Survey of current issues confronting literary critics today, based on revolving themes and topics. Focuses on debates and developments affecting English language and literatures, including questions about: the relationship of culture and history; the effect of emergent technologies on literary study; the rise of interdisciplinary approaches in the humanities.
English 494B Honors Seminar: Books of Memory and Forgetting In this course we’ll read recent novels and some theory centered in thinking about the emotions and complications of personal memory. We’ll begin with some broader questions of emotion and fiction: How much of our own lives do we read into a character's life? What does "being moved" by something we read or view involve? How do emotions become a commodity in work and personal environments? What kinds of situations require emotions on demand? How do we account for the bodily responses that sometimes accompany intense emotional responses? What forms do the weird pleasures, wild emotions, and secret seductions of reading fiction take as texts and as psychic structures? Then we’ll explore these questions in several recent novels of time, space and memory. Here our questions might be: What if you’re haunted by the place you come from? Does nostalgia filter out the painful past? How are shame and guilt related to memory? What happens if you repress your most powerful feelings? Does current joy depend on past sadness? When does memory of love create obsession? Novelists for the course will probably include Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, Nami Mun, Jeanette Winterson, Chang-rae Lee and Nicole Krauss. Come expecting lively conversations and differences of opinion. You’ll do some short exploratory writing, an annotated bibliography, a longer paper, and a class presentation.
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