The obvious fact that language is the medium of literature makes the connection between the study of language and the study of literature seem inevitable. Yet, in spite of a tremendous amount of interest in interdisciplinary studies in recent years, language-centered approaches to literature have not figured very prominently among them. In this seminar, we will begin by considering some of the reasons that many modern approaches to literature seem to ignore the language of the texts they study, to the extent that it is not difficult to find critical discussions of literature that barely mention the text itself. We will then turn our attention briefly to the nature and origin of language itself. Finally, and mainly, we will explore some of the many and varied ways that the study of the English language can inform and enhance the study of literature in English.
Tentative Reading list:
Golding, William. The Inheritors. New York: Harcourt, 1963.
Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Fawcett Chrest, 1987.
Bierce, Ambrose. “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (online).
Twain, Mark. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (online).
Thomas, Dylan. Assorted poetry (online).
cummings, e. e. Assorted poetry (online).
Dickinson, Emily. Assorted poetry (online).
Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
Leech, Geoffrey and Michael Short. Style in Fiction. 2nd ed. London: Addison-Wesley, 2007.
Geoffrey Sampson. The Language Instinct Debate. London: Continuum, 2005.
Saussure, Ferdinand de. Course in General Linguistics. New York: Philosophical Library, 1959 (online).
Weber, Jean J. The Stylistics Reader: From Roman Jakobson to the Present. London: Arnold, 1996 (on reserve).
Hoover, David L. Language and Style in The Inheritors (Blackboard).
McGann, Jerome. Radiant Textuality: Literature After the World Wide Web. Palgrave, 2001 (online).
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By. 2nd ed. University Of Chicago Press: 2003.
Assorted online articles.
Active participation in class discussion will be an essential aspect of this course. The work for the semester will include one or two short language exercises, a class presentation, and a substantial final paper.
Satisfies the senior seminar requirement
“Water is the master verb: an act of perpetual relation.” (Roni Horn, 2000)
“One of the most unexpected biases of modern thought is terracentrism: the idea that history only happens on land” (Marcus Rediker, 2012)
Human beings are over 70 per cent water. 90 per cent of international produce moves via water. And yet, both in public discourse as well as in the humanities where nations and continents are dominant forms of analysis, water represents a kind of terra incognita. If it is true, as Roni Horn has suggested, that “water receives you, affirms you, shows you who you are”, then this class offers a vital lens for zooming in on some of the key issues in contemporary global culture.
Necessarily interdisciplinary in nature – materials to be examined will span poetry, science fiction, graphic novels, cinema, dance music, visual arts, photography – this is also a cross-hemispheric class covering work from or fringing China, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Paying equal attention to water as a politically contested entity and as a perennially seductive locus for the artistic imagination, it will explore, among other topics, the poetics of piracy, monstrosity, labour, class conflict, gendered self-fashioning, racial transformation, climate change, port cultures, aquatic globalization.
The class will also pose many questions of a willfully speculative nature: In what ways can we see water as an experimental text? What might it mean to treat water as a “thinking space”? What are the alternative pedagogies that water offers?
Topics: World Literature
Satisfies the senior seminar requirement
This course explores the contemporary literatures of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region, with a focus on indigenous, migrant and diasporic writing. Challenging reductive readings of the region as merely home of beaches and tropical islands, we’ll pay attention to the way writers have responded to the complex processes of colonialism, diaspora and migration that have fundamentally shaped this part of the world. In addition to novels, essays and films from Australia and New Zealand, we will encounter Anglophone works from Malaysia, Singapore and the Pacific islands. Through careful analysis of these texts, we will consider: how issues of race and indigeneity have been central to various discourses of nationalism; relationships between place, territory and identity; the project of multiculturalism in different contexts; and, finally, themes and forms of recent writing that responds to ideas of a “globalizing” Asia-Pacific. Assigned texts will likely include works by Alexis Wright, David Malouf, Brian Castro, Lee Tamahori, Lee Kok Liang, Arthur Yap, Adib Khan and others. In addition to honing critical thinking, reading and writing skills, students will develop a critical vocabulary for analyzing the problematics of postcolonialism, race, diaspora, indigeneity, nationalism and gender. Short response papers, final research paper and presentation.