Undergraduate Courses, Summer 2018
Upper-Division (3000–4000) Courses, Summer Sessions A & B
Note: Only course descriptions are listed below. For a comprehensive summary of course numbers, sections, times and locations, titles, and instructors, see the following web page:
Thinking Outside the Book
“The reader [must be] rid at last of the cumbersome book,” Bob Brown writes...in 1930. The history of American literature—of all literature—has been bound to the book for centuries, but print is (arguably) “old media” which has been threatened by “new media” for a lot longer than we realize. This course questions how we could reconceive of the tradition and future of modern American letters if we were to think outside the book.
As we push the boundary of the book’s claim as sole method of literary expression, we will read authors and creators who work within and outside of the page’s parameters to see how the book is actually not dead but literature does not have to be bookbound. Our course texts may include some of the following: Bob Brown’s modernist manifesto The Readies (1930), book-breaking print novels like B.S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates (1969) and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee (1982), “picture” books such as Lynd Ward’s Wild Pilgrimage (1932) and Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine (1991), early and contemporary electronic literature from Judy Malloy’s Uncle Roger (1986) to Illya Szilak’s Queerskins (2012), Robyn and Rand Miller’s bookish video game Myst (1993), and even radio broadcasts and podcasts like Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds (1938) and Jeffrey Cranor & Janina Matthewson’s Within the Wires (2016). As we read and discuss these literary works, we will also read relevant selections of critical and theoretical scholarship.
Assignments will include discussion posts on issues raised in class, an oral presentation, a final research paper which presents an original argument based upon analysis of multiple texts, plus a multimedia project through the digital content creator Oolipo.
Advanced Exposition: Makedemia
We are already in the habit of daily verbal and textual exposition: describing observations, narrating events, providing instructions, linking causes to effects, comparing and contrasting ideas, illustrating our points of view, defining moments, classifying new experiences, and making connections. We generate these strings of characters, syllables, words to make something that has never quite existed in exactly that combination before—just as makers use the same toolboxes, technologies, or raw materials to make new, unique artifacts. How is writing, then, a form of making? In this course, we will explore how humanist scholars experiment, create, and make things through research.
This course will teach you how to enhance your writing style (clarity, coherence, cohesion, concision, and elegance) and design thinking habits (color, typography, layout, visuals, and medium). You will read a style handbook and select chapters and project snapshots from Making Things and Drawing Boundaries: Experiments in the Digital Humanities. Based on the readings, you will make things like zines, animated GIFs, and 3D prints and write 6000 words as blog posts in various expository exercises.
Victorian Underworld: Victorian Literature of Scandal and Sensation
Victorians, like us, were simultaneously fascinated with and fearful of scandal. What scandalized the Victorians, and how did they respond? To answer these questions, this course surveys Victorian literature to explore the Victorian underworld and what it revealed about prevailing social and moral codes. We will draw on a variety of Victorian literature like murder trial court transcripts, essays on prison life, and mental and public health laws, in addition to poetry, short stories, novellas, and a novel. As we comb through these sources, we will consider how they engaged with hotly debated issues, such as the scandals relating to marriage, divorce, sexuality, and prostitution; the tensions among social classes; and the booming market for cheap, unhealthy literature.
We see this most vividly in the exceedingly popular sensation genre, which often fictionalized salacious news reports and reproduced these tales for the masses. In “Sensation Novels” (1862), published anonymously in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Review, the essayist suggests that the disappointingly “safe life” of mid-nineteenth-century Britain caused “the need of a supply of new shocks and wonders” and goes on to explain how and why sensation fiction fulfills that need. But the Victorian obsession with people, actions, and objects that existed outside of the norm extended far beyond the sensation genre, and this course will examine the breadth of the Victorians’ dichotomous relationship to the Other as well as its intersection with issues of class, gender, politics, and race.
Course texts include writing by Thomas De Quincey, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Elizabeth Gaskell, Christina Rossetti, and Oscar Wilde.
The Golden Age of Children’s Literature
The “Golden Age” of children’s literature, which features British and American texts produced during the mid-19th century into the early 20th century, introduced readers to enduring characters and situations that are firmly established in our cultural imagination. Alice and the white rabbit, Peter Pan and his everlasting youth, and Dorothy and her journey to the Emerald City all emerged during this period and have generated interest well into the 21st century. This course examines several primary texts from the so-called Golden Age and considers how these works informed concepts of childhood. It also looks at how those concepts have, or have not, shifted over the ensuing years. We will consider the novels in their historical contexts, using archival resources at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature to examine different versions of these familiar texts; we will also trace the way these novels and their heroes and heroines have evolved in our cultural conversation. In order to engage in a conversation about the contemporary significance of these canonical works, we will return to the following questions: 1) In what ways do these texts depict or challenge traditional notions of childhood such as innocence, playfulness, and imagination? 2) How do contemporary adaptations—whether media or artwork or forms of digital production—seek to reveal who or what is missing from these texts? 3) What makes these texts worthy of being deemed part of a “Golden Age,” and who gets to make that determination?
Required class readings will include primary texts, academic articles, and chapter-length studies from scholarly work on children’s literature and culture. Your participation and interpretation of the texts will be vital to fostering lively discussion, so please arrive prepared to talk and write about the works under review. Assignments will include discussion questions, weekly response papers, and a research project.
Race and Science in African American and Latinx Science Fiction
This course takes as its focus the literary and popular culture productions of African American, Chican@/x, and Latino@/x science fiction (SF) artists and writers and their confrontations with the genre’s fraught colonial, gendered, and racialized medico-scientific origins. More specifically, this course critically responds to literary scholar Roger Luckhurst’s contention that the “the strangest silence in SF scholarship has surely been the marginal interface between SF critics and those in Science and Technology Studies and History of Science.” By engaging the (pseudo) scientific narratives of nineteenth and early twentieth white masculinist figures (such as Samuel G. Morton and Josiah C. Nott), we will consider how Black and Latinx SF artists and writers—past and present—appropriate the idioms of science and technology to radically contest and disrupt biological determinist understandings of disability, gender, race and sexuality. At the same time, we will weigh in on the degree to which Black and Latinx SF texts fashion alternative, non-normative, and/or emancipatory representations of differently “gendered,” “raced,” and “sexed” bodies.
Throughout the course of the semester, we will attempt to answer the following questions: What do science and SF, to borrow from black feminist SF writer Octavia E. Butler, have to offer people of color and other historically marginalized communities? How (and with what intention) do SF artists and writers of color complicate our understanding of the “science” in science fiction? How do they challenge (or buy into) its positivist and progressivist standpoint? Lastly, what stake(s) do SF artists and writers of color have in writing themselves into increasingly biotechnological futures?
Possible course texts include: Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood (1905); George Schuyler’s Black No More (1931); Samuel Delany’s Nova (1968); Octavia E. Butler’s Patternmaster (1976); Alejandro Morales’ The Rag Doll Plagues (1991); Ernest Hogan’s High Aztech (1992); Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer (2008); Sabrina Vourvoulias’ Ink (2012); and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018). Assignments will include a short close reading paper, a panel presentation, and an encyclopedia entry for SF @ UF, a collaborative and interdisciplinary digital project seeking to improve the visibility and usability of UF’s diverse holdings in science fiction (SF), fantasy, and utopian studies.
Advanced Argumentative Writing: Posthuman Writing
Can animals reason? Do plants write? Do objects shape human perception? Can we separate the digital from the material environment? This course will consider these and other questions through a diverse range of posthuman theories. By tracing histories of rhetoric and writing which counter or trouble those set forth by students of Aristotle and Descartes which deny agency to nonhumans, this course considers writing beyond, after, and even in opposition to conceptions of the human.
Readings will include works from both classical and contemporary rhetoricians as well as theorists who engage questions of humanistic inquiry in a world shaped by technological and ecological change. Specifically, students can expect to encounter works from writing studies scholars such as George Kennedy (“A Hoot in the Dark”), Debra Hawhee (Rhetoric in Tooth and Claw), and Byron Hawk (A Counter-history of Composition: Toward Methodologies of Complexity); as well as theorists such as Jacques Derrida (The Animal That Therefore I Am), N. Katherine Hayles (How We Became Posthuman), Bruno Latour (We Have Never Been Modern), Donna Haraway (“A Cyborg Manifesto”), and Karen Barad (Meeting the Universe Halfway). Assignments include an experimental digital “hivemind” group writing project, leading discussion, weekly response papers, and a final research paper.
English Novel 20th Century
In this course, we will explore literary forms, cultural movements, and social issues through reading major works selected from early period of modernism to the contemporary era. We will start with novels from Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and so on to grasp a general understanding of modernism as an experimental, dynamic, and prominent literary movement. We will grapple with questions such as: In what sense are these novels “modern?” How do these authors respond to historical and social changes taking place in the early 20th century such as drastic technological advancement and the First World War? Ultimately, how do these novels help us learn about the worldview and feeling state of the modernist period? We will then move on to more recent works from authors including J.M. Coetzee, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Zadie Smith to investigate the formal literary features, historical contexts, and political and ethical consciousness of the contemporary English literature. In doing so, we will examine apocalyptic imaginaries and futurity, aesthetics, transnational subjectivity and global experience that these postmodern/contemporary novels engage and inspire. Assignments include a short critical analysis paper, a creative project, and a final research paper.
The Romantic Period
The Romantic period (1760-1830) is significant for its artistic vision that centralized the role of the poet/artist, thus making art a deeply radical personal and political act. The discovery of the “New World,” formation of the British Empire, the notion of the “Orient” and the French Revolution had a profound impact on the Romantic imagination. Addressing the revolutionary political and aesthetic complexities of Romanticism, this course will chart the development of Romantic literature and its subsequent impact on post-colonial cultures. We will read Romantic poets like William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel T. Coleridge, Percy B. Shelley, Lord Byron and John Keats to locate fundamental differences as well as profound similarities in their artistic philosophy and output. The course will include political writings by Edmund Burke, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft to address issues of political and social revolution. We would also read Jane Austen and explore the continuing influence of her narratives on post-colonial literatures and film. Assignments for the course will include a presentation and a short critical analysis paper.
A Century of Childhood: The Child, The Nation, and The Self in Twentieth-Century British Literature
From the decline of the “Imperial Century,” to the World Wars, the twentieth century was a period of tumult and transformation in the British Empire. The symbolic power of the child as an embodiment of—and response to—cultural anxieties is particularly prominent during times of crisis and change, so this course will explore this transformation by attending to the representation of the child and childhood in twentieth-century British literature. Beginning with the Romantic poets and continuing into the twenty-first century, the literary child symbolizes growth, decay, potential, and regret. Thus, in this course we will seek to answer the question how do childhood and literature about the child confront twentieth-century anxieties concerning society and the individual?
Beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, we will trace the remnants of the Romantic Child in J.M. Barrie and Henry James, and then examine how this figure is made all the more potent by the backdrop of WWI in W.B. Yeats, and WWII in Dylan Thomas. Then, we will explore how Freudian psychoanalysis and modernist questioning of identity contributed to the prominence of childhood in works by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Our next consideration will be the postwar period, examining the ways authors like William Golding and Doris Lessing use childhood to allegorize and critique social ills, from imperialism and war to restrictive gender and sex norms. Finally, we will look at how childhood forms, like illustrated verse, picture books, and fairy tales, can critique dominant power structures in the works of Stevie Smith, Raymond Briggs, and Angela Carter. We will also draw from selected scholarship throughout the semester to add psychoanalytical, feminist, and postcolonial lenses to our readings.
Since this is a six-week course, our pace will be rapid and ambitious. Our daily class format will consist of brief lecture and seminar discussion. Your continuous input into discussions is a necessary aspect of your attendance. The assignments for this course will include two short essays (2-3 pages) and a thoughtful and polished contribution to the class’s final project: an online archive of literary childhood in twentieth-century England.
Forms of Narrative
This course will juxtapose historical fiction with science fiction in order to investigate how literary narratives can represent “history” in the widest possible sense. Students will consider how texts about the past—such as the historical novel or autobiographical writing—share narrative techniques with speculative genres like the alternate history or dystopian fiction. Indeed, all these genres attempt to grapple with the historical specificity of the author’s present by contrasting it with another time period, either in the past or an imagined future. In particular, we will examine how these genres can challenge simple narratives of historical progress or decline by charting the complex relationships between the past, present, and future.
Students will consider questions like: how is historical fiction related to speculative genres like alternate histories and dystopian fiction? How can historical fiction avoid lapsing into an uncritical nostalgia for the past? Can narratives of the past and future help us to imagine a more just world?
Our reading list will likely include the following:
- Octavia Butler, The Parable of the Talents (1998)
- Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition (1901)
- Phillip K Dick, The Man in the High Castle (1962)
- Anne Garréta, Not One Day (2002)
- Toni Morrison, Home (2008)
- Joana Russ, The Female Man (1975)
- W.G. Sebald, Rings of Saturn (1995)
The course will also examine the links between literary narratives and other forms of narrative, including film and media. Assignments will include a presentation, a short response paper, and a longer critical essay.