Fall 2016 English Program Course Offerings
For all registration dates and deadlines, see the GC academic calendar.
To view detailed course descriptions click here or click on the faculty name in the grid below.
For the Practicum for English Program students teaching for CUNY click here.
For Dissertation Supervision click here.
Course listings and room numbers subject to change.
Canceled ENGL 85410. Lost and Found: Textual Culture & the Poetics & Politics of Thought in the Cold-War & Age of Decolonization. Ammiel Alcalay. Thursdays 6:30PM-8:30PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32056]
“Since 1955, poetry or verse as some would prefer it called has, despite all forebodings that it was dying, taken through a handful of writers in the United States, a stranglehold on established modes of thought, analysis, and attention.” John Wieners, 1972
By placing the roughly 1945-1975 period of North American cultural explosion in a global political and historical context (with antecedents in modernism as well as the often politically charged experimentalism characterizing the 1930s), we will explore—primarily through “extra-poetic” or “extra-literary” texts that constitute a wealth of unofficial and un-codified thought and knowledge—the qualities that characterize the uniqueness of this period. Moving from isolated correspondences that create distant friendships and clusters of people meeting that turn into “movements” (i.e. the “Beats”), to the creation of little magazines, small presses, newsletters, and new technologies that make the mimeo revolution possible, we will stay attuned to changing modes of communication, including how the digital presently impacts our retrospective reception of textual culture.
Over the course of the semester, using the particular period in question as a template, we will explore diverse historical, theoretical and very practical aspects that go into the creation of an edition of primary source texts, including translations. Our work will include the examination of many editions, including more than 35 Lost & Found projects, many of which were edited by students at the Graduate Center. On the practical side, we will assess how and for whom editions might be made: this will include identifying the different registers of language, context, and apparatus necessary for editions aimed at general or scholarly audiences, as well as how one might approach the creation of new audiences through new approaches to creating textual editions. On the historical side, we will explore the print culture as well as the political milieu from which these texts emerge: we can see, for example, that correspondence in the 1950s and 1960s provided a lifeline for the development of ideas among writers who could not afford to travel or even make frequent long distance phone calls. Where does the thought contained in these correspondences emerge? How can we trace it? What are the social and political effects of changes in modes of communication and contact? Finally, given that the revolutionary nature of much of the culture that developed during this period was ignored, ridiculed, coopted or simply repressed, how do we assess the importance of its original charge for the present?
While the bulk of reading will be in primary materials, background texts may include:
Steven Clay & Rodney Phillips, A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing: 1960-1980
David Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology
David Greetham, Textual Scholarship: An Introduction
Jed Rasula, The American Poetry Wax Museum: Reality Effects, 1940-1990
Christopher Simpson, The Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960
ENGL 86500. Barbarism. Meena Alexander and Feisal Mohamed. Fridays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32057]
“La France sera impitoyable,” declared François Hollande in the wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks, “à l’égard des barbares de Daech” (“France will have no pity with respect to the barbarians of Daesh"). That deployment of “barbarian” will feel familiar, focusing political energy on the slaughter of enemies. But this course will seek to inquire more deeply into this stubborn construct, taking into its ken several locales and periods, from the early modern period; to Indian Partition; to postcolonial subjectivities and ISIS poetry in the present day. Our course will culminate in a reading of Antigone raising questions on borders between human and nonhuman, dike and justice, national belonging and unbelonging. We will see Western and non-Western, pre- and post-Enlightenment, arguments on the barbaric, complicating an easy anti-colonial and anti-Enlightenment resistance to the term. Ultimately we will wonder if a humanist and cosmopolitan politics and poetics can ever fully dispense with culture’s menacing opposite. What might it mean to produce a progressive, enlightened theorization of the barbaric?
Potential texts: Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics; J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians; Mahasweta Devi, Imaginary Maps; Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth; Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine; Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses; Sophocles, Antigone (possibly in Anne Carson translation, Antigonick); Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene.
The course will be run as a seminar with weekly readings and student presentations and a final research paper. Additional readings will be uploaded to the course dropbox. Books for purchase will be on order at Book Culture, 536 W 112 St (between Broadway and Amsterdam).
ENGL 76000. Modernism, Nihilism, and Belief. John Brenkman. Wednesdays 4:15PM-6:15PM 2/4 credits. [CRN 32058]
The once widely accepted equation of modernity and secularization has been more and more thrown in doubt. The seminar will examine several facets of this controversy through various thinkers and through the poetry of T.S. Eliot, Jorie Graham, and Anne Carson. The conceptual framework will derive from theorists who address the complex relation of the secular and the sacred, nihilism and belief, symbols and ideas, as a problem in the theory and practice of interpretation: Paul Ricoeur, Emmanuel Lévinas, Julia Kristeva, Peter Sloterdijk, and Gianni Vattimo.
Texts: T.S. Eliot The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950 and Christianity and Culture; Jorie Graham, From the New World: Poems 1976-2014; Anne Carson, Glass, Irony & God; Paul Ricoeur, Figuring the Sacred; Emmanuel Lévinas, Beyond the Verse; Julia Kristeva, The Incredible Need to Believe; Peter Sloterdijk, God’s Zeal; Gianni Vattimo, After Christianity.
ENGL 81100. Space and the Material Culture of Privacy in Early Modern Literary Genres. Martin Elsky. Mondays 6:30PM-8:30PM. 2/4 credits. [ CRN 32059]
This course starts with a consideration of the “spatial turn” in literary criticism and adapts it to the cultural mapping of the house as a spatial artifact. Our point of departure is “studiolo culture,” or the spaces of privacy in the new domestic architecture of the Renaissance and its incorporation in Early Modern literature. We will look at the new concept of the house as a template for literary space: its arrangements for redirecting social circulation in a layout that divided common, public spaces from a series of increasingly private, intimate spaces. We look at the literary representation of these new architectural arrangements as accommodations of social, political, gender, and religious developments. Themes will include: rooms as performance spaces of social and sexual identity; room décor and expression of affect through things; gendered division of household space and interaction of masculine and feminine spaces; spaces of women’s property; the disparity between domestic private space as marker of cultivated status and fear of privacy as place of anti-social, aberrant, violent behavior. Reading from several genres: lyric (Petrarch, Philip Sidney); prose romance (Philip Sidney, Mary Wroth); life writing (Anne Clifford, Thomas Whythorne ); drama (Thomas Middleton, Thomas Heywood). Readings and visual materials also from architectural history and art history. The course will end with thoughts about the end of studiolo culture in contemporary houses. Assignments: oral presentation and semester paper.
ENGL 82100. Early Modern Race and Globalization. William Fisher. Thursdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32060]
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are often referred to as the period when modern forms of globalization – including global capitalism and imperialism – began. This course will explore how English literature and culture from the period was shaped by the engagement with “new” territories and trade routes, mercantile relationships, colonial energies, and various types of exchange. It will include a strong emphasis on early modern thinking about race. We will proceed, in part, by considering England’s relationship with some of the different regions/peoples of the world – especially the Ottomans (and Islam more generally), Africa, The “New” World and the Caribbean, and the Far East. In each instance, we will address how English writers imagine and engage with these diverse places and cultures.
Literary texts will include canonical works such as Shakespare’s Othello and The Tempest, Jonson’s The Masque of Blackness and Behn’s Oroonoko, as well as lesser known works such as Fletcher’s The Island Princess and Peele’s The Battle of Alcazar.
We will also be examining a range of non-literary sources: we will spend a day focusing on maps and globes from the period; another on travel narratives; another on representations of colonial commodities like sugar, cotton, and tobacco; and finally, one on visual depictions of people from across the globe.
Theoretical texts by Dipesh Chakrabarty, Edward Said, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, and Immanuel Wallerstein will be read along with the work of early modern scholars like Ania Loomba, Jyotsna Singh, Kim Hall, Barbara Fuchs, and Dan Vitkus.
ENGL 89500. Clouds. Matthew Gold. Tuesdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32062]
In Mechanisms, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum writes about the magnetic hard disk drive as an “example of what it means to consider storage media as a kind of writing machine.” Though Kirschenbaum’s work provides a “grammatology of the hard drive,” increasingly, our text is consigned to other people’s hard drives – otherwise known as “the cloud”: our prose typed into Google docs; our books downloaded from remote Kindle and iBook libraries; and our tweets, Facebook updates, and blog posts stored on remote, cloud-based servers. This is the public cloud. Behind that public cloud lies a mass of computational infrastructure and obfuscated text: our individual and collective search and purchase histories; our phone texts, email messages, and call logs; our media preferences and choices; our annotations, comments, faves, and likes -- all mined by "machine learning" algorithms, often in the service of both private corporate interests and governmental surveillance agencies. How do we make sense of the texts in and of our lives at a moment when our words are both inscribed on hard drives and consigned to the “cloud”? What new forms of control and surveillance do such cloud-based structures make possible, and what kinds of collectivities do they write into being? To what extent can we see such large-scale textual corpora as spaces for agency and for algorithmic exploration and play? Moving across histories of the book and of computational infrastructure to issues of text mining and deformance, this course will consider the problems, processes, and possibilities of the modern, text-based cloud.
Authors to be read include: Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Simone Browne, Samir Chopra, Yochai Benkler, Benjamin H. Bratton, Frank Pasquale, Trebor Scholz, Gabriella Coleman, John Durham Peters, Tung-Hui Hu, Adrian Johns, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, William Gibson, Adrian McKenzie, Jerome McGann, Evgeny Morozov, Alex Galloway, and Nicole Starosielski, among others.
ENGL 86800. The Theory and Practice of World Literature. Peter Hitchcock. Wednesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32063]
The resurgence of world literature as a concept and as a definable body of literature remains deeply problematic for English studies. On the one hand, it appears to be business as usual, as anthologies and special issues of journals promote the melding of classical and contemporary texts as a tweaked version of a “great tradition,” “the best that has been thought and said” as it were, which combines a liberal dream of inclusionism with a conservative one of unyielding touchstones; on the other hand, contemporary cosmopolitanism is hardly an innocent gesture, and the “world” at stake is a significantly contested terrain, culturally, politically, and economically. Rather than heal the wounds inflicted by world literature’s disciplinary zeal, this course will examine the ways in which the contradictions of world literature’s episteme are a creative challenge in our writing and research. From the perspective of postcolonial studies, for instance, the claims of world literature seem to embody both the colonial unconscious of its traditions and an attempt to absorb the effects of decolonization on its prescriptions. If postcolonialism is a way to read the world, does world literature negate that practice? What is the relationship between world literature and globalization? Is world literature “flat”? Is it English and/or Anglophone? Is it writing from elsewhere that moves a reader, and/or is it a writer who has moved from elsewhere? Is it a Pharmakon for both English and Comparative Literature departments, as well as one for nation?
The course will begin with Goethe’s celebrated pronouncements on the topic, and we will hope to encourage perhaps a more nuanced understanding of their overdeterminations. We will then examine three central arguments for world literature’s prescience in the work of Moretti, Damrosch, and Casanova. For each I will raise conceptual difficulties from other quarters, including those of Nancy, Hardt/Negri, Wallerstein, Arrighi, Spivak, Chow, and me. I am particularly interested in how literature itself challenges all kinds of worldliness in the current conjuncture, particularly in examples drawn from Coetzee, Pamuk, Bulawayo, Hamid, NDiaye, Djaout, Vera, Arenas, Dasgupta, Ngugi, and Liu. By coming to terms with its vexed genealogies students will be encouraged to ponder world literature’s provocation for their own “worldviews.”
Course Requirements: a short class presentation and a 20-25 page term essay written in consultation with the instructor.
ENGL 80600. Beckett and Sustainability. Nico Israel. Tuesdays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32064]
“You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on”: So concludes The Unnamable, final novel in Samuel Beckett’s celebrated mid-1940s trilogy, which the self-exiled Irish author translated "back" into English from French in the late 50s. “Going on,” in Beckett’s desperately spare, utterly uncompromising writing, implies something more (or other) than simply confronting, and overcoming, adversity; rather, it implies a process, by turns excruciating and laughable, through which contradiction, failure, and the anxiety of hope are irresistibly entwined. This process, which might tendentiously be called “sustainability,” has important implications for both aesthetics and politics, and indeed entails a reconsideration of the relation between the two terms across the twentieth century. With this reconsideration in mind, our seminar will explore texts from Beckett’s long, long, writing career, from the early poems and critical essays (of the late 1920s-early 30s), through the novelistic trilogy and major plays (40s and 50s), to the incursions into film and television (60s and 70s), to the fragmented plays and prose experiments (of the late 70s and 80s). Far from being a “Single Author” course—after all, it was Beckett’s writing to which Foucault referred when posing the ground-clearing question “What is an Author?” —the seminar will approach Beckett’s writing as a constellation into the study of language, literature, theatre, genre, ethics and politics (especially postcolonial politics) across the century. We will also explore the work of those continental philosophers who have directly encountered Beckett’s writing, including Blanchot, Adorno, Deleuze, Agamben and Badiou. Reading knowledge of French helpful but not essential. Requirements: regular attendance and participation, twelve-minute oral presentation, 5000-word final research essay.
ENGL 85400. Transamerican Historical Imagination. Dalia Kandiyoti. Wednesdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32065]
In this course, we will examine the conjuncture of critical Latina/o, hemispheric, and Atlantic perspectives primarily in contemporary U.S. Latina/o literature as well as in Latin American, Latina/o Canadian, Sephardic, and Arab American writing. The fictional works we will read assemble histories, genres, literary traditions, and new literary forms inspired by the enduring legacies in the Americas of Iberian history, expulsions, and conquest. Victor Hernández Cruz, Achy Obejas, Sandra Cisneros, Kathleen Alcalà, Ana Castillo, Laila Lalamy, Carlos Fuentes, and Guillermo Verdecchia will likely be among our authors. We will study in this body of contemporary work the de/colonial traces and legacies in the present of the “multiple 1492s” (Shohat); the “return to” and resurgence of Iberian and Americas history in Latina/o and other literature and cultural discourses, with particular reference to "global memory booms," “global fiction,” and “historical fiction”; the interlocking meanings and histories of Latina/o, Moorish/Muslim, and Sephardic/Mizrahi identities; Orientalism in the Americas; hemispheric indigenism/o; multiculturalism, migration, and diaspora; the cultural and historical links between the Americas, Iberia, and the Middle East and North Africa. These issues will be linked to ideas developed in U.S. and transamerican Latina/o thought, such as border thinking, mestizaje, tropicalization, transculturation, coloniality and “the decolonial imaginary” et al. and discussed through the critical work of, for example, Gloria Anzaldúa, Emma Pérez, Walter Mignolo, Ramón Grosfoguel, Edward Said, Ella Shohat, Robert Stam, Anouar Majid, as well as a variety of comparative and Latina/o literary criticism about transnational and historical approaches to literature.
ENGL 80200. Notebooks and Other Irregular Accountings. Wayne Koestenbaum. Wednesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32066]
In this seminar, we will read autobiographical texts that work irregularly, spasmodically, haphazardly, with interruptions, in fragments, in abject states of disassembly, obeying the periodicities of the day, the commute, the mental lapse, the aside, the list, the epistle-without-addressee. These literary adventures—or accidents—go by many names: notebook, journal, pillow book, essay, treatise, novel, poem, letter. We might hesitate to call them anything in particular; we might, instead, apologize for their existence, and wish they would shape up. Or we might feel loyalty toward these wayward creatures; without wishing to corral them into a category, we might believe that they deserve congregation, that they have chartable and treasurable resemblances, and that they are inspiring models for contemporary composition.
Our readings may include Sei Shonagon (The Pillow Book), Henry David Thoreau (Journals), Alice James (Diary), Franz Kafka (Diaries), Ludwig Wittgenstein (On Certainty), Rainer Maria Rilke (The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge), Francis Ponge (Soap), James Schuyler (Diary), Susan Sontag (As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals & Notebooks, 1964-1980), Toi Derricotte (The Black Notebooks), Hervé Guibert (Mausoleum of Lovers: Journals 1976-1991), David Markson (Vanishing Point), Max Frisch (Montauk), Hélène Cixous (The Writing Notebooks), Friederike Mayröcker (brütt, or The Sighing Gardens), Myung Mi Kim (Dura), Dodie Bellamy (When the Sick Rule the World), Matias Viegener (2500 Random Things About Me Too), Ronaldo V. Wilson (Farther Traveler), and Bernadette Mayer (Studying Hunger Journals). Texts not originally written in English we will read in translation.
Each week, students will write a two-page essay, in response to specific assignments. These essays may exercise a notebook’s freedom to engage in irregular accounting.
ENGL 89010. The Intellectual (Even Radical) Bureaucrat: Resisting Bartleby the Administrator, Mark McBeth. Mondays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32067]
As a new member of an English department faculty (particularly with a concentration in Composition & Rhetoric), your department chair or academic dean may ask you to revamp a course (or entire writing curriculum), spearhead an assessment project, foster contingent faculty, bolster tutoring/support services, or develop a campus literacy initiative. All of these administrative leadership roles demand specialized knowledge and know-how. Rather than viewing administrative labor as an exercise in perfunctory paper-pushing, this course investigates this type of professional work as an intellectual process and research strategy; while not ignoring the critiques of the corporatized university or managerial mindset, this course critically examines the theoretical underpinnings of administrative work and provides rehearsing scenarios so that participants can better understand the praxis of such vital academically sustaining work.
The course begins by surveying the evolving questions of the composition/rhetoric field, evoking the expert voices who have posed the discipline’s central questions. While introducing students to some of the most crucial questions of composition and rhetoric, this course will also prepare participants to assume the important leadership roles they will face as contributing faculty members. As Richard Miller advises us in As If Learning Mattered:
Those truly committed to increasing access to all the academy has to offer must assume a more central role in the bureaucratic management of the academy . . . [I]t is at the microbureacratic level of local praxis that one can begin to exercise a material influence not only on how students are represented or on which books will be a part of the required reading lists but also, and much more important, on which individuals are given a chance to become students and on whether the academy can be made to function as a responsive, hospitable environment for all who work within its confines. (46)
In other words to promote effective educational systems in which teaching and learning can happen, the intellectual bureaucrat must resist the inner voice that says “I’d prefer not to” and, instead, pro-actively engage with the problems posed by writing program administration. Students of Composition & Rhetoric, Urban Education, as well as future WAC Writing Fellows would benefit from this line of study.
Abridged Reading List:
Adler-Kassner, Linda. The Activist WPA: Changing Stories about Writing and Writers. Logan: Utah State UP, 2008.
Winner, Council of Writing Program Administrators 2008-2010 Best Book Award.
Bousquet, Marc, Tony Scott, and Leo Parascondola. Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004.
Charlton, Colin and etal. GenAdmin: Theorizing WPA Identities in the Twenty-First Century. Andersen, SC: Parlor Press, 2011.
Miller, Richard E. As if Learning Mattered: Reforming Higher Education. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.
Shaughnessy, Mina. Errors and Expectations: A Guide for the Teacher of Basic Writing. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977/1997.
Weiser, Irwin and Rose, Shirley. The Writing Program Administrator as Theorist. New York: Boynton/Cook, 2002.
ENGL 88000. Post-War Women Writers and Intellectuals. Nancy K. Miller. Thursdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32078]
Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts was published posthumously in 1941. Beginning here, with the death of this author, we will read the work of women writers who produced essays, novels, and poetry from the war years through the advent of second-wave feminism: Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Carolyn Heilbrun, Julia Kristeva, Audre Lorde, Mary McCarthy, Adrienne Rich, Susan Sontag, Simone Weil, Virginia Woolf. As intellectual figures and cultural icons, they also have often played an important role in public debate. Of special interest to the seminar will be the relations among these women, who sometimes admired, sometimes detested one another. We will conclude with work by contemporary women writers, including Claudia Rankine and Rebecca Solnit.
Work for the course: one oral presentation, weekly responses, and one term paper, due at the end of the semester.
ENGL 70000. Introduction to Doctoral Studies in English. Feisal Mohamed. Fridays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 4 credits. Restricted to Ph.D. Program in English students only. [CRN 32068]
This course will seek to address four aspects of graduate studies in English: 1) English studies as a field and discipline; 2) research questions and practices; 3) connections to intellectual communities and networks (i.e. professionalization); and 4) the function of the university. Theoretically, we will examine the boundaries and objects of interest for the field, discussing how they intersect with but also remain distinct from other areas and approaches, and how various theories and methods (formalist, historicist, activist, etc.) define, in sometimes contradictory ways, English studies. Practically, we will discuss how to define objects of inquiry (“texts” and “contexts”) within the field, how to research such objects, how to identify the main debates currently circulating around them, and how to develop new knowledge and innovative ideas and approaches. Four short essays responding to assigned readings will constitute the written requirement for this course. The first will require situating your own current research interests in relation to contemporary issues in English studies and university education. The second will identify and analyze a current critical essay in terms of its argument, audience and evidence while explaining its objectives and methods. The third will propose a research question and an annotated bibliography explaining how you plan to use your research and define your own distinctive approach; this paper offers an opportunity to rehearse and reflect on seminar papers for another course. Your fourth essay will propose two or three of the texts assigned in this course that you consider essential for the field along with one or two additional ones not included that are particularly important to your research and teaching, explaining their importance.
ENGL 81100. Scandalous Hybrids: Illegitimate Genres and Children in Early Modern Texts. Tanya Pollard. Thursdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits. (cross-listed with RSCP). [CRN 32083]
This course will explore the perils and pleasures of merging tragic and comic modes, through reading both theory and practice of tragicomedy in classical Greek, Roman, and early modern English texts. We will attend to the scandal associated with generic hybridity, the ambivalence linked with satisfying perceived audience desire, and the running association between tragicomic illegitimacy and bastard offspring in a series of critical and dramatic texts. Texts will include Plato’s Symposium, Aristotle’s Poetics, Euripides’ Alcestis and Helen, Plautus’ Amphitryo, Sidney’s Apology for Poetry, Fletcher’s Faithful Shepherdess, and Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale.
ENGL 90000. Dissertation Workshop. David Reynolds. Wednesdays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 0 credits. Restricted to Level 2 & 3 Ph.D. Program in English Students. [CRN 32070]
This seminar will give participants the opportunity to develop and complete their dissertation prospectus and/or draft dissertation chapters. It will be conducted as a workshop with members reading and commenting on one another’s work under the professor’s guidance. We will discuss the dissertation as an always-evolving genre as well as practical issues of writing and revision, research and research methods, documentation, presentation, and more. We will also talk about professionalizing matters including engagement with current scholarly conversations and theoretical discourses, creating conference presentations and scholarly articles as part of the dissertation writing process, and thinking about the dissertation as a draft of a first monograph.
ENGL 80200. American Aesthetics: Entanglement, or “spooky action at a distance”: A Theory of Reading & Writing. Joan Richardson. Thursdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32071]
It is not in the premise that reality
Is a solid. It may be a shade that traverses
A dust, a force that traverses a shade.
This closing stanza from Wallace Stevens’s “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven” will serve as the room of the idea—to borrow Jonathan Edwards’s excellent concept—in which we will explore a new way of thinking about how we read and why we write. “Entanglement,” or “spooky action at a distance” is, as we know, a feature of the quantum reality first described by Niels Bohr in the 1920s. Stevens read Bohr, and Bohr read Lucretius, from whose description in De Rerum Natura, he derived his own description of atomic structure. Bohr also read William James, from whom he derived the notion of “complementarity.” Albert Einstein resisted the idea of “spooky action at a distance,” and yet…. Charles Sanders Peirce, a generation earlier than Einstein and Bohr, in “A Guess at the Riddle” and “Man’s Glassy Essence,” suggested through his idea of synechism, that human being was continuous—synechism means “continuity,” derived from “holding together”—with the order of the cosmos, that things are, in some sense, the same all the way up and all the way down. Peirce, persistently extrapolating from the Darwinian information, devised pragmatism as a method to adapt ourselves to what it means to inhabit a universe of chance: guesses, hunches elaborated into hypotheses, are central to the method. Where do the guesses come from? “Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable,” Emerson offered in the Introduction to Nature (1836), and continued:
We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy. Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth.
Peirce developed Emerson’s idea of the hieroglyphic into his semeiotic, a theory of signs far more complex than what Saussure would offer; unlike Saussure, Peirce’s speculations were informed by his always having been attentive, since childhood, to the “cosmic weather.”
What does it mean to read? Why do we read what we do? What are the “strange attractors” in our experience that draw us to this or that writer, thinker, artist. And why do we write? What happens when we do? We will pursue these questions and more in the room of the idea opened by the framing above. Readings will be drawn from all those mentioned above (including Bohr’s “Light and Life”), as well as from Merleau-Ponty’s The Visible and the Invisible, Barthes’ The Neutral, Herwig Friedl’s essays on American literature, Susan Howe, Anne Carson, Stanislas Dehaene’s Reading in the Brain and Consciousness and the Brain, plus articles from journals such as Science News and Nature as appropriate.
Term paper/project required.
Canceled ENGL 87400. Text and Archive. Michael Sargent. Mondays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32072] Canceled
This course will consider textual production, transmission, and storage in its manifold historical and contemporary variants, with a particular eye towards both critical and methodological approaches. Using theoretical perspectives drawn from, e.g., M.T. Clanchy, Ivan Illich, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Wlad Godzich, Gilles Deleuze, Jerome McGann, David Greetham, and Matthew Gold, we will explore questions of production, reproduction, writing, printing, encoding, preservation, de-accession, and destruction in relationship to textuality, from traditional as well as digital contexts. Beginning with parietal art (cave painting and petroglyphs), we will navigate the rise and history of various writing systems and media, the development of textual criticism, the “Print Revolution,” and questions of access and recovery in contemporary archives. Guest speakers will address specific topics including fifteenth and sixteenth century bibles, the work of the Sofer SeTaM (Torah scribe), recitation of the Quran, issues of scholarly access to the Dead Sea Scrolls and other recent textual discoveries, and the implications of digital humanities research in textual and archival research. This course will also offer an opportunity for students to research, contextualize, and consider participating in textual and archival initiatives at the Graduate Center, such as the GC Digital Initiatives and Lost and Found.
ENGL 84500. Victorian Relationality. Talia Shaffer. Thursdays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32801]
In “Victorian Relationality,” we will read novels written between the 1810s and 1910s that provide intense scenes of social interdependency. We will try to figure out what tacit rules govern Victorian care. Who offers care, and how? What forms of need seem to elicit care in others? What discursive formations characterize its misuse; what forms of speech, gossip, accusation, and silencing are involved in bad care? How might care deplete or exploit, but also, how might care teach new forms of love? We will explore how an ethics of care might help us understand all the extremely nontraditional caregivers in Victorian novels: retired military men, homeless street urchins, fathers, babies, neighbors, school chums. In this respect, an ethics of care can allow us to read past normative gendered and familial roles. The Victorian novel can accommodate a voluntarily performative identity and a deliberately affiliative social arrangement. We will also look at how the celebration of the sentimental, communal pleasures of shared care in an author’s early work can eventually move, in later novels, into an attempt to diagnose what goes wrong in care relations. Novels, ranging over a century, may include Austen’s Persuasion, Yonge’s The Clever Woman of the Family, Craik’s John Halifax, Gentleman; Malet’s Sir Richard Calmady, and we will also pair some early and late novels: Dickens’s Dombey and Son and Our Mutual Friend; James’s The Portrait of a Lady and The Wings of the Dove; Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Villette; Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss and Daniel Deronda. Criticism will include theorists of sympathy, sentiment, ethics of care, disability, emotional labor, migrant caregiving, and relationality: Ablow, Jaffe, Festa, Pinch, Cvetkovich, Feder Kittay, Noddings, Stoddard Holmes, Lowe, Held, Hochschild, Hondagneu-Sotelo.
ENGL 79010. Power is Knowledge: Rhetorics of Domination and Resistance. Ira Shor. Wednesdays 6:30PM-8:30PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32073]
College graduation rates have never been higher, yet economic inequality grows worse each year. Millions of Americans enter academe and finish degrees, yet cannot convert their educational gains into economic ones, living angrily with diplomas and debt. Perhaps something terrible has gone wrong; perhaps we lack knowledge to decode it; or, perhaps we know too much already, too much knowledge with too little power; perhaps this is what it looks like when things go very right for the 1%. Nowhere is the situation more grave than in the public sector where we work, looted as it is by a private sector pirating the national treasure.
Vast wealth and power afford the billionaire class hegemony in all domains, including the circulation of discourses in society. The discourses of power occupy the whole “social body,” as Michel Foucault proposed. Such power relations generate compliance and resignation as well as resistance, according to Foucault as well as Pierre Bourdieu and Raymond Williams among others. Apparently, like rust, contention never sleeps but fills everyday life with performative options, interventions, and openings, as Judith Butler put the matter, and as Michel deCerteau named such everyday agency as bricolage. Defiance, most often furtive or fugitive, as DeCerteau and James Scott both maintained, sometimes fills central squares against the status quo, sometimes fills huge arenas with thousands cheering for an insurgent candidate calling for a “political revolution against a rigged economy,” sometimes erupting unpredictably in an unstable status quo at a moment of “disjunctive disarticulation” as Goran Therborn describes it. Whether polarized open conflict or furtive everyday defiance, rhetoric and discourse play key roles in enabling and changing power relations.
Rhetoric emerged as a persuasive practice 2500 years ago in the “civic assembly” or ekklesia of ancient Athens, a “town hall” open only to the male citizens of that city-state. Rhetoric still functions as a tool-kit of techniques for composing discourses to effect our intentions and to affect our listeners and environs. One kind of rhetoric, “speaking truth to power,” appeared in ancient Athens as parrhesia (“fearless speech” according to Foucault, or “speaking truth to power” or “truth-telling”).
This seminar will examine rhetoric and discourse vis a vis power relations in society. How does rhetoric underpin the composition of discourse and how does discourse compose human subjects and society? Dominant rhetorics deploy discourses for composing busy and compliant human subjects; dissident rhetorics guide opposition discourses for developing critical human subjects who question the status quo.
Readings: Foucault(Society Must Be Defended; Discipline and Punish; Fearless Speech), Bourdieu(Distinction; Language as Symbolic Action), Scott(Domination and the Arts of Resistance; Seeing Like a State), Pratt(“Arts of the Contact Zone”), Therborn(The Ideology of Power); Hardt/Negri (Declaration); Butler (Gender Trouble); Ngugi Wa’Thiongo, Decolonizing the Mind; Harvey, Rebel Cities; hooks, Teaching to Transgress plus other sources.
ENGL 80700. Problems in Posthumanism. Karl Steel. Mondays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32074]
It is too easy for a posthumanist critique to retroactively construct a concept of the “human” that invisibly possesses all the characteristics of an able, straight white man, well-off and comfortable, who, by being pushed out of his humanism, can somehow lead us all -- whoever "we" are -- into a new and better engagement with “the world.” This seminar will aim to linger on the variegated category of the human, alongside, with, and through categories of the “animal” and “nature,” considering them all both historically and alongside critiques of and engagements with posthumanism from a queer, gender, disability, and critical race theory perspectives. We will read work by Stacy Alaimo, Donna Haraway, Mel Y Chen, Alexander G. Weheliye, the GLQ special issue on “Queer Inhumanisms,” among others. Although our readings will largely be focused in critical animal theory and ecocriticism, we will use various well-known literary texts as laboratories for our critical practice. Since I am a medievalist, these texts will largely, but not entirely, be drawn from the Middle Ages, although some early modern writers (like Margaret Cavendish) will also be considered. Apart from the usual requirements of a seminar (a seminar paper, leading discussion), you will also be asked to practice writing in several academic genres (a sample syllabus, a book review, a call for papers). Reading knowledge of Middle English is welcome, although not required.
ENGL 74000. Romantic Reveries. Alan Vardy. Tuesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32075]
This course will explore the various modes of reverie represented by British Romantic writers, including (in no particular order): daydreams, visions (religious and imaginative), ecstasy, nightmares, the unconscious, dreams, waking dreams, rapture, inspiration, hallucinations, madness, imaginative reveries, etc. In such a conceptual frame, the Romantic canon takes on a slightly different shape. For example, de Quincey becomes a major figure, and his work will take up a significant portion of our time. The other giant of this reconfigured field is Coleridge (he coined the term “the unconscious” in its modern sense), and we will consider canonical works like “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan” alongside notebook entries and letters to give us a broad understanding of his contribution. Other writers we will study include: Blake, Percy and Mary Shelley, Byron, Clare, William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and perhaps Southey (the reading list will be supplemented during the course). The specific Coleridge and de Quincey texts will be assigned, and the other readings will be available on blackboard.
Familiarity with Freud’s “The Dream-work” from Interpretation of Dreams and/or “The Uncanny” would be helpful, but not necessary. We’ll look at these texts not as keys to Romantic literary works, but rather the converse.
3 short papers (2-3 pages)
A conference abstract (250-500 words)
A conference paper (15-20 minutes)
A research paper (15-20 pages)
The short papers are intended to give you a chance to start using the seminar focus to read various materials on the reading list.
The format for the rest of the course is structured like professional academic work: an abstract for a conference (real or imaginary); the talk developed from the abstract (to be delivered in a seminar conference after the Thanksgiving break); a research paper based the conference talk geared toward submission for publication. While this structure is primarily an exercise, in the past, many students have given conference presentations as a result, and a significant number have published articles.
ENGL 85700. Toni Morrison: Novels and Essays. Michele Wallace. Tuesdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32076]
"In this course we will read with great attention and precision at least six of Toni Morrison’s novels--The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Beloved, Jazz, A Mercy, and God Help the Child. We will interweave our interpretations with readings of a variety of Morrison’s essays and conversations, which further illuminate Morrison’s textual practices and her unusual perspectives (which continue to evolve) on African American history and Christian ethics. In previous versions of this class, we have found ourselves comparing her work to that of writers she obviously admires and may, in part emulate, such as William Faulkner, Flaherty O’Connor and Nathaniel Hawthorne. We are particularly blessed in that we can draw upon a large selection of videotaped interviews with Morrison who, unlike many writers, is especially brilliant when explicating the genealogies of her own works. The class requires two oral reports delivered at some point to the class during the semester and a final paper from 10-15 pages.
ENGL 80600. Thinking in Pieces: Pascal, Dickinson, Wittgenstein. Joshua Wilner. Tuesdays 6:30PM-8:30PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 32077]
That the immediate historical and cultural contexts in which Pascal, Dickinson, and Wittgenstein wrote differed widely as did their intellectual and imaginative projects scarcely needs pointing out: Pascal was a mathematician turned religious controversialist in 17th Century France, Dickinson a reclusive 19th Century American poet, and Wittgenstein a Viennese 20th Century philosopher of language who lived much of his adult life in Cambridge. The obvious differences harbor numerous grounds of comparison, however: each lived in a period of acute historical crisis that was intensified in each case by some sense of spiritual crisis and personal asceticism. Each left as his or her primary legacy a posthumous collection of pieces of writing that both call for and resist being gathered into wholes; correlatively, the compositional methods of all three involved processes of assembling and reassembling those pieces of writing - Pascal's bundled pensées; Dickinson's similarly bundled "fascicles" of poems; the fragmentary remarks that Wittgenstein arranged and rearranged in different boxes and manuscripts. For each, the relationship of "inner experience" to the body, to language and to the other is a central question. Each writes and thinks in ways that draw on while radically concentrating the signifying power of everyday language. In each the mathematical imagination - comparing and manipulating figures and quantities, working with proportions, performing calculations, undertaking proofs - plays a central role, though always in the service of demonstrating its limits. Each conducts an on-going dialogue between the voicing of belief and the voicing of doubt. In some cases, a pre-occupation may be shared by two writers that is not by a third: thus, for example, Christianity and the Bible are central to an understanding of Pascal and Dickinson but not (it would seem) of Wittgenstein; the nature of philosophy and scientific thinking are explicit questions for Pascal and Wittgenstein in ways that they are not for Dickinson; fantasies of mental privacy haunt Dickinson and Wittgenstein in ways they do not Pascal (or not as obsessively). In other cases, similar issues surface in each writer in a different way: how does Wittgenstein's emphasis on language-games, for example, relate to Dickinson's serious playing with language, or to Pascal's famous use of probability theory to argue for belief in God as "a good bet" or to his extended meditation on custom and "divertissement"?
Our aim in this course will be to familiarize ourselves with each writer on his or her own terms while also exploring some of the numerous points and areas of intersection among them, always through careful attention to individual pieces of writing. Through our own more or less experimental juxtapositions, hopefully we may gain a further appreciation of how these writings work and how their workings engage with history.
Principle readings: Pascal's Pensées, the corpus of Dickinson's poetry, and Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. Reading knowledge of French desirable but not essential.
ENGL 79000. Teaching College English: Practicum
Baruch: Wednesdays 2:30PM-4:30PM, Corey Meade [CRN 32080]
Brooklyn: Tuesdays 4:30PM-6:10PM (registration via e-permit)
City: Thursdays 6:45PM-8:35PM, Thomas Peele [CRN 32081]
John Jay: Thursdays 3:00PM-5:00PM, Timothy McCormack [CRN 32082]
Queens: Mondays 10:05AM-11:55AM, Amy Wan [CRN 32079]
29335 Agathocleous Tanya
00401 Alcalay Ammiel
00719 Alexander Meena
00078 Bonaparte Felicia
00299 Bowen Barbara
00243 Brenkman John
00148 Brownstein Rachel
00402 Burger Glenn
00137 Caws Mary Ann
13028 Chuh Kandice
01030 Dawson Ashley
00080 Dickstein Morris
00571 DiGangi Mario
10945 Di Iorio Lyn
00758 Dolan Marc
00403 Elsky Martin
01032 Faherty Duncan
25820 Gold Matthew
00890 Hintz Carrie
00581 Hitchcock Peter
01031 Hoeller Hildegard
01088 Israel Nico
00618 Joseph Gerhard
00893 Kaye Richard
00147 Kelly William
00378 Koestenbaum Wayne
00287 Kruger Steven
27972 Lott Eric
18187 McBeth Mark
00167 McCoy Richard
00063 Miller Nancy
29683 Mohamed Feisal
00330 Otte George
00591 Perl Sondra
11199 Pollard Tanya
00577 Reid-Pharr Robert
29333 Reitz Caroline
00221 Reynolds David
00146 Richardson Joan
00388 Richter David
00406 Sargent Michael
00407 Savran David
00408 Schaffer Talia
29400 Schlutz Alexander
00274 Shor Ira
29334 Steel Karl
00135 Tolchin Neal
00889 Vardy Alan
00751 Wallace Michele
00325 Webb Barbara
00688 Wilner Joshua
19628 Yood Jessica
00891 Yousef Nancy