Seminar in English Lit & History: Beyond Science

English 730X: Seminar in English Lit & History: Beyond Science

Dr. Emily West (

Fall 2021, T 6:00-8:30


Course format:

If it is safe to do so in the fall, we will meet in person for this class.


Course description:

This course brings together theories and methods of queer, feminist, Black, anticolonial, and decolonial science studies with texts from the 17th-early 19th centuries. These critical approaches have offered new ways to understand scientific methods, science’s “proper objects,” and categories such as the human, the natural, and the biological. By reading this theoretical work alongside an eclectic collection of historical texts written before the institutionalization of modern science we will explore what resources these contemporary critical theories of science offer for understanding pre-, proto-, and resolutely unscientific texts. Further, we will consider the tools these historical texts provide for thinking through and beyond the forms of inequality, dispossession, and colonial extraction that are bound up with scientific methods. Students will come away from the class with an understanding of how science has been constructed as a system of knowledge and practice, and of how looking beyond science (both historically and critically) can change our understanding of and relations with the natural world.


Student learning outcomes:

after taking this course, you will be able to:

  • understand and use a variety of theories and methodologies from (and outside) science and technology studies
  • situate 17th and 18th-century texts in their social and political contexts and analyze these texts using close reading and other relevant methodologies
  • analyze the construction of scientific epistemologies (as well as other forms of knowledge-making) in relation to shifting systems of race, gender, sexuality, colonialism, imperialism, and (dis)ability
  • write a conference-length research paper ready for presentation at a scholarly meeting



  • regular participation
  • reading responses
  • discussion facilitation
  • essay (conference length)


Assigned texts may include:


Katherine McKittrick, selections from Dear Science (2021)

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, selections from The Disordered Cosmos (2021)

Kyla Wazana Tompkins, “Sweetness, Capacity, Energy” (2019)

Sara Giordano, “Those who can’t, teach: critical science literacy as a queer science of failure” (2017)

Anne Pollock and Banu Subramaniam, “Resisting Power, Retooling Justice: Promises of Feminist Postcolonial Technosciences” (2016)

Angela Willey, “Biopossibility: A Queer Feminist Materialist Science Studies Manifesto” (2016)

Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada, “We Live in the Future. Come Join Us.” (2015)

Robin Wall Kimmerer, selections from Braiding Sweetgrass (2013)

Mel Y. Chen, selections from Animacies (2012)

Kim Tallbear, “Why Interspecies Thinking Needs Indigenous Standpoints”(2011)



Margaret Cavendish, selected poetry and prose

Aphra Behn, selected poetry

Phillis Wheatley, selected poetry

Olaudah Equiano, selections from The Interesting Narrative

Cynric Williams, Hamel, the Obeah Man

Mary Delany, Flora Delanica

A Catalogue of the Portland Museum

John Cleland, selections from Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

Charlotte Smith, selected poetry

John Clare, selected poetry

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein