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Fall 2021 LIT 499 Topic Descriptions

LIT499-01 Seminar in Research and Theory: Rewriting the Canon: Talking Back to the Canon: Contemporary Adaptations and Appropriations
Professor: Jo Carney
Monday/Thursday 11:00am-12:20pm

The scholarly discourse on adaption, appropriation, and intertextuality is dynamic, extensive, and productively contentious. Adaptation theory has emerged as a robust field of critical study in its own right as literary retellings and revisions of works considered “canonical” keep appearing at a prodigious rate. In this seminar we will read canonical works paired with literary adaptations and appropriations focusing on what takes place in the process. Works may include Beowulf and Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife, Shakespeare’s Othello and Toni Morrison’s Desdemona, The Odyssey and Madeline Miller’s Circe, Henry James The Turn of the Screw and Sarah Waters’Affinity.


LIT499-02 Seminar in Research and Theory: Afrofuturism in the 21st Century: Interdisciplinary Approaches and Possibilities
Professor: Piper Kendrix Williams
Monday/Thursday 11:00am-12:20pm 

This capstone focuses on the ways Afrofuturism is revealed in literature, history, sociology, feminism and political science, and the awakening of personal black consciousness can be found. There is consensus among theorists and scholars that the term Afrofuturism was coined in 1994 by Mark Dery, a Professor at the Yale School of Art. Dery coined the term in his essay, “Black to the Future.”  In this work, Dery queries: “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have been subsequently consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?” (180) For Dery, the answer is yes and he finds it in art, comics, science fiction, and the history of black people and thus coins and claims “Afrofuturism.” Viewing Afrofuturism as an analytic framework is essential to the interdisciplinary nature of this LIT 499/ AAS 499 Capstone. 

 A number of contemporary writers and thinkers are invested in the complex interpretation of Afrofuturism as both an idea as well as a lived reality and it is this more complex rendering of black identity and thought that informs the theoretical work we will focus on during the semester.  In this course, students will be expected to research and investigate the critical debate that has surrounded the idea of Afrofuturism over the last twenty years. Students will be expected to do two, interrelated things in this course: to contribute actively and thoughtfully to class discussions of assigned materials, and to devote the bulk of their time to the formulation of their own research project on Afrofuturism. 


LIT499-03 Seminar in Research and Theory: The New Black Renaissance
Professor: Cassandra Jackson
Monday/Thursday 12:30-1:50pm

In 2016, Ariana Davis called the 2010’s the time of a “New Black Renaissance in Literature.” The term “New Black Renaissance” has since been picked up to describe Black cultural production more broadly, with critics citing Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, Beyonce’s Lemonade, and Childish Gambino’s ¿This Is America¿ as pivotal moments in Black art. The decade also saw Black writers win 13 National Book awards, an award that famously overlooked Toni Morrison’s Beloved in 1988, leading to protest by Black writers.  This course will explore whether we can think of this era as a New Black Renaissance, asking what exactly do we mean by “renaissance,” “new,” and “Black.”  We will ground this exploration with an examination of the historical moments that shaped the decade: the killing of Trayvon Martin, the birth of the Black Lives Matter and the Me Too movements, the end of the Obama era, and the rise of public White Supremacy.  Moving between film, music, visual art, and literature by a new generation of black artists, including writers such as Jesmyn Ward, Colson Whitehead, Claudia Rankine, and Ta-nehesi Coates, we will consider how the 2010s made history.


LIT499-04 Seminar in Research and Theory: Diaspora and Transmigration in Asian American Literature
Professor: Jia-Yan Mi
Tuesday/Friday 2:00-3:30pm

This course offers a critical study on the social and cultural formation of Asian American ethnic identity in Asian American literature. By selecting texts produced from various Asian ethnic communities (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Indian, and Vietnamese), we will explore a variety of complex issues of racialized identity, gender, sexuality, class, autobiography, history, and ethnic narrative in a volatile context of transnational immigration, multiculturalism, and diasporic citizenship. We will focus on these critical issues: 1. What does it mean to be Asian American and at what point does an immigrant become an American? 2. How do Asian Americans represent themselves in ethnic minority literature and what are the narrative strategies that are deployed to articulate their responses to the cultural and racial debates and contradictions? 3. How is the cultural articulation of their immigrant experiences crucial to the shaping of Asian American ethnic identities? 4. How is the representation of Asian American immigrant experiences linked to the issues of social formation, race, gender, and diasporic identities in a broader context of American history?

It is hoped that the study of Asian American literature and culture will help students gain better and deeper knowledge of the critical issues of race, ethnicity, and gender in minority literature in particular and American literature in general. Through the technique of close reading and engaged discussions, students are expected to acquire a more sophisticated point of view in reading and analyzing literary texts. 


LIT499-05 Seminar in Research and Theory: Once Upon a Narrative Tradition: Renaissance to Postmodern Fairy Tales
Professor: Jo Carney
Monday/Thursday 2:00-3:20pm

Most people today are familiar with fairy tales primarily through a Disney experience, but there is in fact a rich, varied tradition of the literary fairy tale genre that comprises writers from Renaissance Italy, the salon milieu of seventeenth century France, the folklore movement of the German Romantic period, the Victorian period, and contemporary and postmodern experimental schools. The fairy tale is a literary theorist’s dream: this amorphous genre invites consideration from formalist, Marxist, feminist, and new historicist approaches. As we read tales from many time periods, we will be using a variety of theoretical lenses but two approaches will be emphasized: 1) an analysis of narrative elements, structure and aesthetic contexts and 2) a consideration of the tales in their historical and cultural contexts.


LIT499-06 Seminar in Research and Theory: Romantic Love in Contemporary Literature
Professor: Juda Bennett
Tuesday/Friday 8:00-9:20am

“To try to write love,” Roland Barthes asserts, “is to confront the muck of language; that region of hysteria where language is both too much and too little….” What do efforts to “write love” look like in our world today?  This course will examine contemporary efforts to describe, plot, and represent love in poetry, fiction, and memoir.