Summer 2022

English 212: Literature and Other Media (cross-listed)

Paris on Screen

Ever since Gene Kelly starred in the film version of the Gershwin musical An American in Paris in 1951, American screenwriters and filmmakers have continually returned to Paris not only as a backdrop for but also as an important character in their comedic and dramatic narratives. In this course, we’ll examine US films set in Paris across the second half of the twentieth century, moving from An American in Paris to contemporary films that combine a passion for romance, food, and the city itself, including popular films like Before Sunset, Moulin Rouge, Ratatouille, and Paris Je T’aime. How do these films represent Paris as a character and a location of passion of all kinds? How do such representations contribute to the cultural imaginary of Paris in the United States? In this course, we’ll explore how Paris is constructed as a setting through careful cinematography by visiting filming locations: not only big Paris landmarks but also smaller sites of famous scenes such as the Shakespeare & Company Bookstore, Moulin Rouge, and La Tour D’Argent. We’ll also visit the Musée de la Cinémathèque, where we can examine an archive of early film culture, including documents and ephemera. Finally, we’ll have immersive cultural experiences, such as embarking on a French food tour, that allow us to reflect on the cultures and lifestyles of Parisians.

English 320: Modern Fiction (cross-listed)

Americans in Paris

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris,” Ernest Hemingway writes, “then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” In this course, we’ll examine the prose and poetry of expatriate white and Black US authors living in Paris during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, moving from the work of modernists such as Gertrude Stein and Langston Hughes to midcentury authors such as James Baldwin to contemporary writers such as David Sedaris and Ta-Nehisi Coates. We’ll consider how these literary works frame the pleasures of Paris and the experience of being a cultural outsider, as well as how they cultivate a sense of personal identity and literary experimentation in this unfamiliar environment. How do these literary works represent, reflect, and embody Paris, its people, and its culture? And, by extension, what does that reveal about the United States? In this course, we’ll explore hubs of modernist art (visual, literary, and musical) including Musée Picasso and Montmartre, an important site for offshoots of Harlem jazz. We’ll also replicate the experiences our texts describe and hold discussions in the cafes and gardens in which our authors wrote and conversed.

Fall 2022

English 212: Literature and Other Media

Black Poetry Now! 

Poetry has always been important to the Black literary and cultural imaginary. After all, according to Alice Walker, “poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.” However, in recent years, especially in the wake of the summer 2020 uprisings, the public has expressed a renewed interest in contemporary Black poetic production. In this course, we’ll examine the triumphant resurgence of this body of work, considering how it represents Blackness, resistance, and radicalism in the United States as well as, more broadly, the political and historical implications of Black poetics. In doing so, we’ll learn to close read poetry with the critical keywords of poetics, and we’ll discuss a variety of methodological approaches to Black literary and cultural studies, including theories from Afrofuturism, Afropessimism, Black feminism, and Black Marxism.

Fall 2022

Humanities 300: Themes in the Humanities

Slavery on Film 

The earliest blockbuster films, from The Birth of a Nation (1915) before sound and color to Gone with the Wind (1939) after, prominently featured stories of the Old South, stories of slavery. Though today’s Hollywood studios tread similar thematic ground with historical films like 12 Years a Slave (2013) and Harriet (2019) and horror films like Get Out (2017) and Antebellum (2020), they’re arguably telling vastly different stories about the history and afterlives of slavery in the United States. In examining a range of US films from the interwar period to the present, this course will trace the thematic development of slavery as a subject of film alongside the development of filmmaking technologies across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Likewise, it will consider the influence of earlier theatrical forms, such as blackface minstrelsy, on the creation and performance of enslaved and emancipated Black characters. Furthermore, it will investigate how conventions of narrative genres such as action, comedy, drama, horror, and romance shape the stories about slavery that film tells. Why does slavery appear so often on film? What are the legacies of the early films, and why are contemporary filmmakers returning to slavery in this cultural moment? How do these films call their audiences to bear witness to slavery? How do they understand slavery as a cultural, political, and economic institution? What do the stories these films tell about slavery and Blackness reveal about the historical moment in which they were created? These are just some of the questions we’ll explore in this course 

Fall 2022

English 490: Senior Seminar

This course serves as the capstone for advanced undergraduate students majoring in English, giving you the opportunity to develop your research skills to your fullest potential and apply your knowledge of the methods and content of one or more of the various scholarly disciplines housed in English—including literature and culture, folklore, rhetoric and composition, and linguistics—in a semester-long research project. In this course, we’ll investigate and perhaps even rethink what it means to “do research” in humanities disciplines, understanding research as a process of knowledge production that builds on and responds to ongoing conversations in our disciplines using carefully-selected methods. Your capstone research projects will be thoughtfully and intentionally designed and executed not only through reading and writing but also through learning to: conceptualize problems in our disciplines; pose research questions about our topics; situate ourselves in relevant scholarly conversations; and choose and implement relevant methods for gathering and interpreting evidence. In generating our capstone research projects, we’ll come to identify academic writing as a continual process of reading, thinking, writing, and revision.