Spring 2016 Graduate Course Descriptions

AML 6305  Walt Whitman

In an 1888 memoir entitled "A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads," Walt Whitman – America's bard – recounted the creation of his now seminal work of American poetry, "Leaves of Grass," stating "I saw, from the time my enterprise and questionings positively shaped themselves (how best can I express my own distinctive era and surroundings, America, Democracy?) that the trunk and centre whence the answer was to radiate, and to which all should return from straying however far a distance, must be an identical body and soul, a personality—which…after many considerations and ponderings I deliberately settled should be myself—indeed could not be any other."  In this class, we will take up Whitman's invitation to see his work as a window through which we can come to a better understanding of self, place, and time – and of the way that these things are not only mutually constitutive, but literarily mediated.  Employing a history of the book approach, this course will focus not only on the literary, aesthetic and philosophical value of Whitman's writings but also on the cultural assumptions and attitudes that gave rise to their creation, dissemination, and reception.  Since this course will focus on the materiality of texts and their circulation in a sphere of both literary and material objects, it will also familiarize students with what Bill Brown has coined "thing theory" and introduce them to material culture studies.  Thus, students will emerge from this course with a better understanding of Whitman's body of work and of Nineteenth-Century American literature and culture more broadly – not to mention a foundation upon which to understand the profound influence he has had on a wide swath of writers both American and otherwise: from Bram Stoker and Pablo Neruda, to Langston Hughes and Sherman Alexie.  Finally, students will have the opportunity to use digital and analog archives to conduct research on primary materials of the period (including periodicals, books, and other relevant cultural objects). This course counts toward the American Literature concentration.

LIT 6932 Science Fictional Ecologies

This graduate seminar will consider a diverse selection of philosophy, literary criticism, ecocriticism, and critical theory in order to explore the ways that science fiction, from the inception of the genre to the present day, participates in the cultural construction of nature and environment.  This course counts toward the Science Fiction and Fantasy area of concentration.

AML 6934 Representing Slavery in Contemporary Literature and Film

This course will explore contemporary texts and film that revisit and/or reimagine antebellum slavery. We will explore diverse representations of the slave experience in speculative fiction, historical fiction, satire, a graphic novel, and film.  Along the way, we will unpack the literary, theoretical and cultural meanings of the term "neo-slave narrative," examining the racial, class, gender, and sexual politics that writers and filmmakers explore.  Questions that will frame our discussions include:  What does it mean to narrate or visualize slavery?  What compels writers, artists, and filmmakers to revisit and/or reappropriate the slave narrative? How do writers use the past to confront issues of the present? How do cultural memories of slavery affect black subjectivity?  This course fulfills the Multicultural & World Literatures area of concentration.

ENC 6930 Visual Literary

Visual Literacy is a course for all tracks because it will be both creative and analytical.  The course is designed to examine visual literacy/rhetoric in literature, writing, and cultural media and to use visual texts to analyze and apply frameworks for thinking about social issues.  It will be a project-based course with readings.  Short projects will offer analyses of photos, advertisements, and websites reading them rhetorically for issues such as race, gender, and politics.  A final substantial project will allow you to explore a topic of your own interest that emphasizes social action within a specific cultural context—think of political, culture, or humanitarian relief argument built with visual representations.  The work of Sharon Daniel and others will serve as starting places for discussions of these projects.  Projects may be eligible to participate in the curated exhibit that will be hosted by FAU in Spring 2017.  The goal of the class will be to help support you to produce new and original work or contribute to work you are already doing.  Everyone who knows they are interested in in using visual texts in their work should consider taking this course.  This course satisfies requirements for the Composition & Rhetoric area of concentration. 

LIT 6934 Imagining Caribbean Freedoms

This course examines the exploration of freedom in novels published since the late 1990s that are set in the period of slavery and indentureship. We will read them alongside Thomas Thistlewood's 18th-century record of plantation life; and theorizations of resistance and agency in the 1960s (Orlando Patterson's historical sociology and fiction, and Kamau Brathwaite's historiography and literary criticism), death and violence (Vincent Brown, Saidiya Hartman, Deborah Thomas), kinship and the family romance (Doris Garraway, Hortense Spillers, Jenny Sharpe, Christina Sharpe, Gayatri Gopinath), and same-sex intimacy and the Caribbean nation-state (Rosamund King, M. Jacqui Alexander, Vanessa Agard-Jones). Recent discussions of the legal claims for compensation made by British citizens in the wake of the 1833 Act of Emancipation will allow us to think about the archives, as well as the ongoing task of identifying the "subjects" and the "price" of emancipation. What might it tell us about conceptions of freedom in our present, when the British Prime Minister's September 2015 visit to the Caribbean was marked by protests against same-sex marriage, in favor of reparations, and against the British government's proposal to build a prison? How might these be understood as representing different ways of conceptualizing freedom, and how might the three protests be connected to each other? Though you will be invited to make connections with narratives of slavery in the USA and elsewhere, your major paper should attend principally to the Caribbean. In this class you will become familiar with discussions of slavery and indenture, colonialism and the postcolonial, in Caribbean fiction and nonfiction; develop a repertoire for discussing the slave narrative, tragedy, romance, and the "antiromance"; weigh the pros and cons of interdisciplinary inquiry; practice writing forcefully and imaginatively. This course fulfills the Multicultural & World Literatures area of concentration.

ENL 6305 Shakespeare and Spatiality

This course examines how space is constructed through the medium of early modern theatre, focusing on Shakespeare's use of spatiality in his plays. We will start by studying the development of the playhouses and the significance of their location in the liminal space on the outskirts of London. We will also examine traditional theatrical structures and the cosmology intimated by their design. After an introduction to the application of social theories to theatrical history, we will read various theorists who have dealt with the social construction of place, among them the brilliant Henri Lefebvre. Turning to the plays, we will look at how the characters' words build a socially meaningful place, how that place is imposed upon the empty space of the playhouse stage, and how that stage represented the world outside it in a complex allegorical transaction. We will consider how far recent theories of the social constitution of setting can be applied to the theater's self-representations. Shakespeare himself considered how the representational stage reifies reality in his creation of plays-within-plays in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The course begins with this play and moves on to two other comedies. After a few weeks in which we'll focus on different theories of social space and spatiality, we will return to Shakespeare's work.  At that point the course will shift to consider the staging of space: how Shakespeare constitutes such significant places as the heath in Lear, the Roman and Egyptian empires in Antony and Cleopatra, and the imagined battlefields of Henry V.

Format: lecture and discussion, with frequent student presentations. Assignments:  one brief paper mid-semester; a ten-page paper due at the end of the course. This course satisfies requirements for the British Literature area of concentration.