Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of English
Fall 2019
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FALL 2019 Graduate Seminars

MSU Department of English


ENG 819 (section 1) | Special Topics in Language and Literature

Dr. Zarena Aslami (aslami@msu.edu)

Topic: Disability Studies: Introductions and Interventions

Monday, 4:10-7:00pm


This seminar introduces graduate students to the interdisciplinary field of disability studies. At its core, disability studies interrogates how a specific idea of the body (in its physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and intellectual capacities) in modern western culture has been taken as the measure of the normal around which physical, conceptual, and political environments have been built. It critiques how the institution of medicine, among others, perceives disability as a deficit or lack that must be cured or eradicated. Across the semester, we will explore the significant interventions that disability studies scholars and disabled writers, artists, and activists have made. In particular, we will track their critique of the exclusive category of man and ableism in its many forms, their reimagining of the human, their foregrounding of the intersections of disability with race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality, and their visions of a socially just world. Questions we may consider: How does thinking about disability revise current critical conversations on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class? What are the limits of critiques that do not take disability into account? Disability studies has also been critiqued for not considering questions of class, race, and sexuality. How do recent scholars address those limits? How does attention to dis/ability revise our interpretations of cultural texts? How does ableism persist in the academy and what strategies can we use to dismantle it? Possible readings include works by Audre Lorde, Tobin Siebers, Eli Clare, Sami Schalk, Therí Alyce Pickens, Alison Kafer, Keah Brown, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Jasbir Puar, Sunaura Taylor, Robert McRuer, and Alice Wong.


ENG 826 | Special Topics Seminar

Dr. Steve Arch (arch@msu.edu)

Topic: Textual Criticism and Scholarly Editing

Wednesday, 5:00-7:50pm

 This course will examine the theory and the practice of editing manuscript and printed materials. Since how one edits a text is a version of how one reads a text, the topics covered will be related to issues of literary interpretation as posed by contemporary reading practices. The course will attend to a practical expertise peculiar to the craft of editing, weaving back and forth between theory (textual criticism) and practice (scholarly editing). We will read and discuss a set of foundational texts that set out the history and rationale for several currently available editorial models (such as documentary editions; Lachmannian stemmatic editions; Greg-Bowers eclectic critical editions; fluid text editions; and socially-based editing). We will examine the new skills and policies demanded by computer-based editions. We will study the composition and publication history of at least one famously problematic text, such as King LearSister CarrieFrankenstein, or Ulysses. In addition to completing several short writing exercises, each student will identify a text in her research area (or potential research area) – perhaps one from the Special Collections department of the MSU Library – and prepare an edition in accordance with an appropriate editorial method.

 ENG 813 | Literature in English before 1800

Dr. Tamar Boyadjian

Topic: England and the “East”: Imagining Europe and the Orient Across Medieval Literature

Thursday, 4:10-7:00pm


This course examines the ways in which medieval England views the “east,” and the way the “east” views England, in a number of literary and historiographic works produced in the medieval period.   How and in what forms does the “east” present itself in medieval English literature? What is the “east” and who are its people: Saracen, Arab, Muslim, Jew, Mongol, “other”? How do these representations of the “other” simultaneously reflect a perception of England and its people? How do the period of the crusades shift these types of representations? At the same time, how do the people and cultures of the “east” or the Middle East represent England? How might these literary depictions of peoples and places lead to larger conversations regarding moments of intercultural exchange and acculturation in the medieval period?


ENG 819 (section 2) | Special Topics in Language and Literature

Topic: Breakbeat Lit: Hip-Hop Generation Sounds and Stories

Dr. Emery Petchauer (petchau1@msu.edu)

Tuesday, 4:10-7pm


The seminar begins with the idea that there is a more-or-less coherent aesthetic system across the narrative, sonic, visual, and bodily expressions of hip hop -- an idea proposed by Tricia Rose in her 1994 monograph Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. These aesthetic forms include flow, layering, rupture, and sampling. In this seminar, we focus on stories told through fiction, poetry, personal narrative, urban stylized lettering, and dance – well beyond rap music – to explore these hip-hop aesthetic forms. Since real people around us today also create hip hop through these practices, this course also engages directly with contemporary hip hop creators in the region and some of their material and sonic practices like beat making.


Primarily, the seminar engages broad questions about aesthetic forms and how they seem work – often in concert and collision with one another – across a range of related expressions: narrative, sonic, visual, and corporal. Most specifically, the following questions will drive learning in this seminar: What is the relationship between the aesthetic forms of hip-hop arts and the socio-political concerns of the hip-hop generation? What do Black and hip-hop aesthetics afford to life today both on and off the page? What happens when people beyond the cultural origins and originators take up and apply these aesthetics practices? These questions push the seminar to engage with the following fields: African American literature and poetics, popular culture, hip-hop studies and pedagogy, Black and hip hop feminisms, cultural rhetorics, and urban education.


Secondarily, the seminar also engages broad questions around the ethics of archiving/teaching material cultures and oral narratives in formal institutions. These questions – curricular, cultural, and ethical – have accelerated over the past decade as institutions (Cornell, Harvard, William and Mary, etc.) and museums (National Museum of African American History and Culture) have acquired or curated the material collections of hip-hop cultural pioneers. What are the stakes associated with archiving and teaching hip-hop in a university setting? More succinctly, are graduate seminars where hip-hop goes to die? From these questions, graduate students will develop ethical stances about engaging with and teaching popular, folks, and youth cultures in formal academic settings. These stances, I hope, will serve them well within the variety of settings they may serve as scholars and instructors.

Useful ideas about hip hop come from a variety of disciplines (literary studies, ethnomusicology, cultural studies, dance, etc.), cultural creators working entirely outside of academic constraints, and from hip hop itself. Consequently, the readings for this seminar will cut across various disciplines, at time extend outside of academe, yet give students space to bend the learning toward their particular disciplinary homes.

Possible readings, viewings, listenings:


Fiction, poetry, essays:


Adam Mansbach, Angry Black/White Boy: A Novel, 2005

Wish to Live: The Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy Reader, 2012

The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop, 2015

Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader, 2016

Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip Hop, 2006



Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold US Back, 1988.

J Dilla, Donuts, 2006.

Rapsody, Beauty and the Beast, 2014.

Kendrick Lamar, DAMN, 2017.



Style Wars, 1983

La Haine, 1995



Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetic of the Black Radical Tradition, 2003

Jennifer Lynn Stoever, The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening, 2016

Loren Kajikawa, Sounding Race in Rap Songs, 2015

Carol Levine, Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, and Network, 2015


Historical and contextual:

Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary American, 1994

Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, 2005

Joseph Schloss, Foundation: Bboys, Bgirls, and Hip Hop Culture in New York City, 2009

Joseph Edwoozie, Breakbeats in the Bronx: Rediscovering Hip Hop’s Early Years, 2017