Introduction to Graduate Studies: (Un)thinking the Discipline
Introduction to Graduate Studies
Topic: “(Un)thinking the Discipline”
This course is intended as a critical and historical orientation to the discipline for students beginning graduate study in the field we call “English.” The course will be organized around four nodal questions: (1) What are some of the central conceptualizations of “literature” and “culture” (as practices, domains, and objects of study) within modernity? (2) How do norms of literary and cultural value articulate historically with the emergence and development of the modern nation-state to generate what has been, until recently, a prevailing model of “nationalized” literary and cultural study? Relatedly, what alternative models (e.g, diasporic; post- or transnational) have emerged in recent decades and what are their implications for the organization of the discipline (and our understanding of field specializations and expertise)? (3) How are the issues and methods of literary and cultural study grounded in broader theories of language and meaning? How do these theories map the relation between writing (texuality), literary forms, and the social formation? How have these theories (and the analytic approaches they sustain) displaced one another as “dominant” forces in the discipline, at the same time as the more or less full range of these theories (and approaches) remain operative within most departments of English? (4) What are the stakes in the kind of critical work we produce? How do we understand the value of our scholarship in the academy and within in broader social and institutional contexts? Because these questions are complexly interrelated, they are meant to indicate interwoven “strands” in our reading and conversation, rather than discrete units of investigation. The reading will include both theoretical pieces and a range of literary and cultural studies scholarship; in reading the latter, we will pay particular attention to the design of the project (the framing of the inquiry and the selection of relevant objects and archives).
The syllabus remains very much under construction. Catherine Belsey’s Critical Practice will be a touchstone, and course materials will likely include work by Benedict Anderson, Walter Benjamin, Pierre Bourdieu, Rita Felski, Henry Louis Gates, John Guillory, Phillip Brian Harper, Andreas Huyssen, Stuart Hall, Chris Newfield, Bill Reddings, Eve Sedgwick, Edward Said, Michael Warner, and Raymond Williams. Course expectations will include regular, engaged participation in class discussion; an in-class presentation; two short reflection papers (each one a critical annotation of one assigned reading), and a longer, synthetic final essay. Students interested in the selection of readings are welcome to contact me for more details after mid-August. I will post the finalized syllabus to the course Canvas site by mid-September.