LIT 3028

 SoundSCAPES OF American Literature

Alexandre Benson

   Th       4:40-7:00 pm




Cross-listed: American Studies; Experimental Humanities  We often use sonic terms—voice, tone, echo, resonance—to describe literary texts, even as we set writing in opposition to the noisy, melodious stuff of speech and song. This paradox raises some knotty questions of aesthetics, sensation, and media, questions that become still more complicated in the context of American literature from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. Over this period, shifts in migration, labor, transport, and the built environment radically alter what cities sound like, while audio recording and reproduction technologies reconfigure the forms and functions of popular music. American poets, novelists, and essayists, meanwhile, experiment with new ways of writing sound: new rhythms, new structures of narrative voice, new ideas about sonic experience as a function of cultural difference and of ability. To get a sense of these experiments, we’ll concentrate on moments in which technology, identity, environment, and hearing tightly interweave (as when the train whistles past Thoreau at Walden Pond). We’ll track the adaptation of literary texts across media, from print to performance to phonograph (as when Abbey Lincoln sings a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem). And we’ll engage with the theoretical questions that emerge around terms like “soundscape” itself--a concept first coined as a way of describing the noise of urban infrastructure, even as it nods to traditions of pastoral aesthetics. As a Junior Seminar, the course will emphasize methods of research and argumentation that will be of use not only in literary sound studies, but also in Senior Projects in the humanities more generally. Likely figures: James Baldwin, John Cage, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Charlie Chaplin, Emily Dickinson, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, and Helen Keller. This course is a Literature Junior  Seminar course. Class size: 15



LIT 323

 BEYOND LOLITA: Nabokov AND THE Language of Desire

Olga Voronina

M           1:30-3:50 pm

OLIN 306



This course invites students to contemplate the legendary eroticism of Nabokov’s masterwork not only as a matter of plot, characterization, or dialogue, but also as a linguistic phenomenon. The aesthetics of sexual desire for Nabokov is inseparable from language – a physiological, cognitive, and symbolic medium that can affect the reader both on the level of sound (alliteration, friction, tension, etc.) as well as through figurative speech, with its multiplicity of connotations and allusions (hidden messages are like taboos: we desire to break them). Lolita, the novel we will be reading and re-reading in class, was written in English, which Nabokov acquired and adopted, rather than was born into. We will investigate the impact Nabokov’s complicated relationship with the language had on his writing techniques and stylistic choices. We will also explore strategies of narrative concealment Nabokov used in order to seduce, mislead, and even morally blind his readers. Among the texts offered for study and discussion, there will be Lolita’s prototexts, such as fairy-tales and Arthurian legends; works by William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, and John Ruskin; Russian classical literature (Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tostoy, Anton Chekhov); German, French, and American pulp fiction; and the author’s own novels and short stories, either written in English (Bend Sinister, “A Fairy-Tale”, “Colette”) or self-translated from the Russian (Laughter in the Dark). This course is a Literature Junior  Seminar course.  Class size: 16



LIT 377

 Renaissance Encounters

Joseph Mansky

   Th       10:10-12:30 pm

HEG 300




This course explores the global imagination of English Renaissance literature. From utopian fiction to travel writing, adventure plays to national epics, English writers increasingly turned their attention to cross-cultural contact—and conflict. They imagined Muslims and Jews on the stage; they recorded (and embellished) their travels to the Americas and to the Ottoman Empire; they dramatized imperial conquests from Ireland to Asia. In literature as in the early modern world, globalization was accompanied by violence and xenophobia. As we study these fraught encounters, we’ll investigate how English literature constructed (and contested) cultural difference. How did writers affirm or challenge conceptions of race and religion? What do dramatizations of the “foreign” tell us about English national identity? What kinds of stories did early modern people tell about immigration, multiculturalism, and international conflict? Our authors will include Leo Africanus, Francis Bacon, Margaret Cavendish, Richard Hakluyt, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas More, Thomas Nashe, Shakespeare, and Edmund Spenser. This course is a Literature Junior Seminar, and a pre-1800 Literature course offering. Class size: 15