Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of English
Fall 2016
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Fall 2016

ENGLISH 813 Early Modern Islam and the West: Literature, Culture, and History


Professor Jyotsna G. Singh
Monday, 4:10 - 7:00 pm

            How did Europeans imagine the expanding frontiers of their world in the early modern period? As their geographical knowledge was growing, so were the cultural, linguistic, religious, and racial/ethnic coordinates by which they defined their identities. And within this repertoire of representations, Islamic figures, variously labeled as “Mahometans,” “Muslims,” “Moors,” “infidels,” and ‘heathens,” began to proliferate in the global imaginings of European Christendom: on the English Renaissance stage, in travel narratives, in accounts about pirates and renegades, and in popular polemical texts on Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.  Drawing on the growing scholarly engagement with Anglo-Muslim relations in the early modern period, this course will focus on figurations of Islam and Muslim cultures, within both intercultural and intra-cultural contexts, from the late fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. European Christendom cast both a skeptical and a fascinated eye on the Islamic world on their peripheries.  Thus their interactions with Islam also produced rich cross-pollinations of cultures as well as ethno-religious stereotypes, which associated Islam with decadence. We will examine these cross-cultural interactions, while exploring the Muslim societies from comparative perspectives, drawing on both local and globalizing contexts

Among topics and issues informing our discussions will be the following:

-  The actual encounters and interactions -- political, social, military, sexual, and religious -- between the English (Europeans) and Muslims, as well as the ways in which Muslims had a vivid presence in English life and national imagination in the period.

-  The multiplicity of early modern English representations in texts and visual culture—both embellished and distorted—of Islam, and how they illuminate the processes of cultural and linguistic translation.

-  Stereotypical mages of Muslims – as renegades and apostates, cruel tyrants, libidinous villains, or just fallen men like Othello --. Why were such representations of the cultural others so pervasive? Were they simply imaginary resolutions of real anxieties about the wealth and military power of the Islamic empires to the East: the Ottomans in Turkey, Safavids in Persia, and the Mughals in India?

-  While including all these Islamic empires, we will move beyond the contemporary Anglo-Ottoman focus and draw our attention to comparative perspectives on Mughal India, including both English travel narratives about India and Mughal memoirs, paintings, and royal edicts, artifacts etc.

-  We will examine the Europeans casting their gaze on the Islamic world, but in doing so also try to pluralize that gaze by identifying distinct, discrete, and yet sometimes overlapping processes of identity formation in both the Muslim and Christian worlds.


  1. Shakespeare, Othello
  2. Marlowe, Tamburlaine
  3. Thomas Kyd, Soliman and Perseda (1592)
  4. George Peele, The Battle of Alcazar (1588)
  5. William Bedwell, Mahommedis Imposturae (1615) (selections)
  6. Edward Terry Voyage to East India (1625) (selections)
  7. Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625) (selections)
  8. Sir Paul Rycaut [and Richard Knolles], The Turkish history, from the original of that nation, to the growth of the Ottoman empire  (selections)
  9. Sir Thomas Roe. The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to India, 1615-1619
  10. Mr Thomas Coriate to his Friends in England Sendeth Greetings. 1615. Thomas Coryate
  11. Baburnama.  Ed. and Trans. William Thackston
  12. Humayunama, Ed. and Trans. Annette Beveridge

   Historical Framework: (selections from the texts below)

  1. Azfar Moin, The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam.
  2. Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Explorations in Connected Histories: The Mughals and Franks,
  3. ------------------.Three Ways of Being Alien: Travails and Encounters in the Early Modern World.
  4. Annemarie Schimmel My Soul is a Woman: The Feminine in Islam
  5. Valerie Gonzalez, Aesthetic Hybridity in Mughal Painting.1526-1658


FLM 451/ENG 818. Studies in Genres and Media: “Indian Cinema: Hindi Popular Cinema/Bollywood and the Others”

Professor Swarnavel Pillai
Tuesday, 4:10 – 7:00 pm; Thursday 4:10 – 6:00 pm

This course offers a critical overview of one of the world’s largest and most beloved film industries—the popular cinema produced mostly in Bombay (Mumbai) and consumed around the world often under the label “Bollywood.” Focusing on the post-Independence (1947) era to the present, it introduces key films, directors, stars, genres, formal techniques, and themes, as well as critical analyses of these and other topics. Special attention will be given to the pervasive role of music, song, and dance. Other topics to be addressed include: the cultural sources of Hindi cinema, cinema and nationalism, the star system, and global audiences. This course assumes no previous knowledge of Indian culture or cinema, and all films have English subtitles.

On Tuesdays, there will be screenings of carefully chosen films representative of the long and vibrant history of the Hindi cinema, and on Thursdays, we will be discussing these films in the context of the discourses surrounding them as reflected in the readings for the class.  We will focus on the historical, political, economical and cultural contexts of the production and reception of these films, besides engaging with the specificity of genre and authorship of Hindi cinema. We will also explore the way history is revisited, recycled, and reinvented by focusing on the influence of canonical films on contemporary Hindi cinema, particularly those which cater primarily to a diasporic audience or the middleclass audience which frequents the multiplexes, through the screening and discussion of relevant film/clips. We will also analyze the role of the stardom of actors (like Madhubala, Tabu, Amitabh Bachchan and  Shahrukh Khan), the authorship of directors (like Guru Dutt, Vishal Bhardwaj, Mani Ratnam, Mysskin, Anurag Kashyap etc.), and the contributions of technicians (for instance, cinematographer V.K. Murthy—Pyaasa, and music director A.R. Rahman—Dil Se and Fiza) in shaping the form and content of the popular Hindi cinema.

While 3/4th of the time will be used for the analysis of Hindi cinema, rest of the 1/4th of the time will be devoted to the detailed reading of regional films: Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam and Bengali films. For instance, Satyajit Ray's Aparajito and Nagraj Manjule's Fandry. Through such a comparative analysis we will engage with Hindi cinema's exclusive claim to be the national cinema of India.


ENG 481/ENG 820. Section 001. Special Topics in Language and Literature: “New Narrative”  

Professor Ellen McCallum
Monday 7:10 – 10:00 pm

This course will critically reflect on representations of space in maps, fictional narratives, and theories of space/place in the long 20th century.  The central problem of the course is how and why one would map the spaces of novels--what interpretive purchase does this activity provide, for the novel or for the map? what does it mean to map imagined or even purely imaginary spaces? How does the ability to map a novel rely on referentiality or realism in that fiction?  How does comparing maps and narratives as modes of representation inform or challenge our understanding of how representation works? From there, we will consider questions such as how can the convergence of these different modes of representation contribute to knowledge about and discussions in the digital humanities. We will work with ArcGIS and other digital mapping models, drawing on a range of texts and cities, from modernist works such as Forster's Howards End or Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway to postwar works such as Rechy's City of Night, or new narrative works like Acker's Pussy King of the Pirates, or Gladman's The Ravickians.  Our theorists will likely include Henri Lefebvre, Michel deCerteau, Gaston Bachelard, Samuel Delany, Gillian Rose, J.B. Harley.


ENG 820. Section 002. Special Topics in Language and Literature: "Theory and Practice of Popular Culture Studies”
Professors Ann Larabee and David Stowe
Wednesday, 4:10 - 7:00 pm

This seminar is designed to introduce graduate students to topics, issues, and debates within the field of Popular Culture Studies, and to acquaint them with a variety of methods for undertaking their own interdisciplinary research. We will investigate the political and theoretical development of PCS (especially in the Bowling Green tradition) as an outgrowth of American Studies, chart its development amid related fields like American Studies and cultural studies, examine some of the critiques that have been and continue to be leveled against it, and show its promise for understanding the new digital environments. A special focus of this semester is research by seminar members for a special issue of The Journal of Popular Culture, currently in the planning stages, to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Professional development within the field, including advice on publication and conference venues and professional networking, will be included.

Readings (tentative):

Selection from Russel Nye.  The Unembarrased Muse: The Popular Arts in America. Dial 1970.

Ray Browne.  “Background and Development of an Idea.” Against Academia.  BGSU Popular Press, 1989.

Ray Browne. “The ASA and Its Friends.” American Quarterly 31 (1979), 354-358.

Raymond Williams.  “On High and Popular Culture.”  New Republic.  22 Nov. 1974.

Lawrence Levine. “The Folklore of Industrial Society: Popular Culture and Its Audiences.” American Historical Review 97 (1992), 1369-1399.

Robin D. G. Kelley. “Notes on Deconstructing ‘The Folk.” American Historical Review 97 (1992), 1400-1408.

T. J. Jackson Lears. “Making Fun of Popular Culture.” American Historical Review 97 (1992), 1417-1426.

R. Barthes. Mythologies. Trans. Annette Lavers. Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1972.

Umberto Eco. “The Myth of Superman.” Diacritics 2.1 (1972), 14-22.

White, Hayden.  "Structuralism and Popular Culture."  Journal of Popular Culture 7 (1974): 759-775.

Chris Rojek. Celebrity (Reaktion 2004).

Peter Conrad. 21st-Century Mythologies.  BBC Radio.

Janice Radway. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature.  1984; U of North Carolina P 1991.

Ann Larabee, “Fifty Shades of Grey and the Moral Reading.” TJPC 48 (2015).

Ann Larabee. “Reading the Romance at Thirty.” TJPC 47 (2014).

Michael Denning, Noise Uprising: The Audiopolitics of a World Musical REvolution

Jules Prown and Kenneth Haltman, American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture

Rachel Rubin, Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture

Nick Sousanis, Unflattening (graphic novel)

Isaac Weiner, Religion Out Loud: Religious Sound, Public Space, and American Pluralism

Leslie Fiedler, “The New Mutants,” Partisan Review 32 (Fall 1965)

Ramzi Fawaz. The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Politics (NYU Press 2016).

F. Moretti. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary Theory. Verso: London, 2005. 

C. Levine.  Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network.  Princeton UP, 2015.