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After the Civil Rights movement and the move away from the doctrine of “separate but equal” commensurate with the Jim Crow era, the dialogue around race shifted from the use of openly racist rhetoric to language that was racially coded but did not appear racist. As a result, much of today’s language used to discuss race, like “colorblindness,” employs carefully crafted terms meant to capitalize on race while appearing to promote tolerance. This course will look carefully at the way racialized language and stereotypes have been employed to prevent empathy and promote intolerance. Rather than exploring the positives of love, this course will look at the racial rhetoric has been used to promote its opposite: hate. We will look at the way language can appeal to one’s emotions and how it can be used to promote social justice or destroy it. To that end, we will be covering Ian Haney López’s Dog Whistle Politics, Melissa Harris-Perry’s Sister Citizen, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, and Jesmyn Ward’s The Fire This Time. The papers in this course will ask you to analyze racially coded rhetoric, use secondary research to analyze cultural and popular culture texts related to race, and develop thoughtful thesis-driven argument papers about race and social justice. Ultimately, we will question the way racial discourse can dictate narratives of love and hate between ourselves and others as social beings and global citizens.
With the recent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, racial inequality has once again come to the forefront as a divisive issue in the contemporary United States. BLM has brought to the forefront the long history of police brutality, the Prison Industrial Complex, and the marginalization of women of color both within and without their community. This course will examine key literary texts that illustrate the oppression of women of color, especially African Americans, and the ways literature has been used to inspire activism as well as offer social critiques of the history of racism in the United States. The backbone of this course will center around ideas presented in Melissa Harris-Perry’s Sister Citizen, a book that examines the misrepresentation of Black women in the United States. Using Harris-Perry as a guide, we will discuss the ways literature by women of color illustrate their experiences of embodiment and invisibility. These texts, from a wide range of genres (poetry, drama, novel, short story), reveal the collective memory of women of color in the United States that drastically differs from the sanitized version of History that emphasizes both patriarchal and white supremacist values. This course will ask you to question the very political and social structures upon which the United States was built and will use literature as a way of promoting empathy for experiences that may or may not be your own. To achieve this, you will be asked to write two major papers that ask you to think critically about racial and gender issues in the United States, present clear arguments based on close readings of literary texts, and engage in extensive research about identity, including race, gender, sexuality, and class. Through this course, you will gain a new understanding about how race and literature operate and learn to articulate your ideas in clear argument structure.
With the recent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, racial inequality has once again come to the forefront as a divisive issue in the contemporary United States. BLM has brought to the forefront the long history of police brutality, the Prison Industrial Complex, and the marginalization of women of color both within and without their community. This course will examine key literary texts that illustrate the oppression of people of color, especially African Americans, and the ways literature has been used to inspire activism as well as offer social critiques of the history of racism in the United States. In particular, we will discuss the ways literature by people of color illustrate their experiences of embodiment and invisibility. These texts, from a wide range of genres (poetry, drama, novel, short story), reveal the collective memory of people of color in the United States that drastically differs from the sanitized version of History that emphasizes both patriarchal and white supremacist values. This course will ask you to question the very political and social structures upon which the United States was built and will use literature as a way of promoting empathy for experiences that may or may not be your own. To achieve this, you will be asked to write three major papers that ask you to think critically about racial issues in the United States, present clear arguments based on close readings of literary texts, and engage in extensive research about identity, including race, gender, sexuality, and class. Through this course, you will gain a new understanding about how race and literature operate and learn to articulate your ideas in clear argument structure.
With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement over the past few years, the idea of the public intellectual has transformed through its relationship to activism. Historically, as Odile Heynders notes, “The public intellectual is a generalist and a person of ideas, who is markedly not a specialist scholar or academic because s/he has a vital concern for the practical application of ideas and the welfare of society.” In our contemporary moment, the public intellectual does not function in the same way. First, there is the figure of the public intellectual who is foremost an intellectual who courts public attention through his (rather than her) ideas. In this realm, white men, stemming from the image of the traditional public intellectual, tend to dominate, i.e. Dave Eggers and Jonathan Franzen. However, a second type of public intellectual, who passionately educates the public about and advocates for a particular issue, has also emerged in connection with discussions about oppression related to race, sexuality, gender, or disability. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Roxanne Gay’s discussions of race and feminism in TED talks, magazine articles, and essays exemplify this second strain, which blends intellectualism and activism. Public intellectuals are master rhetoricians; they use their persona, wield their language, and court their audience as a way to gain visibility for an issue or cause. In this course, we will look at how these public intellectuals engage their audience through persuasive language, technology, social media, traditional media, and popular culture. We will also explore the following questions: How does the language of a public intellectual create an audience? How does the physical body, gendered or raced, contribute to the visibility of a public intellectual? And ultimately, how do public intellectuals create loving publics that encourage activism, especially for marginalized subjects? In all, we will look at how language, the body, and identity politics all play a role in crafting the contemporary public intellectual.
The goal of this course is to provide you with the basic skills required to perform academic research. These skills are necessary for success at Duquesne University, and while they will be further developed throughout your academic career, this course provides a foundation of information literacy skills, including defining your information needs, conducting research effectively, and evaluating your research results. You will also learn about ethical issues relevant to using sources in projects and papers, including academic integrity, copyright, and citation.
The practice of colonialism impacted multiple places and spaces around the globe. Due to the expansion of the British Empire, Western standards shaped and influenced many countries in what Americans today (wrongly) name the “developing” world—Africa, the Caribbean, South America, etc… While conflicts between indigenous peoples and Western colonial presences are slowly becoming more recognized, the aftermath of the conflicts and the way that it shaped civil wars and political movements between indigenous peoples has received far less attention. Even more so, when women write from these marginalized places, their voices draw attention to various forms of personal, political, and linguistic violence that is embedded not only in imperialist but patriarchal structures. This course examines the way these women write to draw attention not only to violence but the way that violence is gendered both in local and Western contexts. In essence, these women draw attention to the double bind of being both a woman and often a person of color and the ways violence is doubly lived through their experiences both from patriarchal practices in imperialism as well as patriarchal and matriarchal customs in their own cultures. We will write about the ways these women represented their position as women in the face of violence, exploring both local and transnational networks of writing as resistance. Throughout the course, you will be exposed to what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls, “The danger of the single story,” and through our exploration of literary texts through critical analysis, you will be asked to reconsider your perception and knowledge of peoples from other cultures not your own.
While literary criticism has largely been concerned with the analysis of literature and specific authors, literary theory combines the analysis of literature with philosophical thinking. From the eighteenth century forward, especially with the rise of the Cartesian subject, the contemporary dominant ideology systems began to emerge in the form that we currently know them. More specifically, those ideologies begin to be inscribed in the written word as literature, which led to their more contemporary forms in everyday media like television and movies. This course will trace the major theoretical movements from the nineteenth century forward while also occasionally looking back to earlier, foundational philosophical and literary texts. Throughout the semester, we will discuss pivotal philosophical and theoretical texts, including aesthetic theory, psychoanalysis, Marxist/political theory, feminist theory, gender studies, Queer theory, race theory, and postcolonial theory. Ultimately, this course will examine the ways that dominant ideologies that reflect the condition of the postmodern subject are embedded in language, and the ways those ideologies help keep “good” subjects inline.
What is memory? This seems like a simple question. We all have memories. It is something that we associate with the past and see as a vivid recall of something that happened before. Of course, that is memory at its most basic level. As William Shakespeare writes in The Winter’s Tale, “What’s past is prologue.” But, if we ponder the concept of memory further, many questions arise: Do memories make us who we are? How does personal history differ from communal history? How do cultures remember certain events? How does the past predict (or define, or even control) our future? Are monuments and artifacts forms of memory? Can a community remember? How do memory and history inform one another and reflect cultural identity? Now, let us move to the second concept of the course: revision. Revision in its simplest terms means to redo something with the hopes of making it better. But, can we push past revision toward larger questions? Do we revise our memories? When we recall something, is it our actual memories or memories as we have been told by others? How do we revise our memories and perhaps our histories both personally and culturally? Finally, let us move toward writing. In this course, we will be looking at multiple texts that represent memory in multiple ways. As we proceed through the semester, we also want to think about the following questions in relation to writing specifically: How do we write our memories? What role do texts—in multiple forms—play in how we remember and re-vision our experiences and life narratives? What role does interpretation play in our understanding of the past? Throughout this course, we will discuss memory and revision in their most basic forms and push these ideas further to think through how these concepts function in cultures at large and in the narratives and representations that both individuals and communities produce.
In discussions of gender, one of the most foundational controversies is whether gender is biological or socially constructed. Essentially, is it nature or nurture? Obviously, there are aspects of gender that are biological at least in terms of physical anatomy, and those aspects of gender are often referred to as “sex.” However, the idea of “gender” refers to cultural standards that have come to define what it means to be a man or a woman—often standards that have nothing to do with biology. While we don’t often think of issues of gender related to love, the social structure of the United States is one that invests in a “heteronormative” idea of love. Economic and patriarchal power structures reinforce the idea of male/female love as a mechanism of control. Often, we think of our gendered identity as part of our figuration as unique individuals; however, we subconsciously internalize much of that identity through representations of men and women as well as love in culture, popular culture, and the media. Considering our work with The Center for Victims in AMOR, this course examines the various representations of gender in media culture, especially sexual assault, rape culture, domestic violence, femininity, masculinity, and sexuality. By the end of the semester, you will be able to look past the lens of media and cogently write about the ways gender and sexuality function in culture. In essence, we will examine the rhetoric of gender and love and the ways media and popular culture continue to perpetuate certain norms.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the “bildungsroman” is “a novel that has as its main theme the formative years or spiritual education of one person.” In essence, it is a novel about growing up and often has as its protagonist a younger person who undergoes a transformative experience. With the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century, the bildungsroman began to appear in British fiction like Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. In this course, we will be exploring the contemporary bildungsroman as it appears in multi-ethnic literature. We will begin the course with a discussion of the traditional bildungsroman as well as read some critical work on the topic. We will then pose the following questions: How does race and/or ethnicity affect the traditional narrative of the bildungsroman? How might gender play into one’s experience of growing up? To that end, we will be reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters.
Why do we read the texts we do? How did they become culturally important? Why are some voices heralded while others are marginalized? Why do we read so many dead, white dudes? These are the questions that we will be exploring this semester as we read through the second half of the American Literature Survey. To that end, we will read both canonical and lesser known texts in an effort to explore why we are expected to read who we do and to question whether canonical texts still have as much to offer in light of increasing awareness of issues of race, gender, sexuality, and disability. Ultimately, by the end of the semester, I hope that we will be able to discuss the potential values and pitfalls of the canon as well as compile in our own class our canon of late American Literature for the twenty-first century subject.
The practice of colonialism impacted multiple places and spaces around the globe. Due to the expansion of the British Empire, English became a language that was integrated into multiple cultures—offering rich and vibrant variations on the original. Writing in English become a space where writers from cultures under or damaged by colonialism can contest those in power and challenge the very nature of imperialism. This course examines many texts across multiple genres in order to understand how colonialism irrevocably altered the cultures of many different peoples. This course is organized through geography, moving through many sites of colonial conflict. We will begin with a discussion of British imperialism with the works of Salman Rushdie and Joseph Conrad then move to address key writers from India, Africa, and the Caribbean to less obvious spaces of imperialism in Canada and the United States. Intertwined with conflicts of race, gender, class, and power, Global Englishes seeks to expand our awareness of our responsibilities as global citizens through the act of reading literature, fostering empathy toward other cultures and peoples not our own.
Considering the recent popularity of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy, dystopias have emerged as a popular way of commenting on current political and cultural issues. We open with The Hunger Games as a way to address the most recent incarnation of the genre, and then we will trace the history of the dystopian genre in literature from the 1860s to the present. Beginning with imagined dystopias surrounding racial tension in the United States in the 1860s, we will follow the historical context of dystopian texts and how this genre reacts to the political and cultural climate in which the texts were written. Throughout this course, we will place special emphasis on how the dystopian novel develops in the twentieth century. Starting with Yevgeny Zamyatin’s response to socialism and communism in the novel We in 1921, we will then progress to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which is perhaps the most famous example of the dystopian novel. Finally, we will look at dystopian novels that address issues of sexuality (Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed), the controversy over women’s rights (Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale), responses to conservative government in the 1980s ( the graphic novel V for Vendetta), and recent consumer practices (Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl). Overall, we examine how dystopian fiction is situated in the short story and novel genres and why this type of literature is particularly ripe for critiquing constructions of identity in response to different government and cultural issues.
Typically, science and the humanities are seen as at odds with one another; however, this literature survey explores the connections between British literature and scientific discourses during the Romantic, Victorian, Modernist, Postmodernist, and Contemporary time periods. In particular, we will discuss how literature reflects much of social and scientific progress from the late eighteenth century to the present. This class will explore: the complicated relationship between the imagination, creativity, and the mind, the influence of scientific discourses on the social construction of identity (especially race, class, gender, and sexuality), the representation of science or technology against nature, and the importance of the relationship between science, literature, and the self. Ultimately, we will trace the developments of science and their potential impact on literary and aesthetic creativity during the rise of the Cartesian and modern subject.
From Ezra Pound’s oft quoted line, “Make it new,” to imagist poetic form, to impressionist and surrealist art, to stream-of-consciousness narrative technique, as a movement, modernism was obsessed with the connections between newly emerging early twentieth-century identities, Freudian subjectivity, and formal aesthetics. Following these three literary and historical developments, this class explores the connections between modernist literary form (via poetry, short story, and the novel) and the understanding of personal, public, and political identities. Examining a wide range of literary texts in terms of modernist classification of the “brows”: the high brow (Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf), the middle brow (H.G. Wells), and the low brow (H.P. Lovecraft), we will look for connections between the construction of identities related to class, race, sexuality, and gender in dialogue with critical discussions of modernist style, form, and genre. Ultimately, this class examines British and American modernism in terms of sociohistorical and ideological influence on the developments of modernist aesthetics, showing that modern identity is created by the historical, social, scientific, and critical discourses of its time.
This course focuses on particular pop culture phenomena that have become especially prominent in the past ten years. In particular, ideas of people possessing powers, knowledge, or skills that are far beyond a simple human’s ability have captured the imagination. Recently, Harry Potter has stormed the world with his magical wizarding skills and vampires have been re-created apart from their history of bloodthirsty killers in shows like True Blood and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well as the Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. At the same time, our culture has been particularly interested in science and technology as a means of gaining superpowers. In reading Alan Moore’s graphic novel, The Watchmen, we will discuss his critique of science and technology through the superhero. Finally, in the midst of all of these differing discourses surrounding the supernatural, shows like Bones combat the supernatural by presenting science and empirical thinking as a way of thinking through the same cultural issues that the supernatural also addresses. Finally, we will look at The Fringe as a show that combines the supernatural and the scientific in order to present a science fiction representation of our culture.
Although this course focuses on argument writing, the lens through which we will discuss argument is popular culture. In this course, we will develop your argument, analysis, and composition skills. To do this, we will use popular culture (conceived broadly) as the basic text through which we will approach learning basic argument structure. We will discuss advertisements, television, movies, music, technology, and much more. In doing so, I hope that by focusing on popular culture, learning to write basic argument structure will become more enjoyable for you, because we live and breathe popular culture. It surrounds us every single day. It provides not only enjoyment but also a way of understanding our own culture. While here, you will learn to think critically and analytically about both popular culture and argument structure.