Now that fall 2014 course registration has started, I have put descriptions of my fall courses up on the teaching page. I am offering Twentieth-Century Fiction I, my take on literary modernism and literary modernity in English; for more about that course, take a look at the syllabus of the 2013 version. I’m also very excited to be teaching a literary theory seminar. Here’s the brief description (the full syllabus will be posted in the summer):
The Social Construction of Literature
Where does literature come from? Many discussions about literature proceed as if this question hardly matters: the text, say the teachers and the critics, is there, and we only need to read it closely enough to discover its meaning. But who put the text there, who said that it was literature, and who is this “we” who is doing the reading? Once we ask these questions, we have begun to think of “literature” as a social construction. The goal of the course is to enrich the way we think about literature by understanding the arguments in literary studies’ debates, from the early twentieth century to present, about the relationship between literature and society. Central themes of the course include: literary form and the rejection of social context; literature as socially oppositional force; literature and political power, especially the power of the European empires; the debate over the literary canon and the role of educational institutions; and sociological theories of the literary field. The readings in this course are challenging but highly rewarding. Seminar discussion concentrates on patient engagement with theorists including John Crowe Ransom, Theodor Adorno, Raymond Williams, Edward Said, Pierre Bourdieu, Mary Poovey, John Guillory, and Pascale Casanova. We also work with the theories in literary case studies, which may include poetry by Langston Hughes, W. H. Auden, and Elizabeth Bishop; short stories by James Joyce and R. K. Narayan; an exploration of the history of Rutgers course catalogues; and an analysis of literary prizes. Requirements: active class participation, regular informal writing, two short papers, and a medium-length term paper, which will be submitted in both draft and final forms.
I cannot forbear remarking that this course is also a requirement-fulfilling bonanza: English majors can simultaneously fulfill the theory and seminar (400-level) requirements; they can also fulfill the WCr Core requirement. The course requires English 219 or 220 as a prerequisite.