American Literature and the Anthropocene (Spring 2018)
This course tracks the ways the notion of the Anthropocene is mediated in contemporary American fiction. With special attention to mutations of genre and the erosion of traditional realism, we discuss works by Ben Lerner, William Gibson, Emily St. John Mandel, Jeff Vandermeer, and others in relation to theoretical works by Peter Frase, Roy Scranton, and others.
Literature and the Contemporary (Spring 2016, Spring 2017)
This course explores recent reflections on the notion of the contemporary (in the fields of aesthetics, philosophy, social anthropology, philosophy, and literary studies) through discussions of a selection of contemporary literary texts that interrogate their relation to the present - that is, their contemporaneity - in formally interesting ways. We read works by Junot Díaz, Jennifer Egan, William Gibson, Rachel Kushner, Ben Lerner, Maggie Nelson, Tao Lin, Tom McCarthy, and Dana Spiotta.
Postcolonial Memory (Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016)
This course focuses on the interface of memory studies and postcolonial studies. It pays attention to the productive interactions between different forms of memory (mainly, postcolonial and Holocaust memory) as well as to the ethics and politics of witnessing (especially in the case of South Africa's TRC). We discuss works by Sven Lindqvist, Teju Cole, Caryl Phillips, Antjie Krog, Ivan Vladislavic, and others. The last version of the course also looks at the relation between transnational and postcolonial memory, and studies the work of, among others, Roberto Bolaño and John Keene.
Literature and the Creature (Fall 2012, Fall 2013)
This course tells the story of modern literature in English from Shakespeare and Milton to Ishiguro and Coetzee by focusing on the notions of 'the creature,' 'creatureliness,' and 'creativity.' These terms serve as a matrix that make it possible to track how modern literature has explored the borderland between human and non-human creatures, how it has at times enlisted creaturely life for a celebration (or condemnation) of creation, and how it has mobilized human creativity as a strategy for coping with the death of the Creator.
The Novel and the Disaster, 2001-2012 (Fall 2012, Spring 2014)
This course traces how the contemporary novel has responded to the very different disasters that have marked the early twenty-first century: the terrorist attacks in New York and London (sudden, punctual events), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (less identifiable events than networks of hidden and confusing connections that Western audiences can only access from a distance), and the financial crisis (the causes, impact, and scope of which are notoriously elusive). Authors discussed include Don DeLillo, William Gibson, Elliott Hall, Tom McCarthy, and James Meek.
Individual and Community in the Modern Novel, 1719-2012 (Spring 2012, Fall 2013)
This course explores how the novel genre has shaped our ideas of what it means to be an individual as well as how we can imagine ourselves as part of a broader community - the nation, the planet, or the globe. Authors discussed include Daniel Defoe, Joseph Conrad, W.G. Sebald, David Mitchell, and Sarah Hall.