Winter Semester 2023/24
Reading Postcolonially: Transit, Mobility, and Empire in Black European Texts
This seminar will develop a mode of postcolonial reading particularly attuned to movement, borders, place, and traces of empire and colonialism. We will engage closely with the question of how (and why it might be relevant) to apply a postcolonial mode of reading to Black European writing and cultural production and explore how colonial legacies and histories inform mobility and transit in Europe today. Thinking through the intersections of postcolonial studies and mobilities studies, particularly as they apply to contemporary Europe, we will use concepts such as diaspora, waiting, borders, and “contingent belonging” (Espinoza et al. 2019) to analyze selected narratives of mobility and transit. The first several sessions will discuss understandings of the Black diaspora in Europe and construct a mode of postcolonial reading attuned to diaspora and mobility, which will then be applied to a diverse set of texts, including Olumide Popoola’s play Also By Mail (2013), Musa Okwonga’s novella In the End, It Was All About Love (2021), and Johny Pitts’ travelogue Afropean (2019) and photography and essay collection (with Roger Robinson) Home Is Not a Place (2022).
Indigenous Australian Literature: An Introduction
Recently, Wiradjuri scholar and writer Jeanine Leane has drawn attention to the fact that in the Australian context largely white settler critics and academics decide “what is and isn’t Western literature” and that Indigenous writing is still treated as Australian literature’s “poor relation”(“Presencing” in The Cambridge Companion to the Australian Novel). It is, hence, the objective of this MA-level seminar to read texts by Indigenous Australian authors which use the English language to expand and resist these colonial and imaginative limits. Designed to give students an overview of contemporary Indigenous Australian writing, this course will cover selections of Indigenous poetry, prose, and art ranging across the 20th and 21st centuries. Particular attention will be paid to context and place, acknowledging the diversity and specificity of the First Nations cultures and histories that inform the texts. In addition, three different theoretical lenses will be used to approach the texts, namely 1) “speculative futures” to open questions about genre, its affordances, and the risks of applying western genre categories to Indigenous texts, 2) “revision” to explore how texts and other artistic expressions disrupt and erase the settler colony, 3) “shame, anger, and other colonial affects” as a means of interrogating the affective encounter of reading Indigenous literature from a settler/non-Indigenous positionality and the productivity of shame and anger in thinking through settler colonialism.
Please note that this course is designed as a Blockseminar. It has a separate session at the start of term followed by three full day sessions for intense discussions and group work in the first week after the end of term. There will be sufficient breaks scheduled during the latter. Students should note that this is a reading intensive course and should be ready to approach the texts with curiosity and open-mindedness in order to challenge and rethink their own assumptions, and to engage with each other in a shared process of learning. Students are asked to complete the readings and participate actively in in-class discussions.
Summer Semester 2023
Introduction to Literary and Cultural Studies II
This course is designed to introduce second-semester BA students to the concept of genre and to prepare them to work with poetry, narrative, drama, and film in their studies of anglophone literatures and cultures. Primary texts include Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," Tsitsi Dangaremba's Nervous Conditions, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino. The course addresses questions such as: What are the characteristics of a "prototypical" poem/novel/drama/film? How does the form of a text influence content and vice versa? How does the interpretive act of determining a text's genre influence our reading of it?
Winter Semester 22/23
Black German Studies: Transatlantic Perspectives
(co-taught with Eva Tanita Kraaz and Tim Brown)
Michelle M. Wright advocates a conception of Blackness as multidimensional as opposed to one solely tied to the violence and injustice of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in an attempt to give voice to Black discourses of belonging outside of the Americas. Through a transnational approach we seek to highlight this complex exchange as it presents itself in Black German Studies in both theory and literature. In this seminar we explore ways in which linear narratives of Blackness are intertwined with, but also decoupled from, canonical theories from the United States, which then challenge and revise a singular, static conception of Blackness in the world. We will investigate the undeniable intertextualities between Black Studies and literature in the US and that of Germany; however, we place the focus of this seminar on Black German Studies as a mode of cultural expression in its own right. In considering artistic endeavors from various cultural backgrounds and countries of origin, this course will highlight the complexities and benefits of knowledge exchange in identity building inside hegemonic discourses. The transatlantic voices of the Diaspora as they shape the Black German context play an important role in understanding the complexities of the Black/African Diaspora in our current moment. This course therefore seeks to familiarize students with contemporary debates within and about identity and belonging in Black German Studies as well as the vast networks of knowledge and community building within the emerging discipline.
Please note: This course is being offered as a joint block seminar between the German and English departments. Readings will include German and English language texts and the course will be taught in a combination of German and English. Because this class will be taught in the block format, each session will require reading-intensive preparation.
Academic Skills, co-taught with Ryan Durgasingh
This course is designed to introduce first-semester BA students to a range of academic skills to prepare them for their studies at the English department. It covers topics such as academic reading and note-taking strategies, how to conduct academic research, MLA and APA citation styles, how to work with sources in academic writing, as well as presentation skills. In addition, it encourages reflection on reader and research positionality and citational politics.
Summer Semester 2022
Übung Theory and Literature: Contemporary Australian Literature and Culture
(co-designed with Felipe Espinoza Garrido)
This course situates Australia in discourses of transnationalism, migration, Indigenous studies, and Queer studies, thereby contesting any notion of the nation as a stable and homogenous entity in its introduction to contemporary texts and themes emerging from Australia. In engaging with works such as Melissa Lucashenko’s novel Too Much Lip, Shaun Tan’s silent graphic novel The Arrival, Evelyn Araluen’s poetry collection Dropbear, and Sophie Hyde’s film 52 Tuesdays, course participants are exposed to narratives touching on topics of resistance, trauma, colonialism, and gender, and encouraged to situate them in an increasingly complex national framework for Australia. In working with a variety of media, the course places an emphasis on media-specific analysis, introducing students to terminology and methodologies from literary and cultural studies, comic studies, film studies, as well as spoken word and performance studies. These methodologies are paired with numerous theoretical frameworks from disciplines like Queer studies, migration studies, and Indigenous studies, allowing participants to build on and refine their knowledge from the Introduction to Literary and Cultural Studies courses as well as set their own foci for written and oral evaluations.
Postgraduate Class II (Literary and Cultural Studies)
(co-taught with Deborah Nyangulu)
Designed as a research colloquium to accompany MA National and Transnational Studies students' independent study module and preparations for the MA thesis, this course offers students a platform to present their research ideas and receive feedback from peers and the instructor. It also offers a space to help students develop their own practical research skills and research interests in the field of literary and cultural studies. Students are introduced to some current approaches/theories in literary and cultural studies, including an overview of literary theories and movements and an introduction to cultural analysis. In addition to reflecting on the concept of interdisciplinarity on the importance of historicizing, contextualizing and positionality in research, students will develop skills in writing annotated bibliographies, citation practices, and research proposals. Each student will document work they complete for Research Module I (Semester 1 & 2) in an academic portfolio to be handed in at the end of the term.
Winter Semester 21/22
Übung Theory and Literature: Multilingualism and Translation in Anglophone Texts
With the motto “There is no such thing as a multilingual text!”, taken from Till Dembeck’s provocative 2017 article promoting a multilingual philology, this course intends to explore different ways that anglophone texts can be multilingual and the impact this has on how they are read and understood from an academic perspective. Through engagement with a wide variety of primary texts consisting of full length novels (Jhumpa Lahiri In Other Words, Ocean Vuong On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous), novel excerpts (Xialou Guo A Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart), essays (Alicia Elliott “A Mind Spread Out on the Ground”), poetry (Ocean Vuong Night Sky With Exit Wounds), and several activist projects (Weiterschreiben.jetzt, macht.sprache), course participants will craft readings of the texts that attend to their multilingual form and content and are informed by a variety of theoretical approaches, including postmonolingualism, postcolonialism, diaspora studies, and translation studies. In doing so, the course will engage with discourses that challenge notions of “the mother tongue”, national literary canons, and translatability, asking time and again whether and how it matters to read a text as “multilingual.”