Fall 2020

1) Jyotsna Singh
ENG 813: Literature Before 1800
Topic: “Gender, Power, and Violence in Jacobean Tragedy-c. 1580s-1620”

In this Part I- In this course, we will explore a spectacular period in English drama, when a group of plays known as Jacobean tragedies (including selected plays by Shakespeare) opened up a universe in which sexual and political betrayal combine with incest, insanity, forced marriage and ferocious honour codes, often leading to violence. While drawing large audiences with their titillating representations of early modern society, these plays also offered serious reconsiderations of gender roles within shifting power hierarchies, and especially of the realignments of women’s power and agency within a climate of toxic masculinities. Drawing on early modern gender studies, we will study several representative texts in terms of the cultural and ideological struggles of the period. To reveal the contextual archaeologies of these gendered worlds, we also delve into two ancient masterpieces by the Greek playwrights, Aeschylus and Euripides.

Part II of the course will address a larger presentist question: what is about these violent, baroque, and classical plays that haunt our contemporary imagination? What kind of culture did they spring from? Why are they again filling our theatres today? Do they resonate with the gender politics we can recognize in our times? In addressing these questions, we will examine several contemporary productions that deploy cross-racial and cross-gender casting and thereby enable intersectional analyses of gender, power, and violence.

Key texts: The Duchess of of Malfi, The White Devil (Webster); The Changeling (Middleton and Rowley); ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (Ford); A Woman Killed with Kindness (Heywood); Women Beware Women (Middleton); The Broken Heart (Ford); and Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure, and The Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare); Classical plays: Aeschylus, Agammemnon; Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis.

2) Robin Silbergleid
ENG 814/ENG 423: Literatures in English after 1800
Topic: “The I and the Eye: Writing and Reading Personal Nonfiction”

What do we mean when we say “I”? How do writers of personal essay and literary criticism deploy the first person as rhetorical strategy? In what other ways, and in what contexts, do writers and theorists incorporate something we might understand as “the personal” within their scholarship? What are the effects, risks, and privileges associated with this choice? This class will provide a semester-long investigation into the tradition and practice of personal nonfiction; the syllabus will include a range of personal essays, examples of creative literary criticism, and relevant theoretical and critical work by writers such as Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Eula Biss, Kiese Laymon, John Edgar Wideman, Rebecca Solnit, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Leslie Jamison, Jane Gallop, Jane Tompkins, Nancy K. Miller, and Roland Barthes. Please note this course is designed to be cross-listed with English 423 Advanced Creative Nonfiction writing; as such, it will also offer graduate students the experience of a creative writing course, with regular discussion of student work in progress.

3) Joshua Lam
ENG 814/ENG 450: Literatures in English after 1800
Topic: “US Modernism in Black and White”

How has racial difference been inscribed in the creation and canonization of modernist aesthetics in the US? While race has long been regarded as central to the creation of American modernity, scholars (and editors, publishers, anthologists) have often regarded the modernist aesthetics of canonical figures like Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound as distinct from African American literary aesthetics of the same era, including those associated with the Harlem Renaissance and the New Negro movement. This course will examine both canonical and lesser-known texts from “traditional” (ostensibly white) modernism and African American modernism, framed by recent critical attempts to think against or complicate this putative divide. Our historical scope will be broad; we will read literature from the post-Reconstruction era; canonical modernist figures; “New Negro” writers and anthologies; and a number of authors who resist placement in these lineages and milieus. We will also examine scholarly attempts to complicate or challenge the notion that white and black writers created what Michael North calls “two different modernisms.” These include interdisciplinary and historical accounts of “Jim Crow Modernism”; investigations of racial imitation and masquerade; narratives of passing and queer of color critique; and scholarship on sound and recording technologies (e.g., sonic Afro-modernity).

The seminar will be driven by questions about the coherence and diversity of aesthetic forms; the relation between aesthetic forms and social categories of identity; and their mutual imbrication with material historical conditions (from urbanization and segregation to publishing and print culture). While our primary focus will be the role of race in the formation of modernist aesthetics in the US, we will also attend to how scholars treat race as an analytical category in contemporary literary studies. The seminar is designed to introduce students to the varied aesthetics of literary modernisms, and to help students evaluate frameworks for thinking about race and intersectional identities in US literature. It will engage primarily with the fields of modernist studies, African American literature, and critical race theory.

Possible texts include:

Gertrude Stein, Three Lives
W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
Pauline Hopkins, Of One Blood
George Schuyler, Black No More
Richard Wright, Lawd Today!
Sherwood Anderson, Dark Laughter
Nella Larsen, Passing
Jean Toomer, Cane
Claude McKay, Home to Harlem
James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men
Alain Locke (ed.), The New Negro: An Interpretation
Nancy Cunard (ed.), Negro: Anthology
Wallace Thurman (ed.), Fire!!

Poetry by:

William Carlos Williams
T.S. Eliot
Ezra Pound
Langston Hughes
Countee Cullen
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Ann Spencer
Jessie Redmon Fauset
Helene Johnson
Melvin Tolson
Gwendolyn Brooks


Kenneth W. Warren, What Was African American Literature? (2011)
Walter Benn Michaels, Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism (1995)
Alexander G. Weheliye, Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity (2005)
Adrienne Brown, The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race (2017)
Louis Chude-Sokei, The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics (2015)
Lauri Ramey, A History of African American Poetry (2019)
Siobhan B. Somerville, Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture (2000)
James Smethurst, The African American Roots of Modernism: From Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance (2011)

4) Divya Victor
ENG 819: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “The Ordinary in/as Extraordinary”

How do we continue to live, ordinarily, through the extraordinary catastrophes of history and into the present? This seminar is concerned with contemporary poetry’s response to two polar categorizations of life– the ordinary and the extraordinary. We will study the ordinary (conventional, established, assumed) and extraordinary (innovated, extreme, hazarded) formal methods poets have recently deployed in order to represent, enact, and witness these categories of existence. We will be preoccupied with the outermost edges— the extremities— of lived experience, be they endotic or exotic, and the poetic practices that query their symbiosis. Thus, we will track contemporary poetic responses to the polar edges of lived experience—the quotidian and the limit event, OR, the everyday and the calamity— to examine how they theorize subjectivity and collective experience. In other words, we will study poetry to understand how the order of things— the ordinary— hinges on that which lies outside the normal course of events.
My role will be that of a curator. I will bring together a cross-sectional gallery of poetry— broadly defined— selecting across generic, aesthetic, periodic, and national boundaries. The syllabus will not offer a survey of a period, movement, or method. Rather, the texts we examine and live with will show us emerging approaches to the imbrications between the disparate categories of the everyday, the commonplace, the banal, the extreme, the calamity, and finally, the limit event. We will strive to imagine how poetry could offer a holographic bridge to the diachrony of these categories of experience. Readings will consist primarily of post-war and contemporary poetry, selections from critical theory, continental philosophy, interviews and correspondence. *You will track your response to these galleries by keeping a live and ongoing catalogue of the infra-ordinary, witnessing your everyday life, interiority, and your reading experience as they intersect with the extraordinary movements in the political world.
We will pursue a rigorous amateurism, as a way of moving against the grain of devotional and compulsory professionalism, in order to recuperate the foundational impulses of intellectual activity– pleasure, embodiment, social alignment, and purposeful study of literature beyond the service to arbitrary fields ascribed by institutions. In this, we will pursue the greater project of decolonizing the practice of literary criticism, as theorized by Edward Said. To wit: We will study, create, and converse without “losing sight of the raw effort of constructing either art or knowledge” in order to examine and experience “knowledge and art as choices and decisions, commitments and alignments” and not merely “in terms of impersonal theories or methodologies” (“Professionals and Amateurs”). This goal will be carried out through two specific pedagogical methods: 1. Sustained and continual dialogue (in person and via Zoom) with poets and critics, whose work and criticism we will study; 2. The active rehearsal of innovation in critical methods, exercised through *presentations that pitch your extant skill-sets against the grain of intellectual conformity. Ultimately, we will endeavor to theorize the contemporary as an emergent condition that tethers poetry (as a genre and an institution) to its practice and criticism. *You will demonstrate your investments and contributions to this emergent condition by proposing a substantial critical object, and by completing it through research, peer workshop, and consultancy with me.
* Refers to objects and activities that will be assessed in this seminar.

Primary Resources
(Either as books/performances, rarely, or more often, as selections)

Clifton, Lucille. “4/30/92 for rodney king” from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton (1991)
Conrad, CA. A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon (New Somatics) (2012)
Civil, Gabrielle. excerpts, Swallow the Fish (2017)
Cortez, Jayne. “Rape” from Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology (2013)
Eshelman, Clayton. “Hardball” from Under World Arrest (1994)
Fitterman, Rob. excerpts, Holocaust Museum (2011)
Gallagher, Kristen. Dossier on the Site of a Shooting (2015)
Hayden, Robert. “Middle Passage” from Collected Poems (1985)
Kapil, Bhanu. Ban En Banlieu (2015)
Kearney, Douglas. excerpts, The Black Automaton (2009)
Kinnell, Galway. “Blackberry Eating” from Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (1980)
Kotecha, Shiv. Item Numbers (2011)
Le Fraga, Sophia. I RL YOU RL (2014)
Levertov, Denise. “When We Look Up” from Poems: 1960-1967 (1966)
Lockwood, Patricia. “Rape Joke” (2013)
McCaffery, Steve. “The” (Various)
Melgard, Holly. “Stay” (Various)
Morris, Tracie. “Chain Gang,” “Afro-Futurism,” “My Great Grandmother Meets a Bush Supporter” (Various)
Neruda, Pablo. “Ode to Salt” from Odas Elementales (Elementary Odes) (1954)
O’Hara, Frank, excerpts Meditations in an Emergency (1957)
Perec, George. An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (1974)
Philip, NourbeSe. Zong! (2008)
Place, Vanessa. Tragodía Vol. 1 Statement of Facts (2010)
Ponge, Francis. Mute Objects of Expression (2008)
Rankine, Claudia. Citizen (2014)
Reznikoff, Charles. Excerpts from Holocaust (1975)
Rich, Adrienne. “Rape.” Diving Into the Wreck. (1973)
Sharma, Prageeta. Grief Sequence (2019)
Spero, Emji. almost any shit will do (2014)
Stein, Gertrude. Tender Buttons (1914)

5) Juliet Guzzetta
ENG 826/ENG 426: Special Topics Seminar
Topic: “Performing Solo and Performance Theory”

Sometimes life might feel like a solo show. In many ways it is. And yet many of us strive for connections with other humans and opportunities to share aspects of our lived experiences. This course examines a variety of one-person productions from a range of theater artists who typically write their own scripts including Ty Defoe, Coco Fusco, Spalding Gray, E. Patrick Johnson, Sarah Jones, Lisa Kron, Young Jean Lee, Franca Rame, Anna Deavere Smith, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Doug Wright. In addition to studying specific performances, we will also consider performance as an analytical tool, examining its relationship to everyday life and social practices. These critical interventions will engage with works by both leading and up-and-coming scholars such as Judith Butler, Jill Dolan, Donatella Galella, Fred Moten, Peggy Phelan, Adrienne Rich, Joseph Roach, Richard Schechner, Rebecca Schneider, D. Madison Soyini, and Wu Tsang. Through primary and secondary texts, students will explore and experiment with reading, watching, theorizing, writing, and maybe even performing about the performances of others.

6) Kaveh Askari
FLM 820/FLM 451: Topics in Film Studies
Topic: “Recycled Cinema and Media”
*Satisfies elective for Graduate Certificate in Film Studies

Films rarely disappear after they leave the theater. They are continually reissued, rediscovered, and remade. This course tracks films with particularly rich and interesting afterlives in the Global South. We will examine three primary ways that film history is reprocessed and remade. First, we will explore how documentary and experimental filmmakers have established an important tradition of critical filmmaking by directly borrowing and reediting found footage. Second, we will consider how the widespread global practice of remaking celebrated films creates another important site where a film’s meaning can be recontextualized. Third, we will follow formations of archival and curatorial practice in different regional contexts as archivist-curators have preserved and presented technological transformations in the history of moving images and have altered the canon of world cinema. Each of these dimensions of recycled cinema have shaped the way that film history has been written, and students will use the case studies in the course to reflect on their own practice of writing cinema and media history.

Spring 2021

1) Yomaira Figueroa
ENG 802: Literary Criticism and Theory
Topic: “Race, Gender, and the Human: The Interdisciplinary Study of Human Difference in the U.S.”

Theoretical and historical considerations of the category of the human. Attention to the development of race, ethnicity, gender and their critical intersections in relation to the U.S. and the discipline of the Humanities.

Course objectives:

Understanding the particular forms of inequality rooted in the most brutal forms of radical dehumanization. Introduce students to historical and theoretical understandings of the human and to questions of value, equity, and social justice. Train students to reflect upon the current conditions of knowledge production in the U.S. and the history of the humanities and the university in the context of these issues.

Colonialism, Settler Colonialism
Afterlives of Slavery and Indigenous Dispossession
Construction of Gender and Sex as Science
Histories and Theories of Racialized Gender
Diaspora and Border Studies
Engagement with Ethnic Studies and Disability Studies
History of the Humanities Discipline
Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Humanities

2) Steve Deng
ENG 813: Literatures in English before 1800
Topic: “Hamlet and Early Modern Literary Scholarship”

This course focuses on arguably the most famous work of literature in the English language, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in order to examine the current state of scholarship in early modern literary studies and literary studies more broadly. In effect, rather than read Hamlet through a variety of critical lenses, we will “read” the critical contexts through the lens of Hamlet as a touchstone of early modern literature. We will first examine the early texts themselves – the two quartos and the folio version – in order to raise long-standing questions about the early modern publication process, the development of the idea of a literary author, relations between text and performance, the complex task of modern editing of Shakespearean texts, and the idea of textual “authenticity.” We will then look at an array of scholarship on Hamlet, from early- to mid-twentieth century “classics” of criticism, to studies “after theory” including psychoanalytic, feminist, and postmodern approaches, to historicist and materialist criticism considering political, religious and economic “con-texts” for the play, to recent interests in transnational, cognitive, counterfactual, queer and race studies approaches. In conjunction with criticism on Hamlet, we will examine adaptations and works inspired by Hamlet, such as Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine, and Akira Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well, as well as film versions of the play by Laurence Olivier, Grigori Kozintsev, and Michael Almereyda. By the end of the course we will consider the future of early modern literary studies, especially the apparent “return” to theory, and how Hamlet might inform these new critical contexts.

We will try to arrange viewings of the films outside of class time, and students will do a singular or joint presentation/lead discussion on the film in the following class. Also during the semester students will give two other presentations: one on a book-length study of Hamlet (chosen from the books on reserve listed below), including leading of discussion on the work; and the second on the student’s final essay topic in a “mini-conference” during the final day of class. For final projects students may explore in more depth one of the topics discussed or focus on another category related in some way to Hamlet.

3) Gary Hoppenstand
ENG 818/ENG 478B: Studies in Genre and Media

This class will discuss the various theories of popular fantasy narratives as they apply to fiction and film. Thematically, we will examine the narrative range of fantasy from High Fantasy to Grimdark Fantasy, with an understanding that fantasy employs a narrative genre that explores the “real world” human condition through secondary worlds of imagination.

4) Gordon Henry and Matthew Fletcher (MSU Law School)
ENG 826/ENG 437B: Special Topics Seminar
Topic: “Philosophy of Enactment: Federal Indian Law in American Indian Novels and Poetry”

In “The (Post)colonial Construction of Indian Country: American Indian Literature and Federal Indian Law,” Eric Cheyfitz argues for reading American Indian Literature in the context of Federal Indian Law (and policy.) Therein Cheyfitz writes

“The lack of awareness of the field of federal Indian law is in large part due to the fact that while studies of U.S. Native American oral and written expression to date have alluded to federal policy in Indian matters, they have done so at best in a fragmentary way, and never in a way that argues the intimacy of law and literatures in this field . . . “

For this course, we will put Cheyfitz’s argument to the test, by exploring how federal Indian law and policy informs key elements of the social, political and structural backdrop of Native literature and by examining ‘the legal conditions” of tribal communities and characters, as represented in American Indian novels and poetry. Primary texts for the course will include, The Surrounded, by Darcy McNickle, House Made of Dawn, by N.Scott Momaday, Heirs of Columbus by Gerald Vizenor, Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko, Ledfeather by Stephen Graham Jones, The Round House, by Louise Erdrich and New Poets of Native Nations, edited by Heid Erdrich. Another primary text, Matthew Fletcher’s, Principles of Federal Indian Law will provide legal and political context for readings in literature. In addition, the course will include supplemental readings dedicated to theories of law as literature and literature as law. Thus, we will draw on essays and book chapters, from the work of Robert Cover, Jacque Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Bruce Duthu, Vine Deloria, Sean Coulthard and Bill Ashcroft to reflect on theories of law and literature as potential ways of expanding how we read and write about American Indian Literature, as contextualized by federal Indian law and policy.

4) Kuhu Tanvir
FLM 810: Seminar in Film Studies
Topic “Digital Dickering: Mediating Popular Culture”

Popular culture media objects–film, television, radio–are not isolated entities, but instead, exist as part of a complex network of media ecologies. Not only is each medium imbricated in transactions with other mediums, but each medium negotiates a web of formats, transfers, and exchange within itself. This course asks students to engage with these media negotiations. The course will cover a wide array of exchanges that occupy a spectrum of legality: including songbooks, celebrity posters, film trailers, bootlegged media and fan-made media objects, to name a few. The goal of the course is to study these networks and exchanges and to evaluate their role in engendering popular media as we understand it.

Fall 2019

1) Zarena Aslami
ENG 819: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “
Disability Studies: Introductions and Interventions”
Monday, 4:10-7pm

This seminar introduces graduate students to the interdisciplinary field of disability studies. At its core, disability studies interrogates how a specific idea of the body (in its physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and intellectual capacities) in modern western culture has been taken as the measure of the normal around which physical, conceptual, and political environments have been built. It critiques how the institution of medicine, among others, perceives disability as a deficit or lack that must be cured or eradicated. Across the semester, we will explore the significant interventions that disability studies scholars and disabled writers, artists, and activists have made. In particular, we will track their critique of the exclusive category of man and ableism in its many forms, their reimagining of the human, their foregrounding of the intersections of disability with race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality, and their visions of a socially just world. Questions we may consider: How does thinking about disability revise current critical conversations on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class? What are the limits of critiques that do not take disability into account? Disability studies has also been critiqued for not considering questions of class, race, and sexuality. How do recent scholars address those limits? How does attention to dis/ability revise our interpretations of cultural texts? How does ableism persist in the academy and what strategies can we use to dismantle it? Possible readings include works by Audre Lorde, Tobin Siebers, Eli Clare, Sami Schalk, Therí Alyce Pickens, Alison Kafer, Keah Brown, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Jasbir Puar, Sunaura Taylor, Robert McRuer, and Alice Wong.

2) Steve Arch
ENG 826: Special Topics Seminar
Topic: “Textual Criticism and Scholarly Editing”
Wednesday, 5-7:50pm

 This course will examine the theory and the practice of editing manuscript and printed materials. Since how one edits a text is a version of how one reads a text, the topics covered will be related to issues of literary interpretation as posed by contemporary reading practices. The course will attend to a practical expertise peculiar to the craft of editing, weaving back and forth between theory (textual criticism) and practice (scholarly editing). We will read and discuss a set of foundational texts that set out the history and rationale for several currently available editorial models (such as documentary editions; Lachmannian stemmatic editions; Greg-Bowers eclectic critical editions; fluid text editions; and socially-based editing). We will examine the new skills and policies demanded by computer-based editions. We will study the composition and publication history of at least one famously problematic text, such as King LearSister CarrieFrankenstein, or Ulysses. In addition to completing several short writing exercises, each student will identify a text in her research area (or potential research area) – perhaps one from the Special Collections department of the MSU Library – and prepare an edition in accordance with an appropriate editorial method.

3) Tamar Boyadjian
ENG 813: Literature in English before 1800
Topic: “England and the “East”: Imagining Europe and the Orient Across Medieval Literature”
hursday, 4:10-7pm

This course examines the ways in which medieval England views the “east,” and the way the “east” views England, in a number of literary and historiographic works produced in the medieval period.   How and in what forms does the “east” present itself in medieval English literature? What is the “east” and who are its people: Saracen, Arab, Muslim, Jew, Mongol, “other”? How do these representations of the “other” simultaneously reflect a perception of England and its people? How do the period of the crusades shift these types of representations? At the same time, how do the people and cultures of the “east” or the Middle East represent England? How might these literary depictions of peoples and places lead to larger conversations regarding moments of intercultural exchange and acculturation in the medieval period?

4) Emery Petchauer
ENG 819: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “Breakbeat Lit: Hip-Hop Generation Sounds and Stories”
Tuesday, 4:10-7pm

The seminar begins with the idea that there is a more-or-less coherent aesthetic system across the narrative, sonic, visual, and bodily expressions of hip hop — an idea proposed by Tricia Rose in her 1994 monograph Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. These aesthetic forms include flow, layering, rupture, and sampling. In this seminar, we focus on stories told through fiction, poetry, personal narrative, urban stylized lettering, and dance – well beyond rap music – to explore these hip-hop aesthetic forms. Since real people around us today also create hip hop through these practices, this course also engages directly with contemporary hip hop creators in the region and some of their material and sonic practices like beat making.

Primarily, the seminar engages broad questions about aesthetic forms and how they seem work – often in concert and collision with one another – across a range of related expressions: narrative, sonic, visual, and corporal. Most specifically, the following questions will drive learning in this seminar: What is the relationship between the aesthetic forms of hip-hop arts and the socio-political concerns of the hip-hop generation? What do Black and hip-hop aesthetics afford to life today both on and off the page? What happens when people beyond the cultural origins and originators take up and apply these aesthetics practices? These questions push the seminar to engage with the following fields: African American literature and poetics, popular culture, hip-hop studies and pedagogy, Black and hip hop feminisms, cultural rhetorics, and urban education.

Secondarily, the seminar also engages broad questions around the ethics of archiving/teaching material cultures and oral narratives in formal institutions. These questions – curricular, cultural, and ethical – have accelerated over the past decade as institutions (Cornell, Harvard, William and Mary, etc.) and museums (National Museum of African American History and Culture) have acquired or curated the material collections of hip-hop cultural pioneers. What are the stakes associated with archiving and teaching hip-hop in a university setting? More succinctly, are graduate seminars where hip-hop goes to die? From these questions, graduate students will develop ethical stances about engaging with and teaching popular, folks, and youth cultures in formal academic settings. These stances, I hope, will serve them well within the variety of settings they may serve as scholars and instructors.

Useful ideas about hip hop come from a variety of disciplines (literary studies, ethnomusicology, cultural studies, dance, etc.), cultural creators working entirely outside of academic constraints, and from hip hop itself. Consequently, the readings for this seminar will cut across various disciplines, at time extend outside of academe, yet give students space to bend the learning toward their particular disciplinary homes.

Possible readings, viewings, listenings:

Fiction, poetry, essays:

  • Adam Mansbach, Angry Black/White Boy: A Novel, 2005
  • Wish to Live: The Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy Reader, 2012
  • The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop, 2015
  • Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader, 2016
  • Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip Hop, 2006


  • Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold US Back, 1988.
  • J Dilla, Donuts, 2006.
  • Rapsody, Beauty and the Beast, 2014.
  • Kendrick Lamar, DAMN, 2017.


  • Style Wars, 1983
  • La Haine, 1995


  • Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetic of the Black Radical Tradition, 2003
  • Jennifer Lynn Stoever, The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening, 2016
  • Loren Kajikawa, Sounding Race in Rap Songs, 2015
  • Carol Levine, Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, and Network, 2015

Historical and contextual:

  • Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary American, 1994
  • Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, 2005
  • Joseph Schloss, Foundation: Bboys, Bgirls, and Hip Hop Culture in New York City, 2009
  • Joseph Edwoozie, Breakbeats in the Bronx: Rediscovering Hip Hop’s Early Years, 2017

Spring 2020

1) Yomaira Figueroa
ENG 802: Literary Criticism and Theory
Wednesday, 5-7:50pm

This seminar will offer an overview on disciplinary formations in the humanities and will focus on three distinct and intersecting areas of study: theories of the human, diaspora studies, and decolonial thought. This course should be of interest to students engaging in transdisciplinary approaches to literary and cultural studies, critical approaches to the study of race, gender, and sexuality, and those interested in epistemologies from below.

2) Scott Michaelsen
ENG 818: Studies in Genr
e and Media
Topic: “Climate Change Knowing (and Unknowing)”
Monday, 4:10-7pm

The anticipated coming of anthropogenic climate change is turning our world upside down, and it can be hard to get our bearings.  We seem to know so little regarding how we got here.  The term “anthropocene” entered public discourse less than twenty years ago, but this is not the beginning of the story of our modern relationship to climate.  Key geological-climatic works were published in the nineteenth century by figures such as Charles Lyell (Principles of Geology, 1830-33), Louis Agassiz (Studies on Glaciers, 1840), and James Croll (Climate and Time in Their Geological Relations: A Theory of Secular Changes of the Earth’s Climate, 1875), and geological fictions began appearing, such as The Last Man (1805) by Jean-Baptiste Francois Xavier Cousin de Grainville, and Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne.  There are literally hundreds of works of climate fiction written between 1805 and our present moment.

This seminar is designed as an introduction to two worlds: first, the burgeoning field of climate change theorizing, and, second, a few of the key works of climate fiction.  Key topics include climate change in relation to questions of geology, ecology, race, class, colonialism, religion, politics, psychology, sex, gender, and sexuality.  We will read our literary and theoretical materials in pairs, searching for thematic and historical connections at every turn.  Our pairs include:

  • Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864)
  • Amitav Ghosh. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016)
  • J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World (1962)
  • Bruno Latour. Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime (2017)
  • Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
  • Katherine Keller. Political Theology of the Earth: Our Planetary Emergency and the Struggle for a New Public (2018)
  • Thomas M. Disch.  The Genocides (1965)
  • Matthias Fritsch, Philippe Lynns, and David Wood, eds.  Ecodeconstruction: Derrida and Environmental Philosophy (2018)
  • Ian McDonald.  Chaga (1995) or Butler, Dawn
  • Donna J. Haraway. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (2016)
  • N.K. Jemisin.  The Fifth Season (2015)
  • Kathryn Yusoff. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (2018)
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140 (2017)
  • Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future (2014)

3) Kaveh Askari
FLM 800: Methods in Film Studies
Monday, 7-10:00pm

This course offers an introduction to methods of interpreting, writing on, and teaching film. It is designed to help graduate students to develop a research or teaching trajectory in cinema and media studies for their work at MSU and beyond. Students will begin by engaging with tools of close analysis and basic concepts of film form. They will move from there to categories of genre, authorship and other critical traditions, central to the formation of the discipline of cinema studies, that discuss aspects of the medium as a social institution, psycho-sexual apparatus, and cultural practice. The course will introduce students to subfields of film historiography, industry studies, and of studies of media infrastructures as they pertain to cinema as a medium in global circulation. Screenings will include work by Deren, Hondo, Hitchcock, Julien, Lang, Neshat, and Stephan. 

4) Kinitra Brooks
ENG 826: Special Topics Seminar
Topic: “Conjure Feminism”
Tuesday, 4:10-7pm

Conjure feminism is a course that will examine conjure and rootwork as intellectual traditions of black women. This course will be an ambitious hybrid of combining multiple elements of theory and praxis. We will theorize the importance of spirit work in the cosmologies of Black Women across the diaspora with particular focus on Womanist Theologies and Traditional African Religious Practices. We will also examine the construct of the Conjure Woman and how it has developed over time. Simultaneously, I would like us to begin to get our hands dirty…in the garden and discovering the practices of the rootworker as much as possible. Finally, I hope all of our work to be presented at BSAM Santiago in Cuba the second week of April as there is a planned travel portion to this course that is possible but has yet to be finalized.

Possible Texts Include:


  • Mama Day by Gloria Naylor
  • Stigmata by Phyllis Alesia Perry
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • Destroyer by Victor LaValle
  • Harrow County by Cullen Bunn


  • Wake by Bree Newsome
  • Lemonade by Beyoncé
  • The Skeleton Key by Iain Softley


  • Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition by Yvonne P. Chireau
  • Conjuring Culture: Biblical Formations of Black America
  • Mojo Workin’: The Old African American Hoodoo System
  • Secret Cures of Slaves by Londa Schiebinger
  • Working Cures: Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations
  • Conjure in African American Society by Jeffrey E. Anderson
  • Rituals of Resistance by Jason R. Young

5) Robert Burgoyne
FLM 820/ FLM 400: History of Film
Topic: “War and Cinema”
Tuesday, 9:10-12pm, Thursday, 9:10-11am

In this seminar, we will explore the war film — the first great genre of cinema — with a view to better understanding the critical relationship between film and the cultural imaginaries that have taken shape around the history of collective violence.  Films of war have played a central role in both fortifying images of an ascendant nation, united in an aggressive communal cause, and in contesting narratives of nation and historical purpose that have resulted in disasters such as the Vietnam War.  In several of the films we will study, the imagery and themes of earlier war films are placed in immediate dialogue with more contemporary ideas and techniques, a case in which the genre memory of past representations is called up and explicitly revised.  One such example is the recent remediation of World War I documentary footage by Peter Jackson, They Shall Not Grow Old (2018), in which silent, black and white, scratched and darkened films from the Imperial War Museum collection are renovated through advanced digital tools and techniques.  By grafting in color, brightness, and the sounds of the actual past, the meaning of WWI, as it has been widely understood, is effectively changed. 

The seminar will center on films that have played a consequential historical and cultural role, that have become defining cultural touchpoints, and that have provoked controversy and in some cases, a rethinking of the past. Among the films we will study are All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Apocalypse Now (1979), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Dunkirk (2017), and Letters From Iwo Jima (2006).  As the seminar progresses, we will consider how the language of genre has changed with the “new wars” of the 21st century, marked by the erosion of the distinction between civilians and combatants, by the erasure of the spatial boundaries of the battlezone, and by the emergence of new types of protagonists whose consummate warfare skills are matched by their pathological tendencies. 

The reading for the seminar will be drawn from major works on war and the representation of violence, including Fredric Jameson’s “War and Representation;” Yuval Noah Harari’s The Ultimate Experience; Sarah Cole’s, At The Violet Hour; Derek Gregory’s “The Natures of War;” and Hermann Kappelhoff’s, The Front Lines of Community. 

The screenings may include:

  •  Edison War “Actualities” (1897), Thomas Edison
  •  All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Lewis Milestone
  •  They Shall Not Grow Old (2018), Peter Jackson
  •  Saving Private Ryan (1998), Steven Spielberg
  •  Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Clint Eastwood
  •  Dunkirk (2017), Christopher Nolan
  •  Apocalypse Now (1979), Francis Coppola
  •  Paradise Now (2005), Hany Abu-Assad
  •  Waltz With Bashir (2008), Ari Folman 
  • The Hurt Locker (2008), Kathryn Bigelow
  •  Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Kathryn Bigelow
  •  Eye in the Sky (2016), Gavin Hood
  •  A Private War (2018) Matthew Heineman

Fall 2018

1) Jyotsna Singh
ENG 813: Literature in English before 1800
Topic: “
Shakespeare, Race, and Empire”
ursday, 4:10-7pm

Why did Shakespeare choose Othello, a Moor, a racialized “other,” as the protagonist of one of his classic tragedies? What led the playwright, who had portrayed the conventional negative stereotype of the Moor in Aaron (in Titus Andronicus), to mark a departure from the earlier image in his later play, Othello?  Did Shakespeare and his contemporaries have any direct contact with peoples from Africa, with New World “Indians,” with Jews, and with Asian east Indians? Did Prospero’s relationship with Caliban in The Tempest invoke a colonial allegory of Western “discoveries” and dominance over the New World?  Why did Shakespeare insert the figures of the “Indian boy” and the Indian “votaress” with evocative associations of “India” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?” Cumulatively, these questions lead us to consider whether the Shakespearean era was a period of an emergent, western global colonialism and imperialism (which some define as proto-colonialism). Such questions and issues have only increased in relevance and urgency in our contemporary global era, given the growing ideological fault lines of struggles for racial, gender, and social equality.

            Mapping this historical terrain, we will explore a wide cross-section of Shakespeare’s works, in conjunction with early modern primary texts such as travel writing, and selected criticism and performance histories, while working within the theoretical frameworks of critical race studies and postcolonial theory. Our aim in this course is to understand more fully how Shakespeare staged race and ethnicity, as well as sexual and social relations. In doing so, we will participate in the continuing discussions about whether his works challenged dramatic, cultural, and social conventions of race or participated in the “race thinking” of the early modern period.  Finally, with this critical practice, I hope that we can begin to disarticulate associations between the playwright’s works and “whiteness” — a term encompassing the universalizing idea of a timeless Shakespearean canon itself.  What can we learn about race and attitudes towards race, in Shakespeare’s time and our own?

SELECTED REQUIRED TEXTS: (This is not a comprehensive list). We will read the primary texts in their original editions on-line (or in special collections).

Shakespeare’s Works





The Tempest

The Merchant of Venice

Henry V

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Antony and Cleopatra

Complete Poems (selections)

Historical/Cultural Contexts

Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation (1580-1609.)

Samuel Purchas, Purchas Pilgrims (1613).

Leo Africanus, Description of Africa (1550).

William Harrison, A Description of Elizabethan England (1577).

Richard Knolles. The General History of the Turks (1603).

Selected Critical Texts (selections):

Kim Hall, Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England.

Ian Smith, Race and Rhetoric in the Renaissance: Barbarian Errors.

Catherine Alexander and Stanley Wells, Eds. Shakespeare and Race.

Claire Norton ed. Conversion and Islam in the Early Modern Mediterranean

Margo Hendricks and Patricia Parker, Eds.  Women, “Race,” and Writing in the Early Modern Period.

Ayanna Thompson. Ed. Colorblind Shakespeares: New Perspectives on Race and Performance.

Imtiaz Habib. Black Lives in the English Archives – 1500-1677.

Craig Dionne and Parmita Kapadia. Eds. Native Shakespeares

2) Kristin Mahoney
ENG 814: Literature in English after 1800
Topic: “
Transnational Decadence and Modernism”
Tuesday, 5-7:50pm

In his 1893 essay “The Decadent Movement in Literature,” Arthur Symons referred to the literature of Decadence as “a new and beautiful and interesting disease,” linking the late nineteenth-century movement to “perversity,” artificiality, and excess. In this course, we will begin by focusing on this Decadent literature of the fin de siècle, paying particular attention to the works of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley, and examine the manner in which this “diseased” literature constituted itself in opposition to Victorian ideals of moral health, responsibility, and progress.  We will think about Decadence’s foundational role in the establishment of a queer literary tradition, and we will consider Decadence’s vexed relationship to empire, focusing on works by writers from colonized nations, such as W. B. Yeats and the Caribbean writer M. P. Shiel, who implemented Decadent style in a critique of the imperial project. Some of the most exciting recent work within the field of Decadent studies has foregrounded the manner in which Decadence engenders what Dennis Denisoff refers to as a “queer way of envisioning—or, more precisely, of enacting—a subject’s relationship to the environment.” This work has highlighted the movement’s investment in eco-paganism and the rethinking of the bonds between human and nonhuman animals. With this in mind, we will also play close attention to the Decadent treatment of the natural world and the manner in which this element of the movement might be understood in relationship to its sexual dissidence and its interest in occultism. In the second half of the semester, we will turn to a consideration of the rich afterlife of Decadence during the modernist moment, focusing in particular on camp modernist writers, such as Ronald Firbank, who leaned on Decadence to generate a queer antidote to modernism’s high seriousness, and on Harlem Renaissance writers, such as Richard Bruce Nugent, who turned back to Wilde in order to imagine a queer, black future. We will think about the manner in which Decadent’s global afterlife can be detected in the work of South African illustrators, such as Beresford Egan, and Sri Lankan photographers, such as Lionel Wendt. In the final section of the course, we will consider modernist and avant-garde cinema’s engagement with Decadence and position the films of Alla Nazimova and Kenneth Anger as an extension of the Decadent tradition.

Readings may include:

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

Oscar Wilde, Salome (1893)

Selected poems and short stories by W. B. Yeats

Clemence Housman, The Were-Wolf (1896)

  1. P. Shiel, The Purple Cloud (1901)

Ronald Firbank, The Princess Zoubaroff (1920)

Richard Bruce Nugent, “Smoke, Lilies, and Jade” (1926)

Wallace Thurman, Infants of the Spring (1932)

Ivy Compton-Burnett, A House and Its Head (1935)

Christopher Isherwood, The Berlin Stories (1945)

Films may include:

Salome (1923)

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)

3) Kaveh Askari
ENG 818/FLM 400: Studies in Genre and Media
Topic: Iranian Cinema
Tuesday, 9:10-12pm, Thursday, 9:10-11am

Iranian cinema has been recognized globally, since the 1990s, as one of the preeminent national cinemas of the world. This course will examine that global recognition and the celebrated art-house filmmakers who helped to achieve it. It will also explore vital traditions of Iranian filmmaking and film-going often overshadowed by this reputation including the New Wave cinema before the 1979 revolution, midcentury thrillers and musicals, documentary movements, and films of the diaspora. Recurring themes of the course will include the role of cinemas in the modern city, the relation between film and the other arts, the influence of Hollywood and Indian cinema, and the formations of gender identity in different periods in Iranian cinema history. Students with interests in world cinema, postcolonial studies, feminist theory, the relation between media and Islamic religious values, or questions of modernity in the Global South will have opportunities to build upon their knowledge of these topics in their research papers.  

4) Lamar Johnson
ENG 819: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “C
ritical Race English Education”
Monday, 4:10-7pm

This course illuminates the heightened increase in the racial violence against Black lives and bodies that continues to sweep across the country.  In this course, Critical Race English Education: Revolutionizing English classrooms and Literary Studies, we will analyze the interconnection between the physical and symbolic violence that unfolds in Black communities (e.g., churches, neighborhoods, parks, playgrounds, gas stations, etc.) to the physical and symbolic violence that erupts in preK-12 classrooms and higher education courses.  As a community of learners, we will examine how English courses and classrooms are dominated by Eurocentric language and literacy practices and ideologies which are acts of violence that constantly remind Black people that their lives, language, culture, race, ethnicity and humanity don’t matter.  As such, this course aims to counteract the racial violence that erupts in English classes and within language and literacy studies by providing humanizing pedagogical and curricula practices that reject anti-black racism ideologies pertaining to Black life. In addition, in this course, special emphasis is placed on understanding the ways in which race and racism are situated in the field of English and literary studies and language and literacy studies while simultaneously thinking about transformative ways to make the field of English and literary studies sites for racial justice.  In closing, we will explore and unpack readings from language and literacy scholars and activists (e.g., Derrick Bell, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Marcelle Haddix, David Kirkland, Carter G. Woodson, and Angela Davis).

5) Ellen McCallum
ENG 826: Special Topics Seminar
Topic: “
The Nature of Representing Nature”
ednesday, 4:10-7pm

This course will investigate how scholars frame nature as locus of humanistic or posthumanistic inquiry. What are the lessons we learn from how nature is represented in sundry discourses, or that nature itself, for instance via scientific inquiry, presses upon our understanding? If science has become the dominant discourse in which nature is understood (perhaps even in contrast to humanities’ dominating culture), how has that epistemic configuration been challenged or capitalized on in recent work? Our consideration will be anchored around Karen Barad’s Meeting the Universe Halfway (quantum physicist bringing the insights of Niels Bohr’s ontology to thinking through deconstruction, feminist and queer theory) with a view towards other feminist/queer thinking on nature • ecology • matter:  for example, Catriona McLeod’s Queer Ecologies, Nicole Seymour’s Strange Natures, Mel Y. Chen’s Animacies; Jane Bennet’s Vibrant Matter; Elizabeth Povinelli’s Geontologies, Vicky Kirby’s Quantum Anthropologies. To contextualize this conversation, we will put these texts in conversation with more historical ecology and spatial texts like Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Diaries, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, as well as more recent ecological reconsiderations like Timothy Morton’s Ecology without Nature, Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s Mushroom at the End of the World. We will triangulate these two strands by bringing in some systems theory (such as Anthony Wilden’s System and Structure) and/or Bruno Latour’s Actor Network theory or other nonrepresentational theories to contextualize how systems thinking relates to a reconsideration of subjects, and objects, agents and matter.

Spring 2019

1) Yomaira Figueroa
ENG 802: Literary Criticism and Theory
Thursday, 5-7:50pm

This seminar will offer an overview on disciplinary formations in the humanities and will focus on three distinct and intersecting areas of study: theories of the human, diaspora studies, and decolonial thought. This course should be of interest to students engaging in transdisciplinary approaches to literary and cultural studies, critical approaches to the study of race/gender/sexuality and those interested in epistemologies from below.

2) Cara Cilano
ENG 814: Literature in English after 1800
Topic: “
Spatial Studies, Mobility Theory, and Postcolonial Belongings”
Thursday, 1:50-4:40pm

Through a framework informed by critical geography, sociology, cultural studies, and postcolonial theories, students will investigate how literary characters and non-literary actors occupy place and move through space. Our goal is to assess how, when, and why certain identities qualify as ‘proper’ subjects of place, while others are designated/targeted as ‘improper’ not because of the identities themselves but due to the relations that shape them. Locations, gender, race, religion, history (all as lived and imagined), as well as the ubiquitous presence of technology in our daily lives, are of particular interest to our analyses.

 Readings may include the following:

  • theoretical
    • Tim Cresswell
    • Doreen Massey
    • Mimi Sheller 
    • John Urry
    • Michel de Certeau
    • Jane Jacobs
    • Henri Lefebvre
    • Peter Adey
  • literary
    • Thomas King, Truth and Bright Water
    • Michael Ondaatje, Warlight
    • Sorayya Y. Khan, City of Spies
    • Bina Shah, Before She Sleeps
    • Bilal Tanweer, The Scatter Here is Too Great

3) Ann Larabee and David Stowe
ENG 818: Studies in Genre and Media
“Theories and Methods of Popular Culture”
uesday, 7-9:50 

This seminar is designed to introduce graduate students to topics, issues, and debates within the broad field of Popular Culture Studies, and to acquaint them with a variety of methods for undertaking their own interdisciplinary research. We will investigate the historical, political, and theoretical development of PCS, chart its development amid related fields like communications, American Studies, and cultural studies, examine some of the critiques that have been and continue to be leveled against it, and show its promise for understanding the new digital environments.  Since Popular Culture Studies constitutes the study of particular forms–like television, popular fiction, comic books, and video games–the course will identify key approaches to these forms, including definitions of concepts (like “form,” “genre,” and the “popular”) and exploration of genealogies and archives, remediations and adaptations, and social and cultural contexts. While the course identifies key texts with which to begin, we expect it to be a collaborative one, in which students identify avenues of interest under expert guidance.  Professional development in the field will be provided, including an introduction to delivering conference talks and publishing.

Representative texts:
John Storey, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, 7th edition, Routledge, 2015.
Robin D. G. Kelley. “Notes on Deconstructing ‘The Folk.’” American Historical Review 97 (1992), 1400-1408.
C. Levine. Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network. Princeton UP, 2015.
Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation, Routledge, 2012.
Janice Radway. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature.  1984; U of North Carolina P 1991
Sarah Projansky, Spectacular Girls: Media Fascination and Celebrity Culture, NYU Press, 2014.
R. Barthes. Mythologies. Trans. Annette Lavers. Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1972.
Umberto Eco. “The Myth of Superman.” Diacritics 2.1 (1972), 14-22
Nick Sousanis, Unflattening. Harvard UP, 2016. 

4) Joshua Yumibe
ENG 818/FLM 480: Studies in Genre and Media
“Color Cinema” 
Tuesday, 9:10-12pm, Thursday, 9:10-11am

This course surveys the aesthetic and technological history and theory of color in cinema. Particular attention will be paid to cinema’s relation to other color media (photography, mass advertising, painting, stage design) and to theoretical debates in philosophy, art history, and literature over the physiological effects and ideologies of color. The course will also examine the ways in which color technologies circulate transnationally yet are received and interpreted in locally specific ways. Works to be covered may include films from early cinema (Annabelle Dances, The Red Spectre), narrative cinema of the 1920s (The Toll of the Sea, Redskin), Technicolor of the 1930s (Becky Sharp), melodrama and musicals (All that Heaven Allows, The Bandwagon), global art cinemas (Black Narcissus, Daisies, Touki Bouki, The Scent of Green Papaya), experimental film (Harry Smith, Oskar Fischinger, Stan Brakhage), and contemporary works (Days of Heaven, Blue Velvet, Hero, Marie Antoinette).

Potential Readings

Regina Lee Blaszczyk, The Color Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2012).
David Batchelor, Chromophobia (London: Reaktion, 2000).
Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century, (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1992).
Rosalind Galt, Pretty: Film and the Decorative Image (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2011).
Carolyn L. Kane, Chromatic Algorithms: Synthetic Color, Computer Art, and Aesthetics after Code (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2014).
Esther Leslie, Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry (Reaktion Books, 2005).
Michael Taussig, What Color Is the Sacred? (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2009). 

5) Divya Victor
ENG 819: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “
Extreme Texts (The Ordinary in/and the Extraordinary)”
nesday, 3-5:50pm

How do we continue to live, ordinarily, through the extraordinary catastrophes of history and into the present? This seminar is concerned with contemporary poetry’s response to two polar categorizations of life– the ordinary and the extraordinary. We will study the ordinary (conventional, established, assumed) and extraordinary (innovated, extreme, hazarded) formal methods poets have recently deployed in order to represent, enact, and witness these categories of existence. We will be preoccupied with the outermost edges— the extremities— of lived experience, be they endotic or exotic, and the poetic practices that query their symbiosis. Thus, we will track contemporary poetic responses to the polar edges of lived experience—the quotidian and the limit event, OR, the everyday and the calamity— to examine how they theorize subjectivity and collective experience. In other words, we will study poetry to understand how the order of things— the ordinary— hinges on that which lies outside the normal course of events. 

My role will be that of a curator. I will bring together a cross-sectional gallery of poetry— broadly defined— selecting across generic, aesthetic, periodic, and national boundaries. The syllabus will not offer a survey of a period, movement, or method. Rather, the texts we examine and live with will show us emerging approaches to the imbrications between the disparate categories of the everyday, the commonplace, the banal, the extreme, the calamity, and finally, the limit event. We will strive to imagine how poetry could offer a holographic bridge to the diachrony of these categories of experience. Readings will consist primarily of post-war and contemporary poetry, selections from critical theory, continental philosophy, interviews and correspondence. *You will track your response to these galleries by keeping a live and ongoing catalogue of the infra-ordinary, witnessing your everyday life, interiority, and your reading experience as they intersect with the extraordinary movements in the political world.   

We will pursue a rigorous amateurism, as a way of moving against the grain of devotional and compulsory professionalism, in order to recuperate the foundational impulses of intellectual activity– pleasure, embodiment, social alignment, and purposeful study of literature beyond the service to arbitrary fields ascribed by institutions. In this, we will pursue the greater project of decolonizing the practice of literary criticism, as theorized by Edward Said. To wit: We will study, create, and converse without “losing sight of the raw effort of constructing either art or knowledge” in order to examine and experience “knowledge and art as choices and decisions, commitments and alignments” and not merely “in terms of impersonal theories or methodologies” (“Professionals and Amateurs”). This goal will be carried out through two specific pedagogical methods: 1. Sustained and continual dialogue (in person and via Skype) with poets and critics, whose work and criticism we will study; 2. The active rehearsal of innovation in critical methods, exercised through *presentations that pitch your extant skill-sets against the grain of intellectual conformity. Ultimately, we will endeavor to theorize the contemporary as an emergent condition that tethers poetry (as a genre and an institution) to its practice and criticism. *You will demonstrate your investments and contributions to this emergent condition by proposing a substantial critical object, and by completing it through research, peer workshop, and consultancy with me.

* Refers to objects and activities that will be assessed in this seminar. 

A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm These Tiny Books: i.e. The Gallery

Primary Resources
(Either as books/performances, rarely, or more often, as selections) 

Bäcker, Heimrad. transcript (2010)
Bergvall, Caroline. “Ride” (2006)
Bernstein, Charles.“My/My/My”from Asylums (1975)
Berrigan, Ted. The Sonnets (1964)
Brainard, Joe. I Remember (1970)
Brown, Brandon, “Poem for my Future Children”
Clifton, Lucille. “4/30/92 for rodney king” from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton (1991)
Cole, Barbara. Situation Comedies: Foxy Moron (1998/2004)
Conrad, CA. A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon (New Somatics) (2012)
Cortez, Jayne. “Rape” from Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology (2013)
Eshelman, Clayton. “Hardball” from Under World Arrest (1994)
Fitterman, Rob. Holocaust Museum (2011)
Gallagher, Kristen. Dossier on the Site of a Shooting (2015)
Gladman, Renee. Calamities (2016)
Goldsmith, Kenneth. Fidget (1994)
Hayden, Robert. “Middle Passage” from Collected Poems (1985)
Hayes, Terrance. Wind in a Box. (2006)
Jones, Saeed. “History, According to Boy” from Prelude to a Bruise (2014)
Kearney, Douglas. The Black Automaton (2009)
Kinnell, Galway. “Blackberry Eating” from Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (1980)
Kotecha, Shiv. Item Numbers (2011)
Le Fraga, Sophia. I RL YOU RL (2014)
Levertov, Denise. “When We Look Up” from Poems: 1960-1967 (1966)
Lockwood, Patricia. “Rape Joke” (2013)
Low, Trisha. Purge: Vol 1: The Last Will and Testament of Trisha Low.  (2012)
Mayer, Bernadette. Midwinter Day (1982)
McCaffery, Steve. “The” (Various)
Melgard, Holly. “Stay” (Various)
Morris, Tracie. “Chain Gang,” “Afro-Futurism,” “My Great Grandmother Meets a Bush Supporter” (Various)
Neruda, Pablo. “Ode to Salt” from Odas Elementales (Elementary Odes) (1954)
O’Hara, Frank, Meditations in an Emergency (1957)
Perec, George. An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (1974)
Philip, NourbeSe. Zong! (2008)
Place, Vanessa. Tragodía Vol. 1 Statement of Facts. Los Angeles: Insert Blanc  (2010)
Plath, Sylvia. “Daddy,” “Metaphors,” “You Are” (Various)
Ponge, Francis. Mute Objects of Expression (2008)
Rankine, Claudia. Excerpts from Citizen (2014)
Reznikoff, Charles. Excerpts from Holocaust (1975)
Rich, Adrienne. “Rape.” Diving Into the Wreck. (1973)
Spero, Emji. almost any shit will do (2014)
Stein, Gertrude.  Tender Buttons (1914)
You, Mia. I, Too, Dislike It (2016) 

Secondary Resources (very brief selections from the following:)

Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963)
Baldwin, James/ Howard, Jane. “Doom and Glory of Knowing Who You Are” (1963)
Barthes, Roland. Mourning Diary (1977/2012) and Pleasures of the Text (1973)
Benjamin, Walter. Brief selections from “The Storyteller” from Illuminations (1968)
hooks, bell “Keeping Close to Home: Class and Education” from Talking Back (1989)
de Certeau, Michel. “Pedestrians” and “Walking” in Practice of Everyday Life (1980)
Dean, Jodi. Solidarity of Strangers: Feminism after Identity Politics (1996)
Dickinson, Emily. The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition (1998)
Greenaway, Peter. Windows (1975)
Hartman, Saidiya. “Innocent Amusements: The Stage of Sufferance,” from Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, Self-Making in Nineteenth Century America (1997)
Highmore, Ben. “Questioning Everyday Life” from The Everyday Life Reader (2002)   
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis (1915)     
Lacapra, Dominick. Writing History, Writing Trauma (2001)
Lakoff & Johnson. Metaphors We Live By (1980)
Lorde, Audre. “The Master’s Tools will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981)
Mansfield, Nick. Subjectivity: Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway (2000)
Nancy, Jean-Luc, Corpus (1992)
Perec, George. “Approaches to What?” from Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (1973/1997)
Said, Edward. “Professionals and Amateurs” from Representations of the Intellectual (1996)
Tehching Hsieh, One Year Performance 1978–1979 (Cage Piece), One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece) 

6) Kathleen Fitzpatrick
ENG 819/ENG478A: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “
The Interface”

As our practices of reading and writing become increasingly screen-based, the materiality of our engagement with texts becomes all the more important to the ways we construct and interpret them, as well as the ways we understand what a “text” is in the first place. This course will explore the interfaces through which we read and write — including those based in paper, those that appear on screens, and perhaps some others as well — and the ways those interfaces are deployed and represented in both fiction and criticism. 

– Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age
– Richard Powers, Plowing the Dark
– Ellen Ullman, The Bug
– Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
– Jon Bois, 17776
– G. Willow Wilson, Alif the Unseen
– Reif Larsen, Entrances and Exits 

– Jerome McGann, Radiant Textuality
– Vilem Flusser, Does Writing Have a Future?
– Lisa Gitelman, Paper Knowledge
– Matthew Kirschenbaum, Track Changes
– Terry Harpold, Ex-foliations
– Paul Ford, What Is Code?
– Matthew Fuller, “It looks like you’re writing a letter”
– Shannon Mattern, “Tuning Into the Invisible”

Fall 2017

1) Gary Hoppenstand
ENG 818: Studies in Genres and Media
Topic: “Genre and Narrative Theory in Popular Fiction”
4:10 – 7pm

This class offers a popular culture studies perspective of the various theories and methods of examining literary genre and popular fiction, focusing specifically on the horror, fantasy, gothic romance, and science fiction genres. In addition, we expand our examination of popular genre in American and Western European society to narrative, or story-based, entertainments. Entertainment, technically, could potentially cover a much, much wider field (including board games, contemporary popular music, the internet and video games, to list but a few examples) but, again, including all examples and dimensions of entertainment would extend well beyond the scope of a 15-week course of study. Thus, we will focus on popular fiction, graphic novels, film, and television, theorizing how various categories of stories have entertained us, again focusing specifically on the horror, fantasy, gothic romance, and science fiction genres.

The culture of entertainment in American Society has a long history. Beginning with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the types and variety of entertainment are significant in understanding both American and Western European society and the mindset of its citizens. Entertainment culture can correctly be classified as popular culture. In the field of popular culture studies, two distinct theories exist that explain American popular culture and its function. One theory of popular culture, as suggested by Ray Browne, views popular culture as “the culture of everyday life.” Browne contends that popular culture has existed as long as has the distant origins of human civilization, and he believes that it includes virtually every aspect of a person’s daily life, from what one eats, to what one wears, to how one lives and, of course, to how one entertains himself or herself. As Browne puts it, “popular culture is like water to a fish”; it is entirely pervasive.

In contrast to Ray Browne, Russel Nye argues that popular culture (and entertainment culture) grew out of the Industrial Revolution in America and Europe. He believes that popular culture did not exist before the advent of mass production and mass consumption. He further states that several conditions needed to exist to establish popular culture, such as urban population centers and advancing technology. Our approach in this course follows Russel Nye’s understanding of popular culture.

Another important early scholar of popular culture is John Cawelti, who was one of the first academic to define the role of narrative formula in popular stories, such as the detective story or the western. Cawelti argues that formula is a predictable story. Formula contains equal parts of convention (or predictable narrative elements) and invention (new narrative elements). He believes that for a formula to become popular, it must contain equivalent measures of convention and invention. Otherwise, with too much convention, a story becomes too predictable, and with too much invention, a story is not comprehensible.

Thus it is with John Cawelti that we begin our examination of popular narrative media in this class, discussing genre-based primary fiction texts, graphic novels, film, and television, analyzing the function of popular narrative genre both as entertainment culture and as social/cultural reflection. We, then, will examine the horror genre, specifically looking at the zombie apocalypse story, such as seen in Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel The Walking Dead and M.R. Carey’s novel The Girl with all the Gifts. Next, will discuss urban fantasy, such as found in the works of Neil Gaiman, William Hjorstberg, and in the Hellblazer graphic novels. We will discuss two science fiction categories, specifically the dystopian story, such as seen in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta, and the space opera story, as seen in Robert Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers and the film The Edge of Tomorrow. Lastly, we will discuss the gothic romance, as seen in Daphne Du Maurier’s novel Rebecca and in the film Crimson Peak.

2) Natalie Phillips
ENG 819: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “Literature, Neuroscience, and the History of Mind”
Thursday, 4:10-7pm

This course interweaves four interdisciplinary fields in literary studies: cognitive approaches to literature, digital humanities, and the literary history of mind. Discussing literary works from the 13th-century romance of female cross-dressing, Silence, to Mark Haddon’s A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the course explores pivotal topics in the literary and scientific history of the brain. We consider, for example, how Descartes’ attempt to locate the soul in the pineal gland influenced depictions of thought in Tristram Shandy; Jane Austen’s use of contemporary theories of head injury in Persuasion; and non-western depictions of PTSD in Persepolis. Throughout, we will read key works in cognitive approaches to fiction, the history of cognition, and disability studies, exploring the advantages—and profound challenges—of integrating cognitive science with literary history, and working to re-theorize interdisciplinary studies of mind. We begin the course with a focus on disability studies and DH, reframing reading as an inherently multi-sensory and multi-media engagement (including braille, ASL, audiobooks, digital renderings, etc.). Early on, students will engage in a creative project on multi-sensory literary engagement that will be developed and included in a public day-long art-installation, Sense of Self: Disability Studies and Accessible Art, at the Eli Broad Museum, an event calling attention to alternate modes of engaging art and museum accessibility across the disability spectrum. The seminar will conclude its coverage of key themes across cognitive science and literature by exploring recent work in the neuroscience of reading, DH, and virtual reality studies. Students will learn to use scientific databases, such as PubMed, to find the latest work in neurobiology, developmental psychology, cognitive linguistics, and neuroaesthetics. Alongside their final research paper, students will work collaboratively to brainstorm an interdisciplinary experiment in groups, imagining how we could use technologies from cognitive science—such as fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), EEG, or eye-tracking—to explore a central question about literary reading.

3) Ellen McCallum
ENG 826: Special Topics Seminar
Topic: “
Reading • Feminist • Reading • Queer • Reading”
Wednesday, 4:10-7pm

Starting from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s influential consideration of paranoid vs. reparative reading, we will turn to other modes of reading queerly, along the way questioning whether feminist and queer approaches to interpretation diverge, converge, or how they might be allied. Sources may include Hortense Spillers, Black White and in Color; Naomi Schor, Reading in Detail; Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique; Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text & How to Live Together; Barbara Johnson reader The Surprise of Otherness; Jose Munoz, Cruising Utopia; Dareick Scott, Extravagant Abjection; DA Miller, Jane Austen or the Secret of Style; Kevin Ohi, James and the Queerness of Style; Lee Edelman, Homographesis; Leo Bersani, Culture of Redemption; Sandra Sotos, Reading Chican@ like a Queer;  Val Rohy, Anachronism and Its Others; Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway.

4) Joshua Yumibe
FLM 400: Seminar in Film History: “Interwar Modernism in Film and Media”
Tuesday, 9:10-12pm, Thursday, 9:10-11am

Between the two world wars, modern culture flourished globally, and we will look at the repercussions and reactions of cultural, aesthetic, and political change on the cinema of the interwar period of the 1920s and 1930s. We will track closely the emergence of various modernist and avant-garde movements in Europe and North America that engaged with the new mass medium of cinema, including Expressionism and Absolut Film in Germany, cinéma pur and impressionism in France, Soviet montage culture, and pictorialist art cinema in Hollywood. We will also pay particular attention to how modernist film styles circulated globally and were adapted and transformed by filmmakers in Japan, China, New Zealand, and elsewhere.

5) Ned Watts
ENG 441/ENG 813: Literatures in English before 1800
Topic: “
Race Shifting”
7:10 – 10pm

Following recent work by Katy Chiles, Nancy Shoemaker, and others, we will read a number of texts from pre-1800 North America that engage and intervene in the emergent categories of race in the TransAtlantic literary sphere.

6) Salah Hassan
ENG 460/ENG 819: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “Ecocriticism and PetroFictions: Middle East, Africa and Beyond”
Monday and Wednesday, 12:40-2pm

Literature and the environment courses in English Departments tend still to be exceedingly focused on US literature, and rarely include postcolonial literature. That said, there have been significant developments in the field of eco-criticism over the last 15 years with increasing emphasis on narrative literatures and films that represent the changing landscapes of world, especially in what is some times referred to as the Global South. In the context of globalization, especially with the impact of the industries of resource extraction, most notably oil and gas, Africa and the Middle East have been immediately and intensely subject to what Rob Nixon has referred to as the “slow violence” of environmental change. While North American and European environmental activists lobby for clean energy and more recycling, Africans and Arabs, like their Native American counterparts struggling against the incursions of big oil through tribal lands, are directly subject to the dire consequences of deforestation, desertification, oil spills, water shortages/contamination, and the toxic aftermath of wars. The precarious conditions of life in the Middle East and Africa have become a central preoccupation of contemporary African and Arab writers, whose works complicate simplistic views of nature and pose serious questions about the devastation of the environment and society as a consequence of the world’s reliance on oil. While course readings will include a range of ecocritical writings and emphasize Arab and African petrofictions, also included on the syllabus is selection of British and American texts that are located within the broader field of petroculture.

Spring 2018

1) Salah Hassan
ENG 802: Literary Criticism and Theory
Monday, 4:10-7pm

2) Zarena Aslami
ENG 458/ENG 814: Literatures in English after 1800
Topic: “Victorian Race”
Tuesday, Thursday 3-4:20pm

Globalization, capitalism, class politics, anti-racism, feminism, liberalism, and the spread of democracy are typically associated with contemporary political moments. But they all have their roots in the nineteenth century. Working together with students at Macalester College taking the co-developed parallel course, students will interrogate notions of race as they were being invented—exploring how they were popularized and used to dominate, how they failed, and how they were resisted in 19th-century Britain. We will read canonical and non-canonical texts, including works by writers of color, visual images, scientific theories, fiction, and non-fiction. Considering locations throughout the empire, we will explore intersections of race with the history of British slavery, colonial settlement, gender politics, enfranchisement, war, and religion. For the final project, students collaborate to develop a full digital scholarly edition of a nineteenth-century memoir written by a person of color.

ENG 818.001. Studies in Genres and Media: “As if the Apocalypse has Already Happened: Ecology and Humanity at the End of the World (as We Know it)”

Professor Scott Michaelsen

Tuesday, 7:10 – 10:00 pm

The writing of the disaster already has happened.  Our first texts describing the great flood are written beginning in approximately 2100 B.C.E. (the epics of Ziusudra, Gilgamesh, and Atrahasis).  The apocalypse already has happened.  The first texts of apocalyptic literature are dated roughly at 200 B.C.E. (the Books of Daniel and Enoch).  The traditions of apocalypse and disaster accelerated and multiplied in the twentieth century, and especially in the domain of science fiction.

As is well known, the Biblical flood cleansed the earth and opened onto new possibilities; and the apocalyptic genre always been a literature of revolutionary renewal.  So let’s find out what new chances and options are opened by the promise of the apocalypse: forms of strange rebirth; the nourishing of the death drive; a confrontation with extinction; a new relationship to “nature”; a recasting of colonialism, imperialism, and slavery as ecological through and through; a renegotiation of sex and gender; the rethinking of our relationship(s) to animals, plants, worms, and stones.  Indeed, everything potentially will be turned upside down in our readings this semester.

Our reading list is heavy, no doubt about it.  In addition, each seminar member will be responsible for a presentation on one or more of our key texts, and will write a final, 20-page paper on matters related to our themes. 

Reading List:

  1. Fowler Wright. Deluge (1928)

John Wyndham.  The Day of the Triffids (1951)

Brian W. Aldiss.  Non-Stop (1958)

J.G. Ballard.  The Drowned World (1962)

Harry Harrison.  Deathworld (1966)

Thomas M. Disch.  The Genocides (1965)

Frank Herbert.  Dune (1965)

Ursula K. LeGuin.  Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

John Brunner.  The Sheep Look Up (1972)

Robert Silverberg.  Downward to the Earth (1970)

Christopher Priest.  The Inverted World (1974)

Samuel Delany.  Dhalgren (1975)

Mary Jane Engh. Arslan (1976)

Octavia Butler. Dawn (1987)

Ian McDonald. Chaga (1995)

Ken MacLeod.  The Star Fraction (1995)

Adam Roberts.  Bete (2014)

Kim Stanley Robinson.  New York 2140 (2017)

3) Justus Nieland
ENG 818: Studies in Genres and Media
Topic: “Substrates of the Present: Infrastructure, Media, Logistics”
Tuesday, 4:10-7pm

This seminar explores what anthropologist and media historian Brian Larkin calls the “poetics and politics of infrastructure” through a range of films, videos, art practices, and literary works from the late nineteenth century to the present. Both omnipresent and unseen, infrastructure has a way of receding from view until it fails, often catastrophically. Think of the BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill, the Dakota Access Pipeline stand-off, or even closer to home, the ongoing Flint water crisis. Globally, contemporary debates about the Anthropocene have brought into geological visibility the vast infrastructural project of modernity, one whose disastrous ecological implications, one would think, can no longer be refuted. But we now live in the Trump Era, where anything can be denied, and in the early days of an administration that came to power on the promise of linking a restrictive nationalist vision to promises of infrastructural renewal. Infrastructure, for ever-more-urgent reasons, continues to structure and demand our attention, our energies, and our resources, in every sense.

Infrastructure’s current return to visibility in political and civic life has produced a discernible infrastructural turn in arts and humanities scholarship over the last decade. “To be modern,” as historian of technology Paul Edwards once insisted, “is to live by means of infrastructures”—systems that link the various scales of time, space, and social organization, and thus form the socio-technical foundations of modernity itself. This renewed attention to the substrates of modernities past and present is apparent in a range of disciplines and interdisciplinary formations, from film and media studies and theory, to art and architectural history, cultural studies, literary studies, urban studies, environmental studies, postcolonial studies, science and technology studies, the digital humanities, and their various intersections and overlaps.

This seminar aims to provide a broad introduction to the infrastructural turn in media studies, making visible the buried networks and systems that bring modern communities into being, inspire political activity and imagination, and organize bodies, labor, and commodities. Infrastructure has long been at the heart of debates about citizenship, democracy, and visions of a just public life. In this course, then, we will pay particular attention to the infrastructural dimensions of modern media, which function not just to transmit messages, but as what John Durham Peters calls “the fundamental constituents for organization.” This is what Peters and others have identified as the logistical dimension of media. World-enabling infrastructures,” media track and orient us in time and space, manage data and world, distribute and manage bodies and populations, and shift the basic conditions of culture and being.

This is a film and media studies seminar, and so primary texts will be largely films, although some literary texts (say, Don DeLillo’s Underworld) may be inescapable. Students interesting in modern and contemporary literature, ecocriticism, issues of mediation, and materialist approaches to cultural studies, will find much to grab on to in this class. Students taking Dr. Hassan’s “eco-criticism and petro-fictions” seminar in the fall will see clear connections between these seminars, and will be encouraged to pursue productive overlaps. Like film, literary works will be approached not just for their infrastructural imagination, but as media that organize worlds and publics. Our goal will be to discuss how and why infrastructure has returned as a crucial critical problem for humanities scholars, for a range of artistic practices, and for contemporary civic and political life. We will attempt to foster an infrastructural attentiveness to how and where media come from, what resources they consume and distribute, and how, elementally, they came to be what they are. Primary texts will be chosen for the range of infrastructural imaginaries and objects they take up. Secondary readings will be drawn from film and media history, art and architectural history, anthropology, science and technology studies, literary studies, systems theory, political economy, and environmental studies.

4) Tamara Butler
ENG 826: Special Topics Seminar
Topic: “‘
Our Power to Do This’: The Activist Work of Black Women’s Storytelling”
Wednesday: 4:10-7pm

Students enrolled in “’Our Power to Do This’: The Activist Work of Black Women’s Storytelling” will read Black women’s autobiographies, memoirs and other non-fiction texts to explore how women’s writings served, and continue to serve, as social justice texts across sociopolitical movements.  The course title alludes to Alice Walker’s (1983) reflection on the role of writers in her publication, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.  In the course, we will focus on Black women’s sustainable writing practices, which emerge as archiving, preserving, and documenting to save their lives and the lives of others.  In addition, students will discuss, develop and offer pedagogical implications for teaching Black women’s non-fiction writing. Course will include readings from literacy and literary scholars, historians and Black women activists (e.g., Margo Perkins, Gholnescar Muhammad, Chana Kai Lee, Danielle McGuire, Assata Shakur).

5) Tamar Boyadjian
ENG 481/ENG 819: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “Translation: Translation Theory and Workshop”
Tuesday, 12:40-3:30pm

In his seminal work The Experience of the Foreign, Antoine Berman describes the aim of translation as “fertilizing what is one’s own through the mediation of what is foreign.” We can then consider translation as a window that allows us to travel through the intricacies of a literary culture, which the original language cannot grant us access to. As Schlegel puts it, an aim that makes the “mother tongue” play.

Drawing on theories pertaining to literary translation, the critical objective of this class is to introduce students to the larger dialogues and recent trends in the interdisciplinary field of Translation Studies by exploring questions pertaining to translation, translating, and translatability of “foreign” language texts. This course will also develop and train students in the act of translating literary texts (such as poetry and prose) from another language into English.

Fall 2016

1) Jyotsna Singh
ENG 813: Lit in English before 1800
Topic: “Early Modern Islam and the West: Literature, Culture, and History”
, 4:10-7pm

How did Europeans imagine the expanding frontiers of their world in the early modern period? As their geographical knowledge was growing, so were the cultural, linguistic, religious, and racial/ethnic coordinates by which they defined their identities. And within this repertoire of representations, Islamic figures, variously labeled as “Mahometans,” “Muslims,” “Moors,” “infidels,” and ‘heathens,” began to proliferate in the global imaginings of European Christendom: on the English Renaissance stage, in travel narratives, in accounts about pirates and renegades, and in popular polemical texts on Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.  Drawing on the growing scholarly engagement with Anglo-Muslim relations in the early modern period, this course will focus on figurations of Islam and Muslim cultures, within both intercultural and intra-cultural contexts, from the late fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. European Christendom cast both a skeptical and a fascinated eye on the Islamic world on their peripheries.  Thus their interactions with Islam also produced rich cross-pollinations of cultures as well as ethno-religious stereotypes, which associated Islam with decadence. We will examine these cross-cultural interactions, while exploring the Muslim societies from comparative perspectives, drawing on both local and globalizing contexts

Among topics and issues informing our discussions will be the following:

–  The actual encounters and interactions — political, social, military, sexual, and religious — between the English (Europeans) and Muslims, as well as the ways in which Muslims had a vivid presence in English life and national imagination in the period.

–  The multiplicity of early modern English representations in texts and visual culture—both embellished and distorted—of Islam, and how they illuminate the processes of cultural and linguistic translation.

–  Stereotypical mages of Muslims – as renegades and apostates, cruel tyrants, libidinous villains, or just fallen men like Othello –. Why were such representations of the cultural others so pervasive? Were they simply imaginary resolutions of real anxieties about the wealth and military power of the Islamic empires to the East: the Ottomans in Turkey, Safavids in Persia, and the Mughals in India?

–  While including all these Islamic empires, we will move beyond the contemporary Anglo-Ottoman focus and draw our attention to comparative perspectives on Mughal India, including both English travel narratives about India and Mughal memoirs, paintings, and royal edicts, artifacts etc.

–  We will examine the Europeans casting their gaze on the Islamic world, but in doing so also try to pluralize that gaze by identifying distinct, discrete, and yet sometimes overlapping processes of identity formation in both the Muslim and Christian worlds.


Shakespeare, Othello

Marlowe, Tamburlaine

Thomas Kyd, Soliman and Perseda (1592)

George Peele, The Battle of Alcazar (1588)

William Bedwell, Mahommedis Imposturae (1615) (selections)

Edward Terry Voyage to East India (1625) (selections)

Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625) (selections)

Sir Paul Rycaut [and Richard Knolles], The Turkish history, from the original of that nation, to the growth of the Ottoman empire  (selections)

Sir Thomas Roe. The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to India, 1615-1619

Mr Thomas Coriate to his Friends in England Sendeth Greetings. 1615. Thomas Coryate

Baburnama.  Ed. and Trans. William Thackston

Humayunama, Ed. and Trans. Annette Beveridge

   Historical Framework: (selections from the texts below)

Azfar Moin, The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Explorations in Connected Histories: The Mughals and Franks,

——————.Three Ways of Being Alien: Travails and Encounters in the Early Modern World.

Annemarie Schimmel My Soul is a Woman: The Feminine in Islam

Valerie Gonzalez, Aesthetic Hybridity in Mughal Painting.1526-1658

2) Swarnavel Pillai
FLM 451/ENG 818: Studies in Genres and Media
Topic: “Indian Cinema: Hindi Popular Cinema/Bollywood and the Others”
4:10-7pm, Thursday 4:10-6pm

This course offers a critical overview of one of the world’s largest and most beloved film industries—the popular cinema produced mostly in Bombay (Mumbai) and consumed around the world often under the label “Bollywood.” Focusing on the post-Independence (1947) era to the present, it introduces key films, directors, stars, genres, formal techniques, and themes, as well as critical analyses of these and other topics. Special attention will be given to the pervasive role of music, song, and dance. Other topics to be addressed include: the cultural sources of Hindi cinema, cinema and nationalism, the star system, and global audiences. This course assumes no previous knowledge of Indian culture or cinema, and all films have English subtitles.

On Tuesdays, there will be screenings of carefully chosen films representative of the long and vibrant history of the Hindi cinema, and on Thursdays, we will be discussing these films in the context of the discourses surrounding them as reflected in the readings for the class.  We will focus on the historical, political, economical and cultural contexts of the production and reception of these films, besides engaging with the specificity of genre and authorship of Hindi cinema. We will also explore the way history is revisited, recycled, and reinvented by focusing on the influence of canonical films on contemporary Hindi cinema, particularly those which cater primarily to a diasporic audience or the middleclass audience which frequents the multiplexes, through the screening and discussion of relevant film/clips. We will also analyze the role of the stardom of actors (like Madhubala, Tabu, Amitabh Bachchan and  Shahrukh Khan), the authorship of directors (like Guru Dutt, Vishal Bhardwaj, Mani Ratnam, Mysskin, Anurag Kashyap etc.), and the contributions of technicians (for instance, cinematographer V.K. Murthy—Pyaasa, and music director A.R. Rahman—Dil Se and Fiza) in shaping the form and content of the popular Hindi cinema.

While 3/4th of the time will be used for the analysis of Hindi cinema, rest of the 1/4th of the time will be devoted to the detailed reading of regional films: Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam and Bengali films. For instance, Satyajit Ray’s Aparajito and Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry. Through such a comparative analysis we will engage with Hindi cinema’s exclusive claim to be the national cinema of India.

3) Ellen McCallum
ENG 481/ENG 820: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “New Narrative”

This course will critically reflect on representations of space in maps, fictional narratives, and theories of space/place in the long 20th century.  The central problem of the course is how and why one would map the spaces of novels–what interpretive purchase does this activity provide, for the novel or for the map? what does it mean to map imagined or even purely imaginary spaces? How does the ability to map a novel rely on referentiality or realism in that fiction?  How does comparing maps and narratives as modes of representation inform or challenge our understanding of how representation works? From there, we will consider questions such as how can the convergence of these different modes of representation contribute to knowledge about and discussions in the digital humanities. We will work with ArcGIS and other digital mapping models, drawing on a range of texts and cities, from modernist works such as Forster’s Howards End or Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway to postwar works such as Rechy’s City of Night, or new narrative works like Acker’s Pussy King of the Pirates, or Gladman’s The Ravickians.  Our theorists will likely include Henri Lefebvre, Michel deCerteau, Gaston Bachelard, Samuel Delany, Gillian Rose, J.B. Harley.

4) Ann Larabee and David Stowe
ENG 820: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “Theory and Practice of Popular Culture Studies”
ednesday, 4:10pm

This seminar is designed to introduce graduate students to topics, issues, and debates within the field of Popular Culture Studies, and to acquaint them with a variety of methods for undertaking their own interdisciplinary research. We will investigate the political and theoretical development of PCS (especially in the Bowling Green tradition) as an outgrowth of American Studies, chart its development amid related fields like American Studies and cultural studies, examine some of the critiques that have been and continue to be leveled against it, and show its promise for understanding the new digital environments. A special focus of this semester is research by seminar members for a special issue of The Journal of Popular Culture, currently in the planning stages, to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Professional development within the field, including advice on publication and conference venues and professional networking, will be included.

Readings (tentative):

Selection from Russel Nye.  The Unembarrased Muse: The Popular Arts in America. Dial 1970.

Ray Browne.  “Background and Development of an Idea.” Against Academia.  BGSU Popular Press, 1989.

Ray Browne. “The ASA and Its Friends.” American Quarterly 31 (1979), 354-358.

Raymond Williams.  “On High and Popular Culture.”  New Republic.  22 Nov. 1974.

Lawrence Levine. “The Folklore of Industrial Society: Popular Culture and Its Audiences.” American Historical Review 97 (1992), 1369-1399.

Robin D. G. Kelley. “Notes on Deconstructing ‘The Folk.” American Historical Review 97 (1992), 1400-1408.

J. Jackson Lears. “Making Fun of Popular Culture.” American Historical Review 97 (1992), 1417-1426.

Barthes. Mythologies. Trans. Annette Lavers. Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1972.

Umberto Eco. “The Myth of Superman.” Diacritics 2.1 (1972), 14-22.

White, Hayden.  “Structuralism and Popular Culture.”  Journal of Popular Culture 7 (1974): 759-775.

Chris Rojek. Celebrity (Reaktion 2004).

Peter Conrad. 21st-Century Mythologies.  BBC Radio.

Janice Radway. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature.  1984; U of North Carolina P 1991.

Ann Larabee, “Fifty Shades of Grey and the Moral Reading.” TJPC 48 (2015).

Ann Larabee. “Reading the Romance at Thirty.” TJPC 47 (2014).

Michael Denning, Noise Uprising: The Audiopolitics of a World Musical REvolution

Jules Prown and Kenneth Haltman, American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture

Rachel Rubin, Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture

Nick Sousanis, Unflattening (graphic novel)

Isaac Weiner, Religion Out Loud: Religious Sound, Public Space, and American Pluralism

Leslie Fiedler, “The New Mutants,” Partisan Review 32 (Fall 1965)

Ramzi Fawaz. The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Politics (NYU Press 2016).

Moretti. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary Theory. Verso: London, 2005.

Levine. Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network. Princeton UP, 2015.

Spring 2017

1) Scott Michaelsen
ENG 802: Literary Criticism and Theory
Topic: “The Drift of Theory”
, 4:10-7pm

The era of “literary theory” emerged in the 1960s and ended with 9/11. The reign of theory in literary studies is certainly over, but, everywhere you look, theory remains. What is “theory,” and why does it continue to haunt us? We will begin by examining the roots of structuralist thought: reading de Saussure, Marx, Benveniste and Bertalanffy on crucial questions of identity and difference, meaning and relation. As we move forward, we’ll have time to focus weekly in areas that have proven fertile for post-structuralist analysis, such as hermeneutics and interpretation; history and historicity; sovereignty, law, and sacrifice; (bio)power and governmentality; and community and culture. Our readings will include works by prominent figures such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Heidegger, Fredric Jameson, Paul Ricoeur, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Carl Schmitt, and Judith Butler. The course will be conducted as a seminar, with students developing oral presentations and conceptualizing final papers that use our coursework to further students’ emerging dissertation projects.

2) Kenneth Harrow
FLM 480/ENG 818: Studies in Genres and Media
Topic: “
Picturing the World in Cinema”
Tuesday, 7:10-10pm, Thursday, 7:10-9pm

This course will ask how the various cinemas typically taken to constitute “World Cinema” have worked to establish the category as a global phenomenon. For some time the category of World Cinema has been a contested one in Cinema Studies. This is due, in part, to the position from which the category has been constructed and viewed, with Hollywood or commercial western cinema used as a baseline for determining what constitutes successful or normal cinema. When foreign film industries began to develop their own styles or practices, they were measured in relationship to dominant western patterns and usually judged to be inferior or emergent, and exotic or even esoteric. The appellation World Art Cinema emerged as a category, while Global Cinema competed as globalization theory began to privilege commercial networks, economic and cultural flows, alongside critiques of commodity capitalism. This course will open up the central issues that have arisen with the prevalence of cultural focus on “world” or “global” designations within Film Studies discourses.

3) Yomaira Figueroa
ENG 820: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “The Poetics of Liberation and Relation in Afro-Diasporic Feminist Thought”
Wednesday, 4:10-7pm

This course will examine women of color feminist thought in U. S., indigenous feminisms, and feminist writing in other Afro-diasporic contexts from the 1970’s to the present. In studying women of color feminist poetics, critical theory, and philosophical thought we will examine some of the ways in which the black radical feminist tradition and women of color feminisms have engaged in/with liberation struggles. We will also learn about the contentions within those struggles and within the collective naming of “women of color” and “feminism.” Throughout the course we will map these critical discourses and think about oppression, resistance, decolonization, relationality, and liberation through the lens of their work. We will study how these poetics recover and create new archives of knowledge and history while destabilizing dehumanizing rhetoric and structures of power. We will engage in discursive practices that situate these writers, and their antecedents, as central components to contemporary decolonization and liberation struggles and as formulators of a radical methodology that demands multivalent approaches to combating oppression, including (but not limited to): theory, poetics, praxis, and activism.

Through close readings of monographs, anthologies, novels, and other media we will map a women of color feminist methodology and examine how their work and praxes have been at the forefront of sociopolitical movements. We will meditate on the politics and practices of relationality and incommensurability while beginning to create our own material and intellectual contributions towards a transdisciplinary praxis.

Readings will include*: This Bridge Called My Back, Out of the Kumbla, Indigenous Women and Feminism, Passing it On, Land of Lookbehind, Methodology of the Oppressed, Corregidora, Words of Fire, Some of Us Did Not Die, Revolutionary Mothering, Freedom is a Constant Struggle, The Black Unicorn, Telling to Live, and Getting Home Alive.

*reading list is subject to change

4) Steve Rachman
ENG 820: Special Topics in Language and Literature
Topic: “Literature, Politics and Time: Rethinking American Literary History, 1838-2038”
esday, 4:10-7pm

This course aims to familiarize students with the literary-politico-aesthetic trajectory of American Literature from its origins in 19th-century literary nationalism to the formation of academic critical discourses promoting and interrogating this literary history and the development of the suite of ideological critiques (class, race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality) from the 1960s forward. Toward this end we will assess contemporary literary politics in its polymorphic multiplicity, look back at important political turns in this history and indulge in some aesthetic-politico futurology. Toward these ends the course will survey the history of literary politics in its signal turns from the manifestos of the republic of letters of 1830s; American Realism/Naturalism (1860-1914); Transatlantic Modernism (1917-1939); Proletarian Literature (1930s); American Studies Movement (1930-1999); The Rise of Race/Ethnicity, Class, and Gender as Ideological categories of literary analysis 1955-); Post-National Literary Critique (1988-); Toward a World Literature (2000-); Temporal Turns (2004-); The Next Twenty-two Years (2016-38).

Some of the Critical authors read in this course:

J.G.A. Pocock

Fredric Jameson

Janice Radway

Wai-Chee Dimock

Russ Castronovo

Meredith McGill

Michael Warner

Edward Said

Gayatri Spivak

Lauren Berlant

Donald Pease

Toni Morrisson

Amy Kaplan

Karen Sanchez-Eppler

Betsy Erikkila

Michael Denning

Journals: American Literature. American Studies and ALH