Fall 2017 English Program Course Offerings
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.
Course listings and room numbers subject to change.
Vern 20th C
Intro Doc Stu
Animals, Nature & Agency
Colonial Law & Lit
Intro Doc Stu
Read Af-Am Lit &
Rom & Rev
Writing with an
Bodies & Minds Child Lit
Ped & Black Fem
PoCo Thry &
ENGL 84500. Tanya Agathocleous. Disaffection in Colonial Law and Literature. Fridays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36088]
In 1890, in response to a burgeoning print culture and steadily increasing criticism of imperial policies, the colonial government in India began to prosecute writers, editors and publishers for sedition. In order to broaden the scope of existing sedition law, prosecutors made the term “disaffection” central to their arguments; any negative affect aimed at the government might thus be deemed illegal. This course will use the criminalization of negative affect as a tactic of press censorship as the occasion to investigate the relationship between affect, politics, and the imperial public sphere. What effect did the prosecution of “disaffected” speech have on journalism and literary production in late nineteenth and early twentieth century India? On the idea of critique? On the form and content of public writing? How did the differential application of British law in India help to shape debates about empire, free speech, and the role of the critic in Britain? We will also consider the ways in which affect remains central to the constitution of publics and counterpublics today and the changing valences of disaffection in political discourse. As well as writing from colonial periodicals, primary readings may include Mulk Raj Anand, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sarah Jeannette Duncan, E.M. Forster, M.K. Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu, Rabindranath Tagore, Oscar Wilde; secondary readings may include Sara Ahmed, Homi Bhabha, Lauren Berlant, Wendy Brown, Deborah Gould, Ashis Nandy, Sianne Ngai, Jacques Ranciere, Peter Sloterdijk.
ENGL 76200. Meena Alexander. Identities. Tuesdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36089]
"No one ever told us we had to study our lives, make of our lives a study..." writes Adrienne Rich in her poem "Transcendental Etude'". Through selected postcolonial and feminist texts of poetry and prose we will examine the splintering and refashioning of identities, migrant memories, desire and sexuality, embodiment and dislocation. We will study what Derek Walcott in Omeros calls the `radiant affliction’ of language and with it the complications of self inscription in the face of a fluid world. Questions emerge, how are archives shaped over time through autobiographical acts? What connections exist between lyric time and the time of history? And what of migration—how are new geographies illuminated, selves created?
We will study the poetry and prose of Derek Walcott, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde and Kamala Das. Das evoked her body in ways that startled her readers – she composed poetry in English and prose in Malayalam her mother tongue. We will turn to other writings from the Indian subcontinent including M.K. Gandhi’s classic text An Autobiography-- the Story of My Experiments with Truth, a groundbreaking text where confronting the violence of race laws, both in India and in South Africa, Gandhi struggled to remake both himself and the world. We will also read Theresa Cha’s Dictee, a long experimental poem that focuses on exile and dislocation, impossible identities, multiple languages and the failure of translation. Other readings will be uploaded on the dropbox, drawing on drawing on phenomenology, feminism, affect and postcolonial theories (Arondekar, Berlant, Bhabha, Cesaire, Fanon, Merleau-Ponty, Spivak, Taylor, Weheliye, Wynter etc). The course will run as a seminar with weekly readings, students presentations and a final term paper.
ENGL 70000. Kandice Chuh. Introduction to Doctoral Studies in English. Mondays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 4 credits. Restricted to Ph.D. Program in English students only. [CRN 36090]
This section of 70000 will address four aspects of graduate studies in English: 1) English as a discipline; 2) the function of the university; 3) research questions and practices; and 4) the construction of intellectual communities (aka professionalization). We will make use of critical and theoretical texts to ground our discussions in each of these areas, and will explore available resources including the New York Public Library and on-line resources and tools. Some of the primary questions organizing this course include the following: What coheres the field of English? What is a discipline, and what is interdisciplinarity? How are research questions generated and pursued? What is "theory"? "literature"? "cultural studies"? What is the relationship between teaching and scholarship? How do we locate ourselves in relation to existent fields and discourses? In relation to emerging ones? In what practical ways do we construct academic communities? Students should expect to produce a series of short essays and/or the equivalent to fulfill the written requirements of this course.
ENGL 80600. Carrie Hintz. Bodies and Minds of Children's Literature. Thursdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36091]
This course will engage with contemporary theory and criticism about race, class, gender, sexuality and dis/ability in children's literature. We will also spend some time discussing recent cognitive literary theories (by Maria Nikolajeva, Roberta Trites and others) which raise questions about embodied knowledge, representation, perception, temporality and memory. The seminar will be helpful for anyone interested in recent literary theories about the body and the mind --whether you specialize in children's/ YA literature or not. This seminar will include a workshop component (roughly 6 weeks) focusing on the writing and scholarship of seminar participants. It is therefore ideally suited for first year students working toward the first exam, students developing a publication or dissertation chapter, or anyone who would benefit from the workshop process.
ENGL 86600. Peter Hitchcock. “The Poorer Nations”: Postcolonial Theory and World System. Wednesdays 6:30PM-8:30PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36092]
This course has two major aims: first, to introduce some of the key contributions to the emergence of postcolonial theory in the writings of Fanon, Cesaire, James, Said, Spivak, and Bhabha (these might be expressed as a “core”); second, to register and explore thought that both extends and deepens this rich tradition and to come to terms with contemporary theory that in some measure breaks with the founding principles of postcolonial knowledge in the current conjuncture, including Mbembe, Cheah, Lazarus, Prashad, Scott, and Bonilla (these might be articulated as a “periphery”). The idea is to present both an appreciation of pivotal postcolonial theoretical texts and to provide some research avenues into the ways in which postcolonial analysis is being reconceptualized. In a sense, it is the limits of the core/periphery model (a mainstay of world systems theory, particularly in Wallerstein) that yet reveals an alternative matrix for inquiry. The “poorer nations,” borrowed from Prashad, is a way to mark the combined and uneven developments within modernity and to think alternative modes of polity and solidarity than those offered by West/rest binaries (another work by Prashad, The Darker Nations, will also be used to deconstruct in this manner). Postcolonial theory has been marked not by evolution but by involution, a process that finds the far away a good deal closer than traditional geopolitics and mapping would permit. This is the challenge of thinking postcolonial theory in relation to history and politics, but it also underlines new interpretive possibilities in the face of gestural “endism” (the end of history, the end of colonialism, the end of communism and, of course, the end of postcolonialism itself). How is postcolonialism defined by the fate of nation as a concept? Does postcolonialism linger because colonialism haunts? What elements of criticism characterize a postcolonial methodology today? Do these influence, and are they influenced by other critical approaches? In literary studies, how useful is it to speak of postcolonial genres? Does world literature supersede what we understand of postcolonial writing? These and other questions will set the scene for our discussions. We will also take up some specific examples of contemporary literature to help ground our dialogue.
A class presentation and term paper are required
ENGL 89010. Carmen Kynard. #BlackGirlMagic: @The Intersections of Literacies, Pedagogies, and Black Feminisms. Tuesdays 6:30PM-8:30PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36094]
First coined as “Black Girls are Magic,” the slogan #BlackGirlMagic emerged on the scene less than a year after Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi created #BlackLivesMatter. In this course, we will treat #BlackGirlMagic as a very specific temporal relationship to Black feminisms, digital Blackness, Black freedom movements, and 21st century (re)iterations of white supremacist and imperialist narratives. We will challenge and move beyond the simplistic frames that have positioned (and thereby dismissed) #BlackGirlMagic (BGM) as merely a kind of beauty and visibility politics that must ultimately fail for only imaging “magical interventions” against racialized/sexualized violence. Instead, we will closely examine contemporary political and aesthetic movements in Black feminisms that have made BGM possible/legible:
- Activism and policy campaigns that challenge Black girls’ criminalization via schooling and policing regimes, like the notable work of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s #SayHerName and Monique Morris’s Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools
- The increased attention to Hip Hop feminism and its ongoing challenges to traditionalist notions of Black feminisms and third wave feminisms
- Black girlhood studies and its new archival research of the past and present in relation to migration, justice, and work
- Research on Black girl literacies and Black feminist pedagogies as new categories of analysis for the meaning of reading, writing, and performance in and out of schools
- Current critiques of Black women scholars rooted in Black feminist and intersectional thought against the de-racializing/de-Black-womanizing impulses of scholarly work that rejects intersectionality for assemblage theory
- Black feminist digital vernaculars--- seen in projects like Kimberly Bryant’s “Black Girls Code,” Yaba Blay’s “Professional Black Girl” series, or Pauline Alexis Gumbs’s “Eternal Summer”--- that innovates on the most available technologies in order to push alternative sites of knowledge, cultural rhetorics, authoring, and textual production.
We will treat our class as a new kind of maker-space where we will strategically position what Alexander Weheliye calls “racializing assemblages” alongside Black feminism’s “disavowed” yet stand-alone sustained reinvigoration of African American cultural theory as we follow “black cultural archives that typify different manifestations of enfleshment” (118). Since the “sexualized ungendering of the Black subject” (Weheliye 108) has played a pivotal role in the making of modernity, we will reject any notion that our keen focus on Black women is unrelatable or irrelevant to any western geography and thereby ask new questions of whitestream classrooms, literacies, digital theories, and rhetorical histories.
ENGL 79020. Mark McBeth. Writing with an Attitude: Navigating/Negotiating Voices within Critical Experimental Writing. Mondays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36095]
I have long struggled to link individual stories to larger histories, to make tangible with words those points of connection between self and the world that often seem so difficult to grasp.
--Alisse Waterston, My Father's Wars, xvii.
… to be human is to be concerned with meaning, to desire meaning. … Without desire, there is no real motivated question. As in the case of a love I desire, it makes me go back time and again to seek its meaning.
--Max van Manen, Researching Lived Experience, 79
Being in love with writing, with language, with one's own movement into writing.
--Nancy Miller, Getting Personal, 8.
Academic writing often prescribes stringent parameters of tenor and voice according to its traditions, its disciplines, and its genres. Student writers must often understand these “rules” intuitively because instructors teach them tacitly. As a result, our usage and teaching of language delves into privilege, politics, and "politeness." Yet, increasingly, the intellectual labor and the means by which authors express their ideas take on alternative forms through the integration of multiple genres, the textures of language, and the usage of multimodal technology. Contemporary meaning-making then relies upon a variety of semiotic systems and capabilities that writers must learn, practice, and apply. In this course, we investigate and analyze these conventions, yet also explore how contemporary writers push the boundaries of their intellectual work and creative expression: how they integrate multiple talents and sensibilities into the act of composing for particular audiences and rhetorical situations.
Participants in this seminar unpack how critical experimental writers achieve these new hybrid forms and then rehearse their own productions of the multivalent, multi-vocal, and multi-vernacular. Writing in this course becomes an exercise in discovering what voices lie within us, what registers of prescriptive grammars “control” us, and how we navigate the complex negotiations of self-expression, identity, and collective exchange. Additionally, we also consider how we, as instructors, impel students to explore the sense of self in their composing abilities through our pedagogical approaches. In this course, we collectively evaluate what we’ve been told about writing (and literacy), what audiences we want to reach with our writing, and how to communicate (and teach) in innovative ways.
A Potential (Yet Not Fully Decided) Reading List:
Austin, J. L. How to Do Things with Words.
Bechdel, Allison. Fun Home.
___. Are You My Mother?
Cicero. Rhetorica ad herennium
Danberg, Robert. Teaching Writing While Standing on One Foot.
Elbow, Peter. "Being a Writer vs. Being an Academic: A Conflict in Goals"
Gee, James. Literacy and Education.
Kynard, Carmen. "'I Want to Be African': In Search of a Black Radical Tradition/ African-American-Vernacularized Paradigm for 'Students' Right to Their Own Language,' Critical Literacy, and 'Class Politics'".
___. "From Candy Girls to Cyber Sista-Cipher: Narrating Black Females' Color-Consciousness and Countersotries in and out of School."
McLuhan, Marshal. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.
Mavor, Carol. “Touching Netherplaces: Invisibility in the Photographs of Hannah Cullwick" in Pleasures Taken
Miller, Nancy K. Getting Personal: Feminist Occasions and Other Autobiographical Acts.
Nelson, Maggie. The Argonauts.
Ocejo, Richard. "Sociology's Urban Explorers" in Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork
Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy. New York: Routledge, 1982/2012
Perl, Sondra and Schwartz, Mimi. Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction
Pratt, Mary Louise. "Arts of the Contact Zone"
Preciado, Paul B (nee Beatriz). Testo Junkie
Pritchard, Eric Darnell. Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy.
Schatz, Kate and Stahl, Miriam Klein. Rad American Women A-Z.
Sedgwick, Eve “Teaching Experimental Critical Writing" in The Ends of Performance (Ed. J. Lane Phelan)
Shipka, Jody. Toward a Composition Made Whole. Togorvnick, “Experimental Critical Writing”
Sousanis, Nick. Unflattening.
Trimbur, Lucia. "Tough Love: Mediation and Articulation in the Urban Boxing Gym" in Ethnograph and the City
Waterston, Alisse, My Father’s Wars: Migration, Memory, and the Violence of a Century.
Young, Vershawn Ashanti. "Should Writers Use They Own English?"
___. "Your Average Nigga"
van Manen, Max. Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy.
Vygotsky, L. S. Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes.
Canceled ENGL 76000. Mary McGlynn. The Vernacular 20th Century. Mondays 11:45-1:45. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36093] Canceled
Matthew Hart has written that “the vernacular is not just a linguistic problem; it is a discourse of power” (Nations of Nothing But Poetry 12). This course will approach 20th century texts via the lens of the vernacular, tracing its modernist iterations and comparing them to postmodern and postcolonial articulations. “Vernacular modernism” is frequently and primarily associated with architecture, opening our investigation to look at how space interacts with the local, attending as well to theories of the everyday. Central will be the formal dimensions of writing with vernacular language (orthographies and transliterations, dialects, stream-of-consciousness, narrative focalizations) and their ideological implications. We will begin with modernist authors as they engage with the vernacular—including James Joyce, Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Woolf, and Hugh McDiarmid, looking next at authors like Dorothy Sayers, Flann O’Brien, Sam Selvon, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and James Kelman who draw on modernist vernacular for their own class-inflected agendas. Theoretical readings will include Michel de Certeau, Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, and Andrew Elfenbein.
ENGL 91000. Nancy K. Miller. Dissertation Workshop. Thursdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 0 credits. Restricted to Level 2 & 3 Ph.D. Program in English students only. [CRN 36096]
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 70000. Feisal Mohamed. Introduction to Doctoral Studies in English. Wednesdays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 4 credits. Restricted to Ph.D. Program in English students only. [CRN 36097]
This section of 70000 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.
RSCP 72100 (cross-listed as ENGL 71000). Feisal Mohamed and Claire Carroll. Neoplatonism Across Time and Faith. Wednesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36608]
Engaging in questions of Platonic influence may seem to support a traditional view of the Renaissance as reviving and redoubling a unitary sense of Western culture tracing its roots to ancient Greece. This course poses a strong challenge to that narrative. By focusing on the Platonism of late antiquity, we in fact engage in a profound re-mapping of the period’s engagement with classical and medieval locales, one less centered on Athens and Rome and taking into its ken Alexandria, Damascus, and Baghdad.
The Neoplatonic tradition was the philosophical lingua franca of the Renaissance: the rediscovery of Plotinus and Proclus achieved in no small measure through the prodigious influence of Marsilio Ficino was a spark generating widespread interest. And as was recognized in the period, it is a tradition that spans all three Abrahamic faiths: the great wellspring of biblical Neoplatonism is the Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria, whose influence can be discerned in the seminal Christian mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius and in the Islamic tradition of falsafa. These interests certainly display themselves in literature, though this course will ask whether such engagements constitute thick intellectual engagement or a merely ornamental embellishment.
We will see in the course how Neoplatonism continues to provide a common philosophical language to theologians of all three faiths, as in the work of the twentieth-century Shi’a philosopher Henri Corbin and of the member of the “Radical Orthodoxy” school Simon Oliver.
Preliminary list of primary texts:
Ariosto, Ludovico. “Voyage to the Moon” from Orlando furioso.
Corbin, Henri. “Mundus Imaginalis” and selections from History of Islamic Philosophy
Crashawe, Richard. Poems.
Donne, John. Metempsychosis and Anniversaries.
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Mystical Theology.
Ficino, Commentary on Plato’s Symposium on Love and selections from Platonic Theology.
St. John of the Cross. Poems.
Al’Kindi. Selections from On First Philosophy.
Leone Hebreo (Judah Abrabanel). Dialoghi d’Amore.
Nicholas Cusanus. Selections from On Learned Ignorance, Dialogue on the Hidden God, and De pace fidei
Oliver, Simon. Selection from Radical Orthodoxy.
Plotinus. Selections from Enneads
Porphyry. Against the Christians [fragments]
Proclus. Selections from Platonic Theology and Commentary on Plato’s “Parmenides”
Tullia d’Aragona, Dialogue on the Infinity of Love.
Smith, John. Selections from Dialogues.
Spenser, Edmund. The Fowre Hymnes and Mutabilitie Cantos
Pernette du Guillet. Rymes
Wroth, Lady Mary. Pamphilia to Amphilanthus.
Vittoria Colonna. Sonnets for Michelangelo.
There are good English translations of the Italian and French texts:
Tullia d'Aragona, Dialogue on the Infinity of Love, ed. and trans. Rinaldina Russell and Bruce Merry, introd. and notes Rinaldina Russell (1997)
Vittoria Colonna, Sonnets for Michelangelo. A Bilingual Edition, ed. and trans. Abigail Brundin (2005)
Pernette du Guillet. Complete Poems: A Bilingual Edition. Ed., Karen Simroth James. Trans. Marta Rijn Finch (2010).
ENGL 81100. Tanya Pollard. Theater as Necromancy: Animating the Dead in Early Modern England. Thursdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36098]
Early modern playwrights peopled their stages with the undead, not only reviving literary figures from mythic pasts, but also reversing many fatalities from their own plays. Through these unsettling acts of reanimation, they engaged in a version of necromancy, the dark art of manipulating corpses for magical purposes. This course will explore the necromantic underpinnings of plays that reflect on the pleasures and dangers of animating the dead and other forbidden magical arts. Readings will include Marlowe, Dido, Queen of Carthage (ca. 1589); Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (ca 1592); Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida (ca. 1602); Shakespeare, Macbeth (ca. 1605); Shakespeare and Wilkins, Pericles (ca. 1606); Shakespeare, Cymbeline (ca. 1609-10); Jonson, Alchemist (1610); Shakespeare, Winter’s Tale (ca. 1610-11); Middleton, Witch (1613-16); Rowley, Dekker, and Ford, The Witch of Edmonton (1621); and Thomas Heywood’s The Iron Age, Parts One and Two (ca. 1632).
ENGL 75500. Robert Reid-Pharr. Readings in African American Literary and Cultural Criticism. Tuesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36099]
This seminar will introduce students to some of the more significant recent critical and theoretical trends within the study of African American literature and culture. Participants will be asked both if it is possible to produce a specifically black literary and cultural criticism and whether Black American identity is manipulated, challenged or perhaps even erased within “peculiar” aesthetic, performative, spatial, theoretical, or political contexts. At the same time, the course will examine how African American Studies intersects with and challenges Feminist Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, Ethnic Studies, and American Studies. Students will be asked to write several short papers during the course of the semester. They will also do at least one in class presentation. Works we will read include: Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. 2016; Philip Brian Harper, Abstractionist Aesthetics: Artistic Form and Social Critique in African American Culture. 2015; Aida Levy-Hussen, How to Read African American Literature: Post-Civil Rights Fiction and the Task of Interpretation. 2016; Kevin Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture. 2012; Jeremy Glick, The Black Radical Tragic: Performance, Aesthetics, and the Unfinished Haitian Revolution. 2016; Mary Helen Washington, The Other Blacklist: The African American Literary and Cultural Left of the 1950s. 2015; William J. Maxwell, F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature. 2015; Erica R. Edwards, Charisma and the Fictions of Black Leadership. 2012; Nicole Fleetwood, On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination. 2015; and Andre Carrington, Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction. 2016.
ENGL 75000. David Reynolds. American Renaissance. Wednesdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36100]
Known as the American Renaissance, the decades leading up to the Civil War are generally regarded not only as the peak moment in American literary expression but also as a watershed of cultural themes reaching back to colonial times and as a harbinger of modernist literary strategies. The American Renaissance saw the innovations in philosophy, ecological awareness, and style on the part of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau; the metaphysical depth and cultural breadth represented by the fiction of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne; the pre-modernist poetic experimentation of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson; the psychological probing and ground-breaking aesthetics of Edgar Allan Poe; and landmark meditations on race and slavery by William Wells Brown, Harriet Jacobs, and Frederick Douglass. Urban life and class conflict were dramatized in fiction by George Thompson and George Foster, and gender issues were vivified in writings by Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sara Parton, and others. In addition to reading central works of American literature—among them Moby-Dick, “Bartleby,” Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, The Scarlet Letter, Leaves of Grass, Walden, Poe’s tales, Emerson’s essays, and Dickinson’s poems--we discuss current approaches to American Studies, criticism, and literary theory.
ENGL 80200. Joan Richardson. American Aesthetics: “The mind feels when it thinks”. Fridays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36101]
“The mind feels when it thinks.” This astonishing observation was made by Jonathan Edwards about 300 ago, and it signals why he has been and continues to be considered our culture’s first philosopher and/or first psychologist. We will use his perception to locate a primary interest in affect early on in America’s “errand into the wilderness,” an errand that continues as we find ourselves today in a moral wilderness of “alternative facts,” of words cut off from their ground in experience, in feeling. (It is important to note that the root of the word “aesthetic” means “feeling” in the original Greek.) For the first English-speaking settlers, feeling was codified in what Edwards called “religious affections.” In his 1746 Treatise Concerning Religious Affections he expanded on the twelve signs by and through which individuals might trace and track the soul’s relation to God even though in their bodies they felt, for the most part, lost, without bearings in a “new world,” where the terms inherited from the Old World were inadequate to describe both the “wild facts” of the nature in which they found themselves and their experience in it. Edwards provided a syntax and grammar for introspection, rooted in what he described as “the sense of the heart.” Our first reading of the term will be his Images, or Shadows of Divine Things in Perry Miller’s irreplaceable edition. Moving from Edwards on into the nineteenth century with the unsettling news brought by the Darwinian event, we will come to dwell a while with William James who announces that it is in “the deeper, darker recesses of feeling where we catch real fact in the making.” James focuses on what he calls “the fact of feeling” in elaborating a philosophical method based on this fundamental aspect of experience, in so doing carefully teaching us how, in light of the evolutionary information, to break the two-thousand-year-old habit that privileges reason and effectively separates mind from body. It is only in recent decades that the full power of James’s work has begun to be channeled into the explorations of neuroscience, cognitive science, affect theory. Of course, on the way to James, we will have stopped to consider, once again yet differently, a selection of Emerson’s seminal texts as well as one or two of C. S. Peirce’s startling thought experiments about being, “guesses at the riddle” of the universe/s all the way up and all the way down. We will end up plunged into contemporary offerings concerning thinking/feeling, cognition, the nature of animal/animate life on our planet entertained in the poetics of Srikanth Reddy, Christian Bok, Jorie Graham, and Anne Carson, among others. We will also have spent time sampling Alfred North Whitehead in his Modes of Thought, Wallace Stevens in a few poems and some prose, Stanley Cavell in selections from his Senses of Walden (including “An Emerson Mood”), Brian Rotman in his Becoming Beside Ourselves: The Alphabet, Ghosts, and Distributed Human Being.
For those who have in the past participated in the American Aesthetics Seminar, this round’s reading and discussions will extend and detail earlier mappings. Newcomers need not have background in the material. A term paper/project will be required.
ENGL 80800. Karl Steel. Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: Animals, Nature, and Agency. Thursdays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36102]
“So pricketh hem Nature in hir corages”: apart from reading Chaucer’s unfinished masterpiece, this course will focus on the implications of this single line—how can we, and should we even, distinguish between Nature’s “pricking” of the hearts of birds and its pricking of our hearts? Where can we locate the agency of Springtime piety, or of the other cultural formations of this collection of texts, whether these be the gendering of violence (Knight’s Tale), the compulsions of class and jealousy (Clerk’s Tale), or the helpless binding of character to story (Man of Law’s Tale)? Along the way, the course will offer introductions to Critical Animal Theory, major concerns in Ecocriticism, and readings in free choice and causality, from Augustine and Boethius through to the end of the Middle Ages.
Course requirements will include two book reviews (one on a medieval topic, one on a related topic in contemporary, theoretically sophisticated scholarship), and the usual seminar paper. Familiarity with Chaucer’s Middle English is helpful but not required.
ENGL 83500. Nancy Yousef. Romanticism and Revolution: Literature, Philosophy and the Politics of Terror. Wednesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits. [CRN 36103]
With the radical convulsion and trauma of the French Revolution as a focal point, this course will serve as an introduction to issues, texts, and controversies central to the Romantic period. We will pay particular attention to rapidly shifting cultural moods of the era: progressive optimism, idealism, disillusionment, reaction, paranoia, and anxiety. Interrogation of the foundations and possibilities of community (social contract, civil rights, conjugal and filial bonds) is pervasive in the period, both in speculative theory and in affectively charged literary writing. The course will be divided into three parts, beginning with the intellectual and cultural background of the French Revolution and its immediate impact in England. We will trace conflicting and anguished reactions to the rapid devolution of revolutionary promise and the reign of terror in France, political repression in England, and the onset of war during the 1790’s. The aspirations, challenges, and disappointments associated with the Revolution continued to exercise an influence on the work of important writers whose careers extended into the nineteenth century. The latter part of this course will explore how political and ethical questions become recast and reshaped in new aesthetic practices and through the emergence of aesthetics itself as a field of philosophical investigation. Authors to be studied will include Rousseau, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Kant, Godwin, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, Keats, and Austen. Recent theoretical approaches will be addressed throughout, as well as the long critical tradition that has made romanticism so contested a period of study. Course requirements: short weekly response papers, one oral presentation on a theoretical or historical topic relevant to the week's reading, and a final 20-25 page paper. Students may consult with me on assignments appropriate for the portfolio exam.
ENGL 79000. Teaching College English: Practicum. 4 credits.
Baruch: Wednesdays 12:30PM-2:15PM, Lisa Blankenship and Cheryl Smith [CRN 36105]
Brooklyn College: Tuesdays 4:30PM-6:10PM (students register via e-permit)
John Jay: Tuesdays 11:00AM-1:00PM; Tara Pauliny [CRN 36776]
Lehman: Tuesdays 2:00PM-3:15PM, Paula Loscocco [CRN 36106]
Queens College: Tuesdays 10:05AM-11:55AM, Christopher Williams [CRN 36104]
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