2017 Summer Session

Graduate Seminars

Please check the course schedule for current information about our course offerings.

Studies in the Victorian Period
Term 2
Tue & Fri, 11:00 a.m.

In this seminar, we will explore Victorian fiction’s fascination with the uncanny, the occult, the monstrous, and extraordinary visions of the future. In recent years, scholars have come to appreciate that the non-realist fiction that was once critically undervalued is central to the literary culture of the period. The major writers of the age wrote supernatural and Gothic works, and the genres of ghost, occult horror, and science fiction fully emerged in the period. The revaluation of this fiction has been driven largely by a shift toward interdisciplinary modes of literary criticism: the Victorian fantastic draws on scientific, psychological, and biomedical ideas that emerged in and transformed nineteenth-century culture. The literary texts we will read speculate on the nature of the body, the powers of the mind, the finality of death, the impact of new technologies, and the shape of the future. We will encounter ghost-seers, mind-readers, shape shifters, and automatons. Examining the fiction’s literary and cultural contexts, we will discuss such topics as evolutionary and degeneration theories, entropy, mental causation at a distance, gendered and colonial bodies, contagion theories, and the Urban Gothic. We will also look at some theoretical and critical texts that consider the relations between the literary texts and the non-literary discourses that informed them. Our readings will extend from the mid-Victorian age through the fin de siècle, ending with a taste of early Modernism.

 Assignments and Other Requirements

  • Seminar paper (roughly 20 pages)
  • Presentation (roughly 25 minutes)
  • Three sets of informal questions/comments on the readings

Texts will include:

  • Charles Dickens, “The Signalman”
  • George Eliot, The Lifted Veil
  • Thomas Hardy, “The Withered Arm”
  • Somerset Maugham, The Magician
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

Stories (ghost, fantastic, weird, and science fiction) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Arthur Conan Doyle, J. S. Le Fanu, Elizabeth Gaskell, Rudyard Kipling, May Sinclair, and others.

Topics in Science and Technology
Term 1
Tue & Thu 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Over the past decade, theory has shifted from a concern with discourse and language analysis to interpretive systems which incorporate the vibrant material, actant object, and articulate nonhuman. For example, assemblage theory, drawing from Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault, Latour, DeLanda, and others, claims to offer a new frame for articulating contingent, ephemeral, and complex dynamic schemata, functions, or exchanges, transcending a unitary realm of totality and difference. At the same time, some ideations which predate (and perhaps prefigure) the current period seem to have successfully transferred to the new context. Judith Butler’s performativity, once conceived as discursive (e.g., “citational”), now in her recent book (Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, HUP 2015) approaches an emergent agencement self-organized from within heterogenous groupings. As well, Karen Barad has theorized that through an “agential realist account, all bodies, not merely human bodies, come to matter through the world’s performativity—its iterative intra-activity” (Qui Parle 19.2, 125. Also see Meeting the Universe Halfway and “Posthumanist Performativity”). Here she examines phenomena such as the “nonlocal communication” between ground and lightning and the queerness of atoms’ materializing entanglements.

This course explores recent work in new materialisms, with a focus on those which are distinctively fluid, relational, or performative. It queries the matterings, discontinuities and contradictions among a new generation of theorists who aim to understand a more lively version of materiality. This rich competition among materializing systems accounts opens wide critical spaces around questions of coding and territoriality, assembly, expression, and scale.

Some proposed readings:

  • Deleuze and Guattari, 1000 Plateaus
  • Foucault, “Security, territory, population” et al.
  • Latour, Reassembling the Social
  • Butler, Notes toward a Performative Theory of Assembly
  • Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual
  • Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely
  • Miguel DeLanda, from A New Philosophy of Society, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, War in an Age of Intelligent Machines, “Deleuze and the Social”
  • Mel Chen, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect
  • Karen Barad, “Posthuman Performativity,” Meeting the Universe Halfway
  • Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter
  • More doubtfully: some writings in object oriented ontology