ENGL 115 Sections

Fall 2022 Sections

01. Childhood and Books: Literature For and About Young People. TTh 11.35-12.50

Jill Campbell

What distinguishes the period we call childhood from other stages of life?  Are children characterized by innocence and empathy, a tendency to violence, or an innate sense of justice that adults often lose?  How have works of literature shaped our understanding of what children are like?  What does the experience of reading books offer to children themselves?

This seminar will explore these questions by considering select works of literature both for children and about them from the late 18th century to 2021.  We will read several classic works of children’s literature, including E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, as well as more recent favorites such as Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese and Jerry Craft’s New Kid.  We will investigate the intertwined histories of modern conceptions of childhood and of the children’s book trade, reading poems about childhood by Wordsworth and Blake and visiting the Beinecke to view early works of children’s literature.  We will also sample memoirs of childhood, such as Pauli Murray’s Proud Shoes.  Throughout, we will attend to how the meaning of childhood is shaped by categories of race, gender, and socioeconomic class.

Opportunities to correspond or meet with children from New Haven Public Schools may also allow us to learn about children’s creative responses to what they read.  The course has been approved for the Individuals and Society requirement for Education Studies Scholars.

02. The Artist Novel. MW 4.00-5.15

Christopher McGowan

A study of the artist novel, or Künstlerroman, genre across (primarily) twentieth-century Anglophone literature, with attention to related genres including the bildungsroman and the campus novel. We consider changing and often clashing conceptions of what it means to be an artist in modern capitalist society, and ask what novels about artists can teach us about the relationship between art and the world around us. What is the artist’s relationship to the public sphere, or the market, or educational institutions such as the school or the university? How do artists, especially women artists, wrest autonomy (and time) from the demands of work, family, memory, and social convention? What is the potential of artistic creation to reshape experience, or revolutionize society? And how has the artist novel itself changed over time? What are its significant defining features and ideologies? Possible authors include Charles Baudelaire, Kate Chopin, Thomas Mann, James Joyce, Claude McKay, James Baldwin, Vladimir Nabokov, Alice Munro, Jamaica Kincaid, Penelope Fitzgerald, and J.M. Coetzee; critical texts from Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, Theodor Adorno, Marjorie Perloff, Pierre Bourdieu, Alice Nochlin, Katie Trumpener, Seamus Deane, Hebert Marcuse, James Wood, Zadie Smith, Joe Cleary, and Michael Denning. 

03. Hearing the African Diaspora. MW 11.35-12.50

Rasheed Tazudeen

For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell; it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.

And this tale, according to that face, that body, those strong hands on those strings, has another aspect in every country, and a new depth in every generation. 

                                                            —James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues” (1957)

This course explores the sonic histories, traces, inscriptions, archives, and counter-archives of the African diaspora, broadly and intergenerationally considered. We will pay close attention to the ethical and aesthetic demands that sound poses for literary representation, as well as to the excesses, ruptures, and fugitivities of sound in the literary text, especially as these intersect with questions of race, gender, and cultural identity. And we will listen carefully to literary and poetic expressions of Black sound, Black musicking, and Black joy in and as the making of (another) modernity, or what philosopher Alexander Weheliye calls a “sonic Afro-modernity.” Central to this course, following along the paths opened by Daphne Brooks in Liner Notes to the Revolution, are the histories, legacies, and imaginaries of Black women authors, musicians, and feminist thinkers, as “the progenitors of sonic forms, aesthetics, and strategies, as well as ideas about the sonic that have destabilized and reordered our sensorial and expressive lives.” Readings will include works by James Baldwin, Dionne Brand, Yaa Gyasi, Saidiya Hartman, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Ishmael Reed, Maboula Soumahoro, and Sylvia Wynter.

04. Asian Identities and Science Fiction. TTh 1.00-2.15

Helen Yang

In painting a picture of the future, Western and Hollywood science fiction often utilizes Asian bodies, commodities, language, and food in order to imagine and construct a futuristic, dystopian, and urban aesthetic. For example, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner features a mélange of East Asian influences, from Deckard eating noodles in the glow of neon Japanese signs, to Hannibal Chew picking up replicant eyeballs with chopsticks. If sci-fi is a genre which grapples with our vision of the future by engaging with challenges and issues of the present, what does such a portrayal say about Asian identities today? If science fiction can be thought of as a genre that describes the anxieties and sociopolitical structures of the present, what do these representations of “Asianness” tell us about the political, historical, and cultural issues that inform Asian-American identity construction?

In addition, through the lens of sci-fi and Asian-American literature, we will explore concepts that are central to the Anthropocene such as those of place (natural vs. urban, belonging, the planetary, the local), consumption, degradation, sustainability, and interconnectedness. The course is designed to juxtapose sci-fi with Asian-American literature, and contextualize them within the larger framework of the issues of race, exclusion, citizenship, and marginalized labor which span across time periods. We will watch science fiction films such as Blade Runner and Cloud Atlas, and read works such as Neuromancer, A Tale for the Time Being, and Through the Arc of the Rainforest.