ENGL 114 Sections

 

01. Childhood in the Beinecke. TTh 11.35-12.50

Heather Klemann

Is childhood a quantifiable period of biological development or media ploy to fuel adult spending habits? Is it a traumatic phase that must be suppressed or an idealized and unrealizable fiction? What does it mean to have or not have a childhood? And how do we know when it has ended? Keeping our own experiences of childhood in mind, in this writing course we investigate the concept through material culture. Focusing our explorations on the holdings at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, we’ll encounter a variety of disciplines including performance studies, media studies, African American studies, gender studies, and food studies. Drawing evidence from the archives, we’ll develop our own arguments about how we understand this enchanting, elusive, and essential stage of life. We’ll also consider how and why curators select books, toys, and teaching tools for children for preservation in an archive. What status does this confer on the object or its prior owner(s)? Why do universities have rare book and manuscript libraries?

02. Rebels, Outcasts, and Heretics. MW 11.35-12.50

Felisa Baynes-Ross

“Rebellion,” writes Albert Camus, is “more than pursuit of a claim.” When someone rebels, he “demonstrates with obstinacy, that there is something in him which is worth-while” and that implicit in the act of rebellion is a “spontaneous loyalty to certain aspects of himself.” In these times of intensifying political activism, we might think of rebellion and dissent as the struggle against oppression, the fight for social justice, or the defense of some ideal. But as Camus suggests, people’s individual and collective identities are also deeply implicated in the causes they take up. How do discourses of resistance legitimate marginalized identities? In this course, we will seek to understand the ideologies that motivate dissent and how these discourses subvert social, political, and religious orthodoxies. How do embodied contradictions of cultural norms complicate our ideas about race, class, gender, and sexuality? Is rebellion always empowering? Drawing from a range of perspectives in disciplines that include psychology, anthropology, sociology, theology, philosophy, critical theory, and performance studies, we will consider how resistant thinking and practice shape identity and culture. These various perspectives will inform our discussions on topics such as colonialism, civil rights, Indigenous land recuperations, and Black Lives Matter.

03. Home. MW 2.30-3.45

Felisa Baynes-Ross

Where do you call home? Is your sense of home fixed to specific places, persons, languages, or memories? Must the idea of home always suggest rootedness ? What does it mean to feel at home?  In this course, we examine the affective responses elicited by various notions of home, from feelings of nostalgia and familiarity to estrangement, and we consider the ways in which generic and particular spaces enable or constrain individual agency and constitute our relation to others. Unsettling the easy boundary between the private and the public, we will seek to understand what various imaginings of home reveal about our collective and individual desires and anxieties, and we will examine the social and political forces at play in the making of home. Drawing from multiple disciplines and different modes of argument including essays, poetry, song, and film, we will study how home overlaps with spirituality, language politics, hierarchies of gender and labor, and educational opportunities, and how climate crises, pandemics, global economies, and immigration policies impact home. As we examine the debates and contests over space, we will think about who has the right to belong where and what it means—for instance—to belong at Yale. Informed by various theories and poetics of home, at the end of the course, we will revisit the places that make us.

04. Global Sound, or Decolonizing the Ear. MW 11.35-12.50

Rasheed Tazudeen

What does decolonization sound like, and how can we hear its resonances? What can theories, performances, and technologies of sound and music from the Global South and across the African diaspora teach us about the histories, legacies, and futures of anti-colonial resistance? If Western tonality has historically functioned as what musicologist Kofi Agawu calls a “colonizing force” in Africa and the Caribbean, then how might we think global and diasporic soundscapes and modes of sound-making as counter-histories to both modern empire and the Eurocentrism of music theory? In this course, we will explore the sonic imaginaries and archives by which diasporic identities, cultures, and forms of belonging are constructed. Through readings in Sound Studies, Music, Literature, Anthropology, Philosophy, and Critical Race Studies, and listenings among a diverse array of musical genres, we will examine forms of global sound and music such as the melorhythmic drumming of West African folk music; the earth-oriented noisings of Jamaican Jonkonnu and other Caribbean folk festivals; and the social and political identities ongoingly mobilized by global and transcultural anthems of rebellion. Throughout these explorations, we will stay attuned to the question of how sound has been, and continues to be, a means through which to think and imagine freedom.

05. Black and Indigenous Ecologies. MW 2.30-3.45

Rasheed Tazudeen

“Red earth, blood earth, blood brother earth”
—Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to My Native Land (1965)

Who gets to define the meaning of ecology, along with the earth we stand on, and how is this definition bound up with the legacies of colonial power, empire, slavery, and other forms of racialized oppression? And what new modes of ecological thought might emerge once we engage with the perspectives of indigenous peoples and communities of color—traditionally excluded from dominant environmentalist discourses—and their alternative ways of thinking and imagining a relation to the earth? Through readings in anthropology, geology, critical race studies, philosophy, literature, and poetry, this course explores the ecologies and counter-ecologies born of anti-imperial opposition, from 1492 to the present. Struggles for liberation, as we will examine, are never separable from struggles for land, food, water, air, and an earth in common. From Standing Rock to Sao Paulo, the Antilles to New Zealand, and Mauna Kea to Lagos, we will engage with anti-colonial and anti-racist attempts to craft an image of the earth no longer made in the ecocidal image of imperialist Western Man (or the anthropos of “Anthropocene”), and to imagine a future to be held and composed in common by all. 

06. The Art of Time. MW 9.00-10.15

Steven Shoemaker

Time is a problem. Even in common parlance it attracts a rich set of metaphors, all signaling our obsession with the rate at which it moves: Time “races” when we wish we could “freeze” it, “crawls” when we wish it would “fly.” Reminding us of the old maxim “time is money,” business gurus want to tell us how to “manage” it, while gurus of the religious sort offer the hope that it can be “transcended.” Even so, we’re not really quite sure what “it” is. Physicists like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, philosophers like Henri Bergson and Martin Heidegger, and artists from Shakespeare to Marcel Proust  have all tried to penetrate the enigma. This course will suggest that the urge to investigate—and intervene in—the dilemma of time is a basic force driving the creation of art, literature, philosophy, and science. As we explore the human experience of time, we will examine the problem of mortality, the mysteries of memory, the malleable nature of subjective time, and the way our understanding of time is influenced by technological and cultural factors. As the course concludes, students will reflect on how they navigate the challenge of living in time and consider how our relationship with time shapes who we are and what we do.

07. Guilty Pleasures. TTh 11.35-12.50

Gabrielle Reid

What is a guilty pleasure? How has our use of the term evolved? In this course, we will trace the recent history of what constitutes a guilty pleasure, from moral transgression to hedonistic indulgence and complicit consumption. Can we use the same term to describe eating ice cream out of the container, following celebrity gossip, and watching a Woody Allen movie? As we consider various intersections of guilt and pleasure, we will examine how the term’s meaning has shifted over time. Once tied to questions of morality, guilty pleasure became associated with shame, functioning as a commonplace synonym for lowbrow before circling back to its association with guilt in current conversations about cancel culture. As we consider how pleasure is tied to identity, we will ask the question, to what extent does labeling pleasure as guilty allow us to distance ourselves from the choices we make regarding what we consume? Through readings in critical theory, media studies, sociology, psychology, politics, literature, and art criticism, we will address the highbrow/lowbrow distinction, camp, kitsch, the current discourse on cancel culture and problematic favorites, and the critique of mass culture and media. Throughout the semester, we will consider the connection between what we take pleasure in and how we present ourselves.

08. The Once and Future Campus. TTh 11.35-12.50

Ben Card

Why do people come to college, and why will future students come? In the words of the Wisconsin Idea, should a university “extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses” to “serve and stimulate society?” Or, as Scott Walker would have it, should colleges adapt to the economy, training undergraduates “to meet the state’s workforce needs”? Where did the college campus come from and where is it going? Politicians, economists, deans, professors, and students all have different ideas of what universities do and, crucially, what they ought to be doing. Some emphasize job training and knowledge production, while others want college to foster racial and economic equality. We will see these arguments unfold in policy papers, bookstore memorabilia, government reports, mission statements, college guidebooks, documentaries, academic articles, and sitcoms alike. Studying the history of the university as an idea, we will think together about what forms of work and play, activism and research take place at college today—and theorize our priorities for the ideal campuses of the future.

09. Truth, Science, and Subjectivity. MW 9.00-10.15

Max Chaoulideer

What kind of truth does scientific knowledge offer us? Is it more certain or more objective than other forms of knowledge? Is it free from the contingencies of geography, history, economy, power, and politics? Should it be? What happens when we situate scientific truth within the subjectivity of the scientist: in their funding, personal experience, values, location in space and time, and relation to institutional power? This course will pursue these questions through a range of texts and materials from scientists, historians, philosophers, and cultural critics. We will begin by close reading key theories of the philosophical and historical construction of truth and scholars who interrogate its place in scientific practice today (e.g. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Kuhn, Donna Haraway, Lorraine Daston). To explore how truth’s subjectivity both undermines and strengthens it, we’ll question truth’s supposed virtues as they play out in various case studies (e.g. equity in high-tech; expertise in climate change action; democracy in intellectual property; neutrality in the media). Your work will culminate in an extended research project in which you illuminate the means by which a certain bit of knowledge has been produced and analyze the consequences that context has on its claim to truth. This course will not only prepare you to write compelling academic prose but will give you the critical tools to situate scientific truths within the complex web of practices through which we produce knowledge.

10. How to Be a Writer. TTh 1.00-2.15

Alison Coleman

What does it mean to be a writer? Is the term reserved for novelists and journalists? Does it apply only to those who have published their work? Or is writing something more democratic, collaborative, available to all of us? In this seminar we will explore great writing across the disciplines, from art history to zoology and everywhere in between. We will consider the applications of effective writing that you will encounter in your coursework and in your life after Yale. We will push back on the idea that writing is a solitary pursuit, accomplished by huddling alone at one’s computer, instead working together to develop each individual’s voice, style, and proficiency. Your work in this seminar—both in and out of the classroom—will challenge you to test out different writing techniques and practices, identifying the strategies that work best for you. And by reading about the work habits of talented writers from the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, you will gain broader insight into how to be a writer yourself.

11. Other Futures. TTh 4.00-5.15

David de Léon

How does one imagine the future when “the future” doesn’t include you? In this class we will explore works that imagine the future as it emerges from the “Other”—the marginalized, the disempowered, the erased. We recognize that these efforts by minoritized groups and people of color are not escapism or fantasy—they are important ways of thinking into and out of the problems of the present. We start with Afrofuturism and its legacies, from Sun Ra and Samuel R. Delany to Janelle Monáe and Black Panther. We touch on queer utopias, cyborg feminism, Black feminist post-apocalypses, future-oriented politics and policy, Asian-American futurisms, Latinix futurisms, as well as immersive art and interactive games made by marginalized creators. Familiarity with any of these is not necessary, since we are ultimately asking the question: how do I envision a future for myself—and what needs to change for that future to happen?

12. Censorship and the Arts. MW 9.00-10.15

Timothy Robinson

What right does any authority have to control expression? This writing seminar will treat legal and critical debates from recent times, as well as various arguments concerning politics, artistic freedom, and religion, ranging from those of Plato to contemporary cancel culture.

13. Virtual Humanities. MW 2.30-3.45

Clio Doyle

What is virtual reality and what can it do for the humanities? Topics will include depictions of virtual reality in books and film, movies created to be viewed in VR, virtual reconstructions of ancient architecture, a performance of Hamlet in virtual reality from the ghost’s perspective, and museums that only exist virtually. We will discuss the uses of VR in education such as virtual reality tools that allow students to engage with Korean and Chinese poetry in three dimensions. We will do some hands-on exploration of Yale’s VR resources, experiment with cardboard gadgets that turn a smartphone into a VR viewer, and learn about what goes into creating virtual environments. We will ask questions such as, what critical tools might we use to interpret this technology, (how) does it help us understand the past of literature and culture, is there a way of reading code as literature, and how we should think about the reality of what happens in virtual spaces.

14. Telling Stories. MW 11.35-12.50

Craig Eklund

Human beings are storytelling animals.  We tell stories of our lives, our families, and our nations.  We tell stories of the past, present, and future.  Stories are a natural, universal way for us to order and interpret experience.  But not all stories declare themselves with a “Once upon a time.”  Many, in fact, are told without any announcement at all.  Many are told without any obvious teller.  Many are not so much stories we tell as they are stories that tell us—how to live, how to think, how to understand things.  In this course we will explore how narratives and narrative-like structures secretly shape the way we conceive of the world.  We’ll ask what happens to the past when we craft it into the narrative that we call history.  We’ll look at the modern myths that populate our cultural landscape and the stories that shape our political convictions.  We’ll read the science of stories and the stories of science.  We will think about how our own life stories relate to how we conceive of ourselves.  Examining both the way we tell stories and what stories tell us, this course tries to get the story straight, once and for all.

15. Into the #Wild. MW 1.00-2.15

Tess Grogan

Looking out from the peak of Mount Snowdon one night in 1791, the young hiker William Wordsworth famously saw something “awful and sublime” in the mist-shrouded valleys below. The transcendent power of an authentic encounter with nature—“In that wild place and at the dead of night”—set off a European craze for untamed experience, as nineteenth-century adventurers began flocking to glacial summits en masse. Wilderness was suddenly in vogue. Through contemporary nature writing, ecocriticism, and documentary film, this course examines the conflicted legacies of this wild desire: National Parks, mountaineers, amateur falconry enthusiasts, glampers. What can wilderness writing tell us about the figure of the ‘outdoors type’ or the relationship between environmentalism and adventurism? What tensions emerge between authentic experience and the careful framing, filtering, and marketing of that authenticity? As the wilderness has receded, finding it has become increasingly urgent. But at what cost? Readings may include: William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness”; Robert Macfarlane, Mountains of the Mind; Ramachandra Guha, “Radical Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique”; Free Solo (2018); Rahawa Haile, “Going It Alone”; Dina Gilio-Whitaker, As Long as Grass Grows; Linda Vance, “Ecofeminism and Wilderness”; Justin Farrell, Billionaire Wilderness; Helen MacDonald, H is for Hawk; Christopher Ketcham, “How Instagram Ruined the Great Outdoors.”

16. Environmental Memory. TTh 1.00-2.15

Anna Hill

How does the environment remember? How does the natural world shape our memories as individuals and as participants in collective histories? In this course, we will think critically about environments — both natural and built — as dynamic sites of memory, where discourses about history, home, and belonging are continually made and remade. Reading work from cultural theorists, critical geographers, environmental historians, activists, and artists, we will consider what it means to remember through and with the multispecies ecologies in which we are embedded. We will examine how place-based memories can productively complicate dominant historical narratives that valorize some memories while erasing or forgetting others. At the same time, we will also consider how such memories can illuminate ways in which ongoing legacies of empire, settler colonialism, and extractive capitalism continue to shape ecologies today. We will examine how patterns of displacement and dispossession can threaten environmental memory, and how, in some cases, it can lapse into dangerous nostalgia. Engaging with a range of cultural objects – critical essays, memoir, film, visual art, and creative mapping projects – we will investigate how writers and artists approach memory as a generative tool with which to imagine decolonial, sustainable paths forward.

17. #Internet Linguistics: Taking Language Online. MW 4.00-5.15

Audrey Holt

Do we talk differently on the internet than we do in person? What about on the phone? Writing letters? This course will examine the way language exists—and shapes our existence—on the internet. We’ll look at questions of web-based language through the lenses of linguistics, philosophy, psychology, and even art (who has the best raccoon emoji?). Even if language on the internet isn’t different in kind from language in general, there’s still a lot to talk about to explain why it looks as different as it does (dOeS iT tHoUgH), how we adapt to its changing forms so quickly, and which forms catch on and stick around. The questions of this course will range from very precise topics (how do we express tone through capitalization?) to very broad topics (how does writing itself function as a technology?) to something in between (do GIFs count as language?). We’ll also tackle many of these questions via specifically internet-era media like podcasts, Twitter threads, and the occasional Tumblr screenshot looking at online language in use. Our more traditional readings will cover topics including identity-building, online performativity, theories of humor and sarcasm, and the vices and virtues of the parasocial relationships of digital presence. Beyond plain text, we’ll also explore the boundaries of internet ‘language’ by examining reaction images, tags, and other multi-modal forms. Thank you for coming to my TED talk, In this essay I will…, etc.

18. (In)Authenticity in Reality TV. TTh 2.30-3.45

Eve Houghton

Is reality television real? This course is a critical examination of “structured” or “scripted” reality, a genre of reality television filmed in homes and public places. Although these shows purport to depict people going about their daily lives, narrative arcs are often devised by off-screen writers and producers. In this class, we will interrogate the role of professional writers in structured reality television and ask how it might undercut the genre’s claims of spontaneity, immediacy, and verisimilitude. At the same time, we will trace the longer cultural history of truth claims in narrative, asking how we might think about structured reality within the tradition of literary realism. We will also examine the genre of structured reality through the lens of feminist criticism, Marxist criticism, media theory, and narratology. Screenings may include Keeping up with the Kardashians (2007–2021), Made in Chelsea (2011–), Below Deck (2013–), and Selling Sunset (2019–).

19. Defund, Reform, Abolish. MW 1.00-2.15

Kassidi Jones

In a time when police brutality and the violence of the carceral state are more visible than ever, how can we imagine a more habitable future? Different social movements have made calls to reform police and prisons, defund the police, or abolish either or both completely. Focusing mostly on the United States, this class investigates the similarities and differences between these actions to speculate about the outcomes of each one and potentially create a new call to action that better serves the people. In this course, we ask what reforming, defunding, and abolishing actually mean. The readings in this course explore the histories of these terms by examining past movements and calls to action in the U.S., as well as their present significance through the writing of contemporary scholars and activists on the ground. The goal of studying the past and present is to help us piece together what a freer future could look like. Whom might we help by achieving the goals of reform, defunding, or abolition, and whom might we hurt? How do race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability play into our analyses? And most importantly, how do we get free?

20. Decay. MW 2.30-3.45

Lacey Jones

What does breakdown make possible? Together we’ll think about decay as a kind of relationship that troubles distinctions between death and life, between destruction and creation, and between the material and the spiritual. Decay appears in many forms: disease, slime mold, zombies, corpses, mushrooms (just to name a few). We’ll pay careful attention to what’s at stake in these examples of collapse–what does it mean to think about the relationship between subject and society in terms of decay? Is rot always a bad thing? How does decay shape the ways we think about life? Our project will be carried out across science studies, poetry, philosophy, religion, fiction, and film. Authors may include Vanessa Agard-Jones, Ling Ma, Thomas Mann, Susan Sontag, and Anna Tsing.

21. On Beauty. MW 1.00-2.15

Rosemary Jones

Beauty has challenged thinkers both ancient and modern to describe and account for its place in our lives. How do we “see” beauty and in what ways does beauty matter? Does embracing a sense of beauty expand our humanity? How do certain stereotypes of beauty narrow our field of vision or oppress us? In this course we will explore what shapes our definition of beauty and why. We will read both written and visual texts that explore questions of beauty and truth and the relationship between what we see, or are persuaded to see, and who we are. This course requires students have a readiness to look at art, and while no background in art history is either required or expected, providing the Yale art galleries are open safely, you will be asked to visit them.

Once you have learned how to recognize and use the key elements of argument, you will have the opportunity to follow individual lines of enquiry into different questions about how beauty acts as a force—for better or for ill—in our lives. Course readings include work by John Berger, Susan Bordo, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Elaine Scarry.

22. Fashion, Dress, and Music. TTh 11.35-12.50

Alexandra Krawetz

How can understanding music help us understand the clothing that we wear and see? How and to what extent have musicians influenced the clothing we can buy and determined what we think of as cool, subversive, and/or stylish? This course will explore these questions as we unpack the multisensory dimensions of fashion and dress, focusing on its visual, auditory, and tactile aspects in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will assess the production and consumption of clothing and clothing’s use in musical performances and everyday life from the haute-couture ateliers of the early twentieth century to the 1970s punk scene to recent K-pop music videos. We will analyze an array of primary sources (e.g., music videos, photographs of streetwear and costumes, and videos of fashion shows) and draw from readings in disciplines including African American studies, cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, history, media studies, music studies, performance studies, philosophy, and sociology. Through these readings, we will examine music’s role in conveying, influencing, and challenging the many meanings of clothes.

23. Why is Art So Boring?. TTh 2.30-3.45

Margaret McGowan

Sometimes visiting an art museum or reading a novel thrills us. Sometimes it bores us. Is boring art just bad art, or is something else at work? In this course, we will explore some contemporary art movements from the 1960’s to the present—including conceptual art, minimalism, and pop art—that seem designed to bore us. What do we make of artworks like Andy Warhol’s notorious Empire for instance, an eight-hour continuous and unvarying shot of the Empire State building? How are these artworks supposed to make us feel and what, if anything, is the good of feeling bored? In this course, we’ll explore the affect of boredom, and how these artworks ask us to engage with or think about this affect. We will consider ways of appreciating art that tests the limits of our attention, and ways of evaluating art that shirks the familiar categories of the beautiful or the sublime in favor of the “interesting.” What might these works suggest about the fine arts in general, or about the art of the 20th and 21st centuries in particular? We will encounter some critics who argue that boring art is a product of modernity and our changing relationships to labor and leisure, and others who argue for boring art’s radical political potential. As readers (and watchers and listeners), we will explore questions of artistic value, and the value of boredom itself. As writers, we will consider strategies for making compelling arguments about objects that might not, initially at least, compel us.

24. The Myth of Authenticity. MW 4.00-5.15

Max Chaoulideer

What counts as true, real, genuine, or original? Who decides? Who cares? This course explores and challenges the modern pursuit of authenticity as it shapes our ideas of nature, identity, truth, history, art, and value. Is something authenticated by its beauty, economic or cultural value, tradition, uniqueness, originality, representativeness, or some combination of these? Our class will explore these questions with close attention to canonical essays in art theory and cultural criticism, works of literature, film, as well as case studies of “inauthentic” phenomena, from scientific authority to advertising on social media, from IQ and personality tests to reconstructions of history. Throughout the course, you will be honing your own academic voice as you develop skills as a critical reader, incisive writer, and confident speaker.

25. The Politics of Pain. TTh 1.00-2.15

Sara Misgen

How do we communicate the experience of physical or mental pain? When pain is shared publicly, whose pain do we pay attention to, and whose do we ignore? How should we respond to the suffering and pain of others? This course will explore these questions and others raised at the intersection of pain, trauma, power, and the political. We’ll look at analyses of the television show Ridiculousness, foreign aid letters, and real medical cases alongside memoir, queer theory, and literary studies to examine how experiences of pain are shared and circulated for a variety of political purposes. From bodies in pain that reinforce traditional gender roles to those that become rallying cries for policy changes and revolution, this course asks the question: “what difference might this pain make in the world?”

26. Nonsense, Chaos, and Disorder. MW 11.35-12.50

Jessica Modi

Does this make perfect sense, or is it total nonsense? What do we consider sensible and orderly or non-sensical and disorderly, and why? In this course, we will engage critically with the complex questions of what “makes sense” and what non-sense can communicate otherwise. We will explore various manifestations of sense-making from a range of historical periods in order to question its vexed histories and ongoing role in contemporary American culture. This includes the nonsensical, yet deeply ingrained, legislation that instituted racialized chattel slavery and its afterlife in Jim Crow as well as the formation of binary gender categories and characterization. At the same time, we will consider how writers engage with (non)sense and sense-making as a positive tool for envisioning new political, cultural, and ecological futures.

This class will read across the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, and it is divided into four sections: language, race, gender, and ecology. Throughout, we will ask (and attempt to answer): what strategies do we use to interpret genres of “reality”—the news, weather reports, legal cases, scientific studies—and how are those strategies different from the ones we use to interpret genres of imagination—literature, visual art, or critical theory? Do these divisions hold Legal cases and realist novels are understood as having a metonymic relationship with common sense, while genres like riddles and speculative literature are understood to have a paradoxical and inverse relationship to common sense: or, nonsense. Nonsense depends upon as assumption of sense. Without sense there is no nonsense. We’ll try to make sense of it together.

27. Time Travel. MW 4.00-5.15

Kate Needham

Where do we encounter the past? What does imagining the past or the future do for the present? When is it healthy to consume fantasies of past and future, and when do those depictions become harmful or dangerous? What counts as historical accuracy? This course explores depictions of time travel in the literal sense along with artworks that imaginatively transport us to a past or a future. We’ll ask how we understand historical time and explore depictions of past and future in popular media. Through readings in history, literature, art, and cultural studies, we will examine the entertainment chain Medieval Times, fantasy author N.K. Jemisin’s “How Long ‘til Black Future Month?” and examples of time travel and historical fiction television such as Doctor Who or Bridgerton. Ultimately, we will try to answer the question “What does it take to be a responsible consumer of history and fantasy?”

28. Cultures of Popular Cinema. TTh 4.00-5.15

Max Nelson

Since the early twentieth century, few phenomena have been more central to global popular cultures than the movies. But what does it mean to treat films as fixtures of “popular culture”? Are “popular” movies ones that lots of people like? Are they ones that large media conglomerates make popular? Who does the category of “the people” tend to include and exclude in the first place? What relation does it bear to categories such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class? In this course, we approach these questions by studying some classic and recent essays on commercial cinema. Recurring themes will include spectatorship, stardom, the relationship between cinema and modernity, the economies of film production and reception, and the built environments in which films get made and seen. We will take up these themes across several case studies, including “classical” Hollywood cinema, the film industries of interwar Shanghai and Bombay, and the contemporary cinema industries in Kano and Lagos. At regular intervals, students will watch films of their choosing relevant to the week’s reading. The goals of the course will be to arrive at a deeper understanding of some complex aspects of our current cultural formations and to bring that same critical judgment to the practice of scholarly writing itself. 

29. Travelers and Tourists. TTh 2.30-3.45

Pamela Newton

What lies behind our desire to travel? Do we leave home in search of the foreign and exotic, a glimpse of beauty, a broader knowledge of others, or a deeper knowledge of ourselves? Is a tourist a type of person, a person in a certain set of circumstances, or a person with a certain state of mind? Is there a difference between a traveler and a tourist? What do we gain from becoming travelers and/or tourists? What do we lose? In this course, we will investigate these and other questions through our study of texts about travel and tourism in a variety of disciplines, including sociology, philosophy, history, and literary theory, as well as through cultural artifacts, such as newspaper articles, photographs, and film and television clips. Keeping our own travel and tourism experiences in mind throughout, we will engage with these materials in order to explore the effects of tourism (on both the visitor and the visited), the problems with tourism, and the changing nature of the tourist, including the way current technologies are shaping our travel experiences. We will also investigate a number of constructs within tourism studies, such as exoticism, colonialism, consumerism, and the quests for the authentic and the sublime.

30. The Art of Time. MW 11.35-12.50

Steven Shoemaker

Time is a problem. Even in common parlance it attracts a rich set of metaphors, all signaling our obsession with the rate at which it moves: Time “races” when we wish we could “freeze” it, “crawls” when we wish it would “fly.” Reminding us of the old maxim “time is money,” business gurus want to tell us how to “manage” it, while gurus of the religious sort offer the hope that it can be “transcended.” Even so, we’re not really quite sure what “it” is. Physicists like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, philosophers like Henri Bergson and Martin Heidegger, and artists from Shakespeare to Marcel Proust  have all tried to penetrate the enigma. This course will suggest that the urge to investigate—and intervene in—the dilemma of time is a basic force driving the creation of art, literature, philosophy, and science. As we explore the human experience of time, we will examine the problem of mortality, the mysteries of memory, the malleable nature of subjective time, and the way our understanding of time is influenced by technological and cultural factors. As the course concludes, students will reflect on how they navigate the challenge of living in time and consider how our relationship with time shapes who we are and what we do.

31. Telling the Truth. TTh 9.00-10.15

Barbara Riley

What do we mean by “the truth” in America today? Is objectivity possible? And, if so, is impartial observation always desirable? How independent is “independent thought?” In what has been called a “post-truth world,” questions of objectivity, fact, bias, values and even purpose have resurrected what, in an earlier period in American history, was termed the “credibility gap” and, in fact, has engaged philosophers, theorists and intellectuals for the last two thousand years.  Drawing on political philosophy, journalism, history and ethics, this course challenges assumptions about objectivity, examines and refines ideas and practices in non-fiction writing for a scholarly audience, and asks essential questions for scholars and citizens in any era. What conditions lead to a discerning, unbiased assessment of the information on which we base our thinking and actions?  As students and citizens, how do we determine what sources of information or opinion are trustworthy?  How, as thinkers, writers and scholars, do we become trustworthy?

32. Censorship and the Arts. TTh 9.00-10.15

Timothy Robinson

What right does any authority have to control expression? This writing seminar will treat legal and critical debates from recent times, as well as various arguments concerning politics, artistic freedom, and religion, ranging from those of Plato to contemporary cancel culture.

33. Cancelled.

34. Voices, Silence, and Self. MW 9.00-10.15

Melissa Tu

We are constantly surrounded by the language, images, and vocabulary of voice. For a long time, the notion of voice has been one of the most familiar and fundamental approaches to making sense of ourselves and the world around us. But what exactly is a voice, and what does it mean to have one?

Through readings from disciplines of music, dance, philosophy, social science, literature, and other fields of study, this course examines how we recognize – or decide – whether something is a voice or not. Along the way, we will also consider the stakes of creating and manipulating voices. In our readings and viewing/listening assignments, we will encounter voice in a variety of forms, including (but not limited to) the voices of song, animals, machines, orators, ventriloquists, musical instruments, and the divine. We will explore the ways in which voices bring together media forms, engage the senses, make use of silence, and craft social, cultural, racial, sexual, political, and religious narratives. Do voices have to have sound? Do they have to have bodies, and if not, then what does it mean for a voice to be without a body? Why do we sometimes find the attribution of certain voices to certain sources confusing – or disturbing? Powerful? Perhaps even dangerous?

(No prior experience with musical notation is required for this course.)

35. Chivalry, Civility, and Power. MW 11.35-12.50

Emily Ulrich

Is chivalry really dead? The word evokes medieval knights, distressed maidens, and valiant battles, yet its legacy is alive and well. It can be found in trifles, such as whether men pay on dates and open doors. It can also be found in abstract ideals, such as loyalty, self-sacrifice, and honor. Despite noble associations, however, chivalry is saturated in biases and performed most often by elite members of a self-aggrandizing Western society. This course explores the implicit power structures that underpin chivalry, investigating their ongoing appeal and critiquing their role in the marginalization of certain peoples.  We investigate the ramifications of chivalry through a variety of disciplines including history, art, law, postcolonial studies, gender studies, and psychology. We will trace the original medieval code of conduct through its revival in Victorian England, Imperial India, the American South, present-day prisons and college campuses. In the process, we will examine the ways gender, class, race and religion are protected, disenfranchised, or ignored in the formulation of what we know today as manners. Rather than asking “is chivalry dead?” this course asks “should chivalry be dead?” and “can chivalry die?”

36. The Present of Nostalgia. TTh 2.30-3.45

Celine Vezina

“Nostalgia has come a long way,” writes critic Gary Cross. Where is it going? As remakes, reboots, spinoffs, and retro produce increasing shares of media and culture, and elicit an increasing amount of critical vitriol, this course considers what nostalgia does for us as a culture with a present that is so often characterized by its throwbacks. We will focus not only on nostalgia but on what surrounds it: what does the desire for the past produce? How does it change our sense of the past? The present? Perhaps most disconcertingly, how does it shape our imagination of the future? And at the basic level, what is nostalgia, anyway? In this course, we will consider these questions and more, examining the forms that nostalgia takes, how it operates in society, and what forms around acts and performances of nostalgia such as subcultures, throwbacks, collecting, and creating. We’ll begin with the history of “nostalgia” as a psychological term and social phenomenon, and move through prominent theorizations and surveys of how nostalgia works: in music, literature, movies, the internet, and in constructing the bric-a-brac of culture and society, from individual identity formation to consumer practice.