Deborah A Kimmey
Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.
English 242 sets as its primary goal reading fiction from a rather expansive historic trajectory, spanning "the medieval to modern periods." While covering such a broad sweep of time is a challenging feat for a single-quarter course, one field of critical work attempts to grasp the study of literature and culture at this scale: the study of "modernity." A central concept in nearly every discipline—from history and English to political science and anthropology—modernity is traced to a number of interrelated social processes: the rise of democracy, the emergence of the nation-state, the shift to urban industrial capitalism, the invention of new print technologies, and the secularization of knowledge, to cite but a few. Yet behind this blithe narrative of progress, "modernity" has served ideological ends: dividing the world between "modern" societies and those relegated to "the waiting rooms of history." The supreme contradiction about this division of the world -- developed and developing -- is that modernity itself was a necessarily global production. Slavery, colonization, and migration provided the material conditions for the "wealth of nations." The particular modernity heralded by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries could not have been achieved without encounters across and between Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
For Winter 2009, we will read Herman Melville's short story Bartleby, The Scrivener as an inroad for analyzing modernity and its discontents. Then, for the duration of the quarter, we’ll read short stories and novels that situate modernity within its global scale. The fiction selected will highlight what cultural theorist Lisa Lowe has termed "the intimacies of the four continents" -- those links, interdependencies, and intimacies between Europe and North America with Africa, Asia, and the creolized Americas.
Required course texts will likely include: Selections from Blake by Martin Delaney, Who Would Have Thought It by Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang. There will also be a reader of selected short stories from the 18th – 20th century and possible critical selections from: Lisa Lowe, Paul Gilroy, Gloria Anzaldúa, Edward Said, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Gayatri Spivak.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Some lecturing for historical framing and critical context. As a W-credit course, English 242 requires that students write and revise throughout the quarter. To meet this requirement, students will write a series of short writing assignments that will be revised and incorporated into a midterm essay. The final essay for the course may also revise, develop, and extend previous student writing. Additionally, there will be an in-class midterm and final exam, and students will sign-up to contribute to an online course archive.
Class assignments and grading
One of our main objectives for the course will be to collaboratively develop an essay on "history" as a keyword that will be published online. Selections from Keywords for American Cultural Studies (slavery, border, south, and modern) will provide models for constructing a keyword essay, as well as offer touchstones for the uses of history to each of these interrelated keywords. Students will be asked to: (1) post weekly comments to a class blog, (2) work in small groups to contribute to a 2500-word collaborative essay on "history" generated through a class wiki, (3) post and revise two short 4-page papers, and (4) write a 6- to 8-page final paper that draws upon the writing developed through the two short papers, as well as the course websites (blog and wiki).