SURVEY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE II
Americans are in the midst of debate and soul-searching, protest and backlash, accusations and apologies, confrontations and violence, regarding race, the legacy of slavery, entrenched inequalities before the law, and economic inequities grounded in race and ethnicity. Not since the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s have issues of race and racism been so prominent in public discourse and political argument.
The traditional purview of this course is the history of American literature after the Civil War. In light of the current ferment in American society and of the fact that the Civil War brought an end to slavery but not to racism and racial inequality, this semester we will focus on a series of major works of fiction and nonfiction, by African American and white
writers, that attempt to excavate and illuminate the promise of equality and the ordeal of inequality in the century and a half since the Emancipation Proclamation.
Primary texts: Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Nella Larsen, Quicksand; William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time; Toni Morrison, Jazz.
CRITICAL THEORY: FOUNDATIONS AND PRACTICES
Starting from the tension between Marx and Weber, the seminar will explore debates and developments that inform critical theory today, focused around salient conflicts in modern and contemporary thought:
(1) How do conflicting paradigms of society as system (Luhmann), as norm-governed institutions (Habermas), as symbolic-institutional habitus and practices (Bourdieu), or as actor-networks (Latour) bear on interdisciplinary research? (2) How to conceptualize the aesthetic and ethical dimensions of everyday life in contemporary affluent societies (Bourdieu, Sloterdijk, Habermas, Fraser, Crenshaw, Ngai)? (3) How does the Anthropocene, as concept and actuality, open concepts of the human, nature, and technology to new questioning (Chakrabarty, Latour, Sloterdijk, Descola, Arendt, Morton, Colebrook, Jonas)?
Texts: Garth and Mills (eds.), From Max Weber (Oxford); Peter Sloterdijk, You Must Change Your Life (Polity); Pierre Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations (Stanford); Philippe Descola, The Ecology of Others (Prickly Paradigm).
Excerpts and essays by Marx, Jürgen Habermas, Niklas Luhmann, Bruno Latour, Nancy Fraser, Kimberle Crenshaw, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Sianne Ngai, Hans Jonas, Timothy Morton, Claire Colebrook, and others will be provided via Blackboard.
THEORY OF LYRIC
The Lyric Theory Reader: A Critical Anthology, ed. Virginia Jackson and Yopie Prins (2014) and Jonathan Culler’s Theory of the Lyric (2015) will be used to survey a wide range of theoretical and interpretive approaches to poetry. Poems from various literary periods will be discussed in conjunction with the theoretical readings. Students will develop a semester project on a poet of their choosing through whose work they can test and contest, amplify and enrich, theories of lyric encountered in the course of the seminar.