Literary Genre: LG
Literature (Theory): LT
Literature (Before 20th-C): LC
General Literature: any course listed on this page
*Asterisked courses* include a creative writing component and may be of interest to students; they do not indicate an additional requirement.
All courses listed here are approved to count towards the Creative Writing major as general literature courses. Course codes indicate approval-specific distribution requirements. Students may register for eligible courses under any course number.
These courses are offered by other departments, not the Program in Creative Writing. If you have questions about course content, structure, and schedule, please contact the department offering the course. The course descriptions below are the most recent available, to the best of our knowledge.
For courses taken prior to 2023-24, check our literature course archive. All other courses not on this list must be approved by the DUS. Contact Rachel Galvin about approval.
ENGL | English Language and Literature
ANTH | Anthropology
CMLT | Comparative Literature
BIBL | Religious Studies
EALC | East Asian Languages and Civilizations
GRMN | Germanic Studies
HIST | History
MAPH | Master of Arts Program in the Humanities
NELC | Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
PHIL | Philosophy
RLLT | Romance Languages and Literatures
REES | Russian and East European Studies
SALC | South Asian Languages and Civilizations
TAPS | Theatre and Performance Studies
Autumn 2023 | Undergraduate Courses
In this course we will survey the works of Edgar Allan Poe. While attending closely to his texts, we will place Poe in the cultural and literary contexts in which he wrote. In some cases, we will challenge his politics and silences. In others, we will come to understand Poe as a shrewd author attempting to negotiate the rapidly growing yet unstable antebellum print market. Students can expect to read essays, verse, short prose fiction, and a novel. We will also survey a range of literary criticism to assist our readings. Final projects will involve a research component. (LG-F, LC)
ENGL 10116. Anatomical Theater: Dissection and Performance in London’s Medical Imaginary
This course looks at the entanglements of medicine and performance in England across two sites of analysis: the performance stage and the anatomical theater. We’ll begin with Shakespeare and his contemporaries alongside the history of public dissections in London, looking at issues of fear, education, entertainment, public opinion, punishment, and the State. Whose bodies were dissected for education and spectacle, and who watched? Moving into the 18th and 19th centuries, we’ll examine how British literature and theater present Western medicine as benevolent, progressive, and corrective over “unfamiliar” modes of healing in the colonies. How do performances stage imperialism’s anxieties over disease, contamination, pathology, and non-Western medicine? We’ll develop tropes and archetypes to track the quack doctor in comedy and satire, the vengeful physician in horror and drama, and the medical monstrosity in both science and mass entertainment as they persist into the 21st-century. Students will pursue independent projects that critically analyze a medical moment, broadly understood, in literary, stage, or film performance, or the inverse, a performance moment in the medical world. (LT, LC)
Admission to the London Program (study abroad) is required.
ENGL 10812. Intro to Black Studies
This course will focus on the development of Black literary and political writing, while also keeping a critical eye on the institutionalization of Black Studiers. Authors include Frederick Douglass, WEB Du Bois, CLR James, Ida B Wells, Fanon, Angela Davis, Sylvia Wynter, and more. (LG-F, LT)
ENGL 13580. Introduction to Asian American Literatures
This is a survey course that introduces students to the complex and uneven history of Asians in American from within a transnational context. As a class, we will look at Asian American texts and films while working together to create a lexicon of multilingual, immigrant realities. Through theoretical works that will help us define keywords in the field and a wide range of genres (novels, films, plays, and graphic novels), we will examine how Asia and Asians have been represented in the literatures and popular medias of America. Some of the assigned authors include, but are not limited to, Carlos Bulosan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa, Fae Myenne Ng, Nora Okja Keller, Cathy Park Hong, Ted Chiang, and Yoko Tawada. (LG-F)
ENGL 13582. Crime/Fiction
What is the relationship between plotting a crime and plotting a narrative? In this course, we will examine the genre of crime fiction but work to push against the borders of the category to include works on and discussions about the politics and poetics of confession, the affinities between testimony and fiction, and the racialization of crime. (LG-F)
ENGL 16600. Shakespeare II: Tragedies and Romances
This course explores mainly major plays representing the genres of tragedy and romance; most (but not all) date from the latter half of Shakespeare's career. After having examined how Shakespeare develops and deepens the conventions of tragedy in Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, and Antony and Cleopatra, we will turn our attention to how he complicates and even subverts these conventions in The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. Throughout, we will treat the plays as literary texts, performance prompts, and historical documents. Section attendance is required. (LC)
ENGL 18108. Culture and the Police
How do cultural products facilitate, abet, and enable the form of social ordering that we call policing? This course will explore the policing function of what modernity calls “culture” by exploring the parallel histories of policing, the emergence of modern police theory, and the rise of the novel. We will focus in particular on how both literature and the police emerge to navigate a series of linked epistemological and political problematics: the relation between particularity and abstraction, the relation between deviance and normalcy, and indeed that of authority as such. While we will focus on texts from the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Atlantic world, students with a broader interest in policing are encouraged to enroll. Readings will include Daniel Defoe, Patrick Colquhoun, Henry Fielding, G.W.F. Hegel, Jane Austen, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, D.A. Miller, Michael McKeon, Mary Poovey, and Mark Neocleous. (LG-F, LC, LT)
ENGL 18250. Irish Literature and Cinema
Major works of poetry, fiction, drama, and film. In literature, the course ranges from Jonathan Swift and Maria Edgeworth to Seamus Heaney and Anna Burns, and, in cinema, from silent film to Neil Jordan and Lenny Abramson. Literature and cinema are intertwined through all the weeks of the quarter in various connections (including Hitchcock's adaptation of O'Casey's JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK). (LG-F, LG-P, LC)
ENGL 19902. Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group
A controversial art exhibition organized by Roger Fry, “Manet and the Post-Impressionists,” provoked Virginia Woolf to write that “on or about December 1910 human character changed.” The Bloomsbury Group, renowned for its role in vilifying Victorian culture and promoting English modernism, was no less famous for its own efforts to change human character: for its unprecedented understanding of aesthetics, economics, social politics, and sexuality. Taking advantage of our particular location in London (the neighborhood in which the group lived, met, wrote, and painted), this course will provide the opportunity to engage a broad spectrum of Bloomsbury work: the essays and fiction of Virginia Woolf; the art of Venessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and Roger Fry; the macroeconomics of John Maynard Keynes. This engagement will unfold through different analytics (formalist, psychoanalytic, materialist), and with sustained recognition of two Bloomsbury institutions—the short-lived Omega Workshops, and the enduring Hogarth Press. The British Library and the Tate Modern will provide us with intimate access to literary and visual texts, and we will talk with contemporary writers about the cultural legacy of this coterie. (LG-F)
Admission to the London Program (study abroad) is required.
ENGL 20148. English Renaissance Verse and the Poetics of Place
This course will explore sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English poetry by focusing on the poetic treatments of diverse places, including commercial, legal, and theatrical London venues, courtly palaces, aristocratic country houses and rural estates, churches, prisons, and imaginary landscapes. Poets might include Wyatt, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne, Jonson, Herbert, Herrick, Lovelace, Milton, Marvell, Philips, and Cowley. Genres might include sonnet, epithalamion, satire, pastoral, georgic, epistle, epigram, country-house poem, and ode. Trips within and close to London might include the Tower of London, the Whitehall Banqueting House, the Globe Theater, Hampton Court, Penshurst Place, and Knole. (LG-P, LC)
Admission to the London Program (study abroad) is required.
ENGL 20162. Eighteenth-Century Black Lives: Black London in and Around Abolition
This course will focus on representations of Black life and experience in literature published during the age of the British slave trade and abolition, as well as on more recent writing that seeks to imagine, honor, or reckon with the unrepresented Black lives of this period. During the first two weeks of the course, our reading will center on eighteenth-century writing. Primarily, we will focus on the work of prominent Black writers in London in and around abolition, including the life narratives of the formerly enslaved Olaudah Equiano (1789), Ottobah Cugoano (1787), and Mary Prince (1831), the published letters of Ignatius Sancho (1780), and the poetry of Phillis Wheatley Peters (1773). We may also read selections from white-authored abolitionist poetry, relevant legal cases, as well as the anonymously published novel, The Woman of Colour (1808). In our third week, we will tum to a number of recent works that look back to the eighteenth century in order to reimagine the past and present of Black life in British culture, or to reclaim ·a place in the national imaginary: Honoree Fanonne Jeffers' The Age of Phillis, M. NourbeSe Philip's Zangl, and perhaps a play or two (Jasmine Lee-Jones' Curious, Jackie Sibblies Drury's Marys Seacole, Giles Terera's The Meaning of Zong). We will supplement our reading with selections from historians, cultural theorists, and literary critics (likely to include Paul Gilroy, Christina Sharpe, Simon Gikandi, Peter Fryer, and others). (LC)
Admission to the London Program (study abroad) is required.
ENGL 20250. Means of Production I: Contemporary Literary Publishing (Books)*
This course will introduce students to the aesthetic criteria, cultural and institutional infrastructures, and collaborative practices of literary evaluation in the making of contemporary American poetry. How does a manuscript of poetry 'make it' onto the list of a literary publisher, and from there to the bookshelves of the Seminary Coop? How do individual readers and editorial collectives imagine the work of literary assessment and aesthetic judgment in our time? We will begin the course with a survey of new directions in Anglophone poetry as preparation for an intensive editorial practicum in the evaluation and assessment of literary manuscripts in the second half of the term. Visits with literary editors and authors will offer students opportunities to learn about the field of contemporary literary publishing. Course work will include reviewing and evaluating manuscript submissions to the Phoenix Poets book series at the University of Chicago Press. (LG-P)
ENGL 20304. Medieval Romance
Medieval romance is one of the main ancestors of fantasy and SF. This course examines the speculative work of fantasy in medieval romance's explorations of aesthetics, desire, and politics. (LC)
ENGL 20464. The Lives of Others
How much can you ever really know someone else? In this course, we take up the inscrutability of others through a range of narratives about - politically, socially, and geographically - distant others from the early 20th century. Texts include fiction, documentary film, and critical theory around transnationalism, contact zones and ethnography). Some of these texts meditate on the general problem of living with others. Others take on the limits of empathy, access, and friendship whether explicitly or in their formal arrangement. Specifically, we focus on works that engage with an ethics or “work on the self” as a preliminary to having knowledge of others. We will be guided by primary readings that likely include Claude Levi-Strauss, Kazuo Ishiguro, Werner Herzog, Maggie Nelson, Amitav Ghosh, and J.M. Coetzee. (LG-NF, LG-F)
ENGL 21360. Gender, Capital, and Desire: Jane Austen and Critical
Today, Jane Austen is one of the most famous (perhaps the most famous), most widely read, and most beloved of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British novelists. In the two hundred years since her authorial career, her novels have spawned countless imitations, homages, parodies, films, and miniseries – not to mention a thriving “Janeite” fan culture. For just as long, her novels have been the objects of sustained attention by literary critics, theorists, and historians. For example, feminist scholars have long been fascinated by Austen for her treatments of feminine agency, sociality, and desire. Marxists read her novels for the light they shed on an emergent bourgeoisie on the eve of industrialization. And students of the “rise of the novel” in English are often drawn to Austen as a landmark case – an innovator of new styles of narration and a visionary as to the potentials of the form. This course will offer an in-depth examination of Austen, her literary corpus, and her cultural reception as well as a graduate-level introduction to several important schools of critical and theoretical methodology. We will read all six of Austen’s completed novels in addition to criticism spanning feminism, historicism, Marxism, queer studies, postcolonialism, and psychoanalysis. Readings may include pieces by Shoshana Felman, Frances Ferguson, William Galperin, Deidre Lynch, D.A. Miller, Edward Said, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Raymond Williams. (LT, LG-F)
Open to 3rd and 4th years with consent of the instructor.
ENGL 58613. Poetry of the Americas
In what tangled ways does poetry transform through dialogue across linguistic and geographical distances, and through performance, translation, and collaboration? This seminar takes a comparative, hemispheric approach to 20th- and 21st-century poetries from the Southern Cone to the Caribbean to Canada, with significant attention to Latinx poets. We will examine developments in poetic form, especially transformations of the epic and the lyric, in conjunction with questions of modernization, globalization, and colonialism, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. This course is held in tandem with Fall quarter events including Chicago’s Lit & Luz Festival, which stages Mexican-U.S. artistic collaborations. Seminar members will have the opportunity for dialogue with poets and translators who visit our seminar and/or give poetry readings on campus. (No knowledge of Spanish, French, or Portuguese is required.) (LT, LG-P)
Open to 3rd and 4th years with consent of the instructor.
ENGL 26312/36312 Worlding Otherwise: Speculative Fiction, Film, Theory Crosslisting: CMLT 26311/36311
This course examines literary and cinematic works of speculative fiction in a comparative context. An expansive genre that encompasses science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, horror, as well as utopian and dystopian literature, speculative fiction envisions alternate, parallel, possible or imagined worlds. These worlds often exhibit characteristics such as: scientific and technological advancements; profound social, environmental, or political transformations; time or space travel; life on other planets; artificial intelligence; and evolved, hybrid, or new species. Speculative works frequently reimagine the past and present in order to offer radical visions of desirable or undesirable futures. We will also consider how this genre interrogates existential questions about what it means to be human, the nature of consciousness, the relationship between mind/body, thinking/being, and self/other, as well as planetary concerns confronting our species. Fictional works will be paired with theoretical readings that frame speculative and science fiction in relation to questions of gender, race, class, colonialism, bio-politics, human rights, as well as environmental and social justice. In addition to studying subgeneres - such as Afrofuturism - we will explore speculative fiction as a critical mode of reading that theorizes other ways of being, knowing, and imagining.
Hoda El Shakry
LG-F, LG-NF, LT
Winter 2024 | Undergraduate Courses
ENGL 10124. Poverty, Crime, and Character: 18th Century and Now
From highwaymen and vagrants to thieves and murderers, this course will look at fictional representations of crime and criminology from the 18th century and the present. We will ask how changing concepts of character, literary and legal, shape a society’s understanding of what criminality is and how it should be managed. Looking first at how the early British novel asks us to think about literary and personal character by way of crime and confession, we will then turn to the 20th- and 21st-century afterlives of these 18th-century crime narratives, attending to how configurations of moral constitution and personal identity—especially relating to class, gender, and race—become intertwined in more recent fiction and film. Syllabus may include fiction by Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, William Godwin, James Hogg, Richard Wright, Patricia Highsmith, Philip K. Dick, and Jordy Rosenberg; films by Steven Spielberg, Bong Joon-ho, Horace Ové, Hirokazu Koreeda, and Richard Linklater; and theoretical texts by David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, Patrick Colquhoun, and recent criminologists. (LG-F, LC)
ENGL 10126. Self-Help in Medieval Literature
This class explores the literature of advice, wisdom, and instruction in the Middle Ages. Students will consider the formal and rhetorical properties of texts that want to tell us how to live, as well as their relationship to narrative and poetic forms.
This course explores the literature of advice, wisdom, and instruction in the Middle Ages. Is literature, in Kenneth Burke’s phrase, “equipment for living?” In this class, we’ll aim to understand “literature” and “life” as historically emergent and culturally contingent concepts. We’ll consider the formal and rhetorical properties of these texts that want to tell us how to live, as well as their relationship to narrative and poetic forms. What makes these texts so compelling or so off-putting? What does the compulsion to deliver and receive advice, wisdom, and instruction tell us about the project of constructing a “self,” in the Middle Ages and now? Although the readings for this course will come primarily from the Middle Ages, we’ll also take several comparative detours into topics such as ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature and “selfhelp” as a modern commercial phenomenon. The eclecticism and contradictions of these texts will be of particular interest. Readings will include selections from: The Book of Proverbs, Old English Maxims, William Langland’s Piers Plowman, Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. (LC)
Mary Kemp Thornberry
ENGL 11200. Fundamentals of Literary Criticism
An introduction to the practice of literary and cultural criticism over the centuries, with a particular emphasis on theoretical debates about meaning and interpretation in the late 20th century and present. (LT)
ENGL 12522. Chaucer's Dream Poems
This course takes Chaucer's three dream poems as the basis to explore the English poet's experimental verse and the nature of medieval poetry in the later fourteenth century. As a class, we'll test ways of reading and interpreting this philosophically ambitious and riddling body of writing. No previous experience with medieval literature required. (LC, LG-P)
ENGL 17440. August & After: Contemporary Black Drama & Performance
This course surveys the landscape of contemporary back theater-makers and performance artists (and may include, where relevant, the historical predecessors they explicitly invoke or work against). What forces animate works of contemporary black theater and performance? What tropes or conventions do they jettison, and which do they keep? Is there enough uniting these works that an underlying coherence prevails, or does studying them alongside one another instead reveal the dissolution of a racial center? (LG)
ENGL 20182. Early Modern Loss and Longing
This course examines depictions of early modern desire and loss in genres including the essay, lyric, drama and fiction. The class will also have substantial engagement with affect theory as well as period theorizations (Neoplatonic accounts of desire, humoral accounts of melancholy, etc). (LC, LT)
ENGL 20224. Water Worlds
Taking its cue from a remarkable convergence of interest in recent and forthcoming cultural touchstones like Avatar: The Way of Water, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and Wakanda Forever (along with recent scholarship on the cultural history of swimming; popular fascination with the aquatic ape theory of human evolution; recent theoretical embrace of aquatic scenes or modes of criticism and being; and productive conceptual distinctions between depths and shallows, fresh and saltwater, and the liquid and solid), this course examines foundational and new aquatic scenes of imagination: literary, cinematic, historical, and theoretical. (LG-F, LT).
ENGL 20226. Subgenres of British Romantic Fiction: Gothic, Historical, Courtship
Survey of three major subgenres of the British Romantic novel: Gothic, Historical, Courtship, likely including work by Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Matthew Lewis, Ann Radcliffe, James Hogg, and Maria Edgeworth. (LG-F, LC)
ENGL 20252: The Means of Production: Contemporary Literary Publishing II (Magazines)
How does a poem 'make it' into the pages of Chicago Review, or The Paris Review? How do individual readers and editorial collectives imagine the work of literary assessment and aesthetic judgment in our time? This course will introduce students to the aesthetic criteria, cultural and institutional infrastructures, and collaborative practices of literary evaluation in the making of contemporary American poetry. We will begin with a survey of new directions in Anglophone poetry and poetry in translation as preparation for an intensive editorial practicum in the production of literary magazines in the second half of the term. Visits with magazine editors will offer students opportunities to learn about the field of contemporary literary publishing. Course work will include researching and soliciting work from contemporary poets for The Paris Review. Note, "Means of Production I: Books" is not a prerequisite for this course. (LG-P)
ENGL 20266. Coming of Age: Autobiography, Bildungsroman, and Memoir in Victorian Britain and its Empire
In this course, we will consider the broad generic category of “coming of age” stories that characterized the literary writing of the nineteenth century. Across several different kinds of writing, a focus on the growth and development of the child into adulthood became an obsessive focus. We will read autobiographies by Mill and Martineau, Bildungsroman by Bronte and Eliot, memoirs by Dickens but also lesser known figures: working class autodidacts, women in childbirth, colonial subjects. We will, along the way, learn more about Victorian childhood, the emergence of developmental psychology, psychoanalysis, and the socio-psychological “invention” of adolescence. (LG-NF)
ENGL 21926. People, Places, Things: Victorian Novel Survey
Quarter Systems and the Victorian novel do not mix well, which is only to say that this course cannot aspire to a comprehensive accounting of the Victorian novel, or the myriad forms of the novel that emerged during Victoria’s reign (1837-1901). What it does seek to do, however, is give you some little sense of the Victorian novel’s formal and thematic range in a few of the uncharacteristically shorter novels of the period, and—in the bargain—give you a few critical tools and concepts to better figure out what these novels are and what they might be doing. Critical approaches to the Victorian novel are as varied as the novels themselves, perhaps, but I’ve tried to give you access to some of the more recent interventions that centrally query character and characterization (people), things and the circulation of things, and location and spatialization (places). Jane Eyre, Hard Times, Lady Audley’s Secret, The Warden, Jude the Obscure, The Hound of the Baskervilles. (LG-F)
ENGL 22408. Trans Genre
This course explores genres of writing and cultural production concerned with transgender life and politics. Students will engage genre's relationship to gender, as they will read across memoir, fiction, poetry, and criticism. (LT, LG-F, LG-P)
ENGL 2452634526. Forms of Autobiography in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
This course examines the innovative, creative forms autobiography has taken in the last one hundred years in literature. From unpublished sketches to magazine essays and full-length books, we will see autobiography take many forms and engage with multiple genres and media. (LT, LG-NF)
ENGL 27703. Queer Modernism
This course examines the dramatic revisions in gender and sexuality that characterize Anglo-American modernity. Together, we will read literary texts by queer writers to investigate their role in shaping the period's emergent regimes of sex and gender. We'll consider queer revisions of these concepts for their effect on the broader social and political terrain of the early twentieth century and explore the intimate histories they made possible: What new horizons for kinship, care, affect, and the everyday reproduction of life did modernist ideas about sex and gender enable? At the same time, we will seek to "queer" modernism by shifting our attention away from high literary modernism and towards modernism's less-canonical margins. Our examination will center on queer lives relegated to the social and political margins-lives of exile or those cut short by various forms of dispossession. This class will double as an advanced introduction to queer theory, with a particular emphasis on literary criticism. (LT)
ENGL 27708. Feeling Brown, Feeling Down
Taking its cue from José Esteban Muñoz’s 2006 essay in Signs, this course interrogates negative affective categories as they are expressed in US ethnic literature in the 20th and 21st centuries. As Muñoz argues, “depression has become one of the dominant affective positions addressed within the cultural field of contemporary global capitalism”; this course explores orientations such as depression, shame, sickness, and melancholy to think critically about racial formations amidst capital and how these are posed alongside literary questions. Primary texts may include Larsen, Ozeki, Morrison, and Okada; secondary texts may include Ahmed, Freud, Muñoz, Cheng, and Spillers. (LT, LG-F)
ENGL 28619. Postcolonial Openings: World Literature after 1955
This course familiarizes students with the perspectives, debates, and attitudes that characterize the contemporary field of postcolonial theory, with critical attention to how its interdisciplinary formation contributes to reading literary works. What are the claims made on behalf of literary texts in orienting us to other lives and possibilities, and in registering the experiences of displacement under global capitalism? To better answer these questions, we read recent scholarship that engages the field in conversations around gender, affect, climate change, and democracy, to think about the impulses that animate the field, and to sketch new directions.
We survey the trajectories and self-criticisms within the field, looking at canonical critics (Fanon, Said, Bhabha, Spivak), as well as reading a range of literary and cinematic works by writers like Jean Rhys, E.M. Forster, Mahasweta Devi, Derek Walcott, Arundhati Roy, and Salman Rushdie). (LG-F, LT)
ENGL 29102. Mobile Life
This is a research-intensive course which aims to provide both theoretical frames and methods for research for exploring topics related to migration and literature in the contemporary world and in historical contexts. We will explore various aspects of the migratory experience; the ways in which literary texts shape or shed light on them; and how contemporary theories help us to understand migration and its literatures. Key terms will include migration, mobility, exile, refugees, settlement, kinship, border crossing, bureaucracy. We will ask questions such as: how do print and other forms of information enable/regulate movement? What happens when we cross a border? What is a stake in settlement? Who is a refugee? How do children function in the migratory imagination? The assessment for the course will include an outline of a research project of your own devising. In class we will focus mainly on anglophone texts from the nineteenth century onwards, but you will be free to consider your own materials and develop your own archive. (LT)
ENGL 10132. Rise of the Short Story.
The short story today is one of the most profitable and aesthetically valued forms of fiction. Surprisingly, the anglophone short story, along with the collection, cycle, etc., did not emerge as a distinct market or aesthetic form until the late-19th century. This class will track the evolution of this form, from the early 19th century sketch to the experimental modernist short story cycle, to better understand (a) what makes the short story distinct from other literary forms (especially the novel), and (b) how literary forms develop in relation to social forms. (LG-F, LT)
Spring 2024 | Undergraduate Courses
ENGL 10120. Contemporary Fiction
How do we approach literature that’s being made at the same time we’re studying it? Keeping an eye on how factors including race, gender, class, prestige, corporate structures, and social media inflect how books get made, read, and acclaimed, we will read “mainstream” “literary” hits and cult darlings of the past five years, likely including Sally Rooney, Brandon Taylor, Torrey Peters, Otessa Moshfegh, Ling Ma, and Helen DeWitt; as well as experimental/small-press fiction. This course explores how literary fiction is embedded in a complex economic ecosystem; we will analyze how recent literature reflects, dissents from, or dodges the politics of the publishing industry. In doing so, we cover theories of cultural production from the Frankfurt School through the present, and recent popular literary criticism. Throughout, we aim to develop strategies for keeping up to date with the landscape of literature. Course assignments will include the chance to develop a review essay for a popular audience. (LG-F, LT)
ENGL 10122. Gothic Fiction in the Caribbean and American South
This course examines Blackness and Indigeneity in the Gothic literature (broadly conceived) of the Caribbean and the American South. How does the grotesque and the sublime manifest in Caribbean and Southern Gothic texts, and how do these themes bear upon the constructs of Blackness and Indigeneity, particularly as they relate to questions of abjection and land? We will read the work of Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, Maryse Condé, William Faulkner, Edwidge Danticat, and Leanne Howe alongside theoretical texts from Black Studies, Caribbean Studies, and Indigenous Studies. (LG-F, LT)
ENGL 10130. Fiction and the Invention of Privacy
The NSA spies on us through our phones. Tech companies sell our personal data. Friends post embarrassing pictures of us on social media. There can be little doubt that in an increasingly interconnected world, our right to privacy is under attack. But what is this “privacy” that appears to us at once so essential and so precarious? In this course, we will take up fictions in which privacy appears simultaneously desirable and impossible. While we will encounter works from a variety of periods, we’ll pay particular attention to the eighteenth century, an era that witnessed the side-by-side emergence of both the modern novel and the modern concept of privacy. Among our guiding questions: how does fiction shape the way we understand privacy? And how might our understanding of privacy have shaped the history of literature?
We will read literary works by a variety of authors, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jane Austen, Eliza Haywood, Herman Melville, and Kazuo Ishiguro. We will also engage with several notable theorists of privacy, including John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Hannah Arendt, and Michel Foucault. (LG-F, LC)
ENGL 10709. Genre Fundamentals: Fiction
This course offers an introduction to narrative fiction. Taking up texts from a range of historical moments, we will consider the various genres and material forms through which fiction has found audiences. We will ask: what have those audiences wanted from fiction? What functions has fiction served? What work can stories do, and what pleasures can they offer? Focusing on the short story and the novel, we will explore key elements of narrative and try out different ways of interpreting fiction. Our discussions will take up topics including point of view, characterization, the relationship between narrative and time, the role of narrative in shaping identities, the powers of realism and its contraries, and the experience of suspense. (LG-F)
ENGL 15006: The Radical Atlantic: Literature and Politics in Migration, 1780-1920
This course will survey the literary, political, and life writing of radical circum-Atlantic travelers and emigrants in the long nineteenth century. We will focus on how the movement of these people and their ideas between the Caribbean, the United States, and Britain impacted the various political formations and reform movements in which they took part. From fugitive and formerly enslaved Black West Indians and African Americans who became leaders and propagandists in British working-class movements to British working-class political refugees who joined the anti-slavery cause in the United States, and beyond, we will consider the productive yet uneven ways in which a diverse, multiethnic and transnational group of writers contributed to a single radical literary tradition. Readings may include periodicals, political tracts, letters, poetry, novels, and memoirs by such writers as Robert Wedderburn, James Dawson Burn, Frederick Douglas, and Claude McKay as well as key historical and critical works like Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker’s The Many-Headed Hydra. (LT)
ENGL 10952: History of Western Drama since 1880
This course surveys key historical movements, playwrights, and theatrical styles that have shaped the contemporary theatrical landscape. Through readings, lectures, discussions, and performances, students will explore the social, cultural, and political contexts that influenced the creation and reception of modern and contemporary drama. Topics covered include the emergence of realism and naturalism in the late 19th century, the rise of avant-garde movements such as expressionism, surrealism, and absurdism in the early 20th century, the Harlem Renaissance, the rise of political theater and feminist theater in the 1960s and 1970s, and the ongoing evolution of drama in the late 20th and 21st century. The course culminates in a scene project assignment that allows students put their skills of interpretation and adaptation into practice. No experience with theater is expected. Fulfills the Genre Fundamentals requirement in English. (LG)
ENGL 22200. Marxist Literary Criticism: Jameson
This seminar will provide students with an overview of Marxist literary criticism via the career of one of its most innovative living practitioners. (LT)
Recommended: BA - ENGL 11200: Fundamentals of Literary Criticism
ENGL 22212. Special Topics in Criticism and Theory: Gender and Sexuality
An introduction to classic texts in feminist and queer literary criticism. (LT)
ENGL 24960. California Fictions: Literature and Cinema
This course will consider works of literature and cinema from 1884-2018 that take place in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, and rural California to offer a case study for everyday life and critical space theory. Beginning with Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona and ending with Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother you, we will also consider how “the west” provides an opportunity for reconsidering canon formation and genre. (LG-F)
ENGL 27711. What is Literature For?: Theories of Literary Value
This class will examine different theories about the meaning and social role of literature over a historical long durée. Why do we find literature valuable? What do we ask from it, and what is it able to provide? Is art's very uselessness the key to its role in the lives of readers? Or can we expect literature to effect changes in the world we live in? Does literature serve a therapeutic function? An expressive one? To what or whom is a writer responsible? Students will develop their own answers to these questions, and also examine how attitudes about the function of literary text have changed over the last few centuries— centuries that have seen a staggering transformation in the growth of literacy and the volume of print and digital culture. Readings will range from the Renaissance to the 21st century, and may include texts by Philip Sidney, Oscar Wilde, William Faulkner, Elizabeth Bishop, James Baldwin, Jaques Ranciere, and Gayatri Spivak. (LT)
ENGL 27714. Reproductive citizens: sex, work, and embodiment
In this class, we focus on the centrality of debates around women’s reproductive capacity in shaping the culture of modernity in the U.S. in the first few decades of the twentieth century. We look at the way that feminist politics, in conjunction with broader developments in industrial capitalist society, disrupted traditional pathways of reproduction, as these have revolved around women’s crucial role in sustaining the biological family and the home. We will read fiction, essays, and political tracts around “women’s work” and working class women, the birth control movement, feminist emancipation, marriage and the politics of the home, the rise of consumer culture, and the demands placed on both Black and white women during this period in reproducing “the race.” Most generally, we will focus on texts that both trouble and shore up motherhood as the central means of reproducing the biological life and social fabric of American culture. And we will likewise be interested in writers and political figures that sought to dramatically alter or even dismantle the reproductive social order altogether. (LT, LG-F)