Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

Seminars

03  MW5   CAC  20561   MILLER SC-204

Reading Faulkner:

It's hard to imagine how the works of William Faulkner would be received if they were just being published now. His style is lyrical, the thread of his narratives is elusive, and his uncompromising look at life in the South following the Civil War does not lend itself easily to succinct summary. His novels focus on violence, ignorance, and the brutal, perhaps even insoluble, consequences of slavery. He places his readers, without warning, into the minds of the mentally disadvantaged, the uneducated, the suicidal, the suffering and he compels his readers to dwell in these places much longer than seems reasonable.

Is it possible to read Faulkner today with pleasure? Can reading Faulkner today help us to understand the current state of politics and race relations in the United States? Would it have made a difference if high school English teachers across the country had assigned Intruder in the Dust for the past fifty years instead of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye? Can the novel, as Faulkner conceived it, make sense of an age, reveal a truth, or inspire social change?

In this seminar, we'll read a number of Faulkner's works: As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Go Down Moses (1942), The Sound and the Fury (1929) and Intruder in the Dust (1948). Assessment in the course is persistent: there will be a reading quiz at the beginning of each session. There will be two required read-aloud performances by each student. (To learn to read Faulkner, one must learn to hear and reproduce the voices in his stories; one must also be able to hear the cadences in his prose.) And there will be an extended final multimedia project designed to move Faulkner into the 21st century. (If you can embed an image in a Google doc, you have the minimum technical skills necessary to complete the final project.)

If you enjoy the writing style of Toni Morrison or Gabriel Garcia Marquez or if you would like to learn how to, this will be a good seminar for you. If you prefer character development and clearly plotted stories, you should probably seek out another seminar. My assumption is that, in registering for this class, you're signaling your commitment to come to every class having done the reading. If that's not your way, you should definitely look elsewhere; the only way to learn how to read Faulkner is to, well, read him.

01   MW5   CAC   19972   ROBOLIN   MU-115

Over the last 15 years, African authors have made inroads in international publishing. While earlier generations of writers attracted deeply committed readers, the most contemporary African literature has enjoyed a widening and enthusiastic reception. This new writing—penned by well-established icons of African letters as well as a new generation of authors—examines a whole range of issues, but it is particularly marked by a growing attention to what 21st-century globalization means for the African places and people (as distinct from 19th-century and 20th-century globalization), both on the continent and far beyond it. In light of the dynamic contemporary moment, African writers wrestle with fresh challenges tied to long-standing problems born of the colonial and immediate post-independence eras. In so doing, they are prompted to revisit the past in order to both rewrite old narratives and script news ones.

This seminar will examine 21st-century African literature in a variety of forms that reflect some its generic, formal, language, and geographic diversity. The works include novels, short stories, poetry, drama, and memoirs in both conventional and experimental forms. These are predominantly texts written in English, but we will take up several translated francophone and lusophone texts, as well, that focus on different areas of sub-Saharan Africa (and the world). They will take up a panoply of subjects and approaches, but we will largely concentrate on principle questions that revolve around memory and movement: First, how do contemporary Africa writers reckon with questions of the colonial and post-colonial past that bear so significantly on the our present twenty-first century moment? And second, how do writers reflect upon the meaning of migrations across wide swaths of space and time? How, if at all, does this movement shape the subject and circulation of the texts themselves? Answers will be found by working through the primary texts, but we will incorporate secondary literature (literary criticism and theory) as needed. Our primary texts will likely come from some of the following authors: Chris Abani, Chimamanda Adichie, José Eduardo Agualusa, Gabeba Baderoon, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Nadia Davids, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Njabulo Ndebele, Véronique Tadjo, Ivan Vladislavić, Binyavanga Wainaina, and Zoë Wicomb.

Evaluations will be based on strong attendance and participation, pop quizzes, blog posts, one mid-term and one final research essay.

01  W 4,5   CAC   17749  LEVAO  MU-207

Shakespeare and the Philosophy of Friendship

We will examine Shakespeare's share in what used to be called the "Renaissance cult of friendship," a nearly obsessive appropriation and transformation of classical and medieval speculation about friendship by early-modern writers. We will consider the three major classical discussions, by Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, and look briefly at some medieval and Renaissance representations including Montaigne's essay, "Of Friendship," and Marlowe's play, Edward II, in the course of reading Shakespeare. Among the questions we will consider are: What impels the search for and contemplation of an alter ego? How is friendship (philia) to be distinguished from erotic love, and how permeable is the boundary? What kinds of friendship are possible between men? between women? How is friendship theory deployed in formulating the ideal of a "companionate marriage"? Is friendship a foundation for political order or a threat to public life? Is friendship a form of self-knowledge? Is friendship altruistic or an egoistic impulse masquerading as altruism? What is the relation between friendship writing and early-modern subjectivity, solitude, and anxiety? Some modern theorists, philosophers, and literary critics will also be used to help us in our discussions, but the primary emphasis will be on Shakespeare.

Shakespearean works will probably include the Sonnets, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merchant of Venice, Henry V, Othello, Timon of Athens, The Winter's Tale, and The Two Noble Kinsmen.

There will be two writing options: three moderate-length papers of gradually increasing ambition, or two papers, the first relatively short, the second a 15-page term paper.

02  TTH4   CAC   16781   ALPERT   FH-A1

From Bartleby to Occupy: Art and Politics
Central to our formation as social beings is the role that we play in the political life of our communities. But in an era saturated by the influence of wealth on politics, it is increasingly unclear how ordinary citizens can participate meaningfully in the decisions that affect our lives. This course will look at how literary texts, films, and critical theory can help us to position ourselves in this world. We will begin by looking at how an early story of power and money – Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" – became a political touchstone of the contemporary Occupy movement. We will ask how his famous quip, "I would prefer not to," relates to political life, and if it is a good model for us today. We will also contrast his story to more explicit stories of political transformation, including Martin Delany's Blake, W.E.B. Du Bois' Dark Princess, and some recent films like The Hunger Games, Selma, and White God. We will supplement this with theoretical readings that may include Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, Theodor Adorno, Giorgio Agamben, James Scott, Jacques Rancière, and Jeffrey Stout.

01 TTH6   CAC 116782  DIENST  MU-107

 This seminar will explore the field of media theory, especially as it has developed in dialogue with literary and cultural studies. The archive of media theory is already too vast to be easily summarized or anthologized; instead, we will use a recent text book and an array of key texts to develop a working knowledge of the field. At the same time, we will develop our own media practices, using blogs, short videos, and visual essays to test the relationship between various media forms and the production of knowledge. This practice will culminate in a final research project involving both verbal and visual components. Although there are no special prerequsites, the seminar is addressed to students who have some interest in contemporary theory.

 

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Upcoming Events

28 Mar 2018;
01:00PM - 04:00PM
CCA Pragmatism Working Group
30 Mar 2018;
10:00AM - 05:00PM
Slavery's Reinventions, a Symposium
04 Apr 2018;
08:00PM -
Writers at Rutgers Reading Series | Tracy K. Smith
20 Apr 2018;
12:00PM - 03:00PM
Americanist Seminar Hosts Jane Thrailkill, UNC

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