Intro to English Studies

Neither a neutral ground, nor one that exists independently of social and political concerns, English studies involves the study of a heterogeneous array of texts and it encompasses a wide range of often competing or contestatory theories and methodologies. In this introduction to English studies, we will investigate the production, interpretation, and cultural work of literary and extraliterary texts. We will survey a range of theories, fields, and methodologies with attention to their different and related histories. We will survey traditional approaches and formulations that have been important to English studies, and consider them in relation to contemporary debates and trajectories. We will investigate ongoing questions of aesthetics, ethics, representation, and ideology and think about the stakes of these topics, and the significance of different positions and approaches to them. As we define and identify critical approaches (i.e. structuralist, poststructuralist, psychoanalytic, marxist, feminist, queer, postcolonial, etc.) and terms (i.e., globalization, indigeneity, diaspora), we will put these approaches into dialogue with one another in order to understand tensions and contradictions between various approaches, as well as to discern their similarities and points of connection. We also will put these theoretical readings in dialogue with cultural texts (novels, a play, film, youtube videos). The cultural texts will serve both to illustrate and illuminate the theoretical readings and also to provide insight into their blindspots and limitations. As we think throughout this course about the value, aims, and uses of English studies, we will do so with particular attention to our location in Hawai’i.

COURSE ASSIGNMENTS:  Two midterms (~40%); a collaboratively written parody of a theoretical text (~10%); a final exam with a take-home essay component (~35%); a class presentation (~5%); short writing assignments, both in-class and as homework (~10%). Attendance is mandatory.

TEXTS (to be ordered through Revolution Books): Alani Apio, Kamau; R. Zamora Linmark, Rolling the Rs; Toni Morrison, Beloved

FILMS: Anne Keala Kelly (director), Noho Hewa

Packet of supplementary readings.