Posts Tagged ‘genre’
ENGLISH 2010: Literature and Genre
Thematic Title: Science Fiction and Genre
Course Description: What is a “genre”? How does the idea of genre impact the way we read and understand literary texts? In this course we will explore these questions by studying the development of the science fiction genre in the twentieth century. What defines science fiction? What makes science fiction different from other sorts of fictions, or other types of texts? Does the name “science fiction” designate a certain set of intellectual concerns, a certain set of narrative and visual clichés, even perhaps a certain type of reader? Is it all just a marketing strategy? What makes one text “science fiction,” another text “literary fiction,” and still other texts “fantasy,” “horror,” or “fairy tale”? Does science fiction imply a certain type of politics, or a particular sort of ethics? Can it teach us anything? Is it good for us or bad for us? We will draw from a wide variety of short stories, comics, novels, games, television series, and films as our archive as we seek to understand how science fiction has adapted and thrived as a genre, even as the “real world” itself becomes more and more indistinguishable from science fiction with each passing year.
Readings: Octavia Butler, Dawn; Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others; Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go; Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead vols. 1 & 2; coursepack
Assignments: Midterm, final project, in-class presentations, class participation, and weekly responses
ENGLISH 6800: STUDIES IN GENRE
Thematic Title: The Law of Genre
Course Description: The law of genre, Derrida wrote, is “a principle of contamination, a law of impurity, a parasitical economy.” While genres may initially appear to us to be discrete, even obvious publishing and marketing categories, in fact these boundaries are often incredibly fluid, and difficult to define or police. In this special summer session course we will thus explore texts that operate at the weird intersections of genres — texts which seem to operate in more than one generic mode, or which switch fluidly or unexpectedly between genres, or which challenge our understanding of the aesthetic structures, commercial pressures, and political-ethical assumptions that undergird our generic categories. The course includes both literary and popular texts, allowing us to explore how genre circulates within multiple contexts and communities of discourse; in lieu of a traditional seminar paper, your assignments will be directed instead towards the generation of teaching materials and “thinkpiece”-style mini-papers, potentially suitable for publication at digital outlets or as review essays in scholarly journals.
Readings: I am open to suggestions for substitutions based on student interest, but the current planned book list for the course is Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, China Mieville’s The City and the City, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Nabokov’s Lolita,and J.K. Rowling’s The Cursed Child. We will also explore short stories from Flannery O’Connor, H.P. Lovecraft, David Foster Wallace, and Donald Barthelme, as well as academic and popular criticism and at least one recent film.
Assignments: Class participation; weekly reading journal; two “thinkpieces” / mini-papers; in-class presentations; sample course syllabi, lesson plans, and statement of teaching philosophy
ENGLISH 4610/5610: INDIVIDUAL AUTHORS
Thematic Title: J.R.R. Tolkien
Course Description: This decade has seen the hundredth anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s earliest writings on Middle-Earth (The Book of Lost Tales, begun in 1917) alongside the completion of Peter Jackson’s career-defining twenty-year project to adapt The Lord of the Rings for film (1995-2015). This course asks the question: Who is J.R.R. Tolkien, looking backward from the perspective of the twenty-first century? Why have his works, and the genre of heroic fantasy that he remade so completely in his image, remained so intensely popular, even as the world has transformed around them? Our study will primarily trace the history, development, and reception of Tolkien’s incredible magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings (written 1937-1949, published 1954-1955)—but we will also take up Tolkien’s often contested place in the literary canon of the twentieth century, the uses and abuses of Tolkien in Jackson’s blockbuster films, the special appeal of Tolkien in politically troubled times, and the ongoing critical interests and investments of Tolkien fandom today. As Tolkien scholars we will also have the privilege of drawing upon the remarkable J.R.R. Tolkien Collection at the Raynor Library here at Marquette, which contains among other treasures the original manuscripts for The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Farmer Giles of Ham.
Note: No prior knowledge of Tolkien is required. The course is designed for a mix of first-time readers, frequent re-readers, and people who are returning to the books for the first time as adults after many years away.
Readings: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and selected additional readings
Assignments: final paper or creative project; weekly forum posts; one presentation; enthusiastic and informed class participation
ENGLISH 6700: STUDIES IN 20TH CENTURY LITERATURE
Thematic Title: Utopia in America
2016 marked the 500th anniversary of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, which inaugurated a literary genre of political and social speculation that continues to structure our imagination of what is possible. We will read Utopia and selected 19th-century utopian texts from the U.S., as well as consider utopian critical theory from thinkers like Fredric Jameson, Darko Suvin, Carl Freedman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Buck-Morss, and Michel Foucault. But the major task before us will be exploring the role utopian, quasi-utopian, dystopian, and downright anti-utopian figurations have played in the work of several key canonical writers of the 20th century: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Flannery O’Connor, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Philip K. Dick, and Octavia Butler.
Readings: Major texts will include Utopia, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Slaughterhouse-Five, Galapagos, Oryx and Crake, The Man in the High Castle, Parable of the Sower, and Parable of the Talents, as well as short stories and critical readings distributed via D2L.
Assignments: class participation; weekly forum posts; in-class presentations; sample course syllabi, lesson plans, and statement of teaching philosophy; seminar paper
UPDATE: Oops, forgot one! It’s not a traditional course, but in the fall I’ll also be doing a twelve-week seminar for the honors program on Hamilton.
HOPR 1953: FIRST-YEAR HONORS SEMINAR
Thematic Title: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton
This twelve-week course is devoted to interdisciplinary study of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash musical Hamilton, looking at the play from a variety of disciplinary perspectives: literary studies, history, cultural studies, theater studies, fine arts, and more. Closely studying the musical first in its entirety and then moving through it track-by-track, we will also explore the unexpectedly wide impact of Hamilton in the larger world of popular culture and national politics, including (in multiple ways) the 2016 presidential election. Why Hamilton? Why *this* Hamilton? And why now? Hamilton’s immense popularity, its rich intertextuality, and its incredible internal structural complexity make it a perfect opportunity to become acquainted with academic methods that will, I hope, serve you well across the rest of your time at Marquette and beyond.
I’m teaching three classes this semester, ENGLISH 4615/5615 (“Infinite Jest”), ENGLISH 2010 (“Alternate History”), and HOPR 1953 (“Video Game Culture”) (one-credit, pass/fail, now with Pokémon Go!). I’m very excited about all three. The Infinite Jest course is one I’ve wanted to do for a very long time — I came up with the whole idea of adding the new 4615/5615 course number to the Marquette English just so I could do this course — and the alternate-history course has been puttering around in my brain as a pedagogical opportunity for just about as long.
I got a lot of help from folks on Twitter and Facebook with the alternate history novel course, both at the level of generating texts but also at the level of conceptualizing the course a little different so it could be more inclusive, and I’m really grateful for that. I was finally sold by Alexis Lothian on the idea that I was being silly by being resistant to stories like The Lathe of Heaven and “The Book of Martha,” for instance, and that the practical effect of that resistance was to make the class much whiter and much maler than it really needed to be. Now, the course is still pretty white and very male, but the genre itself is, and somehow or another that’s something I want to start to talk about as the semester progresses. The excellent suggestion of Karen Joy Fowler’s story “Game Night at the Fox and Goose” will really help me make that pivot, I think, as will In the United States of Africa (a great novel I couldn’t believe I forgot to include until it was pointed out to me I’d forgotten to include it, I think by Aaron Bady).
A few other things I was very sad to lose:
- I was originally going to do “an alternate history of an alternate history” thing to end the semester, Superman: Red Son, but it just didn’t make sense the way the course took shape. I held on to the idea way too long, and only cut the book two days ago. Sorry, bookstore!
- The whole original point of all this was to use the course as an excuse to teach The Years of Rice and Salt, a book I love which seems just too long too teach in any other context. And it still seems too long to teach (at least at the sophomore level). I had to give it up, and wasn’t able to include even any excerpts because I crammed in too much other stuff. Someday!
- Another thing that fell out of the course was a group presentation structure in which individual groups researched the actual history of the hinge point of each divergence and reported on it. I realized that with the newer, more expansive idea of the course this wasn’t going to work very well for at least half the books, and probably would have been reductive and overdetermined our conversations in practice, so it had to be abandoned as well.
- I really, really wanted to include a Ted Chiang what-if-religion-were-empirically-verifiable story like “Hell Is The Absence of God,” but, again, it seemed just a bit far too off the mark this time.
- I am, indeed, doing literally just one page from The Plot Against America, fulfilling my perverse desire to do so.
- There were many other great suggestions for books that I wasn’t able to use. A few that I really struggled over:
- Life After Life: a Replay-style reincarnation novel about World War I;
- Replay itself, which is just too time-travel-ish for this (though I’ve always really liked it);
- I likewise ruled out some other really good alternate-timeline stories because they were really time travel stories, from my puritanical perspective;
- Something longer from Butler, perhaps Wild Seed (again, just too far afield generically for what I’m hoping to do);
- Something truly (“merely”) generic, like Turtledove or Bring the Jubilee;
- Lion’s Blood, Atomik Aztex, The Indians Won, The Bird Is Gone, The Heirs of Columbus, etc. I was so hung up on the idea of doing The Years of Rice and Salt that it crowded out this space for me (and then I added In the United States of Africa instead, to take on this question from a different direction). Next time.
- Swastika Night, 1984, Handmaid’s Tale, Battle Royale: all good suggestions but didn’t hit the sense of “pastness” required by my conception of alternate history as a genre, as they were all future histories in their original moment of production;
- District 9: only (re-)occurred to me at the last second because I was talking about it to somebody in another context, and didn’t have time to do it because the syllabus was (again) too crammed with too much other stuff. Someone had suggested Born in Flames to me as well, which also would have been great.
- I also really wanted to play some board games like Twilight Struggle, Risk, Axis and Allies, and Chrononauts, but it seemed like it would be unwieldy and pointless with 35 students in the room. I think Civilization could scratch the same itch, though…
All right, with all those caveats, apologies, and thanks, here’s the week by week schedule (and full syllabus with all course procedures)! Three papers, the first two “traditionally scholarly,” the third one with a creative option, as well as a few creative micro-assignments here and there. If there’s anything more I should explain or you have any questions about the decisions I made, feel free to ask in the comments!
|M||Aug. 29||FIRST DAY OF CLASS
in-class writing exercise: “What If…”
|W||Aug. 31||class discussion: “What If…”|
|UNIT ONE: ALTERNATE WORLD WAR IIs|
|F||Sep. 2||Kim Stanley Robinson, “The Lucky Strike”|
|M||Sep. 5||LABOR DAY—NO CLASS|
|W||Sep. 7||Kim Stanley Robinson, “A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions”|
|F||Sep. 9||FIRST PAPER GUIDELINES DISTRIBUTED
Star Trek: “The City on the Edge of Forever” (discussion only; watch it on your own!)
criticism: H. Bruce Franklin, “Star Trek in the Vietnam Era” [D2L]
|M||Sep. 12||Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 1-3|
|W||Sep. 14||Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 4-6|
|F||Sep. 16||Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 7-9|
|M||Sep. 19||Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 10-13|
|W||Sep. 21||Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle (whole book)|
|F||Sep. 23||The Man in the High Castle (2015 Amazon pilot) (discussion only; watch it on your own!)|
|M||Sep. 26||Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds (discussion only; optional screening date and time TBA)|
|W||Sep. 28||Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds (discussion continues)
· review: Ben Waters, “Debating Inglourious Basterds” [Web]
· review: Michael Atkinson, “The Anti-Blockbuster” [Web]
· review: Lee Siegel, “Tarantino’s Hollow Violence” [Web]
· review: Jeffrey Goldberg, “Hollywood’s Jewish Avenger” [Web]
|F||Sep. 30||Lauren Davis, “Quentin Tarantino’s Spin Through Alternate History” [io9.com]
creative writing: Draft a short flash fiction [500-1000 words] or create an artifact, document, or image set in the 2016 of the world of Inglourious Basterds
Philip Roth, The Plot Against America (excerpt) [D2L]
|UNIT TWO: OTHER HISTORIES|
|M||Oct. 3||FIRST PAPER WORKSHOP
Bring in at least your introductory paragraphs, main claim, and an outline of your paper.
|W||Oct. 5||Sid Meier’s Civilization
videos: Civilization V timelapse gameplay videos [YouTube]
post: Trevor Owens, “Sid Meier’s Colonization: Is It Offensive Enough?” [Web]
thread: Lycerius, “I’ve Been Playing the Same Game of Civilization for Almost Ten Years. This Is the Result” [Reddit]
|F||Oct. 7||Sid Meier’s Civilization
criticism: Kacper Pobłocki, “Becoming-State: The Bio-Cultural Imperialism of Sid Meier’s Civilization”
|M||Oct. 10||FIRST PAPER DUE
SECOND PAPER GUIDELINES DISTRIBUTED
Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” [D2L]
|W||Oct. 12||Karen Joy Fowler, “Game Night at the Fox and Goose” [D2L]|
|F||Oct. 14||criticism: L. Timmel Duchamp, “Playing with the Big Boys: (Alternate) History in Karen Joy Fowler’s ‘Game Night at the Fox and Goose’” [Web]|
|M||Oct. 17||Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton|
|W||Oct. 19||Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
thinkpiece: Jennifer Schuessler, “Hamilton and History: Are They in Sync?” [Web]
interview: Rebecca Onion and Lyra D. Monteiro, “A Hamilton Skeptic on Why the Show Isn’t As Revolutionary As It Seems” [Web]
|F||Oct. 21||FALL BREAK—NO CLASS|
|M||Oct. 24||Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain, pgs. 1-66|
|W||Oct. 26||Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain, pgs. 67-119|
|F||Oct. 28||Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain (whole book)|
|M||Oct. 31||Abdourahman A. Waberi, In the United States of Africa (part one)|
|W||Nov. 2||Abdourahman A. Waberi, In the United States of Africa (whole book)
criticism: Justin Izzo, “Historical Reversibility as Ethnographic Afrofuturism: Abdourahman Waberi’s Alternative Africa”
|F||Nov. 4||CONFERENCES—CLASS CANCELLED|
|UNIT THREE: DREAMING OF DIFFERENCE|
|M||Nov. 7||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 1-4)|
|W||Nov. 9||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 5-6)|
|F||Nov. 11||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 7-9)|
|M||Nov. 14||SECOND PAPER DUE
FINAL PROJECT GUIDELINES DISTRIBUTED
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 10-13)
|W||Nov. 16||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 14-16)|
|F||Nov. 18||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 17-19)|
|M||Nov. 21||Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (whole book)
Martin Puchner, “When We Were Clones” [D2L]
|W||Nov. 23||THANKSGIVING BREAK—NO CLASS|
|F||Nov. 25||THANKSGIVING BREAK—NO CLASS|
|M||Nov. 28||Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (chapters 1-4)|
|W||Nov. 30||Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (chapters 5-8)|
|F||Dec. 2||Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (whole book)|
|M||Dec. 5||Octavia E. Butler, “The Book of Martha”
creative writing: Imagine God comes to you with the same offer he/she/it brings to Martha. What one change would you make to the world, and why?
|W||Dec. 7||Octavia E. Butler, “The Book of Martha” (discussion continues)
creative writing: Draft a flash fiction [500-1000 words] or create an artifact, document, or image set in the world that exists sometime after the end of “The Book of Martha.”
Octavia E. Butler, “Afterword to ‘The Book of Martha’”
Gerry Canavan, Octavia E. Butler (excerpt) [D2L]
|F||Dec. 9||FINAL PROJECT WORKSHOP
LAST DAY OF CLASS
|F||Dec. 16||FINAL ASSIGNMENT DUE BY 12:30 PM|
* Some seriously great news for my particular demographic: Kim Stanley Robinson’s acclaimed Mars Trilogy is colonizing TV.
* A brief history of mana: How an Austronesian Concept Became a Video Game Mechanic.
* Age discrimination and adjuncts. I still think this is a seriously underreported story considering how dramatically it would change the landscape of hiring in higher education if it were to prevail.
* While surely a simple economic determinism would be distorting, it should still be clear that the epistemic and cultural divide between the “hard” sciences and the humanities cannot be easily disentangled from a noticeable financial divide.
* Udacity has moved on to a new scam: nanodegrees.
* Head’s up, math geeks: big discovery about prime numbers.
* Listen, it’s about yardage: FiveThirtyEight provides the cheat sheet necessary for me to interact with other Wisconsinites.
* I think I’ve discovered a way to precrastinate my procrastination, which means I’m always so late I never bother to get off the couch.
* Science proves no one is allowed to have any fun: Researcher shows that black holes do not exist.
* And if you want a vision of the future, imagine Mitt Romney running for president, forever.