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ENGL 80600. John Brenkman. Theory of Lyric. Wednesdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits.
The Lyric Theory Reader: A Critical Anthology, ed. Virginia Jackson and Yopie Prins (2014) and Jonathan Culler’s Theory of the Lyric (2015) will be used to survey a wide range of theoretical and interpretive approaches to poetry. Poems from various literary periods will be discussed in conjunction with the theoretical readings. Students will develop a semester project on a poet of their choosing through whose work they can test and contest, amplify and enrich, theories of lyric encountered in the course of the seminar.
ENGL 89000. Cathy Davidson and Eduardo Vianna. Introduction to Engaged Teaching and Transformative Learning in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Thursdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits.
What does it mean to “introduce” a student to a field? This course is intended for any graduate student in the humanities or social sciences who is thinking seriously about the deepest “why” and “how” questions about their discipline and how those apply to their own research and teaching. We will begin with theoretical questions about disciplines, fields, foundations, pedagogy, research, aesthetics, and institutional structures alongside issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, social justice, engagement, and transformation. In each class and in final projects, we will encourage students to transform critique into engaged practice. Students will work collaboratively on analyzing and then designing: (1) a standard anthology or textbook in their field; (2) key articles or critical texts in their field; (3) standard syllabi of introductory or “core” courses in their field; (4) keywords in their field. Students will leave the course with a deeper understanding of the assumptions of their field and new methods for transformative learning that support diversity, inclusion, and a more equitable form of higher education. Our aim is to work toward “research with a transformative activist agenda” and teaching and mentoring as a “collaborative learning community project” that, in the end, contributes to education as a public good and a more just and equitable society.
Readings will be chosen from: Lev Vygotsky, Paulo Freire, bell hooks, Frantz Fanon, Audre Lorde, Anna Stetsenko, Michelle Fine, Ira Shor, Stuart Hall, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, José Munoz, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Peter Galison, Sara Ahmed, Alfie Kohn, Christopher Newfield, John Warner, Kandice Chuh, Roderick Ferguson, Kurt Lewin, Lisa Lowe, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Michael Fabricant, Stephen Brier, Cathy Davidson, Eduardo Vianna, as well as authors included in the crowdsourced “Progressive Pedagogy” bibliography being developed on hastac.org:
ENGL 86800. Ashley Dawson. Biopunk and other Speculative Fictions. Fridays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 2/4 credits.
The ideologies that have supported modern liberalism’s purported “end of history” are wearing thin. The unsustainable nature of the current social order is becoming increasingly apparent. With the old social democratic left sullied by their embrace of neoliberalism, popular dissent is drifting towards the new right. We seem to be on the cusp of a whole series of radical changes. Climate chaos is already scrambling weather systems, melting glaciers that provide drinking water for hundreds of millions of people, and making urban life around the world increasingly difficult for all but the most wealthy. Entire ecosystems are being levelled by the inexorable drive of capitalism to expand at compound growth rates. Robots and AI are taking over jobs around the world and in every sector of the economy. Genetic editing and synthetic biology are radically altering existing life forms and may soon be employed on human populations to eliminate disease and prolong life, but who will be able to afford such post-human perks? Can we look forward to a world of unprecedented plenty powered by ubiquitous solar energy technologies, or will we descend into a Hobbesian war of all against all?
This course engages some of the most pressing questions of the present and near future through examination of three genres of speculative fiction: cyberpunk, biopunk, and solarpunk. Each of these genres ruptures the hegemony of what Mark Fisher called “capitalist realism,” the grating but nonetheless ubiquitous belief that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. The guiding assumption of the course is that these and related genres of speculative fiction provide what Fredric Jameson called “archaeologies of the future,” toolkits for imagining tomorrow otherwise and instruction manuals to guide the work of activism and community-building for which the trying circumstances of the present call out.
The course very consciously engages with efforts to represent possible futures articulated from a variety of geographical locations around the world and from heterogeneous subject positions. In addition, the course toggles constantly between speculative fiction and nonfiction in an effort to assess the capacities of various genres to mobilize different affects (hope, fear, revulsion, etc.) in relation to possible futures.
Works we are likely to discuss, in full or in part, include:
- Neel Ahuja, Bioinsecurities
- Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood
- Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl
- Aaron Bastani, Fully Automated Luxury Communism
- Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share
- Lauren Beukes, Zoo City
- Elly Blue, Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures
- Ryan Coogler, Black Panther
- Melinda Cooper, Life as Surplus
- Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism
- William Gibson, Neuromancer
- Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement
- Donna Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto
- Michael Hardt & Toni Negri, Commonwealth
- Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman
- Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Brown, Octavia’s Brood
- Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future
- Larissa Lai, Salt Fish Girl
- Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro, ed., Solarpunk
- Andreas Malm, Fossil Capitalism
- Andrew Niccol, Gattaca
- Alex Rivera, Sleep Dealer
- Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You
- Sophia Roosth, Synthetic: How Life Got Made
- Hermann Scheer, The Solar Economy
- Shelby Streeby, Imagining the Future of Climate Change
- Shoshona Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
ENGL 82100. Mario DiGangi. Early Modern Embodiment: Race, Gender, and Sexuality. Wednesdays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 2/4 credits
In this seminar we will explore race, gender, and sexuality as overlapping and intersecting modes of embodiment in the literature and culture of premodern England. While our focus will be sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, we will consider continuities and differences between medieval and early modern European discourses of race/gender/sexuality. Drama will be at the center of our investigations, but we will also examine a variety of texts from multiple genres, including love poetry, visual art, prose romance, court masque, and travel narrative, in an effort to understand the tropes and formal conventions through which racial, gender, and sexual differences were made to signify. Readings will cluster around five major topics: 1) Race/Gender/Sex and the Color of Beauty; 2) Race/Gender/Sex and Courtly Culture; 3) Race/Gender/Sex and Travel; 4) Race/Gender/Sex and Religion; 5) Race/Gender/Sex and the Global Circulation of English Honor. Readings will include Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and Sonnets; Jonson, The Masque of Blackness; Lanyer, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum; Massinger, The Renegado; Fletcher, The Island Princess; Dekker, Lust’s Dominion; Heywood, The Fair Maid of the West; and Day, Rowley, and Wilkins, The Travels of the Three English Brothers. Through the work of scholars such as Abdulhamit Arvas, Dennis Britton, Kim Hall, Geraldine Heng, Carol Mejia LaPerle, Arthur Little, Ania Loomba, Joyce Green Macdonald, Jeffrey Masten, Jennifer Morgan, Carmen Nocentelli, Melissa Sanchez, Ian Smith, and Valerie Traub, we will also consider how different theoretical and historical approaches have produced varying accounts of race/gender/sex as objects of inquiry in the premodern and contemporary eras.
ENGL 87500. Marc Dolan. Modernism and Memoir. Thursdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits
Based in an exploration of the consciousness of individual experience, transatlantic Modernism both sprang from autobiography and in turn transformed it, in its own formally fragmented image. Contemporaneous and current theories of autobiography and memoir will be assigned in tandem with our primary texts, which may include: Andre Gide, If I Die (Si le grain ne meurt) ; Djuna Barnes, Ladies’ Almanack (1928); Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933); Gertrude Stein, Everybody’s Autobiography (1937); Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse (1938); Langston Hughes, The Big Sea (1940); Federico Garcia Lorca, Poet in New York (Poeta en Nueva York) (1940); The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams (1951); H. D., Tribute to Freud (1956); Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast (1964; 2009); Edward Dahlberg, Because I Was Flesh (1964); and Tillie Olsen, Yonnondio: From the Thirties (1974)
ENGL 89500. Matt Gold. Knowledge Infrastructures. Wednesdays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits
Infrastructure is all around us, rarely remarked upon. Indeed, the latent state of infrastructure is part of what marks it as such; as Susan Leigh Starr has noted, infrastructure studies involves the examination of "boring things."
This class will explore the emerging nexus of critical infrastructure studies and critical university studies, focusing on the infrastructure of scholarly knowledge. From our libraries to our journals to our conferences to our operating systems to our use of social media, scholars communicate through an entanglement of corporate and commercial interests. Beyond the obviously problematic commercial infrastructures built by predatory publishers and corporate conglomerates such as Elsevier, scholars routinely depend on for-profit publication venues and commercial journals to disseminate their work.
As a set of alternatives to the commercialized infrastructure of knowledge dissemination in the academy, the course will consider open access publication models, free software development, and university press publishing. Even as we explore such alternatives, we will critique them, considering the ways that such alternatives themselves depend upon commercial technical stacks, and considering whether these alternatives are equally available and accessible across the globe.
Among the scholars we will study are: Susan Leigh Starr; Alan Liu; Kathleen Fitzpatrick; Christopher Kelty; Christopher Newfield; Stephen Brier and Michael Fabricant; Benjamin Bratton; Shannon Mattern; Nicole Starosielski; Trebor Scholz; Brian Greenspan; and Yarimar Bonilla and Max Hantel. Topics to be explored include: introductions to critical infrastructure studies and critical university studies; the environmental impact of the cloud; the free software movement; academic publishing models; constructing open platforms. Students in the class will explore publishing platforms collaboratively created by CUNY and other partners, including the CUNY Academic Commons and Manifold, as well as others such as Humanities Commons and Zotero. The goal of the class, in the end, is to ask students to consider how and where their own scholarly knowledge is distributed, and by whom and under what terms.
ENGL 84200. Olivera Jokic. Romantic/Moving/Break: Migration and the Worldly Imagination. Tuesdays 4:15PM-6:15PM.
Starting from the disorienting fractures of American, French, and Haitian Revolutions and their relationship to modern European empires, this course considers how mobility (possible, permitted, desired, required, forced) reconfigures conceptions of communal life, elasticity of selfhood, and the affect appropriate to shifting social relations. What some historians of society have called the “age of revolution” neatly encompassed what literary historians have called the “Romantic” period. The canonical texts of Romanticism aspired to create a new kind of reading public: to devise a new kind of moving writing that would disrupt the uniformity of taste and feeling circulating in the reading market. How does an intervention in poetic language (to get us closer to vitality of “the language really used by men,” said William Wordsworth in 1801) bring about political change? What is the relationship between “Romanticism,” moving, and radical social change?
“Romanticism” will be a category for thinking about literary periodization along other modern forms of thought, from nationalism and public feeling, empire and linguistics, to liberal capitalism, historiography, and race. Considering how notions of movement and instability have defined modern life organized around elastic nation states, the course will examine how interpretation and “literary” text can operate as privileged instruments of knowing and communion. Who are the “men” and other figures whose language and feelings appeared unadulterated by the society changed by print and reading? How do some forms of writing and interpretation acquire ideological and political power in particular historical contexts, and how do some accounts of human transformation and relocation elicit affective response or become historical documentation? Attention to such histories of form and genre will get us to consider how “Romanticism” engages with eighteenth-century and earlier writing traditions; how gendered legacies of thinking about writing and Literature include “women’s writing” in the literary canon; and how histories of writing overlap with emergent conceptions of human interiority and possibilities of a life narrative.
To think about what it means to move and be moved in the world as we know it, we will ask what it means to treat national, geographic, or disciplinary boundaries as relevant markers of movement; how states and fields of scholarship shape their “imagined communities” around conceptions of writing, reading, and political intervention; and how the idea of moving towards or away from “one’s own people” says something about what kind of world we live in, where we know to look for relevant others, what they mean to us, and how we learn to have feelings. Using these materials we will speculate about the possibilities of translation and of a “world literature,” in order to think about how “literature” operates now as one of the fields that shape individual, historical, and political imagination.
The writing exercises that emerge from our conversations will include workshops in which we experiment with some dominant genres of academic writing and communication. From this practice students could come out with a sample of their own work nearly ready to circulate: to propose as a presentation at an academic conference, submit to a peer-reviewed publication, or to create a syllabus promising an exciting course in their professed field of interest or expertise.
ENGL 87200. Wayne Koestenbaum. Poem Encounters Film. Tuesdays 6:30PM-8:30PM. 2/4 credits.
An experiment in placing poems (from the last 100 years) alongside short films and videos, to observe affinities of structure, method, rhetoric, syntax, sensibility, prosody, voice, design, and process between the two varieties of composition—poetic, filmic. (For now, I’m using the word “film” to encompass video and film.) The poems we read may make no direct reference to cinema; the films we see may make no direct reference to poetry. Some of the parallel modes we might observe include cut, gesture, close-up; juxtaposition, assemblage, list; speech, automatism, noise; line, stanza, apostrophe; symbol, synecdoche, allegory; found language, found imagery; mistake, correction, erasure; reclamation, magnification, detritus; quotation, summary, avoidance; interruption, flow, edge; music, shadow, echo; elegy, colloquy, monologue; artificiality, sincerity; allusion, appropriation, homage; rebellion, subordination, documentary. Possible poets: H.D., Max Jacob, Gwendolyn Brooks, Hart Crane, Marianne Moore, Melvin B. Tolson, Lisa Robertson, Fred Moten, Barbara Guest, Sylvia Plath, José Lezama Lima, Renee Gladman, Nathaniel Mackey, Friederike Mayröcker, Frank O’Hara, Kevin Killian, Amiri Baraka, Robert Creeley, Tonya M. Foster, Cathy Park Hong, Samuel Beckett, Aaron Kunin, Joan Murray, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Mónica de la Torre, Adrienne Rich, Ronaldo V. Wilson, Anne Carson, Nicanor Parra, Bertold Brecht. Possible film-artists: Man Ray, Maya Deren, Joseph Cornell, Rudy Burckhardt, Marie Menken, Bruce Baillie, Zora Neale Hurston, Shirley Clarke, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Sky Hopinka, Joyce Wieland, Helen Lee, Mary Lucier, Gunvor Nelson, Sandra Lahire, Lily Jue Sheng, Dziga Vertov Group, Lorna Simpson, Sadie Benning, Joan Jonas, Ximena Cuevas, Mary Reid Kelly, Janie Geiser, Stan VanDerBeek, Yoko Ono, Hito Steyerl, Anaïs Nin, Rea Tajiri, Germaine Dulac, Zeinabu irene Davis, Chick Strand, Lydia García Millán. (The syllabus is not yet fixed; I welcome further suggestions from students who plan to take the course.) We will try not to force the issue of magical correspondences between poem and film. But we will have the pleasure of juxtaposing some unusual instances of visual and verbal art. Requirements: oral presentation and a final project. This project may be multi-genre and multi-media; it may also be used as an occasion to compose some element of the Portfolio Exam.
ENGL 82100. Feisal Mohamed. Death to Tyrants!. Thursdays 11:45AM-1:45PM. 2/4 credits.
“There can be slain no sacrifice to God,” Seneca’s Hercules declares, “more acceptable than an unjust and wicked king.” The statement epitomizes much classical thought on the subject. Aristotle in the Politics praises the killing of a tyrants, and emphasizes the right of citizens to seek a public life leading to the good. Cicero is more emphatic still. Tyrants show the exact opposite of the spirit of fraternity that should govern human interactions, and so, as he puts it in De officiis, “that pestilent and abominable race should be exterminated from human society.” The Reformation’s white-hot religious controversies, and humanist re-engagement of classical thought, lead the question of tyrannicide to bubble to the surface of early modern thought. Philipp Melanchthon quoted Seneca in expressing a hope that “some strong man” would kill King Henry VIII to avenge the death of Thomas Cromwell. John Milton quotes the passage in his vigorous defense of the execution of King Charles I, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. Melanchthon and Milton thus help to forge a Protestant tradition of thought on tyrannicide that includes François Hotman, John Knox, and George Buchanan, a tradition finding 20th-century expression in the thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pacifist Lutheran minister who conspired against Hitler. We must also recognize, however, that immediately after killing the tyrant Lycus, Seneca’s Hercules is visited by a madness that leads him to kill his wife and children. Noble and necessary as it might be, tyrannicide is also symptom and expression of a deep wrench in right order. So it is in especially in early modern tragedy, that genre obsessed with ills spanning human and cosmic realms, that we see tyrannicide explored in all of its complexity.
At bottom, early modern engagements of tyrannicide are also engagements of the foundations of political society, and meditations on the proper relationship between subject and sovereign. Here we find leitmotifs of early modern political thought that continue to be revolutionary in late modernity: sovereignty is delegated from the people, not transferred to the sovereign, and so can be revoked when the people so choose; citizenship must include the right of resistance, otherwise political life is a form of slavery. We will explore the engagement of these ideas across English and Continental, Protestant and Catholic thinkers, in literary and non-literary texts.
Students will be expected to deliver a conference-style presentation that will form the basis of a ten-page paper, and to develop that paper into a final research essay of 16 pages.
Preliminary list of readings: Seneca, Hercules furens; George Buchanan, Jephtha; John Ponet, A Short Treatise of Politike Power; François Hotman, Francogallia (selections); Brutus, Vindiciae, contra tyrannos; Christopher Marlowe, The Massacre at Paris; Juan de Mariana, De rege; William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece, Hamlet, and Macbeth; John Milton, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, Paradise Lost, and Samson Agonistes.
ENGL 78100. Caroline Reitz. Female Dicks: The Female Detective from the 19th to the 21st Century. Tuesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits
The female detective is a speculative figure from the get-go. If the male detective in anglophone literature roughly corresponds to the history of policing in 19th century Britain, the female detective precedes her first official counterpart by over 50 years. Both rooted in and detached from history, the female detective figure is best approached from a transtemporal perspective. The genre of detective fiction is as old as Oedipus or as young as Dupin, depending on who you ask. Both rooted in and detached from specific critical traditions, female detective fiction is best approached from a transgeneric perspective. This course puts female detective fiction into conversation with N. K. Jemisin’s speculative fiction, with super hero comics featuring Captain Marvel and Kamala Khan, and with television series from Prime Suspect to Denmark’s The Killing. While we focus on anglophone literature and culture, we will look at ways in which the evolving genre serves as a framework to explore complexities of identity and justice in a postcolonial and transnational world.
The syllabus has four parts. Part one begins with paradigmatic theories of the genre (Todorov, Derrida, Moretti) as well as responses to those ideas from feminist and postcolonial theorists. We will move onto representative works in the 19th century such as The Female Detective (1864), Revelations of a Lady Detective (1864), and Wilkie Collins’s The Law and the Lady (1875). Part two covers the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th century, including serialized female detective stories (featuring sleuths such as Hilda Wade and Lady Molly of Scotland Yard), Agatha Christie (Miss Marple) and Dorothy Sayers (Harriet Vane), the rise of the girl sleuth (such as Judith Lee and Nancy Drew) and the “problem” of the hard-boiled detective posed by Hammett and Chandler and embraced by writers such as Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky. Part three looks at the explosion of female crime fighters in contemporary literature, in graphic texts, and on screen. We look at works in a range of national contexts as we ask questions about identity politics, globalization, and transmediality. The final weeks of the course will be designed by students and will be centered around their research interests in conversation with but not necessarily contained by female detective fiction (think villains or vampire slayers, spies or missing persons, your own transtemporal or transgeneric figures). This part of the course will require an annotated bibliography, as well as a conference-length paper. Two class presentations will also be required. Reading will be heavy but thrilling.
ENGL 75000. David Reynolds. American Renaissance. Wednesdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits.
Known as the American Renaissance, the decades leading up to the Civil War are generally regarded not only as the peak moment in American cultural expression but also as a watershed of themes reaching back to ancient and early-modern periods and looking forward to modernism. 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 poetic experimentation of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson; the psychological probing and ground-breaking aesthetics of Edgar Allan Poe; and landmark portraits of race and slavery by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Jacobs, and Frederick Douglass. Urban life and class conflict were dramatized in fiction by George Lippard, and gender issues were vivified in writings by Margaret Fuller and Sara Parton. Lincoln’s speeches crystalized the nation’s enduring political themes. 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 cultural history
ENGL 92000. Joan Richardson. Writing Workshop. Thursdays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 0 credits. Restricted to Level 2 & 3 Ph.D. Program in English students. Level 1 students may register with permission of professor
I have for years been leading what English Program has listed as the “Dissertation Workshop,” and it has increasingly been the case that those who participate have worked as much on preparing the Prospectus, preparing papers for conferences, drafting essays/articles for submission to journals, as in working on dissertation chapters. This variety of endeavors has been greatly stimulating, creating a most productive creative atmosphere. Participants at different levels contribute freely and actively, helping one another by relating their experiences and sharing resources. For the Spring 2020 term, then, instead of the “Dissertation Workshop” the Program will offer this “Writing Workshop,” inviting all those involved with projects connected to their professional development and progress to degree at the various levels mentioned above. The Workshop will be limited to twelve registrants, open to Level 2 and 3 students and to Level 1 by my permission (firstname.lastname@example.org).
ENGL 80500. Talia Schaffer. Feminist Criticism in Victorian Fiction: Recovery Feminism, and After. Monday 11:45AM-1:45PM. 2/4 credits
In this course we explore the history of academic feminist work in Victorian studies since the 1970s, intertwining critical work with literary texts, evaluating the ‘recovery feminist’ approach of second-wave feminism as we try to outline a contemporary feminist approach. We will, for instance, cover the first wave of feminist recovery work of the 70s and 80s by Showalter, Spacks, Gilbert and Gubar, Poovey, Spivak, along with “Cassandra” and Jane Eyre. We will then look at cultural feminist criticism of the 90s Armstrong and Gallagher with Middlemarch and Miss Marjoribank, and look at the 21st century queer, ethical, and digital turns of feminist work in criticism by Marcus, Ehnenn, Ahmed, Nowviskie, Berlant, with Mansfield Park. In assessing fifty years of Victorian feminist criticism, we will be looking at race, empire, bodies, and sexuality, but we will also be interrogating what kind of feminist criticism might be appropriate to a decentralized, gender-fluid, digital contemporary mode. We will read Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life and Kate Manne, Down Girl, and students will find and present their own feminist case studies, which may include interrogating the place of feminist criticism in environmental humanities, critical race theory, disability studies, animal studies, postcolonialism. Presentation, blog, and final paper.
ENGL 84200. Alexander Schlutz. Anthropocene Investigations. Mondays 4:15PM-6:15PM. 2/4 credits.
The term “Anthropocene,” first introduced by the chemist and Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen and the biologist Eugene Stoermer nearly twenty years ago, has by now become the most widely used designation for the current period of global, human-induced environmental catastrophe in both scholarly and public discourse. The appropriateness of the term (though of course not the global crisis it seeks to highlight) has, however, been subject to vigorous critique in the social sciences and the humanities, mainly due to its problematic naturalization of the human and its erasure of crucial questions of human difference and responsibility. From the perspective of the humanities in particular, a return to a species narrative, with an undifferentiated anthropos writ large as the protagonist, can seem to erase in one fell swoop decades of scholarly work in critique of essentialist conceptions of “the human.” A range of alternatives, from Capitalocene to Chtulucene, have been proposed in an effort to alter the narrative parameters in order to call anthropocene grand narratives into question.
At the same time, a growing number of scholars in the humanities take seriously the challenge of the “Anthropocene” to rethink what viable narratives about and representations of the relationships of human beings to their environments might look like at a moment of global crisis where human and natural history can no longer be thought of as disentangled. Such attempts include a newly framed engagement with literature and art more broadly as modes of representation that might allow us to bring the contemporary human predicament into view in different ways than scientific data and public policy debates.
To address these overlapping discussions, this seminar will offer a two-fold investigation. On the one hand, we will attempt to take stock of the disciplinary discussion surrounding the “Anthropocene” and examine a range of critical perspectives and proposed alternatives in naming and timeline. At the same time, we will also turn our attention to emergent transdisciplinary approaches in the environmental humanities, as well as to the creative practice in literature and the arts, in order to investigate what a poetics for the “Anthropocene” might look like. Our theoretical interlocutors will include Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Kathryn Yussof, and T.J. Demos, among others.
Course requirements: 3 short position papers; 15-minute conference presentation at the in-class, end-of-semester course conference; final 15-20 page research paper.
ENGL 79010. Amy Wan. Language, Literacies, and Citizenship. Mondays 2:00PM-4:00PM. 2/4 credits.
In January 2019, an email from an administrator in the Duke University biostatistics program in their medical school went viral. In it, the administrator warns Chinese international students about the unintended consequences of their use of Chinese in social settings in the college’s common areas. This email (and its backlash) reflects how institutional power can be yielded at the intersection of race, language, and literacy. This class will explore such intersections with a focus on the ways literacies are used to define, restrict, confine and cultivate citizenship.
Readings will range from histories of race, civil rights, and immigration in the US, theories on literacy and citizenship, and rhetorics of institutions, public policy, and social movements in order to analyze the complexities of these moments. While US education and citizenship will be a common example in some of the readings, the course material also takes into account the transnational movement of people and the global economy, as well as questions the value, ideal, and construct of citizenship itself. Additionally, students will also be asked to interrogate their own positions as educators who work for or who hope to work for institutions. Drawing from L.A. Paperson’s A Third University is Possible, part of the work of the class will be to identify spaces where resistance and transformation are possible. Assignments will include the opportunity to practice academic genres such as an annotated bibliography, book review essays, and conference proposal/presentation. Students are encouraged to bring their own projects and interests to the class (although a specific project is not necessary), and all disciplines and specializations are invited to join.
Students will read an average of 100 pages per week and will likely be drawn from from Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira’s The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent, Candace Epps-Roberton’s Resisting Brown: Race, Literacy, & Citizenship in the Heart of Virginia, Haivan V. Hoang’s Writing Against Racial Injury: The Politics of Asian American Student Rhetoric, Scott Richard Lyons’s X-Marks: Native Signatures of Assent, Ersula Ore’s Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric, and American Identity, L.A. Paperson’s A Third University is Possible, Jonathan Rosa’s Looking Like a Language, Sounding Like a Race: Raciolinguistics Ideologies and the Learning of Latinidad, Kate Vieira’s American by Paper: How Documents Matter in Immigrant Literacy, Shui-Yin Sharon Yam’s Inconvenient Strangers: Transnational Subjects and the Politics of Citizenship (I am also open to suggestions, particularly those that interrogate positionalities and perspectives other than the ones represented here).