University of Southern Indiana:

Literary Criticism and Theory: The University and the Prison (spring 18)

In their essay, “The University and the Undercommons,” Fred Moten and Stefano Harney write, “The slogan on the left…‘universities, not jails,’ marks a choice that may not be possible. In other words, perhaps more universities promote more jails” (41). This course dwells on the impossibility of choosing between the collegiate and the carceral and in the process, invites students into the challenge of literary criticism and theory at present. In other words, we will survey literary criticism and theory by studying contemporary theorists who question the ways in which academic knowledge has been part of a colonial and carceral impulse. Reading and interpreting literature, critics argue, cannot be separated from ongoing shifts in the world political order, the development of racial capitalism, and the related devaluation of human lives that do not conform to what Sylvia Wynter calls “Man.” Most of our readings will be drawn from contemporary critical sources, but since these readings demand a reconsideration of long-held patterns of critical thought, students will also gain familiarity with historical efforts in interpretation, including New Critical, psychoanalytical, and Marxist approaches. To further hone these critical concerns, we will work through theorizations proposed in several literary texts about the entanglement of the university and the prison based on urban development activities some higher education institutions undertake and the borders around language and imagination constructed by certain ways of knowing the world. Finally, we will examine how the course readings ask us to imagine the world otherwise, even if such imaginings have been made to feel impossible. Requirements include two papers, a book review, ongoing written engagement with course readings, and a sincere desire to do justice to the material assigned.

Ethnic Literature in America (spring 18)

The literary scholar Ramón Saldívar makes plain the need for attending to the increasingly complex landscape of ethnic American literature. He argues that “the relationship between race and social justice, race and identity, and indeed, race and history requires [minority] writers to invent a new ‘imaginary’ for thinking about the nature of a just society and the role of race in its construction. It also requires the invention of new forms to represent it” (574). This course surveys literature by Native American, African American, Latinx, Chicanx, and Asian American writers in an effort to better understand the new literary forms developed to represent and describe a just society. Our inquiry will be organized with three linked themes: the dispossession of personhood, land, and citizenship; the threat to “speak American”; and the transnational perspectives founded through migration and diaspora. We also focus on developing a critical and intersectional means for interpreting these texts, meaning we will consider ethnicity and race intersect with gender, class, sexuality, and ability. Students will learn of the essential contributions that ethnic American writers make to contemporary debates about globalization, capitalism, and the environment. 

African American Literature (fall 17)


This course will introduce students to a broad scope of texts written by black writers in or in proximity to the United States from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. In addition to gaining familiarity with a wide variety of essential texts, students will become familiar with historical debates about the purpose, scope, and subject of black literature. Should black literary works establish distinctive forms or should they write within established Anglo-European forms? Is African American literature written for white readers or for readers of color? How do we read black literature through critical lenses that have largely been shaped by predominantly white institutions? What does it mean that black literature had long been read as merely historical or as political documents and not as literature? As these questions indicate, we will gain familiarity with important developments in the history of the United States and racial capitalism, as well as the history of how black literary works have been received in criticism and in the academy. Our inquiry will also provide a historical account of how black writers have challenged and resisted what it has meant to be literary in an effort to imagine alternative worlds for the United States and for the African Diaspora.

Introduction to American Literary History (fall 17)

Rhetoric and Composition II: Literacy and the World; The Politics of Education (fall 17, spring 18)

Vanderbilt University:

Alternative Futures (spring 17)

American Literature and the Return of Nationalism (fall 16)

Racism in American Literature (fall 16)

The Real American Dilemma: Forms of Antiracism in American Literature and Culture (spring 16) [a writing-intensive course that investigated how literature and cultural theory draws attention to the limits of certain forms of anti-racism. an updated version is being offered in fall 16]

Writers, Readers, Texts, Publics: An Introduction to Literary Criticism (spring 16, fall 15) [a writing-intensive course that introduced students to the methods and philosophical underpinnings of literary criticism.]

American Literature: The American Renaissance to the New Negro Renaissance (fall 15) [an American Literature survey driven by the tensions and appropriations between the so-called American Renaissance and the New Negro Renaissance.]

Writing in the University [a composition course organized around the crises of the contemporary university.] (spring 14)

The Modern South? The Southern Modern? [a writing-intensive course that considered the notion of the U.S. and global South as “backward” as constitutive of that which is not. Texts included Ward’s Salvage the Bones, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and Glissant’s Faulkner, Mississippi.] (spring 13, fall 12)

Programming the Person: Technology and Identity in Literature [a writing-intensive course that examined literature about how technology configures the limits of the human. Texts included, Shelley’s Frankenstein, Schuyler’s Black No More, and Spielberg’s Minority Report.] (spring 12, fall 11)