Fall 2018 Courses

ENG 230:  Monsters, Freaks, and Geeks: Tales of the Strange and Wondrous

This semester we’ll be gripped by texts that turn the spotlight on individuals who, by either choice or force, inhabit the margins of mainstream society. Through an ensemble of texts that mix horror, fantasy, tragedy, and humor, we will explore how writers over the past two centuries have used stories of monsters, freaks, and geeks to ask profound questions about differences among humans, as well as differences between humans and other beings: What are the limits and excesses of the human? How have bodies been markers of otherness? How are feelings of strangeness and wonder connected with social othering? In this class we will pay special attention to how cultures have constructed anomalous social categories in order to define or secure membership in a common group. We will be equally concerned with how race, class, sexuality, gender, and disability factor into these designations and divisions. Along the way we will carefully consider similarities and differences among those who have been disparagingly categorized as monsters, freaks, and geeks.

 

ENG 751:  Feeling Through Texts: Affect Studies and C-19 American Literature 

Amid the “affective turn” sweeping the humanities and social sciences, scholars have increasingly focused their attention on questions of emotion, affect, and feelings in the study of nineteenth-century U.S. literature. Despite being a recognizable part of the critical argot—the term “affect” seems to occupy a spot in nearly every recent journal issue and conference brochure—affect studies calls for more precise mapping. Our task as a class is to bring these discussions to bear on the study of literature. We'll focus especially on narrative shape, the loci of emotion in and around literary texts, the production of readerly affect, and literature as a site for theorizing emotion. Our investigations will range across pleasurable states such as happiness and enchantment and “ugly feelings” such as envy and paranoia. We will unwrap the nineteenth-century cult of sentimentality; we will unravel backward-looking feelings like nostalgia, melancholy, and regret. Authors include: Lydia Maria Child, Catharine Sedgwick, Maria Cummings, George Lippard, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Wells Brown, and Elizabeth Keckley. It is worth emphasizing that this is an interdisciplinary seminar; a considerable portion of our readings will come from fields and disciplines that inform literary studies, including political theory, religious studies, cultural anthropology, feminist and queer theory, and critical race theory.

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