Stephen Shapiro (convenor)
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 source of much of the 'new' global chaos has increasingly been traced to well established patterns within the U.S. itself; 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 in a mediatized and information-saturated global market; the uncanny non-death of neoliberalism; state terror and mass incarceration; the return to overt forms of military imperialism; the family as focal point for registering global change, and as site for social reproduction of class struggle; and the (sociopolitical, aesthetic) problem of envisioning future alternatives to the status quo. Authors/artists covered may include Claudia Rankine, Donald Glover, Rachel Kushner, Valeria Luiselli, Yuri Herrera, Colson Whitehead, Nick Drnaso, Chris Kraus and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
We will run the module in parallel sections, meeting jointly in week 1 of term 1 and week 1 of term 2. Each section will cover the entire syllabus. 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. You will need to arrange your schedule to ensure that you get to seminar on time regardless of bus timetables or parking. If your nightclubbing commitments don’t permit this, please consider allowing someone else to take your place in the module.
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:
2nd years: (80% assessed) 2 x 3,000 word essays; (20% assessed) citation and bibliographic exercise
3rd years: (80% assessed) 2 x 4,000 word essays; (20% assessed) group video essay
Please see the Undergraduate English essay pages for deadlines.