Skip to main content Skip to navigation

EN2E9/EN3E9 States of Damage: C21 US Writing & Culture

Stephen Shapiro (convenor)

States of Damage syllabus and all other materials has moved to Moodle. Please go to this page (made public by end of this week).

Note: This is a Pathway Approved Option for the North American Pathway and the Theory Pathway as well as one of the Distributional Requirements for the English Pathway. It can also be selected as an option under the other pathways.

This module surveys recent cultural dispatches from the United States in their attempt to make sense of a world in chaos — a world where political and environmental chaos appears to mimic the routinized chaos of global capitalism. The spectacular terror of September 11, 2001 seemed to many Americans to announce a new world disorder unimaginable before that date. Since 2001, however, and especially since the crash of 2008, the election of Donald Trump, and the mismanagement of the Covid plague, well-established patterns within the U.S. itself seem to be at fault. Hence the texts and cultural documents we’ll be examining take on the character of national self-diagnoses. The module presents different modes of American writing (fiction, poetry, social analysis, graphic narrative, video and digital/online media) and focuses on a variety of themes: the individual within data and social networks; the uncanny non-death of neoliberalism; state terror and mass incarceration; the return to overt forms of military imperialism; the family as a focal point for registering global change, and as a site for the social reproduction of class struggle; and the (sociopolitical, aesthetic) problem of envisioning future alternatives to the status quo. The module will consists in 2020-21 of a lecture and smaller discussion seminars. Student discussion, in both small and large groups, is the core of the module. For this reason, it is crucial that you arrive on time for each class.

Mode of assessment

100% assessed (two 4,000-word essays = 80%, group video exercise = 20%)

Note: For those taking the module next year, the assessment will differ for 2nd and 3rd years:

Intermediate years: (80% assessed) 2 x 3,000 word essays; (20% assessed) citation and bibliographic exercise
Finalists years: (80% assessed) 2 x 4,000 word essays; (20% assessed) group video essay

2020-21 deadlines:
Please see the Undergraduate English essay pages for deadlines.