Recent Courses in LSJEThese are courses offered in Literature, Social Justice, and Environment since fall 2006:
Green Literature and Cinema
Scott Baugh and Sara Spurgeon.
In the mid 1970s Marshall McLuhan famously invoked “ecology” to explain how various media can be arranged so that they support one another without canceling one another out. In this spirit, Green Literature & Cinema critically engages the ways environmental issues, “nature,” and concepts of the natural are reflected, constructed, and deployed in American fiction and fictive-narrative cinema. Some questions that will guide our inquiries: How do notions of environment and constructions of identity correlate? How is the idea of the “natural” used to construct categories of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality? Where do environmentalism and multiculturalism intersect? What are the origins for various American myths about nature, and what might the consequences be for the environment? How have notions about frontiers and empire impacted the way contemporary cultures view nature? Where, in fact, does “nature” begin and where does it end? How have human beings grown into and through or in spite of our technologies and literacies?
Studies in Native American History
This course is intended to give graduate students a thorough introduction to the major themes and interpretations of American Indian History from the pre-contact era to the present day. We will achieve this goal via an intense examination of the major works in the historical literature of this topic. We will focus on Native culture, Native Interactions with whites, as well as US Federal Indian Policy in an effort to gain as complete an understanding of the contours of the field of Native American history as we can. Additionally, as my training lies in the techniques of Ethnohistory, we will pay particular attention to the development and components of that particular Native American History methodology.
Post-modern American Fiction
This course investigates postmodern American fiction in terms of literary responses to the radical social, political, cultural, and technological changes in America since the 1960s. We begin by examining how the meta-fiction of Thomas Pynchon, William Burroughs, and Donald Barthelme breaks the narrative frame and creates new dimensions of reality. Moreover, we also reconsider how the works of Gloria Anzaldua, Jessica Hagedorn, Ishmael Reed, Gerald Vizenor, and Karen Tei Yamashita engage the issues of history and tradition, and represent the diverse and multiple perspectives of racial minorities and women in America. Finally, we read the cyberpunk fiction of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, and the writing of Don DeLillo and Cormac McCarthy in the changing social and technological context in America. During our discussion of these primary texts, we invoke and contest various critical notions of postmodernism as articulated by Ihab Hassan, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Fredric Jameson, David Harvey, Jean Baudrillard, Donna Haraway, Katherine Hayles, bell hooks, Trinh Minh-ha, and Antonio Negri.
Enlightenment, Revolution, and Early American Literature.
Michele Currie Navakas
This course surveys American literature and culture during the decades leading up to and including the early national period (c. 1750 to 1820). Our readings will come from classic legal, literary, political, religious, scientific, and visual texts that reflect on the meaning of Enlightenment, Revolution, and America's movement from colony to nation and empire. We will consider what Revolutionary I deals and post-Revolutionary politics meant for women and men, free and enslaved, Indian and white, rich and poor, urban and rural; examine the meaning and limitations of "Enlightenment" in the Atlantic world; explore the formation of the "republic of letters" in its transatlantic context; and investigate the multiple geographies and cultures that shaped national identity as it emerged. The course will chart the rise of literary forms of expression in America -- such as the slave narrative, autobiography, and novel -- as well as examine critical responses that continue to shape the field of early American literary studies. Readings will include works by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Phyllis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Paine, Edmund Burke, Charles Brockden Brown, Hannah Foster, and Robert Montgomery Bird.
Literature, Science, and Posthumanism
The field of literature and science has developed over three decades as a scholarly response to the increasingly specialized and technical languages that enclose separate disciplinary spheres. Under modern conditions of knowledge production, cross-disciplinary contact has to become a discipline in its own right. In addition, the field of literature and science has taken the lead in forming a scholarly conception of posthumanism. Current work in this field has delineated a “critical posthumanism” that stresses the range of the concept beyond the cyborg imaginary, as well as an ethical posthumanism that rethinks the humanist rejection of nonhuman or animal subjectivity. Finally, posthumanism is the philosophical counterpart of the visionary notion of the posthuman, a conceptual trope conveying images of biotechnological or cybernetic hybrids, especially as literary and cinematic narratives have imagined technoscientific vectors beyond the human. This seminar will focus an introduction to the field of literature and science through the discourse of posthumanism and the literature of the posthuman. The syllabus as I currently conceive it is my Posthuman Metamorphosis: Narrative and Systems; Cary Wolfe, What Is Posthumanism?; Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern; Niklas Luhmann, Theories of Distinction; Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, What is Life?; Tyler Volk and Dorion Sagan, Death & Sex; Paul di Filippo, A Mouthful of Tongues: Her Totipotent Tropicanalia; and Richard Powers, Generosity: An Enhancement.
Chandra Mohanty’s conceptualization of feminism without borders is premised on intersections between women’s movements, activism, and analysis on a global scale. As a method of enquiry encompassing biological, kinship, and work-related categories that span cultures and continents -- women as unwaged, white, blue, or pink collar workers performing corporate, academic, manual, domestic, or sexual labor -- transnational feminist studies has emerged as an important branch of globalization theory. Following Nancy Fraser, we can identify struggles for recognition of new identity categories and redistribution of economic, social, and political power as the major strands in transnational feminist analysis. Redistribution’ and ‘recognition’ are keywords in the feminist philosophical, anthropological, and historical accounts we will read in this course. Some of the issues the course will address are: emergence of new categories of work such as ‘higglers’ and ‘migrant sex workers’ in the Caribbean; transnationalization of labor practices such as those in the export processing zones all over the world; women’s responses to their changing public and private roles including an increase in domestic and social violence; new forms of affective intimacy in late capitalism including the adoption of a global vocabulary of identity politics such as ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’ or ‘queer’ in places which prohibit expression of erotic autonomy outside the heterosexual matrix. While we will examine these issues in a transnational framework, the course includes a special focus on the political, social, and cultural economies of the global South as manifested in gender studies scholarship and curricula in the Euro-American academy.
Between East and West--The American Transcendentalists
In at least three senses, the nineteenth-century American Transcendentalist Movement was between East and West. First, it constituted the first large encounter of American literature with Asian culture. Second, it bridged European Idealism and American pragmatism. Third, it came primarily from an East Coast sufficiently settled so that it could begin to see the negative effects of civilization (e.g., environmental deterioration and the massacre of Native Americans); thus, it appreciated what was being lost there but still persisted in the American West. In other words, it was less a series of fixed principles than a commitment to dialogue between regions of the world still relatively separate. It was thus a precursor of present globalism, and like any precursor, helps us to see more clearly the current condition by observing its roots. All the required texts are free on the web. We shall commence with selections from such Transcendentalists as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller. Then, we shall explore the impact of the movement by reading a little poetry by two authors influenced by it (Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman) as well as fictions by two who reacted against it, but in a very ambivalent manner (Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne).
Gender, Race, and Nature in American Environmental Literature
This course will help students think critically about the ways “nature” and concepts of the natural are reflected, constructed, and deployed in American literature and culture, and how ideas about the natural differ historically and across ethnicities, gender and class boundaries. We will read some “classics” of nature writing as it has been traditionally defined, as well as novels, journals, poetry, and critical texts that challenge commonly held notions about this genre. Some questions that will guide our inquiries: How is the idea of the “natural” used to construct categories of gender, race, class, and sexuality? What are the origins for various American myths about nature, and what might the consequences be for the environment? How have notions about frontiers and empire impacted the way contemporary cultures view nature? Where, in fact, does nature begin and where does it end?
Place, Space, and Mestizaje in Chicana/o Cultural Production
From the lost land grants of the nineteenth century to the imaginary homeland of Aztlán and the endless fields of migrant farmworker horizons, place and space play key roles in Chicana/o cultural production. Much of Chicana/o literature elaborates the feel of a particular space and the deep history of a specific place, or environment. Yet, Chicana/o literature is also deeply invested in a culture of mestizaje and draws critical strength from this hybrid background, especially as it allows for an ever-shifting identity. How does Chicana/o cultural production and critical theory reconcile the “root-edness” of space and place with the mixture and movement that defines mestizaje? This course will explore the relationship among place, space, and mestizaje by reviewing some of the foundational texts in Chicana/o literary studies as well as some of the most recent studies on place and mestizaje. Primary readings will include recently recovered texts from the nineteenth century by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton and Jovita González, as well as more contemporary works by John Rechy, Ana Castillo, Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Helena María Viramontes. Secondary works include The Chicano Studies Reader, which selects from the first 30 years of landmark articles in the journal Aztlán, Rafael Pérez-Torres’ Mestizaje, Ramon Saldívar’s The Borderlands of Culture, and Mary Pat Brady’s Extinct Lands, Temporal Geographies.
“Soul/Post-Soul”: African American Literature, Popular Culture and Civil Rights, 1960-2000
Writing of connections between African American literature and grassroots civil rights activity in 1968, the black intellectual Hoyt Fuller announced: “The black revolt is as palpable in letters as it is in the streets.” Indeed, the 1960s and 70s are commonly remembered as a period in which African American progressive politics, literary expression, and popular culture complemented each other in an organic network of collective action and racial pride. However, as cultural critic and journalist Nelson George has argued, by the late 1970s, African American culture—at least in its various popular manifestations—had entered a “post-soul” period, in which the assertive Afrocentrism of the civil rights era had diminished or vanished from view. This course will compare two generations of African American writers and artists to consider the soul/post-soul shift that George and Neal map. We will consider aesthetic differences between these two periods, with special attention to the relationship between African American art and politics in the final decades of the twentieth century. As well, we will consider the commodification of “soul” and blackness in popular culture between the 1960s and the present, attentive to how this commodification complicates the idealized vision of black cultural revolution described by figures like Hoyt Fuller. While this is primarily a course in African American literature and intellectual trends, we will also look in detail at various popular culture phenomena, including the blaxploitation film genre, the birth and rise of hip-hop culture, and changes in African American television programming between the 1970s and the 1980s.
Multicultural American Cinema
“Multicultural American Cinema” offers an introduction to critical media studies for graduate students. However, the seminar also fosters investigations into the extent to which the aesthetics of film represent and express American multiculturalism. With special attention to the dynamics of “mainstream” and independent/alternative fictive-narrative feature films, the course covers a diverse range of issues involved in the formulation of American multiculturalism in cinema, including race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class and socio-political status. Students, then, not only practice analytical reading skills through film interpretation, but also explore and identify significant aspects of our American culture. Films for the semester include: Birth of a Nation and Intolerance (Griffith); El Norte, Mi Familia/My Family, and Selena (Nava); High Noon (Zinneman); Shanghai Noon (Dey); Windtalkers (Woo); Rush Hour (Ratner); Manhattan (Allen); Heartland (Pearce); Across the Moon (Gottlieb); Old Gringo (Puenzo); New York, New York (Scorsese); Boyz-N-the-Hood and Shaft (Singleton); Shaft (Parks); Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X (Lee); Powwow Highway (Wacks); Mi Vida Loca/My Crazy Life (Anders); Glory (Zwick); Mississippi Masala (Nair); El Mariachi and Desperado (Rodriguez); The Godfather trilogy (Coppola); Blade Runner (Scott); Philadelphia (Demme); Amores Perros and 21 Grams (González-Iñárritu ); Y Tú Mamá También and Children of Men (Cuarón). Textbooks for the course include: Ella Shohat and Bob Stam’s Unthinking Eurocentrism (Routledge, 1994/2001) and Margo Kasdan, Christine Saxton, and Susan Tavernetti’s The Critical Eye (3rd ed., Kendall-Hunt, 2002). Supplemental readings on reserve include articles by Stam & Spence, Mulvey, Silverman, Mellencamp, Fregoso, among others. Course requirements will include assigned readings and screenings; one short (approx. 5 pp.) critical essay; one class presentation; a (“green-light”) term project; and one article-length research essay.
Gender, Race, Class and the Victorian Novel
Ann Daghistany Ransdell
English 5352, "Studies in Fiction," is a comparative literature course that may be arranged in various ways. This fall the students will read the English Victorian Novel, in order to compare the treatment of issues dealing with race, gender, and class. Students will understand in greater depth the origin of American social attitudes in the Victorian period. History and criticism of the period will be utilized. Specific attention will be paid to the Victorian concepts of education, and institutions such as the boarding school and the workhouse will be compared as microcosms of social policy. The impact of gender and class attitudes upon learning will be highlighted. Contemporary films of three novels that we read will be shown in the class to provide a novel/film comparison of character and theme. There will be three short papers, a long paper, an oral presentation of that long paper, and a final. We will read the following texts: Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist;Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; Charlotte Brontë, Villette; Charlotte Brontë, The Professor; Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights; and George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss.
Language and Gender
Mary Jane Hurst
Our main goals in English 5337 will be to learn at a graduate level some basics of language study, to explore the relationship between gender and language, to examine competing theories about language and gender, and, overall, to understand the context of gender studies from the perspective of linguistics. Aside from some introductory background lectures, the first three-fourths or so of the semester will be arranged around discussions of specified readings. The last part of the semester will be devoted to student presentations applying course concepts in the analysis of specific texts. For details about how this class has been taught in a previous semester, visit the course information section of Dr. Hurst’s website (www.faculty.english.ttu.edu/hurst). This course would be appropriate for students in any subfield or combination of subfields in English (linguistics, literature, technical communication, rhetoric, film, creative writing, etc.) as well students with interests in language and/or gender from programs outside English (CMLL, Psychology, Anthropology, Education, HDFS, etc.). The books for Fall 2007’s English 5337 have not been selected as of 1/19/07.
Studies in Criticism: Redistribution and Recognition in Global Times-Transnational Feminisms
Chandra Mohanty's conceptualization of feminism without borders is premised on intersections between women's movements, activism, and analysis on a global scale. As a method of enquiry encompassing biological, kinship, and work-related categories that span cultures and continents--women as unwaged, white, blue, or pink collar workers performing corporate, academic, manual, domestic, or sexual labor--transnational feminist studies has emerged as an important branch of globalization theory. Following Nancy Fraser, we can identify struggles for recognition of new identify categories and redistribution of economic, social, and political power as the major strands in transnational feminist analysis. 'Redistribution' and 'recognition' are keywords in the feminist philosophical, anthropological, and historical accounts we will read in this course. Some of the issues the course will address are: emergence of new categories of work such as 'higglers' and 'migrant sex workers' in the Caribbean; transnationalization of labor practices such as those in the export processing zones all over the world; women's responses to their changing public and private roles including an increase in domestic and social violence; new forms of affective intimacy in late capitalism including the adoption of a global vocabulary of identity politics such as 'gay,' 'lesbian' or 'queer' in places which prohibit expression of erotic autonomy outside the heterosexual matrix. While we will examine these issues in a transnational framework, the course includes a special focus on the political, social, and cultural economies of the global South as manifested in gender studies scholarship and curricula in the Euro-American academy.
British Literature and Science
This seminar will introduce students to the interdisciplinary specialization of literature and science with a survey of nineteenth- and twentieth-century British texts: excerpts from Charles Darwin’s seminal works off scientific prose, a parade of science-fictional or science-conversant prose narratives, and for good measure, a recent science-inflected work of British drama. As we sample historical and theoretical approaches to the study and cultural interplay of literary and scientific discourses, we will incorporate some review of pertinent scientific developments over the last several centuries. In this period, scientific theories of evolution, energy, entropy, and relativity accompany a host of social schemes and concerns, powerfully refracted in the storyworlds under narration: eugenics, degeneration, political order vs. cultural chaos, the possibility (or not) of individual and social renovation, of global utopia or planetary catastrophe.
Studies in Multicultural American Literature: Chicana Feminisms
This course focuses on prose, poetry, theory, and activism as ways to encounter Chicana feminisms. Aída Hurtado writes that, “Chicana feminisms were born out of acts of disruption.” We will take this standpoint of oppositionality and “misbehaving” as a way to experience the texts in this course, especially emphasizing disruptions of gender, sexuality, feminist activism and theory, ethnic/national identity, globalization issues, class, and environmental imagination. We will engage with definition of Chicana feminisms, encounter the particular disruptions the work(s) enact, and formulate our own working characterization of this dynamic field of inquiry.
People and the Land in the American West
The graduate seminar will focus on the topic, “People and the Land in the American West.” The course will offer students the opportunity to examine the ways that humans have interacted with the natural environment, and the historical consequences and implications of this interaction. A multidisciplinary approach will allow new perspectives on many aspects of human history.
Studies in American Fiction: Literatures of the American Southwest
This course focuses on a variety of texts from the region currently referred to as the American Southwest, questioning the ways ideas about region get created, altered, and re-imagined by authors. We ask why “authenticity” continues to be a yardstick by which writing from this region is measured. We ask why Native American, Anglo American, and Chicana/o authors are quickly identified as Western/Southwestern, while Maxine Hong Kingston (who self-identifies as a Western writer first, Asian American second) is rarely read as a “real” Westerner. In addition, we consider essays and articles engaging current theoretical and critical debates in the field of regional studies, post/decolonialism, ecocritical theory, and race and gender studies. Some questions that will guide our discussions: What common threads run through these works? Where do the visions and voices of authors collide or overlap? How is the sense of this region imagined across cultures, histories, and into a globalized present? How were various “Southwests” produced by works of fiction and how have contemporary writers embraced, resisted, or reimagined those images?
Chicana/o Environmental Thought
Ecocriticism has been a growing field of literary study since the 1990s. Initially focused on U.S. nature writing, ecocriticism combined a concern about the environment with an emphasis on the role of cultural production in addressing environmental issues historically and in our own time. However, its early emphasis on U.S. nature writing largely limited ecocritical studies to narratives of privilege and anti-anthropocentrism, and therefore has left out a diverse, global array of voices ranging from ethnic minorities to urban dwellers to queers and women. Through the study of Chicana/o environmental thought, this course will explore the ways that diversifying ecocriticism revitalizes and reinvents this important field of literary study. Although the course emphasizes Chicana/o environmental thought, readings and discussions will offer students ecocritical tools that can be applied to a wide-array of literatures. Texts will include Chicana/o environmental theory as well as primary texts from contemporary environmental writers such as Cherríe Moraga, Ray Gonzales, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Pat Mora, and Patricia Preciado Martin.
*This course satisfies the requirement in post-1990 American literature.
Studies in Post colonial Literature: Shadows, Ghosts and Nervous Conditions – Nationalist and Post-Nationalist Hauntings
The Indian writer Mahasweta Devi’s evocation of the ‘pterodactyl’, a pre-history bird that miraculously appears in the famine stricken area of Pirtha, a region left out of the promises of national development, is perhaps one of the most poignant symbols of the passing away of an indigenous civilization. The pterodactyl represents the unfulfilled promises made to the tribal people, a dying race that finds itself anachronistic in the modern, progressive nation-state. This is a state that has left the indigenes out of the promises of development and progress made to all citizens at the time when the nation gained its independence from colonial rule.
Postcolonial studies as a body of critical and creative work implicitly or explicitly refers to European colonialism and/or forms of neo-colonialism practiced by postcolonial states in league with Western capitalist interests. Some of these writings are, in a sense, ‘possessed’ by the memory of the nationalist ideals that provided the impetus for anti-colonial resistance; all are aware that there are new variants of imperialism that demand new forms of exorcism. We will read a selection of literature and theory from India, Jamaica, Rhodesia, and Sri Lanka, originating in the now discredited but still used descriptor, ‘Commonwealth Literature’, its transformation into ‘New Literatures in English’ and since 1986, with the publication of The Empire Writes Back, ‘Post-colonial Literatures.’
American Environmental History
This course is a graduate level introduction to significant scholarship in American environmental history, from the pre-colonial era to the present. We will meet for weekly discussions, focusing on historical interpretations, themes, and conceptualizations, with special attention to sources, argumentation, and methods employed in research and exposition. By the end of the semester you will have a solid foundation in the field.
Studies in Literary Criticism: Ecocritical Theory
This course explores the broad spectrum of critical and theoretical approaches to examining the ways “nature” and concepts of the natural are reflected, constructed, and deployed in American literature and culture, and how ideas about the natural differ historically and across ethnicities, gender and class boundaries. We will read some of the foundational texts of this contentious field, as well as newer works challenging definitions of ecocritical theory. We explore how the idea of the “natural” used in literature to construct categories of gender, race, class, and sexuality, what the origins are of various literary myths about nature, and what the consequences might be for the environment.
Studies in Literary Criticism: Sexuality and its Discontents—Queer Studies
Michel Foucault’s claim about the proliferation of discourse on sexuality in Victorian England is equally applicable to globalized world we inhabit at the beginning of the twenty first century. Representations of sexual diversity are considered by some as the recent fashion trend in the literary and cultural marketplace. The increased acceptability quotient of such representations have also led to charges that they glamorize ‘sinful’ and ‘unnatural’ desire. These polarized reactions sometimes obscure the long, arduous decades of activism supported by research and publishing that created the conditions for public discussions of sexuality. Our focus in this course will be on the proliferation of queer discourse through a selection of texts – historical, literary, filmic, anthropological, and legal – to examine the institutionalization of Queer studies as a mode of critique from the late 1970s since the publication of Foucault’s seminal History of Sexuality, Volume 1 to the present moment marked by its conjunctions with Black studies and Postcolonial studies. One of the central concerns governing our enquiry will be the relationship between academic and the social. To this end, we begin by examining key moments in the global histories of gay and lesbian organizing, including organizations such as the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in the US and the Gay Freedom Movement in (GFM) in Jamaica. We will then discuss the emergence of the category ‘queer’ marked by a conjunction of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender concerns. The final section of this course will focus on modes of analysis that point to the exclusions in queer activism and theory and call for theoretical and social engagements across race, class, sexual and geographical differences.
Global and Comparative Environmental History
The graduate research methods seminar will focus on the topic, “Global and Comparative Environmental History.” The course will offer students the opportunity to examine the international aspects of the ways that humans have interacted with the natural environment, and the historical consequences and implications of this interaction. One theme of the course involves the environmental ramifications of globalization.