Graduate Seminars

Click on a title for a description box to show, or view listing of all courses for the Spring/Fall 2020/2021.  All students must receive permission from the instructor and/or the Graduate English Office in order to enroll. To officially register for the course, please use the PeopleSoft Class Number (PSC#) in parenthesis.  Registration through PeopleSoft starts on Monday, October 21.

Fall 2020 Seminars

ENGL 5100-01/02 (class#8081/13760) THEORY AND TEACHING OF WRITING (Brueggemann/Blansett): This course brings together theory and practice in the college-level writing classroom.  We will contextualize the histories, theories, and principles of teaching writing in a post secondary context. Our work will take place in a highly interactive, collaborative, multi-modal learning environment. The course and its co-requisite practicum (5182) offer a space to support new instructors as they develop their theories of teaching and writing while collaboratively composing a repertoire of effective course materials.

ENGL 5150 (class#9853)RESEARCH METHODS (Smith): One-credit course. Monday, 10-11:30 am. This course introduces students to the rudiments of literary critical practice by exploring current research methodologies in English studies.  To that end, a broad sampling of the English graduate faculty will come to our class and introduce students to the ways they approach literary and cultural criticism.  We will discuss the ever-shifting terrain of graduate study, examining how our research methods persistently re-define what constitutes the objects of literary-critical analysis.
ENGL 5182-01/02/03/04 (class#TBD) PRACTICUM IN THE  TEACHING OF WRITING: (Blansett): One- credit course. Required of all incoming graduate-student FYW instructors.  Practicum in the Teaching of Writing: Guided development of teaching in the University of Connecticut First-Year Writing Program.  We will be implementing theories of teaching and writing; meeting program goals and objectives; selecting texts; drafting writing assignment prompts; developing classroom work; guiding peer feedback; reading, responding to and evaluating student work.  Supervision includes one-on-one, group, and peer.
ENGL 5530-01 (class#13107) WORLD LITERATURE (Coundouriotis):   This course is an opportunity for students to get a good handle on key texts in the postcolonial field. The course gains coherence from its focus on the novel and the syllabus’s historical organization. Each week, we will place a key text in a “topic” central to the postcolonial field, hence broadening out to concerns beyond the given novel. We will pay attention to theoretical statements that have defined the field and examine the careers of postcolonial writers (including their own statements about the novel as form) to understand the impact of colonial education on the cultural project of the postcolonial novel. This is a good course not only for students who want to anchor their research on world literature but also for students more broadly interested in the novel as form. We will read African, Caribbean and South Asian Anglophone writers such as Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Buchi Emecheta, Tsitsi Dangarembga, V.S. Naipaul, Margaret Cezair-Thompson, Arundhati Roy, and Amitav Ghosh. Assignments include oral presentations, a book review, and research paper. An alternative to the research paper will be offered in the form of a take-home essay exam.
ENGL 6315-01 (class#9854) SEMINAR IN MEDIEVAL LITERATURE: (V.P.,Nahir Ontano Gracia): In Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa writes that “The U.S-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country — a border culture” (25). Anzaldúa’s groundbreaking work both forefronts the violence that borders can enact as well as the potential of the borderlands to become radically inclusive. This course uses the concept of the borderlands to read literature from both the past and the present. Beginning in the Middle Ages and the Pre-Modern and moving on to colonial, post-colonial, and twenty first century literature, the course explores how literature of the borderlands can theoretically construct, deconstruct, erase, undermine, and potentially destroy borders.
ENGL 6320-01 (class#13767) SEMINAR IN SHAKESPEARE’S CULTURAL LEGACY:  (Semenza): Just a few years beyond the quatercentenary year—the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death—this seminar will focus on Shakespeare’s cultural legacy. Looking critically and theoretically at engagements of Shakespeare in scholarship, corporate business practices, educational curricula, music, television, and film, we will ask the question “Why Shakespeare?” That is, how and why has the “cultural capital” of Shakespeare been evoked since at least the publication of the First Folio in 1623?  More specifically, how has Shakespeare been presented to the masses in terms of sexuality, gender, race, violence, and nationalism? What happens when Shakespeare is transplanted into a non-British or non-western context? What happens when Shakespeare’s name is evoked in lowbrow entertainment or appropriated in popular culture forms? What can the serious study of reception, adaptation, appropriation, and other such engagements teach us about Shakespeare and his considerable influence?
From Shakespeare’s day to our own, certain specific binary oppositions have impacted our ability to answer such questions as these.  Thus, our seminar will foreground five specific, interrelated binaries central to the reception and theorization of Shakespeare: 1) eternal (transhistorical) and temporal (historical); 2) highbrow (high culture) and lowbrow (popular/mass culture); 3) radical and conservative; 4) subversive and recuperative (i.e., “subversion and containment”); and 5) global and local.
How are these binate structures connected to each other?  To what extent might they be said to originate in Shakespeare’s own authorial style?  To what degree did the First Folio’s publication contribute to their development and proliferation?  Finally, how do they continue to limit—as well as inform—our current understanding of both Shakespeare’s work and his cultural legacy?
ENGL 6550-01 (class#8606) SEMINAR IN LITERARY THEORY: AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERARY CRITICISM AND THEORY (Salvant): African American Literary Criticism and Theory guides students through the development of African American literary criticism and theory from (roughly) the 1920s to today. The course introduces students to the periods, methods, and major texts of African American literary criticism and theory. Course learning objectives include identifying the most influential scholars in the field and their contributions.  Students will become conversant with key concepts in the field and participate in past an ongoing debates within the field.  With a fuller understanding of previous conversations and controversies, students will understand how this previous scholarship informs current work in the field, and they will then produce their own essays applying knowledge learned in the course to engage in current scholarly conversations about African American literature and theory.  Readings in the course will focus on 2-3 particular movements within the critical tradition such as the vernacular theory, the blues aesthetic, black feminist criticism, spatial studies, etc.  Before the course begins, students will be encouraged to read as many texts as possible from a prerequisite reading list of primary texts. Course readings and content are designed to demonstrate the trajectory and influence of foundational concepts by analyzing their manifestation or transformation in more recent texts by current scholars.  Regular participation; regular written responses to the readings; short 3-5 page paper; 20-25 page final seminar paper.

ENGL 6500-02 (class#13295) SEMINAR IN LITERARY THEORY: RELIGION AND POSTSECULARITY: (Codr): This seminar – open to and welcoming of students from all fields, time periods, and global literatures – is organized by a few introductions and by a diverse and exciting set of questions. As for the introductions, we will read and discuss postsecular theory and some of the conversations that have arisen under that heading in the last 30 years or so, so that you might find ways to make use of such theory in your own research and writing. We will read some very recent, exemplary postsecular literary and cultural criticism – including a 2020 special issue of the journal edited by the instructor on postsecularity and the postcritical turn. And you will be introduced to postsecular scholars personally, by way of online interactions/interviews.In the course of our reading and discussions, we will ask and hopefully answer some questions concerning the nature, meaning, and historical force of secularization. What is secularization? What is the secularization thesis? What relationship does secularization have to literature, critical reason, and the university? What are the principle problems with secularization as well as the secularization thesis? We will ask, with Talal Asad and Charles Taylor, whether we ever left religion and what is at stake in saying that we did. We will ask, with scholars such as Michael Warner, what role the literature we read (as well as the critical methods we employ when writing) plays in the consolidation of secular Enlightenment epistemologies. We will ask, with Graham Huggan, whether the “post” in “postsecular” is the “post” in “postcolonial.” We will ask, with John Schad and Mark Jordan, whether the affordances of postsecular theory are the same as those of queer theory. And we will ask, with Gayatri Spivak and Guari Viswanathan, what voice religious heterodoxy has in a discourse dominated by secular, Enlightenment values, identities, and formations.

Requirements for the course include two presentations, regular participation in the seminar’s discussions, and a final research project – not a paper, exactly – in which students survey the place of ideas concerning religion, secularization, and postsecularity in their chosen field.

ENGL 6600-01 (class#13296) CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP: FICTION (Litman): In this seminar we will be exploring and creating hybrid narratives. Rather than dedicate ourselves to one genre, we are going to look at texts and projects that refuse to be confined to a single category. They combine poetry, fiction, autobiography, dramatic writing, criticism, photography, painting, digital media, collage, and more. Some are deeply personal. Some engage in unexpected conversations with historical/cultural figures or writers of the past. Some appear as a cohesive narrative. Others are built out of fragments. In the end, though, they all manage to tell a story. We will use a diverse list of authors and artists that may include Anne Carson (Autobiography of Red), Sophie Calle (True Stories), Bhanu Kapil (The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers), Tyehimba Jess (Olio), Maggie Nelson (Argonauts), and others. Over the first half of the semester the students will work on a series of exercises designed to (1) encourage them to mix genres (Experiments) and (2) help them discover the story they would like to tell (Building Blocks). Gradually they will develop their own narrative projects, portions of which we will workshop over the second part of the semester.
Please feel free to contact Ellen Litman (ellen.litman@uconn.edu) with any questions about this course.

6750-01 (class#13110) SEMINAR IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE:  REPRESENTATION OF SOCIAL CLASS IN BRITISH, IRISH, AND U.S. FICTION SINCE 1800: (Lynch):Recent events and popular cultural productions (for example Downton Abbey, the College admissions scandal) underline the continuing importance and relevance of social class divisions on both sides of the Atlantic. We will not erase or avoid the inevitable and indeed necessary intersectionalities of race, gender, and sexuality; however, the primary focus here will be on class structures. The novels listed below, drawn from three countries and two+ centuries, all share an interest in unpicking the threads of the social fabric of their place and time. They interrogate the privileges of the protected classes, the factors facilitating class slippage and redefinition, and the viability of working class empowerment.

Comprehensive coverage of such a topic is of course impossible.  Therefore I have selected ten primary texts, each of which offers insights into a particularly relevant place and time. For example, Brideshead Revisited shines a spotlight on the huge shift in established social hierarchies that took place in England at the end of World War II.  I have deliberately chosen some lesser-known novels. Students will be asked to plan an individual research project for the final paper, and can pursue one of two directions.  They can choose a text and then delve deep into its particular time and/or place, choosing other texts for comparison. Elements of Style could be examined in the context of other tales of New York privilege.  Multimedia projects are encouraged, so an interrogation of Brideshead Revisited could incorporate television series focusing on the same period, like Upstairs Downstairs and the first season of The Crown. Alternatively students can choose to place two or more texts from different times and places in transnational conversation.

Foundation text: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848)

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (1944)

Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent (1800)

Roddy Doyle, The Commitments (1987)

Claire Kilroy, The Devil I Know (2012)

William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1884)

Edith Wharton, House of Mirth (1905)

Wendy Wasserstein,  Elements of Style (2007)

Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2014)

The major requirement will be an original research paper, based on the two approaches I list above, and written with the possibility of publication in mind.  Preparation for this project will include a proposal indicating the student’s planned approach and choice of primary and secondary sources.  Additionally, each student will prepare and deliver a conference-length paper based on a text other than that chosen as the diving board for the research project.

Spring 2020 Seminars

ENGL 5160-01 (class 8825) PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (Somerset):  In this seminar we’ll investigate the different facets of academic life, from practical details such as composing CVs and syllabi through to larger issues such as the role of the humanities in the twenty-first university and the adjunctification of the profession. We will learn about the types of jobs within and beyond the academy that UCONN alumni have made their own, and consider how the various roles you are asked to play as graduate students and in your developing careers might complement one another to form a life worth having. Students will participate in selecting what we focus on, but topics might include activism in a changing profession, diversity and difference in the academy, the academic job market and beyond, working in archives, presenting at conferences, balancing teaching and research, making time for your well-being, applying for grants and fellowships, and how to write in genres such as the book review, the CV, the reader’s report, the letter of recommendation, the teaching statement, the research description, the conference abstract, etc. You will be asked to blog about our readings on a weekly basis, and to complete small writing assignments and participate in class workshops leading to two class projects: a pedagogy assignment that will ask you to develop a syllabus and assignments for a course of your own design, and an exercise in academic publishing (selecting possible journals, revising a course or conference paper into an article, responding to reader’s reports).

ENGL 5550-01 (class 13815) RHETORIC AND COMPOSITION: PROSE STYLE: THEORY, PRACTICE, PEDAGOGY: (Deans): Style is integral to all kinds of writing—literary, academic, professional, political, digital—and this seminar pursues how to define, analyze, enact, and teach style. We’ll review excerpts of prose from the early modern period through the present; survey relevant scholarship in stylistics and writing studies; ponder the purposes, pleasures, and ideologies of style; experiment with composing in a range of styles; and consider how to teach style in composition, literature, and creative writing courses. Requirements include weekly reading responses or imitations; a mid-semester essay (stylistic analysis of a writer); a class presentation; and a seminar paper or equivalent project. Participants can steer the final project toward their own interests (theory, pedagogy, creative writing, digital humanities, a specific genre or historical period).

ENGL 6330-01 (class#13817) SEMINAR IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY: WOMEN AND THEATRE IN THE RESTORATION AND EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY: (Marsden): Scholarly interest in Restoration and eighteenth-century theatre has grown tremendously in the past decade; conferences feature panels presenting new directions in theatre and performance research, and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies recently established a caucus dedicated to the study of theatre and performance.  This course takes advantage of these new developments in order to explore one important aspect of this subject: the role of women in the theatre.

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, English theatre changed radically, and women were a significant component of these changes.  In December 1660, the first professional actress appeared on the public stage, followed shortly after by the advent of the Aphra Behn, first professional female playwright.  The role of women in the audience became the subject of heated debate.  This course traces the diverse role women played, as actors and audiences, playwrights and the subjects of plays.  Works read would include plays by Behn, Pix, Manley, Trotter, Centlivre, Burney, and Inchbald, Charlotte Charke’s notorious narrative, and excerpts from works by Austen and other contemporary writers.   These works would be supplemented by historical scholarship on the actress and on female audiences, studies of specific playwrights/actresses, and recent more theoretical studies performance and celebrity and spectatorship.  The course would progress in a roughly chronological manner in order to give students the opportunity to study the changing attitudes toward women’s role in the theatre and in society.  This course does count toward the WGSS certificate.  Requirements: weekly response papers, one presentation on a significant female theatrical figure, short paper on a related primary text, and final research project.

ENGL 6400-01 (class #13819) AMERICAN ETHNIC LITERATURE: BLACK GIRL MAGIC: HISTORY, AGENCY, AND FUTURITY IN CONSTRUCTIONS OF BLACK GIRLHOOD (Capshaw):  The course will employ black feminist theory to a range of texts from the late nineteenth century to the present moment, including nonfiction, conduct material, poetry, novels, political statements, and word/image texts. While we will examine fundamental black feminist theorists (hooks, Jordan, Lorde, Crenshaw and others), we will also draw from hip-hop feminisms and formulations of “Black Girl Magic,” or the recent strategy of emphasizing joy and pleasure when describing black girlhood to an audience of young people. While the course will draw from children’s and young adult literature, it is not a class structured through children’s literature as a methodology. It instead takes an ethnic studies emphasis in studying texts aimed at young people and those aimed at adult readers, with an eye towards charting the currents the two bodies of literature share, as well as significant distinctions in how writers approach the subject of black girlhood dependent on audience. Importantly, it will permit students to understand the larger critical context when studying African American literature, and to invest deeply in black feminist theory as a way of unsettling generalizations about how a book for or about the young “works.”
ENGL 6500-02 (class#13963 ) SEMINAR IN LITERARY THEORY: LYRIC THEORY: (Mahoney): As Jonathan Culler and others continue to ask us, “Why lyric?”  At the same time as poetry plays a vibrant role in our culture at large, it is increasingly marginalized in literary studies in the academy.  Yet lyric poetry and criticism of the lyric are indispensable to any understanding of the history of literature and literary studies.  (Is it conceivable to think Romanticism without the lyric? Or Modernism?)  This seminar will examine the theorization of the lyric since the late eighteenth century, with particular attention to Anglo-American criticism since the middle of the twentieth century.  (We will take many of our bearings from two important recent publications: The Lyric Theory Reader, ed. Virginia Jackson and Yopie Prins [Johns Hopkins 2014], and Jonathan Culler’s Theory of the Lyric [Harvard 2015].)  Readings will emphasize such topics as the genesis and transformation of lyric modes; the status of lyric as a trans-historical category; the idea and ideals of the lyric; poetics and prosody; the relation between form, genre, and mode; lyric temporality (e.g., the “lyric present”); New Criticism; formalism and the “New Formalism”; rhetorical reading; close reading; lyric ideology; “lyricization”; anti-lyric; historical poetics; and “New Lyric Studies.”  Criticism is likely to include selections from M.H. Abrams, Theodor Adorno, Giorgio Agamben, Walter Benjamin, Cleanth Brooks, Reuben Brower, Jonathan Culler, Jacques Derrida, Northrup Frye, Geoffrey Hartman, Virginia Jackson, Simon Jarvis, Caroline Levine, Marjorie Levinson, Paul de Man, Meredith Martin, Maureen McLane, Marjorie Perloff, Jopie Prins, I.A. Richards, Susan Stewart, Rei Terada, Herbert Tucker, Helen Vendler, René Wellek, William Wimsatt and Susan Wolfson. Readings in lyric poetry will be determined as we proceed, as determined by the (teaching and research) interests of the seminar participants.Requirements: short weekly writing assignments (500 words), seminar presentation, midterm “conference paper” (10 pg.), and final project (traditional seminar paper of app. 7500 words or a DH project).
ENGL 6540-01 (class #11485) SEMINAR IN LITERATURE AND HUMAN RIGHTS: ANTISLAVERY LITERATURE: HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE ATLANTIC WORLD: (Winter):  This course provides an introduction to studies in law and literature, and approaches in the emerging field of literature and human rights, by focusing on the legal and political history of slavery and antislavery in the British Empire, with a focus on the British West Indies. We will begin by reading sections of Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-69) to uncover the connections between personhood as a status at law and the ownership of land and chattels, with particular attention to laws governing real property (land) and inheritances, including primogeniture and entail, as well as relations between masters and servants or apprentices; landowners, tenants, and peasants who labor on the land; husbands and wives; parents and children; and colonial laws governing relations between masters and slaves. We will also study the history of colonial plantations and corporations, and the piecemeal development of the imperial constitution, as well as the reasons for the silence of the common law in relation to colonial slavery, as viewed from the perspective of a series of famous eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century cases concerning the status of fugitive slaves in England, including the notorious case of the slave ship Zong. We will develop these inquiries through readings of novels that explore the problem of legal personhood as a field for both individual subjective and collective political struggle, including slave rebellions in the West Indies. In the process, we will consider the legal dimensions of such common liberal ideas as liberty versus enslavement; free labor; married women’s legal disability and female emancipation; individual conscience and the duties of citizenship; the abolition of slavery; and individual personal rights versus property rights. We will read several new historical studies on the evolution of colonial slave laws and consider the debates over whether abolitionism should be considered as an early human rights movement. We will also pay attention to the interaction of these questions with novelistic generic experimentation in satire, romance, sensation fiction, and realism. In addition to novels by authors including Austen, Collins, Dickens, Earle, Trollope, and Wollstonecraft, and slave narratives by Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince, we will read selections from antislavery poetry, and historical and recent critical studies on slavery and empire, including work by Ian Baucom, Lauren Benton, Colin Dayan, Saidiya V. Hartman, Christine L. Kreuger, Ruth Perry, Edward B. Rugemer, Daniel M. Stout, Christopher Taylor, and Tim Watson. Students seeking pre-1800 credit, including Americanists and those in Francophone studies, may develop projects focused on colonial American slavery or the Haitian revolution. Course requirements include: a 20-page seminar paper; a scholarly literature review paper; two class presentations, one of which may focus on teaching; complete all readings and regular discussion participation; weekly 2-3 page short analysis paper on the class readings.
ENGL 6550-01 (class#13823) SEMINAR IN RHETORIC & COMPOSITION: THEORY AND PRACTICE IN RESPONDING TO THE WRITING OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS, (DeCapua): One of the central goals of the field of second- (or additional-) language writing has been to provide an understanding of international writers. Research has shown that first-language literacy education can also influence students’ second-language literacy experience. For this reason, an understanding of students’ first-language literacy backgrounds can provide useful insights for the writing teacher. A number of studies have explored the writing experiences of international students in academic settings using qualitative research methodologies. While these studies provide valuable insights into the characteristics and experiences of international writers, the understanding of these writers is still far from adequate. Meanwhile, the numbers of international students on campuses throughout North America are increasing. As a result of the increased population of international students we are encountering in our writing classrooms/one-on-one conferences/writing consultations, it is important to develop an understanding of international writers and their writing by reading primary scholarship in the field. This course will consist of directed investigation of international writers, their unique approaches to writing in English, and “best practices” in responding to that writing. The course will begin with a brief exploration of second language literacy, to provide a foundation on which to build the remainder of the course work and readings. Students will be responsible for reading reflections posted to HuskyCT, as well as responding to the posts of classmates, in order to keep the conversation flowing after that which takes place in class. Other course activities and assignments will include student-led seminar meetings, practice responding to international students’ writing, ethnographic-style observation of an ENG 1003 class, participation in panel discussions with SLW instructors, and the creation of an annotated bibliography of current SLW scholarship. For the final project, students may choose from multiple options that will include a traditional seminar paper and multimodal alternatives.

ENGL 6750-01 (class#13825) SEMINAR IN AMERICAN LITERATURE: QUEERNESS IN LITERATURE, 1870-1930: (Breen):  This course examines literature that responded to and, in some cases, informed late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century cultural, legal, medical, and political discussions of racial, sexual, and gender otherness. The course will pay special attention to both realist and experimental forms of writing, and it will consider both of these representational strategies within Modernism.  We will read examples of “queer” (or is it queer, in the current sense of the term?) literature written between 1870 and 1930 (together with relevant pieces of literary criticism). While focusing primarily on these texts, we will also discuss selections from the following:

modern/contemporary feminist and queer theory and gender and sexuality studies; and fin de siècle and early twentieth-century excerpts from scientific writing (eg: Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis, Hirschfeld, Freud), general discussions and overviews of sexuality (eg, Carpenter, Prime-Stevenson), and essays women’s rights and lesbian rights (eg, Anna Rüling and Anita Augspurg). Literary texts include Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs (on which Krafft-Ebing drew for his description of masochism); Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray; Stoker’s Dracula;  Stein’s short story Q.E.D.; Prime-Stevenson’s little known gay novel Imre (one of the few pre-Stonewall works to provide gay characters with a happy ending); Kafka’s Metamorphosis; Forster’s posthumously published Maurice; the oft compared “lesbian Bible” Well of Loneliness by Hall and Woolf’s Orlando; Larsen’s Harlem Renaissance classic Passing; and Barnes’s haunting Nightwood. Stated in slightly different terms, this course takes as its starting point the production of sexuality as a scientific identity category at the end of the nineteenth century in Europe, the UK, and the US. This beginning necessarily introduces a particular kind of narrative for understanding LGBTQ identities, acts, and behaviors: a narrative that foregrounds Western, industrialized, capitalist, and imperialist definitions of gender and sexuality with their attendant race- and class-based hierarchies. We will explore this narrative primarily in terms of literature. We will also engage selections by contemporary theorists who, in building on, countering, de-centering, and complicating that narrative, produce their own narrative possibilities.  Requirements will include a longer paper and a presentation.

6750-01 (class# 13964) SEMINAR IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: DYSTOPIAS: (Eby):  Both Frederic Jameson and Slavov Žižek have asked, why is it easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism?  Dystopian literature has long been obsessed with social stratification, often presented most starkly in terms of economic class but increasingly also involving other factors such as race and gender.  A little fewer than half of the readings are twenty-first century North American neoliberal dystopias (probably Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God, Whitehead’s Zone One, Roth’s The Plot Against America, Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, Eggers’s The Circle, and Atwood’s Oryx and Crake).  Equally, these novels demand that we examine how race, ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexuality map onto dystopias.But with the express intent of making the seminar appeal to a wider cadre of students (and because the contemporary obsession with dystopian narrative cannot be understood without historical context), the syllabus also offers a series of mini-contexts, albeit necessarily truncated.  One such context is the trilogy of early- to mid-century European novels that hugely impacted not only subsequent dystopian narratives but also how public discourse imagines the future and even the end times (Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Zamyatin’s We).  A second context is provided by two influential US dystopias from earlier in the twentieth century (Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here and London’s Iron Heel).  The third mini-context looks further back (and is admittedly almost laughably selective), but since the dystopian genre must itself be understood within the context of utopian literature, we also will read More’s Utopia and Bellamy’s Looking Backward (one of the biggest bestsellers of the 19th c in the US).  The fourth context consists of recent theoretical texts that approach the idea of end times from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.  Thus, rather than reading a string of journal articles for secondary readings alongside the novels, we will examine substantial portions of such works as David Harvey’s 17 Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, Slavov Žižek’s Living in the End Times, and anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s stunning The Mushroom at the End of the World:  Of the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Not coincidentally, all three titles contain the word “end.”

Students will be welcomed to tailor research and writing to their own interests and field, and alternative assignments to the standard research paper will be considered.  Baseline requirements: one 8-10 page conference-style paper and one full dress 18-20 page paper (which can be a revision and expansion of the shorter paper).  Finally, each student is expected to help lead discussion for two class periods.  This discussion-leading (which I call co-teaching, and on which I provide written feedback) makes not only student interest but also pedagogy explicit components of the course.

ENGL 6750-03 (class # 16854) SEMINAR IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: RADICALISM, GENTRIFICATION, AND SERIAL MURDER: LONDON’S EAST END, PAST AND PRESENT: (Morrison, Visiting NEAG Professor): Jack the Ripper’s stomping grounds. Organized crime. Sweated labor and poverty. The birthplace of socialist and anarchist movements. Yuppies sipping lattes. Ethnic and religious diversity. A microcosm of the world. In the span of four hundred years, the region to the east of the Tower of London, down both sides of the River Thames, has undergone a series of transformations. In the sixteenth century, it was arable land with a few dispersed villages. By the nineteenth century, it was one of Europe’s worst urban slums and an object of investigation for literary writers, social scientists, philanthropists, Salvationists, and journalists with a bent for the sensational. Today, owing to gentrification, the area includes neighborhoods of great affluence—chic restaurants, exclusive retail shops, and some of London’s most expensive real estate—alongside boroughs of extraordinarily straitened circumstances, where life expectancy is some fifteen years lower. As it has evolved, the East End has served as the birthplace of radical political and social movements and as the principal site for a variety of diasporic communities: French Huguenots, fleeing religious persecution; Jews, escaping the pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia; and Bengali Muslims, driven from their homeland by conflict and famine.In this seminar, we will sample the collection of writings on the East End and its residents, including social-realist fiction, creative nonfiction, memoir, manifestos, exposés, early modernist texts, and Christian evangelical polemics. We will also consider cinematic representations of this iconic area of the city. While students will be provided with a broad introduction to the spatial turn in literary and cultural studies through this case study, they will also gain valuable professional knowledge by contributing to the production of a scholarly volume, A Companion to London’s East End. Together we will learn how to create an alphabetically organized, cross-referenced work; conduct primary research to identify topics, genres, peoples, and places for inclusion; and research and write entries (which may be incorporated into the volume with attribution to each author).

Course requirements include: 20 pages of critical writing (which may take a number of different forms, to be discussed in our first meeting); formal and informal presentations; short skills-based research assignments; informed and sustained contributions to class discussions.