ENGL 474: Poetry in Crisis or “The Hatred of Poetry”

Fall 2017

This course welcomes poetry lovers, poetry haters, or those ambivalent poetry readers looking to graduate with more experience in the genre. We will consider how poems respond to crisis—public crises (eg. terrorism, war) and personal ones (e.g. sexual violence)—as we also consider whether the genre is, as some warn, itself “in crisis.” Our goal will be to consider poetry’s role in the 21st century and we will do this through close readings of select poems as well as through discussions of films, novels, and essays. Is poetry dead, as critics seem perpetually to declare? Where does it lurk, on what occasions does it emerge, and how does it function in our social and political landscapes? In the first year of Donald Trump’s U.S. presidency (a year in which Trump’s speeches have been called “inadvertent poetry” and the filmmaker Ethan Cohen has publically campaigned to be the poet laureate), is poetry an urgent antidote to a changing public discourse – or is it simply beside the point?

ENGL 406A: “Fiction in a ‘Post-9/11 World’”

Fall 2016

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti declared that poetry would thereafter be known as “BS” and “AS” – “before” and “after” September 11. This course asks whether a similar assessment can be made for prose. How has fiction responded to the 9/11 attacks and to the so-called “war on terror”? Has the genre been irrevocably transformed or does it instead echo the work of earlier historical periods and traumas? We will explore U.S. fiction (and nonfiction—and a film) written after, and with some relation to, the September 11 attacks. Some texts will respond directly to the attacks, some to its geo-political aftermath, and some have been chosen for their oblique relation to the attacks, one that may suggest a changed cultural climate at large. In the broadest sense, as we read the literature of 9/11, we will read texts that take on topics of war, trauma, memory, loss, race, and identity in a 21st-century context.

Key texts include: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; Don DeLillo’s Falling Man; Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun; Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad; Phil Klay’s “Redeployment”; American Sniper (dir. Clint Eastwood).

ASTU 100A (Co-ordinated Arts Program’s Intro to English & Academic Writing; Global Citizens Stream): “Rewriting (National) Memory”

Fall/ Winter 2016-17

This course combines the study of literature and culture with the study of methods of academic research and writing. We will explore the relationships among literature, history, the self, the nation, and the world as we encounter poetry, novels, non-fiction, and comic books that produce and question the memories of the events they record. We will read texts that explore personal experiences and public representations of various historical events including the Iran/Iraq War, the Bosnian Genocide, World War Two, and the contemporary “War on Terror.” We will question who “owns” histories and memories. What happens when stories are told across racial or national identifications? Should we only speak for ourselves, or must we also speak for others? Do people or nations have rights to the stories they tell and/or obligations to the national identities those stories produce?

The course has a two-fold goal: to focus on the creation and disruption of global and national memory in literary texts, and to help students learn practices of knowledge-making and writing in the social sciences and humanities. Students will investigate the ways that scholars in particular disciplines use the knowledge-making and writing styles of their disciplines, and will then experiment with genres of academic writing. Students will learn some of the features that distinguish academic writing in general from other writing and some of the features that distinguish writing in one discipline from writing in another. Student writers are novice members of academic disciplines and their essays contribute to ongoing scholarly conversations. Student essays are, at their best, contributions to an ongoing knowledge creation on issues approached through disciplinary—or sometimes, interdisciplinary—study.

Key texts include Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis; Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family; Joy Kogawa’s Obasan; Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde; Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Juliana Spahr’s This Connection of Everyone with Lungs; Phil Klay’s “Redeployment”; and a selection of critical readings by Marita Sturken and Judith Butler among others.

ENGL 474 (Studies in Contemporary Lit): “‘In the Ruins of the Future’: Literature after 9/11”

Summer 2015

In December 2001, just three months after the attacks of 9/11, the American author Don DeLillo wrote the essay, “In the Ruins of the Future” and framed the attacks as a “catastrophic event” that would change “the way we think and act, moment to moment, week to week, for unknown weeks and months to come, and steely years.” Our course takes its title from DeLillo’s essay and begins with the question of how literature has been changed by 9/11—directly and indirectly. Do we, nearly fifteen years after the attacks, continue to live in the “steely years” DeLillo envisions? Who is the “we” DeLillo speaks for, and how are “we” represented and addressed? This course explores U.S. fiction, non-fiction, and poetry written after—and with some relation to—the September 11 terrorist attacks. Some texts respond directly to the attacks, some to its direct aftermath, and some have been chosen for their oblique relation to the attacks, one that may suggest a changed cultural climate at large.

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