To find subjects taught in previous semesters, you may also look at the archived Literature Supplements.

Fall 2018 Course Supplement IAP 2019 Spring 2019 Course Supplement
Show Descriptions

Introductory

21L.001 Foundations of Western Literature: Homer to Dante Stephanie Frampton TR 9:30 - 11:00 a 8-119

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

Masterpieces of European literature read with an emphasis on understanding the roots of an expansive classical tradition stemming from ancient Greece and Rome. Core texts will be Vergil’s Aeneid, the Homeric Odyssey, and Dante’s Inferno. We meet heroes and monsters, gods and demons, and read deeply into three of the foundational texts of Western literature. We ask what it means to be “a classic” and explore the ways in which literary authority comes into being in the context of history and society.

21L.003 Reading Fiction: Great Novels in English James Buzard TR 3:30 - 5:00 2-103

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

A handful of great novels from a golden age in English fiction, 1800-1900. We’ll study Jane Austen’s Emma (1815), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847), Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860-61), and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891). Topics will include: the evolution of realism; legacies of Gothic fiction; women’s place and power in society; issues of social class, love and courtship; the novel of character development (Bildungsroman). Some attention will be paid to the historical context in which these works were written, but the main emphasis will be on learning to read some classic texts with insight and appreciation.

In keeping with its CI-H designation, this class will include substantial work in critical writing and will feature at least one student oral presentation.

21L.004 Reading Poetry: Section 1 Noel Jackson MW 11:00 - 12:30 p 4-253

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

An introduction to poetry in English, chiefly by British and American poets. We will explore Renaissance, eighteenth-century, Romantic, and Modernist poetry in particular detail. Though the organization of the subject is chronological, our focus will be less on names and dates than on cultivating skills in careful reading and effective writing. Poets to be read may include Shakespeare, Sidney, Wordsworth, Keats, Dickinson, Frost, Eliot, and Elizabeth Bishop.

21L.004 Reading Poetry: Section 2 Stephen Tapscott MW 7:00 - 8:30 p 2-103

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

An introduction to poems and the traditions and forms of poetry in English. We’ll read chiefly British and American poets and will concentrate on Renaissance, eighteenth-century, Romantic, and Modernist poems. Though the organization of the subject is chronological, our focus will be less on names and dates than on cultivating skills in careful reading and effective writing. Poets to be read may include Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats, Dickinson, Frost, Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Claudia Rankine. Readings: mostly poems, but also one Shakespeare play, several films, and a novel by Mary Shelley. Several evening events including readings by visiting writers.

21L.005 Introduction to Drama Anne Fleche MW 3:30 - 5:00 5-234

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-A, CI-H

In this course, we’ll encounter dramatic texts from the Greeks to the present, exploring their cultural and period differences, as well as the “theatricality” of an art form experienced in three dimensions and in real time. Class members will discuss readings, write papers, review dramatic performances and have the option to perform scenes themselves. In addition to modern and contemporary plays, readings will range from Ancient Greece to Medieval England, Golden Age Spain and Classical Japan.

21L.006 American Literature: American Gothic Wyn Kelley MW 9:30 - 11:00 a 2-103

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

At the heart of American literature lies a fascination with whatever is wild, alien, and disturbing—often pointing to issues that arouse terror and unease. From nightmarish Puritan histories and Indian-captivity narratives, to the feverish visions of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, to profound meditations on national sin (Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Octavia Butler) to fixations on the precarious self in a world of horrors (Mark Twain, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, H. P. Lovecraft, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison), American authors have found creative inspiration in Gothic imaginings. Studying a wide range of texts across time, we will encounter a variety of responses to political, social, and ethical challenges these authors faced.

21L.008[J] Black Matters: Introduction to Black Studies
24.912[J], 21H.106[J], 21W.741[J], WGS.190[J]
Michel Degraff T 1:00 - 4:00 p 56-167

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-A/H, CI-H

What do texts and theories about, and the uses of, the languages and cultures of Africans and their descendants in the Diaspora reveal about the making of race- and class-related hierarchies of power throughout the world? What do these texts and theories require of all of us and how can they be enriched by our own analyses—of us as local community members and as world citizens? How can we improve our future through the study of our past? How can we identify and analyze general global patterns through the study of the local and specific?
And, most importantly, how can this “Black Matters” subject at MIT be made relevant to the “Black Lives Matter” movement writ large? We will use selected texts and theories to analyze the shaping and reshaping of languages, cultures and identities in Africa and the African Diaspora, especially in the “New World.” Haiti, my native land, will serve as starting point for these big questions that bear on both local and global issues of relevant to us here at MIT—and beyond, of relevance to our future as change makers. We will use language, linguistics, education, history, religion, literature, etc., to examine how theories and concomitant attitudes about Africans and their descendants in the African Diaspora have shaped, and have been shaped by, global events through struggle, rebellion, critique and innovation. And the struggle continues… YES, BLACK LIVES MATTER

21L.011 The Film Experience David Thorburn
Lecture T 3:30 - 5:00 5-217
Screening T 7:00 - 10:00 5-217
R1 R 3:00 - 4:00 1-277
R2 R 4:00 - 5:00 1-277
R3 R 4:00 - 5:00 1-273

Prereq: none
3-3-6 HASS-A, CI-H

This course is an introductory survey of classic films. Emphasis falls equally on cultural and on artistic matters: on films as anthropological and historical artifacts that articulate the values and beliefs of particular societies and on films as works of art. The course aims to sharpen students’ analytic skills, to give them a sense of the history and cultural significance of movies, and to improve their writing. The course is divided into three segments: the silent era (films by Griffith, Chaplin, Keaton and Murnau); Hollywood genres and beyond (Donen and Kelly, Hitchcock, Ford, Welles, Fosse, Altman, Malick); international masters (Renoir, DeSica, Kurosawa, Wong Kar-wai).

Writing requirements: The course satisfies the criteria for communication intensive subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Students are required to write a short (1-2 page) exercise in close reading of a scene or scenes from the silent shorts shown in the first weeks and two essays, totaling a minimum of 20 double-spaced typed pages, devoted to films studied during the term.

Exams: Three open-book take-home exams – the rough equivalent of problem sets – during the semester and a three-hour final during the exam period.

21L.015 Children's Literature: Imagining Alternative Worlds Marah Gubar TR 11:00 - 12:30 p 1-273

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

In this course, we will study fantasy narratives that invite readers to immerse themselves in enchanted alternative realms or magical worlds enmeshed within the realm of everyday life. Revisiting familiar environs such as Never Land, Narnia, Middle-Earth, and Hogwarts and concluding with a trip through more contemporary and diverse fantasylands, we will investigate how authors employ the tools of fiction to craft such convincing alternative worlds. Are these fantasies an escapist solution to the problem of modern disenchantment, or can we tell some more complicated story about their emergence and function? Since creative writers are themselves astute critics of fantasy, we will take inspiration from Ursula K. Le Guin, Lev Grossman, and other writers for whom criticism itself constitutes a creative act.

Samplings

21L.315 Prizewinners: How We Got to Hamilton Marah Gubar T 1:30 - 3:00 P 1-375

Prereq: none
2-0-4 Can be repeated for credit; first half of term

Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as eleven Tony Awards, Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical (2015) is a critical and commercial smash hit. Justly praised for its innovative rap battles and nontraditional casting, this musical also builds in brilliant ways on the work of past creators of musical theater whose work has too often been undervalued and overlooked. To enrich our appreciation of Manuel-Miranda’s work, we will begin by studying forms of drama that routinely go untaught, including minstrelsy, burlesque, vaudeville, and the classic American book musical. In the process, we will celebrate the groundbreaking yet often forgotten (or appropriated) achievements of artists of color, including Master Juba, the Black Swan, Little Egypt, Buck and Bubbles, Baby Esther, and many others. By the time we get to Hamilton, our deep understanding of how popular songs and musicals are structured will enable us to analyze Manuel-Miranda’s debts to past artists as well as to appreciate his scintillating originality.

21L.320 Big Books: Paradise Lost Mary C. Fuller R 7:00 - 8:30 p 4-257

Prereq: none
2-0-4 Can be repeated for credit

Overturn the government. Invent your own belief system. Go blind. Then rewrite “Genesis,” and reimagine the origins of everything: culture, knowledge, gender, human beings, and the universe. That’s the story behind John Milton’s Paradise Lost: the greatest epic poem written in English.

The focus of the class will be on reading and discussion of Milton’s text. Work will include frequent, informal writing, leading discussions, one or two short quizzes, optional projects and field-trips, and a final reflective essay on the experience of reading the poem.

Intermediate

21L.400 Medical Narratives: Compelling Accounts from Antiquity to Grey's Anatomy Margery Resnick, Joaquin Terrones TR 3:00 - 4:30 P 4-249

Prereq: none
3-3-6 HASS-H/SS

Has the experience of illness changed over time and across borders? We will explore this question through narratives from the perspective of patients and physicians. This inquiry is particularly relevant at this moment when shifting medical paradigms are at the heart of debates that have global impact and deep personal consequences. Materials will include essays, fiction, poetry, memoir, blogs, film and television, spanning from antiquity to the present day. In addition, there will be guest lecture by authors, journalists and scholars in the field. Each student will be assigned a mentor from the greater Boston medical community with whom they will discuss the role of storytelling in that physician’s career.

21L.431 Shakespeare on Film and Media Peter S. Donaldson R 7:00 - 10:00 P 16-628

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H
Topics: Shakespeare

Shakespeare Film and Media raises many questions for literary and media studies about adaptation, authorship, the status of “classic” texts and their variant forms, the role of Shakespeare in popular culture, the transition from manuscript, book, and stage to the modern medium of film and its recent digitally enhanced forms, and the implications of global production and distribution of Shakespeare on film in the digital age.

The viewing list (performance videos and films) is international and varies from term to term. Recent choices have included Kozintsev’s Hamlet and King Lear (Russia), Ryutopia Company’s Hamlet (Japan), Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (Japan), Wu-Hsing-kuo’s Lear is Here (Taiwan), Nos de Morro Company’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (Brazil), Bardwaj’s Maqbool (India), Polanski’s Macbeth (US), Zeffirelli’s and Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet, Olivier and Branagh’s Henry V, Julie Taymor’s Titus, and Almereyda’s Hamlet.

For Hamlet this term, our explorations of Shakespeare across media, time and cultures will include work with several online collections of art and illustration, commentary notes and digital images of early printed texts.

21L.451 Literary Theory Shankar Raman MW 1:00 - 2:30 P 56-167

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

This subject examines the ways in which we read. It introduces some of the different strategies of reading, comprehending and engaging with literary texts developed in the twentieth century, paying especial attention to poststructuralist theories and their legacy. The course is organised around specific theoretical paradigms. In general, we will: (1) work through the selected reading in order to see how it determines or defines the task of literary interpretation; (2) locate the limits of each particular approach; and (3) trace the emergence of subsequent theoretical paradigms as responses to the achievements and limitations of what came before. The literary texts and films accompanying the theoretical material will serve as concrete cases that allow us to see theory in action. For the most part, each week will pair a text or film with a particular interpretative approach, using the former to explore the latter. Rather than attempting a definitive or full analysis of the literary or filmic work, we will exploit it (unashamedly – and indeed sometimes reductively) to understand better the theoretical reading it accompanies.

21L.458 The Bible Ina Lipkowitz TR 9:30 - 11:00 a 4-257

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

The Bible – both Hebrew Bible and New Testament – is a complex and fascinating text, written by many people, in different languages, over a vast period of time, yet still displaying an overarching unity. Our purpose in this course is to consider the Bible as both a collection of disparate books and as a unified whole. Of course it is impossible to discuss the Bible without reference to religion, but religious interpretation – whether Jewish or Christian – is not our primary concern. Rather, we will explore the Bible’s literary techniques and its enormous variety of genres –everything from myth to history, from genealogy to poetry – as well as the historical periods that produced and are reflected in it. We will also consider issues arising from the history of the translation of the Bible from its original Hebrew and Greek. Selections include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, 1 and 2 Samuel, Isaiah, Job, Daniel, Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Acts of the Apostles, selected Pauline Epistles, and Revelation.

21L.460 Arthurian Literature Arthur Bahr T 7:00 - 10:00 P 4-253

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

As a quasi-historical, quasi-legendary figure of consistently great popularity, King Arthur has been subject to an extraordinary amount of reinvention and rewriting: as a Christian hero and war-leader; as an ineffective king and pathetic cuckold; and as a tragic figure of noble but doomed intentions. As we trace Arthur’s evolution and that of principal knights, we will ask what underlies the appeal of this figure whose consistent reappearance in western culture has performed the medieval prophecy that he would be rex quondam et futurus: the once and future king. Readings will include early Latin and Welsh texts, the great Old French romances of Chretien de Troyes (Yvain, Lancelot, Perceval), and the extraordinary Morte d’Arthur of Sir Thomas Malory.

21L.471 Major Novels: "Well behaved women seldom make history" Ina Lipkowitz TR 11:30 - 1:00 p 14N-112

Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

“Well behaved women seldom make history.” Nor do they often make it into the pages of novels. This semester we’ll read about scheming women, defiant women, abandoned women, seduced women, dangerous women—but rarely about well behaved women. As we read and discuss important examples of what has become one of, if not the most widely read literary genre today—the novel—we’ll pay particular attention to the role played by women and consider such questions as: Why are they called “novels”? Who wrote them? Who read them? Who narrates them? What are they likely to be about? Do they have distinctive characteristics? What is their relationship to the time and place in which they appeared? Most of all, why do we like them so much? Authors might include: Daniel Defoe, Frances Burney, Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Townsend Warner.

21L.480[J] Identities and Intersections: Queer Literatures
WGS.245
Joaquín Terrones MW 7:00 - 8:30 p 4-146

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

This course will focus on LGBT literature from the late nineteenth century to the present with an emphasis on fiction and poetry. In particular, we will analyze how LGBT identities and their literary representations have changed over time. Our discussion will give special attention to the ways in which race, class, and disability intersect with sexuality and gender. Some of the authors we will read include James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Delany, Tony Kushner, Audre Lorde, Alison Bechdel, and Leslie Feinberg.

21L.488 Contemporary Literature: War, Trauma, and Global Modernism Anna Abramson TR 1:00 - 2:30 p 2-103

Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H

In this course we will read literature and view films that register the global reverberations of shock and trauma. We will travel from the early twentieth-century to the present day, studying texts that variously engage World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, 9/11 and the War on Terror, and the legacies of colonialism and slavery. We will discuss historical memory and the intergenerational transmission of trauma; the role of modern technologies including poison gas and drone warfare; and, the blurring of lines between front-lines/home front, victim/perpetrator, civilian/combatant, local/global. Our focus will be on the formal and aesthetic techniques that an earlier generation of modernist writers developed to confront the staggering scale and abstractions of war, as well as the way that a new generation of modernists are continuing this project today. Primary texts and films will include Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, China Miéville’s Three Moments of an Explosion, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Ian McEwan’s Saturday, Teju Cole’s Open City, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.

21L.490[J] Introduction to the Classics of Russian Literature (NEW)
21G.077[J]
Maria Khotimsky TR 1:00 - 2:30 P 1-379

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

Russian literature holds a universal appeal in the eyes of many generations of readers. In a listing by Great Books, 10 of 100 world’s greatest novels are by Russian authors. How do these writers convey the particularities of Russian culture and shape our understanding of Russia? How do they reflect the turbulent history of their land, yet capture imagination of readers around the globe? What are some unique ways in which they define human psychology, the quest for the meaning of life and self-realization in the world? In this course, we will explore the works of classical Russian writers of the nineteenth and twentieth century, including stories and novels by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Bunin, Nabokov, Platonov, Solzhenitsyn and others. In the first part of the course we will read the works of the major nineteenth-century Russian authors, focusing on their approaches to portraying self and society. In the second part of the course, we will look at how writers responded to pivotal events in Russian history – revolutions, wars, years of the Soviet regime, and the collapse of the communist system. All readings in English.

21L.504[J] Race and Identity in American Literature: Woke Lit
WGS.140[J]
Joaquín Terrones MW 3:30 - 5:00 66-160

Prereq: Permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

What role do writers play in a social movement? How does literature today respond to systemic racism and rampant xenophobia; travel bans and deportation sweeps; police brutality and mass incarceration? Can a poem, a novel, or an essay make a difference? This course will tackle these questions by pairing contemporary literature, music, film, and television with works by earlier writers who used literature to speak out, fight back, and bear witness.

The pairings we will analyze and discuss include:

James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates
Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison
Frederick Douglass and Colson Whitehead
Gloria Anzaldúa and Valeria Luiselli
José Martí and Lin Manuel-Miranda
Nina Simone and Solange Knowles
Marvin Gaye and D’Angelo
W.E.B. DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk and Jordan Peele’s Get Out
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Sam Esmail’s Mr. Robot

International Literatures

21L.609 Greek Readings Stephanie Frampton TR 4:00 - 5:00 P 14N-112

Prereq: none
2-0-4

Begin to read ancient Greek literature in the original language. Our text this semester is Lucian’s True Story, considered one of the first examples of science fiction in the Western tradition. This course provides a bridge for students with one semester or more of formal Greek training (Greek 1/2, high school Greek, or equivalent) between the study of Greek grammar and vocabulary and the reading of Greek authors. May be repeated for credit if the content differs.

21L.610 Advanced Greek Readings Stephanie Frampton TR 4:00 - 5:00 P 14N-112

Prereq: none
2-0-4

Begin to read ancient Greek literature in the original language. Our text this semester is Lucian’s True Story, considered one of the first examples of science fiction in the Western tradition. This course provides a bridge for students with one semester or more of formal Greek training (Greek 1/2, high school Greek, or equivalent) between the study of Greek grammar and vocabulary and the reading of Greek authors. May be repeated for credit if the content differs.

ends March 20

21L.611 Latin I Randall Colaizzi MW 1:00 - 2:30 P 14N-112

Prereq: none
3-0-3; first half of term

Latin I offers an introduction for those who do not know the language, or a review for those who would like to refresh the Latin that they have previously learned. In this half-semester intensive course, students will learn the rudiments of Latin vocabulary and grammar, including basic vocabulary, word forms, and simple sentence structure. This is the equivalent of a full first semester of college-level Latin.

ends March 20

21L.612 Latin II Randall Colaizzi MW 1:00 - 2:30 P 14N-112

Prereq: 21L.611 or permission of instructor
3-0-3; second half of term

Latin II offers a continuation of Latin I. This class will complete the basic preparation for those who have begun the language with Latin I (611), or will give a review to those who have learned some Latin previously. In this half-semester intensive course, students will reach the level necessary to read Latin texts at an intermediate level, including the full basic Latin vocabulary, word forms, and a knowledge of more complex sentence structures. This is the equivalent of the second semester of college-level Latin.

begins April 1

21L.613 Latin Readings Stephanie Frampton TR 4:00 - 5:00 P 14N-112

Prereq: none
2-0-4 HASS-H

Begin to read Latin literature in the original language. Our text this semester is Pliny the Younger’s Letters, some of the most immediate and intimate documents of Roman life under Emperor Trajan. This course provides a bridge for students with one semester or more of formal Latin training (Latin 1/2, high school Latin, or equivalent) between the study of Latin grammar and vocabulary and the reading of Latin authors. May be repeated for credit.

begins April 1

21L.614 Advanced Latin Readings Stephanie Frampton TR 4:00 - 5:00 P 14N-112

Prereq: none
2-0-4 HASS-H

Begin to read Latin literature in the original language. Our text this semester is Pliny the Younger’s Letters, some of the most immediate and intimate documents of Roman life under Emperor Trajan. This course provides a bridge for students with one semester or more of formal Latin training (Latin 1/2, high school Latin, or equivalent) between the study of Latin grammar and vocabulary and the reading of Latin authors. May be repeated for credit.

begins April 1

21L.636[J] Introduction to Contemporary Hispanic Literature and Film
21G.716[J]
Liana Ewald M 7:00 - 10:00 P 16-644

Prereq: One intermediate subject in Spanish or permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H

Studies important 20th- and 21st-century texts and films from both Spain and Latin America. Readings include short stories, theater, the novel, and poetry, as well as some non-fiction. Students acquire skills necessary for a serious examination of literacy and cultural issues in the Spanish-speaking world. Conducted entirely in Spanish. Emphasis on active participation of students in class discussion.

Seminars

21L.702 Studies in Fiction: Toni Morrison and Herman Melville, Talking About America Wyn Kelley MW 1:00 - 2:30 P 2-103

Prereq: Two subjects in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-M; Can be repeated for credit

“Call me Ishmael,” begins Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851). “It’s not my fault,” starts off Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child (2015), a novel that she dedicates simply “For You.” These conversational openings pick up a long-running national dialogue about who Americans are, what they have experienced, and what it cost. Toni Morrison and Herman Melville bring much to the national conversation and are also deeply concerned with the saying itself: with voices and issues, with who gets into the discussion and who is kept out. In this seminar, we will pair their works at critical junctures, thinking about talk and silencing in Morrison’s God Help the Child and Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and “Benito Cereno”; imagined communities in Morrison’s Beloved and Melville’s Moby-Dick; violence, migration, and identity in Morrison’s Paradise and Melville’s Israel Potter; and history, authority, and authorship in Melville’s Billy Budd and Morrison’s A Mercy. Students will deliver in-class reports on secondary and critical readings, submit periodic response papers, and write essays based on research and reflection.

21L.703 Studies in Drama: Getting Even: The Drama of Revenge Shankar Raman MW 7:00 - 8:30 p 56-169

Prereq: Two subjects in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-M; Can be repeated for credit

Getting even is an odd business, and one with a long history. In this seminar, we will explore how vengeance is performed — in ways that extend from the horrific to the comic and the parodic, and across a range of time periods and cultures. Thinking about the desire for revenge not just as basic to human psychology, but as a complex cultural response, we will aim at a deeper understanding of the mechanics, ethics and aesthetics of payback. Works studied will range from Aeschylus’ The Orestaia to contemporary cinema (e.g., Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover or Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy ). Accompanying theoretical texts from such writers as Nietzsche, René Girard, and Walter Benjamin will open different perspectives on this dramatic mode.

21L.704 Studies in Poetry: Walt Whitman Goes Global Stephen Tapscott T 7:00 - 10:00 P 14N-112

Prereq: Two subjects in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-M; Can be repeated for credit

Late in his middle age, unmarried and childless, Walt Whitman was dismayed to hear that rumors were circulating about his sexuality. In response, he encouraged his friends to spread a counter-rumor: the reason he wasn’t interested in women was that he was still grieving for a lost love, from decades earlier. She was mulatto; they met in New Orleans, where during the 1840s he lived for six months; during that time they had had six children together [sic] before they had had, tragically, to separate. He’d never returned to New Orleans….
In this seminar we won’t spend a lot of time discussing the plausibility of this story of Whiman’s children. The irony is, though, that he did have a lot of progency: writers and theorists and artists who define themselves as overtly
in the “line of Whitman” [sometimes eagerly claiming continuity, sometimes consciously acting out Oedipal resistance]. We’ll read through the terms of Whitman’s long career, stage by stage [his idealism and anxiety before the Civil War, his work as a nurse during the War, his conflicted love poems, his celebration oflate-19th-century American expansionism and industrialization] At each stage we’ll also read work by writers, across several continents and centuries, who admired [or resisted] his model:
–novelists including D H Lawrence and Thomas Mann
–poets [Ezra Pound, W C Williams, Hilda Doolittle, Marianne Moore, Allen Ginsberg] –gender-theorists and provocateurs [Oscar Wilde] –post-colonialist writers and theorists of Negritude [Aimee Cesaire] –epic/lyric writers [Pablo Neruda, J L Borges] –contemporary writers of collective narratives [Vladimir Mayakovsky, Grace Paley]

We’ll also have a visit by a dramatist who will present her play on Whitman [and on the problems of representing him] and a screening of a new film on Emily Dickinson, which focuses on the dynamic of reputation-formation after a writer’s death [It’s more interesting– and funnier– than it sounds in paraphrase].

21L.706 Studies in Film: Space Invaders: Land, Occupation, and Resistance in Contemporary Film and Literature
CMS.830
Laura Finch MW 9:30 - 11:00 a 4-251
Screening R 7:00 - 10:00 P 2-105

Prereq: 21L.011, one subject in Literature or Comparative Media Studies; or permission of instructor
3-3-6 HASS-H, CI-M; Can be repeated for credit

The history of land is a history of violence: stolen land, colonised land, the extraction of wealth from land via deforestation and mining, and land divided by segregation, occupation, and apartheid. This class will look at various ways in which these violent struggles play out and how they are resisted by the peoples living on the land who are affected. We will look at films (both narrative and documentary) and writing (novels and theory) from locations including Australia, Native North America, Palestine, South Africa, and the United States

Course readings will explore a wide range of issues including race and urban planning, gentrification, globalisation, indigenous and aboriginal claims to land, land divided by apartheid and occupation, and the ecological devastation caused by global capitalism. We will also look at the work of activists, film makers, and writers who offer counter-visions that challenge (and at times unintentionally reinforce) the status quo of the present.

This is an advanced seminar, the highest level course in the humanities at MIT. The prerequisite is one introductory course in film or media studies and at least one further subject in Literature/CMS. I am willing to waive the prerequisite on a case-by-case basis; however, you should have a strong background in analytical writing in the humanities and understand the workload and expectations for the course.