Click here to download a PDF copy of the course descriptions.
ENGL 501: HISTORY OF LITERARY AND CULTURAL THEORY: Professing Literature: Reading, Writing, Theorizing and Surviving
Hilary Schor, Mon., 2:00-4:20 pm Course Number 32770D
There are two standard jokes about the first year of graduate study in English: one is that it is the year in which you forget all the reasons you wanted to study or write literature in the first place; the second is, that it should consist entirely of courses so awful that at least the “first year class” bonds over their shared misery. English 501, the introduction to graduate study in the USC Department of English, has one goal and one goal only: to help you to prepare yourself for further study in our department, without making you hate literature, graduate school, each other or (quite frankly) me. Easier said than done?
I think not! Our goals in the class will expand ever so slightly, though not quite so wide as the “history of literary and cultural theory” might suggest. We will not be surveying all of critical theory, only a subset of it that will remind us why the study of literature and culture continues to have value – and also continues to be fraught with serious and interesting arguments about what “value” means. We will engage in serious conversations about what it means to be a “professor” of literature (or, in Philip Roth’s memorable reworking of the phrase, a “Professor of Desire”) and how you can locate yourself within “the profession.” And along with exploring some of the professional tasks that await you (writing critical essays; attending conferences; preparing lectures and pursuing a career) and some of the resources of graduate study at USC, we will be practicing these skills and cutting our critical teeth on some profound literary and cultural texts. We will take as our test subjects such texts as The Odyssey (no, not all of it!), Hamlet, “A Christmas Carol,” The Passion and “Vertigo”; we will explore the relationship between practicing art and practicing criticism; we will engage with faculty from within USC and from the Outside; and above all, we will learn to talk to each other with intelligence, grace and gentleness. If we can blend the joy of literary study with the acuity of critical practice and a modicum of mutual respect, we will have introduced ourselves well to the profession of literature, and I look forward to joining you in your explorations. And yes, just to reassure you, we will read such critics as Foucault, Derrida, Judith Butler, Theodor Adorno, Sadiya Hartman, Heather Love and Friedrich Kittler; we will discuss the future of the humanities; we will all write a critical bibliography, a report on a journal in our field, and a conference-style (short) paper; and we will read and argue about literature – and there will be a constant array of snacks. Wine may also appear, along with distinguished visitors and office supplies. Welcome to the profession!
ENGL 502: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory: Mimesis, Echo and The Crisis of the Copy in (Contemporary) Critical Theory
Karen Tongson, Wed., 4:30-6:50 pm Course Number 32771D
This course revisits foundational debates in literary and cultural studies—about the status of representation, and our critical methods for evaluating a range of representational techniques and apparatuses—through a contemporary critical framework focused on copies, replication and distribution in the post-digital age. How has our scholarly engagement with reading, watching and listening shifted from aesthetic and philosophical rubrics of “perception,” to market-driven models of consumption in the so-called “Age of New Media?” One of our seminar’s primary objectives will be to re-familiarize ourselves with literary historical and philosophical genealogies of audiovisual mimesis: from Plato, Rousseau and Kant, to Pater, Wilde and Nietzsche; from Benjamin, Fanon and Arendt, to Butler, Taussig and Zizek, etc. In retracing our steps through these canonical genealogies, we will also pursue divergent pathways carved out by scholars with an interest in reframing representability (or a lack thereof) through the politics of queer, racialized, gendered, postcolonial and classed critical perspectives, including figures like Lorde, Grahn, Sedgwick, Muñoz, Ahmed, Sandoval and Spivak among many others. Special attention will be paid to the sonic or auditory dimensions of these critical conversations—particularly notions of the “echo” as it has, repeatedly, of course, made itself heard in critical theory from Ovid, to Lacoue-Labarthe, to contemporary media and popular music studies about citation, sampling, covering etc. (see D. Brooks, Rose, Vazquez, among many others).
Students will be expected to write bi-weekly responses, collaborate on presentations in pairs, and to submit final research projects of no more than twenty pages.
Sample Texts - Please note that this is simply a sample of the materials we will be covering in the course. The final reading list will be determined by July, 2014.
ENGL 536: Literature and Cultures of the Victorian Period: Victorian bestsellers
Kate Flint, Tues., 2:00-4:40 pm Course Number 32882D VKC 379
What do we mean when we speak of “bestsellers” in Victorian Britain? Do we limit ourselves to books, or might we include other commodities as well – from prints to soap? In this course, we will examine the literary marketplace between 1850-1900, and its relationship to other forms of commercial popularization. We will consider the qualities that appear to have made a range of books – belonging to different genres – appeal to large numbers of readers, and how this appeal was constructed from both within and outside the texts. Among the topics that we’ll cover will be serialization, magazine publication, and book distribution; suspense, sensation and the thrills (and concomitant anxieties) associated with particular works; the inscription of affect, including grief, mourning and consolation; literature as consciousness-raising device and as a factor in campaigning on social issues from slavery to animal welfare; the growth of self-help and instructional manuals, and advertising and authorial (self) promotion. Our historically situated readings of texts both verbal and visual will be supplemented by material concerning commodity culture and the culture industry; the concepts of “the masses,” cultural elitism and the nature of taste; reading and readerships, and, of course, plenty of discussions about what might turn something into a bestseller, and about the attitudes, values, and stereotypes that such a bestseller promotes and, on occasion, launches into being. Our major literary texts are likely to be Charles Dickens, David Copperfield; Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White; Samuel Smiles, Self Help; Mrs Beeton’s Cookery Book and Household Guide; Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Anna Sewell, Black Beauty; George du Maurier, Trilby; Marie Corelli, The Sorrows of Satan; George Gissing, New Grub Street, and a number of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.
ENGL 580: 19TH CENTURY AMERICAN LITERATURES AND CULTURES
John Carlos Rowe, Wed., 5:00-7:20 pm Course Number 32786D
This seminar looks at canonical and non-canonical U.S. literature and culture as a response to U.S. imperialism in the period of nation-building. The paradox that U.S. nationalism is deeply transnational is explained simply by the fact that the United States legitimated itself as a nation by immediately turning to a wide variety of colonial projects inside North America and on a global scale that by the end of the century, marked by the Spanish-American and the Philippine-American wars, had been systemized into what we term “imperialism.” The seminar will provide excellent coverage of the main nineteenth-century literary classics – selections from Emerson, Margaret Fuller’s Woman in the Nineteenth Century, Melville’s Moby-Dick, Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun, Whitman’s poetry (selected), Mark Twain’s Following the Equator – and consideration of lesser known works that will transform our understanding of these canonical authors and texts – Martin Delany’s Blake, or the Huts of America, John Rollin Ridge’s (Yellow Bird’s) Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta, and selections from Erika Lee and Judy Yun’s Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America and from Marlon Hom’s Songs of Gold Mountain: Cantonese Rhymes from San Francisco’s Chinatown. We will use several sustained scholarly studies of nineteenth-century U.S. literature: Anna Brickhouse’s Transamerican Literary Relations and the Nineteenth-Century Public Sphere (2004), Robyn Wiegman’s Object Lessons (2012), and my new book (not yet published) The Ends of Transnationalism and U.S. Cultural Imperialism. Requirements: each seminar participant will lead the discussion in one part of a seminar, present an in-seminar proposal for the seminar essay/ project, and complete a seminar essay/ project (20-25 pp. or equivalent).
ENGL 640: INDIVIDUAL WRITERS: Returning in, to, with, and through Shakespeare
Bruce R. Smith, Mon., 4:30-6:50 pm Course Number 32798D
King Lear, a script first performed toward the middle of Shakespeare’s career, will provide the entry point for an exploration of “the motif of the return” in Shakespeare’s plays as well as for a consideration of “the return” as a motive in contemporary criticism, with respect not only to Shakespeare but to objects in all periods and cultures. We shall consider “the new philology” (words and syntax as indices of cognitive functioning), “the new bibliography” (the political, economic, aesthetic, and cognitive implications of different forms of media), “the new materialism” (Marx without the promised revolution), “the new phenomenology” (he universalizing assumptions of Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty adjusted to historical and cultural differences), and “the new poetics” (aesthetics informed by materialism, cognitive theory, and phenomenology). Articles in special issues of PMLA (125.4, 2010) and Criticism 54.3, 2012) will help us find our bearings. Although play scripts and poems by Shakespeare will provide test cases for this exploration of new critical practices, participants with interests in other periods and authors will have the opportunity to pursue those interests in their final projects.
ENGL 660: STUDIES IN GENRE: Modernist Poetry & Poetics: Women Poets & High Modernism
Susan McCabe, Wed., 5:00-7:20 p.m. Course number 32800D
This course will examine the careers of four American women poets in the context of the genesis of high modernism: H.D., Stein, Moore and Loy. While the course will primarily focus upon H.D.’s poetic achievement and with questions of form, poetics and gender raised by her writings and by other modernist women poets, we will try to locate these women poets in relation to their immediate contemporaries (Pound, Eliot, Williams and Toomer) as well as within their literary, political, economic and cultural backgrounds. We will begin with students reading and reporting on one of the digitized little magazines appearing in the Modernist Journals Project. Students will present a longish oral report on one poet and an approach, and there will be a final paper due at the end of the seminar. Diligent attendance required.
Tentative REQUIRED TEXTS:
ENGL 696: GRADUATE POETRY WRITING WORKSHOP: "Cloud Corporation: Growing the Book"
Carol Muske-Dukes, Tues., 4:30-6:50 p.m. Course Number 32803D
Students will attempt to assemble a book-length manuscript of poems - or a nucleus of "related" poems. Manuscripts are not expected to be complete or finished - we will discuss the process of completion and ideas of a "whole". Manuscript order, titles, sections, "arc" - and the ongoing growth of each poem will be addressed along with ideas for revision. Several contemporary collections will be assigned reading, including Jane Mead's Money Money Water Water, Kevin Young's Book of Hours and Lucie Brock-Broido's Stay, Illusion - along with scheduled presentations of individual poets and their work - as well as the history of "the book" itself.
ENGL 697: GRADUATE FICTION WRITING WORKSHOP
Aimee Bender, Thurs., 7:00-9:20 p.m. Course Number 32804D
697 is the graduate fiction workshop. Students will be required to turn in fiction on a regular basis, including one or two specific assignments. We will also read various short stories, a couple short novels, and occasional essays. Possible TBD readings from: William Maxwell, Jesse Ball, Alice Munro, Deborah Eisenberg, Helen Oyeyemi, Haruki Murakami.
Click here to download a PDF copy of the course descriptions.
ENGL 504: THEORIES OF RACE, CLASS AND GENDER: Case Study: The Harlem Renaissance
Michelle Gordon, Thursday, 4:30-6:50 p.m. Number 32773D
This seminar takes up the Harlem/New Negro Renaissance as a particularly fertile site for the study and application of various theories of race, class, gender, and sexuality developed over the last 80 years. The Harlem Renaissance itself was period in which black artists from around the nation and world widely theorized and experimented with the complex plays of race, class, gender, and sexuality in art and society. The renaissance helped produce an array of critics and artists concerned with questions of racial, sexual, and gendered identities, with class divisions, imperialism, labor, and capitalism. The renaissance also involved a range of white patrons and artists who engaged in these debates, and who particularly impacted the art and criticism of the period’s primitivism, music scene, and public reception of black arts. Our approach to this case study is designed to familiarize students with the range of cultural production during the period, as well as open new avenues of inquiry into Harlem Renaissance scholarship, the problems and politics of literary and cultural history, and into students’ own developing research agendas and areas of study.
Course requirements for each student will include: regular participation in seminar sessions, a final seminar paper, and several smaller writing assignments (a book review, literature review, and primary source analysis); each student also will deliver two presentations during the semester, including a “conference” presentation delivered at the end of the semester based on the final seminar paper. Additionally, each student will be responsible for leading part of one seminar meeting.
Each week, we will read literary texts and criticism alongside each other. We will focus heavily on the prose of the period, but also will consider poetry, music, drama, and visual culture. Major literary texts and authors likely will include: The New Negro (ed. Alain Locke); Claude McKay, Home to Harlem; Nella Larsen, Quicksand and Passing; Jean Toomer’s Cane; The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes; one little magazine, Fire!!, and one collecteanea, Ebony and Topaz. We also will screen the film Looking for Langston. Our critical readings will include Shane Vogel’s The Scene of Harlem Cabaret, and works by Cheryl wall, Anthony Dawahare, Carla Kaplan, Hazel Carby, Barbara Foley, Brent Hayes Edwards, Cherene Sherrard-Johnson, and Gloria Hull.
ENGL 507: RHETORIC AND LANGUAGES
Joseph Dane (firstname.lastname@example.org), Thursday, 2:00-4:20 p.m. Number 32776D
The course will have two components, both dealing with the use or primary source material: (1) history of books and bibliography (2) reading Latin for research. Students who take the course may concentrate on either of these areas.
The bibliographical portion will deal with material books and the use of these resources in major collections in the Los Angeles area. The Latin portion will be a reading course, designed for those with no Latin, little Latin, or enough to make the entire course superfluous. We will likely end by combining these two areas with a section on paleography. Students will have the opportunity to give reports and develop research projects. But these are not required, and participants in the class may come and go as they please. We will meet at Doheny Special Collections and the Clark Library (a mile from campus). I can provide transportation.
ENGL 520: RENAISSANCE ENGLISH LITERATURES AND CULTURES: Spirits in Early Modern England
Rebecca Lemon, Monday, 2:00-4:20 p.m. Number 32780D
This course explores the wide variety of spirits in England during the early modern period. Specifically, we will explore three forms of the spirit: as God, as the devil and or/witches, and as drink. In the first unit, we will trace various engagements with the divine spirit, through Bible translations (Tyndale, Cranmer, Coverdale), prose (Anne Askew, John Foxe) and poetic expression (Donne, Herbert). The second unit explores writers, readers, and characters overcome with the spirit of the devil, in playtexts (Marlowe, Shakespeare, Middleton) and in contemporary polemics (Reginald Scot, King James). Finally, in unit three we turn to alcohol as spirit, examining the wide variety of depictions of drinking in the period (Shakespeare, Jonson, Puritan pamphleteers, and Cavalier poets including Lovelace, Herrick, and Marvell). In each of these units, we will explore the relationship between character, agency, and the spirit, asking what happens to the notion of human will and the material body once the spirit has taken over? Here, the writings of various theorists on the notion of the will can guide us (Luther, Calvin, Sedgwick).
Erasmus and Luther, Discourse on Free Will; John Donne, Henry Vaughan, and George Herbert poems; Reginald Scot, Discovery of Witchcraft (1584); King James VI and I, Demonology; Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus (c.1592); Shakespeare, Macbeth (1606); Thomas Middleton, The Witch (c. 1606-14) and Rowley, Dekker, and Ford, The Witch of Edmonton (1621), in Three Jacobean Witchcraft Plays, Revels Student Editions (Manchester UP, 1989); Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (Indiana UP, 1984); Shakespeare, Henry IV, part 1 (1596-7); Ben Jonson and the Cavalier Poets, W. W. Norton & Company; Jonson, Bartholomew Fair (1614).
A weekly written response, less than one page, presenting a problem, question, observation, or brief passage for discussion (10 total for semester). To be posted to Blackboard or class blog by Sunday evening at 9pm.
One presentation, with a partner, of questions/thoughts on the reading material in order to help direct discussion.
A final research paper.
ENGL 591: 20th CENTURY AMERICAN LITERATURES AND CULTURES: Post-Western Representations
William Handley, Tuesday, 4:30-6:50 p.m. Number 32788D
What do Sherman Alexie and Jerry Bruckheimer have in common? Not much -- and a lot. That question and its nonsensical answer speak to the difficulty and challenge of studying the U.S. West and its cultural representations in the past century. Haunted by imperial and settler-colonial history and popular cultural stereotypes and formulas, western U.S. fiction, historiography, and film exhibit a broad range of aesthetic and political responses to the questions of how and why the past and its ongoing legacies are represented.
The burden of writing about the U.S. West in the nineteenth century was to give readers what they wanted: something authentically real. Yet the West in the twentieth century inspired terms such as the “simulacrum” and the “hyperreal” in the work of European postmodernist theorists Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco. We will explore these seeming contradictions about representations of the West after the formula Western, along with such topics as “postindian simulations”, ecocritical literature, Los Angeles and postmodernist theory, noir as invisible history, and the ongoing frontiers of race and sexuality in the post-frontier West.
Writers we’ll read include Raymond Chandler, Karen Yamashita, Cormac McCarthy, Mary Austin, Sherman Alexie, Joan Didion, Wallace Stegner, Percival Everett, James Welch, N. Scott Momaday, and Annie Proulx. Critics include Gerald Vizenor, Kerwin Lee Klein, Eco, Baudrillard, and Neil Campbell. Films include Lone Star, The Lone Ranger, and Chinatown.
ENGL 592: CONTEMPORARY BRITISH AND AMERICAN LITERATURES AND CULTURES: Film, Fiction, and Culture in the 1950s
Leo Braudy, Wednesday, 4:30-6:50 p.m. Number 32789D
This course explores the cultural shape of a crucial period in American life through the mediation of film, popular fiction, and "serious" fiction from the end of World War Two to the election of John F. Kennedy. We will be reading essays, poems, plays, and novels by writers such as James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, William Burroughs, Albert Camus, John Cheever, Ralph Ellison, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Heinlein, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Robert Lowell, Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, John O'Hara, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, J. D. Salinger, Mickey Spillane, Lionel Trilling, and Tennessee Williams. Filmmakers represented will include Robert Aldrich, Walt Disney, John Frankenheimer, Howard Hawks, Elia Kazan, Joseph Mankiewicz, Anthony Mann, Christian Nyby, Nicholas Ray, Douglas Sirk, Frank Tashlin, Billy Wilder, and William Wyler.
We will also consider several of the political and social problems of America in the 1950s, to which many of these works responded and out of which they emerged: the military and political threat of the Soviet Union, the rising political consciousness of African Americans, juvenile delinquency, the changing social and sexual relations between men and women, and the expanding consumer economy that promised so much to so many.
Throughout the course we will raise theoretical issues--the nature of a cultural period (and "culture" as a concept), the various interpretations that have been made of the period, and the varying ideological bases of those interpretations.
Requirements are two medium-length papers (12-15 pages) and an oral presentation on a background topic of general interest.
Baldwin, James. Go Tell It on the Mountain.
---. "The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy" (xerox).
Bentley, Eric, ed.: Thirty Years of Treason (Selections from testimony before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee) (xerox).
Burroughs, William. Naked Lunch.
Camus, Albert. The Stranger.
Cheever, John. Short Stories [Selections to be announced].
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man.
Ginsberg, Allen. Howl.
Heinlein, Robert. The Puppet Masters.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea.
Kerouac, Jack. On the Road.
Mailer, Norman. The Naked and the Dead.
---. "The Man Who Studied Yoga" in Advertisements for Myself (xerox).
---. "The White Negro" in Advertisements for Myself (xerox).
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman.
O'Hara, John. Ten North Frederick.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell-Jar.
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye.
Spillane, Mickey. I, the Jury.
Trilling, Lionel. The Liberal Imagination.
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire.
Atomic Cafe (1982).
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).
Kiss Me, Deadly (1955).
The Thing (1951).
On the Waterfront (1954).
Rebel Without a Cause (1955).
No Way Out (1950).
The Girl Can't Help It (1957).
Bend of the River (1952),
Some Like It Hot (1959).
Written on the Wind (1956).
Viva Zapata! (1952).
Beaver Valley (1954).
The Manchurian Candidate (1962).
ENGL 620: LITERATURE AND INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES: Writer & Composer
David St. John, Tuesday, 2:00 – 4:20 p.m. Course Number 32796D
This course will be team taught by David St.John and composer Frank Ticheli of the Thorton School of Music. It is a structured collaboration between composers and poets/writers. Activities include fundamentals of poetry, comparative analysis of poem/song settings, and creative projects. We hope that this course can foster long-term collaborative relationships between composers and writers. The course is designed for graduate students in Music Composition and English/Creative Writing (Poetry). However, other graduate students may enroll with the permission of the instructor. Be warned: this is all about collaboration in the arts. If you think of yourself as a lone wolf artist, this course may not be for you.
ENGL 695: GRADUATE FICTION FORM AND THEORY
Percival Everett, Thursday, 2:00-4:20 p.m. Course Number 32802D
Though we proceed with the understanding that we can identify the forms of the novel and short story, we cannot actually offer necessary and sufficient conditions for a work being either. We will address the question of whether there is an archetypal model of any form of fiction and ask where the boundaries of the model exist. We will also explore what happens when boundaries (if they are real) are crossed.
ENGL 698: GRADUATE POETRY FORM AND THEORY: "The Aesthetics of Translation"
Carol Muske-Dukes, Tuesday, 4:30-6:50 p.m. Course Number 32805D
The great Russian modernist poet, Maria Tsvetaeyeva famously said, "All poetry is translation". With her words in mind, we will focus on the aesthetic properties of the translation process: meaning how a poem in one language is "brought across" or re-created in another. (A "workshop" focus.) We will be less concerned with technicalities of word-for-word rendering than concentration on what might be described as the "impossibilities" in translation: how the translator must determine aesthetic equivalencies - and how linguistic/poetic diction/imagery/tone in the original language can be transformed to create the possibility of a beautiful poem in the "second" language. We will rely on Rainer Schulte's Comparative Perspectives: an Anthology of Multiple Translations as a "text" - but will focus on our own translations, either of original works-in-progress and/or translations of "new" work. (Poetry manuscripts, ongoing, may be considered as sources.) Other guides will include Sappho (from Mary Barnard to Anne Carson), Robert Pinsky's Inferno, Bly's The Eight Stages of Translation, Heather McHugh's translations of Paul Celan, (Glottal Stop), Hass on Transtromer, Simic on Brodsky, Seamus Heaney's essays in The Government of the Tongue, Muldoon, Hirschfield, etc.
A meditation: the paradox of translation, Derrida said, is that the translator must strive to be as faithful as possible to the original author's style and intent, while at the same time recognizing that it's impossible to reconstitute the unique meaning of the original words. The alchemy of translation, he said, occurs precisely at that point where an essentially new work is created. "A translator is a creative writer", Derrida said. "You have to find the best way to be untrue to the original, to perjure in the best way. This is the double bind."
The arbitary but exciting word "best" is key here. The "living poem" in English will remain a goal - as well as productive analysis of the successful and not-so-successful theories and practices of translation ("literal" or "true" vs. "versions") We will be working primarily with "glosses", but also original text. it is helpful to know the language from which one is translating, but "literals" or "ponies" will always be available as a starting point for those not fluent in another tongue. Each student will offer a presentation, based on her semester-long project - along with the regular translating in workshop. The semester's project will be turned in at the end as "in progress" or close to completion.
ENGL 700: THEORIES AND PRACTICES OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT I
Bruce Smtih, Days: TBD, TIME: TBD Course Number 32806D
Faculty declined to submit a course description.
Graduate alumni publications pictured above:
Marci McMahon, Domestic Negotiations Rutgers UP 2013; Nora Gilbert, Better Left Unsaid Stanford UP 2012; Sean Zwagerman, Wit's End University of Pittsburgh Press 2010; Chris Abani, Sanctificum Copper Canyon Press 2013; Katherine Karlin, Send Me Work Triquarterly 2011; Samuel Park, This Burns My Heart Simon & Schuster 2011.