English Introductory Courses

A complete listing of all English course offerings is available on Yale CourseSearch.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

Undergraduate Introductory Course Offerings 2019-2020

Students who wish to enroll in a section of these seminars should participate in online preregistration, from 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 21 until 5:00 p.m. on Monday, August 26.

ENGL 114 | ENGL 115 | ENGL 120 | ENGL 123 | ENGL 125, 126, 127, 128 | ENGL 129

ENGL 114, Writing Seminars.

Instruction in writing well-reasoned analyses and academic arguments, with emphasis on the importance of reading, research, and revision. Using examples of nonfiction prose from a variety of academic disciplines, individual sections focus on topics such as the city, childhood, globalization, inequality, food culture, sports, and war. Preregistration required; see under English Department.

Section 01, Material Cultures of Childhood. Heather Klemann. TTh 11.35-12.50.

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?

Section 02, Rebels, Outcasts, and Heretics, Felisa Baynes-Ross. MW 11.35-12.50.

“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, and contemporary movements like Zionism and Black Lives Matter.

Section 03, The Sacred and the Secular. Felisa Baynes-Ross. MW 2.30-3.45.

Is there really a separation of Church and State in America? Is religion a private matter? Has modernity marginalized religion? In this course, we will examine the role of religion in the public sphere, and we will challenge our understanding of what it means to be religious in a secular world. According to Charles Taylor, we in the West have come to a point where belief in God is no longer unchallenged and the presumption of unbelief is dominant, especially in intellectual milieus. In spite of the decline in religious belief, however, contemporary debates on marriage and sexuality, gender, and scientific research hinge on notions of religious morality. What might these conversations reveal about the boundary between religion and politics? Is a secular outlook the solution to the challenges of religious diversity in America? We will read essays on these debates in disciplines as varied as law, biology, theology, philosophy, anthropology, and race and gender studies. As we explore the relationship between religion and secularity, we will also be concerned with how religion affects the more intimate aspects of our lives. How does religion constitute our identity and define our relationship to others? How does belief or non-belief influence our sense of purpose and fulfillment? We will examine the tensions, conflicts, and anxieties religion inspires in our public and private lives. 

Section 04, Sound. Rasheed Tazudeen. MW 11.35-12.50.

“For twenty-five centuries, Western knowledge has tried to look upon the world. It has failed to understand that the world is not for the beholding. It is for hearing.” —Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music (1977) 

“Right now, if you’re able to hear this, you are a miracle.” —2 Chainz, “Burglar Bars” (2017)

What does it mean to understand the world through hearing rather than vision? How are social, cultural, racial, sexual, and political identities, as well as the environments we inhabit, shaped by the sounds and noises we hear? How have such identities figured into the composition of music from 17th-century opera to contemporary pop music? This course will investigate, through a series of historical, theoretical, philosophical, musicological, and literary readings and listenings, the ways in which sound manifests itself in the world. Sounds can be harmonious and pleasant, they can make us feel fulfilled, and they can give us new experiences and new ways of looking at the world. However, sounds can also annoy us, they can hurt us, they can make us experience a range of powerful and sometimes unpleasant emotions, and in extreme cases, sound can become a weapon of warfare and torture. Sounds, as well as styles of music, can also mark the borders between different identities, as well as the sites where identities merge. Finally, we will explore how technological advances, from the invention of the piano to the phonograph to online music streaming services, influence how sound is produced, distributed, and consumed. 

We will begin by exploring theoretical readings on the nature of listening, and on the manifold cultural and political distinctions between sound and its other, “noise.” We will then turn to considerations of how race, gender, culture, and sexuality have influenced the production of music from early opera to 19th-century symphonies to modernist avant-garde music to jazz, pop, and hip-hop. We will end by examining two contemporary works that reflect on the intersections between sound, music, politics, and racial and sexual identities: St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy (2011) and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN (2017).

Section 05, Black and Indigenous Ecologies. Rasheed Tazudeen. MW 2.30-3.45.

“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.

Section 06, Freedom and Choice. Marcus Alaimo. TTh 2.30-3.45.

Is freedom in a liberal democracy best defined as the freedom to choose, as the twentieth-century economist Milton Friedman has claimed? If so, what do we – as individuals, communities, nations – do when the free choice of another prevents us from choosing freely, or vice versa? What roles do civil rights, equality and equity, and human dignity play in defining and preserving free choice? This seminar examines the way philosophers, political theorists, economists, and other writers have thought about the connection between freedom and choice in liberal democracies. We will discuss how freedom is often linked to the right to own property, but also with the creation and preservation of civil rights. We will pay particular attention to the extent to which characteristics such as race, class, and environment (both natural and social) might fall outside the realm of choice. How do such determinations alter our sense of political liberty and the existential conditions for free choice?

Section 07, Human-Animal Encounters. Anna Alber. TTh 4.00-5.15.

How do we encounter animals in our world? Does how we view and treat them say something about human nature? This course will investigate the ways in which the human encounters itself in and through the animal in order to better understand what it means for us to be “truly two.” By examining the ways in which the human has been positioned both historically and rhetorically against its human and non-human others, our course will shed light on contemporary anxieties such as artificial intelligence, technology, and the loss of authenticity. Our sites of encounter with animals both real and discursive center not only around physical and institutional spaces such as the zoo, the museum, the laboratory, and the cinema, but also areas of human knowledge such as biology, philosophy, literature, and film.

Section 08, Imagining the Cold War. Sean Blink. TTh 2.30-3.45.

What do we talk about when we talk about the Cold War? The hideous calculus of mutual assured destruction? Proxy wars in far-off lands? Secret agents plying their nefarious trade? The Cold War may have ended nearly thirty years ago, but its legacy remains with us. In 2019, with the specter of a new Cold War haunting our politics and throwback Soviet spies on TV and movie screens, we might ask just where these ideas and images, in turns terrifying and thrilling, come from. Rather than asking “What was the Cold War?” this course considers the myriad ways, complementary and contradictory, comforting and chimerical, that artists, scientists, novelists, filmmakers, diplomats, political scientists, theologians, and musicians imagined and continue to imagine the Cold War. Along the way, we will critique the logic of nuclear warriors and ‘60s radicals, dissect foreign policy and theology with all the ruthlessness of a spymaster, and weigh the ethics of making entertainment out of an existential conflict with a body count in the millions. We will ask (predictably) if we are in a “new” Cold War and (perhaps less predictably) if a truthful depiction of a complex historical event is even possible. Finally, like interrogators working by the dim light of a single Edison bulb, we shall examine the Cold War logic that animates our own thinking, hidden like a sleeper cell in our own dark hearts. 

Section 09, The Myth of Authenticity. Maximillian Chaoulideer. MW 11.35-12.50.

What is fake and what is real? Who decides? Who cares? How do these ideas of what is authentic affect — and how are they affected by — laws, economics, and the way we view and value artworks? This course considers so-called authentic objects, practices, and selves to explore and challenge the modern pursuit of originality. Is authenticity to be found in beauty, in a social or economic function, in an idea of singularity, in a claim to truth, or perhaps in some combination of these? Our class will explore these questions with close attention to canonical essays in art theory and cultural criticism, literature, film, as well as case studies of “inauthentic” phenomena. Throughout the course you will be honing your own academic voice as you develop skills as a critical reader, incisive writer and confident speaker.

Section 10, Unplugged. Alison Coleman. TTh 9.00-10.15.

What does it mean to unplug, whether for an hour, a day, or longer? Is it a way of disconnecting from society? Of reconnecting with the world around you? In this course, we will explore the contradictions and tensions inherent in any discussion of unplugging—a practice that is, by turns, a luxury for the few and a reality for the masses. We will look at how technology can spur communication but also how it can lead to a breakdown in understanding. We will examine how being plugged in can benefit people (e.g., fostering closeness across distances) as well as how it can harm them (e.g., altering child development, creating new channels for bullying). We will read texts by authors past and present who have sought to unplug, even before unplugging really existed, and by those who advocate for greater connectivity. We will consider a wide range of cases and interpretations of (dis)connecting—from school systems to religious communities to musicians to gamers—and we will grapple with the conundrum of #unplugged as a hashtag.

Your participation in this course is both an investigation of the topic and a personal experiment. Throughout the semester, you will undertake regular assignments that require you to unplug and then to reflect on the experience. You will have the chance to test the waters of conducting research without the internet, exploring both the challenges and the unexpected discoveries that doing so entails. In class field trips and in visits by guest speakers, you will get to know the Yale campus unencumbered by devices, and you will learn how scholars and researchers in disciplines from the humanities to the sciences to the social sciences unplug at work and beyond. Being plugged in is, for most of us, an inescapable part of daily life, but together we’ll ask ourselves to cultivate greater mindfulness about its role in our lives.

Section 11, Moral Revolutions. Peter Conroy. MW 4.00-5.15.

How does moral progress happen? Is it piecemeal, slow, and organic—or does it come about suddenly, when a set of apparently vital social practices face objections, falter, and die off? How does one generation’s common sense come to seem strange or even absurd to the next? In this class, we’ll consider how those questions have been answered by some of the most important modern theories of morality, motivation, and social reform (e.g. utilitarianism, Kantianism, Marxism). We’ll also consider a few historical examples of moral progress, including the end of the slave trade, women’s liberation, and the animal welfare movement. Do such upheavals in the history of morals conform to a shared pattern? Can we infer from them a general account of what motivates people to change their behavior? Throughout, we’ll ask whether and how our inquiries into the past illuminate the present. What moral revolutions are we living through today? How could we intervene in them more effectively? Spanning disciplines and genres, our readings will include works by J.S. Mill, Karl Marx, Peter Singer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Michelle Alexander, and J.M. Coetzee.

Section 12, Telling Stories. Craig Eklund. TTh 11.35-12.50.

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. 

Section 13, Telling Stories. Craig Eklund. TTh 1.00-2.15.

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. 

Section 14, Interrogating Genius. Maria del Mar Galindo. MW 4.00-5.15.

What is genius? What is its relationship to intelligence, creativity, effort, collaboration, and discipline? Is genius innate, or cultivated? How do groundbreaking artistic achievements and great leaps forward in scientific and intellectual inquiry actually happen? Is any genius truly solitary? What kinds of labor are required to support the work of “lone genius,” and can foundational breakthroughs be separated from this labor? How do we decide who is a genius—and who gets excluded from this category—and what kinds of stories do we tell about them? In this course, we will investigate how discovery, innovation, and creativity take place, and explore how community, politics, culture, and fantasy inform narratives about genius, a concept to which we give so much importance. In the context of our work in the classroom and college learning, we will ask whether the category of “the genius” informs, enriches, or impoverishes our attempts to undertake inspiring and nourishing pursuits.

Section 15, On Beauty. Rosemary Jones. MW 11.35-12.50.

Beauty captivates and attracts, and even sometimes repels. Beauty has challenged thinkers both ancient and modern to describe and account for its place in our lives. The quest for beauty may inspire us to think in new and creative ways, or entice us to follow beauty’s lure to darker places. How do we “see” and in what ways does beauty matter? Does it propel us forwards or obfuscate our view of reality? In this course we will explore questions about 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 visit the Yale Art Gallery and/or the British Art Centre with a readiness to look at art, though no background in art history is expected. Once students have learned how to recognize and use the key elements of argument, they will have the opportunity to follow individual lines of enquiry into different worlds of beauty. Course readings include work by John Berger, Susan Bordo, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Elaine Scarry.

Section 16, The Logistics of Climate Change. Timothy Kreiner. TTh 11.35-12.50.

According to the most recent climate report from the UN, we need to decouple economic growth from fossil fuels by 2030 to avoid catastrophic global warming. Yet as every new pipeline and fracking site attests, economic growth as we know it depends on burning more fossil fuels, not less. Economists, scientists, theorists, engineers, activists, and lawmakers alike thus face a cascading series of dilemmas: How do we save the planet while providing everyone on it with what they need to thrive? Why is the pace of climate change quickening alongside the emergence of supposedly post-industrial economies in the developed world while the consequences of global warming fall unevenly upon developing nations? And what can we do about that pace amid growing social inequity today? This class surveys two sweeping transformations of social life in recent decades to grasp those dilemmas. Climate change, we will wager, can’t be understood apart from the logistics revolution that made globalization possible: The massive freeway systems, ports, microprocessors, algorithms, mines, and container ships transporting goods and money from one corner of the globe to another. Along the way we will tarry with current debates over the Green New Deal as well as the uneven racial and gender dynamics governing who lives how in a world arranged by the logistics revolution driving climate change today.

Section 17, Must We Be What We Eat? Scarlet Luk. TTh 9.00-10.15.

How deep is the relationship between the food we eat and the people that we become? The adage that you “are” what you eat is repeated ad nauseum in wellbeing campaigns and parental admonition, but how literally can we take it as an expression of our personhood? This course will introduce you to thinking critically about food and will grapple with complex questions about how, where, why, and who we eat – and what they say about our lot in the world. Why do food taboos exist, and what, if any, differences exist when they are inscribed in doctrine or subconsciously honored in our food rituals and practices? Does your favorite blueberry pancake mixture not only contain no real blueberries but also a legacy of racism? Are your brunch strawberries responsible for getting someone deported? What might constitute the queer pleasures of eating and cooking? And what happens when we realize that we, too, can and will be food for others?

Throughout our semester, we will attempt to understand what certain foods and their constellation of attendant practices and attitudes say about who we are. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which both food and writing on food produce intersectional histories, complicit with and resisting colonial violence, globalization, class struggle, anthropocentrism and gender inequality among others. And by appreciating and critiquing the writing of our authors – who invest their writing with panache as delectable as the foods we love – we will also become more conscientious consumers and producers of writing.

Section 18, Medicine and the Arts. Shu-han Luo. TTh 1.00-2.15.

What if we reverse the popular lament of the arts and humanities “dying,” by exploring how artistic pursuits have supported health and healing, illuminating life on the brink of survival? This course explores intersections of art and medicine across time — how words, rhythms, and imagination rise or falter in the gravity of living. We will consider the rhetoric of medicine for how it frames the human body and opens up layered issues surrounding mortality, fallibility, and empathy. What is the relationship between individual stories and public perceptions of illness? How does medical authority intersect with cultural-religious beliefs? How might illness change the goals of one’s art, and what do we seek in it — imagination, agency, alternate relationships to time? Can art really serve to heal, and in what ways can the work of medicine itself be considered an art? Readings for this class draw on the disciplines of literature, art history, music, disability studies, media studies, the history of medicine and neuroscience. In addition to the themes above, we will use these works to motivate ongoing discussions about the stakes of language and the intersections of science and the arts.

Section 19, Divine Punishment: Health and Religion in America. Meredith Ringel-Ensley. MW 9.00-10.15.

“I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup.” – Gwyneth Paltrow

What do Gwyneth Paltrow, faith healers, and the inventor of graham crackers have in common? All of them have promoted their own approaches to health and wellness through unconventional and anti-establishment methods. And, at one time or another, all have been accused of supporting pseudoscience. But some people swear by fad diets and aromatherapy the way that some believe in the power of prayer – and they say that science is on their side. This course will examine the ways in which modern health and wellness movements have adopted the languages of both science and religion, and ask where we draw the line between medicine and personal beliefs about spirituality and morality. Can yoga classes and clean eating make you a better person? Is it ethical for parents to refuse vaccinating their children on religious grounds? Is it a moral imperative for mothers to breast-feed their babies? Course readings will draw from a variety of genres, including essays, journal articles, memoirs, interviews, and documentary film. Throughout the semester, students will grapple with these and other questions as we investigate the connections between our ideas about health, ethics, spirituality, and organized religion.

Section 20, How to Play Video Games. Shayne McGregor. TTh 2.30-3.45.

What is a video game? How have the various sociohistorical, technological, cultural, and political conditions of the late twentieth century shaped the “video game” as we have come to know it today? How can learning about these factors enrich our video gaming experience and what can video games teach us about our present social environment? In this course, we will, among other things, explore the technological origins of video games and discuss the formation of gaming cultures. We will investigate the video game’s shifting status as a work of art and consider the impact of minoritized groups on the development of gaming culture and video games more generally. We will engage these questions through a variety of academic disciplines including cultural studies, history, gender studies, black studies, literary criticism, computer science, technology studies, sociology, and philosophy.

Section 21, Modern Metropolis. Pam Newton. TTh 1.00-2.15.

What makes a city great? How can we build communities on a large scale without fostering inequality and injustice? What do we most want from our cities, and what do our cities tell us about ourselves? In this course, we will investigate these and other questions through our study of texts about city life in a variety of disciplines, including sociology, history, urban ethnography, and political science, as well as through cultural artifacts, such as newspaper articles, photographs, and film/television clips. Our final unit will focus on literary non-fiction, looking at personal essays about city life. Keeping our own urban experiences in mind throughout, we will engage with these materials in order to explore the changing nature of the world’s cities, continually asking ourselves what are the greatest gifts and the greatest challenges the modern metropolis offers. Along the way, we will investigate a number of constructs within urban studies, including city planning/design, architecture, public policy, the intersection between race and class, and the city as a conduit for personal discovery.

Section 22, The Politics of Museums. Ben Pokross. MW 1.00-2.15.

Museums are everywhere in American society, with approximately 850 million people visiting cultural institutions across the United States every year. But what is a museum? And whom is it for? To answer these questions, this course will look at the work of art historians imagining what museums are and could be, sociologists investigating how museum-goers see, and historians tracing the legacy of protest against major American museums. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the world-class museums on Yale’s campus and to examine the work of artists thinking critically about the relation of their work to institutions. Throughout the semester we will consider museums as central sites for debates over class, race, disability, and representation in contemporary culture. 

Section 23, The Racial Imaginary. Helen Rubinstein. TTh 4.00-5.15.
Race is a story. This is why it is often called a social construct—an invented idea, a fiction—even as it is a fiction so powerful it shapes the realities of our histories, social systems, and daily lives. What happens when, as one contributor to the Racial Imaginary anthology writes, our imaginations are “riddled with the stories racism built”? How can an act of imagination, as expressed in a painting, sitcom, or poem, do harm—or help? This course examines the role of race in the life of the mind, with particular attention to the consequences of U.S. conceptions of race as represented in contemporary texts. How can we resist internalizing racist narratives? Where did these narratives come from, and how can we shift the discourse? We will read widely and variously, across history, education, literature, psychology, and the arts, in an attempt to address such questions.

Section 24, “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”: Baseball and the American Century. Alex Reider. MW 9.00-10.15.

What does baseball tell us about the world we live in – and the world we (think we) used to live in? Baseball is still known as the “national pastime,” but it doesn’t always seem that way in today’s increasingly global sports landscape. So how good a barometer is baseball for understanding America and its interactions with the wider world? While we think about these questions in the context of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we will tackle topics such as nostalgia, gender, racism, colonialism, and economics – in addition to reading some classic writing on baseball. In other words, we will think critically about baseball, which is different from criticizing baseball (which some of our readings also do). But no one criticizes something without first thinking it’s important. How and why, then, is baseball important?

Section 25, Pleasure. J Kirkland Rice. TTh 2.30-3.45.

What can a focus on enjoyment teach us about how we think about our bodies, identities, and desires? Is it possible to interrogate the art (e.g. visual art, performance), media (e.g. video games, memes), and activities (e.g. travel, hobbies, sex) we enjoy without ruining our experience of them? In this writing seminar, we will explore these questions through readings from a range of academic disciplines, including but not limited to cultural studies, psychology, philosophy, history, anthropology, and literary criticism. In our collective exploration of pleasure, among other topics we will ponder identity-based marketing in the travel industry and think about desire and representation in recent music videos and in our daily lives. Can what we do for fun teach us something fundamental about how we understand our identities?

Section 26, Beautiful People: Myths, Models, Makeovers. Sophia Richardson. MW 1.00-2.15.

Rigorous controlled experiments have now confirmed what has always intuitively seemed true: being beautiful has its advantages. But how do we define, identify, and recognize beauty? Why do we seek it out? Why must we strive so hard to achieve it? And why does it often have such an ugly underbelly?

This course will examine culturally and historically contingent ways of defining beauty. We will examine how constructs of racialized, classed, and gendered attributes at different historical moments factor into what counts as beautiful, fashionable, or desirable. We also will parse the values and ideals promoted by our own moment through a wide variety of selections from recent pop-culture and mass-media campaigns: music videos (e.g.: Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts,” Ed Sheeran’s “Beautiful People”), reality TV clips and promotions (America’s Next Top Model, Nip/Tuck), Instagram trends (#iweigh, #freethepuff), and advertisements for cosmetics and clothing (Aerie’s “real” campaign, Dove’s “real beauty,” Sephora’s “We Belong to Something Beautiful”). Nonfiction articles, book chapters, and documentary clips on the globalized beauty industry (cosmetics, plastic surgery) will offer critical and theoretical lenses to consider where and how beauty works. This course’s multi-disciplinary approach will encourage students to engage with fields including cultural studies, media studies, philosophy, art history, history of medicine, women’s and gender studies, African-American studies, and disability studies.

Section 27, Telling the Truth. Barbara Riley. MW 9.00-10.15.

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 and writers, do we become trustworthy?

Section 28, Divine Punishment: Health and Religion in America. Meredith Ringel-Ensley. MW 1.00-2.15.

“I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup.” – Gwyneth Paltrow

What do Gwyneth Paltrow, faith healers, and the inventor of graham crackers have in common? All of them have promoted their own approaches to health and wellness through unconventional and anti-establishment methods. And, at one time or another, all have been accused of supporting pseudoscience. But some people swear by fad diets and aromatherapy the way that some believe in the power of prayer – and they say that science is on their side. This course will examine the ways in which modern health and wellness movements have adopted the languages of both science and religion, and ask where we draw the line between medicine and personal beliefs about spirituality and morality. Can yoga classes and clean eating make you a better person? Is it ethical for parents to refuse vaccinating their children on religious grounds? Is it a moral imperative for mothers to breast-feed their babies? Course readings will draw from a variety of genres, including essays, journal articles, memoirs, interviews, and documentary film. Throughout the semester, students will grapple with these and other questions as we investigate the connections between our ideas about health, ethics, spirituality, and organized religion.

Section 29, Censorship and the Arts. Timothy Robinson. TTh 4.00-5.15.

What is obscenity?  What right does a government have to control artistic freedom?  Can we offer more specific criteria and recommendations than Justice Potter Stewart’s 1964 Supreme Court finding about pornography, “I know it when I see it”?

This writing seminar will focus upon the ongoing debate about the function and effect of censorship and the arts.  The course will treat First Amendment court cases from recent times, as well as a variety of arguments expressing a range of opinions, from those of  Plato to Tipper Gore.  Assignments will include critical readings and written responses to this crucial dialogue about free expression.

Section 30, Who Is an African American? Cera Smith. MW 1.00-2.15.

Given that United States demographics are constantly in flux, is it clear who counts as “African American”?  Has it ever been clear?  What causes the category to be a contested one?  When do the descendants of enslaved Africans born in the U.S., recent African migrants to the U.S., and Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latinx migrants to the U.S. qualify for, accept, or reject this label?  What factors influence self-identification and out-group categorization? 

In this writing seminar, we will evaluate the shifting meanings and applications of “African American” as a political identity category.  Drawing on a range of scholarly fields—including critical race and Black studies, history, political science, sociology, statistics, and literary and cultural studies—will allow us to investigate how and why racialized ethnic categories come into existence as well as how “African American” identity plays a central role in the U.S. social landscape.  Through our writings and in-class discussions, we will explore the relationship between language, power, and identity, asking along the way how debates over African American identity impact other American identity groups.

Section 31, The Real World of Food. Barbara Stuart. TTh 11.35-12.50.

This section will begin with a close examination of the Farm Bill, the omnibus legislation that largely controls food and farming in this country. In spite of its reach, the Farm Bill is an almost invisible piece of legislation. (How often does the president or any politician mention food or farming?) We will discuss whether or not our food system is broken and which fixes are politically, environmentally, and economically feasible. Among the topics considered: Has industrial agriculture failed us? What can be done about our food system’s contributing to pollution, ruining our soil, and depleting our water supplies? If food in our nation is cheap and plentiful, why are so many Americans hungry? And why is it that those who go hungry may suffer from obesity and diabetes? Should everyone in the United States have access to nutritious, affordable food? We will discuss how to effect changes in our food system that can benefit most Americans.

Section 32, Shaping Voices. Melissa Tu. MW 2.30-3.45.

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 a range of philosophical, literary, and musicological readings as well as compositions of music and dance, this course will examine how we recognize – or decide – whether something constitutes a voice, and 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, musical instruments, animals, machines, objects, and the divine. 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? 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.

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

Section 33, Earth, Sky, Stardust: Humans and the Cosmos. Sarah Weston. TTh 1.00-2.15.

Are we alone in the universe? And—if we are alone—why are we alone? Contemplating our place in the cosmos forces us to rethink the human condition: what it means to be alive and to be with others—how we alienate each other and how we long for connection. This course explores the philosophical, ecological, political, and aesthetic valences of the cosmos. Space is a place of discovery—a site of human striving, resilience, and ingenuity—but it is also a place of isolation, disconnection, and even violence. Space is an escape. It is a frequent place of fantasy projection, as well as a “Plan B” we dream of when we are anxious about climate change and the sustainability of living on earth. But where should our priorities be in the Anthropocene—at home, or in the stars? Is space the place where the sciences and the humanities can meet? This writing seminar will help you build strong skills in researching, constructing arguments, and writing. Your final assignment will, in part, ask you to think along the lines of the Voyager Golden Records and pick 20-30 “artifacts” that you would send into space to encapsulate humanity.

Section 34, Nature and Healing. Helen Yang. MW 1.00-2.15.

What is healing about Nature? What are the things for which we seek healing? What is the “Nature” that we refer to when talking about its therapeutic qualities? In this course, we will explore these questions through an interdisciplinary approach. Nature is often held up as therapeutic and curative in our sociocultural imagination. From architectural designs of hospitals that seek to bring in elements of the natural environment, to writing about one’s walk out in the woods to capture a sense of well-being and fulfillment, the range of interconnections between health and Nature is vast. In talking about the healing qualities of Nature, we will also grapple with the definition of Nature itself, and the distinction between nature and Nature. What do we mean when we say that we go out to Nature? Does a tuft of weed growing through the cracks of the sidewalk count as Nature? How about an idyllic, rolling farmland that produces excess runoff, and was created by deforestation? What are we expecting from such encounters?

ENGL 115, Literature Seminars.

Exploration of major themes in selected works of literature. Individual sections focus on topics such as war, justice, childhood, sex and gender, the supernatural, and the natural world. Emphasis on the development of writing skills and the analysis of fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction prose. Preregistration required; see under English Department.

Section 01, Good Literature. Ryan Wepler. MW 11.35-12.50.

Can reading good literature make you a good person? Does encountering art that challenges your certainties, broadens your experience, and probes the limits of existence make you more sensitive to your own personhood and the humanity of others? In this course we will consider what makes literature good and how good literature moves us. Our collective goal will not just be to produce a theory of good literature, but to experience its goodness, to develop your capacity to be moved by a literary work and reflect on what happened to you during that process. Readings range from popular successes to great masterpieces and include: Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf), As I Lay Dying (Faulkner); short fiction and excerpts by Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Flannery O’Connor, O Henry, Jorge Luis Borges, Kurt Vonnegut, Karen Russell, George Saunders, and E. L. James; selected poetry; and one of the Harry Potter films.

Section 02, Mayday 2020: Literature and Social Movements. Timothy Kreiner. TTh 2.30-3.45.

May 1, 2020 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the infamous Mayday rally at Yale, during which two bombs exploded in the middle of a rock concert in Ingalls rink just days before the start of jury selection for the New Haven Black Panther Trials. Organized in part by the poet Allen Ginsberg at the height of the antiwar, Women’s Liberation, and Black Power Movements, Mayday at Yale offers a useful window onto a crucial period of social turmoil. This course will take that turmoil as a jumping off point for a wider-ranging investigation of some key questions that still haunt literary studies today: Must literature mirror things as they are? Or can literature play an active part in social politics? Does literature become propaganda when it tries to do so? How have the goals and status of politically engaged literature evolved over the twentieth and early twenty-first century? Ranging across a variety of texts, we will consider the politically charged relationship between literature and social movements by closely examining how such questions emerge across literary genres and historical traditions. In addition to exploring the Mayday at Yale archives in the Beinecke, we will consider work by writers such as Kathy Acker, Amiri Baraka, Bruce Boone, Toni Cade Bambara, Allen Ginsberg, Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, Claudia Rankine, Ishmael Reed, Adrienne Rich, and Wendy Trevino.

Section 03, Cancelled.

Section 04, Failures and Disappointments. Lukas Moe. MW 2.30-3.45.

“Fail again, fail better,” wrote Samuel Beckett. In spite of our best efforts, we are constantly failing: to understand; to see the meaning of something; to get what we want, or get it just right. Perhaps just as often we are disappointed—by other people, by the weather, by politics, by ourselves. As ways of making sense of life, failure and disappointment inform central literary themes: love, ambition, fantasy, and struggle. Representing such experiences as our own, poetry and fiction reshape our imagination of what they mean and how they feel, in a range of styles and moods, from the epic to the everyday.

Is the world fallen? Is true love impossible? In our contemporary culture of success and mockery (#epicfail), are we doomed to chagrin? In works from John Milton’s Paradise Lost to contemporary authors such as Sheila Heti and Rachel Cusk, this course considers why we can’t stop thinking and writing about our incapacities and shortcomings, individual and collective, and the ways of expressing ourselves we pursue as a result. Primary focuses will be works of social disappointment, such as Edith Wharton; of political disillusion, such as Ann Petry’s novel of postwar African-American life, The Street; of unrealized fantasy, from John Keats to Wallace Stevens; and modernism’s fixation on the failure of language altogether.

Section 05, Refugees, Refuge, and the Forcibly Displaced in Western Literature. Justin Park. TTh 11.35-12.50.

The UN’s agency on refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are currently over 68.5 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide, 25.4 million of whom are refugees. These numbers are set to increase as environmental, economic, and political structures are continually and ever more severely destabilized.

There is a corresponding rise in the West in the production of and interest in literature which engages the figure of the refugee and the forcibly displaced. Anxieties about the porous borders of self and nation swirl and coalesce around these figures, as do the ethical systems that prescribe the relation and obligation between self and other. So much is projected onto these lives. So much hinges on their stories. Who can write and who should write about them? Far from a modern phenomenon, these figures have a long history in the Western canon: from Greek drama and Latin epic’s fascination with the refugees from Troy, to Old English elegies’ meditations on exile, all the way to contemporary Anglophone novels and poetry with their exploration of globalized flows of displacement. This course will examine how the figures of the refugee and the forcibly displaced occupy, provoke, and reshape the literary imagination. We will explore what expectations are placed on refugees and refugee literature. Must they be grateful, productive, and cheerfully assimilated? Must the literature always tell us of good people unjustly afflicted? What is refuge and can it ever become home? And, finally, we will ask how literature itself may serve as refuge or as another step on a journey of displacement.

Section 06, Novel Technologies. Anna Shechtman. TTh 2.30-3.45.

The history of communications technology is marked by momentous births and brutal deaths: “Television kills telephony,” James Joyce wrote in Finnegan’s Wake, fifty years before “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Since the early 18th century, the novel has both participated in and documented the history of technology, and this course pursues both aspects of the novel’s role in this trajectory. First, we will interrogate the novel as a technology (for the production of fiction, most literally, but also as a means of communicating empathy, ideology, and critique). Second, we will explore how authors from Ralph Ellison to Jennifer Egan have adapted the novel to document and domesticate new communication technologies. Starting with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, we will trace the novel’s rise—its emergence as a new technology—and follow its competition with, and assimilation of, other novelty forms, including cinema, radio, television, and the internet. We will explore how the novel retains its novelty when fiction proliferates across media forms and platforms. Does it, after all, still merit its name?

Section 07, The Invention of Travel. Clara Wild. TTh 1.00-2.15.

What drives us to travel? Have we always traveled for the same reasons? Who gets to travel, and what experiences do they have? From Marco Polo to Anthony Bourdain, students will explore writing about and by travelers from different times and distinct culturesFrom far off places to fictive lands, the journeys we encounter in this course will help us examine how travel has been used to construct ideas of the self and others, the past and present, and how they relate to each other. Encounters with difference can also unsettle the ways in which travelers conceive of themselves and their place of origin. Authors include: Mark Twain, James Baldwin, Marco Polo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Elizabeth Bishop, E.M. Forster, and Anthony Bourdain.

ENGL 120, Reading and Writing the Modern Essay.

Close reading of great nonfiction prepares students to develop mastery of the craft of powerful writing in the humanities and in all fields of human endeavor, within the university and beyond. Study of some of the finest essayists in the English language, including James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Leslie Jamison, Jhumpa Lahiri, George Orwell, David Foster Wallace, and Virginia Woolf. Assignments challenge students to craft persuasive arguments from personal experience, to portray people and places, and to interpret fundamental aspects of modern culture. Preregistration required; see under English Department.

Section 01, Kim Shirkhani. TTh 11.35-12.50.
Section 02, Kim Shirkhani. TTh 9.00-10.15.
Section 03, Julia Chan. MW 2.30-3.45.
Section 04, Margaret Deli. MW 9.00-10.15.
Section 05, Lindsay Gellman. MW 1.00-2.15.
Section 06, Andrew Ehrgood. MW 11.35-12.50.
Section 07, David Gorin. TTh 1.00-2.15.
Section 08, Derek Green. TTh 4.00-5.15.
Section 09, Lincoln Caplan. TTh 11.35-12.50.
Section 10, Pam Newton. TTh 2.30-3.45.
Section 11, Barbara Riley. TTh 9.00-10.15.
Section 12, Madeleine Saraceni. TTh 11.35-12.50.
Section 13, Madeleine Saraceni. TTh 1.00-2.15.
Section 14, Adam Sexton. TTh 1.00-2.15.
Section 15, Barbara Stuart. TTh 2.30-3.45.
Section 16, James Surowiecki. MW 11.35-12.50.

ENGL 123, Introduction to Creative Writing.

Introduction to the writing of fiction, poetry, and drama. Development of the basic skills used to create imaginative literature. Fundamentals of craft and composition; the distinct but related techniques used in the three genres. Story, scene, and character in fiction; sound, line, image, and voice in poetry; monologue, dialogue, and action in drama. Preregistration required; see under English Department.

Section 01, Richard Deming. TTh 11.35-12.50.
Section 02, Derek Green. TTh 11.35-12.50.
Section 03, Emily Skillings. TTh 11.35-12.50.
Section 04, R. Clifton Spargo. TTh 11.35-12.50.

ENGL 125, Readings in English Poetry I.

Introduction to the English literary tradition through close reading of select poems from the seventh through the seventeenth centuries. Emphasis on developing skills of literary interpretation and critical writing; diverse linguistic and social histories; and the many varieties of identity and authority in early literary cultures. Readings may include Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, Middle English lyrics, The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, and poems by Isabella Whitney, Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare, Amelia Lanyer, John Donne, and George Herbert, among others. Preregistration required; see under English Department.

Section 01, Lawrence Manley. MW 1.00-2.15.
Section 02, David Bromwich. TTh 9.00-10.15.

ENGL 126, Readings in English Poetry II.

Introduction to the English literary tradition through close reading of select poems from the eighteenth century through the present. Emphasis on developing skills of literary interpretation and critical writing; diverse genres and social histories; and modernity’s multiple canons and traditions. Authors may include Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop, and Derek Walcott, among others. Preregistration required; see under English Department.

Section 01, Leslie Brisman. MW 2.30-3.45.
Section 02, Joseph North. TTh 11.35-12.50.

ENGL 127, Readings in American Literature.

Introduction to the American literary tradition in a variety of poetic and narrative forms and in diverse historical contexts. Emphasis on developing skills of literary interpretation and critical writing; diverse linguistic and social histories; and the place of race, class, gender, and sexuality in American literary culture. Authors may include Phillis Wheatley, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Flannery O’Connor, Alan Ginsberg, Chang-Rae Lee, and Toni Morrison, among others. Preregistration required; see under English Department.

Section 01, Michael Warner. TTh 9.00-10.15.
Section 02, Alanna Hickey. MW 1.00-2.15.
Section 03, Caleb Smith. TTh 2.30-3.45.
Section 04, Sunny Xiang. TTh 11.35-12.50.

ENGL 128, Readings in Comparative World English Literatures.

An introduction to the literary traditions of the Anglophone world in a variety of poetic and narrative forms and historical contexts. Emphasis on developing skills of literary interpretation and critical writing; diverse linguistic, cultural and racial histories; and on the politics of empire and liberation struggles. Authors may include Daniel Defoe, Mary Prince, J. M. Synge, James Joyce, C. L. R. James, Claude McKay, Jean Rhys, Yvonne Vera, Chinua Achebe, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, J. M. Coetzee, Brian Friel, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, Alice Munro, Derek Walcott, and Patrick White, among others. Preregistration required; see under English Department.

Section 01, Joe Cleary. TTh 11.35-12.50.
Section 02, Cajetan Iheka. TTh 1.00-2.15.
Section 03, Priyasha Mukhopadhyay. MW 2.30-3.45.

ENGL 129, Tragedy in the European Literary Tradition.

The genre of tragedy from its origins in ancient Greece and Rome through the European Renaissance to the present day. Themes of justice, religion, free will, family, gender, race, and dramaturgy. Works include Homer’s Iliad and plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Seneca, Shakespeare, Racine, Ibsen, Chekhov, Brecht, Beckett, and Soyinka. Focus on textual analysis and on developing the craft of persuasive argument through writing. Preregistration required; see under English Department.

Section 01, Greg Ellermann. TTh 1.00-2.15.
Section 02, Emily Ulrich. MW 11.35-12.50.

Questions? Contact erica.sayers@yale.edu or jane.bordiere@yale.edu, or call 203 432-2224.