Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

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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.

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Statue of "Willie the Silent"