Summer 2019: May 6th - June 19th
Debating the Digital Humanities
602.1 AA Tues & Thurs 14:45-17:30 Paul Barrett
This course introduces students to contemporary debates in the digital humanities and situates those debates within the apparent broader crisis of the humanities. We will investigate the methods and theories of the digital humanities while also considering how the notion of the humanities are transformed by their engagement with the digital. What becomes of notions of criticism, hermeneutics, text, and philology within these new interpretive paradigms? Furthermore, how might a critical digital humanities enable us to interrogate how notions of the humanities enable particular visions of what it means to be human? We will look at a number of texts, theoretical frameworks, and digital tools to consider how digital humanities is changing not only traditional notions of reading and humanities work but also how DH itself is changed through critical engagement with categories of race, gender, class, and nation.
This course will invite students to put theory into practice (while also using theory to critique our practices) by using digital tools to intervene in these debates in the digital humanities. We will look at novels, games, digital texts, and software through the lens of digital humanities as well as theories of race, embodiment, sexuality and citizenship. Students will be asked to reflect on their own interpretive practices when looking at new forms of textuality and use those reflections as the bases for addressing some of the questions raised in class materials, lectures, and discussions.
Fall 2019: September 3rd - December 2nd
Aesthetics and the Chemical Senses
604.2 A Mon 13:15-16:00 Hsuan Hsu (Theory)
The “lower,” “chemical” senses of taste and smell have long occupied a marginalized position at the bottom of the Enlightenment hierarchy of the senses: because they do not respect the perceiver’s autonomy, Kant associated them more with savage and bestial “enjoyment” than with judgments of beauty. Yet the very things that have justified neglecting these senses—their materiality, their “trans-corporeal” biochemical effects, their capacity to bypass reasoned judgment, their affective appeal, and their association with feminine, racialized, and animal passivity—makes them both powerful and vitally connected to critical conversations in the fields of environmental humanities, critical race studies, gender and sexuality studies, food studies, atmospheric geography, and affect studies.
How do the chemical, trans-corporeal aesthetics of taste and smell shape ideas about bodies, environmental relations, race, and biopolitics? How have writers and artists engaged with these senses in ways that address the ethics and politics of trans-corporeal environmental relations? How do we communicate about taste and smell across the boundaries of class, gender, race, locality, and time? What might studying these senses tell us about aesthetic phenomena such as synesthesia, as well as bio-social issues such as metabolisms and health disparities? Among the works we will consider are Sylvester Graham’s reflections on bread and masturbation, Parama Roy on food and empire, Kyla Wazana Tompkins on “racial indigestion,” Helen Keller’s descriptions of gustatory and olfactory worlding, Larissa Lai’s novel about durian-human hybrids, Catherine Maxwell’s study of Victorian perfume imaginaries, and scholarship and art concerning sugar plantations (Kara Walker), microbiomes (Anicka Yi, Deboleena Roy), the spice trade (Beatrice Glow), obesity (Lauren Berlant), artificial sweeteners (Caroline Thomas), and the sensory experiences of migrant farmworkers (Helena Maria Viramontes).
A Cross-Cultural Renaissance
611.2 A Wed 13:15-15:30 Darragh Languay (period)
In his “Digression of the Air,” Democritus Junior (narrator of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy) mounts aloft as a long-winged hawk to his full pitch so that he might look down upon the world and test his geographical knowledge. From this lofty position, too, he reflects on the causes of the differences among peoples of different nations. This inquiry into cultural diversity emerges in a variety of forms in the literature of the Renaissance. In her influential Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Margaret Hodgen demonstrated that the social sciences did not originate in the nineteenth century, but that the study of human cultures had its foundations at least as far back as the sixteenth century, when contact with unfamiliar peoples led Europeans to create ways of describing and understanding social similarities and differences among humans. As a result of trade, travel, and attempts at colonization, English men and women were increasingly exposed to the world outside their borders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and confronted with questions about the value of other cultures. Not only could they read about rare and exotic objects, commodities and unfamiliar practices in travel accounts, but they could see for themselves native people and cultural artifacts brought back and displayed in London.
This course will consider some of the particular ways in which Renaissance drama (its performance conditions and generic features) participated in the study of human cultures as it dramatized exchanges between nations. Anxieties inherent in confrontations with ‘others,’ and the subsequent negotiations of cultural difference are played out in many canonical and non-canonical plays of the period. Works by Jonson, Shakespeare, Fletcher and Marlowe, as well as by lesser known early modern playwrights, will be examined along with relevant historical documents (such as edicts essays, travel narratives, maps, descriptions and woodcuts of cabinets of curiosities and tableaux vivants) and recent theoretical approaches to the subject. Studying representations of cross- cultural exchanges on the early modern stage will illuminate some of the ways in which cultural difference was encountered and understood in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century England.
“The World” of Eighteenth-century British Literature
616.2 A Tues 18:00-20:15 Marcie Frank (period)
“What is a World?” asks Pheng Cheah in the title to his 2016 book investigating the nature and politics of novelistic discourse. Yet his argument takes the canonical “rise of the novel” narrative for granted. So does Amitav Ghosh in his treatment of the limited capacity of the novel to represent climate change in The Great Derangement. Others have problematized the critical intersections of postcolonial, global, and environmental studies with the history of the novel as a genre and with literature more generally most notably Srivinas Aravamudan in Enlightenment Orientalism: Resisting the Rise of the Novel and Siraj Ahmed in The Archeology of Babel. In this course we will read three or four early novels and/or oriental tales that deal with “the world” including Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and Beckford’s Vathek, to investigate what novel history (pace Aravamudan) and literary critical methods deriving from philology (pace Ahmed) can tell us about the world-making as it is currently construed.
A Pastoral: The Poetics of Pleasure
640.2 A Thurs 15:30-17:45 Kevin Pask
Pastoral is associated with the celebration of shepherds, the natural world they inhabit, and the loves they pursue. In this course, we shall look at all of those traditional aspects of the pastoral form, with particular emphasis on the role of leisure and pleasure. Pleasure here will be multifarious: love and sexuality, the relationship to the natural world, and song itself. By the late Renaissance, moreover, pastoral also represented a cultural alliance, real or imagined, between “high” and “low”—aristocrat and peasant—against the new world of rational economic calculation and sexual self-control associated with the bourgeoisie. The course will begin at the origin of European pastoral, with one class on The Idylls of Theocritus. Much of the course will be devoted to the Renaissance revival and revision of pastoral forms, but there will also be considerable attention to some versions of pastoral (to borrow from William Empson) since the Renaissance.
Primary texts will include at least some of the following:
Theocritus, The Idylls
Spenser, The Faerie Queene, selections from Book 6
Shakespeare, As You Like It; The Winter’s Tale
John Fletcher, The Faithful Shepherdess
Cervantes, pastoral selections from Don Quixote
Andrew Marvell and Henry Vaughan; Cavalier lyric
John Clare, selections from The Shepherd’s Calendar
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles
D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Modern/contemporary poets responding to pastoral: A. E. Housman, William Carlos Williams, H. D., John Ashbery
Some of the critics and theorists used in the course will include William Empson, Norbert Elias, Michel Foucault (on the history of sexuality), Paul Alpers, David Halperin (Before Pastoral), Raymond Williams (The Country and the City), and recent ecocriticism that considers Renaissance pastoral.
A Race and the Comic Turn (6 credits)
657.2 A Tues 12:00-16:00 Danielle Bobker, Nicola Nixon
In this course we will use humour theory as a critical lens through which to analyze the racial politics of comedy. More specifically, we will focus much of our analysis on African American comedy, from its cooption of the minstrel show tradition to its readdressing of slavery, from its early days of playing solely to all-black audiences to its current centrality in mainstream media. Taking up theories of humour, by philosophers, psychoanalysts, feminists, and critical race scholars, we will interrogate our assumptions about what or who is funny and about the social and ethical effects of laughter. At the same time, we’ll consider the particular turn that deliberately racialized comedy presents, confronting such questions as audience (excluded and/or included); discomfort; laughing with or laughing at; white supremacism, privilege, and guilt; denigration respun and owned; stereotypes repossessed. Theoretical texts may include those by Sigmund Freud, Henri Bergson, Mikhail Bakhtin, Linda Hutcheon, Robin Means Coleman, Mel Watkins, Glenda Carpio, and Sianne Ngai. Literary and performance texts may include those by Charles Chesnutt, Sterling Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, George Schuyler, Fran Ross, Paul Beatty, Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, Wanda Sykes,Boots Riley, Spike Lee, and Key and Peele.
Digital Archives and Alternative Canadian Literatures 1750-1980
662.2 AA Mon 18:00-20:15 Daniel O’Leary (period)
This course will introduce students to the use of digital resources as an important element of Canadian print culture studies. Beginning with a survey of Canadian print culture, including neglected periodicals and unexamined authorship, students will be invited to contribute to the opening of a Canadian studies with a wider focus than has been possible in the past. The course will present units on the print culture of the underground railway and the abolition movement, on sources for the study of early indigenous records and print, and on early women’s writing drawn from a spectrum of early Canadian communities. Canadian regional print sub-cultures and their predominant genres will also be considered.
Authors to be treated include Mary Ann Shadd, Henry Bibb, Laura Smith Haviland, George Copway, Orenhyatekha, Kahkewaquonaby, David Thompson, Anne Grenfell, and also figures drawn from the more standard history of Canadian literature, including Emily Pauline Johnson, Susanna Moodie, Catharine Parr Traill, Archibald Lampman, Charles Sangster, Marjorie Pickthall and Nellie McClung. This will be a very “hands on” course, and will invite consideration of the material-cultural implications of book history and semiotics. The final units of the course will extend this treatment to small press publishing and the “little magazine” and will be asked to consider the role of such publications in supporting communities of writers in Canada. In this context students will also examine the rise of Canadian modernism in the work of A. M. Klein, Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood.
Postcolonial Environmental Humanities
665/802.2 A Thurs 13:15-15:30 Jill Didur (theory)
Environmental humanities can be broadly defined by its focus on cultural, political, and historical dimensions of climate change, resource extraction, and human/nonhuman relationality. Postcolonial studies has long been engaged in articulating transnational approaches to understanding the entanglement of nature and culture in the history of empire. Working primarily in the fields of world literature and postcolonial studies, scholars such as Edward Said and Rob Nixon have brought these areas of inquiry together, arguing that “because of the presence of the colonizing outsider, the land is recoverable at first only through the imagination” (Said 1993). The entanglement of nature and culture is intensified in the present through the dramatic effects of human-induced climate change—or what is being referred to as the era of the Anthropocene. These activities are interwoven with the history of global networks established since the Industrial Revolution, as well as colonial empires, traders and capitalists. Theorizations of the Anthropocene within the humanities (Chakrabarty 2006; Haraway 2016; Latour 2017; Morton 2016; Moore 2015) foreground the global character of this history, and dovetail with postcolonial approaches to the study of the environment. Described by Nixon as “slow violence,” this kind of environmental change is “neither spectacular nor instantaneous, but rather incremental and accretive, its calamitous repercussions playing across a range of temporal scales” (2011).
This course will examine how human/nonhuman relationality and representations of the environment are addressed in postcolonial writing. Through attention to writing about exploration, natural history, travel, eco- tourism, gardens, and memoirs of settlement, this course will investigate how colonial ways of knowing and perceiving the environment have contributed to the discourse of human ascendency over nature. In additional to postcolonial approaches to the environmental humanities (Glissant 1989; Pratt 1992; Mukherjee 2010; Nixon 2011; Carrigan 2011; DeLoughrey et al. 2015; Huggan et al. 2015), we will examine theorizations of the Anthropocene and the posthuman that foreground the global character of environmental history. We will ground these theoretical debates in discussions of literary works by writers such as Anita Desai, Amitav Ghosh, Nadine Gordimer, Helon Habila, Jamaica Kincaid, and Arundhati Roy, Eden Robinson, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Indra Sinha.
Selected secondary readings:
Rosi Braidotti The Posthuman (2013)
Anthony Carrigan Postcolonial Tourism: Literature, Culture, and Environment (2011) Dipesh Chakrabarty “The Climate of History: Four Theses” (2009).
Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George Handley Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment (2011) Amitav Ghosh The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016)
Donna Haraway Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (2016) Bruno Latour Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime (2017) Rob Nixon Slow Violence and Environmentalism of the Poor (2011)
Aesthetic Theory: Romantic, Modernist, Contemporary
668.2 AA Wed 18:00-20:15 Nathan Brown (theory)
At the end of her 2012 study, Our Aesthetic Categories, Sianne Ngai remarks that “it is aesthetic theory that needs resuscitation in our contemporary moment, not the aesthetic as such.” Ngai’s point is that because the forms of sensation we might call “aesthetic” have undergone a hyperbolic expansion in late capitalist culture, aesthetic theory requires new categories and modes of reflection to constitute an adequate critique of structures of feeling. We will approach this problem by studying key formulations of aesthetic theory traversing romantic, modernist, and contemporary cultural moments, focusing on four major texts.
Immanuel Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790) inspired romantic aesthetic theory by according a central philosophical role to aesthetic reflection, by identifying beauty with the experience of singularity, and by developing a powerful new theory of the sublime. Theodor Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory (1970) refashions Kantian critique from a historical materialist perspective, taking seriously the challenge of modernism to concepts of “art” and developing a dialectical theory of how the formal “autonomy” of the artwork is related to historical determinations. Focusing on supposedly “minor” aesthetic categories (cute, interesting, and zany), Sianne Ngai extends aesthetic theory beyond its traditional focus on the beautiful and the sublime, attending to the configuration and subsumption of subjective affects by contemporary capitalist culture. Fred Moten’s In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003) asks how blackness bears upon artistic production and reception, with particular attention to structures of temporality, improvisation and ensemble, sexuality and the disruption of origin. Moten’s book is a crucial text for considering the import of black studies, as a contemporary theoretical discipline, for current and future reformulations of aesthetic theory.
Throughout the course, we will reflect upon the major concepts and categories the problem of “the aesthetic” brings into play: the distribution of universality, particularity, and singularity; the relation between sensation and cognition; the theoretical analysis of affects; the historical ground of finite experience; and the relationship between capitalism and race. Thus, while our focus will be on aesthetic theory, this course will also serve as an introduction to major problems in critical
theory more generally.
Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790)
Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (1970)
Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003)
Sianne Ngai, Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (2012)
Winter 2020: January 6th - April 14th
601.4 AA Mon 18:00-20:15 Jess Arsenault (theory)
This course explores various approaches to wildness in cultural theory. Anti- and post-colonial thinkers have long critiqued the concept’s association with wilderness for, among other things, overwriting the violent underpinnings of colonialism with a mythology of uncultivated landscapes and lending fixity to conservative environmentalist notions of pristine nature. More recently, alongside the rise of posthumanist and animal studies scholarship, wildness has taken on other meanings, emerging as a position from which to refuse participation in biopolitical regimes that structure everyday life across the globe.
This course is neither an effort to exonerate the category of wildness from its violent history nor to uncritically celebrate its resistant potential. Nonetheless, the course hopes to explore the promise wildness holds for those who “remain animated in our pursuit of the unruly, agitated in our desire of the unrest” (Halberstam and Nyong’o, 2018, p. 458). Wildness, for this course, articulates a positionality for those bodies—human, extrahuman, geological—who refuse interpellation,domestication, subjection, and representation in current networks of power and identity. In reading a category that is both compelling in being unmoored from the constraints of civility and uncertain in its potential refusing the domesticatory impulses of institutional frameworks, the course will be devoted to students crafting their own theoretical interventions on this broad topic. The course may include examinations of feral and willful feminisms (Ahmed, 2014, 2017); anti- hierarchical and anti-anthropocentric theories (Agamben, 2004; Calarco, 2014); the commodification of wildness, animal capital, and capitalist natures (Collard and Dempsey, 2015; Shukin, 2009; Wright, 2010); gender, trans* identities, and critiques of gendered taxonomies (Halberstam, 2017; Macharia, 2016); strays, unruly bodies, and resilient ecologies (Haraway, 2016; Oliver 2009; Tsing 2012, 2015); pathogens, the pest, and pesticidal campaigns (Ahuja, 2016; Mavhunga, 2011); human and animal in antiracist thought (Weheliye, 2014); and the violence of domestication and companion species (Haraway, 2003).
Agamben, Giorgio. The Open: Man and Animal. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2004. Ahmed, Sara. Living a Feminist Life. Durham: Duke UP, 2017.
Ahmed, Sara. Willful Subjects. Durham: Duke UP, 2014.
Ahuja, Neel. Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species. Durham: Duke UP, 2016.
Calarco, Matthew. “Being Toward Meat: Anthropocentrism, Indistinction, and Veganism.” Dialectical Anthropology
38.4 (2014): 415-429. Print.
Collard, Rosemary Claire and Jessica Dempsey. “A Manifesto for Abundant Futures.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 105(2): 322-330.
Halberstam, Jack. Trans*. Oakland: University of California Press, 2018.
Halberstam, Jack and Tavia Nyong’o. Theory in the Wild. Special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly 117.3 (2018). Haraway, Donna. Staying With the Trouble: Making Kin in the Cthlulucene. Durham: Duke UP, 2016.
Haraway, Donna. The Companion Species Manifesto. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2007.
Macharia, Keguro. “5 Reflections on Trans* and Taxonomy (with Neo Musangi).” Critical Arts 30.4 (2016): 495- 506.
Mavhunga, Clapperton Chakanetsa. “Vermin Beings: On Pestiferous Animals and Human Game.” Social Text
29.1 (2011): 161-176.
Oliver, Kelly. Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to be Human. New York: Columbia UP, 2009.
Weheliye, Alexander. Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Durham: Duke UP, 2014.
Wright, Laura. “Wilderness into Civilized Shapes”: Reading the Postcolonial Environment. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010.
Media Archaeology: Inscription Media edition
603.4 A Tues 13:15-16:15 Darren Wershler (theory)
What is media archaeology? As Jussi Parikka describes, it is a subfield of media history that scrutinizes contemporary media culture through investigations of past media technologies and creative media practices. Media archaeology takes a special interest in recondite and forgotten apparatuses, practices and inventions. At an historical moment when our own media technologies become obsolete with increasing rapidity, the study of residual forms and practices provides valuable context for analysis, and perhaps the possibility for the emergence of something new.
This course deals with the theory, current practice, and possible trajectories of media archaeology as a discipline. Our chief resource will be the research collection of the new Residual Media Depot of the Media History Research Centre at the Milieux Institute. Work will consist of a mix of writing, thinking, talking, and hands-on encounters with materials from the collection, according to student skills and interests.
This course has been taught twice as an intensive one-week graduate course for the Concordia International Summer Schools -- in 2016, as the pilot for the Summer Schools program itself, and again in 2017. It has been extremely successful on a global scale, drawing students from countries including Canada, China, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Mexico and the USA. For the first time, I am proposing to run it as a full-semester course in winter 2020, and I expect a large cohort of students from departments across Concordia and elsewhere.
I run this course on a "flipped" model, meeting one per week in a 3-hour block. A large amount of additional critical discussion will take place on the class website (see residualmedia.net) in the form of weekly individual blog posts that help to structure conversation.
The first hour each week follows a seminar model. We will make frequent use of breakout groups of various kinds, concept mapping and. In order to provide further context, all seminar members will also spend time locating media examples for in-class screenings in order to provide further contextual information.
The remaining two hours each week consists of work time for an individual or collective project in applied media archaeology. Students must propose their project after the second week of the course. Students will have access to the Depot collection, some support from Research Assistants, plus any other necessary supplies that Milieux can provide (after a student is accepted, the instructors will determine what we can supply and what students will have to supply themselves). Students will also be able to book additional work time on the Depot, according to the availability of my Research Assistants each week.
Projects might include, but are not limited to, the following:
- visual studies of the collection’s hardware
- readings of boxes, manuals and other textual materials
- platform studies of individual consoles in the collection
- media archaeologies, genealogies or geologies of particular consoles
- software studies of particular programs supported by the Depot’s machines
- modding of a particular console (either supplied by the student or purchased for them to work on while here)
- experiments with the Depot's upscaling and signal processing equipment and displays - fieldwork (e.g. a trip to the old Coleco factory, which is now an office loft, or trips to local retro stores, or arcades)
- white papers on the use of particular equipment in the Depot (e.g. how to set up RF consoles like the Atari 2600 or 5200 for classroom use)
- databasing the Depot collection (now underway)
- use the collection to test media-archaeological theory against real technology
- build an emulator, like a Retropie
- build an upscaler
- do some online bibliographic work around retro media collections, archives and labs Students will have access to a full range of Milieux workspaces and equipment during this period.
Readings will be circulated before the course begins. All seminar participants will arrive having completed the readings in advance. The readings themselves will consist in part of major texts from media archaeology, material media studies, cultural technique theory and articulation theory, and in part of new work that the instructors are preparing.
This particular session of the course will focus on inscription media -- forms of analog media that are created as one physical process leaves a trace on the other (e.g. handwriting, typewriting, phonography, film-based photography, etc.). In addition to providing literary graduate students with a much-needed introduction to material media theory, it will provide them with an introduction to media-archaeological methodology and history, paying particular attention to the field's historical relationship to literary studies. (Key authors on the syllabus may include, but are not limited to, Nathan Altice, Wendy Chun, Wolfgang Ernst, Lisa Gitelman, John Guillory, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Stuart Hall, Friedrich Kittler, Eric Kluitenberg, Carolyn Marvin, Shannon Mattern, Jussi Parikka, Bernhard Siegert, Vanessa Schwartz, Jonathan Sterne, Cornelia Vissmann, Raymond Williams, etc.).
Protocol, Hierarchy, the Virtual, Code: Medievalism in Digital Culture
608.4 AA Tues 18:00-20:15 Stephen Yeager (Theory)
This course studies the afterlife of medieval literary and cultural forms in digital media through an analysis of four key words. Since the twelfth century, “protocol” has evolved from the name for an authenticating portion of an official papyrus record into a name for predefined strategies for making choices in response to contingent circumstances. “Hierarchy,” a name for angelic and ecclesiastic orders first attested in the work of Pseudo-Dionysius, became both a structural logic for databases and a derogatory term for unequal distributions of power. “Virtual” is a post-classical, scholastic adjectival form of virtus (“virtue”), which carries forward this term’s gendered connotations of “manliness” into its framing of ideal potentiality. Finally, “code” is a term whose English use derives ultimately from the corpus iuris civilis of Roman law, a text whose monolithic value hearkens back to the original root of Latin codex in caudex: not only the stump of a tree, but a large block of wood attached to the feet of slaves as a form of punishment. The semantic range of caudex / “code”—running from
mute, material marker of abjection to a rule-based but theoretically limitless path to virtual freedom—nicely encapsulates the larger contradiction that these keywords each reveal, and that the medievalism of digital media serves to express.
To trace the history of these words and concepts, this course course will pair theoretical readings by Foucault, Derrida, and Deleuze and Guattari with studies of primary evidence taken from medieval historical documents and philosophical texts, and from contemporary digital media and media studies scholarship. Each keyword will be paired with an analysis of a text from that key literary tradition and narrative structure, the grail quest: “protocol” will be paired with Chrétien de Troyes’ Conte du graal, “hierarchy” with the selections from Malory’s Morte d’Artur concerning the Round Table, the “virtual” with Phil K. Dick’s Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Ursula Leguin’s The Lathe of Heaven, and “code” with the adventure game Skyrim and its mods.
622/801.4 A Mon 14:45-17:00 Jason Camlot (theory)
In this seminar we will study critical attempts to define the differences between oral culture and print culture and theories concerned with the cultural and aesthetic implications of sound and sound media. A key element of our work will be the development of a critical and theoretical vocabulary for analyzing the audible acoustic elements of a performed works of literature within its larger technological, aesthetic, cultural, historical, sociological and institutional contexts. A primary challenge of our endeavor will be the development of useful and compelling ways to approach literary recordings critically. In Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word (1998), Charles Bernstein proposes the term "audiotext" for the cultural artifact in question. His term emphasizes the interplay between the written and the oral that will inform our efforts in this seminar, and he highlights the critical activity of careful, interpretive listening, applied with the same close attention and analysis we (literary scholars) use to engage with written works. While his application of the New Critical idea of close reading to the domain of literary audio is evocative, it remains to be seen just how we, as critics, can develop it into a compelling critical methodology. Part of our work together will entail devising methodological approaches for engaging with and interpreting audio productions of literary works ranging from the earliest recordings made in England of by actors and eloctionists, to the Caedmon poetry recordings of the 1930-50s, to recent poetic experiments in recorded talk and sound poetry. Beyond the analysis of the audio signal of literary recordings we will immerse ourselves in the theories and approaches that have come to define the new critical field of sound studies, and consider how this diverse range of theories can inform our understanding of the relationship between literature, sound and voice. And, beyond even analyzing spoken performances of literature and reading critical theory, we will also study a small selection of literary works that themselves thematize the voice, sound and audio media (i.e. those of Du Maurier, Shaw, Beckett, etc.), thus giving written literature its own "voice" upon the subject of our seminar.
Jonathan Sterne, ed. The Sound Studies Reader (2012) George Du Maurier, Trilby (Broadview)
George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion (Dover)
T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland and Other Poems (Norton Critical)
Samuel Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape and Other Dramatic Pieces (Grove) david antin, Talking (Kulchur 1972 / Dalkey Archive, 2001)
George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo (audio book version)
Slow Time, Fast Time: Media, Technology, and the Pace of Literature
623.4 A Tues 14:45-17:00 Jonathan Sachs (period)
Slowness is not a quality that we traditionally associate with the emergence of modernity, which is more generally characterized by a perceived acceleration or speeding up, one commonly instigated by advances in technologies of communication and mobility like print and the railway. And yet fundamental discourses of modernity, including those we now refer to as evolution and geology, emphasize the slow movement of time. In this context, literary writing can serve as a unique register of discontinuous temporality. This course focuses on the changing relationship between fast and slow as exhibited in the literary production of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century, the moment when the slow time of geology collided with the perceived acceleration of modernity and what Adam Smith called “the hurry of life.” Our primary archive will include works by Erasmus Darwin, Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, Anna Barbauld, Shelley, Byron, Coleridge and others. These authors will be read in relation to writings by Buffon, Cuvier, and Darwin and to theorists of media and modernity like Latour, Koselleck, Kittler, and Foucault. Particular attention will be paid to experiences that complicate the assumption of acceleration, including slowness, deep time, boredom, longing, and nostalgia.
Psychosomatics: Twentieth-Century Literature and Mind-Body Entanglement
626.4 AA Thurs 18:00-20:15 Omri Moses (theory)
This course examines the way literature across the long twentieth century figures the mind-body connection. We will be looking in particular at emotional expressions and other ways that thoughts and feelings are organized by or lodged in the body itself. The purpose is to deepen our understanding of the entangled relationship between somatic and cognitive phenomena, taking advantage of recent neuroscientific and social-psychological paradigms that reassert the importance of the body in our mental lives, especially as it bears on affective experience. We will want to understand better how minds and bodies interact recursively. Feminist scholars and social theorists, such as Michel Foucault, have long told us that the body is discursively constructed. But in what ways is discourse itself constructed by our embodiment? The syllabus will be historically organized to run through major theoretical developments from the late nineteenth century to the present. We start with emergent notions of the body as an expressive instrument, as in the work of Charles Darwin and William James, to psychoanalysis, behaviorism, social constructionism, and our own moment of neo-physicalism, where biomedical institutions prefer to regard disorders of the mind in biophysical and materialist terms. These will be paired with texts that address topics suchas pain, illness, posture, behavioral modification, body prosthesis, and animal morphology. In the process, we will seek to understand how literature reconfigures prevailing conceptions regarding psychosomatic phenomena.
A Global Modernism
628.4 A Thurs 15:30-17:45 Stephen Ross (period)
While modernism has always been associated with cosmopolitanism, expatriation, immigration, and other concepts connoting transnational mobility and exchange, modernist studies has long labored under the chauvinistic assumption that modernism originated in the West and then spread to the rest of the world (where it was seen as derivative and belated). In recent decades, however, scholars have challenged the “West vs. Rest” model by advancing alternative accounts of modernism as a global phenomenon and process. Where world- systems theorists, for instance, would situate modernism in the context of a “singular modernity” constituted by the combined and uneven logic of core-periphery relations, proponents of a networks model of literary production would emphasize modernism’s relational, rhizomatic, and polycentric lines of circulation and exchange.
This seminar examines the “global” turn in modernist studies. Our main task will be twofold: 1) to study competing efforts by scholars to grasp modernism as a properly “global” concept, and 2) to test the descriptive power of these efforts through analysis of key primary texts drawn from modernism’s varied national, transnational, supranational, regional, diasporic, and stateless formations.
The course emerges from my work as co-editor of Global Modernists on Modernism (Bloomsbury Press UK, 2019) , a 200,000-word anthology that gathers modernist texts—essays, manifestos, statements, forewords, prefaces, and so on—that reflect on the theory and practice of modernism. The anthology will organize our readings and debates of texts by figures such as: Kamau Brathwaite, Chika Sagawa, Nazik Al-Malaika, Can Xue, Wole Soyinka, Mikhl Likht, N.M Rashed, and others. Given the multilingual nature of the seminar’s archive, we will devote considerable energy to thinking about the problematics of translation as well.
Creative Writing Workshops - Please note that the creative writing workshops are only available to students registered in the Creative Writing option of the MA program
Fall 2019: September 3rd - December 2nd
Techniques of Fiction
670.2 A Tues 18:00-20:15 Sina Queyras
In this graduate workshop we will explore writing techniques that are conventional and unconventional, grounding ourselves in a range of writing styles and approaches to contemporary writing. Emphasis will be placed building a sustainable creative practice with a wide range of skills and techniques rather than the mastery of a specific “genre.” Students will develop strategies for conceiving of projects, modes of generating content, conducting research, thinking through constraints and forms, building scenes, characters, questions of authorial voice and style, and creating the grand vision. Authors read and discussed include Renee Gladman, Anne Boyer, Rachel Cusk, Eileen Myles, Louise Gluck, Claudia Rankine, Dionne Brand, Natalia Ginzburg, Marina Carr, Anne Carson, and Sheila Heti.
Fall/Winter 2019-20: September 3rd - April 14th
Graduate Poetry Workshop
ENGL 672.3 A Tues 13:15-15:30 Stephanie Bolster
In this workshop, we will pay particular attention to how poems work together across a submission, a manuscript, and a larger body of work. Our goal: to create a community of active writers and readers who desire to make conscious macro and micro elements of their own – and each other’s – poetry and poetic practice. Discussions of critical readings on craft, process, and career (by such poets as Anne Carson, Erin Mouré, Louise Glück, Robert Hass, Mary Ruefle, Solmaz Sharif, Reginald Shepherd, and Matthew Zapruder), and of poems and possibly poetry collections, will supplement the workshop process. Ekphrasis, erasure, and translation will be part of our discussion and in-class activities. Assessment will be based on a final portfolio of 15 pages of revised poetry, two essays or presentations, regular attendance, timely submissions, class participation and preparation, and creative development.
Winter 2020: January 6th - April 14th
The Solo Play
673.4 A Mon & Wed 11:45-13:00 Instructor: TBA
The solo play emphasizes audience-performer communication and direct address. It is generally presented in a smaller, more intimate space. This creates a shared space, a shared story through a single performed voice. For the purpose of this workshop, the solo play will be understood to be a play written for a single actor who may play one or more characters.
This workshop will focus on the nature, structure, and practice of writing solo works for the stage.
This course is cross-listed with ENGLISH 416/4/A.
Graduate Fiction Workshop
674.4 A Thurs 14:45-17:30 Mikhail Iossel
The primary material for this course will be participants' own work. Additionally, in order to expand class critiques and place them in a broader context of modern literary process, a wide array of topic-specific stories by North American and international authors will be analyzed on a regular basis. Each class will also include discussions on some of the salient issues of the literary praxis and theory, such as the conceptual and substantive differences and similarities between the genres of fiction and non-fiction, the nature of auto-fiction, the interrelation between thought and language, writing as "translation," the collaborative versus the individual aspects of writing, and the experimental potential of Oulipian constraints (freeing literature by tightening its rules).