great but forbiddingly difficult works in American literature—The Sound and the Fury—in the helpful company of others working it through with you, but be prepared to work hard and read it twice (if you have not read it before), as it makes far more sense on a second reading. Take this course only if you plan to attend class regularly and join actively in class discussion. Know yourself: if you cannot regularly get up to arrive on time and alert for a 10:00 am class, or if you don’t want to speak in class, then do not take this course.

455 1U/1G MAJOR AUTHORS, Hansen. TUTH 12:30-1:45
TOPIC: William Faulkner: The Chaos of The Real

Because no battle is ever won, he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.
--William Faulkner, The Sound and The Fury

William Faulkner is one of the most written about novelists of the twentieth-century. Yet, his works contain deeply troubling depictions of African-Americans, of race-relations, and of the plight of female characters in a male-dominated society. In short, for a man whose major fiction was written between 1928-1960, Faulkner has never seemed more relevant. In this course we will explore some of Faulkner’s major fiction in an attempt to understand the political and social valences of his writing, but we will also pay close attention to how Faulkner experiments with prose and storytelling, how he deploys as he also destroys classic modes and genres of the English-language novel. At the heart of Faulkner’s fiction is an abiding fear and a concern for the traumas and tragedies of modern human society. He provides a tragic vision of a world that no longer seems cohere, a world where chaotic desire mixes with prejudice. Put quite simply, Faulkner wrote novels that seem to fail, fragment, and fall apart just as the worldviews that gave birth to and are depicted in those novels fail, fragment, and fall apart. We will endeavor to explore his prose and the chaotic world it depicts. Requirements will include a weekly reading journal, two major exams, two 5 page papers, presentations, and active in-class participation.
Books for the class will include: The Sound and the Fury, Sanctuary, Light In August, Absalom, Absalom!, Go Down Moses, If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, and The Unvanquished.

455 2U/2G MAJOR AUTHORS, Rodriguez. MW 3-4:50
TOPIC: Junot Diaz

In a relatively short period of time, Junot Díaz has become one the most widely read and recognized Latino writers in the U.S. Focusing on his Pultizer Prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, his short story collections Drown and This Is How You Lose Her, and a number of his essays and short stories, this course will examine the overlapping concerns of race, sexuality, class, and gender central to Díaz’s work. We will also read essays in the recently published collection of scholarly essays titled Junot Díaz and the Decolonial Imagination to historically and politically contextualize his writing while also examining his intellectual and personal influences, which range from women of color feminism to DC and Marvel Comics.

455 3U/3G MAJOR AUTHORS, Spires. TUTH 2-3:15
TOPIC: Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass’s (1818?-1895) career as activist, orator, politician, and writer spanned the better part of the nineteenth century, from slavery to the end of an incomplete Reconstruction. We might say that the narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass is the narrative of the life of democracy and citizenship in the United States, as told by a man who often found himself characterized as an intruder, a fugitive, and an outlaw. “What to the American slave is the Fourth of July?” Douglass famously asked in an 1852 oration. What to such a person are democracy and citizenship, we might ask in turn? How does such a person maintain hope in a world that attempts to strip his humanity at every turn? We will spend time investigating newspapers Douglass edited in the context of a larger American and African American print culture. We will read his fiction and poetry (yes, he wrote poetry, too!), and think about them through the lenses of African American literary history, American Romanticism, and the relation between aesthetics and social movements. And, of course, we will read his speeches and autobiographies. Douglass was a master at self-representation and reinvention. He was a fugitive slave, editor, international literary sensation, Vice Presidential candidate, U.S. ambassador, and expert musician. As such, we might not get a sense of the ‘real’ Douglass by the end of this course, but we will develop a clearer image of the world he inhabited and helped shape. Course requirements include weekly reading journals, two shorter essays, and a final research project.

458 U/G LATINA/O PERFORMANCE, Ruiz. TUTH 3:30-5:50
same as LLS 458

In this course, we will focus on Latina/o performances from the 1970s to the present in order to highlight the relationship between exercises of everyday life, acts on stage, and media art. In doing so, we will pay particular attention to the material body and bodies of work by scholars of Latina/o Performance Studies. As such, we will critically engage with performance theory, video performances, and theorizations of Latinidad and the body.

meets with LLS 496
TOPIC: Latina/o Dramitists from the 1960s to the Future

How do plays offer readers windows into the world? How does drama create collective belonging by reflecting the world at large? In order to answer these questions, this course will be reading-intensive and discussion-orientated and focus on plays written by Latina/o playwrights. By closely reading dramatic works by María Irene Fornés, Luis Valdez, Cherríe Moraga, Pedro Pietri, Migdalia Cruz, and Nilo Cruz to name just a few, we will pay special attention to how history, time, and space confront one another, and uncover how aesthetics and politics create new worlds in this here and now and in places yet unknown.

461 1U/1G TOPICS IN LITERATURE, Hunt. TUTH 9:30-10:45
meets with AFRO 498
TOPIC: Utopian Economies in African American Literature

What would it take to eradicate poverty? Or is it here to stay? In this class we will explore the way African American writers have answered these questions in works published between the Gilded Age and the 1990s. Joining the concept of utopia with philosophies of communism, capitalism, and other systems that fail to fit these rubrics, we will examine the challenges writers faced in imagining utopian economies. What literary forms and rhetorical strategies did these authors employ and contest? Given the diversity of the social whole, on what basis would people unite without excluding others—class, race, nationality, or a hybrid category beyond these? How, in other words, did authors negotiate the risk of reducing a diverse society to a single identity or class location? Almost every progressive economic system African Americans have worked to create has faced backlash from governments, vigilantes, employers, and others. How, then, do writers account for that aggression and envision ways of surmounting it? Likewise, what are the potential forms of violence inherent in their own utopias? And, finally, does the possibility of any utopia become more or less desirable over the course of the century? Authors include Sutton Griggs, W. E. B. Du Bois, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, George Schuyler, Richard Wright, Lloyd Brown, Alice Childress, Octavia Butler, and Toni Morrison. Requirements include active participation in class discussions, regular brief reading responses, a group presentation, a short essay (4-5 pages), and a final research paper (8-10 pages).

same as AFST 410, CWL 410, FR 410

“Modern African Fiction” endeavors to highlight the connections and links (as well as the disparities) between representative writings from different regions of the African continent. Indeed, the term modern calls for precisely such an inter-textual understanding. After all, the regions we somewhat loosely territorialize as ‘modern Africa’ are also congruous in so far as they were almost all irredeemably transformed by the experience of colonialism. The term ‘modern’ has in fact since then come to be inextricably tied to the distinct twists and turns of the colonial encounter in various parts of Africa. What Simon Gikandi calls “the colonial factor” will therefore be an important entry point into our comprehension of the isomorphisms between the required texts for the course. We will also take the term ‘modern’ seriously in so far as it emerges from a manner of periodization that has had a great deal to do with the novel as a generic form. As we read for the course, we will thus attempt to understand how African writers have kneaded this particular genre to the specificities of their colonial and postcolonial conditions. Given that this course reads modern African fiction in relation to theorizations of colonial and postcolonial conditions in the continent, we will not only concentrate on developing abilities such as close-reading, comparative analysis, and argumentative logic, but will also attempt to broaden the horizons of our interpretation by allowing the close reading of an individual text to be informed by readings of social structures and political-cultural events.

481 1U/1G COMP THEORY AND PRACTICE, McDuffie. MW 2-3:15

In this course, we will investigate writing pedagogy theory and practice primarily focused on future teachers of writing with a consideration of current standards. We will learn about the composition theories that provide a foundation for writing pedagogy, from cornerstone concepts like writing as a process to contemporary research on genre and transfer. We will develop practical approaches for writing instruction, including but not limited to: methods for scaffolding researched and argumentative writing; tactics for addressing language diversity, from second language writing to varieties of American English; strategies for commenting on, evaluating, and assessing student writing; and techniques for teaching digital literacies and teaching with technology. The required work for this course includes weekly readings, reading responses, a philosophy of teaching statement, several lesson plans, teaching demonstrations, and a professional portfolio.

same as MACS 503, CWL 503

This graduate seminar, one of two required courses for the UIUC Graduate Minor in Cinema Studies, explores practices and trends in writing the history of cinema and, by extension, other popular audio-visual media. It thereby offers a meta-historical study focused on how film histories have over the past century variously construed and also shaped their object of study, e.g., as an art form, an industry, a technology, a phenomenon of modernity, a cultural artifact, a site of ideological discourse, and/or material expression of national or ethnic character and/or collective social trauma. While initially critically surveying specific dominant approaches to film history (e.g. focusing on directors as auteurs, on movie stars, on national cinemas, on style and genre, and on issues of exhibition and audience response), this semester’s iteration of the seminar will emphasize in our readings particularly transnational and “sub-national” (e.g., “ethnic” film movements) cinema histories, for the construction and impact of such histories is a site of recent fresh and exciting research. We will to some extent set such trans- and sub-national frameworks for writing histories of media texts in direct contrast to a “national” film historiographic approach. Although national film historiography has proven persistent, politically strategic, and often intellectually productive, many media historians now contest that long dominant approach in light not only of current global media dissemination but also, even more compellingly, of the quite early and far-reaching impact of cinema’s worldwide circulation from its beginnings, as we can now readily learn through copious digitized cinema historical archives.
Alongside additional selected articles, we’ll read and discuss most of two required books, Looking Past the Screen: Case Studies in American Film History and Method, eds. Jon Lewis and Eric Smoodin (Duke University Press, 2007) and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity (University of California Press 2005). We will view in class several relevant feature films and clips but students will need to watch one or two additional films outside class. Each student will make several written and oral presentations on the readings, films and issues discussed, explore readily available cinema historical archives (amazing resources on campus and the Internet), and as a final project compile an extensive annotated bibliography that proposes a cogent historiographic approach to an individual topic formulated in relation to either transnational or sub-national ethnic cinema histories (e.g., African American film history). That is: you will not write and submit a polished final long essay (of ca. 20 pages) for the seminar, but instead over the last weeks of the semester propose and research and present a polished annotated filmography and bibliography for such an essay. That “pre-writing” for a substantial essay could form the basis for a subsequently drafted essay that you might with further mentoring in a subsequent semester complete and submit for publication (as students in previous seminars making that assignment have very successfully done).

514 G SEMINAR IN MEDIEVAL LIT, C. Wright. M 3-4:50
same as MDVL 514
TOPIC: The World of the Exeter Book

The course will involve close reading of texts from the Exeter Book of Old English poetry. The primary goal is to read as much as possible of the Exeter Book in Old English, with the rest in translation. A major focus throughout will be on how the Exeter Book as an anthology functions as a discursive and meditative world map for its readers. Two worlds are regularly distinguished by the deictic demonstrative pronouns “this” (proximal) and “that” (distal): from the perspective of the reader, “this creation” (gesceaft) is the present world (middangeard), while “that creation” is the “other” or “next” world of heaven and hell. This world has objectively defined centers (Jerusalem, Rome) that are subjectively remote and peripheral for a reader situated in Exeter (or Urbana) but that can be experienced and inhabited imaginatively, as can the celestial and infernal poles of that world. The Exeter Book conducts its readers on a tour of both worlds, dramatizing how the material and spiritual worlds intersect: how Christ transcends their boundaries, and how angels and saints and demons and sinners move through them together. At the same time, the Exeter Book is a discursive and meditative encyclopedia of the human social world (familial, ethnic, and national, secular and spiritual) and of the world of non-human creatures and things (“a large book about all sorts of things,” as it is vaguely but quite accurately described in Leofric’s bequest of his library to Exeter Cathedral). We will be reading the Exeter Book, then, as “global” anthology from an Anglo-Saxon perspective.
Course requirements include a seminar paper and regular contributions to a collaborative taxonomy of the places, beings, and things in the world according to the Exeter Book.

TEXTS: The Exeter Book, ed. G. P. Krapp and E. V. K. Dobbie, The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, 3 (New York, 1936); Anglo-Saxon Poetry, trans. S. A. J Bradley (New York, 1982); J. R. Clark Hall, A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, 4th ed. by H. D. Meritt (1960; repr. Toronto, 1984)

TOPIC: Shakespeare Studies Now

Because Shakespeare so thoroughly dominates hiring and publishing in early modern English literary studies, scholarship within the Shakespeare industry has expanded to include virtually all methodologies current within literary scholarship. The practice of channeling everything though Shakespeare can have a deleterious effect on our understanding of literary history or early modern culture, but it does mean that Shakespeare studies is today a uniquely broad-based, heterogeneous, and potentially inclusive endeavor. Shakespeare studies as a field has its conventions and its received commonsense—and I hope we will become alert to the implicit limitations that have thus become part of the field’s normative assumptions—but virtually any scholarly focus can find a place within the Shakespeare industry today. Therefore, this seminar will be structured to allow participants to delve, collaboratively, into the affordances of Shakespeare studies as it is practiced now.
Primary texts will consist of a set of selected plays from the Shakespeare canon: they will be chosen because they have been written about often and/or interestingly of late. This reading list will be supplemented each week by recent secondary scholarship (published since, say, 2010) selected by seminar participants (including the professor). Discussion each week will focus, therefore, on what we now write about when we write about Shakespeare, and why. Focal points will emerge, but will be shaped by the interests that students bring with them or discover over the course of the semester.
Students will be encouraged to think over the course of the semester about how their own curiosities, commitments, and preoccupations can relate to contemporary Shakespeare studies. The seminar will be a collaborative choose-your-own-adventure journey through the landscape of contemporary Shakespeare studies.

527 E SEMINAR IN 18TH C LITERATURE, Markley. W 1-2:50
TOPIC: The Cosmopolitan Stage: British Drama 1650-1820

As the dominant mode of public entertainment between 1660 and 1800, the London theater played a critical role in the literature and culture of Britain during the long eighteenth century. To a far greater extent than the domestic novel, the popular stage registered Britain’s changing role in a globalized economy, helping to reshape what we now think of as “modern” national, racial and gender identities. Dozens of well-received plays performed in the period were set in Asia or the Americas, and—in their quest for commercial and critical success—dramatists explored a range of hot-button issues including slavery and the slave trade, the succession crisis of the early 1680s, the colonization of the Americas, and the fate of women trapped in loveless or abusive marriages. As a result, the drama of the period has become an important site for feminist and postcolonial critics who have challenged the assumptions that governed traditional accounts of British drama.
Before the 1720s, British drama (and literature more generally) faced eastward to Asia rather than to the colonies in North America. Highly successful plays were set in the Morocco, China, Persia, the Mughal Empire, Islamic Spain, and Southeast and Central Asia. These plays tended to emphasize the similarities—in terms of race, nobility, and gender norms—between the upper-classes in Britain and their aristocratic counterparts in a variety of Asian (and South American) empires. In these works, we will be able to explore the complex development of British attitudes toward race, colonialism, and empire when Great Britain was still a regional rather than world power. The more overtly imperial, colonialist and racist drama of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, in part, might be seen as a reaction against the cosmopolitan values, assumptions, and complexities of drama between roughly 1660 and 1710.
To explore the cosmopolitan stage of the long eighteenth century, this seminar will analyze a range of successful plays that explore the gendered, racialized, and politico-religious problems of empire, trade, and colonialism. We will read and discuss plays by John Dryden, Elkanah Settle, George Etherege, Aphra Behn, Thomas Southerne, Delariviere Manley, William Wycherley, Susannah Centlivre, Thomas Shadwell, Catherine Trotter, William Congreve, Hannah More, and Richard Cumberland, among others. In addition to several short response papers, students will write a seminar paper on topics of their choosing. There also will be opportunities to do archival work in the Library’s world-class collection of plays by women, notably Aphra Behn, and to investigate attitudes toward race, gender, non-Christian religions, and slavery in primary texts concerned with colonization, the East India trade, and the slave trade.

533 P SEMINAR ROMANTIC LIT, Nazar. TU 11-12:50
TOPIC: Rousseau, Feminism and Romanticism

The two decades following the French revolution of 1789 were a period of remarkable intellectual ferment and ideological contestation in Britain. The “pamphlet war” begun by Edmund Burke’s dyspeptic denunciation of the revolution in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), and continued in such rejoinders to Burke as Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790) and Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (1791-92), powerfully established the contours of present-day liberalism and conservatism. This seminar brings into focus one of the most far-reaching developments of the 1790s and early 1800s: the emergent feminist discourse of the “rights of woman,” which accompanied the more prominent one of the “rights of man,” and which was developed, in important ways, through the medium of fiction rather than by political or philosophical treatises. More particularly, the seminar considers how a broad spectrum of Romantic women writers engaged questions about women’s rights and duties by engaging the maddeningly paradoxical but fascinating mid-century writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, hailed by the French revolutionaries as a primary intellectual influence on the revolution. Rousseau’s bestselling sentimental novel, Julie or The New Heloise (1761), was especially important to women writers of the later eighteenth century: it was cited/revised/contested in multiple novels by century’s end, including Helen Maria Williams’s Julia (1790), Eliza Fenwick’s Secresy (1795), Mary Hays’s Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796), Mary Wollstonecraft’s Wrongs of Woman, or Maria (1798), Charlotte Smith’s The Young Philosopher (1798), Jane West’s Tale of the Times (1799), and Elizabeth Hamilton’s Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800). We will ask how Rousseau’s claims about female education, sensibility, natural rights, and freedom—as developed in writings including Julie, The Social Contract, and Emile (all three published in 1761-62)—served as a springboard for the Romantic novel and late-century feminism. The seminar will conclude with a discussion of Jane Austen’s outrageously funny juvenilia (written in the 1790s), as well as the more sober Sense and Sensibility (published in 1811 but drafted in the 1790s as an epistolary novel à la Julie), which represent a culmination of post-revolutionary debates about women and their rights.
This seminar is designed to appeal not only to students of the long eighteenth century or of women’s writing but also to anyone interested in the Enlightenment origins of the dominant ideologies of our own time. Rousseau has proven to be one of the most influential figures in the development, at once, of present-day liberalism and totalitarianism. His many paradoxical self-descriptions— philosophe and harbinger of the counter-Enlightenment, contractarian and sentimentalist, “solitary walker” and “proud citizen of Geneva”—have consistently created the strangest of bedfellows amongst his admirers. His writings were also crucial to the development of theory in our profession, serving as a springboard for the work of Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man, among others. Romantic women writers’ response to Rousseau, therefore, began a trend that continues unabated today and that has critical consequences for the future discourses of modernity.

TOPIC: Black and Bourgeois in the Flesh: Class, Sex and the Racial Body

In this course we will examine how African American authors in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries grapple with the question of black class privilege, and particularly with an inherent tension between the racialized excess of embodiment that accrues to notions of “blackness,” and the tendency of privilege to mask or erase the body’s traces. With this ontological dilemma in mind, we will consider how and why African American narratives of the post-Civil Rights era have articulated black bourgeois identity as a problematically embodied state—implicating interraciality’s visible markers as classed signs, but also speaking beyond racial phenotype and its underlying histories, to the ways in which the intersection of “race” and “class” operates viscerally, as corporeal and even libidinal performance. Throughout our study, we will consider how the unique socio-historical circumstances surrounding the “black” body—circumstances that recall Hortense Spillers’ crucial distinction between body and flesh and the latter’s “vestibular” relation to Western culture--inform narrative representations of class, and particularly of class privilege, and speak to their complex relationship to corporeality for black subjects. In exploring how African American class privilege lives “in the flesh,” we will consider, as well, the vulnerability and violability of the black body, and how this vulnerability manifests in particular ways in the post-Civil Rights and “post-racial” moment and relates to the fiscal precariousness of the (post-)postmodern and what Jeffrey Nealon calls “just-in-time capitalism.”
Primary texts will include both fiction and memoir—some possibilities are Toi Derricotte’s The Black Notebooks, Percival Everett’s Erasure, Andrea Lee’s Sarah Phillips, Reginald McKnight’s He Sleeps, Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby, Michael Thomas’s Man Gone Down, and Rebecca Walker’s Black, White, and Jewish, among others—as well as films by Spike Lee and Dee Rees. Critical and theoretical readings will include works by Elizabeth Alexander, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Nicole Fleetwood, Sharon Holland, Frederic Jameson, Karyn Lacy, Rupali Mukherjee, Jeffrey Nealon, Naomi Pabst, Darieck Scott, Jared Sexton, Hortense Spillers, Diana Taylor, and Harvey Young. Requirements: participation, weekly discussion-board postings, oral presentation, final seminar paper. Students should read Hortense Spillers’ essay, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book” in preparation for the first class meeting.

TOPIC: Modern Literature and the Metropolis

This course will examine how the growth of the industrial metropolis, as both physical space and social environment, shaped the successive emergence of two dominant paradigms of modern literature, realism and modernism. We’ll use work by theorists of urban modernity (Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, Marshall Berman, David Harvey) to frame key questions for a cultural history of metropolitan modernity, such as:

• how did material alterations in urban space create new forms of experience, and new interactions among genders, races, classes, nationalities?
• What were the meanings of the changing relationship of work-space to home-space, and public space to private space?
• How did the late-19th-century emergence of metropolitan consumer culture (commodity fetishism, advertising, collecting, market research, conspicuous consumption), inflect modern literature?

We’ll test these questions and others against a variety of literary responses to modernization, concentrating on American texts produced between 1840 and 1940. Among the authors featured will be Poe, Melville, Whitman, Chopin, Crane, Eliot, Millay, McKay, Larsen, Hughes, Williams, and Sandburg.

581 R SEMINAR LITERARY THEORY, Somerville. TU 1-2:50
TOPIC: Queer Theory

This course will trace key moments in the development of the field of queer theory over the past three decades (or so). While one familiar genealogy of queer theory locates its origins in the development of a theory of sexuality (as distinct from theories of gender), a range of queer theorists have instead critiqued any attempt to give exclusive priority to sexuality over other categories of analysis. The full potential of queer theory, it was argued early in the field, is to dislodge “the status of sexual orientation itself as the authentic and centrally governing category of queer practice, thus freeing up queer theory as a way of reconceiving not just the sexual, but the social in general” (Harper, et al., 1997). Still other queer theorists have located the full potential of queer critique in its refusal of the social and political altogether. While we will remain skeptical of origin stories and attentive to the stakes of competing genealogies, our readings will include texts that have been understood as foundational to the field, as well as well as emerging work in areas such as queer indigenous studies and queer disability studies.

same as CI 565
TOPIC: Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) and Research in Writing

This seminar explores how to engage in theoretically-grounded research on writing practices. It centers on cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) conceived broadly, with particular attention to the traditions associated with Vygotsky, Luria, Bakhtin, and Voloshionov as well as to related work on situated semiotic activity (e.g., Hanks, Irvine, Goodwin) and on actor-network theories (Latour). Together, these theroies suggest the need for research to trace complex relationships among situated semiotic action, cultural artifacts/practices, genre systems, and writing. In the seminar, we will take up examples of theoretical and empirical work in CHAT as well as of varied research on writing. To examine how to implement CHAT approaches in studies of literate activity, we will do several, informal inquiry activities (practicing in effect how to conduct and analyze research on writing). Finally, each student will explore the application of CHAT approaches to their current or projected research project.

584 G TOPICS DISCOUSRE AND WRITING, Russell. M 3:30-5:20
same as CI 569
TOPIC: Genre Theories and Histories

Genre theory has been around for a long time (maybe forever), and it has found a home in a lot of disciplines (literature, linguistics, rhetoric, film, psychology, computer science, and so on). This course considers how theorists from several different fields have approached the study of kinds, classes, and sorts. If genres aren’t simply sets of texts similar in form and content, what are they? What does it mean to think of a genre as rhetorical and social, cognitive and coercive? How do genres orchestrate not just cultural productions but cultural expectations and relations? Where do genres come from for that matter? This seminar will be particularly interested in theories of genre that take root in historical perspectives, tracing the development of a single genre—the religious treatise, the architecture notebook, the resume, the dissertation, the anthropological monograph, the pastoral poem, the animal autobiography—over time. How do generic patterns (in form, content, situation, exigence, audience, action) take and then shift shape? What prompts a genre to change and how much can it do so before it becomes a different genre? How do genre histories enrich genre theories?

TOPIC: The Teaching of Literature

The aim of this seminar is to prepare graduate students to teach a range of literature courses at the introductory and advanced levels, from surveys to more specialized topics. While the focus of this seminar will be on practical issues related to teaching and course development—including developing sample syllabi and lesson plans as well as a teaching philosophy for use on the job market—we will also read a range of works that reflect on pedagogy more generally. Expect both to participate consistently in class discussion and to read and comment upon your peers’ work.


TOPIC: Postmodern Plants

Taking its cues from the emerging field of critical plant studies, this course in ecocriticism explores the literary productions of those arbores inversae or “inverted trees” known as medieval men and women. The seminar rejects plant blindness (the zoocentric treatment of vegetal life as backdrop) to focus instead on plants as active agents in the multispecies assemblages of the global Middle Ages. We’ll look at medieval plants from a variety of authors, genres, and cultural traditions: the ash in Marie de France’s Le Fresne, the cherry of Zeami’s Saigyozakura, the holly of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the laurel of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, and the mugwort of the Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm are just a few of the species we may consider in the course. We’ll also discuss more fantastic plants: e.g., the three-in-one-tree species of the Cross of Christian apocrypha, the vegetable lamb of Mandeville’s Travels, and the barnacle tree of Gerald of Wales. Because this class is aimed at graduate students across the entirety of the Illinois medieval studies program, all texts —including Old and Middle English—will be taught in Modern English translation. (Since we’ll also be reading some key theoretical texts from ecocriticism and critical plant studies, non-medievalists interested in the environmental humanities will also find much of relevance in the seminar.) Students will work with me to develop research paper projects relevant to their academic disciplines and fields of origin.

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