COURSES - I have taught my last course,so this is basically an archive page.

FALL 2018
 

English 255: Topics in Literature: Contemporary American Science Fiction by Women.

 

Literary science fiction in our present age differs considerably from science fiction even of the recent past, and even more so from the “sci-fi” of films and television. This is due in large part to the influx of new perspectives from women writers. In this course, we will study literary works by U.S. women writers who are still living and producing written fiction. Writers may include Nnedi Okorafor, Nisi Shawl, Eleanor Arnason, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemison, Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Cadigan, Ada Palmer, Misha, and one digital outlier, Janelle Monae.  

 

English 267/Film 241/WL 214: Visual and Digital Narratives: Topic - Global Science Fiction Cinema                   

In this course we study the neglected traditions of science fiction cinema outside the US production system. Science-fiction cinema is often considered among the most technically and visually innovative genres of film. It has historically been the laboratory for new technologies of sound, special effects, and set design, as well as narratives about the relationship between social life and technological transformation. Although the US has been the primary and most influential producer of science fiction films, major works have been produced in other countries. As globalization extends to more and more societies, science fiction film has become one of its major artforms. In this course we study films from Russia and Eastern Europe, Great Britain, France, India, Japan, North and South Africa, and Latin America. We focus on the science- fiction film tradition and the social-historical contexts in which the films emerged.

We approach science fiction as both an entertainment genre and a distinctive form of art. While its roots go back at least to the early Enlightenment, most of its works emerge from societies that undergo rapid modernization – especially the application of drastically transformative technologies of transportation, communication, and scientific invention and discovery. It is the genre of literature and film that takes as its subject “future shock.” Its most original contributions to culture are imagining a future that is distinct from the present and the past, and alien phenomena that are radically different from what is already known. These two tropes – the future and the alien – are embedded in literary stories that endow them with political and cultural significance for the present. Even when they are silly confections, science fictions express social desires to cope with the New and the Other. Different cultures and subcultures will try to shape these desires in accord with their own interests.

As for the “global,” in this course we will treat the term, and its noun-form “globalization,” in two senses. On the one hand, they name the contemporary geopolitical process of the breakdown of national boundaries and cultural differences that attend the introduction of mass communications, high-tech transportation, cultural and financial flows, and the mass movements of populations. In this sense it is a very contemporary and fluid process characteristic of a world that is dominated by high-tech, the elites that control it, and social movements that resist these elites. On the other hand, transnational visions have existed since the European Enlightenment, often in opposition to narrow nationalisms. Science fiction has been at the forefront of the arts in imagining this form of globalization since its earliest examples. In many ways it is the first artistic vision that takes the global as a given.

 

The course takes a historical perspective. We begin with the earliest productions of science fiction cinema in Europe. We gradually observe ways in which non-U.S. cultures adapt to and sometimes resist the cultural hegemony of U.S. science fiction and the geopolitics it reflects. Most of the texts we study are not in English; they are subtitled. In a few cases we  study the way the U.S. film industry adapted foreign sf films for domestic American consumption. Some of the texts we study are interesting primarily as cultural artifacts; others are considered among the most artistically ambitious films, period. Some of them are sheer fun; some are highly challenging works of philosophical reflection and artistic experiment.

Course texts may include: Metropolis (Germany, 1927); Things to Come (UK, 1936); Aelita (USSR, 1924); Cosmic Journey [Kosmicheskiy Reys] (USSR, 1936);  The Day the Earth Stood Still (USA, 1951); The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (USA, 1956);  Gojira (Japan, 1954) [+ Godzilla (USA, 1956)]; The Day the Earth Caught Fire (UK, 1961); Amphibian Man (USSR, 1962); Silent Star (East Germany, 1960) [+ First Spaceship on Venus (USA, 1962)]; La Jetée (France, 1962); Alphaville (France, 1965); Solaris (USSR, 1972); Stalker (USSR, 1979); Akira (Japan, 1988); Ghost in the Shell (Japan, 1995); 2001: A Space Odyssey (UK, 1968); Man Facing Southeast (Argentina, 1986); Endhiran [The Robot] (India, 2010); The Host (South Korea, 2006); Bedwin Hacker (Tunisia, 2003); Sleep Dealer (Mexico/USA, 2008); District 9 (South Africa, 2009); The Congress (Israel, 2013);   Snowpiercer (South Korea, 2013); Shin Godzilla (Japan, 2016)

SPRING 2018

 

Eng 392a:  Advanced Topics:  Tolstoy’s War and Peace
This course is devoted to the close reading of War and Peace, one of the most celebrated and innovative -- and heftiest -- novels in world literature. Because of its length, War and Peace is rarely studied in classrooms in its entirety. This course will be the exception. We will study the novel’s artistry, along with the historical backgrounds of the Napoleonic Wars, Russian and European history of Tolstoy’s time, and the broad influence the novel has had on modern literature and philosophy.

HONR102C:  FYS - The Art of Comedy
Comedy is one of the most ancient and yet most contemporary literary genres. While its roots lie deep in myth and religious rite, it is probably the single most popular of contemporary entertainment genres. In this class we will study varieties of classical European and contemporary comedy, with special attention to formal structures, aspects of performance, theories of laughter and the comic spirit, and the relations between comedy and other genres, such as romance, tragedy, satire, and melodrama. We will pay close attention to certain themes and motifs that appear to be constants in the comic tradition, as well as to the variant roles that comedy has played in different societies. We will also explore major theoretical statements about the psychological, social and philosophical significance of comic art.

FALL 2017

English 250/World Lit 201 - World Literature/Introduction to World Literature

In this course we read and discuss classic works by both ancient and modern writers, primarily outside the Euro-North American tradition. Our goal is to explore the ways works of literature articulate the deepest concerns of cultures and ages very different from our own, and to analyze the techniques and structures with which they do it. Our focus will be on the differences between pre-modern conceptions of literature and their transformation in the course of modernization. Readings include The Sundiata Epic (Mali; 14th century), Valmiki's Ramayana (India; between 200 BC and 200 AD); Arthur Waley's adaptation of Wu Ch’eng En's Monkey (China; 16th century/Ming Dynasty); Natsume Soseki's Kokoro (Japan; 1914); Chingiz Aitmatov's The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years (USSR/Kirgizstan; 1980); Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide (India; 2005); Pablo Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets (Chile; 1959); Ousmane Sembène's film Moolaadé (Senegal; 2004); Dani Kouyaté's film Keita: The Heritage of the Griot (Burkina Faso; 1995); and poems from the T'ang Dynasty (China; 8th century BCE) and Zen poems by Basho (Japan; 17th century BCE/Edo period).

English 151- Reading Literature: Poetry, Fiction and Drama

In this course, we explore how readers and audiences make sense of literary texts. Whenever we approach a story or a poem, we expect it to display a design that will contain all the desires and interests its intense language stimulates in us. We will investigate how readers and artists construct those designs together. We will investigate examples of four major genres of literature: poetry, drama, film, and narrative fiction. Each mode works differently from the others, yet we will also find underlying similarities. We will study some of the basic concepts of literary discourse, and we’ll also get down to the nitty-gritty of observing how our minds work while we are interpreting. Class texts include stories by Doris Lessing, James Baldwin, William Faulkner, and Arthur Conan-Doyle; Shakespeare's Othello; Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon;  Vishal Bhardwaj's Hindi film Omkara; and Stephen Chow's Hong Kong comedy, Shaolin Soccer.

 

*****

 

SPRING 2017

English 161A - Digital and Visual Narratives: Story, Gender, Murder

This course is intended to be an introduction to the art of narrative through visual media. We will focus exclusively on drama, cinema, and television as artforms. Our explorations will be guided by a complex theme: the fascination of narrative over time with the theme of murder, and specifically the killing of women. This theme has attracted writers since the earliest iterations of narrative art, and it obviously has profound social and cultural implications. We will explore why this is the case from a social standpoint, but our main concern will be the way artists and their cultures imagine the significance of this event. What does it say about the values of a society? What is revealed by the death of a woman? What is at stake?

 

We read texts ranging from ancient Greece, to Renaissance England, to contemporary India and Turkey, up to recent works in the U.S., the U.K., Denmark, and Senegal. We will observe how this ancient theme has been transformed in modern societies. Although this is not a Women’s Studies or a feminist course per se, it is inevitable that we will be exploring ideas that overlap with them. The course culminate in the intensive study of the Danish television serial drama, Forbrydelsen (The Killing), which will give us the opportunity to do careful analysis of a long-form narrative. Course texts include: Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis and Medea; Shakespeare, Othello; Michael Cacoyannis, dir., Iphigenia; Lars von Trier, dir., Medea; Oliver Parker, dir., Othello; Vishal Bhardwaj, Omkara; Preston Sturges, dir., Unfaithfully Yours; Jonathan Demme, dir., Silence of the Lambs; Lynda LaPlante (writer), Prime Suspect 1; Søren Sveistrup, The Killing (Forbrydelsen); Ousmane Sembène, dir., Moolaadé; and Abdullah Oğuz, dir., Mutluluk (Bliss).

 

English 396A/Film 321A: Cinema of the New Silk Road 

In this course we  explore the diverse cultural, and specifically cinematic, traditions of nations along what is being called the New Silk Road – the new trade and political network being forged from China through Central Asia to Russia and Turkey. We will view and analyze films from China, Mongolia, Tibet, Bhutan, Iran, Turkey, and Russia, each of which has developed a strong and distinctive cinematic culture.

 

We have a challenging task. We explore these films as records of the historical moments in which they were created and as works of cinematic art. You are asked to study what makes them distinctive of their historical cultures, at the same time that you appreciate how they speak to a global audience. The films were chosen to reflect the modernization and globalization of Eurasian cultures in the past twenty years. The films in this course were all made in the recent past – yet each is also a creative emanation of national cinematic traditions going back to the beginnings of the art. We consider the political and economic transformations that have influenced the recent history of each culture, but our main focus is on the way cinema has “levelled” them, embedding them in a modern global culture, of which cinema is both an exemplary artform and also a powerful agent of social and cultural change. It’s safe to say that none of us can grasp the full richness of these cultures, cultures that are historical composites of many ethnic and political transformations. We are tourists; our goal is to be analytical and aware not only of our outsider status, but of our ability to broaden our horizons

Course texts include: Ang Lee, dir., Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon; Jiang Wen, dir., Devils at the Doorstep; Jia Zhangke, dir., Still Life; Andrew Lau & Alan Mak, dirs., Infernal Affairs; Stephen Chow, dir., Kung-fu Hustle; Wang kar-wai, dir., In the Mood for Love; Tsai Ming-liang, dir., What Time Is It There?; Hou Hsiao-hsien, dir., Three Times; Edward Yang, dir., Yi-yi; Bong Joon-ho, dir., Memories of Murder; Lee Chang-dong, dir., Poetry;  Jang Joon-hwan, dir., Save the Green Planet;  Byambasuren Davaa & Luigi Falorni, dirs., The Story of the Weeping Camel; Wang Quan'an, dir., Tuya’s Marriage; Lu Chuan, dir., Mountain Patrol; Ugyen Wangchuk, dir., Travelers and Magicians; Abbas Kiarostami, dir., A Taste of Cherry; Asghar Farhadi, dir., A Separation; Samira Makhmalbaf, dir., Blackboards; Nuri Bilge Ceylan, dir., Once Upon a Time in Anatolia; Abdullah Oğuz, dir., Bliss (Mutluluk); Andrey Zvyagintsev, dir., Leviathan; Valery Todorovsky, dir. Hipsters; Nikita Mikhalkov, dir., 12; Pavel Lungin, dir., The Island.

******

FALL 2016

English 451a: Senior Seminar in Literature: Modern Fantastic Fiction 

Until recently, the notion of “the fantastic” as a mode of art and the literary genre designated as “fantasy” have been treated with little respect by critics and scholars. The situation has changed dramatically in the past few decades, as genres generally associated with the fantastic – such as sword-and-sorcery fiction, horror fiction, urban fantasy, and science fiction – have become at least as popular as more realistic modes. Even in art-fiction sometimes called “literary fiction” fantastic elements have become as important as realistic ones. We now expect our literary artists to show that they are at home in the fantastic.

This new popularity, and the change in cultural attitudes it marks, has left literary scholarship somewhat behind on the pitch. While a popular audience may not care very much about definitions, it’s hard to reflect on or to analyze works of art without some theoretical handles. In this course, we explore some of the most interesting and influential recent theories of literary fantasy, as we simultaneously read several major works by Anglophone writers considered leaders in the mode. Because we are focusing particularly on language and culture, the texts in this course are all by living British and American writers. (The sole exception is Angela Carter, who died in 1992.)

 

Course texts include: Ursula K. Le Guin: The Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972); Philip Pullman: The Golden Compass (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), The Amber Spyglass (2000); Neil Gaiman: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013); Michael Swanwick: The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1993); Nnedi Okorafor: Who Fears Death (2010); Octavia Butler: Wild Seed (1980); Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993); China Miéville: The Scar (2002); and Angela Carter: The Passion of New Eve (1993).

*****

 

English 255a: Topics in Literature: Global Science Fiction 

In this course we study the neglected traditions of science fiction outside the US production system. Although the US has been the primary and most influential producer of science fiction literature and visual media, major works have been produced in other countries. As globalization extends to more and more societies, science fiction has become one of its major artforms. In this course we study science-fiction texts from Russia and Eastern Europe, Great Britain, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, Australia, and South Korea. We focus on science-fiction as a trans-national tradition and the social-historical contexts in which the works emerged.

 

We approach science fiction as both an entertainment genre and a distinctive form of art. While its roots go back at least to the early Enlightenment, most of its works emerge from societies that undergo rapid modernization – especially the application of drastically transformative technologies of transportation, communication, and scientific invention and discovery. It is the genre of literature and film that takes as its subject “future shock.” Its most original contributions to culture are imagining a future that is distinct from the present and the past, and alien phenomena that are radically different from what is already known. These two tropes – the future and the alien – are embedded in literary stories that endow them with political and cultural significance for the present. Even when they are silly confections, science fictions express social desires to cope with the New and the Other. Different cultures and subcultures will try to shape these desires in accord with their own interests.

 

As for the “global,” in this course we treat the term, and its noun-form “globalization,” in two senses. On the one hand, they name the contemporary geopolitical process of the breakdown of national boundaries and cultural differences that attend the introduction of mass communications, high-tech transportation, cultural and financial flows, and the mass movements of populations. In this sense it is a very contemporary and fluid process characteristic of a world that is dominated by high-tech, the elites that control it, and social movements that resist these elites. On the other hand, transnational visions have existed since the European Enlightenment, often in opposition to narrow nationalisms. Science fiction has been at the forefront of the arts in imagining this form of globalization since its earliest examples. In many ways it is the first artistic vision that takes the global as a given.

 

The course takes a historical perspective. We begin with early 20th century productions of science fiction in Europe. We observe ways in which non-U.S. cultures gradually adapt to and sometimes resist the cultural hegemony of U.S. science fiction and the geopolitics it reflects. Most of the films we study are not in English; they are subtitled. In one case (Gojira/Godzilla) we study the way the U.S. film industry adapted a foreign sf film for domestic American consumption. Some of the texts we study are interesting primarily as cultural artifacts; others are considered among the most artistically ambitious works, period. Some of them are sheer fun; some are highly challenging works of philosophical reflection and artistic experiment.

 

Course texts include:  Yevgeny Zamyatin, We; Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale; Karel Čapek, The War with the Newts; Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic and Hard to Be a God; Leiji Matsumoto: Galaxy 999; Nnedi Okorafor:  Who Fears Death; Stanislaw Lem: His Master’s Voice; Fritz Lang, Metropolis; Michael Radford, Nineteen eighty-four; Vladimir Chebotaryov and Gennadi Kazansky, Amphibian Man; Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey; Inishiro Honda, Gojira; Rintaro, Metropolis; Mamoru Oshii, Ghost in the Shell; Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira; George Miller, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and Mad Max: Fury Road; Bong Joon-ho, The Host; Neil Blonkamp, District 9; Alex Rivera, Sleep Dealer; and selected episodes from Black Mirror.

*****

 

SPRING 2016

English 392: Advanced Topics in Genre: American Film Comedy                                                 

American Film Comedy has been one of the most powerful and influential forms of popular art in the 20th century. Especially in the period between the 1920s and 1940s, when Hollywood became the dominant producer of films in the world, the pairing of the literary genre of comedy and the technological medium of cinema seemed to be a marriage made in popular culture heaven. From the slapstick of classical silent comedies, through the glamorous screwball and romantic social comedies of the 1930s and 1940s, to the absurdist texts of the post-1970s, American screen comedies have dominated the comic art in the 20th century. In this course we concentrate on three phases: the classical slapstick of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Loyd, and the Marx Brothers; the sparkling musical and verbal comedy of Busby Berkeley, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, and Howard Hawks; and the oddball comedy of the 1980s to the present. We approach the film texts from three directions simultaneously: as artifacts of certain dynamic periods in 20th American social history, as examples of the literary genre of comedy, and as texts that create in their audiences a kind of comic consciousness.

Course texts include: Charlie Chaplin: The Gold Rush and The Great Dictator; Buster Keaton: The General; Harold Lloyd: The Freshman; The Marx Brothers: Duck Soup; Busby Berkeley:  Golddiggers of 1933; Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: Shall We Dance; Howard Hawks, Bringing Up Baby and Ball of Fire; George Cukor, The Philadelphia Story; Vincente Minelli, Cabin in the Sky; Frank Capra: Mr. Deeds Goes To Town; Preston Sturges, The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels; Woody Allen, Annie Hall; John Landis, Trading Places; Alex Cox, Repo Man; Harold Ramis, Groundhog Day; Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing; Wes Anderson, Grand Budapest Hotel.

English 191: Reading Literature: Science and Technology               

In this course we study a number of celebrated science-fiction novels and films that deal with “The Line.” This line is the one human cultures constantly try to draw between what is human and what is not. Sometimes the line separates humans from animals; sometimes humans from machines; sometimes humans from extraterrestrial aliens; sometimes “complete” humans from “debilitated” ones. As we will see, this line is hard to keep. It keeps dissolving, it’s constantly being breached. Defining and delimiting “the human” is a constant labor. In our age, science is often invoked to draw the line; but just as often, science erases it. Advanced technologies constantly create new conditions that were intended to show the distinctiveness of the human, but instead reveal the closeness of the human to the “non-human.”

 

Course texts include: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” (1845); Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818; 1830); H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896); John W. Campbell, “Who Goes There?” (1938); Olaf Stapledon, Sirius (1944); Stanislaw Lem, Solaris (1960); Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968); Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic (1972); Liu Cixin, Three-Body Problem (2006); China Miéville, Embassytown (2011); Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (2014);  Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker; Spike Jonze, dir. Her; Jonathan Glazer, dir. Under the Skin; Ari Folman, The Congress.

*****

 

FALL 2015

English 161: Visual and Digital Narratives                              

Course Texts: Homicide: Life on Street, seasons 1-6.

In this course, we engage in an in-depth study of the acclaimed television series, Homicide: Life on the Street, which aired on the NBC network from 1992-1999. We analyze the first five and a half seasons, episode by episode, to study several aspects of the long-arc television drama form. We look closely at the storytelling conventions of the serial policier genre. We examine these in terms both of literary conventions (such as use of language, dramatic construction, thematic metaphors, etc.), and cinematic ones (acting, editing, mise-en-scène, sound, music, cinematography, etc.) Most of all, we examine the ways Homicide established an original aesthetic style that strove to represent perennial themes of police dramas in new, socially grounded ways. Since Homicide aired for seven seasons on network television – and so was subject to studio interference much more than the strong cable series that were later influenced by it – we also track its gradual transformation into a more conventional Hollywood television production.

 

English 250: World Literature (see Fall 2017)

*****

 

SPRING 2015

English 151: Reading Poetry, Fiction, and Drama (see Fall 2017)

English 255: Topics in Literature: Global Science Fiction Cinema (see English 267 - Fall 2018)