Intro. English Studies

This course is an exploratory
introduction to “English Studies” – the umbrella term for a variety of
sub-fields that share a concern with the production, interpretation, and
cultural work of “texts,” broadly conceived (i.e. literature, art, film,
performance). With the objective of understanding and appreciating what people
in English Studies do, and why, how, for whom, and for what they do it, the
course surveys a range of resources and conceptual tools (theoretical
approaches, critical vocabularies and keywords, institutional formations). We
will consider ways in which classic formulations in rhetorical, literary, and
cultural theory—of such categories as aesthetics, ethics, representation,
ideology—continue to inform contemporary discussions of the functions,
pleasures, and implications of reading and writing; in general, we will seek to
apply critical approaches to primary texts. At the same time, we will explore
ways in which considerations of epochal transformations (such as those
associated with globalization, (post)colonialism, diaspora, new media,
indigenous and other socio-political movements), and considerations of the
locatedness of interpretative, creative, and critical work, may enrich,
complicate, and empower our arts/acts of reading. We will be concerned all
along as well with the question of what makes readings of texts valid or
persuasive, and with the mechanics of composing, researching, supporting, and
presenting ideas within English Studies.


Most classes will begin with 7-10
minutes of writing on a pre-assigned question about the reading. These writings
will triple as attendance, practice in critical writing, and conversation
starters. The class will proceed mostly through discussion; hence participation
will factor in the final grade, along with at least one oral presentation. The
final grade will be based on: Two papers (20% each, 4 pages); Midterm Exam
(15%); Participation (in-class discussion/group work,  in-class writings, short assignments, oral
report) (15%); Final Exam (25%).





Many of the required shorter texts
(essays, poems, stories, pictures) will be available in a course pack and/or at
Laulima as PDFs. Several novels, including William Kennedy’s, Ironweed and Sia Figiel’s, Where ‘We’ Once Belonged,will be
available at Revolution Books.