x-listed with Irish Studies
Topics in Irish Lit: Philosophical Comedy in Irish Writing
Professor John Waters
This course will explore the persistence of an Irish mode of writing that questions basic philosophical premises and formal categories in Western epistemology and metaphysics. We will question what social, cultural, linguistic, and institutional factors can account for the forms of radical skepticism, conceptual parody, formal experimentation, and delightful perversion that mark Irish philosophical and fictional writing from the early 19th century to the present. We begin with Swift’s corrosive, free-wheeling assaults on free-thinking and convention (in A Tale of a Tub and Gulliver’s Travels), Bishop Berkeley’s weird but conceptually effective assaults on perception, materialism, and rational discourse (in An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision, Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonus, The Querist, and Siris, his book-length essay on tar water), and Maria Edgeworth’s ambiguous accounts of Irish modernity (in Castle Rackrent and An Essay on Irish Bulls).. After briefly surveying some 19th century playfulness by disgruntled writers and disturbed Irish poets and physicists, we will read works by Joyce, Beckett, Flann O’Brien, Paul Muldoon and Paul Murray that both drive and question central issues in philosophy, literary criticism, and critical theory.
Topics in Digital Humanities: Digital Literary Studies
Professor David Hoover
The availability of digital resources has significantly changed literary studies, especially
because of the rapid increase the accessibility of literary and critical texts that were previously
very difficult to locate or access, or were extremely rare. Because of their digital form, such texts
can be searched and can be transferred almost instantaneously from place to place. Yet locating,
accessing, searching, and easily distributing digital texts are not the only ways of taking
advantage of their digital nature.
This course will investigate some of the ways that manipulation and analysis can more
fully exploit the nature of digital literary texts. We will consider some methods of distant
reading, such as those recently practiced by Franco Moretti in Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract
Models for a Literary History (London: Verso, 2005)–methods possible only since the advent of
huge collections of publicly available digital texts. We will also study related work, like
Matthew Jockers’s Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History. Champaign, IL:
University of Illinois Press, 2013.
The course will concentrate mainly, however, on methods of very close reading that
digital texts and tools make possible for the first time, including those most associated with John
F. Burrows (for example, his recent “A Second Opinion on “Shakespeare and Authorship
Studies in the Twenty-First Century,” Shakespeare Quarterly 63(3), 2012: 355-392), and
recently promoted by Hugh Craig and Arthur Kinney in Shakespeare, Computers, and the
Mystery of Authorship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Along the way, we will
work with individual digital literary texts, specially constructed literary corpora, online portals,
databases, natural language corpora, text collections, and single-author sites, and with digital
archives, including some, like the Willa Cather Digital Archive, and the Brown Women Writers
Project, that include their own analytical tools. We will also work with Minitab (a statistical
analysis program), with The Intelligent Archive (a free JAVA program for archiving and
analyzing texts), and with some of my own text-analysis tools built in Microsoft Excel and
Finally, we will take a searching look at Stephen Ramsay’s influential recent book
Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois
Press, 2011, mainly in relation to his provocative thesis that computational analysis must further
the kinds of open-ended and innovative thinking favored by literary critics if it is to become
influential. This thesis is a direct challenge to the long-established tradition of textual analysis
and computational stylistics that aims to limit the subjectivity of critical claims and to bring
defensible evidence to bear on questions for which it was previously unavailable. Specifically,
we will take Virginia Woolf’s The Waves and Ramsay’s algorithmic provocations concerning
this experimental text as a case study through which to examine this complex issue.
Our goal will be to apply innovative techniques to long-standing literary questions and to
explore kinds of inquiries that digital texts and tools have made possible for the first time. We
will focus on a fairly wide range of literature in English from about 1800 to 1923, to avoid
copyright problems, but students can study texts from any period and in many different
languages in their own projects. The course assumes no advanced computational background,
but it will take place in a computer lab (PC computers; some of the software does not run on
Macs), and will involve extensive hands-on computational analysis
MA THESIS COLLOQUIUM
This course supports MA students in the research, writing, and oral presentation of their culminating project, the MA Thesis. We will meet approximately every other week all semester; assignments and readings and deadlines are designed to foster research and writing trajectories but also feedback loops among students and the instructor. Course will culminate in a public MA Thesis Conference Presentation.
Dante and his World
Professor Maria Luisa Ardizzone
Mondays, 3:30 – 6:10 p.m.
This course proposes a reading of Dante’s work from Vita nuova to the Commedia, considered in light of the theological, rhetorical, and philosophical learning of Dante’s time. Dante’s Commedia will be considered in the context of his minor works. The objective of the course is to familiarize students with one of the most significant authors of Western culture. Through Dante’s texts, students will gain a perspective on the Biblical, Christian, and Classical traditions as well as on the historical, literary, philosophical context of medieval Europe.
Attention is directed to literature, art, and music, in addition to political, religious, and social developments of the time. The course emphasizes the continuity of the Western tradition and its intellectual history, especially the classical background of medieval culture and its transmission to the modern world.
Readings include selections from Dante’s works as The New Life, The Banquet, The Divine Comedy, and The Monarchy, along with texts by St. Augustine, Severinus Boethius, Thomas Aquinas, and Boccaccio. Works of vernacular poets of 13th century and artists from Romanesque to Gothic will be considered. Texts to be read will be available as photocopies.
Romanticism, Race and the Life Sciences
Professor Lenora Hanson
This course will situate Romanticism (and the long nineteenth century more generally) through recent critical reevaluations of Romantic science, of the biopolitical and of the co-emergence of the terms race and biological life.
Critics of the biopolitical turn have increasingly put pressure on Foucault and Agamben’s treatment of the concept of life as an abstract and disembodied one. Instead, they argue that there is no modern concept of life that can be adequately defined outside of systems of racialization that classified and organized living things. But what do these problems look like from within the Romantic period, the period that Foucault first associated with the emergence of biopower?
We will answer this question through literature, aesthetic treatises and early life science writing of the long nineteenth century. We will engage with critical methods that allow us to deftly treat the co-emergence of biological life and race, terms which remained unstable and unsettled during the Romantic period. And we will reevaluate some of the major themes of Romanticism through the lens of this conjuncture.
Animating questions of this course include: How were race and life articulated together in a period of immense debate over what constituted life and living things? How do our notions of Romantic and nineteenth century figuration, poetics and aesthetics change when we approach them through this question? Is it possible to read the conjuncture of race and life in this period not only as one of power and knowledge—as suggested by the biopolitical—but also as one of struggle and fugitivity?
Readings will range from the literary (Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, William Blake, William Wordsworth and less canonical authors) to the physiological and anatomical (Albrecht Haller, John Hunter, William Lawrence and Charles White) to continental philosophy and critical race studies (Immanuel Kant, Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Alexander Weheliye and Sylvia Wynter).
American Environmental Literature
Professor Jennifer Baker
This course will examine the relationship between American literature and environmental experience. We will study American literary environmentalism, emphasizing, in particular, its early roots in New England Transcendentalism and its revival in the counter-cultural environmental movements of the 1960s and 70s. We will consider how literature shaped and was shaped by debates over the moral and social value of preserved (or conserved) natural spaces; the advent of modern biology, Darwinian evolutionary theory, and the concept of ecology; westward expansion; aesthetic theories of the picturesque and the sublime; tourism and the creation of national parks; and growing concerns with species extinction and environmental destruction. We will consider a variety of environments (wilderness, garden, farm, sharecropping parcel, park, frontier, painted landscape) as well as various modes of perception framed by aesthetic, literary, and scientific paradigms. Our secondary readings will draw on science studies and ecocriticism, but we will also think about environmentalism as an entry point for thinking about American literature and culture generally—taking up Bill McKibben’s claim that American literature, “from the beginning…concerned itself with the story of people and the natural world.” Authors studied will likely include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Emily Dickinson, Rebecca Harding Davis, Stephen Crane, Willa Cather, Jean Toomer, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, Leslie Marmon Silko, James Dickey.
Zora Neale Hurston: on the Page, in the Field, and on the Stage
Professor Sonya Posmentier
In addition to being a well-known novelist, Zora Neale Hurston was also a prolific cultural critic, anthropologist, folklorist, singer, and dramatist. In this seminar we will study Hurston's production of music, drama, dance, and literature, but also her critical theories about black aesthetics, racial identity, and literary form and her legacies for black feminism and black studies. We will inquire into disciplinarity, modernism, and diaspora through an analysis of Hurston as an incredibly mobile and versatile figure who defined all of these key terms. In that sense this is not a single author course. Readings include Their Eyes Were Watching God, Dust Tracks on a Road, plays, music, and her major ethnographic works Mules and Men and Tell My Horse. We will also consider other important thinkers with whom Hurston studied and created, with whom she shared a cultural milieu, or who have extended her work, including Langston Hughes, Franz Boas, Melville Herskovitz, Louise Bennett (“Miss Lou”), Richard Wright, and Alice Walker. Students will write literary research papers and will also have opportunities to engage in archival research. and to experiment with different modes of analytical and creative writing
Professor Jini Kim Watson
How did the Cold War shape decolonization and the postcolonial world? What kinds of political-aesthetic genres emerged from the Cold War crucible, and how have recent cultural texts looked back on the period? This seminar examines cultural production and institutions that grapple with the intersection of decolonization and the Cold War. In the first section of the course, we will investigate the ways writers, politicians and scholars have theorized the shift from colonial rule to new forms of authority conditioned by the superpower contest. Examining non-alignment as the cultural-political attempt to escape ideological binarism, we will examine literary texts and institutions that emerged at this conjuncture, including speeches and accounts of the 1955 Bandung Conference, histories of the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization, and publications of the PEN Asia conferences. In the second half of the course, we think through the politics of memory around the Cold War in East and Southeast Asia, and engage with contemporary transpacific literary (and some filmic) texts that look back to Cold War/decolonial conflicts, state violence and authoritarianism in Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines (Hwang Sŏk-yŏng, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Tan Pin Pin, Sonny Liew, Han Kang, Gina Apostol,).
Selected Documents of the Bandung Conference. (1955)
Richard Wright. The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference. (1956)
Odd Arne Westad. The Global Cold War. (2007)
Kwon Heonik. The Other Cold War. (2012)
Chen Kuan-Hsing. Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization. (2010)
Christopher J Lee, ed. Making a World After Empire: the Bandung Moment and its Political Afterlives. (2010)
Gina Apostol. Gun Dealer’s Daughter. (2010)
Han Kang. Human Acts. [Sonyŏni Onda] (2014).
Tan Pin Pin. To Singapore with Love. (2014)
Viet Thanh Nguyen. The Sympathizer. (2015)
Liew, Sonny. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock-Chye. (2015)
Professor Greg Vargo
This course will explore how the experience of empire shaped nineteenth-century British identity, literature, culture, and politics. In particular, we will take up two questions. First, we will examine the thesis that the dislocations of empire helped foster modernist literary style. Frederick Jameson and others have suggested that literary experiments around the turn of the twentieth century arose in response to the existential uncertainty of living in a global system, in which important factors influencing peoples’ lives were out-of-sight and difficult to imagine or comprehend. What, then, does one make of the British empire in the early and mid-nineteenth century? Can we find “proto-modernist” formal experiments in such Romantic and Victorian genres as the slave narrative, Bildungsroman, and Gothic romance?
Second, we will trace—in part by looking at nineteenth-century periodical in a variety of genres—the diverse and conflictual responses colonial issues provoked. Slavery and abolition; the mass emigration of working-class Britons to Australia, Canada, the United States, and southern Africa; a missionary project which sought to spread Christianity to all corners of the world; and colonial revolts in India and the West Indies each gave rise to strenuous and soul-searching debate. Examining literary and historical texts from 1789 to 1915, we’ll explore how Britons’ sense of self, nation, and race changed confronting the world system they helped create as we consider how the empire shaped nineteenth- and early twentieth-century prose narratives.
Likely readings include: Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness and other Tales; Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; L. Rider Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines; Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince; Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm; Bram Stoker, Dracula; H.G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau; Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out
Social Life of Paper
Professor Lisa Gitelman
What is the cultural work performed by or with the technology of paper? How can a history of paper supplement and enrich recent histories of printing technology and printed artifacts like "the book"? What would it mean to imagine a paperless future? Organized around discussions of readings in common, this seminar considers the history, production, circulation and use of paper in the social production of knowledge, the shared imagination of value, and the mutual relations of consumers and commodities.
The Culture of the Renaissance: A Re-translation
Professor Juliet Fleming and Christopher Wood
This class will provide an introduction to the past and the future of Renaissance Studies. It is designed for graduate students across the disciplines. Our broad aim is to ‘translate’ — that is, carry forward into the future and so reactivate — the Renaissance as an object of study, first by sketching the historiographical and disciplinary fortunes that produced it; and then by assessing opportunities for new approaches and research paths.
Our title invokes the work of Jacob Burckhardt, Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860), the pioneering work of cultural history that is responsible in large part for what we mean when we use the term ‘Renaissance’. We will follow the development of this period concept as it was consolidated and re-inflected in the early 20th century by the scholars associated with the Warburg library.
The course is interdisciplinary to a high degree but does not pretend to survey the entirety of European experience in this period. Rather the focus will be on symbolic expression and its medial and rhetorical formats, including painting, poetry, prose, architecture, theater, dance, music and their various codings, inscriptions, and archivings. But the concept of the symbol is broad, and we mean it to unfold eventually into an anthropology of meaning that can potentially embrace all aspects of life.
Topics in Literary Theory: Freudian Scenes
Professor Julia Jarcho
In course we will read works of and responses to psychoanalytic theory, and think about the implications these texts might have for questions of aesthetics and performance. In addition to Freud, readings will likely include Bersani, Deleuze, Edelman, Felman, hooks, Lacan, Laplanche, Rose, Silverman, Spiller, and Zizek. Course requirements will include presentations, a seminar paper, and a shorter writing assignment.
Studies in post-Symbolist Poetry: Ezra Pound
Professor Richard Sieburth and Peter Nicholls
Designed to introduce students to Pound’s oeuvre as a whole—and to its central place within ongoing debates about modernism and post-modernism—the course will including readings from Personae, The Cantos, and The Translations, as well as from The Chinese Written character, Literary Essays, Selected Prose, Guide to Kulchur, and selected wartime radio broadcasts. Background readings will include not only such standard works as Kenner’sThe Pound Era,, but also more recent reassessments of Pound’s poetics, politics, and economics. The seminar will provide, as Pound quipped of his name, “an enclosure for stray animals.”
Postcolonialism and the Question of Nation
Professor Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
Why did colonized territories (almost) always re-invent themselves as nations when they achieved political independence? And what happened when they did? How have liberation struggles and decolonization been defined by the prospect and process of nation-state formation?
This course will explore the extent to which postcolonialism has been defined by the concept of the ‘nation’, and conversely, the ways in which the nation question has been shaped by postcolonialism. We will engage the theoretical issues of ‘imagination’ and community, derivativeness, cultural nationalism, the narrativity of nation, the citizen-subject, the tension produced by postcolonialism’s leanings towards transnational phenomena (migration, diaspora, exile, cosmopolitanism, globalization), and others that arise from this dialectic. These theoretical debates are shaped, as we would expect, by the dominant historical events of the second half of the twentieth century, namely the emergence of nearly a hundred new nation-states as a result of decolonization in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean (as earlier in Latin America). Our study will therefore also of necessity be grounded in empirical, historical case studies.
Some of the topics that will be covered include: the violence of nation formation (partition in India and Palestine, forcible unification in Nigeria); non-national alternatives (for example, pan-Africanism, various sub-nationalisms, non-alignment); refugees, exiles, immigrants, cosmopolitans; ‘good’ (anti-colonial) nationalisms and ‘bad’ (reactive, nativist) nationalisms; subject and citizen; nation and narration; feminism and nationalism; transnationalism, internationalism, and globalization. We will read the writings of anti-colonial intellectuals and liberation fighters like Simon Bolivar, Jose Marti, M. K. Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Muhammad Iqbal, Kartini, Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire and CLR James, among others; and recent theorists, including Eric Hobsbawm, Benedict Anderson, Partha Chatterjee, Homi Bhabha, Neil Lazarus, Achille Mbembe, Mahmood Mamdani, Vijay Prashad, Kumari Jayawardene, Nira Yuval-Davis and Anne McClintock. We will refer as required to relevant texts of western thought, among them Hegel, Renan, Marx, Lenin, Virginia Woolf, and Hannah Arendt. Students may also identify and invoke literary and cinematic texts that they consider relevant to the discussion.