LIT 2026

 Children'S AND Young Adult LiteraturE

Maria Cecire

 T  Th 11:50 am-1:10 pm

OLIN 204




What is children's literature? Who is it for? In this course you will be encouraged to think about how notions of childhood and teenagerdom are constructed and reproduced in Anglophone literature for young people, and to interrogate the social and literary structures that guide these representations. Our goal will be to gain familiarity with the history of children's literature in English and some of its major genres, while constantly challenging our own conceptions of childhood and literariness. How can we, as adults and critics, read a book that has been classed as "children's literature"? How do we theorize texts that are written for children by adults? What makes a work of children's literature a classic? Can we say that children's literature "colonizes" the child? Given their importance to contemporary ideas of the child, we will give special attention to questions of gender and sexuality throughout the semester. Course texts include literature by J.M. Barrie, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Diana Wynne Jones, Toni Morrison, and M.T. Anderson, as well as a selection of picture books. Class size: 22



LIT 2050

 Blues,  Spirituals  & the  20th Century African American  Novel

Donna Grover

 T  Th 4:40 pm-6:00 pm

OLIN 201



Cross-listed: Africana Studies; American Studies; Gender and Sexuality Studies   African American Spirituals and Blues music share fundamental musical structures, however they offer very different narratives.  Spirituals detail a transitory existence marked by suffering that culminates in a celebratory ascendance into heaven.  While the blues often feature stories of anger, hurt and earthly survival is the only cause for celebration.  In this course we will explore the critical influence these musical forms had on African American writers of the twentieth century. Writers such as James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison used these musical traditions to shape their narratives and to interrogate experience.  James Cone maintains that both blues and spirituals "preserve black humanity through ritual and drama" and the same could be said of the Post-Reconstruction African American novel.  Among the novels we will read are:  Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man; Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God; Black Boy by Richard Wright and Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosely.  Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon are among the musicians included in our inquiry.  Class size: 22



LIT 224

 American Existentialism

Matthew Mutter

 T  Th 1:30 pm-2:50 pm

OLIN 202



Cross-listed: American Studies  The French existentialists were not impressed by Americans. Jean-Paul Sartre maintained that "American character swaggered with confidence and na├»ve optimism," Simone de Beauvoir said Americans had no "feeling for sin and remorse," and Albert Camus complained that they "lacked a sense of anguish about the problems of existence." This course will challenge these assertions on a number of levels. First, we will unearth a rich existentialist current in American writing from Emily Dickinson to Richard Wright, Carson McCullers, and Walker Percy, and explore the ways in which these writers imagine the "problems of existence" differently from their European counterparts. Second, we'll explore the comic element that so many American writers add to the existentialist mood of "anguish." Finally, we will strive to assess the existentialist attitude itself by asking questions such as: What is the relation between personal torment and the broader social or political conditions from which it arises? What are the connections between this literature and the philosophical tradition that includes Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Sartre? How do these writers position themselves in relation to psychoanalysis and its account of the inner life? Writers considered in this course will likely include Emily Dickinson, Nathanael West, Richard Wright, Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison, Walker Percy, Kurt Vonnegut, Zora Neale Hurston, D.T. Suzuki, William Barrett, and we will also read selections from key philosophical texts.  Class size: 22



LIT 229

 primo levi: Scientific Imagination & the Holocaust

Franco Baldasso

M         1:30 pm-2:50 pm

    W     1:30 pm-2:50 pm

OLIN 310

OLIN 309



Cross-listed: Human Rights; Italian Studies; Jewish Studies  "For his unique testimony, Primo Levi is acclaimed as the most influential writer of the Holocaust. Levi's works are also fundamental for his daring attempt to bridge scientific and literary imaginations. Technological knowledge and scientific experience considerably impacted his entire production, from autobiographical accounts to sci-fi and fantastic tales, as well as the representation and the transmission of his memory of Auschwitz. Levi's key concepts such as "testimony," "the grey zone," and "shame" are today pivotal for many fields of research in the humanities and the social sciences. Moreover, Levi radically questioned the ethics of scientific discoveries and technological inventions, through his grasp of the scientists and technicians' responsibility in the architecture and development of the Nazis' "Final Solution."  The course pursues a critical understanding of Primo Levi's intellectual trajectory. His works will be read along other figures, which also questioned the epistemological status of scientific knowledge and its relations with power, life, and imagination, such as Georges Canguilhem, Georges Perec, Italo Calvino, Giorgio Agamben, and Carlo Rovelli." Taught in English. Class size: 18



LIT 232

 Middle Eastern Cinemas

Dina Ramadan


 T        1:30 pm- 4:30 pm

W 6:00 pm-9:00 pm

OLIN 301

PRE 110



Cross-listed: Film and Electronic Arts; Human Rights; Middle Eastern Studies  The history of cinema in the Middle East is as old as the art form itself; screenings of films by the Lumiere Brothers took place in Cairo, Alexandria, Algiers, Tunis, Fez, and Jerusalem just months after their initial screening. The "Orient" quickly became the location for early cinematic productions and cinemas sprang up across the region. This course begins with a survey of the development of national cinemas in the Middle East, before turning to a series of case studies of influential directors working on both documentary and features films. These will include Yusif Chahine, Abbas Kiarostami, Omar Amiralay, Avi Moghrabi, and Elia Suleiman. We will focus on transformations in stylistic and aesthetic approaches as well as examining the shifting place of cinema, the role of state sponsorship, the problem of censorship, and the question of audience. Finally, students will be exposed to the growing body of contemporary video artworks produced by younger practitioners from the region. All readings will be in English. Weekly evening screenings are mandatory.  Class size: 22



LIT 243

 Literature in the Digital Age

Maria Cecire

 T  Th 3:10 pm-4:30 pm

OLIN 201



Cross-listed: Experimental Humanities  The proliferation of digital information and communications technologies over the past half-century has transformed and continues to transform how literary works are composed, produced, circulated, read, and interpreted. What new forms and practices of reading and writing have emerged in this late age of typography? What is the nature, extent, and significance of these changes? This course re-assesses questions and themes long central to the study of literature including: archiving, authorship, canon formation, circulation, materiality, narrative, poetics, and readership, among others. The course aims to understand our present moment in historical context by pairing contemporary works with texts from and about other shifts in media from the ancient world to the modern era. Readings include Augustine, Borges, Eisenstein, Flusser, Hayles, Jenkins, and Plato, as well as works of HTML/hypertext fiction, Twitter literature, online poetry, fan fiction, and so on. Coursework will include online and off-line activities in addition to traditional papers. Recommended for current and potential Experimental Humanities concentrators.  Class size: 22



LIT 255


Marisa Libbon

M  W  11:50 am-1:10 pm

RKC 200



Cross-listed: Medieval Studies  Almost immediately after his death in 1400, Geoffrey Chaucer was dubbed "the father of English literature" by a fellow poet and admirer.  But "poet," let alone "father of English literature," was not Chaucer's day job.  He was a government bureaucrat and an erstwhile envoy to England's king.  How did Chaucer become so central to English literature?  How do we come by our own Chaucerian inheritance, and how has it influenced our concepts of the author and the literary? In this course, we will pursue answers to these questions, among others, by examining Chaucer's reputation from its earliest and highly self-conscious beginnings in his own work to its development in the hands of the late medieval Chaucerians: acolytes who stoked the flames of remembrance after Chaucer's death.  We will begin by considering Chaucer's preoccupation (obsession?) with his classical predecessors and the relationship between rumor and reputation as we read his major shorter works, which include Anelida and Arcite, The Book of the Duchess, Troilus and Criseyde, and The House of Fame.  We will then turn to Chaucer's final work and so-called masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, and some of the late medieval writers who claimed his influence and legacy, including Thomas Hoccleve and John Lydgate.  Note: Students do not need prior experience studying Chaucer to enroll in this course; however, students who have previously taken Lit. 2401 (The Canterbury Tales) are welcome in this course and upon its completion will have read all of Chaucer's major works.  This is a pre-1800 course offering.  Class size: 18



LIT 263

 What is a Character?

Noor Desai

M  W  10:10 am-11:30 am

OLIN 202



Cross-listed: Experimental Humanities  We are often drawn to characters more than anything else in our encounters with books, plays, or movies. This happens despite our knowing that characters remain exactly what their name implies: trapped by printed letters, scriptedness, or the limits of a screen. Characters are always mediated, but they can also show us how concepts like humanity and personhood depend on and contend with the media humans use to share ideas. In this course, we will study the history of characters in western fiction to learn how archetypes, racial and gendered stereotypes, historical or geographical settings, and the capabilities of different media technologies shape our encounters with them. We will also explore different ways of "reading" characters by thinking about how computer algorithms might understand something as supposedly complex as an individual's personality. Primary texts will include Shakespeare's Hamlet, Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, and Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, and short stories by Toni Morrison, Kate Chopin, and others. We will also consider films, television shows, and video games. Students will have the opportunity become characters in class debates, discuss fan fiction, and experiment with how to translate characters between media as we engage in analytical, theoretical, and creative work throughout the term.Class size: 22



LIT 266

 Disability & Queer Aesthetics

Natalie Prizel

 T  Th 10:10 am-11:30 am

OLIN 205





Cross-listed: Gender and Sexuality Studies  In his seminal book, Disability Aesthetics, Tobin Siebers argues that "aesthetics track the emotions that some bodies feel in the presence of other bodies." Taking this as but one of many definitions of the aesthetic, this course considers what role embodiment plays in the creation and delineation of aesthetic categories, movements, and styles. What kind of bodies and objects have been excluded from the category of the aesthetic? What does it mean to talk about disability aesthetics or queer aesthetics?  Does the identity of the creator matter or only the form of the object? This transhistorical course will trace conceptions of the aesthetic in their most queer and disabled forms in aesthetic theory from Reynolds to Rothko as well contemporary queer and crip theory. Primary texts might include Shakespeare, John Donne, Richard Crashaw, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, A.C. Swinburne, Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bishop, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Alison Bechdel, and Essex Hemphill. Visual art--from Greek statuary through Pop Art--and film will supplement this literary archive.

Class size: 22