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Spring 2024 LIT 499- Topic Descriptions

LIT 499-01 Seminar in Research and Theory: Renaissance Women: Fact and Fiction
Professor: Carney
Course Meetings: Monday/Thursday 11am-12:20pm

Renaissance women continue to fascinate writers, artists, and filmmakers today. Theories of historical fiction will inform this seminar, as we explore the relationship between the actual lives of several early modern women and their representation in novels, movies, and paintings.


LIT 499-02 Seminar in Research and Theory: Miyazaki’s Films
Professor: Konkle
Course Meetings: Thursday 5:30-8:20pm

In this section of LIT 499 we will study the anime films of Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli in Japan. We will watch outside of class (on HBO/Max or DVD in the library) at least 9 of the 12 full-length films he has written and directed (for example, Spirited Away [which won the Oscar for best animated feature], My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and [if it’s available on DVD before the end of the semester] his new film The Boy and the Heron). We may also watch one or more of the 3 films he wrote but didn’t direct. Miyazaki’s films often feature a strong female protagonist, environmental damage, war, children growing up, and spiritual beings in a fantasy-type story with brilliant animation. These elements lend themselves to theoretical approaches such as gender studies, ecocriticism, new historicism, psychology (e.g., child maturation), and others. We will also learn about how the animism in Shinto and some Buddhist beliefs, as well as other aspects of Japanese culture and history, figure into Miyazaki’s films.


LIT 499-03 Seminar in Research and Theory: Multicultural British Literature
Professor: McMann
Course Meetings: Tuesday 5:30-8:20pm

As the British Empire declined, the racial and ethnic diversity of Britain itself rapidly increased, putting pressure on the idea that Britain was a monoculture (spoiler alert: it never was). In the last 75 years, this shifting demography has redefined the idea – in the UK and abroad – of what it means to be British. In looking at the creative output of British people of African, Caribbean, and Southeast Asian descent, this course will interrogate what it means to be British in the wake of decolonization, the challenges immigrants and their children face, the political and social reactions they encounter, and their rich and varied contributions to British culture. We will be asking how this body of literature is a particularly British product, even as it is indelibly informed by myriad other national and ethnic traditions. We will be reading works by Sam Selvon (Trinidad & Tobago), Zadie Smith (UK), Salman Rushdie (India), Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria), and Bernadine Evaristo (UK) among others.


LIT 499-04 Seminar in Research and Theory: Ecocriticism, Unnatural Nature, and Medieval Literature 
Professor: Steinberg, G.
Course Meetings: Monday 5:30-8:20pm

Lots of the stories in the Middle Ages take place in ¿natural¿ settings. This course examines how medieval writers conceive of and portray the natural world ¿ in comparison with how we understand nature today and in the context of ecocritical theory and environmental sociology. We read lots of different medieval texts, including Arthurian romances, fabliaux (dirty stories that engage in social satire), and dream visions. This course may also have a community-engaged learning component, working with a community partner on an environmental education project that uses what we have learned in class. From knights wandering in forest wilds to modern-day initiatives to encourage gardening for wildlife, we consider how humans define, describe, and engage with the natural world.


LIT 499-05 Seminar in Research in Theory: The Beatles and Their World
Professor: Venturo
Course Meetings: Tuesday/Friday 2-3:20pm

The lives and musical careers of the Beatles reflect profound cultural changes that took place in the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II. In particular, the extraordinary transformation of this group in a decade and a half from one of many local Liverpool bands to the most influential popular music group of all time and an international cultural arbiter offers insight into the modern cultural world. With the Beatles as its focus, this seminar will explore such topics in modern cultural history as race relations, women’s rights and gender issues, youth culture, consumerism, counterculture and protest, mass media and public relations, as well as, of course, developments in popular music.