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


21L.310 Bestsellers: Literature Without Borders Wyn Kelley TR 1:00 - 2:30 4-144

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

This class examines popular novels that trouble the boundaries between nations or states. In books by bestselling authors like Louise Erdrich, Edwidge Danticat, Art Spiegelman, Mohsin Hamid, and Ruth Ozeki, we will encounter stories of global migration and itinerancy, questions about identity, family, and the past, and narratives of a search for home. At the same time, these works break out of established or familiar boundaries, engaging with terror and risk at the borders of self, nation, and literary form.

21L.325 Small Wonders: Collections & Citizens Wyn Kelley TR 1:00 - 2:30 4-144

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

Taking as a model Claudia Rankine’s Citizen—a call to action and at the same time an artful gathering of poems and images—this class will study collections whose principles of design call attention to themselves and to the roles of citizens in a complex society. Along with Rankine we will look at Walt Whitman’s “Live Oak With Moss” group and Emily Dickinson’s Fascicle 24, two collections of poems written in the context of sectional strife and civil war in the U.S. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Representative Men and Jorge Luis Borges’s A Universal History of Infamy present imaginative biographies that raise questions about what it means to be a hero—or a criminal. Two short-story collections, Herman Melville’s Piazza Tales and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth, offer narratives of catastrophic displacement and unsettlement across a global span. What do collections say about humans as citizens? How can they offer new routes for imagination, inquiry, and activism?


21L.430 Popular Culture and Narrative: The Use and Abuse of the Fairytale
William Donaldson TR 9:30 - 11:00 4-253

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit
Topics: Fantasy, Fiction

This course takes a deep look at a big subject. We ask where Fairy Tales come from, surveying the work of the famous Brothers Grimm, before moving on to historic fairy belief in traditional Celtic societies. We look at the structure of Fairy Tales, and how they are conditioned by oral transmission, and inherited story-telling techniques.

We ask what Fairy Tales mean, considering a range of Freudian and Jungian interpretations, and the claims made for them as a key psychological tool.

There follow two case studies of the abuse of Fairy Tales, firstly by the Nazis in 1930s Germany for the purposes of political indoctrination, and, secondly, by Walt Disney in the famous series of animated movies starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We consider the filmic techniques involved, and the charges of sexism and political conservatism frequently laid at Disney’s door.

We end with a close study of modern literary Fairy Tales from writers including Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Dickens, L. Frank Baum, Margaret Atwood, and Angela Carter.
The goal of the class is to teach students how to approach cultural history in a broad-based multi-disciplinary manner, using a blend of folklore, history, psychology and film and textual studies. The student will gain a detailed appreciation of the links between oral tradition and print, and the means by which culture is transmitted down the centuries via a wide range of media.

21L.504[J] Race and Identity in American Literature: Woke Lit: The Protest Tradition Today
Joaquín Terrones MW 7:00 - 8:30 PM 8-119

Prereq: Permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit
Topics: Culture, Fiction, Film, New Media

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