Theories and Methods of Literary Studies

Note: All 625 courses in Fall 2022 will be organized around the theme of “Genealogies of Scholarship,” and students in these classes will present 3-minute papers at an English Department colloquium on this topic.

Cultural studies as an interdisciplinary approach to literary studies, and at times an anti-disciplinary approach, reflects the intersectionality of various modes of literary and cultural critique, and in this course, we will work to map out these approaches to texts and how they situate texts within shifting relations of power. We will examine the ways that cultural studies as a field has changed over time and how it has become assemblage of such fields as Marxist critical studies, globalization studies critical ethnic studies, indigenous studies, gender and queer studies, media studies, and critical cartography studies. We will also consider critical debates over the uses and problematics of literary and cultural studies approaches.

Representation and location are key in situated scholarship, and Hawaiʻi is a rich place of cultural relationalities, discursive contestations, and cultural production. We will pay special attention to the ways our readings of various literary and cultural texts from our distinctive location in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific illustrate practices that are shaped by this place, and we will also attend to the ways that our cultural studies work enables different modes of activism, making possible transformations in the ways that we see and act in the world.  We will read a range of literary and cultural texts, including maps, murals, graffiti, land, wind and cloud formations, films, mapping databases, autobiographical essays, so that we can map the intricate intertextuality of cultural formations and the alternative economies and forms of knowledge they pose and produce. We will also be asking questions about the ways that anti-disciplinary alliances enable material alliances between people against oppressive logics and narratives, as well as how representation is intimately rooted in complex issues of agency, antagonism and alliance, and responsibility.

We will begin by examining Stuart Hall’s reflections on cultural studies as a discursive formation and thinking about the responsibilities of those of us who do cultural work. For whom and for what purpose do we do this work? What transformations do we hope to bring about in the classroom and in the world? What potential dangers does this work pose and how can we approach these problems in ways that are enabling rather than disabling?


Possible texts:

Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler, eds.  Keywords for American Cultural Studies (2014).

Michael Ryan, Literary Theory: A Practical Introduction (Third edition, 2017)

Candace Fujikane, Mapping Abundance for a Planetary Future: Kanaka Maoli and Critical Settler Cartographies in Hawaiʻi (2021)

Shakespeare, The Tempest (1610-1611)

Kevin Quashie, Black Aliveness, or a Poetics of Being (2021)

R. Zamora Linmark, Rolling the R’s (1995, 2016)

Brandy Nālani McDougall, The Salt Wind / Ka Makani Paʻakai (2008).



The Tempest, directed by Julie Taymor

Daughters of the Dust, directed by Julie Dash

A course reader may feature work by Stuart Hall, Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, Kevin Quashie, Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, Jack Halberstam, Gramsci, Michel Foucault, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Eve Sedgwick, Paulo Freire, Saidiya Hartman, Teresia Teaiwa, Epeli Hauʻofa, Patrick Wolfe, Donna Haraway, Craig Santos Perez, Henri Lefebvre, kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu and others. 

Course requirements:

1)  Weekly email assignments shared with the class identifying issues and problems in literary and cultural studies approaches.  10%

2) A 5-minute presentation summarizing arguments and presenting a question(s) for discussion about an essay from the syllabus.  10%

3) One short 5-page paper on a critical concept or keyword, its definitions, the critical genealogy of this term, and an example of how it can be used productively to discuss a particular cultural formation, an event/text/image.  This paper is due on the day that we are discussing your keyword or a related keyword in class. 15%

4) One 15-minute research presentation on your 5-page paper (10%)

5) one short 1 1/2-page paper that will provide the basis for a 3-minute presentation for the 625 colloquia (dates on syllabus), where students from all four 625 courses will present on the theme of “pedagogy.”  For our class, we will do this through the lens of cultural studies. (20%). In this paper, you will tell us about your project, how it relates to the 625 theme of “academic genealogies,” and how you will use a keyword to develop a key idea from cultural studies approaches to address this issue. Provide a brief example of how defining a pedagogical issue can help you to frame your project. 

6) one-page abstract of your final paper, similar to an abstract you would write for a conference (5%),

7) one conference paper length 10-page essay on a cultural text or event or practice, utilizing cultural studies theory or work (30%),

8) attendance and participation.