Reading & Composition

Popular culture today depends in part on a widespread agreement about what determines a “person,” or what constitutes an “identity”—the must-have elements of a biography. Nevertheless, these topics have recently generated intense controversies and public debates, which often involve literary and philosophical works. In this class, we will study how novels, poetry, essays, film, and other artistic and theoretical forms have dealt with the responsibility of representing persons, whether fictional or historical.

Reading & Composition

How to fathom the separation line between humans and their nonhuman contexts, when the two seem, at this present juncture of protracted and irrecoverable ecological catastrophe, irrevocably, perhaps tragically, imbricated?

Reading & Composition

A poet who imagines Manhattan as a booming metropolis that welcomes anyone and everyone. A nineteenth-century writer for whom the rise of urban centers represents the promise of American prosperity. A Mexico City journalist who wonders whether individuality dissolves in his overcrowded, “post-apocalyptic city.” And a poet from East L.A. who struggles to find belonging among the freeway tangles and segregated spaces of her hometown, the so-called “City of Angeles.” Who—and what—gets lost and found in the American city?

Reading & Composition

This course will explore fairy tales and how such stories are adapted and translated across cultural, linguistic, national, historical, and temporal boundaries. Most of us know many fairy tales, but the versions of those fairy tales vary widely. Examining these variations, together we will be asking what it means to adapt a story that ‘everyone knows.’ What old meanings are lost, and can they be recovered? What new meanings emerge with new adaptations or as the surrounding culture evolves?

Reading & Composition

In fiction and theory as in reality, it is impossible to really escape notions of eating. Whether characters gather around a table in a realist text, whether representations of forbidden fruit appear and subvert themselves in symbolic texts, or whether a text turns its eye to the “consumption” of language itself, eating and being eaten are as quietly omnipresent in writing as they are in our own lives.

Reading & Composition

This course teaches critical reading and writing skills through a survey of “horror” as a discrete literary genre, a wider narrative mode, and a feeling. Students will practice formal analysis of texts in a variety of media including short fiction, poetry, comics, and film, and consider the horrible resources of each medium. They will also enter into existing critical conversations after reading some theories of horror as a genre and cultural symptom. Among others to be determined together, course texts will include fiction by Mary Shelley, H.P.

Reading & Composition

An island is a territory of the imagination that cuts across linguistic, cultural, and historical boundaries: a fantasy land of conquest and domination, a place of punishment, and the site of new beginnings beyond the known. And yet islands are also real places, where real lives have met and continue to meet the opportunities and challenges of this particular geography. Furthermore, certain island histories are defined and expressed, paradoxically enough, through movements, flows, transits, and migrations.

Reading & Composition

In his poem “Diary,” Pier Paolo Pasolini writes “Grown up? / Never — never —! Like existence itself / which never matures — staying always green.” Indeed, the mystery and nostalgia of childhood often lingers into adulthood. For some, childishness persists over time; for others, childhood is shortened by circumstance. Looking at literary texts and films from the sixteenth century to the present, this course will examine how writers and artists represent childhood and the roles that children fulfill in their families and environments.

Reading & Composition

Many of the literary texts we study today come to us incomplete. Perhaps the author passed away before the work was finished, or perhaps we know the text only through scraps of parchment used in the binding of a different manuscript. Still other texts consciously position themselves as fragments, even if this move is but an artifice on the part of the author.

Reading & Composition (closed)

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