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Literature: Courses

NOTE: Below you will find descriptions of graduate and special topics undergraduate courses offered in the Literature program. For regularly offered undergraduate courses, official undergraduate and graduate program information, and course requirements, please visit the online catalog. For recent course offerings, click here.

Winter 2018

LITR 161: Introduction to Native American Literature

Dr. Lori Burlingame

Literature 161 will study the oral and written literatures of Native American cultures—emphasizing memoirs, essays, fiction, poetry, drama, and film of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—examined within their cultural and historical contexts. This course will promote an understanding of traditional Native world views, as well as examine the impact of Native peoples' contact with other cultures.

LITR 361: Studies in Native American Literature

Dr. Lori Burlingame

Literature 361 will study in-depth the oral and written literatures of Native North American cultures, with emphasis on the authored memoirs, essays, fiction, poetry, and drama of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Students will become familiar with the historical, cultural, and critical contexts for oral traditional and contemporary texts studied.

LITR 422: Studies in the Novel in Global Perspective -- Postcolonial Literature

Dr. Natasa Kovacevic

Paul Gilroy famously coined the term “postcolonial melancholia” to describe a nostalgia for the British empire, justified as a benevolent civilizing project and a source of pride and glory for the British. Colonial nostalgia is back in fashion in a post-Brexit and Trump world: with nationalism and racism on the rise, opinion polls suggest overwhelmingly positive views of former colonial empires. Reading literature that “writes back” to empire is a necessary corrective both to minimizing the brutal history of colonialism and to contemporary postcolonial melancholia. Intersecting novels and films from diverse postcolonial locations – the Caribbean, Asia, Africa – LITR 422 will examine the continuing cultural and political consequences of colonialism. We will study ways in which postcolonial literature and theory enrich our thinking about race, gender, and class. Finally, we will think about globalization in light of its complex relationship to past colonial dynamics and current events such as the refugee crisis and US/NATO military interventions in the Middle East. Our readings will revolve around a number of topics: colonial language and education; Orientalism; racism and identity; anti-colonial nationalism; gender; postcolonial feminism; capitalism. 

LITR 450: Major Authors -- Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison

Dr. Robin Lucy

This course focuses on the early-career writing of Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison during the Great Depression, World War II and the early Cold War.  Ellison read Wright’s work while a student at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and after arriving in New York in 1936, where he spent most of the rest of his life, Langston Hughes arranged for the two to meet.  Wright and Ellison began a long and often contentious relationship, one that only ended with Wright’s death in 1960. Both men were deeply affected by the economic dislocation and social and political turbulence of the Depression; both wrote for the Works Project Administration (WPA) and became involved with the Communist Party and its work on racial and economic (in)equality.  Both writers also responded in their work to World War II, eventually voicing their disillusionment with the fact of the segregated army and the CP’s apparent support for it.  We will be reading:  Wright’s collection of proletarian short stories Uncle Tom’s Children (1938 / 1940); his photo-documentary of the Great Depression 12,000,000 Black Voices (1941); his existential novella The Man Who Lived Underground (1942); and his great and harrowing novel Native Son (1940).  We will also be reading a collection of Ellison’s powerful, political short stories of the Depression-era and World War II many of which were only published after his death in 1994.

Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man (1952), was published as the Cold War began to define the politics and aesthetics of post-war America and reflects on the meaning of the Harlem Riot of August 1943 (the last in a series of racial conflagrations that year, beginning with the Detroit “Insurrection” in June 1943.)  After the publication of Invisible Man, Ellison was primarily an essayist and wrote significant pieces of social and literary analysis; we will read a selection of these.  Invisible Man is an extraordinary and densely allusive novel and we will spend the final five weeks of the class on this novel, tracing its depth, detail, complexities, its dialogue with Wright’s work and African / American history, its continuing influence, and the issues and questions the novel continues to raise for us as readers.

LITR 511/585 : Literary Criticism

Dr. Elisabeth Daumer

In this course, we explore two distinct dimensions of Literary Criticism: Hermeneutics (the philosophical study and practice of interpretation) and Literary/Cultural Theory (systems of ideas about literature, society, culture, the environment). While taking a brisk walk through some of these philosophies, practices, and theories, we put them into dialogue with a number of literary texts, among them Euripides’s tragedy The Trojan Women and Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide. We will also engage the writings of two eco theorists visiting EMU as speakers in the annual JNT Dialogue: Ursula Heise’s Imagining Extinction and Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Students take on an individualized course project, investigating a specific theoretical concept or hermeneutic strategy in relation to a text and context (e.g. literary, aesthetic, cultural, environmental, or pedagogical) of their choice. For more information and for questions about registering for the course, please contact Elisabeth Däumer at edaumer@emich.edu.

LITR 526: 19th Century African American Literature

Dr. Robin Lucy

Literature 526 focuses on what Toni Morrison has described as the literate roots of the African American literary tradition: the slave narrative and its revisions after the end of slavery.  The course will also explore oral sources of African American writing by examining how folk tales, spoken histories, and music have shaped writing.  In  turn, we will read African American texts in the context of other American writing of the period – Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) for example – and representations of African Americans and Black culture in popular forms: the plantation romance (the Uncle Remus tales of Joel Chandler Harris, for example) and the theater of minstrelsy / black face.  African American writers drew on and subverted these representations in their work. 

We will read a selection of these texts: the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs; the first play written and performed by an African American, The Escape (1858), by William Wells Brown; the post-Reconstruction conjure stories of Charles Chesnutt; Frances Watkins Harper’s rewriting of “the tragic mulatto” tale, Iola Leroy (1892); the political writings of Booker T. Washington and WEB Du Bois; James Weldon Johnson’s novel of passing, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912); two very different interpretations of the slave narrative tradition as this genre has shaped the literature of the 20th century: Zora Neale Hurston’s womanist novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), and Ishmael Reed’s satiric, “Neo-Hoodoo” and post-modern text, Flight to Canada (1976); and one of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016) or Paul Beatty’s The Sellout (2015).    

LITR 578: Postcolonial Perspectives in Literature

Dr. Natasa Kovacevic

Paul Gilroy famously coined the term “postcolonial melancholia” to describe a nostalgia for the British empire, justified as a benevolent civilizing project and a source of pride and glory for the British. Colonial nostalgia is back in fashion in a post-Brexit and Trump world: with nationalism and racism on the rise, opinion polls suggest overwhelmingly positive views of former colonial empires. Reading literature that “writes back” to empire is a necessary corrective both to minimizing the brutal history of colonialism and to contemporary postcolonial melancholia. Intersecting novels and films from diverse postcolonial locations – the Caribbean, Asia, Africa – LITR 578 will examine the continuing cultural and political consequences of colonialism. We will study ways in which postcolonial literature and theory enrich our thinking about race, gender, and class. Finally, we will think about globalization in light of its complex relationship to past colonial dynamics and current events such as the refugee crisis and US/NATO military interventions in the Middle East. Our readings will revolve around a number of topics: colonial language and education; Orientalism; racism and identity; anti-colonial nationalism; gender; postcolonial feminism; capitalism.

LITR 210/405/480/592: Shakespeare in London (Study Abroad, April 25-May 1)

Dr. Craig Dionne

Take advantage of London’s thriving theater scene while exploring the city with on-site discussions of the plays and Shakespeare’s history while touring museums, libraries and theaters. There will be a visit to the New Globe Theatre, backstage tours of Shakespearean performances, and attendance at live productions in the theater capital of the world. This opportunity allows you to study Shakespeare’s plays in the context of the latest theories about his life as an urban playwright, and view collections on the print and stage history of his famous works.  

Program Highlights

  • Museum admissions, such as Shakespeare Birthplace, British Library, Theatre Museum, and Tower of London
  • Theatrical performances at the New Globe and Stratford
  • Walking and lecture tours of London 

For more information, visit the program website.