Courses

  • English 380: Intro to Literary Studies: Encounter (spring 2019)

    This course is an intensive introduction to the knowledge and skills required for reading closely and writing convincingly about literary texts. We will primarily be reading short but challenging works from a variety of time periods and contexts. Loosely linking these works will be the theme of “encounter,” and we’ll look how literary writers have variously staged ethically and erotically charged meetings with the exotic, the foreign, and the unknown. We’ll read selectively in early modern, romantic, and modern poetry, and selections of fiction and drama will likely include work by William Shakespeare, Aphra Behn, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, Ernest Hemingway, Nella Larsen, J. More >>>

    Djimon Hounsou as Caliban, 2010


  • English 311: The Science Fiction Short Story (spring 2019)

    What can we learn for our own future from a century’s worth of aliens, robots, and star wars? How does science fiction help us to think about the differences between others and ourselves? This course looks at science fiction through a history including the early pulp magazines, the golden age, the new wave, cyberpunk, and contemporary U.S. and global works. We’ll explore science fiction’s big questions and aesthetic techniques, mostly through stories but also in film, digital media, fan universes, and at least one novel. More >>>

    Galaxy Magazine, October 1957, detail


  • English 484B: Twentieth-Century American Novel (fall 2018)

    In this course, we’ll consider the career of the novel in the U.S. over the course of the past eleven decades. This era saw a staggering number of changes in the U.S.: the country’s shifting geopolitical roles, new media and communications technologies, cultural revolutions and radical movements, and institutional transformations in the production and study of literature. We’ll approach the ambitions of novelists in this period of the “great American novel” in two ways. More >>>

    Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, 1952


  • English 596K: Literature and Science and Technology Studies (fall 2018)

    This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of Science, Technology, and Society (STS), with a strong focus on the questions literature raises for the field. Chief among these will be reflecting on how we map the complex historical relationships between scientific discourses and artistic production. We’ll start in the nineteenth century but spend most of our time in a set of 20th century US and UK historical contexts that will include histories of race, epidemiology, sexology, climate science, the cultural roles of expertise, and possibly other topics. More >>>

    Alex Garland, Annihilation, 2018


  • English 596K: Knowledge Work (fall 2017)

    “When this circuit learns your job, what are you going to do?” Marshall McLuhan asked this question in 1967, and we’ll plan to look at the questions beneath it and their implications for literary studies now. What do we value as human in an information economy in which many of the key players are algorithms? This seminar in contemporary fiction and digital humanities will take up a cluster of questions related to work, creativity, and the knowledge economy. More >>>

    Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still no. 13, 1978 (detail)


  • English 160D1: Critical Cultural Concepts: The Automaton (fall 2016)

    What’s the difference between a human and a machine? Would people have thought the same thing fifty years ago? Three hundred years ago? The figure Daedalus in Greek mythology allegedly made statues that could move, and by the eighteenth century, mechanical automata could play musical instruments, draw, and write. When scientists and philosophers think of the mind as a computer, of the body as programmable, or of the universe as clockwork, are the distinctions between the human and automaton in danger of disappearing? More >>>

    Björk in Chris Cunningham's All Is Full of Love, 1999


  • English 310: Science Fiction and the Futures of Medicine (fall 2016)

    What can science fiction tell us about the social, ethical, and political dimensions of medicine? In this course, we’ll look at how a few medical categories have changed over recent history, and then we’ll explore how science-fictional “extrapolations” of present technologies help us to think about health and medicine in new ways. We’ll consider how fiction writers, filmmakers, historians, and scientists have imagined the consequences of possible developments such as increased longevity, pandemics, genetic modification, hormone treatments, and more. More >>>

    Hungarian-language book cover for Ramez Naam, Nexus, 2012, detail


  • English 596K: Social Networks and Contemporary U.S. Literature (spring 2016)

    This graduate course examines the connections between social network analysis, digital humanities methods, and contemporary literary studies with a focus on the U.S. context. We’ll start by looking at how scholars have recently begun to imagine how we periodize “contemporary” literature, with focuses on postmodernism, neoliberalism, knowledge work, and the network society. We’ll then ask how contemporary fiction and other literary forms model and map the social world, and to what ends, with attention to a variety of claims about the political ramifications of peer-to-peer networks and social media. More >>>

    Social Network Visualization


  • English 496A: American Upheavals: The 50s, 60s, and 70s (fall 2015)

    Note: This course is a senior seminar reserved for students writing honors theses in the English department. I’m unable to add additional students this time, but I hope to teach a similar course as a standard 400-level course soon. This senior seminar takes the decade—our usual way of dividing, or periodizing, shifts in mood, culture—as a starting point for digging deeper into the relationships between literature, history, and politics in one of the most turbulent periods in U. More >>>

    Jack Nicholson and Will Sampson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1975


  • English 472: Modern Fiction (spring 2015)

    This course in modernist fiction will explore one of the richest and most innovative periods in literary production. We’ll consider a number of contexts that shaped this set of literary movements, with a particular focus on new modes of perception. How did new ideas in psychology and psychoanalysis, growing cosmopolitan metropolises, and revolutions in communications media, we’ll ask, prompt modernists to experiment with new ways of seeing in fiction? We’ll see how novelists experimented with radical new ideas from Sigmund Freud and Henri Bergson, among others, and how other novelists carved out new territory for themselves as the cinema became a dominant force in popular culture. More >>>

    Samuel Becket, 1964


  • English 310: Intro to Digital Literary Studies (spring 2015)

    How have computers and the internet changed fiction? How have they shaped its topics, how we read it, and how critics and scholars write about it? This course introduces students to the literary and critical genres that have arisen alongside the internet in a variety of modes, including fictions about social media, e-literature, and digital humanities approaches. We’ll examine how fiction has reinvented itself in the age of social media, big data, fan fiction, and the wealth of other forms of entertainment media that compete with it today. More >>>

    Ignacio Rabado, Babel Library IX, photo by Susan Groppi


  • English 596K: Intro to Digital Humanities (fall 2014)

    This graduate course is an introduction to digital humanities geared toward applications in literary and cultural studies. While students’ interests will help to shape our syllabus, particularly for sessions in the final weeks, we’ll be experimenting with: text mining and entity extraction, text encoding, social network analysis, web design frameworks, mapping and GIS, topic modeling, and creative visualization. No prior knowledge of computer programming is presumed; all students will learn some basic principles, and many of our lab activities will include options for students who wish to try out more advanced tools and methods. More >>>

    Social Network Visualization


  • Past Courses

    Networks in the Contemporary Novel (spring 2013, UCSB) Particularly since the rise of social media as part of our daily interactions, we think more and more about who we are through the form of the network. Our networks define the reach of our ideas, our access to information and modes of self-expression, and, increasingly, our understandings of power and agency. With regard to the latter, ideas about new networks have shaped the stories we tell about both new manifestations of democracy (Occupy, the 2009 elections in Iran, the Arab Spring) and new forms of control, surveillance, and suppression. More >>>