Project & Senior Seminars

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Spring 2021 Seminars

ENGLIT 1900: Project Seminar, “Unruly Bodies”

Jeff Aziz, W 6-8:30

This course is an effort to confront critically the true spectrum of embodied humanity, foregrounding the bodies often relegated to the periphery: the differently-abled, the transgender, intergender, and intersex, the body in illness, as well as the body as an object of cosmetic surgery.  We will explore bodies both normative and prodigious through texts including Katherine Dunn’s novel Geek Love, John Cameron Mitchell’s film Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Frank Miller’s graphic novel Ronin.  One concern of the spring 2021 course will be the prosthesis, and the interesting, vexing cultural politics of artificial body parts.  This course welcomes students interested in health humanities, disability studies/crip theory, science/health communication, and anyone interested in the literary/artistic representation of the body.


ENGLIT 1910: Senior Seminar, “Word and Image”

Professor Jennifer Waldron, Tu Th 11:05-1:10

Addressing a wide variety of hybrid media, from transgenic art to graphic novels to Shakespearean theater, this course will examine cooperation and competition between words and images at various cultural moments. We’ll consider how text-based literary works conjure up visual effects, and how visual media converse with language. Our readings will range from the classical to the early modern, modern and postmodern: the “intimate histories” of Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments; Claudia Rankine’s Citizen; the work of Pittsburgh-based interdisciplinary and multimedia artists Alisha Wormsley and Vanessa German; graphic novels such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis; and a range of performances and film versions of Shakespeare’s Othello. A theme of the course will be how politics and aesthetics have tended to intersect in struggles over word and image, from acts of iconoclasm in Shakespeare’s time to debates over the effects of social media, public art, and censorship now. Students will have a chance to develop a final research project on a topic of their choosing and will complete smaller projects during the term that involve hands-on multimedia work, from using a printing press to making logos, podcasts, erasure poems, and memes.  


ENGLIT 1910: Senior Seminar, “Literature and the Human”

Amy Murray Twyning, TuTh 4:30-5:45

Examining a range of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Realist texts, this course will investigate what Zakiyyah Iman Jackson calls the “binaristic and hierarchical logics that structure relations among humans and between animals and humans” (Becoming Human). Apparently neutral descriptions of the human species turn out to contain a variety of culturally constructed ideologies, including bodily, mental, sexual, psychological, and spiritual norms designed to discipline, discount, and marginalize a whole host of “Others.” We will engage the insights and theoretical interventions of scholars and activists from dis/ability studies, black and black feminist studies, and animal studies. Likely texts may include The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman), The Girl with All the Gifts (M. R. Carey), Annihilation (Jeff Vandermeer). Students’ work in the course will culminate in a well-crafted theoretical examination of one of the course texts (or an approved substitute); and along the way, students will be able to carry out a number of smaller related projects that suit their academic, critical, and creative investments.