English Department Courses Spring 2020
ENGL 89 The American West in Literature (4) (14567)
Why are so many popular movies and highly-ranked TV shows and video games—Westworld, Red Dead Redemption, Django Unchained among many others—set in the American West? And why do so many people find the themes and conflicts in these narratives engaging: themes such as self-reliance, toughness, solidarity, risk-taking, and transgressive behavior, along with conflicts among settlers and native peoples, outlaws and law-abiding citizens, men and women, insiders and outsiders, rich and poor? In English 089, we’ll explore these issues by reading a series of texts set in two areas of the intermountain West: Wyoming/Montana and northern New Mexico. We’ll read a selection of thought-provoking literary narratives such as Shane, Fools Crow, “Brokeback Mountain,” A River Runs Through It, Bless Me Ultima, and Ceremony—supplemented by Hollywood films, documentaries, and essays that will expand our perspectives and spark lively class discussions.
MW 9:20-10:35 Kroll
ENGL 100 Working with Texts (4) (10242)
A course to help students to become, through intense practice, independent readers of literary and other kinds of texts; to discern and describe the devices and process by which texts establish meaning; to gain an awareness of the various methods and strategies for reading and interpreting texts; to construct and argue original interpretations; to examine and judge the interpretations of other readers; to write the interpretive essay that supports a distinct position on some literary topic of importance; and to learn to find and assimilate into their own writing appropriate information from university library resources. To be rostered as early as possible in the English major's program.
MW 12:10-13:25 Singh
ENGL 102 Promised Lands: Jewish and African American Children's Literature (4) (14717)
In the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 137 asks, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” For Jews, blacks, and black Jews, this was and is a poignant question. This course examines how these two rich, often overlapping and interacting groups tell their stories in literature for children and young adults, with a particular focus on the mediation of traumatic pasts. What does it mean to imagine promised lands beyond such pasts—and can they be reached? Cross-listed with AAS 102 (14715), JST 102 (14714) and REL 102 (14709).
MW 3:00-4:15 Eichler-Levine
ENGL 104 LGBTQ Memoir (4) (13684)
From the 1980s to our current moment, diverse LGBTQ authors have turned to the genre of memoir as a political tool to highlight the challenges that we face both inside and outside of our communities. Frequently documenting the struggles of coming out to family members and the pressures to conform to familial desires for normative gender performance or heterosexual coupling, LGBTQ life-writers provide intimate details of the psychological impact of homophobia and gendered norms. This attention to adolescence in many memoirs of the period serves to create a space for LGBTQ readers to reflect upon our own stories about families of origin and to reach out to educate a larger reading public in the hopes of inspiring cultural transformation and greater acceptance. LGBTQ life-writing also explores finding acceptance within loving relationships as well as community spaces that support our diverse sexual and gendered identities. In this way, LGBTQ memoirs advocate for queer spaces and relationships and use them to model the kinds of social evolution that might take place outside of our community organizations. Even as memoirists often champion LGBTQ subcultures, they do acknowledge that our own communities are plagued by racism, classism, sexism, and our own gendered norms. Thus, rather than only provide idealist visions of queer subcultures, they use the space of memoir to call for transformation within our own communities to address racism both within and outside of our organizations, to recognize and to engage with the struggles of working class and impoverished community members, and to work to create more inclusive spaces for trans folk as well as bisexual and pansexual people. By reading a variety of memoirs by Cherríe Moraga, Audre Lorde, Eli Clare, Janet Mock, and others, this course will explore the political aims and narrative strategies of LGBTQ life-writers from the 1980s into the 21st century. This course is open to all students who maintain an interest in engaging with deeply moving and powerful diverse LGBTQ writers. Cross-listed with WGSS 104(13686)
MW 1:35-2:50 Foltz
ENGL 128 History of the Theatre II (4) (12742)
A multi-cultural survey of dramatic literature theatre and theatrical practice from the 18th century to the present day. Cross-listed with THTR 128 (10241).
TR 9:20-10:35 Hoelscher
ENGL 142 Introduction to Writing Poetry (4) (11466)
This poetry workshop is a craft course in which the first priority is the intensive study of versification and prosody. Through readings and discussions of canonical and contemporary poetry, as well as texts on the craft of poetry; through structured writing experiments and exercises; and through discussions and critiques of original work produced by class participants, the students in this class will seek familiarity and facility with the tools of writing poetry (in particular, rhythm and meter, sound, form, imagery, figurative language, and tone).
MW 12:10-1:25 Watts, B.
ENGL 170 Amaranth (1) (10584)
Amaranth editorial staff. Students can earn one credit by serving as editors (literary, production, or art) of Lehigh’s literary magazine. Work includes soliciting and reviewing manuscripts, planning a winter supplement and spring issue, and guiding the magazine through all phases of production. Editors attend weekly meetings with the faculty advisor.
T 12:10-13:25 Watts, B.
ENGL 196 Made to Kill: Female Violence in Popular Films (4) (14683)
Heroes. Monsters. Outlaws. Catsuits. U.S. films and television in the horror, thriller, and action/adventure genres began to represent women as perpetrators of violence more frequently and in new ways in the wake of the second wave feminist movement. Most of the films in this course were blockbusters which both reflected and shaped the ongoing national conversation about gender identity, gender roles, sexuality and power over the last four decades. Some questions we’ll explore: How is female violence gendered in these films? How is it racialized? When is it sexualized? Why aren’t there more female or non-binary superheroes today?
Some of the films/TV we’ll look at may include Black Panther, Killing Eve, Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Hunger Games, Alien, Carrie, The Silence of the Lambs and Foxy Brown. Readings include critical essays, contemporary reviews, and film theory. Cross-listed with Film 196 (14685) and WGSS 196 (14684).
TR 3:00-4:15 Handler
ENGL 197 Gothic Texts and Our Worst Fears (4) (14561)
This class is a crash-course in the terrifying world of the Gothic! Examining a variety of texts (novels, movies, podcasts, video games, role-playing games, dark tourism sites etc.) we will explore how the Gothic reveals the worst fears of humanity and of Western society. We will discuss how Gothic texts illustrate our fears of the “Other”: those that are deemed frightful based on race, gender, class, or mental health. Do Gothic texts reinforce unjust fears about those that are “different” from us, or do they offer ways to resolve our fears in socially just ways?
Utilizing mostly contemporary texts this course will expand on students’ understanding of popular works (like the film “Get Out” and the podcast “Lore”), helping them understand how pop culture is linked to the history of the Gothic and how it is a form of social critique.
MWF 10:45-11:35 Bruening
ENGL 198 The End of the World: Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic Narratives (4) (13824)
Covering texts ranging from the book of Revelation, ancient myths, weird fiction, film, and contemporary novels like Annihilation (2014) and The Cabin at the End of the World (2018), to videogames like The Last of Us (2013), we will ask ourselves in this class: How are some of these narratives connected not only thematically, but culturally? What can our preoccupation with the specter of the end tell us? What common allegorical structures do they contain and what can that tell us about our fascination with looking beyond destruction to eras of peace and renewal? Do such dismal periods on the horizon always involve the promise of hope and change or does Hell usually follow—if so is that utopic or dystopic and to what end do these narratives help us reimagine current day politics?
TR 12:10-1:25 Brett
ENGL 303 Grimms' Fairy Tales: Folklore, Feminism, Film (4) (13841)
This intercultural history of the Grimms' fairy tales investigates how folktale types and gender stereotypes developed and became models for children and adults. The course covers the literary fairy tale in Germany as well as Europe and America. Versions of "Little Red Riding Hood", "Cinderella", or "Sleeping Beauty" exist not only in the Grimms' collection but in films and many forms of world literature. Modern authors have rewritten fairy tales in feminist ways, promoting social change. Taught in English. German language students may receive a German component. Cross-listed with Film 303 (14633), GERM 303 (13831), MLL 303-10 (13833), MLL 403 (13835) and WGSS 303 (13837)
MW 1:35-2:50 Stegman
ENGL 310 Introduction to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages 3or4 (14486) An introduction to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) including the theory and principles of second language acquisition, ESL methods, materials, and current trends. Students will learn to plan and teach an ESL/EFL class in the four skills as well as integrated skills, choose appropriate materials for varying age and proficiency levels, and identify key issues in the role of global Englishes. Required classroom observing hours and teaching demonstration(s).
TR 1:35-2:50 Ouellette
ENGL 315 How Literature Made Medicine Popular (4-3) 10(14811) 11(14813)
This course will focus on the relationship between literature and medicine during the period in which medicine became “scientific,” from the nineteenth to the early twentieth century. We will look at when, how, and why doctors became both heroes and villains in fiction, paying close attention to the technological and social developments that informed these representations. At the same time, we will explore how different literary forms and techniques made their way into medical writing and science.
How was the character of Sherlock Holmes influenced by the invention of the sphygmograph (used to measure blood pressure)? What is the relationship between third-person narration and objectivity? Why were some poets captivated by anesthesia? What does Dracula have to do with syphilis and malaria? When do we see the first fictional account of bioterrorism? In this class, we will consider how literary forms—science, detective, realist, and horror fiction—negotiated cultural anxieties and aspirations during the period of some of the most rapid, radical developments in medical science and practice: germ theory, epidemiology, toxicology, antibiotics, blood transfusion, among others. Reading literature from this period, not only provide us with a fascinating account of medical history, but more pressingly, it pushes us to consider how the literary form provides a unique way to understand the complexities, tensions, and ambiguities that come with medical advances. This interdisciplinary inquiry will put into question the notion that medical progress equates to better health outcomes, access to health care, and social justice.
Please note that extensive biological or medical knowledge is not required for the course, although it is welcome. Students are encouraged to bring their own disciplinary expertise and knowledge from other coursework into the discussion. Cross-listed with HMS 315 (14814).
TR 1:35-2:50 Servitje
ENGL 328 Shakespeare: From Text to Film (4-3) 10(14525) 11(14526)
Chances are you’ve heard of William Shakespeare. You may even have heard him referred to as “the greatest writer in the English language.” But why? Does Shakespeare still matter? In this class, we are going to explore why these plays written roughly 400 hundred years ago still resonate today. We’ll read some of the “greatest hits” (e.g. King Lear, Twelfth Night, and Much Ado About Nothing) as well as a few lesser known works, focusing first on how these texts were understood in the time they were written. We will then explore how directors from around the world (e.g. Branagh, Kurosowa, Kozintsev) have adapted these plays into the visual medium of film, and used them to address questions and concerns that are very much of our own time. Fulfills British to 1660 requirement.
TR 10:45-12:00 Weissbourd
ENGL 342 Advanced Poetry Writing (4-3) 10(12165) 11(12166)
This course is designed to be an intensive practice in the craft of poetry and study of the creative process through close readings of poems, essays on craft, and the workshopping of students’ poems. The word “poet” comes from the Greek meaning “maker,” and we will always precede understanding that a poem is not just an expression of an idea or an emotion, but a consciously and carefully made artifact. In addition, one of our goals this semester will be to extend your knowledge of the various formal and stylistic possibilities of the art of poetry and the choices available to each writer. Thus, we will read widely and intensively from a diverse selection of contemporary and canonical poetry, both individual poems and whole collections. Students will write in and out of class, poetry exercises as well as critical analyses, and will workshop each other’s work in a supportive, respectful manner.
MW 3:00-4:15 Watts, B.
ENGL 344 Advanced Fiction Writing (4-3) 10(12167) 11(12168)
Advanced Fiction Writing is a workshop course for writers with experience in the creation and evaluation of contemporary fiction. Students should be familiar with the fundamental concepts of the craft. Either 144 Introduction to Fiction Writing or 201 Topics in Fiction Writing are acceptable prerequisites for this course. Course work will include group collaborations, experiential learning exercises, directed readings of the works of leading contemporary authors, short exercises and assignments, performances and class lectures and the creation of three original short stories--one of which will be a digital storytelling project. The majority of class time will be devoted to fiction lab and workshop to evaluate the original writing produced by students.
TR 3:00-4:15 Watts, S.
ENGL 350 Puerto-Rican Women Writers (4-3) 10(14596) 11(14597)
This course seeks to engage Puerto Rican women’s writing, with its own set of aesthetic and political values and questions, as part of writing the Boricua “nation.” This course will be taught from a transnational approach to Boricua writing, viewing island and diaspora authors as in conversation. However, the course also challenges students to think about how Puerto Rican women writers unite with ethnic women’s writers and women of color feminist epistemologies in the U.S. Through a combination of critical and literary theory, we will focus on Boricua women authors portraying issues of feminism, nationalism, radical politics, history, sexism, migration/immigration, and colonialism. We will refer to the original Spanish texts, especially in the earlier periods, but an English translation will always be available. Yet, English, and specifically Spanglish, becomes the preferred form of expression as writers transition into the U.S. metropolis. Assignments include a short written analysis of a text (5 pages) and a longer, research project (8-10 pages). If you are a graduate student taking this course for graduate credit, please discuss your research project plans and any adjustments that need to be made. Cross-listed with LAS (14600). Fulfills 20th/21st century requirement.
MW 1:35-2:50 Jimenez
ENGL 367 Transatlantic Radicalism: Can We Remake the World? (4-3) 10(14528) 11(14529) In the 1790s, anything seemed possible to writers on both sides of the Atlantic. “The earth was all before me,” Wordsworth wrote. Some novelists envisioned remaking the world, while others struggled to hold in place a world that they felt was spiraling out of control. Readings will include novels by Charles Brockden Brown, William Godwin, Jane Austen, and Mary Wollstonecraft, among others. Fulfills 1660 to 1900 requirement.
MW 9:20-10:35 Gordon
ENGL 378 How Free Can we be in the Modern World: Realism & Naturalism in American Lit 1860-1940 (4-3) 10(14568) 11(14569) Realist and naturalist novelists wondered if Americans were becoming more or less free. Was moral choice possible in a market-driven society devoted to money-making? Could African Americans achieve equality or was racism irreversible? Could women claim new forms of social, professional and sexual freedom – or was male dominance inescapable? In this course, we will read masterpieces of realist and naturalist fiction – two of the most influential traditions in modern American literature. Readings will include fiction by Rebecca Harding Davis, William Dean Howells, Frank Norris, Kate Chopin, Charles Chesnutt, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Tillie Olsen and Richard Wright. As we explore these questions of freedom and determination, we will also read essays by Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud so that we can consider the ways in which realist and naturalist modes of story-telling have influenced some of the most powerful theories of Western modernity. In you writing for this seminar, you will have an opportunity to explore the extent – and limits – of freedom in your own lives. Fulfills American to 1900 requirement.
TR 1:35-2:50 Moglen
English 380 ISO the Contemporary American Classic:The Discipline of Taste (4-3) 10(14654) 11(14655)
How do we decide which novels are really good? In the mass of books we read because they seem interesting, useful, valuable, or just plain fun, which will turn out to be classics? Our subject of study in addressing this question will be contemporary novels, mostly American. We will read works of “high and low” art, or, as they are often categorized in bookstores, literature and fiction. Our goal will be to try to figure out which are the best ones, why they are best, and what it means to say that a work of literature is worth reading, perhaps over and over. We will entertain the possibility that the concept of a “classic” is suspect now and soon may be moot in the postmodern 21st Century. In the course of our project, we will take a look backward at some once neglected work of literature now thought a masterpiece and also consider the history of Departments of English and their role in shaping literary taste. Is the disciplining of literature carried on by English Departments still a worthwhile cultural activity? We will also take a look at other contemporary social institutions that discipline our reading, such as book clubs, mega-bookstores, on-line stores and reviews, films of canonical works, and book reviews. We will study theoretical works on the ways people read and on the distribution of literary power and value in western culture. Some possible texts include recent works by Franzen, DeLillo, Atwood, Kingsolver, Eugenides, Diaz, and Morrison on the high art side, and Brown, Grafton, King, and Rice on the low. Writing Intensive. English Majors only. Department Approval Required. Fulfills 20th/ 21st century requirement.
TR 9:20-10:35 Lotto
English 391 Writing to be Read: Strategy & Style in Nonfiction Prose (4-3) 10(12970) 11(14629) In this project-based course, you will learn strategies for composing compelling arguments, crafting engaging narratives, and refining your writing style. Broadly speaking, our genre will be nonfiction writing, which means you will have the opportunity to write reviews, cultural commentaries, informative and persuasive arguments, and entertaining essays (among other forms). The writing skills you learn, however, will translate to nearly any setting.
Through writing, revision, collaboration, and interactive lessons, you will practice:
Uncovering good ideas through research
Interviewing people who are essential to your story and bringing them to life on the page
Structuring narratives that keep readers engaged
Crafting arguments that matter
Building worlds through description
Subtly eliciting readers’ emotions
Varying your writing style and tone
Structuring your language to appeal to readers
Locating (and composing for) potential publication venues
This course is ideal for students who want to develop their writing prowess and find readers for their work.
MW 12:10-1:25 Rollins
ENGL 433 Poetry, Drama, and Justice in Late Medieval England (3) (14514)
“The proper act of justice,” according to Thomas Aquinas “is nothing else than to render to each one his own.” Because justice is a principle that “directs man in his relations with others,” it is a distinctive virtue for being inherently social. Literary representation, too, is an inherently social act, for in writing a text, an author seeks to relate to others by conveying thoughts that, in turn, shape how we, as readers, view ourselves, one another, and the world around us. In this course we will read major works in the poetry, prose, and drama of late medieval England to explore how such texts function not only as meditations on community and individual identity, but as forces that actively shape these very concepts.
We will focus on William Langland’s Piers Plowman, a widely circulated text that can be described as a poem of crisis. Piers Plowman is the lifelong work of a poet trying to reconcile his vision of a community based on love with the conflicts endemic to an emergent market economy and an increasingly powerful church. We will then turn to the first autobiographical text written in English, The Book of Margery Kempe. This work tells the story of an elite lay woman whose mystical relationship with God makes her the object of harsh social critique, for she is called to leave behind earthly concerns while remaining fully entrenched in the world as a wife, mother, and spectacle of religious devotion. And, finally, we will turn to a selection of cycle drama, a mode of theater where biblical stories ranging from the creation of the world to the last judgement were performed on mobile pageant wagons to honor the feast of Corpus Christi. While Corpus Christi theater seeks to celebrate Christ’s body as a symbol of social unity, it also reveals deep fractures in late medieval civic culture. In the plays, the townspeople of York, Chester, and other cities not only come to crucify Christ all over again, but they participate in a divisive theatrical structure where individual labor guilds produced each pageant and often made a connection between their specific trade and the topic of their performance (The Bakers, for example, put on The Last Supper). As a series of plays performed by competitive labor guilds—and supported by fines for trade infringement—this communal theater also becomes a mechanism for reinforcing socio-economic disparities among merchants and artisans, rich and poor. Department Approval Required.
MW 10:45-12:00 Crassons
ENGL 447 Victorian Masculinity (3) (14515)
In Characteristics (1831), Thomas Carlyle famously recounts how “the old ideal of Manhood has grown obsolete, and the new is still invisible to us, and we grope after it in darkness, one clutching this phantom, another that.” Carlyle points to Victorian men’s experience of transition as well as their desperation, as they anxiously seek new models of masculinity in the wake of the French Revolution and Romanticism and their uncertain forays into modern imperialism and massive industrialization. This seminar explores both the rhetorics of “crisis” that surround representations of nineteenth-century masculinity and diverse attempts to craft new modes of maleness; we will specifically consider how strategic deployments of a “crisis of masculinity” within Victorian culture curtain alternative kinds of maleness and reaffirm patriarchy. The course will draw on critical discussions of hegemonic masculinity, compulsory heteronormativity, nationalism, eugenics, and biopower in our attempts to read literary and cultural treatments of gender. In lieu of a traditional seminar paper, each seminar participant will complete a Scalar digital anthology project (https://scalar.lehigh.edu/); each member of the seminar will choose a topic related to Victorian Masculinity around which to develop an anthology of primary readings. Students will have the opportunity to work with a partner or individually on this project. We will begin the seminar by discussing Charles Dickens’s Dombey and Son (1848); please complete this rather lengthy novel over winter break (https://www.amazon.com/Classics-Charles-Dickens-8-May-2008-Paperback/dp/B011T6T7DO/ref=sr_1_2?crid=BJEB5SYTHJ51&keywords=dombey+and+son+oxford+world+classics&qid=1571139301&s=books&sprefix=dombey+and+%2Cstripbooks%2C145&sr=1-2). Department Approval Required.
TR 10:45-12:00 Kramp
ENGL 478 Critical Horror Studies (3)
This seminar will introduce students to the main sub-genres of the US horror film as well as to the principal theoretical approaches to horror. While we will try to cover as many landmark films of the US horror tradition as we can, there’s an emphasis on 21st century horror—on horror now. We will take up classic horror (e.g., Dracula’s Daughter, Cat People), 1950s sci-fi horror (e.g., Creature from the Black Lagoon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), the emergence of modern horror (e.g., Psycho, Night of the Living Dead), the slasher (e.g., Halloween, Friday the 13th), postmodern horror (e.g., Candyman, Scream), found-footage horror (e.g., The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Unfriended), J-horror (e.g., The Ring), queer horror (e.g., Silence of the Lambs, What Keeps You Alive), “elevated” horror (e.g., The Invitation, It Follows, It Comes at Night), folk horror (e.g., The Witch, Hereditary, Midsommar), and political horror (e.g., Blood Quantum, The Purge: Election Year, Get Out, Us, Spiral). We will cover the principal theoretical approaches to the horror film—psychological, cognitive, sociological, feminist, queer, and posthuman. We will watch two films and read 2 essays / chapters each week. You will be responsible for presenting on one article and one film over the course of the semester, as well as writing informal questions and responses, two short papers, and final seminar paper (which can grow out of one of your short papers). Department Approval Required.
T 4:25-7:05 Keetley
ENGL 482 Theories of Literature and Social Justice (3)
This course introduces students to theories of literature and social justice. The course will begin with a look at foundational concepts, exploring questions such as: What is social justice? How does literary criticism offer distinctive ways of grappling with questions of social justice? How do literary works reinforce or challenge dominant ideologies? In what ways do literary works provide tools to map exploitative or oppressive social and political formations? Following the unit on social justice foundations, we will move into a group of more thematic explorations. The second unit will explore links between representations of the early modern colonial encounter with concepts and arguments in postcolonial theory as well as the emergent decolonial movement in New World studies. A third unit will consider religious conversion as a social and political act in both the early modern world and in postcolonial societies, with a focus on the complex role gender can play. We will conclude with a unit addressing social justice issues in archival study, focusing on race, gender, and canon formation. In pursuing this inquiry, we will be working with a mix of primary texts across a range of historical periods (from Thomas More's Utopia to works from contemporary India) as well as theoretical texts. Together, we will develop a broad set of tools for thinking about social justice that will be applicable to a number of historical periods and geographic regions. Department Approval Required.
M 4:25-7:05 Dominique, Jimenez
ENGL 488-10 Teaching Composition II: Practicum (1)
This Spring semester practicum will help you with the planning and day-to-day teaching of English 2. Drawing from the latest research on best practices for the teaching of rhetoric, argument, multimodal composition, and research, the course will both support your teaching at Lehigh and allow you to develop skills and expertise useful in most all university writing programs. Open to all Lehigh writing program teachers, this course will count toward the department’s comp/rhet certificate. Department Approval Required.
MW 1:35-2:50 Rollins
ENGL 488-11 Teaching Developmental Writing in the Two-Year College (1) (14521) The goal of this one-credit course is to explore some key issues and practices in teaching English to developmental (or basic) writing students, with a special focus on two-year colleges. We will consider the challenges for students in this population, review some issues of language diversity, compare divergent theories of basic writing, explore current models for developmental writing programs, and reflect on the complexities of placement and assessment. We will also explore pedagogical issues including error analysis, assignment making, and grading practices. Courses in developmental writing are prevalent in two-year colleges (as well as many four-year universities), and instructors at those institutions are expected to be familiar with the pedagogy of basic writing and committed to working with developmental students. Although this work has its challenges, it also offers enduring rewards. At the end of the course, we will consider the status and working conditions for instructors in two-year colleges, as well as the future of basic-writing programs. The course is scheduled TBA; I will try to find a convenient time for everyone who’s interested. Department Approval Required.
ENGL 496 Public Humanities (3) (14522)
As graduate students in the humanities, you are gaining specialized knowledge and technical expertise – and you are learning to master modes of writing that will enable you to present your work to other scholars at academic conferences and to publish in academic journals and at university presses. But like a growing number of humanities scholars today, you may also aspire to share your knowledge with broader audiences, to collaborate with those outside the university, and to contribute your growing academic expertise to broader movements for social justice. This experimental seminar – offered in Spring 2020 for the first time – will introduce you to the theory and practice of the public humanities. You will leave the seminar with an understanding of the methods employed by public humanists and with tools for forging community-based collaborations and developing your writing for broader audiences.
We will begin by reading recent works that conceptualize the public humanities and explain the historical context for its recent emergence in U.S. universities – including Doris Sommers’ The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities, Geoffrey Galt Harpham’s The Humanities and the Dream of America, and Peter Brooks’ edited volume, The Humanities and Public Life. We will read debates among scholars about the public turn in the humanities – and we will consider how these practices are being defined and evaluated by major foundations, professional organizations, and public institutions. After setting the theoretical foundation for our work, the bulk of the seminar will introduce students to successful models and methods. You will study the work of distinguished literary critics and other humanities scholars (including alumni of our own Ph.D. program) who are writing for the mainstream press (long-form intellectual journalism, newspaper Op Eds, online venues). You will read inspiring models of literary non-fiction by authors working inside and outside of academia and reaching broad public audiences such as Lauret Edith Savoy (Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Landscape), Saidiya Hartman (Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments), Elizabeth Rush (Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore), George Packer (The Unwinding: an Inner History of the New America) and Daegan Miller (This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent). You will also study successful models for bringing literature into the public sphere, from storytelling circles and community reading groups to creative writing programs for veterans and trauma survivors. We will read recent publications that describe community-based literary arts programming such as Engaging the Age of Jane Austen, The Penelope Project: An Arts-Based Odyssey to Change Elder Care, and Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World. We will consider how public humanists are employing practices of oral history, photography, and documentary film-making by reading works like Svetlana Alexievich’s Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster and Matthew Frye Jacobson’s The Historian’s Eye: Photography, History, and the American Present. You will be invited to consider which of these public humanities modes might be best suited to your own intellectual interests. You will have opportunities to practice – in low-stakes, experimental ways – these modes of working, which you may decide to pursue later in your graduate and professional career. Throughout the semester, we will consider how public humanities practice can enable you to form democratic collaborations with those outside the university and to participate in broader movements for social justice.
This course will dovetail with, but not replicate, the Theories of Literature and Social Justice seminar required for first-year graduate students in English. Department Approval Required
R 4:25-7:05 Foltz, Moglen