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ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
Undergraduate Introductory Course Offerings Spring 2020
Students who wish to enroll in a section of these seminars should participate in online preregistration, from 9:00 a.m. on Friday, December 6 until 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 8.
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, 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 02, 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 03, 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 04, Freedom and Choice. Marcus Alaimo. TTh 1.00-2.15.
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 05, Progress and Its Critics. Peter Conroy. TTh 11.35-12.50.
“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 how well these theories explain a few historical examples of moral progress, including the abolition 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? Our readings will include works by Martin Luther King Jr., Peter Singer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Michelle Alexander, and J.M. Coetzee.”
Section 06, Gossip, Scandal, and Celebrity. Margaret Deli. TTh 9.00-10.15.
In a society as obsessed with celebrity as ours is today, what does the urge to gossip tell us about where we live and who we are—as a nation, as a community, and as people? In this ENGL 114 course, we’ll ask ourselves why certain names, faces, and bodies are elevated above others, and how we participate in the performance of celebrity. We’ll think about gossip and scandal: not just as a means of policing human behavior, but as two different strategies for protecting the less powerful. And we’ll consider how social media has definitively altered the conception and consumption of fame. In other words, this is a class that celebrates and scrutinizes Instagram, web apps, and all things Kardashian, which will touch on topics as diverse as anthropology, sociology, art history, and media studies. Along the way, we’ll tackle the following questions: Are gossip, scandal, and celebrity fundamentally frivolous? Or can they also benefit society? And how can they best be employed in our contemporary moment?
Section 07, (Re)Defining Family. Alison Coleman. TTh 2.30-3.45.
What is family? Who can or cannot constitute a family? How do external forces—ranging from war to social media to the economy—affect families around the globe today? And why have so many writers throughout the ages, whether comedian or critic, philosopher or politician, been inspired to take up the topic? In this writing seminar, we will examine the institution and the concept of family through a range of scholarly lenses including history, law, literature, psychology, and sociology. Taking our cue from the signs and symbols of family that proliferate in the world around us, a selection of academic texts on the subject, and our own experiences as well as the lives of those around us, we will deconstruct the term “family” in an effort to analyze its many facets and implications. Through our writings and in our class discussions, we will ask: How do I define family—and how does family define me?
Section 08, The Myth of Authenticity. Maximilian Chaoulideer. MW 11.35-12.50.
What is fake and what is real? Who decides? Who cares? How are these ideas of what counts as authentic shaped by laws, economic forces, and the way we view and value works of art? This course explores and challenges the modern pursuit of originality as it shows up in our ideas of nature, identity, truth, history, art, and economic value. Is authenticity to be found in beauty, economic or cultural value, tradition, uniqueness, 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. 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 09, The Politics of Museums. Ben Pokross. MW 9.00-10.15.
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 10, Sedition and Dissent. Stephanie Ranks. MW 1.00-2.15.
What do we risk when we speak out against the state? If a government or institutional authority can declare anything it doesn’t like to be seditious, is speech really free? Modern institutions, from governments to corporations to universities, have adopted “sedition” as a term of disapprobation against subjects, workers, and members who engage in protest. How does the need for a law against speech that incites social and political upheaval square with free speech values and First Amendment rights? Through contemporary theorists and historical authors, we will consider how radical speech has been punished and restricted over time. Our conversations will expand into topics as diverse as the ethics of protest, the necessity of investigative journalism, and the consequences – like charges of treason – that make “free speech” such a precarious category. We will ask who has the right to speak freely, whether speech constitutes a kind of action, and how these thorny issues translate into our current political moment. We will look at this topic through a range of lenses: literary critical, historical, legal, political. And we will ask ourselves how these questions map onto the recent explosion of free speech debates across college campuses nationwide.
Section 11, Truth and Media. Anna Shechtman. MW 4.00-5.15.
This course focuses on questions both timely—“How can news be fake?”—and timeless—“What counts as the truth?” Each of our four course units will present scenes in the history of media and technology that complicate the answers to these questions. How, for example, has Big Data revived the idea of theological omniscience that Nietzsche pronounced dead in 1882? How did atlases and encyclopedias inform the notion of “scientific objectivity” in the 19th century? How has photography and film complicated the truism, “I’ll believe it when I see it”? Focusing on these and other moments of historical certainty and doubt, we will return to contemporary debates about the role of communication technology in presenting facts (“alternative” or otherwise) to an informed public. We will end our course by questioning what type of hope, confidence or resistance we can find in a world without a solid epistemological foundation for truth.
Section 12, Shaping Voices. Melissa Tu. MW 11.35-12.50.
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 philosophy, social science, literature, and other fields of study, 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, 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.)
Section 13, Nature and Healing. Helen Yang. TTh 4.00-5.15.
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?
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, What is Popular Culture? Clio Doyle. MW 2.30-3.45.
From medieval stories about King Arthur to gory Elizabethan revenge dramas to summer blockbusters and superheroes, popular culture has always set out to thrill and shock. We will ask what makes a work popular, and what “popular” even means.
Section 02, Writing Exile. Karin Gosselink. TTh 11.35-12.50.
What is human identity? Who are we when everything that shapes us—our homes, our families, our friends, our work—has been suddenly stripped away? These are the central questions posed by the literature of exile. We will read a mix of classic and contemporary literature as we explore what we lose and gain in leaving home, becoming strangers, and making our way in new lands. Readings include a Shakespeare play (King Lear); short stories by Anton Chekhov, Edwidge Danticat and Jhumpa Lahiri; essays by Edward Said, Hamid Naficy, and Bharati Mukherjee; poetry by Ovid, Julia Alvarez, Warsan Shire and Agha Shahid Ali; novels by Vladimir Nabokov and Aleksandar Hemon; a graphic memoir by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), and a film (The Grand Budapest Hotel).
Section 03, Clones and Copies. Sophia Richardson. MW 1.00-2.15.
Does being a dually diasporic person—both “Black” and “Latinx”—impact how U.S.-based Afro-Latinx people relate to themselves, their families, and local and global communities? This course explores the complexities of identity, migration, language, and power represented in Afro-Latinx literatures.
Section 04, U.S. Afro-Latinx Literatures. Cera Smith. TTh 1.00-2.15.
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, Shifra Sharlin. MW 9.00-10.15.
Section 02, Felisa Baynes-Ross. MW 2.30-3.45.
Section 03, Margaret Deli. MW 1.00-2.15.
Section 04, Trina Hyun. TTh 11.35-12.50.
Section 05, Rosemary Jones. MW 11.35-12.50.
Section 06, Pam Newton. TTh 1.00-2.15.
Section 07, Lindsay Gellman. TTh 1.00-2.15.
Section 08, Barbara Stuart. TTh 2.30-3.45.
Section 09, Emily Ulrich. TTh 11.35-12.50.
A seminar and workshop in the conventions of good writing in a specific field. Each section focuses on one academic or professional kind of writing and explores its distinctive features through a variety of written and oral assignments, in which students both analyze and practice writing in the field. Section topics, which change yearly, are listed at the beginning of each term on the English departmental website. This course may be repeated for credit in a section that treats a different genre or style of writing; may not be repeated for credit toward the major. Preregistration required; see under English Department.
Prerequisite: ENGL 114, 115, 120, or another writing-intensive course at Yale. ENGL 121 may be repeated for credit in a section that treats a different genre or style of writing; may not be repeated for credit toward the major.
Section 01, Thinking and Writing about the Law. Andrew Ehrgood. MW 11.35-12.50.
Law has an intellectual structure of its own, and the lawyers and judges who make law and interpret it have peculiar ways of imagining and talking about the world, habits of thought and expression that can mystify the nonlawyer. In this course, you will begin to learn to read and speak and write the lawyer’s language: you will learn to reason and argue in distinctively lawyerly ways about the sorts of problems that lawyers are paid to attend to. And as you acquire and become adept at this odd language, you will also evaluate it, assessing its appeal and usefulness to you as a thinker, writer, and citizen.
Section 02, Writing about Medicine and Public Health. Randi Epstein. MW 1.00-2.15.
Medical and public health stories shape the way individuals view health and disease, and coverage sometime influences scientific research or health policy. This course will give students the chance to join this conversation by writing about medicine and public health for general audiences. To do this well, students must develop a keen sense of audience as they translate complicated science, explain its ramifications, and provide historical context.
Students will write breaking news stories, blog posts, a researched feature article, and a personal essay. They may also have the chance to interview a patient from Yale-New Haven Hospital.
In class, we will analyze essays, book chapters, and news stories for craft. Students will also explore visual media to hone observational skills, and we’ll visit the Center for British Art for a workshop on observation developed for Yale medical students.
Section 03, Writing about the Past. Rona Johnston Gordon. TTh 11.35-12.50.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If history happens and no one writes about it, what have we missed? If a historian writes about history and no one wants to read it, how could that historian have done a better job?
In writing about history, you place yourself between the history and your audience. Without you, the connection is not made. But history, historian, and audience are always changing: we uncover new sources and ask new questions of old sources; the grand old men of historical scholarship are now history themselves; diverse readerships look to history for information, for inspiration, for entertainment, for identity.
In this class we will talk, read, and write about who we are when we write history and about how we can write a history – from biography to obituary, from museum guide to encyclopedia entry – that is both engaging and honest.
Section 04, Writing about Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Responsibility. Heather Klemann. TTh 1.00-2.15.
How do we put ideas about modern financial markets and corporate strategies into words and images? This course examines the art and efficacy of white papers, cases studies, investment memos, and open letters in corporate America. Each unit of the course considers assignment-specific questions: Who is the primary audience? What is the objective of the genre? What stylistic, organizational, and rhetorical practices does the genre deploy? Alongside these more customary business genres, we will consider creative journalism that brings to life the seemingly data-driven, mechanistic worlds of finance. Through workshops, readings, and in-class discussions, we will practice building concise and persuasive arguments, and, alternatively, dramatizing details, description, and dialogue to tell Wall Street stories.
Section 05, Writing about Music. Adam Sexton. TTh 1.00-2.15.
It has been said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture – and indeed, evoking melody, harmony, and rhythm with words can challenge even the most observant and eloquent among us. In this section of English 121, students will read and discuss writing on music by not only scholars and critics (e.g. Margo Jefferson and Kalefa Sanneh) but also journalists (Joan Didion and Susan Orlean), a poet (LeRoi Jones), a novelist (Jonathan Lethem), and many others. The focus will be on popular music, very broadly defined, and among the concepts to be investigated are taste and “cool.” Written assignments will include a critical review of a performance or recording, a literary essay on a musical topic, a profile of a musician, and an academic paper. The goal of the course is for students to improve their skills at observation, description, and analysis of culture.
Section 06, Cultural Critique: Style as Argument. Kim Shirkhani. TTh 11.35-12.50.
An examination of how exemplary critics, such as David Foster Wallace, Joan Didion, Eula Biss, Kelefa Sanneh, Ariel Levy, Ian Frazer, Kyoko Mori, Adam Gopnik, Henry Louis Gates, Louis Menand, Ted Conover, Amitava Kumar, Wesley Yang, Malcolm Gladwell, Roxane Gay, Eric Schlosser, and Elizabeth Kolbert, and others, use elements of style—diction, tone, narrative structure—as both a mode of investigation and a means of persuasion. Our close attention to how these writers use style as argument will help students develop crucial rhetorical skills especially in light of recent social scientific studies that have affirmed that when it comes to persuading readers on cultural issues, the emotional and experiential are at least as important as the rational or factual.
Units will be organized around readings that highlight a particular stylistic approach—critique via personal narrative, artful analyses of cultural framing (society’s narrative instinct), and more in-depth critiques that interweave personal narrative or perspective with research and analysis. Students will close read model essays for craft, research cultural objects that interest them, and craft their own cultural critiques designed to question and persuade not merely with style but by way of style.
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, Catherine Nicholson. TTh 1.00-2.15.
Section 02, Alexandra Reider. MW 2.30-3.45.
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, Naomi Levine. TTh 11.35-12.50.
Section 02, Naomi Levine. TTh 2.30-3.45.
Section 03, Anastasia Eccles. TTh 1.00-2.15.
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, Wai Chee Dimock. TTh 11.35-12.50.
Section 02, Ben Glaser. TTh 9.00-10.15.
Section 03, Alanna Hickey. MW 1.00-2.15.
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, Cajetan Iheka. MW 11.35-12.50.
Section 02, Priyasha Mukhopadhyay. MW 9.00-10.15.
The epic tradition traced from its foundations in ancient Greece and Rome to the modern novel. The creation of cultural values and identities; exile and homecoming; the heroic in times of war and of peace; the role of the individual within society; memory and history; politics of gender, race, and religion. Works include Homer’s Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Inferno, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and Joyce’s Ulysses. Focus on textual analysis and on developing the craft of persuasive argument through writing. Preregistration required; see under English Department. Preregistration required; see under English Department.
Section 01, Anastasia Eccles. TTh 2.30-3.45.
Section 02, Katja Lindskog. TTh 11.35-12.50.