Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

02   MW7  CAC      ROBOLIN  SC-116

This course offers a cultural and literary exploration of social space/geography: how it is shaped, how it functions, how it is experienced, and how it can be interpreted. Borrowing from the fields of cultural geography, cultural theory, and literary criticism, we will consider the ways in which social space and its arrangement yield cultural meaning (including social identities) and literary meaning. In this course, we will examine the ways in which social power is enacted and contested through (material and symbolic) space—from the organization of landscapes and cityscapes to the architecture of buildings and spatial arrangement of a room—particularly in relation to racial and gender inequality. We will, furthermore, attend to how space, race, and gender help mutually constitute one another. Our exploration of literature will also help us consider the relationship between social space and the imagination, especially in efforts to produce alternatives to established social and literary orders. How, for example, might literary depictions of space help shape the ways in which readers see and experience their world? And what role might they play in helping readers imagine new ones?

Students should expect to move quickly over sometimes challenging theoretical material. Readings may include selections from theorists such as Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau, bell hooks, Achille Mbembe, Timothy Mitchell, Katherine McKittrick, Neil Smith, George Lipsitz, J.B. Harley, and Thadious Davis. Primary literature may include Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Morrison's Paradise, Mpe's Welcome to Our Hillbrow. Evaluations will be based upon strong class participation, weekly posts, one mid-term essay, and one final research project.

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