Graduate Seminar Descriptions: Spring 2019
Radical Romantic Critical Theory
Instructor: Morris Eaves
The radical shift in ideas about literature in the British Romantic period (c.1775-1825)--an era of enormous innovation, transformation, and stress--motivated writers to reexamine the foundations of their artistic lives and question the status of literature and its relation to the world. How, they wondered, could they justify their lives as producers of mere literature? Are poets "unacknowledged legislators of the world" (Shelley)? Can imagination transform the world (Blake)? Inspired by contemporary political revolutions, Romantic writers developed core artistic theories that are indispensable in our own thinking—keyed to ideas of originality, imagination, self-expression, nature (capital N), art (capital A). Such ideas provide a platform for considering other ideas that concern us: self, other, gender, race, etc. Unless we understand what the Romantic writers were up to, we shall not understand ourselves. The seminar will also consider practical matters—what it takes to be a practicing academic.
The Realist Novel
Instructor: Supritha Rajan
This course explores canonical examples of the nineteenth-century realist novel and theories of realism. We will read and closely examine some of the most exemplary practitioners of the realist novel within the British and Continental tradition, from Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac to Gustave Flaubert, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot. The course will also devote substantive time to theories of realism from the nineteenth century to the present (e.g. Georg Lukàcs, Ian Watt, Michael McKeon, Roland Barthes, Mikhail Bakhtin, Franco Moretti, Frederic Jameson, Catherine Gallagher, Nancy Armstrong, George Levine, Harry Shaw, and others).
Modernisms Old and New
Instructor: Bette London
“Make it New” has generally been accepted as a mantra for literary modernism. But with its classics now approaching 100 years old, their novelty invites reinvestigation. In recent years, moreover, modernist studies, as a critical field, has itself undergone a significant remaking. With the emergence of “the new modernist studies,” critical attention has shifted to a recognition of multiple and diverse modernisms that stretch the geographic, temporal, and material limits of what once passed for an established canon and that open the field to practitioners not previously recognized as modernists. This turn has brought a profusion of new questions and methodologies and new texts and contexts to consider. This seminar will explore a number of recent challenges to the traditional mapping of the modernist field and to the critical rubrics it has promulgated; we will do so through a reading of some of the key critical interventions in the field that have been published in the last decade or so, but also through a rereading of iconic texts of British modernism. We will also look at how postmodern and contemporary artists have recast and transformed some of these modernist icons, sometimes by literally taking them apart and re-piecing them together.
Instructor: Jason Middleton
The horror genre has consistently tapped into, and put on spectacular, fantastic display, a range of historically and culturally specific fears and anxieties. These anxieties have often been rooted in moments of societal change or conflict, and have included responses to: technological change (from the Industrial Revolution to new reproductive technologies to a networked society); social and political movements; economic change and job loss; environmental destruction and toxicity; state and geopolitical violence. The genre has been especially generative for theorists seeking to understand the somatic and affective capacities of the cinematic medium, and scholars have explored the complex and contradictory politics imbricated with the genre’s visceral effects. This seminar examines the work of scholars of horror film and those whose writing has been influential on the study of horror. Readings may include work by: Julia Kristeva, Sigmund Freud, Carol Clover, Noël Carroll, Barbara Creed, Eugenie Brinkema, Adam Lowenstein, Jack Halberstam, Linda Williams, and Sianne Ngai. The course will also include screening and discussion of relevant films.