Recent Seminars: Composition, Film, Literature

 

Current and upcoming course descriptions can be found on the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences website (http://www.courses.as.pitt.edu).  Search under ENGFLM, ENGLIT, and Film Studies.

Advanced Theory and Methodology: Early Drama and Performance Theatre – ENGLIT 2100 – Fall 2014 – Ryan McDermott

Dramatic activity flourished in the late Middle Ages, from bawdy satires performed by traveling minstrels to expansive religious dramas that engaged the energies of an entire city to tell the story of the universe in 14 hours. Medieval literary and performance theory was not prepared for this explosion of drama. It had developed largely to grapple with the literary forms of the Bible and the performance of the Mass, and then to understand lyric and epic forms of poetry. Besides, Christian theology had often reacted to theater with hostility. Now that poets and clerics alike were embracing drama, literary theory had to adapt itself to explain a whole new genre.

In this course, we will read and view modern performances of a wide range of medieval and early modern drama, from the earliest known post-classical drama--the nun Hrotswitha of Gandersheim’s action-packed comedies about heroic women fighting off monsters--to fertility rituals still in touch with Europe's pagan past, to adaptations of classical Roman tragedy. We will also read medieval theoretical writings that seek to comprehend drama, mainly in the disciplines of theology, biblical commentary, and liturgy—all areas of performance—but also in the fledgling “Renaissance” discourse of poetics. This course provides a unique opportunity to witness a theoretical conversation get up and running. And as we track the reception of Aristotle’s newly re-discovered Poetics, we get to witness the founding of modern dramatic theory, and witness those neo-Aristotelian effects in Elizabethan drama including Marlowe and Shakespeare. Special attention will be given to modern dramatic historiography and questions of periodization in the work of E. K. Chambers, O. B. Hardison, Margreta de Grazia, John Parker, and others.

Advanced Theory and Methodology: Early Modern Mass Media – ENGLIT 2100 – Spring 2014 – Jennifer Waldron

Was there something new about the types of publicity and community that formed in Europe and in a broader global context between 1400 and 1700? What role did early modern “mass” media play in these changes? We’ll look closely at how Renaissance writers theorized the powers of media, from printed words to public plays, especially how they imagined temporal and spatial networks. We’ll also focus on key case studies from early modern culture—from Dante’s defense of writing in his “vulgar” tongue to Milton’s passionate attacks on censorship; and from deeply earnest civic festivals to cynical and bawdy city comedies by the likes of Ben Jonson. A key topic for discussion will be how these older examples and theories of media resonate with debates in contemporary culture about electronic media, virtual communities, slacktivism, and others. We’ll note how particular accounts of sensation and affect tend to structure both old and new models of how media shape individual and social bodies: do mass media distance and desensitize us, for example, or are they understood to be overly sensational, appealing to our “lower” bodily functions and affective responses? And throughout the course, we will pay close attention to the ways in which beliefs about media and the public sphere are strongly inflected by social markers of gender, class, race and religion.

Aesthetics and Politics – ENGLIT 2327 – Spring 2012 – William Scott

This course studies the cultural and conceptual impact of modern forms of mass production in the fields of literature, philosophy, and cultural criticism. It will have a threefold orientation: U.S. literary modernism; phenomenology and Marxist cultural theory; and visual spectacle in the films of Busby Berkeley. Literary readings will focus primarily on three texts: Jean Toomer’s Cane, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of U.S. automobile culture, The Great Gatsby, and Ezra Pound’s A Draft of XXX Cantos. The critical and theoretical component of the seminar will include a well-known excerpt from Antonio Gramsci’sPrison Notebooks (“Americanism and Fordism”), two of Martin Heidegger’s critiques of the culture of modern capitalism, “The Age of the World Picture” (1938) and “The Question of Technology” (1953), as well as readings by Georg Lukács (“Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat”) and Walter Benjamin (“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”). Finally, we will consider Busby Berkeley’s spectacular stagings of the mechanized human body in a variety of large-scale production numbers from films of the early to mid-1930s such as 42nd StreetGold Diggers of 1933Footlight ParadeWonder Bar, and Dames.

Affect Studies and American Culture – ENGLIT 2201 – Fall 2013 – Nancy Glazener

Affect studies takes up dimensions of embodiment that have aesthetic, ethical, and political significance and that resist divisions between self and other, private and public, body and mind, and cause and effect.  Feelings and emotions are part of this terrain, but the study of affect is pitted against some of the ways in which we customarily understand them.

This course will ask how attention to affect can enter into our reading of print texts and other cultural texts (and our writing about them).   Although we will draw on a range of theoretical, historical, and critical resources, the focus of our work together will be 19th- and 20th-century texts in the United States:  either texts that count as “American,” by the ordinary conventions, or texts that had an important life in the U.S.   Focal topics are likely to be affects of identity (drawing on the affective contributions of feminist, queer, and critical race theory, especially in relation to shame), the affective repertoires of key genres, the relationship between affect and aesthetics, and the political and ethical stakes of affect studies. 

American Literature 1890-1900: America and Century's End – ENGLIT 2286 – Spring 2013 – Susan Harris Smith

"America at Century's End, 1890-1900" will consider canonical and non-canonical American fiction and non-fiction prose in a wide cultural and historical context paying particular attention to the work done in American periodicals on such contested issues as the burgeoning middle class, gender formations, American nationalism and imperialism, ethnic diversity, and developing consumer culture.  Texts include: Harold Frederic The Damnation of Theron Ware, Jacob Riis How The Other Half Lives, Theodore Dreiser Sister Carrie, William Dean Howells A Hazard of New Fortunes and Charles Chesnutt The Marrow of Tradition. Students also will examine recent critical evaluations and formulations about the decade with special attention to theories of realism, regionalism, and naturalism and to issues such as nativism, nationalism, Europhilia and Europhobia.

American Studies and Transnationalism – ENGLIT 2614 – Fall 2011 – Jonathan Arac & Todd Reeser

This course will address issues related to the study of national cultures by taking the recent transnational turn within the field of American studies as its point of departure.

Anglo-American Cultural Exchange – ENGLIT 2230 – Spring 2011 – Marah Gubar

Many studies of nineteenth-century theatricality begin with Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) and keep the focus squarely on Victorian novels that thematize performance: Jane Eyre (1847), Vanity Fair (1847-8), Daniel Deronda (1876), and so on. In this course, we will take a more capacious approach to this topic, not only by considering American texts alongside British ones, but also by studying actual dramas and children’s literature alongside novels. Authors we will likely read include Austen, Harriet Mozley, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Barrie, and Frances Hodgson Burnett. Supplemental critical readings on theatricality, performance studies, and theatre history will also be discussed.

Anglophone South Asian Novels – ENGLIT 2390 – Fall 2011 – Susan Andrade

This course surveys novels from greater India (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) from 1945 until the present.  We will begin the term by reading “Midnight’s Children.” The rest of the course will be given to exploring thematic concerns and formal changes in Anglophone writing from the creation of the 2 major states.  Readings will include authors who published before Rushdie, such as Desani, Narayan, Markandaya, Desai, and the many who are contemporary and younger, including Ghosh, Mistry, Ondaatje, Sivanandan, Chaudhuri, a. Roy, v. Seth, and v. Chandra.

Animation Theory – ENGFLM 2700 – Fall 2015 – Jinying Li

Animation has become a new center of theorization of moving images with the rise of new media, but the conceptual position of “animation” remains unstable and contested in the rapidly changing field of film studies. This course will approach animation not simply as a genre or category, but as a method, a way to rethink film theory beyond the assumption of an essentially photographic medium, and to unearth and explore the previously underdeveloped territories in theorizing and making sense of moving images. By delving deeply into some key questions of how animation is produced, consumed, and appreciated in different historical and cultural contexts, we will re-focus our theoretical understanding from the debate of indexical representation to the notions of motion, still, animism, and plasmaticness. The course also seeks to broaden our vocabulary in film analysis, moving from the basic concepts of shot, editing, and mise-en-scène to such concepts as frame, color, shape, lines, movement, rhythm, and kinetics. The authors we will read include Walter Benjamin, Sergei Eisenstein, Stanley Cavell, Tom Gunning, Scott Bukatman, Thomas LaMarre, and Azuma Hiroki. 

Art and Ideology of Teaching the Essay – ENGLIT 2523 – Spring 2014 – Kathryn Flannery

The Art and Ideology of Teaching the Essay:  What are we asking of students when we ask them to compose an essay?  What knowledges are we hoping they will develop?  Many claims have been made about the cognitive, personal, and political benefits of essay writing.   But such claims have been challenged by work in Literacy Studies that calls into question the privileging of “essay-text” writing, a privileging that has consequences not only for the classroom but also for larger, public policy debates about literacy and education.  Even though few of the critics would say that there is no value in essay writing, their work is sometimes used as justification for abandoning the essay altogether.  How can we negotiate this apparent divide?  In this course, we will consider what teachers mean when they say they are teaching the essay: what literally are students doing as evidenced in reports, scholarly literature, and textbooks?  We’ll also explore both the justifications and the critiques in order to think through the potentialities and limitations of teaching this protean form whether in the formal classroom or in other venues.  This course should be of interest to those currently teaching writing (whether in composition, creative writing, or literature classes) as well as those who plan to teach in the future whether in a university or high school setting or in alternative settings such as, for example, a women’s shelter, adult learning center, or prison.

Black Literature: Postmodern African American Poetry – ENGLIT 2245 – Spring 2014 – William Scott

This course will survey the major developments in African American poetry from roughly 1950 to the present. We will consider not only the varied and complex relations between formal experimentation and political commitments -- much of which emanated from the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s -- but also the attempts by several of these poets to challenge the generic limits that have been conventionally posited to distinguish poetic and musical modes of expression (particularly jazz). We will devote considerable attention to a series of influential poets over the last fifty years, including Amiri Baraka, Bob Kaufman, Sonia Sanchez, Yusef Komunyakaa, June Jordan, Ed Roberson, Jayne Cortez, Nathanial Mackey, and Harryette Mullen. Requirements will include student presentations and a final research project or critical essay.

The Body in Cinema – ENGFLM 2475 – Fall 2010 – Lucy Fischer

In recent years the status of the human body in art and culture has proposed itself as a crucial area of study. This course will explore the theoretical writing, which has developed on this topic in a variety of such fields as literature, fine arts, cinema and psychology.

The Body Now: Matter, Form, and Text – ENGLIT 2064 – Fall 2016 – Julian Gill-Peterson

This seminar examines different genealogies for thinking the body, paying particular attention to how feminist, queer, trans, and critical race inquiry have shaped the study of the cultural and somatic over the past 40 years. We will locate ourselves within the histories of these interdisciplinary fields, as well as their convergences and divergences, to evaluate contemporary and future methodological and theoretical treatments of embodiment. Readings and assignments will ask students to consider “the body” as a set of common problems of matter, form, and textuality taken up through their individual research interests and writing projects. The child and childhood, science, and medicine will be core themes in readings, but the course will be of broad appeal to students across program areas and period. Extensive prior familiarity with theories of the body is not required.

Book/Text/Author – ENGLIT 2007 – Fall 2011 – Thora Brylowe

This class explores the relationship between the author and the text, the text and its physical iteration(s), and the reader and the author in the age of the printed book. How did changes in the status of authorship change the relationship between texts and their readers? How do readers construct the idea of the author? This course looks at the moment in critical and media theory where these questions were specifically articulated and at some literary texts produced at the same time. We will then move back to the eighteenth century to see how literary authorship was consolidated both ideologically and legally.

British Cultural Studies – ENGLIT 2591 – Spring 2011 – Jane Feuer

This seminar will explore the work of the “Birmingham” school of British cultural studies including work that influenced this group such as Hogart and work influenced by this group in Britain and the U.S.

Caribbean Literature – ENGLIT 2395 – Spring 2012 – Shalini Puri

This seminar studies Caribbean literature in relation to central debates about aesthetics & cultural resistance in post-colonial theory.  It explores how the relationship of Caribbean (sub) cultures to imperial, ancestral, & national cultures was worked out in debates over the politics of form.  Topics covered may include the relationship of carib bean and European literary traditions; the hybrid poetics of Creolization and Mestizaje; and the shifting functions in post-nationalist, "migrant", and feminist literature of current literary representations of popular culture.

Children’s Literature – ENGLIT 2800 – Fall 2015 – Courtney Weikle-Mills

In “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis” (1986), Joan Scott proposed that gender was not only a category worthy of special study, but also a concept that could transform disciplinary paradigms. Similar possibilities are now arising for thinking about age has as a category of analysis. In this graduate course, we will use close readings of key literary texts and artifacts from the archives of childhood and children’s literature to consider how age might impact conversations about subjectivity and agency, gender and sexuality, race, globalization, literacy and reception, public and private spaces, violence, artistic production, and archival preservation. We will pair children’s texts from the 18th century to the 21st with critical and theoretical readings from scholars who engage the child within multiple disciplines (literature, history, gender studies, etc.).

The course is appropriate for graduate students who specialize in children’s literature and childhood, as well as students who are interested in thinking about how a critical attention to age and childhood might enrich other areas of interest. Students will be encouraged to develop final projects that speak to their central areas of focus.

Children, Media, Technology – ENGLIT 2801 – Fall 2014 – Tyler Bickford

This course examines children and electronic media in the 20th and 21st centuries. Key themes include children's agency as consumers and mass media audiences, children's media production, technological change and media convergence, and intersections between age and race, class, and gender. This class will focus especially on the relationship between age and gender in contemporary media cultures, considering the importance of youth to recent theorizations of "postfeminist" media and technology. How do the dialectics of empowerment/authenticity and feminism/femininity that are so important to recent feminist media criticism intersect with issues of age, youth, and childhood? How do children's media borrow from, imitate, or reproduce politics of identity that have already been enacted in women's media? How do "new media" and digital technologies jointly implicate women, girls, and children as exemplary users? What is the relationship between the infantilization of consumption and the "feminization of labor" in a neoliberal service economy?

Cinema and Counter-History – ENGFLM 2473 – Fall 2013 – Marcia Landy

This graduate course focuses on visual medias’s connection to Historicizing.  It is concerned with theoretical writings that can be understood as offering versions of the past that run counter to received perceptions about historical forms through visual media.  The readings and the films pay specific attention to various, often conflicting, theories, forms, and styles to identify the philosophic, aesthetic, and political stakes in activating the past.  Among the texts to be studied that are related to philosophies of history are those of Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Rancière, Hayden White, Carlo Ginzburg, and Fredric Jameson as well as texts on André Bazin, Jean-Luc Godard, Philip Rosen, Mary Ann Doane, Robert Rosenstone, and Vivian Sobchack.  The films proposed for screening are Cabiria, Abel Gance’s Napolean, Scipione Africanus, Roberto Rossellini’s The Rise to Power of Louis XIV, Pasolini’s Mama Roma, Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, Carry On Up the Khyber, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Camp at Thiaroye, Hyenas, Morfia, A History of Violence, The White Ribbon, and Il Divo.

Cinema and Spectatorship – ENGFLM 2481 – Spring 2010 – Adam Lowenstein

Laura Mulvey's seminal essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" remains a landmark in film studies for the ways it energized films. Feminism, psychoanalysis, cognitivism, phenomenology, sociology, history-these are cinematic spectatorship in Mulvey's wake. But where are we now? What has been gained and/or lost? How does film studies answer the fundamental question of "what does it mean to watch a film?" This seminar engages the theoretical, aesthetic, and political ramifications produced by the conjuncture of cinema and spectatorship from 1975 to the present. We will devote particular attention to how arguments concerning spectatorship take shape when we watch films belonging to different modes or genres, especially forms such as horror and melodrama that depend on strong "embodied" responses from viewers. Previous exposure to film studies is welcome, but seminar participants will not be expected to have had any previous training in film studies.

Cinema and Trauma – ENGFLM 2467 – Spring 2012 – Adam Lowenstein

Trauma studies now stands at the forefront of contemporary cultural theory, straddling such disciplines as history, psychology, philosophy, and literary criticism. This seminar encourages graduate students to examine and contribute to the rapidly emerging sub-field of cinema/trauma studies. We will focus on the two mid-twentieth century events that continue to anchor many definitions of historical trauma: the Holocaust and Hiroshima. What do films that address these events teach us about the politics and ethics of representing experiences often referred to as unrepresentable'? How does cinema force us to refigure debates about the "limits of representation" and the nature of "the event" itself? Is cinema an agent of memory or memory's eraser? A broad range of films will inform our discussion of such questions - documentary and fiction, tragedy and comedy, mass cultural successes and lesser-known art films or genre films, films from the past and present.

Close and Distant Reading – ENGLIT  2006 – Spring 2015 – Stephen Carr 

Appeals to “close reading” are ubiquitous in critical and pedagogical practices across the fields and affiliated disciplines of English, yet the term covers quite different and even antithetical methods in ways that often remain unacknowledged. Moreover, since close reading became consolidated throughout the academy, numerous questions have emerged about the use, or value, or status of ever proliferating readings of canonical texts (or of new objects of study—student writing, films, new media, marginalized literary cultures, etc.). “Distant reading,” a term polemically introduced by Franco Moretti and now broadly associated with the Digital Humanities, responds to some of the limit conditions of close reading, and seeks to establish a new research paradigm, though it too has its well documented problems. About half the seminar will be devoted to the careful study of some exemplary performances of, and leading arguments for and about, both these modes of reading. The rest will be given over to an active experimentation in modeling current practices of reading, adapting successful forms of criticism and pedagogy to new circumstances, and exploring emergent ways of doing English (in its most expansive articulations) at the present moment. Members of the seminar will present to the class what they consider to be especially influential or powerful instances of reading in their field or discipline, partly as a critical self-inventory and partly as an occasion for productive transfers or crossings across different academic interests. 

Composition Studies – ENGLIT 2525 – Spring 2017 – Ben Miller

This seminar will offer an introduction to Rhetoric/Composition/Writing Studies as an academic discipline – including some of the reasons for, and consequences of, its difficulty finding a name for itself. Drawing on both historical and current scholarship, we will explore threshold concepts of the field and consider the range of both methodologies and subjects engaged by RCWS research. Over the course of the semester, a series of short projects will help students locate themselves in relation to the field, whether they identify as compositionists or not. The final project for the semester will be a colloquium, with students presenting revised versions of their earlier work.

Computational Media – ENGLIT 2850 – Fall 2015 – Annette Vee

In this course, we will consider the affordances, processes, protocols and potential of computational media.

But: *all* media are now computational. Communicative and creative media artifacts are inevitably composed with, circulated through, and shaped by computation. Through computers and digital networks, computation is slipping into domains once dominated by text, with corresponding reverberations in our compositional and cultural practices. Looking at computation through the lens of media production and consumption, we will ask: What does computation mean for reading and writing? What makes a media artifact computational, and what practices must we cultivate to interact with it? Helping us to explore these questions will be theoretical work by Bogost, Galloway, Chun, Brunton, Losh, Wardrip-Fruin, C. Crawford, and J. Brown. We'll also read computational literature, play video games, and create computational texts. No previous technical knowledge is required.

Cosmopolitanism – ENGLIT 2232 – Fall 2009 – Gayle Rogers

Course examines Cosmopolitanism both as a sensibility in important literary and filmic texts and as a scholarly practice in the humanities.  We will seek to understand the logic, aesthetics, and ethics of Cosmopolitan attachments in historical and contemporary circumstances.  We will consider a range of texts and critiques that provide opportunities for thinking self-critically about topics in cultural politics.

Cultures of American Literacy – ENGLIT 2208 – Spring 2014 – Jean Ferguson Carr 

This course will investigate historical constructions of literacy in the United States, paying particular attention to the instructional materials and practices that shape literacy and its measurement. Working with various archival materials of literacy instruction (for example, textbooks, teachers' manuals, educational treatises, periodicals, literary prefaces and anthologies, letter-writing guides, examinations, advice books, novels, college catalogs and course plans), we will consider how practices of reading and writing are represented, theorized, and shaped by institutional and social concerns. We will also examine how literacy and instructional projects are represented in histories of schooling, in public debates (both currently and in the 19th-century), and in scholarly inquiries. Students will work with Pitt's Neitz Collection of Old Textbooks, a splendid archive of 19th-century schoolbooks, writing manuals, grammars, dictionaries, and anthologies. Our investigation will encompass materials designated for the schools and colleges, but we will also work with materials targeting specific groups of learners, for example, factory workers, immigrants, ex-slaves, home learners, women, adults in study groups, lyceum programs, creative writing circles, and the like. Each student will be asked to develop an "archive" of literacy materials to work on and to present to the group. Although our shared archival focus will be on 19th-century materials, students are welcome to develop projects that extend into the present.

The Dark Room: Race and Visuality – ENGLIT 2240 – Fall 2014 – Autumn Womack 

When W.E.B. Du Bois made the now seminal declaration that, "the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line," he not only positioned race at the center of modernity, but he also delimited the racial landscape as one that was marked out along particularly visual lines. Indeed, from the scientifically inflected daguerreotypes taken of black slaves in the 1850s, to the display of black "primitive" life at turn of the century World's fairs, to the countless lynching photographs taken and circulated well into the twentieth century to Frantz Fanon's theorization of the white gaze, the visual has always been the modality through which race and the raced body have become legible. And yet within visual domain race is most often figured through a binary of repression and idealization. Through considerations of primary texts (images, novels, literature) and secondary criticism, this course will explore the ways in which blacks (writers, creators, intellectuals, and every day folks), inhabited the highly visual domain of race.We will be particularly attuned to the ways in which the visual and visuality have come to occupy a central place in literary studies. In this regard, one of our central lines of inquiry will be the overlap between literary studies and visual studies.  

Considering the role that sound, affect, and touch have played (historically and critically) in producing alternate ways of visualizing race, this course will explore the role of the visual image in the construction, and re-construction, of racial identities throughout the 19th and 20th century. We will pay particular attention to the ways that images can be transformed to make political claims, how  race and racial violence have constituted the meaning of race, how raced populations have worked to make an exit from the hegemonic theories of the gaze. Readings will include works by Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Zora Neale Hurston,Shawn Michelle Smith, Anne Cheng, Tina Campt, Ariella Azoulay, Nicole Fleetwood, Brian Wallis, Fred Moten, Roland Barthes, Laura Wexler, Alan Sekula and John Tagg.

Digital Archives, Book History, and Literary Circulation – ENGLIT 2860 – Spring 2016 – Stephen Carr

Various developments in the history of the book and the digital humanities have newly focused critical attention on issues of circulation, remediation, and the diverse afterlives of the literary work.  On-line databases, for example, have made it readily possible to trace the various uptakes and re-appropriations of works in new venues and formats, in ways that only a few author-centered studies have managed, and newly visible practices of reprinting, abridgement, remediation, re-purposing, and the like challenge practices of textual editing and notions of literary history. This seminar will investigate circulation as a crucial mediation between production and reception. Much of its materials will be drawn from the long nineteenth century, especially works situated in trans-Atlantic systems of exchange, with case studies in children’s literature and in the emergent canon of poetry in English, and there will be a good deal of exploring digital archives in pursuit of the practices of print culture. As a result, we will necessarily also need to be thinking through issues of the digital at the present moment, of the uses and limits of different kinds of digital databases and digitally enabled methods of investigation. Final projects may work from the developing arguments of the course to different historical periods or topics of individual interest. 

Digital Pedagogy – ENGLIT 2499 – Fall 2016 – Matthew Lavin

This course examines recent interventions in digital pedagogy in the humanities, with a particular focus on intersections with literary studies, film studies, composition, and creative writing. Today, technological innovation is at once seen as both a hotly contested, ideologically informed subject, and a potential force for creative disruption in higher education: Elizabeth Losh sees a “war on learning” in the age of Turnitin.com and Cathy Davidson sees technology playing a crucial role the radical remaking of how we learn. Rather than focusing on “best practices” for teaching with digital tools, this course will consider the political, social, and cultural underpinnings of various digital pedagogy movements, as well as the way scholars like Clement, Davidson, Losh, and Sayers have framed their work in relation to a rapidly shifting technological and academic context. Assignments will ask students to compose in traditional, written academic genres as well as engage in critically informed digital making, with an emphasis on they might reshape approaches to teaching and learning. No prior knowledge of software or coding skills is assumed or required. Likewise, this course is available to students with any amount of teaching experience. 

Documentary Theory and Practice – ENGFLM 2459 – Spring 2017 – Robert Clift

In Representing Reality (1991), the first book-length study of documentary film within contemporary critical theory, Bill Nichols dispels the notion that documentary depends on an indexical bond between image and referent for its existence. The importance of the indexical to the documentary, Nichols proposes, is "less in the unassailable authenticity of the bond between image and referent than in the impression of authenticity it conveys to a viewer." Written at a time when the image was characterized by the loss of its referent, Nichols and other scholars probed the rhetoric of objectivity surrounding the documentary tradition. Some scholars, such as Vivian Sobchack, took a phenomenological approach to consider documentary "less a thing than an experience" designating a subjective relation between spectator and text. Other scholars revisited the history of documentary filmmaking, uncovering a history where the need to aestheticize, dramatize and even script reality was acknowledged before the 1960s and the shifting aesthetic made possible by smaller, portable equipment. Still others, such as Stella Bruzzi and Linda Williams, pointed to innovations in contemporary documentaries and nonfictional practices in order to outline the emergence of new modes of representation.

This course will explore documentary from critical and creative vantage points. Key theoretical texts from the interdisciplinary field of documentary studies will address the pertinent ethical, formal and thematic concerns. We will maintain a dual focus on ontological questions (what documentary is or what it is uniquely suited for) and questions related to praxis -- an area where the concerns of scholars and filmmakers unite. Students will engage in creative projects

Drama, the Vernacular, Material Presence – ENGLIT 2105 – Fall 2012 – Ryan McDermott

Well before the reformation, European culture embraced the vernacular. This phenomenon went beyond language, as the established church often encouraged expressions of faith for and by the laity. Lay devotion and theology not only called on vernacular language, but also forms of rhetoric and popular culture that can be considered vernacular, in contradistinction to official clerical culture. Foremost among these forms was religious drama composed and performed in the vernacular language through a collaboration between clergy and lay people.

Ecocriticism – ENGLIT 2607 – Spring 2015 – Troy Boone 

This seminar will examine the interdisciplinary field of ecocriticism.  We will read foundational critical works in the field as well as recent contributions to ecological literary and cultural studies so as to consider such matters such as: the urban and anti-urban in ecocritical work; understandings of place, space, the local, and the global in environmental thought; animal studies; posthumanism; environmental ethics and ecojustice; ecopoetics; ecocritical literary history, environments of the past, and the anthropocene.  The focus will be primarily on the critical readings, with a few select literary works we will share as reference points.  Students will be encouraged to develop final research projects that link ecocriticism to their own fields of study, wherever those fields might be.  

Edward W. Said – ENGLIT 2024 – Fall 2011 – Ronald Judy

This seminar will carefully study the works and context of Edward W. Said.  We shall read the major books and articles, place them within their intellectual and social context, and investigate the value of Said's critical theory and historical scholarship.

Ethics and History in Post-Holocaust Thought – ENGLIT 2652 – Fall 2010 – Hannah Johnson

How do certain episodes in history become sites of ethical as well as historiographical negotiation? Why are some events more potent as objects of memory than others? A major goal of this course will be to examine how particular histories become figured as `limit cases¿ and emerge as nodes of cultural debate, at once emotionally charged and resistant to satisfactory interpretation. Examples will include some recent debates about medieval Jewish-Christian relations, arguments about conceptualizing questions of responsibility after the holocaust, and controversies over the representation of nationalism and national pasts in a global marketplace of competing interpretations. Selected texts range from medieval chronicles to memoirs of holocaust survival to Hournalistic Debates about terrorism. Along the way, we will examine Giorgio Agamben’s arguments about the representative status of Auschwitz for modernity, discuss the relevance of Emmanuel Levinas’ “Passivity Beyond Passivity” for post-holocaust politics as well as ethics, and ruminate over philosopher Gillian Rose’s evocation of primo levi in the service of an “ethics of implication.”

Ethics and Literature – ENGLIT 2653 – Spring 2013 – Lily Saint

P.B. Shelley’s assertion that “the greatest instrument of moral good is the imagination,” lacks the twentieth century pessimism of his inheritor, W.H. Auden, who famously wrote that “poetry makes nothing happen.” Beginning from this disagreement about the influence of creative work on social and material relations, this course will explore the ethical effects of aesthetic production. From the Enlightenment and Romantic period through the twenty-first century we will examine theories linking the production and consumption of literary and cultural works to social and moral transformation. Such readings will examine how, as Wittgenstein puts it “words are also deeds.” In tandem with these theoretical readings we will consider literary works that expose this relationship between the ethical and the literary (these may include works by William Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, Walt Whitman, Joseph Conrad, Chinua Achebe, Harriet Jacobs, Primo Levi, J.M. Coetzee, and Sindiwe Magona). We will attend, in particular, to how the parameters of such debates shift when applied to writing by those who are most frequently the targets of ethical feeling.

Feminist Pedagogy – ENGLIT 2505 – Spring 2011 – Jean Ferguson Carr

This course will investigate the projects and politics of feminist pedagogy—from its early revisionist activities in the 1960s, through its affiliation with diversity projects, to current interest (for example, sexuality, race, transnational and social movements, gender and development).  Feminist pedagogy has long been concerned with interdisciplinary questions about women, gender, and sexuality and how such questions intervene in the curriculum, in academic work, and in teaching and learning.  We will explore the history of feminist pedagogy as well as consider particular situated projects, including projects from students' particular disciplines, teaching traditions, or expertise. We will investigate questions such as the following:  How does feminist pedagogy challenge the curriculum? The teaching canon? Modes of teaching and learning? Notions of expertise and knowledge? Notions of service? Relationships between theory and practice?

Film and Aesthetics – ENGFLM 2465 – Fall 2011 – Daniel Morgan

This course explores the intersection of cinema and philosophical aesthetics. Although these disciplines have historically had little to do with one another, the resources of aesthetics – focusing on topics such as the sensuous quality of images, and the complexity of viewers’ experience of them; the centrality of a viewer’s (aesthetic) judgment in grasping the connections films make between events and ideas; the way this judgment ties the individual viewer to a broader viewing public; and the relation between nature and are – can help illuminate important aspects of cinema. Consequently, the first half of the course will introduce a tradition of philosophical aesthetics, reading thinkers such as Hume, Kandt, Diderot, Schiller, Hegel, Nietzsche, Adorno, Cavell, Danto, Mothersill, Bernstein, and Scarry. The second half will look in detail at a particular feature of cinema, working through the history of its use in light of this background of aesthetics.

Film and Ethnography – ENGFLM 2457 – Spring 2012 – Neepa Majumdar

This course will engage the visual and narrative strategies of the "ethnographic imagination" addressing issues of cultural representation, truth, visuality, and epistemological implications of how anthropologists and documentary filmmakers construct other cultures. We will start with the history of ethnographic cinema so as to stage a broader inquiry into forms of popular and everyday ethnography that have accompanied anthropological practice since its inception. In addition to problematizing distinctions such as science and entertainment, authenticity and hybridity, non-fiction and fiction, and self and other.

Film and Literature – ENGFLM 2460 – Fall 2013 – Lucy Fischer

It has become a cliché of film studies to assume that when one discusses the topic of “film and literature” that one simply means adaptation—understood as the transposition of literary material to the cinema.  This is a trivialization, reduction, and misunderstanding of the complex nature of the diverse relationship between the two forms.  This course seeks to make clear the numerous other ways in which film and literature both overlap and diverge in their relation to the realms of culture, history, theory, and discourse. Among the topics to be considered in the cultural/historical domain are: (1) cinema’s early status as “low” and popular entertainment forms versus literature’s more elite status; (2) the ways in which early film theorists tried to “legitimize” cinema by comparing it to literature (the novel, theater) and other established art forms; (3) cinema’s early dependence on previous forms of literary popular culture (e.g. stage melodrama and the dime novel); and/or (4) the relation of documentary film to journalism. Beyond these cultural questions the course will also examine both theoretical and formal issues: (1) narrative theories of classical cinema and the art film; (2) the case of the author/filmmaker who engages with both media (but does not necessarily adapt his or her own works); (3) point of view, figures of speech, subjectivity, and narration in film vs. literature; (4) the figure of the writer as a character in film (be it novelist, journalist, or screenwriter); and (5) the relation of cinema to poetry and the essay.

Film and Modernism – ENGFLM 2466 – Fall 2009 – Lucy Fischer

This course will explore the broad relationship between the cinema and the modernist cultural movement.  It will present an overview of the term, "modernism", and investigate the formal experimentation associated with the movement in film. It will then explore such major themes associated with modernism as: urbanization, primitivism, mechanization, propaganda and commodification, language, and nationalism.

Film Comedy – ENGFLM 2462 – Fall 2012 – Lucy Fischer

Since the earliest days of the cinema, film comedy has been one of the most profitable, prevalent and persistent genres-ranging from the primitive burlesques of Edison or Lumiere to the popular features of today. While comedy appeals to a viewer's sense of pleasure, it also addresses her intellect, for as Ousmane Sembene once said, comedy "makes people laugh but it also makes them think." That is precisely what we will do in this course: think through comedy. Here, it is interesting to note that, in 2010, the academic journal comic studies began publication.

Film Historiography – ENGFLM 2455 – Fall 2016 – Mark Lynn Anderson

Film history has a history, and this seminar engages that history to consider a range of methodologies, problems, and possibilities in the research and writing of film history.  Our considerations of various contemporary debates in film historiography will be informed by a return to earlier works in the discipline in order to gain an appreciation of the continuities and discontinuities of film historical discourse and practices. While the primary sources for the seminar are principally drawn from the first one hundred years of North American film historical writing, many of our readings in the philosophy of history and in film historiography will have relevance for the histories of other cinemas, as well as for the histories of other media.  Film history’s relation to social history will also be central to our discussions, as we consider how sexuality, race, ethnicity, gender, class, and national identity have determined the institutional development of the American cinema.  Students are instructed in methods of archival research and are required to develop and conduct original research on a film historical topic of their choosing.

Film History / Theory I – ENGFLM 2451 – Fall 2016 – David Pettersen

This course will explore issues relating to film theory, history, and research methodology.  We will discuss dominant modes of film criticism and explore the creation of “Cinema History.” We will examine different formulations of this history, tracing how certain explanations of events in cinema have come to prevail, and how certain methods of writing about film have become institutionalized.

Film History / Theory II – ENGFLM 2452 – Spring 2017 – Neepa Majumdar

This seminar will focus on the history and theory of cinema from 1960 to the present.  While individual theorists and historians will be discussed, there will be special attention paid to historical and theoretical debates within film studies. These debates will be explored through major film journals, theorists, filmmakers, and film movements. The focus will be three-fold: (1) formal analysis of film texts in their historical context; (2) the technological and sociocultural history of cinema; and (3) philosophical questions pertaining to cinema and its relation to technology, ideology, perception, and gender, sexual, and racial identities and practices. Each week’s readings will be designed to stimulate discussion in more than one of these three areas.  A graduate seminar is a cooperative effort that depends for its success upon the active participation of its student members. You should be prepared to reflect on the readings and films in your weekly response papers and to contribute your questions, insights, and views to the class. Course material for the final four weeks of the semester will be shaped to the interests of seminar participants. 

Film Sound: History, Theory, Aesthetics – ENGFLM 2491 – Spring 2014 – Neepa Majumdar 

Although much of this course's emphasis will be on the history, theory, and aesthetics of cinematic sound, the approach will be through debates in the field of sound studies. Considering film sound as a particular case in the wider context of soundscapes and acoustic ecologies, sonic cultures and practices of listening, sound and the other senses, and the industrialization of sound will provide students with a historically grounded model on which they might base their own research on cinematic or non-cinematic sound practices. Topics to be discussed will include the relation of sound and image, voice and body, aural and visual pleasures, the ontological status of recorded sound, the relation of sound technologies and modernity, and questions of sound and space ranging from the space of the film to culturally specific theories of sound. While the course will provide a historical overview of film sound, there will be two moments of emphasis: the transition from the sonic practices of silent to sound cinema, and the transition from analog to digital sound.

Four Rhetorical Theorists: Aristotle, Kenneth Burke, Mikhail Bakhtin, Bruno Latour – ENGLIT 2528 – Fall 2016 – Don Bialostosky

The seminar will read key texts of four major theorists whose work has been and continues to be fruitful for composition, literature, and criticism and will sample some recent inquiries and arguments informed by their work.  The first two address rhetoric directly as part of their more capacious intellectual enterprises, the latter two, without foregrounding rhetoric, touch upon it in their larger projects in ways that scholars across the humanities have found productive.  We will be interested in the imaginable dialogues among these thinkers, in the places in their work that have been generative, and in potentially interesting ideas of theirs that have not yet been taken up.  All of these thinkers cross our current disciplinary boundaries in ways that would interest students of composition, literature, criticism, writing, and communication, and student inquiries engaging them in those fields would be all welcome course projects.

Genealogies of Modernity – ENGLIT 2123 – Fall 2011 – Ryan McDermott

When and how did we become modern? Many Twentieth- and Twenty-First century thinkers have identified the late Middle Ages as a watershed in Western history. This course will test some of these hypotheses on late-Medieval English literature. We will track three interlocking kinds of genealogy, examining late-medieval developments of subjectivity, secularization, and representation. What does it mean to be a self? How do religious and secular culture relate? And how does literature represent the world? We’ll track changing answers to these big questions as we read Medieval English lyrics, drama, and narrative poetry.

Gender and Embodiment – GSWS 2240 – Fall 2014 – Jen Waldron

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar will examine a range of foundational and contemporary approaches to the study of gender and the body. We will be particularly interested in the history and politics of embodiment, including intersecting processes through which bodies have been sexed, raced, classed, gendered, and (dis)abled. We’ll also pay close attention to recent developments in science, technology and the arts, including medical ethics, cosmetic surgery, social media, artificial life, and neuroscientific accounts of the “embodied mind.” Our readings will be drawn from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, from Anne Fausto-Sterling’s studies in gender and biology to the work of Donna Haraway and N. K. Hayles on embodied subjectivity in the age of intelligent machines. Each week we’ll put these more abstract theories in dialogue with a variety of detailed case studies, including ethnographic descriptions, recent developments in global politics, and examples taken from film, performance art, poetry, and science fiction, among many others. The course is intended particularly for students in English, Gender Studies, Languages, Cultural Studies, Theatre Arts, Film Studies, HAA, Sociology, Anthropology, and Communication. Students will be invited to orient their term papers toward their own fields of research.

Gender, Technics and Media from Plato to Video Games – ENGLIT 2851 – Fall 2016 – Jen Waldron

While philosophers and media theorists have recently been keen to rethink the long history of relations between the human and the technical, they have not yet fully investigated the implications of this conceptual shift for the history of gender. This course will explore the importance of gender to the history and theory of visual and verbal media, from ancient debates about writing and theater through the rise of the printing press and public theater in the early modern period and into more contemporary forms such as film and video games. In these contexts, we'll look at debates over sexuality, spectatorship, affect, sensation, embodiment, artificial intelligence, and publics, among others. Students will have the chance to focus their final presentations and projects on examples taken from their own fields.

Genre and Film Melodrama – ENGFLM 2485 – Fall 2011 – Marcia Landy

This course will interrogate the cultural impact of melodrama through the media.  We will explore the various expressions of melodrama in gothic narratives, the "woman's film," historical films, "tragic" melodramas, family melodramas, and tv docudramas.  Topics addressed include questions about common sense/folklore and the nature of mass and popular cultural representation, the problematic nature of genre, the relation between melodrama, history, and the construction of narratives of national identity in relation to race, gender and sexuality.

Genre and Transnational Cinema – ENGLFM 2484 – Fall 2010 – Marcia Landy & Randall Halle

This course will explore the ongoing and shifting transnational and international treatments of genre production from its inception to the present time, instead of concentrating exclusively on the national aspects of genre.  The screenings and the readings will focus on the economic, political, and cultural interconnections of literature, cinema, popular magazines, comics, and television production.  The readings will focus on genre concepts and provide theoretical, historical, technological, and formal analyses of changing genre forms.  The screenings selected for examination are from different parts of the world and different moments in media history.

Genres and Genre Theory – ENGLIT 2608 – Fall 2016 – Paul Kameen

This course examines the always intrinsic and complementary interactivity between critical theory and creative writing, in relation both to broad historical “movements” and to individual creative enterprise. We will focus on multiple genres (fiction, nonfiction, poetry) at two specific historical moments: the 1970s, when postmodernist systems emerged in concert with reconfigured genres on the creative side; and right now, as alternatives are taking their place in both arenas.  In the former case, we will look at a range of now-famous texts by writers and theorists. In the latter case, your own writing and that of your preferred mentor-models, both creative and critical, will be our subject texts. This course is designed for entering MFA students.  More advanced students and students in other graduate degree programs will be admitted if there is room.

Global Film Stardom – ENGFLM 2710 – Spring 2016 – Lucy Fischer and Neepa Majumdar

Historically, film stardom was examined from an American perspective (where it originated in Hollywood in the first decades of the last century), and theories of stardom emerged from an implicitly Hollywood-based understanding of cinematic fame. Instead, while not ignoring the American cinema, this course will take a global perspective on stardom, in terms of performers, films, and theories. Our approach to stardom will be a combination of the historical, the theoretical, and the textual. This means that in addition to studying individual stars, we will also 1) consider the phenomenon of stardom in terms of its origins and the cultural and national institutional conditions that support it, 2) analyze stardom as a public phenomenon to be understood in the context of specific cultures and audiences, 3) discuss various theories of stardom, celebrity, and public fame, 4) consider the manner in which issues of gender and sexuality impact notions of stardom, and 5) consider the relationship between stardom and spectator subjectivity.

Although the course will be focused on cinema stardom, we will also briefly consider theoretical overlaps with the broader category of celebrity studies. In general, when we look at individual stars in the course, we will consider their broad “star text” which involves the interrelationship of screen roles, off-screen information, publicity material, and cultural context. Questions raised will include: what constitutes a  “star text” in different historical contexts and ideas about the public and the private? What specifically do the media of photography and film bring to public fame? How does stardom presume and shape norms of identity pertaining to gender, sexuality, social class, race/ethnicity, bodily norms, and other cultural values? What does stardom mean in old and new transnational contexts? What is the relation between stardom, nation, and politics? The goal of this course is for students to not only read major theories and analyses of stardom, and to be able to apply this perspective to the analysis of media texts, but to become active practitioners of star studies (through papers and in-class presentations). We also expect students to actively contribute to the course content by bringing in their own star/celebrity and disciplinary interests.  

History of Criticism – ENGLIT 2000 – Fall 2014 – Jonathan Arac

This course introduces students to important aspects of critical thought, especially though not exclusively before the twentieth century.  Readings for this course are offered as constellations of texts that intersect with a particular problem or issue.  Each constellation will have three goals: the assemble texts that have present significant and important modes of practicing criticism; to include different types of texts where critical thought emerges; to familiarize students with methods of research central to humanistic study. 

History of Rhetoric: Figurative Language – ENGLIT 2532 – Fall 2015 –  Paul Kameen

Figurative language has had, from the outset, a vexed status in Western philosophical/rhetorical systems, conceived by some as an aberrant form of representational discourse, by others as the most foundational unit of meaning.  This course will examine selected texts from four specific historical moments, each of which handles the conundrum in a different manner: the Classical period (Plato, Aristotle, Longinus); the Romantic period (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Emerson, Whitman, Dickinson); the Modern period (T.S. Eliot, H. D., W.C. Williams, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, I. A. Richards, Cleanth Brooks), and the Postmodern period (Jacques Derrida, Charles Bernstein, Susan Howe, Lyn Hejinian, Charles Olson, Sylvia Plath, and Ed Dorn.) The readings will be both poetry and prose.

History of the Book – ENGLIT 2569 – Fall 2014 – Thora Brylowe 

You hold a book in your hands. On its title page there is a date: MDCCXIV. What is this book? What is its relationship to the text it contains? Who made it and what is their relationship to the person or people who wrote its text? How does it differ from a book from 2014? What historical and institutional forces shaped your encounter with this book? Why was this particular book preserved for 300 years, and who kept it safe?

This course will stage encounters like this and encourage its participants to ask these kinds of questions. Answers will come through a combination of archival research, bibliographical analysis, and theory reading.  The course will lead students through a historical theoretical trajectory that begins in the late 1960s with works by Barthes, Derrida, and Foucault, that opened space for new ways of thinking about books, texts, and authors. After a brief detour through North American media theory, we will move into the discipline of History of the Book, reading the sections from the famous “Eisenstein-Johns” debate and works that elucidate the turn away from “New Bibliography” and toward a “sociology of texts”—methods that both describe books and theorize their relationship to the culture that produced them. The final portion of the course will look to recent studies of print culture, which have abandoned the book and repurposed the term “media ecology.”

In addition to readings and seminar-style discussions, several field trips to local Pittsburgh archives will familiarize students with handling their materials. While the course is centered around the Western European book from 1500 (the end of the incunabula period) to about 1820 (the end of the hand-press period), students interested in all forms of mediation are welcome. We will read theory applicable to film, photography, magazines, DIY publications like zines, and many other forms of contemporary media. MFA students are especially encouraged to consider the relationship between authorship, the technology of writing, and the media in which their writings take shape. Students will be asked to do two hands-on bibliographic projects and to produce a seminar paper or comparable project that relies at least in part on research gathered from a print archive appropriate to their chosen field of study.

Horror Film – ENGFLM 2695 – Spring 2015 – Adam Lowenstein 

Observing the state of research on cinematic spectatorship in 1995, the film scholar Linda Williams noted “how analysis of a supposedly exceptional genre – the horror film – may end up offering the most comprehensive analysis of gender and sexuality in spectatorship in general.”  The deluge of scholarship on the horror film since 1995 not only bears out Williams’s prediction, but teaches us over and over again how a genre often assumed to be an exception to core debates in film theory and film history winds up illuminating foundational assumptions about cultural studies in general and film studies in particular.  This seminar will investigate the key films and critical discussions surrounding the genre from its beginnings to the present, but not merely to perform a genre survey – instead we will use horror as a lens to ask wide-ranging questions about spectatorship, theory, history, aesthetics, and politics that have shaped and continue to transform film studies in profound ways.  

Indian Cinema: Questions of Mass Culture and Transnational Cinemas – ENGFLM 2200 – Spring 2010 – Neepa Majumdar

This course will treat the cinema of India as a case study in a broader discussion of theories of mass culture, national cinemas and transnational film cultures, "vernacular" and "alternative" modernities, postcolonial studies in relation to film theory, and new media and the (globally uneven) proliferation of smaller screens.  Commercial Indian cinema will also provide an alternative framework for addressing issues central to cinema studies, such as the relation between image and sound, forms of visual address, modes of spectatorship, and taste hierarchies.

Innovative American Poetry Since the Second World War – ENGLIT 2253 – Spring 2010 – Benjamin Lerner

This class will examine the flourishing (and floundering) of key movements in poetry and poetics since WWII, with significant attention paid to the poems and manifestoes of Black Mountain Poets, the Beats, the Black Arts Movement, the San Francisco Renaissance, the New York School, and language writing.

Interdisciplinary Methods in the Humanities – ENGLIT 2002 – Fall 2015 – Shalini Puri

This course will theorize interdisciplinary research methods, and how they might shift the content and scope of research; take up some examples (such as how fieldwork might benefit literary critical projects); and ask students to pursue an interdisciplinary research project (either directed towards their dissertation interests or a more contained project). Ideally I would set up the research component in such a way that students could use their Spring Break for research-travel if they needed to. Readings will include Spivak, Death of a Discipline; debates in anthropology on fieldwork; oral history methods; and applicability to the humanities of qualitative research methods from the social sciences. I would like to crosslist this course with Cultural Studies and Women's Studies, I hope to link my graduate seminar in the Spring to a small conference at Pitt with all the contributors to the volume I am coediting entitled "Theorizing Fieldwork in the Humanities.”

Keywords – ENGLIT 2135 – Spring 2015 & 2016 – Colin MacCabe

This seminar comes out of and will run in conjunction with the Keywords research project, a collaborative research initiative investigating ‘key’ words prominently used but also contested in social debate in English.  The seminar will consider keywords both from the perspective of theory (how are we to understand changes of meaning?) and practice (how can we identify new keywords?).  In addition to looking at theories of meaning both from literature and linguistics, students will be expected to produce draft entries for keywords. It is expected that the annual Keywords seminar at Pitt in January 2016 will largely be devoted to preparing suitable entries from this graduate seminar for publication.

The Keywords research project (keywords.pitt.edu), which is supported by the University of Pittsburgh and Jesus College, Cambridge, builds on Raymond Williams’s foundational project Keywords (1976; revised edition 1983), which he subtitled "a Vocabulary of Culture and Society."  Its origins go back to the 1940s when Williams was trying to elaborate a theory of culture which would cover both working class life and the new forms of popular media:

One day in the basement of the Public Library at Seaford, where we had gone to live, I looked up culture, almost casually, in one of the thirteen volumes of what we now usually call the OED: The Oxford New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. It was like a shock of recognition. The changes of sense I had been trying to understand had begun in English, it seemed, in the early nineteenth century. The connections I had sensed with class and art, with industry and democracy, took on, in the language, not only an intellectual but an historical shape.

Williams's researches, which gave birth to Culture and Society and The Long Revolution, brought philology to bear on cultural politics.  He investigated the history of keywords in the language, not because that history provided the correct meanings but because the range of meanings enabled one to better understand the terms of contemporary debate. After a further half century, the language has produced new keywords—terrorism, faith, celebrity, and queer, for example—and this seminar invites students to propose keywords, draft keyword entries, and investigate the ways in which language mediates our cultural and political life.    

Literacy and Literature in the Long Eighteenth Century – ENGLIT 2157– Spring 2011 – Stephen Carr

This seminar will examine the interaction across the long eighteenth century between emerging literary practices and new or newly consolidated literacy materials—dictionaries, vernacular grammars, elocutionary treatises and readers, theories of language, and notions of belle lettres. We will focus, in part, on the ways in which vernacular writers were taken up in these literacy materials as examples of usage, sometimes incorrect and sometimes authoritative, as illustrations of tropes and figures and emotional states, as common places or cultural topic, and as an emerging literary tradition or canon. But we will also attend to the ways newly standardized or methodized linguistic usages came into literary works, both as forms of appropriate usage and as the unmarked horizon of expectation against which regional or class dialects gained new prominence, and audiences defined partly by literacy skills, especially children, made possible new literary forms and practices. Much of the course reading will be British texts, mainly written from 1700 to 1830, but we will trace as well how these materials migrated to the American colonies and were re-appropriated in the early years of the United States.

Literacy, Rhetoric, Computer Code – ENGLIT 2522 – Fall 2014 – Annette Vee

This course takes up the recent turn toward computer code as an object of study in the humanities, as exemplified in the fields of digital humanities, digital media, software studies and critical code studies. This turn toward code in the humanities is driven by the recognition that computer code is slipping into domains once dominated by text. That is, much of our communication and information is now filtered through software running on our computers, phones and tablets. Code propels our modern literacy practices: reading PDFs and writing essays, watching and making videos, taking and editing photos. Looking at computer code through the lenses of literacy and rhetoric in this course, we will ask: what can writing mean and do now that it includes not just text, sound, image, and animation but also *code*? Helping us to explore this question will be theoretical work by Kittler, Chun, Bogost, Manovich, Kirschenbaum, Hayles, Knuth, Galloway and Marino, as well as hands-on practice with digital composition. No previous technical knowledge is required, but students will be expected to play games, blog, and code digital compositions of their own design. Both textual and computational compositions are welcome as final projects.

Literary Studies – ENGLIT 2003 – Fall 2016 – Nancy Glazener

This course will offer an introduction to some important directions in contemporary literary studies, especially the forms of literary studies tuned to critical theory and cultural studies.  Key topics are likely to include the relationship between national and transnational literary studies, in various formations; the borderlands of literature (including paraliterary and transmedial studies and so-called ‘genre’ fiction); close and distant reading; and forms of analysis that are derived from categories of identity (race, gender, class. . . ) but that quarrel with ‘identity.’  We’ll read a few of the texts conventionally known as ‘primary’ together.  Students will be invited to develop final projects that further their own work.

Literature of Adoption – ENGLIT 2649 – Spring 2011 – Marianne Novy

Recent and past novelists often use plots involving characters who adopt, were adopted, or gave up children to be adopted. These plots may involve searches for identity, racial, cultural, and/or national difference, interrogations of the meaning of family, critiques of secrecy, social inequalities and child--rearing practices, and many other themes. This course will study adoption memoirs and films as well as novels from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries.

Materialities of Writing – ENGLIT 2570 – Spring 2014 – Annette Vee

What difference does it make whether we write with ink pens, stone tablets, quills, parchment, hyperlinks, computer code, scrolls or codices? How much of modern bureaucracy can be chalked up to the permanence and flexibility of paper and the organizational innovations of filing systems? How do computer databases enable government surveillance as well as sophisticated literary narratives?  First explored by scholars such as Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan, questions about the materialities of writing have again become central to research on electronic literature, the history of the book, and the ways that objects accompany our compositional practices. In this seminar, we will focus on writing and materiality, paying attention to historical technologies as well as computational contexts of writing. In addition to Innis and McLuhan, we will read more recent work by Hayles, Kirschenbaum, Manovich, B. Kafka, Gitelman, Bogost and others. Assignments for the course will ask students to compose not only in traditional, written academic genres but also in sound, code, online spaces and physical objects.

Medieval Book of Weird: Modern Epistemologies and the Challenges of Reading the Past – ENGLIT 2104 – Spring 2013 – Hannah Johnson

Locked away in a dusty cabinet, a saint’s finger bone lies encased in velvet and glass, its former powers diminished by the combined forces of religious schism and modern skepticism. At a museum exhibit far away, visitors stare quizzically at a collection of medieval tally sticks, the small slivers of wood that tracked debts and repayments in a culture where the measure of literacy was sometimes a series of carved notches rather than words. From the celibate monk who venerates a feminized Christ, to the anchoress remade as a ‘man’ in the sight of God, a scholar asks how medieval categories made room for understandings of experience that often appear to befuddle modern notions of sexual identity and gender. In the lecture hall and the private study, from the halls of academe to the broader world of popular publishing, the medieval period is associated with such conundra—moments of significant cultural difference that challenge our epistemological models for interpreting evidence and explaining other cultures. This course will examine a number of such discrete historical problematics, from the realm of medieval visionary experience, where toads and demons startle an ascetic from her contemplations, to the uncertain boundary line between the oral and written cultures that shaped political protest in the era of Langland and Chaucer. Our view will be broad, and broadly theoretical: Foucault, Bourdieu, and Butler are examples of modern thinkers who will offer signposts along the road. For the rest, we will have to use our critical imaginations—and the suggestive ‘Book of Weird’ as a conceptual key—to find new ways to think longstanding problems of historicism, scholarship, and knowledge.

Melodrama in American Film and TV – ENGFLM 2485 – Spring 2015 – Jane Feuer

This course will trace a path through a particular definition of domestic melodrama that spans film and television from the 1920s to the present.  We will cover major theories and works within film melodrama including maternal melodrama,  male melodrama and family melodrama made by auteur directors and others such as Way Down East , Madame X,  Stella Dallas,  Written on the Wind, Bigger than Life, Peyton Place and others.  We will compare the film version of Mildred Pierce to the recent mini-series version by Todd Haynes.  We will examine the movement of domestic melodrama from film to television with 1980s series such as Dallas and Dynasty, 1990s series such as Melrose Place and 2000s series such as Desperate Housewives, a trend toward melodrama in a campy, comic vein.  Finally we will examine the influence of melodrama on "quality" television dramas such as Mad Men that take domestic melodrama in a more tragic direction.  Program examples will be taken from HBO, Showtime, AMC, Netflix original and other sources. 

Modernism – ENGLIT 2325 – Spring 2012 – Gayle Rogers

This course examines the historical and theoretical basis of modernism in an European context.  Its primarily focused on literature in England, but the course will also attend to the other arts.

Modernism as Realism – ENGLIT 2323 – Spring 2013 – Colin MacCabe

This course will look at writers like Joyce and Woolf and critics like Auerbach and Bazin to argue that modernism is best understood as a transformation rather than a simple rejection of nineteenth century realism. The course will consider realism from the point of view of philosophy, literature and film.

Modernism in African American Poetry – ENGLIT 2246 – Fall 2010 – William Scott

This course will chart the development of a modernist poetics among African American writers from 1915 to 1950. We'll read and discuss a series of influential poets from this period, including Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Margaret Walker, and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Narratives of Teaching and Learning – ENGLIT 2560 – Spring 2015 – Nick Coles

This course will explore a wide range of narrative strategies for representing teaching and learning both in pedagogical scholarship and in literary texts. We will study how scholars and writers portray their own teaching and that of others, and we’ll pay special attention to how teachers characterize their students’ learning—its occurrence, meaning, and value. The basic premise of the course is that representations of teaching and learning are inevitably problematic, largely because of all they omit from their narratives. Yet are some narratives more responsible than others? How can we tell? What does it mean to write “effectively” or ethically” about one’s teaching or learning? Along with developing a research project, students will try their hand at representing moments in their own teaching or learning in other classrooms and contexts.

The Novel: Advanced Texts and Theory – ENGLIT 2610 – Spring 2017 – Jonathan Arac

The novel is the most recent major form of writing to emerge, a fruit of modernity, complexly responding both to the commerce of print and to the aesthetics of “literature” as a cultural category. This course aims to open conversation across a wide range of historical materials, both fascinating, powerful novels and provocative, influential works of theory and criticism about the novel as a form, extending over several centuries (since 1600) and diverse national cultures (including possibly African American, American, Brazilian, Colombian, English, French, German, Indian, Russian, Spanish, Turkish). Within English, it aims to engage MFA students as well as those pursuing Critical and Cultural Studies, and earlier versions of this course have also proved valuable for students in other literature departments, as well as some of the social sciences. Writing assignments will include weekly brief engagements with a chosen aspect of the assigned reading plus longer final work. The course encourages students to develop final projects—most likely essays, but possibly other forms—that address one or more novels or critical/theoretical works of the student’s own choice, in dialogue with the course assigned reading but not delimited by it. If you plan to take this course, please contact Professor Arac to make suggestions for works you would hope to find included, but no more than one novel from any national tradition .

Ordinary Language – ENGLIT 2509 – Fall 2014 – David Bartholomae

The purpose of the seminar will be to consider ordinary language theory and its bearing on composition and the teaching of writing. Readings will include an anthology of student essays, some standard work in composition (Mina Shaughnessy, Joe Williams, Jim Slevin, William Coles, Peter Elbow), and a selection of work in rhetoric and philosophy, with particular attention to I.A. Richards, Stanley Cavell, J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Oscar Wilde and the 1890s – ENGLIT 2192 – Spring 2014 – Phil Smith

This graduate seminar invites study of the major works of Oscar Wilde—his poetry, criticism, journalism, plays, short stories, fairy tales, and novel—in the context of intellectual controversies represented in late 19th-century English periodicals and in texts by European and Anglophone writers, such as Nietzsche, Ibsen, and several of the New Women. Wilde's writing will be considered in relation to literary and artistic movements such as aestheticism and decadence as well as in relation to 19th-century social, political, philosophical, and scientific discourses. Students will also investigate 20thcentury and contemporary critical revaluations of Wilde as they prepare the required work of the course: in-class reports, short papers, and the draft and final version of a research paper suitable for presentation at an academic conference. These papers will be presented and discussed at the two final meetings of the seminar.

Poetry as Utterance – ENGLIT 2333 – Fall 2011 – Don Bialostosky

This course will examine the theoretical implications and pedagogical advantages of treating poems as imitations of utterances. We will elaborate this model of poetry from a verity of theoretical sources from Plato to the present, distinguish it from other models, especially the residual New Criticism that still informs much of our teaching of “close reading,” and test it through reading of poems from a wide range of periods and genres of poetry in English. Both lyric and narrative poetry will be considered as will the extension of this model to reading artistic narrative prose. The model we will be using, developed mainly from the work of Bakhtin school, underwrites a version of English 500, “Introduction to Critical Reading,” that has proved effective in overcoming students’ “poetry anxiety” and developing their confidence and skill in pleasurably and responsibly reading demanding poems. Graduate students anticipating teaching this course or “reading poetry” (and those with unresolved poetry anxiety of their own) are especially encouraged to enroll, as are poets with their own ideas about how they would like to be read. The course would also be appropriate for mat students in English who anticipate teaching the reading of poetry in the schools.

Politics and the Novel – ENGLIT 2445 – Fall 2012 – Susan Andrade

This course takes its title from Irving Howe’s classic work of that name, but it will also have as influence Said's culture and imperialism and Jonah Raskin's newly reprinted the mythology of imperialism. What, if any, relation is there between politics and the novel, between our responses as readers and the power differentials or stakes of action represented? Literary readings might include: Conrad, James, Kipling, Forster, Zola, Mistry, Sahgal, Armah, Soyinka.

Postcolonial Theory and Cultural Critique – ENGLIT 2353 – Spring 2017 – Susan Andrade

This course rehearses important debates in postcolonial studies.  We will explore topics such as nationalism, dominant and anticolonial; gender and sexuality in relation to decolonization; the politics of language; and the writing of History.  Although we give particular attention to anglophone regions of Africa and South Asia, we will also look at texts from the Caribbean, Latin America, other parts of Asia, as well as the minoritarian U.S. and U.K.  Readings are likely to include:  Marx, Sartre, Césaire, Fanon, Said, Hobsbawm, Spivak, A. Ghosh, Garcia-Márquez, Jameson, Moretti, Sangari, Sembène, Anderson, and Danticat.

Queer Inscriptions – ENGLIT 2507 – Spring 2016 – Peter Campbell 

“Queer Inscriptions” examines the ways in which bureaucratic and judicial actors use language to inscribe normative raced, sexualized, and gendered subjectivity through and onto bodies, as well as various possibilities for resisting, revising, and queering these inscriptions. What agency is available for persons to direct the force of inscription, and to refract inscriptional rhetoric back onto institutions? If we are written, in what ways can we write back?

Participants will be invited to consider “inscription” as a hermeneutic for several topics related to bodies, identity, and institutional language, including: trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer rhetorical and legal theory; the state regulation of race, sex and gender identity; the bureaucratic operation of incarceration and punishment systems; immigration and asylum; the judicial regulation of “race-conscious” school policies; and race and sexuality in labor negotiation.

The semester will ideally help students gain practical and poetical tools for writing and inscribing identity and subjectivity within their own scholarly, professional, political, and everyday lives. Writers across modes and disciplines are welcome.

Course readings are likely to include works by authors such as Brenda J. Allen, Jonathan Alexander, Judith Butler, Cathy Cohen, Qwo-Li Driskill, Sara McKinnon, Erica Meiners, Janet Halley, Kent Ono, Claudia Rankine, Chandan Reddy, Ishamel Reed, Barbara Smith, Dean Spade, Siobhan B. Somerville, and Leti Volpp. 

Queer Theory, Queer Cinema: Queer Media Culture – ENGFLM 2661 – Spring 2014 – Mark Lynn Anderson and Jane Feuer

This seminar explores film (also TV and theater) textuality and reception from a “queer” perspective.  What is the relationship among queer authors, queer textuality and the subcultures that consume these texts?  What place does non-heteronormative sexuality occupy within the production and reception of mass culture?  The course will cover: foundational works in the history of sexuality; camp and gay subcultural reception; gay and lesbian authorship of both Hollywood and avant-garde films; the rise of queer television drama; and queer critical practices.

Race and Gender in 20th Century Poetry – ENGLIT 2285 – Spring 2012 – Dawn Lundy Martin

This course will focus on the aesthetic and institutional constructions of poetry in the twentieth century in the United States, paying particular attention to how issues of race and gender have marked changes in what counts as poetry and how poetry is read.

Race, Writing, Sound: Black Music and Literary Culture – ENGLIT 2241 – Spring 2016 – Imani Owens 

This course draws upon a wide variety of literary and sonic sources to ask questions about race and the politics of listening in the 20th century.  Pairing recent works in critical sound studies with poetry, fiction, liner notes and sonic texts, we will consider writing, sound, and performance as interfacing mediums, not merely defined by influence but by mutual aesthetic and conceptual transformation. Our lens is decidedly transnational: we chart the ways that music travels, buoyed by historical events, social movements, and developments in sound technology.  We will consider literary engagement with genres such as blues, jazz, spirituals, soul, hip hop, reggae, dub, afro-Cuban, and West African music. Theories of translation, improvisation, and black Atlantic exchange will inform our analysis of race, writing, and sound.

This course is appropriate for students with broad interests in interdisciplinary work, transnationalism, and black aesthetics. Students are encouraged develop projects informed by their own areas of specialization.  Musical knowledge is welcome, but not required.

Students will also benefit from engagement with several exciting campus events, including a class visit by pianist-composer Geri Allen, director of Jazz Studies at Pitt; a lecture by Brent Hayes Edwards, author of The Practice of Diaspora and professor of English at Columbia University; and a residency by composer and MacArthur Fellow George E. Lewis, Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University.

Revolutionary Poetry of the US Left – ENGLIT 2254 – Spring 2013 – William Scott

This seminar will examine a number of ways in which U.S. poets have grappled with the question of their own political engagement as poets. Focusing on the different forms and modes in which they have conceived the relation between their aesthetic principles and radical political concerns, we will also consider the commonalities that they share over time and in various socio-political contexts. Over the last seventy years, it has become a commonplace of mainstream literary critics and cultural historians to assume that the U.S. Left is incapable of producing a consistently complex—that is, an intellectually and artistically nuanced—body of poetic writing. However, as we will see, this judgment is often based on only a cursory familiarity with leftist political poetry in the U.S. While the bulk of the seminar will focus on readings of politically radical poets from the 1920s and 1940s—including authors who were, in various degrees, affiliated with the IWW and Communist Party, such as Arturo Giovannitti, Langston Hughes, Muriel Rukeyser, Kenneth Fearing, Genevieve Taggard, Michael Gold, Margaret Walker, Alfred Kreymborg, Edwin Rolfe, and Tillie Olsen—we will also spend time towards the end of the semester considering a number of contemporary political poets such as (potentially, but not limited to) Juliana Spahr, Sparrow, Eileen Myles, Mark Nowak, Peter Lamborn Wilson, Anne Waldman, and Ariana Reines.

Rhetorical Gestures – ENGLIT 2524 – Fall 2013 – Cory Holding

This course explores historical, theoretical, and methodological approaches to gesture in rhetorical invention, moving from forgotten histories of gesture as a mode of both reasoned and affective persuasion to focus on current studies of the relationship between gesture and invention in neuroscience, performance studies, composition, and other disciplines. On the way, we will attend to affect, kinesthesia, sympathy, and other modes and manifestations of bodily suggestion. In addition to a substantial seminar project, students will have the opportunity to plan and produce hybrid written and gestural texts in response to course readings and discussion. 

Seminar in Pedagogy: PhD – ENGLIT 2500 – Spring 2017 – Angie Cruz and Cory Holding

This course provides the opportunity for first-year Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows to develop strategies for teaching, to reflect on those strategies, and to consider the larger social, historical, and institutional contexts that shape their teaching.  The seminar will place students’ work in the course they are teaching into dialogue with texts that focus on current critical questions and pedagogical theory and practice across English Studies curricula.

Shakespeare – ENGLIT 2126 – Spring 2012 – Marianne Novy

Considers a range of plays from all genres of Shakespeare's work in terms of their symbolic action, structure, imagery and language, as well as in relationship to their socio historical context and theatrical traditions.

Shakespeare and Adaption – ENGLIT 2129 – Fall 2010 – Jennifer Waldron

This course examines modern film, stage, poetic and novelistic adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays in light of Shakespeare’s own borrowings from materials as diverse as scripture, chronicle history, and prose romance.  We will consider five Shakespeare plays, “The Tempest,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “King Lear,” “Othello,” and “Macbeth,” along with several key sources for and adaptations of each one.

Shakespeare, Gender, and Sexuality – ENGLIT 2131 – Fall 2015 – Marianne Novy

This course will read some of Shakespeare’s plays and his sonnets emphasizing a range of criticism and theory dealing with gender and sexuality. We will also consider the early modern debate about women,  16th-17th century texts about same-sex desire and recent critical and historical arguments  about the construction of gay identity, literary transformations of his plays and sonnets by later women (e.g. Paula Vogel, Djanet Sears) and gay men (e.g. Baz Luhrmann, Gus van Sant), and examples of how live productions, films, and other media have dealt with gender and sexuality in his writings.  

Surrealism and Cinema – ENGFLM 2483 – Spring 2011 – Adam Lowenstein

This course engages the aesthetic and political issues produced by the conjuncture of surrealism and cinema issues first given shape by such major philosophers as Breton, Bataille, and Benjamin, but still vital to present day debates concerning culture and representation, and to institutions as varied as the modern art museum and MTV.

Television Studies – ENGFLM 2492 – Fall 2012 – Jane Feuer

This course will examine the emergence of television studies out of film studies during the 1980s and beyond. We will read key texts and examine approaches that have characterized this new orientation to the study of television: theories of television spectatorship, program and audience history, genre studies, and others. There will be screenings of key texts that have been considered crucial to the development of these ideas. The main emphasis will be to distinguish the televisual from the cinematic.

Theories of Reading and Writing – ENGLIT 2502 – Fall 2012 – Mariolina Salvatori


“To read is to write is to read. . . “: this chiasmic phrase, which became popular in the 1980s, incisively captured groundbreaking formulations of the interrelationship(s) between reading and writing, theories of reading and theories of writing. In composition studies especially, though not exclusively, the implications of this relationship raised radical and fruitful questions about pedagogy. For many teachers and theorists of composition, pedagogy became a cogent and responsible site where to reflect on and scrutinize the implications and consequences of reading theories for advancing their understanding of student texts, and for expanding students’ possibilities for learning by teaching them to unpack and to exploit the relationships between reading and writing in their own reading and writing practices. By the beginning of the 1990s the chiasmus lost its traction, and became a maxim that tends to obviate rather than cultivate theoretical reflection on pedagogy.

The aim of this course is to problematize what seems to have become obvious, even banal, about this relationship by historicizing and re-theorizing it. We will focus on (give and take) the 1980s-1990s: we will read several texts and collections of essays that explored the reading and writing relationship both in Composition and English Studies at large to examine and expose illuminating differences in insights and applications of them in the two fields. And we will trace the representations, appropriations, and effects of these theoretical inquiries in journals like CCC, CE, Composition Studies, JAc, and PMLA. At the same time we will read the work of theorists of reading most prominent in the 1980s to explore and speak back to the uses their insights were put to in the field of composition, to ponder why/how some of them remained relevant while others faded away, and to ask again, from the perspective of pedagogy, what it means for, and what are the implications of a teacher/practitioner of Iserian, or Bartseian, or Derridian (etc., etc.) theory to teach his/her students how to write by teaching them how to read in that particular way.

Theory, Technology, Media from Plato to Video Games – ENGFLM 2495 – Spring 2013 – Dan Morgan and Jennifer Waldron

This course will examine a number of key debates in the history of visual and verbal media, beginning with the technology of writing itself and moving into the invention of the codex, the printing press, and 19th and 20th century forms of imagistic production. Of particular concern will be modes of competition and symbiosis among various technologies of representation at particular historical moments, such as the relations between speech and print, poetry and theater, painting and photography, and cinema and digital media. Although case studies will be drawn from a number of historical periods, special attention will be paid to the Renaissance and to recent decades, when media of all kinds have come under increasing technological and theoretical pressure. In these periods, we'll look at debates over spectatorship, translation, synesthesia, experience, embodiment, technology, publics, and the status of the arts. We will also take several test cases of texts and images that cross from one medium into another as they also move through time and space, such as Shakespeare’s Othello (print, theater, film and graphic novels). Theoretical readings will include seminal texts from Kittler and the Frankfurt School, and will also focus on recent developments in cognitivism and phenomenology as they inform theories of media. Students will have the opportunity to extend the seminar’s concerns to their own areas of research.

Topics in 19th Century Culture – ENGLIT 2171 – Fall 2009 – Troy Boone

This course provides a framework for seminars in specific topics in nineteenth-century British, American, and/or European culture.  It is designed to accommodate investigations of literary and/or other types of discourse, with emphasis on the intersections between historical and theoretical work in cultural studies.

Topics in Literacy and Technology – ENGLIT 2501 – Spring 2012 – Annette Vee

We may think of literacy as an ability to express ourselves and communicate through technologies of inscription. In this seminar, we’ll look at the history and nature of these technologies (clay tablets, printing press, etc.) with special attention to more recent literacy technologies—the World Wide Web, mobile devices, computers, video games, etc. Students will blog for the class and as well as learn some new (i.e., non-print) literacy technologies. Readings will include work from Lisa Gitelman, Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Andrea diSessa, James Paul Gee, Elizabeth Eisenstein, Jack Goody and Walter Ong.

Transatlantic Literature – ENGLIT 2287 – Fall 2012 – Courtney Weikle-Mills

One of the legacies of the modern nation has been the creation of separate literary traditions based on geographical borders, as well as a form of literary nationalism that sees "national literature" as the key sign of a nation's independence. Yet, these national traditions were initially formed within a period of transoceanic exploration, migration, and circulation. This course considers what critical advances become possible when we think about eighteenth and nineteenth-century England and the Americas as a single historical field and read their literary productions in a transatlantic context. We will read texts that were popular on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as critics that deal with the history and theory of thinking Transatlantically.

Translation – ENGLIT 2324 – Fall 2012 – Gayle Rogers

This course will explore theories, practices, methodologies, and creative approaches to translation, primarily in the twentieth century. Topics covered will range from ethics and ideologies to linguistic change and world literature. No extensive knowledge of languages other than English is required.

Utopian and Dystopian Literature – ENGLIT 2606 – Spring 2012 – Philip Smith

This seminar juxtaposes readings from past and present tra ditions of utopian and dystopian literature.  Readings will include a sampling of texts from early modern, 19th-century and 20th-century writing in several genres.  Students will have the opportunity to bring their study of utopian liter ary traditions to bear on the analysis of recent work, including fiction by contemporary writers.

Victorians Dressed and Undressed – ENGLIT 2174 – Fall 2014 – James Kincaid

This will be a text-based class, considering a variety of questions having to do with canonization, interpretation, history, class, gender, and sex---the usual suspects.

I apologize for the raucous title, intended only to suggest a contrast between "great" works" and "rubbish," daytime realism and nighttime melodrama--and generic, gender, class, and sexual divergences.  We'll elevate ourselves--Austen, Tennyson, Eliot, and so forth--and then descend:  popular horror, simple-minded evangelical and children's lit, pornography.  "What's the point?" you justly ask.  Well, we'll see about that.

War and Cinema – ENGFLM 2480 – Spring 2013 – Neepa Majumdar

The primary focus of this course will not be on cinematic representations of historical wars, but on theorizing the convergence of military and cinematic technologies, taking as one point of reference the significant body of writing produced by Paul Virilio, including his War and Cinema. While the course will include some combat genre films, the conceptual framework will focus on a historical understanding of the logistics of perception, biopolitics, and the relation of cinematic/military technologies to the body. Topics to be considered include the intersecting military, medical, and cinematic uses of the scope and the screen, theories of human vision and ocularcentrism, new conceptions of space and time, the temporal convergence of production and exhibition (speed and acceleration), new media technologies, and the blurred boundaries of war and entertainment.  In this course and in student research papers, the course will explore a visual field broadly conceived as constituted by military/medical and cinematic/entertainment technologies. Some of the technologies we might consider include radar, infra-red imaging, weather mapping, virtual reality, medical imaging, x-rays, and reconnaissance/aerial photography, looking specifically at films that substantially use such imaging or theorize these intersections.  

Women Filmmakers – ENGFLM 2500 – Fall 2014 – Lucy Fischer 

Until quite recently, when books were written or published on “film history,” the unstated term in the category was “male”-- since almost all of the texts focused on male directors.  As we know, the original French and British “auteur critics” concentrated on the works of such creators as Howard Hawks, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles. And when Andrew Sarris published his pantheon of American filmmakers, only one female was mentioned, and she under a category that included “Oddities” and “One-Shots.” Even as feminism made strides in the literature curriculum (with a proliferation of courses on Women Authors), film studies did not immediately follow suit (responding more with classes on the image of woman on-screen).  In part this was due to the fact that, while female writers needed only pen and paper to produce work (and thus could eventually impact publishing), female film directors required expensive high-tech equipment—and, those means of production were long withheld from them.

In recent years, however, scholarly attention has sought to counter this “invisibility” and draw women filmmakers out of the shadows; thus, there are now a plethora of journal articles and numerous monographs concerning the oeuvre of female artists—both renowned and neglected.  There are also working groups like the Women Film Pioneers Project (that we will engage in the class) that seek to amass data on historic female figures in the history of cinema; and there are conferences (like one on Women in Silent Cinema) that convene regularly.

In this course we will examine the work of diverse international women directors (largely in film but, peripherally in television) during both the silent and sound era, from the earliest days of film history until the present.  Given the impossibility (or desirability) of providing an encyclopedic “survey” of the field over one semester, select individual cases will be considered with an attempt to choose skilled and provocative works—but also ones that represent women artists of diverse nationality, race, and sexual orientation, as well as those working in various filmic genres (drama, comedy, romance, etc.) and modes (fiction, non-fiction, avant-garde, etc.).  In addition to studying particular directors and their films, the course will seek to understand the broader nature of the industries in which they labored, and the role of women within them (or the relative lack thereof).  While the majority of the films chosen will focus on women’s issues and themes (and our readings will frequently engage feminist film theory and women’s film history among other subjects), this will not necessarily be a requirement of their selection.

Women and Literacy – ENGLIT 2506 – Spring 2015 – Jean Ferguson Carr 

How does gender alter the experience and effects of literacy? How have critics and historians in composition, literacy, gender, and literary culture represented women and literacy—as a research project and a critical issue? This course will investigate how formulations of literacy are disturbed by gender and by particular historical contexts. We will consider how women’s literacy has been constructed, shaped by schooling and criticism, and framed in relationship to readers’ expectations. How have women readers and writers of particular cultural moments negotiated the terms of their reading, writing, speaking, publication, and reception? We will explore situated tensions about women’s literacy in U.S. culture: constructions of schooling and childhood literacy, emerging notions of “women’s genres,” the rise in female readership and authorship in the early 19th-century, the entry of women in colleges, and the political and critical challenge shaped by feminist projects of the 1960s and 70s. We will read materials written by women, as well as materials prepared to advise, educate, and criticize women (and girls), and we will read various critical projects that attempt to account for women’s literacy as distinct and distinctive, as a problem and a possibility. Students will develop a cultural /historical project of their own, using various kinds of literacy materials to explore women’s literacy, language, education, and reception. 

Word and Image – ENGLIT 2055 – Spring 2013 – John Twyning

The distinction between these two forms has lent itself to a paradigm in which they are sometimes structurally antagonistic and sometimes supplemental but rarely significantly intertwined and mutually defining. This course will examine the history and the relationship between word and image and explore the possibilities for redefining, re-establishing, and perhaps synthesizing their connections and distinctions. We will examine the cultural dynamics of landscape production as it emerged from the Middle Ages in Western Europe, and the issues at stake in its social and political representation. Our studies will include analysis of a variety of forms: the sonnet and portraiture; the use of landscape in the novel and in pictorial art; relationships between iconography and narrative; the alignment of word and image in drama; and how we read photographs.  Explorations will be framed by an engagement with a range of important thinkers; including Plato, Sydney, Jonson, Locke, Hagstrum, Barthes, Panofsky, Gombrich, Mitchell, Burke, Benjamin, and Buck-Morss.

Writing / Class – ENGLIT 2728 – Spring 2012 – Nick Coles

This course will explore the workings of class in and through the practices of writing.  Class will be treated as both social-historical process and lived experience, legible in the varied sites of literary production, literacy education, and composition pedagogy.  We will investigate the intersections of class with race, gender, sexuality and other marks of power and difference, and the pressures and possibilities they bring to acts of writing, in and out of school.  Readings may include fiction, nonfiction and poetry by writers such as Raymond Williams, bells hooks, Richard Rodriguez, mike Rose, Tillie Olsen, Dorothy Allison, Walter Mosley, Janet Zandy, Pierre Bourdiey, as well as writing in zines, blogs and student projects.