FALL 2020 Course Descriptions
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau were three of the most important writers and thinkers in 19th-century America. Their essays not only laid the groundwork for the progressive intellectual movement of Transcendentalism—and associated movements such as abolitionism and feminism—but also forged, in no small part, a distinct and viable American identity, itself, still a nascent concept during their time. Through examining a good portion of their nonfiction writings, and through examining some noteworthy criticism, we will interrogate their unique contributions to America’s literary and intellectual culture, and the enduring legacy of their visions.
What do we value about writing? How do we learn to write? How do we teach others? These are the questions we will keep coming back to as we read, analyze, and critique current scholarship on composition, and as share ideas and experiences about teaching writing. This course invites you to situate your own practices within the context of current discussions and debates within the field of composition. This is a required course for all incoming GTAs and recommended for all MA students pursuing a Rhetoric and Composition focus. Textbook is provided at no cost.
This course will provide a combination of theoretical background and practical, hands-on experience in the field of literary editing and publishing. Graduate and undergraduate students will work together to produce Coastlines, the undergraduate literary journal of Florida Atlantic University. Graduate students will work together to produce Swamp Ape Review, FAU’s new, national literary magazine. Duties involved in the production of both of these journals include soliciting and evaluating submissions, editing, proofreading, marketing, publicity, research, fundraising, web design, public relations, and more.
Concentration: Rhetoric and Composition
This is a course in the literature of the English Revolution (1640-1660): before, during, and slightly after. As such, it is also a course in the birth of both modern democracy and modern materialism. Through close attention to the works of several writers (Francis Bacon, Robert Burton, John Milton, Thomas Hobbes, among others), we will examine scientific rationalism in its infancy and evangelical Christianity in its revolutionary phase. Students will emerge from this course with an altered view of some basic modern assumptions and with an enhanced appreciation for English prose as an argumentative, imaginative, and experimental medium.
Historical Period: Pre–1700
Concentration: British Literature
While this course is titled “History of the English Language,” it could be more accurately titled “The (Hi)Stories of Englishes” because there is no single English, and there never was. This course will trace the development of the various languages we lump into the single category of “English” from its emergence in England during the Old English period (c. 650-1150) to today’s global Englishes, ending with ASL, internet slang, and memes. The course will cover the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and historical linguistics—what internal and external factors helped it evolve?—in the first half of the course with weekly quizzes and a midterm exam, but then it’ll shift to focus on sociolinguistics and students’ particular research interests in the second half of the semester with student-chosen readings (essays) and presentations that culminate in a final research paper. Students will understand how our mouths literally produce consonant and vowel sounds, why we pronounce words the way we do, the sponge-like quality that expands our vocabulary, our strange grammatical quandaries (like what’s up with our use of “do”), a basic understanding of some premodern Englishes, and much more!
Our primary text for the first half of the semester will be K. Aaron Smith and Susan M. Kim’s This Language, A River, and then we’ll read Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John McWhorter for a bridge week after the midterm exam. The final half of the semester will include sociolinguistic essays based on student interest, some of which may derive from Haruko Momma and Michael Matto’s A Companion to the History of the English Language (not required, but recommended) and journal articles.
Historical Period: none
*fulfills foreign language requirement; fulfills one course elective
What would happen if we were to examine literary texts through the lens of energy? That is, what if we approached William Wordsworth’s Romantic ruminations on the “sublime” crafts of “men’s arts” as a praxis for thinking about the material forces of the sublime—“motion and means...on land and sea” made possible first by the winds that would move commerce across the Atlantic Ocean in the long sixteenth century and soon thereafter by coal? What if we understood colonial occupation in the context of East Africa or throughout Latin America in terms of the transnational plantation economies that would also be fueled by wind or hydropower or coal, and thus conducted postcolonial critiques of novels like Gabriel García Marquéz’s Autumn of the Patriarch or Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat accordingly? Might we then understand energy not merely in terms of the “fuel-injected” American dream featured in a Bruce Springsteen song, but instead as the very means of fueling culture? Might we then appreciate that the conventional tropes of literary expression and critique are the products of the material forces contemporary to each work? That petroleum, for example, isn’t simply a theme, but is that which enables the very production of culture?
As a seminar on Petrocultures, and an introduction to the Energy Humanities, this course shall focus on the imbrications between energy and cultural production in order to understand the ways in which material forces like coal or petroleum literally fuel culture. We shall explore a wide archive of cultural works that represent, in the words of literary scholar Patricia Yaeger, the “ages of wood…coal…oil” and ultimately alternative fuel sources like wind or solar power. Writers like Ursula LeGuin, Amitav Ghosh, Kim Stanley Robinson, Nawal El Saadawi, Muriel Rukeyser, Paolo Bacigalupi, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Herman Melville, and many others will guide us through our new geological epoch—call it the Anthropocene or the Thermocene—illustrating the intersections of cultural discourse, political ideology, and aesthetic expression. As we also will come to learn, there is no “age of wood,” for example, without a correlative commitment to Enlightenment notions of “improvement,” whether of self or land. There is likewise no age of oil, nor of wind, without a persistent commitment to such notions of civilizational progress as we see in the paeans to industry and “enlightenment” that generally characterize popular political thought. Thus, while we end with an exploration of alternative energy—alternatives, that is, to fossilized carbon—we likewise question whether a simple shift in fuel is sufficient to the task of averting the sorts of apocalyptic scenarios presented in novels like Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker. Ultimately, we will follow the After Oil collective in asking how aesthetic forms represent (and often reinforce) energy regimes and how, in the face of an overwhelming commitment to disaster porn, we might “frame the unimaginable,” which is to say life after carbon.
This course surveys science fiction by black authors from the Americas (including Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean) and Africa: a quickly expanding field of immense scholarly- and creative production. Addressing the intersections and distinctive ruptures between Afrofuturist—typically anchored in the U.S. and Europe—and African SF, the readings highlight the manner by which black techno-futures confront the context of race and conceive of the role of Africa as symbol and source in speculative landscapes. In addition to reading key theorists of black SF including Dewitt Douglas Kilgore, Isaiah Lavender, Sheryl Vint, Mark Dery, Andre Carrington, and Adilifu Nama, possible primary texts may include works by George Schuyler, Ishmael Reed, Nalo Hopkinson, Nnendi Okorafor, Buchi Emecheta, Kojo Laing, Octavia Butler, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Emmanuel Dongala, Karen Lord, Samuel Delaney, Malcolm Azania, Walter Mosley, N.K. Jemisin, and Deji Bryce Olukotun.