Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of English
Spring 2014
Home > Graduate > Courses > Past courses > Spring 2014

ENG 820 Section 001/492H – Emphasis Area Seminar: “Motherhood and Feminism”

Professors Zarena Aslami and Robin Silbergleid

Tuesday and Thursday, 3:00-4:20pm


Zarena Aslami and Robin Silbergleid will conduct a team-taught seminar for advanced undergraduates and graduate students on motherhood and feminism.  Considering controversies about maternal bodies, mothering practices, and the institution of motherhood, the course historicizes issues related to the current “war on women” and “mommy debates” that have recently come to the fore in mainstream media.  Focusing on literary representations across multiple genres, this class shall explore the historical formation of Anglo-American motherhood, its relation to economic, political, and social forces, and its enduring status as a charged modern public issue.  The class will ask questions including:  at a given historical moment, what is at stake in the discourse of motherhood?  In what ways do literary texts contribute to cultural conversations about motherhood?  And how do the current debates about motherhood engage larger issues in Anglo-American feminist theory and praxis?  Taking a transatlantic and historical approach, texts will span the nineteenth century to the present, including such works as Ruth, Adam Bede, Landscape for a Good Woman, The Awakening, The Handmaid's Tale, and Breeder.


ENG 820 Section 002/432 – Emphasis Area Seminar: “Color Cinema”

Professor Joshua Yumibe

Tuesday and Thursday, 4:10-7:00pm


This course surveys the aesthetic and technological history of color in the cinema and its impact on film style in international cinema. Particular attention will be paid to cinema’s relation to other color media (photography, mass advertising, painting, stage design) and to aesthetic debates in philosophy, art history, and literature over the perceptual effects and ideologies of color. In charting this history globally, the module explores the ways in which technologies and media circulate transnationally yet are received and interpreted in locally specific ways. Works to be covered include films from early cinema (Annabelle Dances, The Red Spectre), narrative cinema of the 1920s (The Toll of the Sea, The Black Pirate), Technicolor of the 1930s (Becky Sharp), melodrama and musicals (All that Heaven Allows, The Bandwagon), global art cinemas (Black Narcissus, Daisies, Touki Bouki), experimental film (Harry Smith, Oskar Fischinger, Stan Brakhage), and contemporary cinema (Days of Heaven, Hero).


ENG 802/481 – Literary Criticism and Theory: Representation and Its Discontents

Professor Ellen McCallum

Tuesday, 4:10-7:00pm

How does literature capture reality? This course will examine a range of theories of representation literary and cultural studies, exploring the limits of language and problems of realism as a literary convention for representation.  We may consider the definitions of and differences among narrative and lyric as modes of representation, as well as the relation between verbal art and the visual.


ENG 820 Section 003  – Emphasis Area Seminar: “Literary and Flimic Representations of Diaspora”

Professors Harrow, Contreras, and Hassan

Wednesday, 5:30-8:10pm


How do we think about immigration today? How did we think about it yesterday?  How do we think about diaspora today, and how did we think about it yesterday? 

Postcolonial and Diaspora studies have been grounded in narratives of departures, migrations, immigration, and assimilation. These stories are fundamental to national formations, and thus are important to American literary studies, as well as to Global or world literatures and cinemas. This course will be taking the notion of migration broadly, comparing a range of texts that represent the experiences of migrants, typically leaving the Global South, or the American South, heading up north to the “promised land,” to the Metropole, to the countries where the promise of jobs and new lives sends out its call. There the conditions don’t always live up to the migrants’ expectations, creating situations marked by stress and anomy frequently represented in major works.

The classical texts of an earlier period representing Africans, African Americans, Hispanic and Latino immigrants, Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants, will be read in relation to those narratives of the current conjuncture where the global flows and migratory shifts are now the subject of authors and filmmakers now coming from second and third generation communities.

The notion of migration has inspired many major authors and filmmakers, and is central to the theorizing around the formation of the black identity, as with Gilroy’s Black Atlantic, the Boyce-Davies Black Women Writing, and Gilroy’s recent Postcolonial Melancholy, and with Chicano identity studies, as with Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera. Classic migrant studies like Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted, will be studied alongside recent global studies such as Appadurai’s Modernity at Large, and Braziel and Mannur’s Theorizing Diaspora. Contemporary cultural studies include Olaniyan and Sweet’s The African Diaspora and the Disciplines, and Tanya Golash-Boza’s Immigration Nation: Raids, Detentions, and Deportions in post-9/11America. For cinema we have Naficy’s Accented Cinema.

The course will be structured around the study of films and novels from the following regions:

African Diasporas

Latino Border crossings

Middle Eastern Exiles

Asian Immigration


ENGLISH 819- "The New, Now: Modernism in Reverse"

Professors Nieland and O'Donnell

Monday, 7:00-9:50pm 


"We do not live together, "in time," with our contemporaries, but rather the present is increasingly characterized by the coming together of different but equally 'present' temporalities or 'times,' a temporal unity in disjunction, or a disjunctive unity of present times."

           --Peter Osborne, Anywhere or Not At All


Is modernism dead, or an ongoing, global event in the aesthetic strategies of the present? Is the avant-garde "historical," or experiencing an afterlife in a range of politicized, and formally insurgent, modes of contemporary writing and time-based art? How should we understand, or periodize, what becomes visible as new, modern, or contemporary--now, and then?

To approach these questions, this course will survey a broad range of "modernisms,""avant-gardes," and declarations of the "contemporary" in literature, film, the visual arts, and new media from the late nineteenth century to the present, and will put those familiar terms for describing the horizon of the new to the test of time, history, supercession, and political or aesthetic failure.  The course will be organized thorough a series of archaeologies of the modern that excavate the multiple pasts of contemporary literature, art, and new media, and consider the possible past futures of modernisms that failed to thrive.  


For example, an archaeology of "Repetition" might regress from Tom McCarthy's novel Remainder to Ballard's Crash, Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad,  Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy, Beckett's Watt, and the work of Gertrude Stein and Albert-Birot. An archaeology of "Appropriation" could devolve from the conceptual art and writing of Erica Baum and Caroline Bergvall to the collage and found-footage film, the cut-ups of Guysin and Burroughs, Dadaist photo-montages, the surrealist object trouvé, and the readymade. An archaeology of "Transcription" might move backwards from Kenneth Goldsmith's Fidget to Warhol's A, experimental documentary (Vertov, Jennings, Mass Observation), and Joyce's Ulysses. Other potential archaeologies include: Pataphysics, Minimalism, Translation, Noise, Psychogeography, and the Counterfactual.

Putting the present and the past in disjunctive constellations, we will challenge progressivist, developmental, or causal models of thinking and writing the new.

The course will be reading intensive. Primary texts will be supplemented by theory (aesthetic, literary, film/media), philosophy, and art history. Students enrolled in the course will also be encouraged to collaborate on their writing and research projects with the exhibition "Postscript: Writing after Conceptual Art," opening next spring at the Edythe and Eli Broad Art Musuem.


Contact Drs. Nieland (nieland@msu.edu) or O’Donnell (pod@msu.edu) for info.