THEORIES OF LITERATURE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
Aphra Behn, Oroonoko (1688)
Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
Tillie Olsen, Yonnondio (1930s)
Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism & the Problem of Domination
Paolo Freire, Pedgagogy of the Oppressed
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature
Raymond Williams, The Country and the City
SCANNED READINGS ON COURSE SITE
Most readings for the seminar – including all of the theoretical and critical readings, and some of the shorter literary works – will be available as scanned pdf files on Course Site. Each of you should purchase the four book-length literary works (in any unexpurgated edition) listed above as Required Texts. We encourage you to purchase the book-length theoretical works of which
we will be assigning substantial portions, listed as Recommended Texts above, but excerpts will be available on Course Site.
This course introduces students to theories of literature and social justice. We will explore questions such as these: What is literature? What is social justice? How are literary forms (and literary criticism) distinctive in the ways in which they grapple with questions of social justice? How do literary works reinforce or challenge dominant ideologies? In what ways do literary works provide tools to map exploitative or oppressive social and economic formations? In what ways do they create practices for imagining human flourishing and more just ways of living? How do literary works produce varying emotions in readers that might serve to promote (or undermine) social justice? What role have literary works played in emancipatory and egalitarian political movements? We will consider a range of reading, writing and teaching strategies as practices of social justice. In pursuing this inquiry, we will focus mainly on critical and theoretical readings, but we will also read a sampling of literary texts to provide common ground for our collaborative inquiry and to provide opportunities for methodological experimentation in your critical practice.
This is an experimental seminar in literary theory and method. We hope the seminar will create an exciting and open-ended process of exploration and that each of you will discover new paradigms for thinking, writing and teaching about literature and social justice. We will expect your full and active participation in each meeting of the seminar. This will require, of course, your having read carefully all the assigned readings. The more demanding theoretical readings may require multiple readings and careful note-taking so that you can come to class prepared to participate fully in our conversations.
Each of you should post once on Course Site on each week’s reading. Your postings will enable us to construct an agenda for discussion that is responsive to your interests and questions – and it will enable you to see what has captured others’ attention. You must post each week by Sunday night before our Tuesday discussion of those readings. Your postings each week should be succinct and carefully considered. On those weeks for which theoretical and critical readings have been assigned, please post a brief response and, if you are inclined, a specific question about the reading. On those weeks for which a literary work has been assigned, please post a
single, focused question about that text.
Each of you will write three essays over the course of the semester. You will write one short essay (7 pages) in response to the first unit of the seminar (on race) and a second short essay (7 pages) in response to the second unit (on class). For each essay, you should offer a careful, detailed and precise explication of one of the theoretical or critical paradigms you encountered in the reading for that unit. You will then offer a brief indication of how that critical or theoretical paradigm might enable you to approach some aspect of one of the literary works you read in that unit. Given the brevity of these essays, we do not expect lengthy or detailed readings of the literary work: your focus should be on the explication of the critical paradigm or theoretical argument with which you are concerned. The first short essay will be due in class on February 25 and the second on March 25.
Each of you will then write a longer final essay (15 pages), in which you will offer a similarly detailed explication of one or more of the critical or theoretical texts – and then a more sustained analysis of one or more of the literary works in relation to those conceptual arguments. This final essay might respond to the material in the final unit of the course (on gender and sexuality). You are also welcome to develop your final essay as an extension or elaboration of one of your short papers. Your final essay will be due April 29.
SCHEDULE OF READINGS AND DISCUSSION
Tues Jan. 14
1) Why Write? Pursuing Beauty, Pursuing Justice
- George Orwell, “Why I Write” (1946)
- Natasha Trethewey, “‘Why I Write’: Poetry, History & Social Justice” (2010)
2) Telling Stories to Break the Silence of Injustice – at Lehigh, in America - No Longer Silent LU (2013): http://nolongersilentlu.tumblr.com
- Derrick Bell, “Prudent Speculations on America in a Post-Racial Epoch” (1990)
3)What Is Social Justice &How Do We Conceptualize How To Get There?
- Nancy Fraser, “From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a ‘Post-Socialist’ Age.”
Tues Jan. 21
1) Literature & Whiteness: White Constructions of Race
- Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992).
2) Conceptualizing Consciousness & Cultural Practice within the African Diaspora: Responding to White Racism.
- W. E. B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” from The Souls of Black Folk (1903).
- Paul Gilroy, “The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity” from The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993).
Tues Jan. 28
Representating Black Women in 18th-Century England and early 19thCentury America: What’s at Stake – for Whom?
- Roxanne Wheeler, “The End of Climate” from The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in 18th-Century British Culture (2000)
- Lyndon Dominique, “Imoinda, Marriage, Slavery” from Imoinda’s Shade: Marriage and the African Woman in Eighteenth-Century British Literature (2013).
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845), Chapters 1-2.
- Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in 19th-Century America (1997): Intro& Chapter 1.
- Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book” (1987).
- Recommended: Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003): “Resistance of the Object: Aunt Hester’s Scream.”
Tues Feb. 4
Using Black Women to Write for Which Cause?
- Aphra Behn, Oroonoko (1688)
- Aphra Behn, The Adventure of a Black Lady (1697)
- Lyndon Dominique, Imoinda’s Shade, Chapter 5, pp. 185-192.
Tues Feb. 11
Black Women in the Era of Slavery: Imagining Freedom, Writing for Justice
- Harrriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
- Sojourner Truth, “Aren’t I A Woman?” (1851)
- Maria Stewart, “Lecture Delivered at the Franklin Hall” (1832)
Tues Feb. 18
Raymond Williams’ Cultural Materialism: Literary Criticism as Socialist Practice.
- Williams, “Culture is Ordinary” (1959).
- Williams, Marxism and Literature (Part II Chapters 4-10; Part III Chapters 1-3).
- Williams, The Country and the City (Chapters 1-4 & 24-25).
Tues Feb. 25
Fredric Jameson: Literature as Cognitive Mapping & Utopian Speculation
- Jameson, “Cognitive Mapping” (1988)
- Jameson, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture” (1979)
*** 1st Essay Due in Class
Tues March 4
No Class – Spring Break
Tues March 11
Class, Race, Religion & Citizenship: Who Belongs to the Nation?
- James Townley, High Life Below Stairs (1759)
- Maria Edgeworth, Harrington (1817) Introduction and Chapters I-VI (pp. 7-120).
- William Hogarth: Harlot’s Progress (1732), Rake’s Progress (1735), Four Times of the Day: “Noon” (1736).
- Isaac Land, “”Bread and Arsenic: Citizenship from the Bottom Up in Georgian London,” Journal of Social History 39 (2005) 89-116.
Tues March 18
Modernism and Economic Inequality: Working-Class and Bourgeois Literary Visions
- Tillie Olsen, Yonnondio
- modernist poems by Pound, Frost, Eliot, Hughes
- Eugene Debs, Speech at Canton, Ohio (June 1918)
GENDER AND SEXUALITY
Tues March 25
Feminist Philosophy, Feminist Psychoanalysis: Conceptualizing Justice
- Iris Marion Young, “Displacing the Distributive Paradigm”; “Scaling of Bodies” from Justice and the Politics of Difference (1990).
- Nancy Fraser, “From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a ‘Post-Socialist’ Age”
- Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love (Chapters 1,2, 4 and conclusion).
Tues April 1
Queer Criticism, Queer Theory
- Rictor Norton, “Tommies and The Game of Flats” from Mother Clap’s Molly House: The Gay Subculture I England 1700-1830 (2006)
- Nicholas Rowe, “The Game of Flats” (1715), Anonymous, “The Game of Flats” from Satan’s Harvest Home (1749)
- Ruth Vanita, “Homophobic Fiction/ Homoerotic Advertizing: The Pleasures and Perils of 20th Century Indianness” from Queering India (2002).
A Debate Within Queer Theory: Mourning, Melancholia, Justice
- Douglass Crimp, “Mourning and Militancy” (1989)
- Heather Love, Feeling Backward (2009) (introduction)
Tues April 8
Queering Audience Identification
- Henry Fielding, The Female Husband (1746)
- Rictor Norton, “A Female Husband Exposed” and other anonymous female husband texts.
- Lynn Hunt, “Torrents of Emotion” from Inventing Human Rights (2007)
Tues April 15
Modernist Awakenings: Giving Names to Injustice – and Liberation?
- Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
- Angelina Weld Grimke poems (1920s)
- Sherwood Anderson, “Hands,” from Winesburg, Ohio (1919)
- Emma Goldman, “Marriage and Love” (1910)
Tues April 22
Teaching for Justice; Universities as Engines of Democracy.
- Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), Chapters 1-2 .
- Danielle Allen, “Powerful Citizens” in Talking to Strangers (2004).
- Seth Moglen, “Sharing Knowledge, Practicing Democracy: A Vision for the 21st
-Century University” from Education, Justice & Democracy (2013).
- No Longer Silent LU tumblr website
- A Future Collaboration for the Lehigh English Department: story circles and movements for justice on the South Side?
Tues April 29
Final Essay Due by 5pm.