Project and Senior Seminars

Spring 2023 Seminars

ENGLIT 1900: Project Seminar, “At Work in the Renaissance”

Caro Pirri, TuTh 1 - 2:15 p.m.

In this course we’ll consider the changing nature of work in the English Renaissance. This period in English history saw the rise of colonialism and capitalism, as well as a rise in homelessness, social unrest, and economic contingency. These new kinds of social mobility – both downward and upward – also led to new kinds of literature, as literary work, previously considered an aristocratic hobby, became a craft. In this class, we’ll read a selection of texts that respond to, and in some cases innovate, new ways of doing work in the Renaissance: from the poetic labor showcased in Edmund Spenser’s sonnets to representations of colonial plantation labor in English epic poetry and Shakespearean drama. We’ll consider labor as an activity and as a marker of social identity that intersects with other kinds of identities, including gender, race, and class. These texts will be the starting point for your own work as you pursue an original research project. Along the way, you’ll learn some of the building blocks of disciplinary work in English, from working with digital databases and virtual archives to engaging in critical conversations about literature and culture.

ENGLIT 1900: Project Seminar, “The Sea Story”

Troy Boone, TuTh 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

This course will examine the genre of sea story—narratives focusing on travels at sea and the relation between humans and the oceanic world.  We will read nineteenth- and twentieth-century nautical prose fictions in conjunction with works of literary criticism and works in the field of oceanic studies, which brings together such disciplines as history, environmental studies, geography, and philosophy.  The course will enable students to develop individual research projects in which each student will gain deep knowledge of the historical and critical contexts of one work of literature in its relation to the culture of life at sea. 

ENGLIT 1910: Senior Seminar,The Art of Care: Black Literature and Culture"

Shaun Myers, Wednesdays 6 - 8:30 p.m.

Healthcare. #self-care. Caregiving. References to "care" permeate contemporary discourse, even as the history and politics of the term remain largely unexamined in popular culture. This seminar explores the racialized and gendered dimensions of care through the lens of Black cultural practices. We will study fiction, poetry, essays, memoirs, autobiographies, and visual and sonic art by cultural producers who represent but also contest Black people's long and vexed relation to practices of care. How have Black artists--from Toni Morrison to James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, August Wilson, and Charles "Teenie" Harris--innovated cultural forms to imagine alternative modes of kinship and care? How have they used photographs, novels, and even sound to challenge institutional and state "carelessness" that renders communities marginalized and vulnerable? Possible assignments will include a series of written and visual-sonic essays exploring how artistic work challenges racialized, gendered, and sexual histories of care even as it also refashions ways of extending care.

ENGLIT 1910: Senior Seminar, “Zadie Smith and Contemporary Literary Culture”

Dan Kubis, TuTh 4 - 5:15 p.m.

In a recent interview, Zadie Smith was asked how it felt to be viewed as a “mouthpiece for race, gender, and culture.” Smith replied that she’s never viewed herself as a mouthpiece, instead describing her work as “thinking about all sorts of things, on the page, in public.” “That’s what’s important to me in the literary world,” she said, “ways of seeing and thinking.” One of the main goals of this course will be to explore Zadie Smith's ways of seeing and thinking in “the literary world.” How does she use the novel to think about multicultural London in White Teeth (2000) or friendship between Black girls in Swing Time (2016)? How does she use short fiction to think about relationships between parents and children in her story “The Dialectic” (2019)? How does she use essays to record her reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic in Intimations (2020)? Through these and other questions, we will seek to understand how Smith uses literature to think in public, and how we might position our own work in a similar way. Along with reading and thinking about Zadie Smith’s example, the course will also feature guests who write on literary and cultural issues, and possibly visits to local literary organizations.