This seminar will explore how refugees have portrayed themselves and have been portrayed in literature, law, memoir, testimony, film, and art. We will appraise whether and how aesthetic attempts to capture the condition of refugees respond to and revise political discourses about those in exile. Among others, we will engage with the work of Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi, Giorgio Agamben, Edward Said, Gloria Anzaldua, Fracisco Cantu, Javier Zamora, Ghassan Kanafani, Ocean Vuong, and Viet Nguyen.

This course explores the emergence of dystopia as a genre for the modern novel, reading the most salient works of the genre. We will seek to understand what elements cohere the genre of dystopian fiction, what elements are borrowed from other forms and what invented anew. And finally, we will also consider what is peculiar to dystopia as a genre all its own.

Alongside such classics as Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, we will also read work by Octavia Butler, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ling Ma, M.R. Carey and others. The syllabus will include brief philosophical and critical readings on utopia, science, satire, feminism, race, capitalism, and modernity and a few films (Blade Runner; Babadook; Thing).
How is trauma narrated? Can literature convey intense personal and collective suffering? Is our understanding of pain cultural? This course considers psychoanalytic ideas of historical and personal trauma reflected in literary works of the modern period. Our study will be interdisciplinary, considering how powerful concepts in the hermeneutic of psychoanalysis (repression; repetition compulsion; abjection; misrecognition; lack; affect etc.) have been generated by literary works, as well as challenged and absorbed into them. Insofar as traumatic experience produces a subjective breach, we will think about how certain forms and styles of literature are more or less suited to reflect the rupture.

We will read formative texts of psychoanalysis (Freud; Lacan; Kristeva; Foucault and others) and trauma theory (Caruth; Silverman; Fanon; Nandy). Our survey of literary works includes texts by Jean Rhys, Toni Morrison, Han Kang, Teju Cole, among others.

This is a workshop course, meaning you will be writing poetry and bringing it into class for your peers to offer their feedback. In addition, we will be engaging with texts of contemporary poetry, including assigned books (which you must purchase) and poetry packets (which I will be providing). You will also be keeping track of your reading, writing, and revision process in a Writing Notebook, which will include in-class writing assignments, reflections on outside poetry, images and poetic ideas you encounter in your daily life, and your own poetry (with revisions). By the end of the semester you will have written and annotated multiple poems, learned and incorporated new poetic techniques and strategies from the work we’ve studied, and used said strategies to revise your own work towards the most successful possible version of itself.