Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of English
Spring 2017
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Spring 2017


ENG 802. Literary Criticism and Theory: “The Drift of Theory”

Professor Scott Michaelsen
Monday, 4:10 – 7:00 pm

The era of “literary theory” emerged in the 1960s and ended with 9/11. The reign of theory in literary studies is certainly over, but, everywhere you look, theory remains. What is “theory,” and why does it continue to haunt us? We will begin by examining the roots of structuralist thought: reading de Saussure, Marx, Benveniste and Bertalanffy on crucial questions of identity and difference, meaning and relation. As we move forward, we’ll have time to focus weekly in areas that have proven fertile for post-structuralist analysis, such as hermeneutics and interpretation; history and historicity; sovereignty, law, and sacrifice; (bio)power and governmentality; and community and culture. Our readings will include works by prominent figures such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Heidegger, Fredric Jameson, Paul Ricoeur, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Carl Schmitt, and Judith Butler. The course will be conducted as a seminar, with students developing oral presentations and conceptualizing final papers that use our coursework to further students’ emerging dissertation projects.


FLM 480/ENG 818. Studies in Genres and Media: “Picturing the World in Cinema” 

Professor Kenneth Harrow
Tuesday, 7:10 – 10:00 pm; Thursday 7:10 – 9:00 pm

This course will ask how the various cinemas typically taken to constitute “World Cinema” have worked to establish the category as a global phenomenon. For some time the category of World Cinema has been a contested one in Cinema Studies. This is due, in part, to the position from which the category has been constructed and viewed, with Hollywood or commercial western cinema used as a baseline for determining what constitutes successful or normal cinema. When foreign film industries began to develop their own styles or practices, they were measured in relationship to dominant western patterns and usually judged to be inferior or emergent, and exotic or even esoteric. The appellation World Art Cinema emerged as a category, while Global Cinema competed as globalization theory began to privilege commercial networks, economic and cultural flows, alongside critiques of commodity capitalism. This course will open up the central issues that have arisen with the prevalence of cultural focus on “world” or “global” designations within Film Studies discourses.


ENG 820. Section 001. Special Topics in Language and Literature: “The Poetics of Liberation and Relation in Afro-Diasporic Feminist Thought”

Professor Yomaira Figueroa
Wednesday, 4:10 – 7:00 pm

This course will examine women of color feminist thought in U. S., indigenous feminisms, and feminist writing in other Afro-diasporic contexts from the 1970’s to the present. In studying women of color feminist poetics, critical theory, and philosophical thought we will examine some of the ways in which the black radical feminist tradition and women of color feminisms have engaged in/with liberation struggles. We will also learn about the contentions within those struggles and within the collective naming of “women of color” and “feminism.” Throughout the course we will map these critical discourses and think about oppression, resistance, decolonization, relationality, and liberation through the lens of their work. We will study how these poetics recover and create new archives of knowledge and history while destabilizing dehumanizing rhetoric and structures of power. We will engage in discursive practices that situate these writers, and their antecedents, as central components to contemporary decolonization and liberation struggles and as formulators of a radical methodology that demands multivalent approaches to combating oppression, including (but not limited to): theory, poetics, praxis, and activism.

Through close readings of monographs, anthologies, novels, and other media we will map a women of color feminist methodology and examine how their work and praxes have been at the forefront of sociopolitical movements. We will meditate on the politics and practices of relationality and incommensurability while beginning to create our own material and intellectual contributions towards a transdisciplinary praxis.

Readings will include*: This Bridge Called My Back, Out of the Kumbla, Indigenous Women and Feminism, Passing it On, Land of Lookbehind, Methodology of the Oppressed, Corregidora, Words of Fire, Some of Us Did Not Die, Revolutionary Mothering, Freedom is a Constant Struggle, The Black Unicorn, Telling to Live, and Getting Home Alive.

*reading list is subject to change


ENG 820. Section 002. Special Topics in Language and Literature: “Literature, Politics and Time: Rethinking American Literary History, 1838-2038”

Professor Steve Rachman
Tuesday, 4:10 – 7:00 pm

This course aims to familiarize students with the literary-politico-aesthetic trajectory of American Literature from its origins in 19th-century literary nationalism to the formation of academic critical discourses promoting and interrogating this literary history and the development of the suite of ideological critiques (class, race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality) from the 1960s forward. Toward this end we will assess contemporary literary politics in its polymorphic multiplicity, look back at important political turns in this history and indulge in some aesthetic-politico futurology. Toward these ends the course will survey the history of literary politics in its signal turns from the manifestos of the republic of letters of 1830s; American Realism/Naturalism (1860-1914); Transatlantic Modernism (1917-1939); Proletarian Literature (1930s); American Studies Movement (1930-1999); The Rise of Race/Ethnicity, Class, and Gender as Ideological categories of literary analysis 1955-); Post-National Literary Critique (1988-); Toward a World Literature (2000-); Temporal Turns (2004-); The Next Twenty-two Years (2016-38).

Some of the Critical authors read in this course:

J.G.A. Pocock

Frederic Jameson

Janice Roadway

Wai-Chee Dimock

Russ Castronovo

Meredith McGill

Michael Warner

Edward Said

Gayatri Spivak

Lauren Berlant

Donald Pease

Toni Morrisson

Amy Kaplan

Karen Sanchez-Eppler

Betsy Erikkila

Michael Denning

Journals: American Literature. American Studies and ALH