Fall 2020 Undergraduate English Courses

359:410 Race, Gender, Space

01   MW4   CAC  05721   ROBOLIN  VH-104

This theory seminar offers a cultural and literary exploration of social geography: how it is shaped and reshaped, how it functions, how it is experienced, and how it can be interpreted. Borrowing from the fields of cultural geography, spatial theory, and literary criticism, we will consider the ways in which social space and its arrangement create cultural meaning (including social identities) and literary meaning. In this course, we will also examine how social power is re-enforced and contested through (material and symbolic) space—from the organization of landscapes and cityscapes to the architecture of buildings and layout of a room—particularly in relation to racial and gender hierarchies. We will thus necessarily 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, Edward Soja, Katherine McKittrick, Neil Smith, George Lipsitz, J.B. Harley, Thadious Davis, and Ato Quayson. Primary literature may include Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Morrison’s Paradise, Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place. Evaluations will be based upon strong class participation, weekly posts, two mid-term essays, and one revised essay that culminates into the final paper.