210 - Literature, Culture, and Media
Monster Lit: The overarching goal of this course is to expose students to questions about the nature of literature and other cultural products from within their own culture, and outside of it. We read cultural texts (broadly defined) to understand their impact in shaping the culture that surrounds us. For this version of the course the theme is "Monster Literature". This theme runs through most of literary history right up to the present day. The monsters covered in this course range from those found in ancient epic poetry to those in The Walking Dead. Some question we will ask: what is a monster? How are monsters different from each other and different from other creatures? Is the monster part of our psyche? Do we need monsters in order to define ourselves?
Age of Revolutions: This course is a survey of the literature written by British authors during the tumultuous and vibrant period beginning with the onset of the French Revolution in 1789 and ending with the ascension of Queen Victoria in 1837. It was during this period that England, still recovering from the American Revolution, began its transformation from an agrarian society in which the landed aristocrats held most, if not all, of the social and economic power, to an industrial society which became more democratic and egalitarian. These various changes and shifts in society are reflected in the literature of the period, making it one of the richest and most varied in British history.
Literature and Technology: Surveying the rise of computing technologies, information theories, and information economies in the last century, this course considers their impact on literature, culture and knowledge-formation. In particular, we will reflect on topics such as the relationship between social and technological transformation, literary print and digital cultures, and electronic literature.
American Literature: This section of Literary and Cultural Studies is a survey of American literature from the Nineteenth century to the present day. There will be emphasis on the work of Edgar Allan Poe (his most famous poem "The Raven" and his short stories) and on 19th- and 20th-Century American short stories. Students will also read Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and Marilynne Robinson's post-modern novel, Housekeeping .
Literature for Pop Culture: We’re going to spend this course looking at the recent cultural trend of popularizing/re-tooling works of literature (in our case, Shakespeare and fairy tales) for mass-market consumption. This creates a new genre of texts “inspired by” Literature from the Canon. Oftentimes this inspired re-working is done through unexpected or nontraditional methods, some of which include the graphic novel, online and/or board games, or extraordinarily self-aware/self-referential television programmes. In this course, we will first try to understand what it means to call something “literature” or to label it as part of the “literary tradition”. Then we’ll question the degree to which these homages comprise what we currently believe to be “literary tradition”. Finally we’ll ponder why any of this matters. What can these discussions teach us about culture? What can they teach us about the future of “Literature”? Our lively discussions will center around texts including (but not limited to) the comic book series Kill Shakespeare and Fables, the television programme Slings & Arrows, and the online game Romeo Wherefore Art Thou?
The Mystery in the Story: What makes a story, and what makes it a mystery story? In this course, we'll study, analyze, and write about the nature of narratives, taking the classic mystery tale written by authors Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Dashiell Hammett as typical of intricately plotted stories of suspense and disclosure that have been written and filmed in many genres. We’ll also examine horror tales by Edgar Allan Poe and Shirley Jackson, a psychological thriller by Patricia Highsmith, neo-noir films such as The Usual Suspects and Memento, and postmodern mystery parodies such as those of Paul Auster. Through our lively discussions, we'll look at the way that they hold together, the desire and fear that drive them, and the secrets that they tell -- or try to keep hidden.
Screening Desire: This class is about love, desire, happy endings and guilty pleasures. Over the course of the semester we will examine the representation of relationships across popular culture. The class will examine a variety of media texts, including: It Happened One Night, Before Sunrise, Looking, The L Word, and True Blood. This course asks: How do popular media represent gender, sexuality, and partnership? If genre is a space where we work through and rework cultural norms, what conversations are romantic stories having with us? How do happy endings and romantic fantasies intersect with the realities of class, race and sexual orientation? What social conflicts do these stories seek to mediate? Finally, how are relationship stories constructed for different audiences and organized across different media forms? This course takes up these questions by examining the role of genre in our culture and exploring what relationships look like in print, on film, and on the television screen.
Participatory Culture: From audiences sitting in the dark of the theater, to impassioned fans at conventions, there are many ways for us to engage with media. Popular culture inspires our passion, our participation, and sparks public debate. This class explores different historical periods, their dominant media forms, and theories of reception associated with them. Then, we will use this historical perspective to help us ask questions about contemporary media and participatory culture. This class looks at a variety of film, television, and digital media texts, including: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Color Purple, Battlestar Galactica, remix projects, and major media franchises. We’ll also check out different YouTube Channels, "play" a digital documentary together, and look at transformative works projects like Wizard People Dear Reader. The class asks students to take an active role in discussions by reflecting on their own experiences as viewers. In addition to writing papers, students will also produce digital/remix projects in response to different media texts.