English 298: So Relatable, An Introduction To Literary Studies
From memes to novels to celebrity life, relatability has become a catch-all cliché in the modern world both online and off. In this course we’ll be looking at the particular challenges and benefits of the “relateable” lens: what lives or experiences or narratives get to be judged relatable, and why? Can one “relate” to a medieval poem or slave narrative if relatability is merely a synonym for identification? Can we, in other words, relate to texts, people, characters, that are totally unlike ourselves? Questions of relatability have undoubtedly amplified some voices at the expense of others, exposing the extent to which the “relatable” may be defined by a particular (white, straight, male) subject position. However, questions of relatability can also be applied to a wide-ranging group of texts that may have nothing to do with the reader’s own personal, lived experience. Over the course of the semester we will ask whether it’s possible—and if so how and to what extent—we can relate to, and learn in, a community of people and texts that are not like us. Course material will include poems, novels, and short stories by George Eliot, Keith S. Wilson, William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, and Awaeke Emezi, among others.
English 125: Women and Other Animals
Our lives intersect with the lives of animals every day, yet our relationships with them remain a paradox; why do we call some animals our fur babies but eat others? What does it mean to act like an animal? Is our animal nature beastly or beautiful? In this course we will be reading short stories, scholarly essays, music videos, and other forms of media to explore the representation of “beastly” outsiders—including freaks, queers, misanthropes, and, of course, animals—in a variety of cultural contexts. The artists we’ll look at have varied understandings of how animals fit into our conception of who we are as humans and we’ll be looking to map these views in a number of ways. We will pay close attention to the relationship between one’s social and cultural status and the impact of race and class, noting the ways in which these topics intersect with discussions of animals. Course material will include works by Franz Kafka, William Faulkner, Hélène Cixous, Joy Williams, and bell hooks.
Comparative Literature 122: Just Passing Through: Crossing Race, Gender, and Species Lines
Though we make think we create our identities ourselves, recent scholarship shows that we are subtly (and not so subtly) formed by our collective notions of gender, race and species. What does it mean to create such categories? Are they as stable as they might seem? In this course we will be reading short stories, scholarly essays, music videos, and other forms of media to explore notions of passing, crossing, and undoing binaries like man/woman, white/nonwhite. The artists and thinkers we will discuss (such as Anohni, Nella Larsen, and Gloria E. Anzaldúa) have varied understandings of how gender, race, and species fit into our conception of who we are as humans and we’ll be looking to map these views in a number of ways. We will pay close attention to the relationship between one’s social and cultural status and the impact of class, noting the ways in which these topics intersect with each other. What does it mean to talk about racial identity alongside animals? What do animals have to do with gender? How does it change our understanding of “normal” to take such questions into account? Over the course of the semester, we will explore unexpected, strange, and wonderful connections.