101 MWF 10:00-10:50 Professor Rebecca Nowacek (online, synchronous)
Course Title: Analyzing American Culture through the American Musical
Course Description: The genre of the American musical is nearly a century old and has always offered a fascinating lens on changing attitudes towards gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and what it means to be American. This course will focus on four musicals from different historical eras: Showboat (1927), Oklahoma! (1943), Cabaret (1966), and Hamilton (2015). We’ll learn about how those musicals responded to their historical moments (channeling and sometimes challenging beliefs of the time) and discuss how subsequent productions sometimes changed substantially in new historical moments. We’ll be thinking about how issues of gender and sexuality and race and ethnicity and what it means to be American get represented in the very American genre of the musical. In short, our main activities will be close reading and critical analysis: the staples of most English courses.
This is not a course that requires that you arrive with any particular knowledge about musicals or even be a big fan of musicals. I will confess that (no surprise) I do love musicals—and if you actively dislike musicals this course may well give you a semester-long headache. Nevertheless, our focus will be on analyzing a handful of shows closely and critically, so what matters most is that you develop the knowledge and the ability to analyze musicals in their historical and cultural contexts.
103 MWF 11:00-11:50 Professor Sarah Stanley (online, synchronous)
Course Title: “Elementary, My Dear”: Detecting Fictions of “Law & Order”
Course Description: Why do we delight in stories about crimes and their culprits? Why have fictional investigators such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot attained mythic status? Why are we drawn to mysteries, and which elements are required to make their “puzzles” satisfying? What is at stake in the ways we portray cops and criminals, detectives and ne’er-do-wells? In exploring fictions about the process of “detecting,” what fictions surrounding “law and order” can we actively detect emerging within our imaginative representations of crime? Throughout this course, we will interrogate the diverse ways in which crime fictions represent questions of justice, equality-under-the-law, and social order. How do these ideals shift throughout differing eras and/or between cultures? Whom do these ideals include and protect; whom do they exclude and pathologize? Such questions will drive our discussions of classic crime thrillers ranging from the golden age detective novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, through the dark noir of the disillusioned postwar era, to more modern incarnations of the craft. Examining the cultural and historical contexts of these works, we will consider the ways in which narratives about breaking the law reinforce or subvert societal attitudes regarding which activities—and which individuals—should be protected or suppressed. We will examine the ways in which representations—of gender, race, sexuality, social class, (dis)ability, etc.—complicate the seemingly cut-and-dry nature of good guys vs. bad guys. Extending our discussions to encompass documentaries and current events, we will also examine the impacts narratives of detection have upon the lived experiences of ordinary people. Ultimately, we will attempt to understand the role that fictional portrayals of crime-and-punishment might play in our real-world assumptions about, and unequal applications of, “justice.”
Readings: Our texts will be drawn from a range of mediums, including non-fiction, poetry, short stories, novels, film and television, videogames, and comics. Possible texts include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of the Four, Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, Mat Johnson’s Incognegro, Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith, Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season, and/or Kanae Minato’s Penance. Possible films include Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective, Carl Franklin’s Devil in a Blue Dress, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, Chris Nolan’s Memento, Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, and/or Rian Johnson’s Knives Out.
Assignments: Participation in class discussions, reading responses, media analysis project, and creative project.
104 MWF 2:00-2:50 Professor Elisa Karbin (online, synchronous)
Course Title: The Contemporary Elegy
Course Description: In this course, we will look at the contemporary iterations of the elegiac tradition and explore the elegy as a poetic form rooted in the language of loss.
This course will compromise a range of elegiac works from contemporary living poets, including: Natasha Trethewey, Claudia Rankine, Jorie Graham and Danez Smith. These texts, and others, will inform our understanding of the ancient form’s contemporary presence as poetry capable of harnessing the power of loss and grief to reconcile and remember.
106 MWF 12:00-12:50 Professor Amber Strother (online, synchronous)
Course Title: More Human than Human: Figures of the Other in Science Fiction
Course Description: What does it mean to be human? How are the lines between human and nonhuman blurred in science fiction? What does the future look like for humanity? This course will engage with these questions to better understand the ways in which science fiction is a reflection of societal fears about the shifting definition of what it means to be human in the 21st century. The texts for this course will include a variety of novels, short stories, films, comics, and television episodes that focus on figures who challenge the categories of human and nonhuman such as clones, cyborgs, zombies, and aliens. By examining the cultural and historical contexts of the works, we will consider the ways in which science fiction engages with social issues involving gender, race, class, disability, and equality/inequality.
Readings: Possible texts include Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, and Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti.
109 TuTh 11:00-12:15 Professor David Kenney
Course Title: Irish Literature of Social Change
Course Description: The opening decades of the twentieth-century was an explosive time in Ireland, a time that saw dramatic political and cultural revolutions accompanied by an extraordinary literary output. This course will examine works of Irish fiction that express a variety of reactions to societal changes, some filled exhilaration over new possibilities in a changing world, others apprehensive over disappearing traditions and values. Examining works produced before, during, and after Irish independence, we will consider the unique interplay of history, culture, and art found in Irish literature, looking at authors who present a diverse array of perspectives on the costs and opportunities of civil unrest and social change.
Readings: Primary texts should include but are not limited to Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth, Cathleen ni Houlihan by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, John Bull’s Other Island by George Bernard Shaw, Juno and the Paycock by Sean O’Casey, “Guests of the Nation” by Frank O’Connor, How Many Miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnston, Translations by Brian Friel, and “The Dead” by James Joyce.
112 MWF 1:00-1:50 Professor Amber Strother (online, synchronous)
Course Title: Revolutions, Rebellions, and Uprisings: Resistance in Science Fiction
Course Description: Rebellions, revolts, and revolutions are key elements in many science fiction narratives which can inspire us to envision different futures for our own society and world. In what ways does science fiction engage with social issues and revolution? How are these fictional rebellions inspired by oppression in our own world? How are these texts a call to action for readers? This course will look at the ways in which science fiction depicts uprisings against oppressive governments, corporations, and systems and attempt to answer these questions. The texts for this course will include a variety of novels, short stories, films, comics, and television episodes that focus on rebellion against oppressive institutions. By examining the cultural and historical contexts of the works, we will also consider the ways in which science fiction engages with social issues involving gender, race, class, disability, and equality/inequality.
Readings: Possible texts include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, and Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.