One of the most pressing issues in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies is the current reckoning with the discipline’s complicity (among many others) in sustaining white supremacy and anti-Blackness. In English 7040, we will join in that reckoning by reading foundational scholarship in critical race theory alongside contemporary scholarship devoted to antiracist praxis, dismantling white supremacy, and imagining otherwise worlds and liberatory futures (Houdeck and Ore). Students interested in cultural rhetorics, critical race theory, antiracism, social justice, racial justice, decolonization, storying, counterstory, activism, interdisciplinarity, and/or non-Western approaches can expect to learn a great deal in this course.
“A place to breathe—and breathe together”: This course centers non-Western ways of being, knowing, and living as approaches to the many disciplines within English Studies, with a focus on Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies. These ways include story (King; Powell; Riley-Mukavetz; Villanueva; Wilson), counterstory (Martinez), antenarrative (Jones), and other methodologies for cultural preservation, survivance (survival + resistance), and liberation. Because wrestling with white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and decolonization is difficult emotional work, we will also examine how emotions such as fear and guilt uphold these sociocultural constructs and how other emotions such as love and anger can be used to dismantle them (Ahmed; Bonilla-Silva; Corrigan; DiAngelo). We will consider not only what might be added to a discipline’s canon but also what might be cut (Law and Corrigan). Ultimately, we will ask alongside communication scholars Matthew Houdek and Ersula J. Ore: “What might it mean to reclaim the air from the suffocating forces of whiteness? What might it mean to embrace conspiratorial acts against a world that denies far too many the right and capacity to breathe, and what is the role of white folks therein? What might it mean to unmake the world in the Aftertimes and inaugurate an Age of Breath suited to Black and Indigenous survival and liberation?” (2021, 85). Just as Houdek and Ore imagine that an academic journal “could engage these and many other world-making/-breaking questions, serving as a space to imagine the world anew,” so too will we strive to make this course “a place to breathe—and breathe together” (85).
Each week I’ll ask you to bring quotations and questions from the readings to class so that your interests guide our discussions. I’ll also ask you to develop a final project in consultation with me, which you’ll define at the midterm. You can situate your final project in your home discipline. Your creativity in the final project is not only welcome but celebrated because creativity is central to the project of imagining otherwise worlds and liberatory futures in which we can breathe together.
For the final project, you can choose to write a traditional seminar paper, to story your experiences and cultural traditions, to counterstory against mainstream tropes and stereotypes, to compose in other genres, to mix modalities, to create a digital project, to create a public-facing project, or to do something else that grows you as a scholar and a human.
If you have any questions or want to talk about the course, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of the course readings will be available online. We will likely read all of Aja Y. Martinez’s Counterstory: The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory (NCTE: 2020), but my goal is to keep costs low by assigning articles and book excerpts rather than whole books.
Studies in Composition
ENGL7050: Studies in Composition
Digital spaces and technologies have been lauded for their potential to democratize cultural and rhetorical production. Yet, as they have become an increasingly ubiquitous part of our lives, it’s clear that this promise has yet to be fully realized. From racist algorithms and sexist harassment to social media privacy concerns and accessibility barriers, internet spaces overwhelmingly still reflect, and in some cases amplify, the structures of power that shape the rest of our lives. We’ll explore these tensions in this class, examining the political, ethical, and pedagogical implications of digital exclusions. We’ll also consider how we can use our work as teachers, scholars, and citizens to create more inclusive, equitable online environments. Students can expect to complete weekly reading responses, discussion facilitation for one class period during the semester and a series of scaffolded assignments leading to a substantive, article-length scholarly research project to be presented to the class.
You will have an edge in many fields if you learn how good, original, accessible websites come together, as well as how to maintain a site. The ability to be a vital part of the website creation process will open doors to a variety of writing and design jobs. So will being able to design and run a usability test—to work with real users to find out how to improve a design. You’ll learn all of that and more in this course.
Most students will enter the course not knowing any coding; everyone will leave being able to use a web editor and HTML and CSS to develop, troubleshoot, and maintain sites. (“Many will enter; all will win.”)
In addition to learning how to design, structure information, code, test, and implement a site, you will learn how to create and edit web-appropriate content and work with content management systems. You will also learn how to tap into available resources, adopt a professional development workflow, adapt a site for diverse and global audiences, and create websites and web content accessible to users with disabilities.
Students will work on web development projects and give short presentations to the class. Students also will complete a usability project and several short writing assignments.
In 1572, when Montaigne was attempting to categorize the new shape his journal writing had begun to take on, he chose the Middle French word essai, meaning “trial,” “attempt,” “experiment.” The word lyric, on the other hand, is primarily aligned with the realms of poetry and song, as well as the slippery, indeterminate concept of the “Lyric I.” A lyric essay, then, as Kazim Ali writes, attempts “to bring the resources of poetry into prose, to allow new structures for the mind in its thinking.” John D’Agata popularized the term “lyric essay” through his ongoing work as an editor for the Seneca Review, as well as his well-known 2003 anthology The Next American Essay. There remains much debate, however, over what the label actually signifies, along with the respective merits of D’Agata’s work, both as an editor and as a writer. This course will take a deep dive into the forms, origins, idiosyncrasies, and various controversies associated with this latest nonfiction sub-genre.
The content of the essays we will focus on in class will traverse the familiar ground of literary journalism, creative criticism, and place-based writing, yet all will take on a markedly lyric or experimental approach. While the terms lyric and narrative in regard to the essay are not mutually exclusive, most of the creative work we will be studying looks to resist, complicate, or distract the reader from narrative, making use of such techniques as associative leaps, fragmentation, and/or other formal inventions to de-center a linear narrative structure. In the final weeks of the semester, we will also move to consider more extended forms, looking at two complete books—Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen—that operate as sustained lyrics.
Craft-based discussion of readings will occupy about half of our class time, with the other half being devoted to workshop. End-of-the-semester portfolios will consist of two substantially revised essays. Student presentations on an outside text, in-depth peer-review, and an ongoing critical component are also required for the course.
For this fiction workshop you will read and study contemporary fiction, paying close attention to craft, while writing your own short stories. The stories you write will be required to integrate research you undertake while you are in the class. The most obvious example of a short story that requires research is historical fiction (historical fiction is loosely defined as fiction written before you were born, so that you must research the time period in order to gain access to it); other examples include stories about sports, a specific profession, or a specific person. David Foster Wallace wrote about Alex Trebec in "Little Expressionless Animals," for instance, and Gabe Habash wrote extensively about high school wresting in the novel "Stephen Florida" (he did not wrestle as a high schooler). Examples of historical short fiction are myriad.
You will be expected to turn in regular reading responses, both to published and peer work as well as write and revise two short stories.
Early Modern Studies
ENGL7160: Early Modern Studies
This graduate seminar examines a major phenomenon in early modern literary culture – the rise of the fictional prose narrative. Sometimes referred to as proto-novels, these highly popular fictions were distinctively hybrid in their form, often mingling prose, poetry, and epistolary genres within a single narrative framework. Yet, despite their popularity (or perhaps because of it), these works were also culturally suspect and often censured as purveyors of vices, especially of idleness and lewd passions. In fact, concerns over the mass availability of these texts often appeared alongside the rather alarming notion that what you read could change who you were, both physically and emotionally. As Thomas Wilson, a well-known Elizabethan humanist puts it in his Arte of Rhetoric (1553), “thei that wil reade this, or soche like Bookes, shall in the ende, bee as the Bookes are.” Throughout the course of the semester, we will examine a range of these “newfangled” fictions, from novellas to book-length narratives, focusing in particular on the ways in which their hybridity affords a rich site through which to chart matters of form, gender, reading practice, social satire, and material book culture. Why were these strangely hybrid texts so alluring and what can they tell us about this period’s blurring of boundaries between pleasure and goal-oriented reading, coterie and print cultures, the oral and the written, the public and the private? Seminar participants will find that – although our discussions together may revolve largely around recent scholarship on the materialities of print culture – the hybrid nature of the fictions themselves will accommodate a wide variety of individual approaches and methodologies for the seminar’s major research project.
discussion leading; conference-style presentation; research project (c. 20 pages); class participation
Our readings will include Gascoigne’s The Adventures of Master F. J., Lyly’s Eupues, Munday’s Zelauto, Greene’s Menaphon, Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveler, Lodge’s A Marguerite of America, and selections from Painter’s Palace of Pleasure, along with a number of secondary readings.
ENGL7180: Nineteenth-Century Studies
Global Victorians and Neo-Victorians
This course examines Victorian literature and culture from a global perspective, stressing issues and practices of travel, migration, and mobility across a range of imperial, transnational, transoceanic, and transhistorical contexts. As we will discover, advances in technologies of travel and communication—including wider and more rapid distribution of newspapers and other forms of mass media—profoundly reshaped notions of space and time during the Victorian period. We will examine a diverse range of Victorian fiction, poetry, and nonfiction prose that sought to engage with these new possibilities and challenges. Some of the questions we will explore include: in what ways were travel and mobility informed by identities of race, gender, and class? How did specific genres and forms, including poetry, creatively and critically intervene in the creation of Victorian traveling identities? How would local, indigenous, and national identities survive and adapt in this expanding, accelerating, and interconnected world? We will also examine some recent examples of neo-Victorian fiction, travel writing, and hybrid forms of fiction, memoir, and literary/cultural criticism that seek to remap our understanding of these nineteenth-century globalizing forces. Course readings and critical approaches will also include recent theoretical work on postcolonial studies, archipelagic and transoceanic studies, and travel and mobility studies.
Contemporary Literature & Culture
ENGL7210: Contemporary Literature & Culture
What is poetry for in the 21st century?
In times like these, what use is poetry? Can the making of poetry and the practice of close reading contribute to human flourishing and to political and social goods? Is there social value in aesthetic expression and experience? What is a poem--an object? an event? a human encounter? This seminar focuses on those questions, and on twenty-first century poets and theorists for whom they are central. We will read a selection of recent volumes, including C.D. Wright, Cooling Time: An American Poetry Vigil; Anne Boyer, Garments Against Women; Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus; Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars; Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, A Treatise on Stars; Robert Hass, Time and Materials; and Brian Teare, Companion Grasses. We’ll bring these into conversation with critical and theoretical selections from The Lyric Theory Reader, as well as selections from recent work by Susan Stewart, Charles Altieri, Oren Izenberg, and others.
Attendance and well-prepared participation; 6-8 brief reading responses; and a seminar essay of 20-24 pages.
English 7940 offers a conceptual and practical foundation for graduate students in English who plan to teach first-year writing at Auburn University and at the college level more broadly. Toward these ends, you can expect to read and discuss scholarship from the field of Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies; explore the sociocultural and institutional dimensions of teaching at a land grant university in the U.S. South; observe experienced teachers in the classroom; learn and apply best practices for course design, assignment creation, feedback, and assessment; generate course materials within a framework provided by the Writing Program; and develop a philosophy of teaching that reflects what you have learned in the course and through your own experiences in the classroom.
The purpose of this work is to support your development in becoming skilled teachers and working professionals who can deliver high quality writing instruction and take an active role in the university community.
We will also spend time in class exploring, discussing, and generally puzzling through issues that arise based on our collective experiences in the classroom.
By the end of this course, you will:
Learn and apply best practices related to teaching college writing;
Design course materials within disciplinary and institutional frameworks;
Generate course materials for the first-year writing sequence;
Acquire practical strategies and techniques for facilitating day-to-day instruction;
Craft a philosophy of teaching that reflects individual experience and knowledge gathered through course readings and
In this class we’ll cover the basics of grant writing including how to analyze funding opportunities, respond to a request for proposal, write the different sections of a grant proposal, construct the overall argument for your grant and persuade your readers to fund your ideas, and use effective document design. For the major project in the class, students will work for a non-profit client to write a major proposal, and give a final presentation. During the second half of the semester students should plan to meet with their client as needed outside of class as well as be prepared to conduct research and work independently under the supervision of the instructor.
Special Topics in English Studies
1:00 pm - 1st mini
ENGL7870: Special Topics in English Studies
Mapping Contemporary Travel Writing: Destinations, Issues, Approaches
Focusing on a wide range of American, British and Anglophone nonfiction travel narratives, essays, and poetry, this course will explore the unique ways travel writing intervenes in contemporary debates about cultural identity, politics, and diversity. Questions that will shape our analysis include: How do travelers seek to authorize or authenticate their accounts? How does travel writing both define and disrupt national and regional identities—along with identities of race, gender, and sexuality? How do contemporary authors negotiate travel writing’s legacy with forms of cultural and class privilege? The course features three specific modules intended to help focus our analysis while still providing a sense of the genre’s broad cultural footprint: Traveling South; Islands and Coasts; and Deep Time. The course will also serve students as an introduction to travel writing studies as a discipline, featuring critical and rhetorical approaches to travel texts that can be applied across a range of historical periods and contexts.
Research essay; one research and one teaching oriented presentation; response papers
ENGL7140: Poetry Writing
The Ark, The Galleons, and Your Craft
In this course, we will study contemporary poetry including poems about animals and the ark (which bore specimens to safety in the flood narrative) and poems about human society and the galleons (which carried the products of colonialism and people to enslavement in early America). We will consider the ambitiousness of poems that strive to offer more than the individual’s perspective, as well as their complications and contradictions. Poems that are, on the surface, about the categorization of animals or their use as beasts of burden often reveal truths about our own species. Meanwhile, poems about humanity, in addressing our civilization and culture at large, often reveal inhumane behavior or are redeemed only by a personal story. From such published works, we will learn how to craft poems that are vessels for the ideas you want to convey.
Texts for the course are pairings of animal poems (available to print online) and The Galleons, by Rick Barot, among others. About half of class time will be devoted to discussion of published texts and half to workshopping and rigorously revising student writing. Activities—some of which take place outside of the classroom and class time—will include participation in campus events featuring Barot as visiting writer. Also, students will give presentations on new poetry collections informed by bestiaries (ancient compendiums describing other-than-human creatures).
The Practicum will provide guidance, support, and, most of all, space to experiment and explore for the new Graduate Teaching Assistants (first-year MAs & MTPCs in English). I invite you to think of the Practicum as a Studio-Lab. This will be, first and foremost, a safe space to share, ask questions, and look for answers. It will be a Studio because teaching is an art, and it will be a Lab because teaching also has elements of science. Of course, you need some knowledge about pedagogy and the subject you teach, but you also must never lose the ability to be surprised, to be creative, and even to be confused. Undoubtedly, as novice teachers, you need the substances, ideas, and research findings developed in the field, as well as the equipment and tools with which to experiment. In our Studio-Lab, we will roll up our sleeves and learn both through art and science, through theory and practice, through trial and error.
Requirements will likely include faithful attendance, lively participation, keeping a reflective teaching journal, designing partial and full lesson plans, conducting a teaching observation, developing a Teaching Philosophy, and creating a teaching ePortfolio.
Grammar? Punctuation? Sure, but there’s a whole lot more to technical editing. Come find out! You will, of course, learn the principles and practical applications of copymarking, print and electronic copyediting, and comprehensive editing. But you'll also learn how to be an advocate for the reader, manage projects, create in-house style guides, and work tactfully and effectively with authors. We'll work with a variety of technical writing pieces; these pieces may include professional writing from technology, business, and science, as well as texts intended for academic publication. We’ll cover the standard details you expect, but this course will take a broad approach to editing. NOTE: We’ll also break myths. For instance, you can split an infinitive and end a sentence or clause with a preposition! (E.g., "You’ll learn to effectively use references that editors rely on.”)
Assignments likely will include the following: short editing assignments that focus on specific facets of editing, a presentation on a concept in editing, and a longer editing assignment
Readings likely will include the following, plus scholarly articles: Saller, C. F. (2016). The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226240077 (Kindle edition available), Cunningham, D. H., Malone, E. A., and Rothschild, J. M. (2019). Technical Editing: An Introduction to Editing in the Workplace. Oxford, UK: Oxford U Press. ISBN 978-0190872670
The aim of English 7010 is to introduce students to the rhetorical principles, professional practices, and research skills vital to workplace communication. To accomplish this aim, the course will devote time to interrogating what technical and professional communication means, to building an understanding of professional communication as ethical action, and to discovering the meaning and value of core concepts such as culture, community, and technology. Given the nature of technical and professional communication, the course will involve both individual and collaborative work.
An individual research report, a collaborative research project, an annotated bibliography
Barnum, Carol M. (2011). Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set . . . Test. Morgan Kaufmann., Johnson-Eilola, Johndan & Selber, Stuart A., eds. (2013). Solving Problems in Technical Communication. University of Chicago Press., and PDFs posted to Canvas
Pedagogy remains the beating heart of Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies and a site of theorizing and enacting social justice in both that field and Technical and Professional Communication. This seminar features major foundational and contemporary pedagogical currents in these fields: critical pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, antiracist pedagogy, digital pedagogy, linguistic justice, ethics, social justice pedagogy, counterstory, threshold concepts, teaching for transfer, and writing about writing. You can expect to gain a solid foundation in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies pedagogies along with familiarity with ethics-oriented and social justice pedagogies in Technical and Professional Communication, a foundation that can inform your teaching across a variety of courses and contexts. Further, with many academic journals devoted to dimensions of pedagogy, opportunities to publish scholarship/research conducted in this class abound.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,' but what is it exactly about a picture (as Jay Lemke puts it) that not even a thousand words can explain? In this course, we’ll investigate visual communication from several theoretical perspectives: semiotics, visual culture, document design, rhetorical theory, and visualizing data. Students will learn how to work with programs in Adobe’s Creative Suite to complete shorter design exercises as well as a client-based final project.
In a chapter provocatively titled “After Words: Postmethodological Musings,” Rebecca Rickly writes that when writing is the object of our research, we have to “become a little more comfortable with what [John] Law refers to as the ‘messiness’ of research,” the ways that the study of writing is, like writing itself, often “tangential, recursive, and takes us in directions we had no idea we were going to end up in.” This seminar offers students an introduction to this “mess” of research through a sustained study of methods and methodologies in Writing Studies and related disciplines. The goal here is to prepare graduate students to design and execute research programs that contribute to disciplinary conversations, and to reflect on that research in a critical and meaningful way. As we survey the various methods for conducting qualitative and quantitative research, we will tackle the many ethical issues that arise in any research context. We will also, collectively, begin to chart methodological futures for English Studies. The exciting part of this seminar is that it will invite you not only to learn how knowledge is made in Writing Studies and related fields, but also that it will give you the opportunity to build and contribute knowledge of your own.
Students can expect to: read and discuss key texts on methods and methodologies in Writing Studies and related fields; compose weekly reading responses and annotations; facilitate discussion for one class period; propose a pilot research study based on a methodological orientation of interest; conduct and document preliminary research; and present project to class.
Eighteenth Century Studies
ENGL7170: Eighteenth Century Studies
Playing Austen, Playing the Eighteenth-Century
As Devoney Looser outlined in The Making of Jane Austen (2017), the author and her works have been used by many different communities for wildly different purposes. A steady stream of adaptations has flowed for decades, part of a massive transmedia industry. In adapting Austen, what are we prioritizing from these narratives, and how do those priorities shape (or limit) how we talk about Austen and her works?
Many of the challenges of adaptation and representation now playing out in big-budget, mass media film and television screens, in fandom and enthusiast organizations, have been playing out for much longer in the world of smaller-budget, niche video, roleplaying, and board games. It is arguably easier to see our continued blind spots in the cutting-edge, individual world of indie games -- often labors of love.
In order to explore these questions, we will read Austen's work (6 novels and surviving manuscript material) in conversation with other texts from the period, Austen scholarship, game scholarship, and modern independent games, including tabletop Austen roleplaying game Good Society, mobile game Regency Love (2015), Austen-inspired visual novel The Lady’s Choice (2016), party game Austen Translation, and Spiral Atlas's two interactive adaptations: Northanger Abbey (2019) and Pride & Prejudice (in development), among others.
Nineteenth Century Studies
ENGL7180: Nineteenth Century Studies
Nineteenth-Century Studies and the Ecological Turn
This course is an introduction to the recent rise of ecocriticism in English studies. The course will cover new approaches to early representations of ecology, environmental injustice, colonization, climate change, extinction, evolution, biodiversity, plant blindness, industrialization, smog, fossil fuel extraction, neo-paganism, and more. Each week we will pair new ecocritical texts with Victorian texts. Authors include Mary Prince, William Wordsworth, the Bronte sisters, Dickens, Henry Mayhew, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, George Eliot, Henry Mayhew, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde and less familiar work such as the recently published writings of indigenous Māori people, the anonymous nineteenth-century Caribbean text Adolphus, a Tale, and memoirs such as Nelly Shaw’s Whiteway Colony. The course will give you both a theoretical and critical vocabulary in ecocriticism and eco-theory which can be widely applied to literature of many places and times.
We will begin with studying how Mary Prince wrote slavery in blood, water, and salt, how the novels written during the Great Hunger (Irish potato famine) such as Wuthering Heights intersect with losses in human and more than human life, biodiversity, and plant literacy. We will study the paradoxes of environmentalism, for example how the British created ecology by destroying ecosystems they colonized. We will study how Victorian poets co-opted Chinese gardening ideas, how Ruskin wrote the London Fog (which was really the London smog), how anarcho-communists re-imagined “bread labor” in “Back to the Land,” utopian communities, how writing and design imagined clean air, how neo-pagans worshipped the earth, how interviews with child laborers like “the Watercress Girl” imagined local plants in an age of importation, how Darwin wrote queer animals and why suffragettes dynamited golf courses. We will see that the country and the city are not just places, but times. We will meet concepts such as “sustainability,” the Anthropocene, vibrant matter, natureculture, trans-corporeality, and ecology without nature, while studying postcolonial, feminist, new materialist, elemental and queer ecologies as well as critical plant studies. Objective: The objective of the course is to increase your knowledge of ecocriticism, cultural studies, and Victorian Studies. By using a glossary throughout the course, we will work on developing a critical vocabulary with which to discuss literature and culture.
ENGL7190: American Studies
American Transcendentalism, 1830-1870
Led by internationally significant writers such as Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller, the Transcendentalists were an eclectic group of nineteenth-century intellectuals whose work in prose and poetry argued for major reform in social arrangements, political consciousness, religion, and literature. Texts by these American writers, drawn from the period 1830-1870, will form the core of our readings for the seminar. To that end we will read considerably from Thoreau’s political essays and Walden, or Life in the Woods, Emerson’s Journals and Essays, and Fuller’s New York Tribune newspaper dispatches and early feminist theory in Woman in the Nineteenth Century. We will supplement our discussion with selections from major participants in the intellectual ferment of this important period for American literary culture. A few examples: William Alcott, Louisa May Alcott, and Elizabeth Peabody on schools and educational reform, Frederick Douglass on racial identity and self-made men, Walt Whitman on sex and the city, Orestes Brownson and Caroline Healey Dall on the laboring classes, and Nathaniel Hawthorne on gender identity and utopian community. The recent publication of cultural historian Robert A. Gross’s monumental study The Transcendentalists and Their World (2022) will provide for us a remarkable story of the communities that fostered these important writers and their revolutionary ideas.
The primary goals of the seminar are to read extensively in primary sources in American literature of the period, along with key works of advanced scholarship on 19th century writers, while developing the strong research, presentation, and writing skills necessary to complete an original research paper approximately 20 pp. in length.
Course requirements and grading: regular participation in seminar discussions, assigned discussion leadership, research prospectus/bibliography due at midterm, and final research paper. The most important of these requirements is the final paper.
Key readings for the course will include works such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays and Lectures (Library of America); Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings (Modern Library); Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century (Norton Critical Edition); Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance (Penguin); Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855 edition; Frederick Douglass, “Self-Made Men”; Robert A. Gross, The Transcendentalists and Their World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
Studies in Literary Theory
ENGL7800: Studies in Literary Theory
Feminist Contributions to the Rise of Mass Popular Culture.
This seminar employs brief introductions to theories in the fields of performance studies and popular culture theory to study contributions made by women writers and actresses to the creation of mass popular culture. We will work with two times and examples. In each, creators broke with accepted and admired literary and dramatic practices in times of national, social crises. Each has resonances with our own time and offers opportunities for literary genre studies. The first uses the early career shapes of Anne Finch and Eliza Haywood to trace the path to attaining the status of mass popular culture (1720-1750). Among these are subversive art, marketing, and especially branding. The second is built on methodologies from the first and intersects with the abolition movement in the 1780s and 90s. In many ways, literary writing was a popular sport. For example, playwrights had set a standard for comedy and all ambitious poets had to write competitive sonnets. The seminar examples in late century come from, first, the performances of a delightful, comic actress who began bringing humanity and pathos to characters performed as a Black woman or servant boy. Second, in the same years, the most established and “classical” women poets turned their fame and skill to producing propaganda poems for the cause.
The seminar is primarily discussion. Members will write and present a contextual report, a short paper on two works by the same actress or writer, and an incrementally developed final paper on a theme of their choice in the seminar. It will satisfy the theory requirement; it may also be used to satisfy one of the following requirements: Diversity; Pre-1800; Genre.
Representative readings: The British Recluse, The Mercenary Lover, The Rash Resolve, The Critic and the Writer of Fables, An Epilogue to the Tragedy of Jane Shore, Inkle and Yarico, Sappho and Phaon, The Black Man’s Lament or, How to Make Sugar, Plymouth in an Uproar,The Negro Girl, and The Surrender of Trinidad.