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Fall 2011 Undergraduate English Courses: Twentieth Century

350:393 Issues and Problems in Twentieth Century Literature and Culture

03 MTH3 CAC 35106 BRADWAY FH-A1
04 MW7 CAC 33810 LEE SC-103

03-Science Fiction and Globalization in Postmodernity
The premise of this course is that science fiction rises to prominence in the early twentieth century in response to problems of colonialism. Our goal will be to analyze how science fiction adapts and responds to de-colonization, neo-colonialism, and globalization in the latter half of the 20th century. Our working assumption will be that, despite its “galactic escapism,” science fiction nonetheless crystallizes “earthly political realities” of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries (Jameson). After all, literary critics such as Brian McHale have gone so far as to identify science fiction as the aesthetic dominant of postmodernity, and Fredric Jameson insists that science fiction engages in an “historically original literary vocation of a mapping of the new geopolitical Imaginary.” What problems, then, does science fiction chart in globalization? How does it manifest these problems in its formal experimentations and estrangements? What kind of global “self” emerges in this fiction, and what are its ethical dispositions to Others? Finally, what solutions to intercultural interaction and exploitation do science fiction writers offer through their utopian and dystopian political imaginaries?

 To answer these questions, this course will introduce students to postwar science fiction. We will read this fiction alongside theories of globalization and literary critical debates over the formal means science fiction uses to “represent” social reality. The course will begin with the New Wave in the 1960s; it will survey the utopian political allegories of the 1970s, including second-wave feminist science fiction; we will examine cyberpunk and Cold War postmodernism in the 80s and 90s; and the course will conclude by analyzing the recent turn to science fiction made by so-called “high” literary fiction writers, such as Jeanette Winterson, Richard Powers, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Jonathan Lethem. Looking to each of these historical moments in science fiction will enable us to consider how the genre has evolved over the last five decades. More broadly, we will attempt to identify the key issues of globalization that have the most urgency within these historical flashpoints. Topics will include: challenges to Enlightenment humanism through representations of cross-cultural/species relation, paranoid subjectivity, and “artificial intelligence;” representations of neo-colonial and post-industrial capital flows (“terra-forming,” space shipping, and resource/commodity production); the pseudo-anthropological mapping of geographical spaces and sexed and raced social types; and the negotiation of collectivity in response to mass environmental catastrophe.

04-AIDS in Literature and Film
The year 2011 will mark the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. Once regarded as a catastrophic event of unthinkable magnitude, AIDS has increasingly been rendered commonplace and mundane. The emergence of the term “post-AIDS” in the last fifteen years reflects a newly adopted attitude towards AIDS in gay and mainstream cultures alike.  This course will introduce students to a range of literary and visual texts produced in response to the AIDS epidemic over the last three decades. Through close analyses of autobiography, fiction, poetry, drama, and film, we will explore how writers and filmmakers address the personal, sociocultural, and political consequences of AIDS. Our discussions will consider how the epidemic has led to the creation of new rituals of commemoration, a revitalized ethics of caregiving, and a complex rethinking of the subject’s relationship to embodiment, time, and history. A primary goal of our course is to investigate the significant, though often unexamined, role of HIV and AIDS in our everyday lives. While the majority of our materials will focus on gay men’s experience of AIDS in the United States, we will also devote time in our course to exploring texts written by women and to studying the impact of AIDS around the globe.

Literature (selected from the list below)
Allen Barnett, The Body and Its Dangers and Other Stories (1990) [selections]
Rebecca Brown, The Gifts of the Body (1995)
Mark Doty, My Alexandria: Poems (1993) [selections]
Essex Hemphill, Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry (1992) [selections]
Amy Hoffman, Hospital Time (1997)
Jamaica Kincaid, My Brother (1998)
Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (1992)
Paul Monette, Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir (1988)
Sonia Sanchez, Does Your House Have Lions? (1998)

Films and Documentaries (selected from the list below)
Mark Christopher, The Dead Boys’ Club (1993)
Jonathan Demme, Philadelphia (1993)
Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989)
John Greyson, Zero Patience (1993)
Norman René, Longtime Companion (1990)
Marlon Riggs, Tongues Untied (1991)