Courses Taught | Syllabi and assignments available
Black Power, Yellow Peril
Advanced undergraduate writing seminar
Why have Asian Americans been held up as a model minority while African Americans have been denigrated? Comparative racialization creates and sustains these false binaries. Yet in 2013 activist Suey Park used the Twitter hashtag #BlackPowerYellowPeril to address coalition politics and tensions; this vision of racial alliance goes back to the great anti-slavery orator Frederick Douglass. Taking the turn-of-the-century Yellow Peril and the mid-century Black Power movement as racialized embodiments of white American fear, this course engages readings from the 19th to the 21st centuries in order to trace literary points of contact, conflict, and coalition across these two racial formations. How do African American and Asian American experiences of race and gender inform each other? How does literature allow for the exploration of critique and also reinscribe oppression? What happens to appropriation and influence between two marginalized groups?
Through the course Tumblr students were encouraged to relate our readings and discussions to ongoing popular culture, news, and grassroots activism on campus, the United States, and the world. Their weekly responses culminated in a final project that synthesized their observations and analyses throughout the term.
Sexual Politics: Sluts, Spinsters, and Drag Queens
First-year writing seminar
What do sluts, spinsters, and drag queens have in common? They expose the excesses and deviations in the spectrum of human sexuality, thereby drawing attention to the dubious status of what is considered to be “normal.” Students will learn how to analyze, discuss, and write about a wide range of cultural objects which include the 18th century epistolary novel The Coquette to the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch to a Japanese-Canadian graphic novel to the reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race to the latest indie games by trans women. Together we will read foundational texts in feminist and queer theory to enhance our interpretation of literary texts and cultural objects. The course will act as an introduction to women’s studies and LGBT studies.
My students’ projects were used by the Kroch Rare Books Library to demonstrate the work that undergraduates can do with the collections.
You can view the finished projects here:
Memoir and Memory
First-year writing seminar
Writing is a process; moreover, writing is a way of thinking. In this course, we will examine how authors construct their public, written selves. Since the self is, at best, a difficult and multi-faceted concept, we will consider a variety of texts, seeking to understand the choices of literary techniques used to tell the story of the remembered self, the self created by the author. We will examine a loose definition of memoir and multifaceted ideas about memory in a journey across space, time, genres, and mediums: from slave narratives to graphic novels including Batman, from science fiction to Benjamin Franklin. How do writing, context, and ideology all inform each other? Special attention will be paid to issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Together, and writing frequent essays, we’ll explore why and how people write about themselves – for self-exploration, political or social change, purely to practice a form of art, or other reasons – and we’ll investigate how writing shapes lived experience.
Sample Courses | Syllabi available
Founding Fictions: Major Works of American Literature
Sample undergraduate introductory survey course
The Declaration of Independence states “all men were created equal,” but what are the conditions for that equality and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” In this year-long survey course we will read major works of American literature in poetry and prose. Lectures will engage representations of personal and national identity in American literature with attention to how these writers complicate, resist, and reimagine the definitions of America. Our understanding of the canon formation and transformation will be enriched through attention to the intertwining dynamics of race, gender, and class. The first half of the course covers colonial America through to the end of the Civil War. The second half spans 1865 through to the present with a focus on the multiethnic literatures of America.
Science and Medicine in Nineteenth-Century America
Sample graduate seminar/modified senior seminar
“Hurrah for positive science!” declares Walt Whitman in “Song of Myself,” viewing science as a vital component of his vision of American poetry. In this seminar we will read American literature that engages nineteenth-century shifts in science and medicine with attention to science’s place in the popular imagination. Science and medicine regulate biopolitics and normativize temporalities, but can also act as a rich source of metaphor and open up tactics of everyday resistance. Phenomena studied will include the professionalization of medicine, the rise of photography, and popularity of the so-called pseudosciences such as race science and phrenology. Our literary archive will be supplemented by theoretical readings and contextualized through secondary readings. In our discussions we will question science as neutral progress, considering the discipline in relation to the project of nationhood and the politics of race and gender.
The Alien: Reimagining the Human in Speculative Fiction
Sample upper-level undergraduate course
Star Trek’s motto, “To boldly go where no one has gone before,” captures the adventurous spirit of speculative fiction. In this course we will draw parallels between historical colonial encounters and the explorations of both outer and inner space. From the xenomorphs of the Alien franchise and the Na’avi of Avatar, we will investigate how aliens are often uncannily familiar as proxies for racial, sexual, and cultural anxieties. The figure of the alien can act both as a problematic source of horror but also as a way of critiquing humanity. Stock representations of invading aliens in video games such as Half-Life and Mass Effect contrast with ingenuous reimaginings in feminist science fiction and Afrofuturism. Possible content includes movies such as Brother from Another Planet and District 9, novels like Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood, and episodes of Star Trek and Futurama.
Red in Tooth and Claw: Humans, Animals, and Nature
Sample upper-level undergraduate course
“Nature, red in tooth and claw” – Tennyson’s poetic phrase reflects one facet of how humans have understood nature. This course explores variations on the theme of Man versus Nature through literature, science, and popular culture. Is nature just a resource? How have animals been used as symbols of innocence, savagery, or dehumanization? We will discuss animal-human hybrids in science fiction, such as H.G. Wells’s Island of Dr. Moreau, the legacies of naturalists like ornithologist James Audubon, and the anthropomorphized animals such as the rabbits of Watership Down. Other media may include David Attenborough’s nature documentaries and graphic novels like Grant Morrison’s We3 and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. We will also explore different approaches to understanding nature and animals, such through indigenous perspectives and ecocriticism.