My class!

It starts tomorrow. Nerves are setting in…but I’m mostly excited. In case anyone is curious, here is a blurb from my syllabus, which gives a sense of what the class is about.


Course Overview

What does it really mean to live within a collective social system? What are the benefits? The costs? What are the effects to our psyche? Does belonging to a social order help us refine our best impulses, or does it bring out our worst traits? When our ties to others (or to our own convictions) clash with our obligations to society as a whole, where does our ultimate responsibility lie? Civilization can create a comfortable “us,” but does that “us” always rely on the existence of a demonized “them?” These are questions which have preoccupied writers around the world for centuries. Especially in the last one hundred years, authors have often taken the stance that civilization is hazardous; in these writers’ works, characters feel alienated, isolated, entrapped, and helpless, and “civilization” begins to seem anything other than civilized. Adding to the anxiety now surrounding the term “civilization” (and the related but equally difficult term “culture”) are the legacies of imperialism and fascism, sociopolitical identities which enacted countless injustices.

This course will introduce students to the fraught terms of “culture” and “civilization” through close readings of literary texts written since the 1950s. (The class is predominantly organized around fiction, but will also incorporate selective works of literary theory to inform our readings and discussions.) Topics will include: individual versus collective identity; ethics and responsibility; personal loss amidst social change; border crossings, transgressions, and living “between worlds”; postcolonial experience(s) and Orientalism.


Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Gabriel García Márquez. Random. (1982).

The God of Small Things. Arundhati Roy. Random. (2008).

Waiting for the Barbarians. J.M. Coetzee. Penguin USA. (1980).

The Remains of the Day. Kazuo Ishiguro. Random. (1989).

M.Butterfly. David Henry Hwang. Penguin USA. (1988).


~ by releasethebadgers on September 1, 2009.

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