Archive for courses

Summer 14 course materials: Introduction to Literary Theory

Posted in Teaching, The Profession with tags , , , , , , , on 25 May 2014 by Ben

This summer, during the June  ‘A’ Term, I will be teaching (for the second time ever), ENGL 2112: Introduction to Literary Theory. You can find the description of my previous stab at it here along with some course documents. This time things will be a bit different, as I am eschewing the “know a few things well” approach that I tried to employ last time even if I am trying not to teach according either to the “canonical theory” or “theory cafeteria” models which seem to prevail in many such courses.

Download the schedule (ENGL_2112_Schedule_2), the syllabus(ENGL_2112_Syllabus), and the daily worksheet assignment (Daily_worksheet_assignment) if you like. Looking them over as you read will be helpful.

So, in what follows I want to explain and perhaps rationalize the schedule and shape of the course. Note that in the last version of the course we read books of theory, D+G’s Kafka book, for example. Here we are using the second edition of The Norton Anthology of Thoery and Criticism as our only text for two reasons. First, cost/efficiency. It’s a spendy book, yes, but it has resale value to students and could be less than five or six university press titles we won’t even be able to finish. Plus, everyone knows where the readings are and what to bring to class every day. The second reason is that by limiting myself to the Norton, just as with limiting myself to post-1980 theory, I am adding a helpful constraint. I don’t have to think about everything. I don’t think of this as being derelict in my duty as I would have to leave things out no matter what, whether I am drawing from ALL of theory or just from the selections in the anthology. I guess I could add another reason, namely that dealing with an anthology offers us a chance to think about the politics of anthologies, a major point of contention in the culture wars of the 1980s. In any case, I know there are drawbacks to the “antho-logical” approach (not the least of which is the appearance of “cafeteria”style theory), but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in this experiment in course design. (I think. I hope.)

More below the fold.

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Old syllabus: Posthuman Media

Posted in Teaching with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 1 February 2014 by Ben

Following a discussion with Marc Weidenbaum via Twitter, here is the syllabus for an old course: Posthuman Media.


Spring 2014 course materials: Music and Digital Media

Posted in Teaching with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 5 January 2014 by Ben

Some people on Twitter asked me to post this stuff, so here it is.

Although I think the class will work well, I don’t pretend that it’s comprehensive. Rather, it is rather idiosyncratic. Since it’s a theory class according to the English Department (ENGL 3116: Topics in Advanced Theory), the Wark seems necessary to me. It makes sense anyway, but does provide a broad theoretical background to some of the issues we will discuss, one that is largely absent otherwise.

I realized while constructing this syllabus 1) how much things have changed since I last taught this course in 2011, not only with regard to music itself, but also with regard to the industry (do they still sue downloaders? is this still a thing?) and media studies generally; and 2) with regard to these changes mentioned in 1,  that I am rather behind on the scholarship in the field. More accurately, I would say that I am more aware than ever of what it means to be an expert on something, and find now what I once considered to be my expertise in this field, while still adequate in some respects, somewhat less than I would like. Oh well, when I finish Here at the end of all things I can rectify that issue as I prepare for The Age of the World Playlist.

So here is the syllabus (with course policies) and the schedule. Note that the schedule is mostly organized as follows: Mondays are for theory, Wednesdays are for texts on music and/or media, and Fridays are given to listening. Mostly. There are probably more exceptions than I would like to know about.



Summer 2012 Course: ENGL 4038: Foucault & Deleuze: From Knowledge and Discipline to Control and Networks

Posted in Teaching with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 7 January 2013 by Ben

Here are the course materials for a class I taught in Summer 2012 on Foucault, Deleuze, networks, and power. The class was a senior capstone seminar and the students did really outstanding work on a very difficult subject.

The focus here was on Deleuze’s reading of Foucault, especially the latter’s transition from considerations of discourse to non-discursive formations during the period between Archaeology of Knowledge and Discipline and Punish (something that Deleuze makes much of in the first two or three chapters of Foucault).


ENGL 4038: Foucault & Deleuze Syllabus

ENGL 4038: Foucault & Deleuze Daily Schedule

Spring 2013 Course: The Nigh Fantastic

Posted in Teaching with tags , , , , , on 7 January 2013 by Ben

Here are the materials for my Spring 2013 course on “The Nigh Fantastic.” This course is part of CU English’s Modern and Contemporary Literature for Non-majors offerings.

I had wanted to teach Cloud Atlas and The City and the City for a while and finally found a way to do so. The premise here is that none of these texts are straight SF or fantasy works (with the possible exception of Oryx and Crake). Rather, all of them make use of SF and fantasy conventions in the service of something else. The City and the City is a work of detective fiction, but the impossibility of the two cities in question and certain technologies present within them push towards fantasy and SF respectively without turning the novel into a full blown generic text. I haven not really thought deeply about the connections among these texts, so I will be interested to see what comes of this class.

The reading list, if you don’t want to click through: Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle; Butler’s The Parable of the Talents; Whitehead’s The Intuitionist; Atwood’s Oryx and Crake; Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas; Miéville’s The City and the City; Kunzru’s Gods Without Men. I also considered House of Leaves; The Road; among others that I am now forgetting.

Here are the materials:

ENGL 3660-006 & -009: The Nigh Fantastic Syllabus

ENGL 3660-006 & -009: The Nigh Fantastic Daily Schedule

ENGL 3660-006 & -009: The Nigh Fantastic Text List


Spring 2013 Course: Baseball and American Culture

Posted in Teaching with tags , , , on 7 January 2013 by Ben

A newer iteration of the course I taught last year on Baseball and American Culture. Whereas last year’s course was focused on baseball literature and history as well as contemporary sportswriting, this year we are focusing more the literature and the history. My hope is still to use baseball as a means of understanding America’s problematic relationship with intellectuals and science, but I am trying to avoid letting the class turn into an exercise in statistical analysis. For example, we will start the class on the first day by discussing the nature of the 2012 MVP debate, but I do not want to address who should have won by parsing stats and making claims about whether Mike Trout was better than Miguel Cabrera or vice versa. Rather, I want to discuss how people were making those arguments and what assumptions support them. There is little or nothing this class can add to the debate–and nothing it can do to change the outcome of the vote. What it can do is try to understand the terms of the debate and how such arguments come into existence.

So, here are the materials, should you be interested:

ENGL 3246: Topics in Popular Culture: Baseball and American Culture Syllabus

ENGL 3246: Topics in Popular Culture: Baseball and American Culture Daily Schedule

ENGL 3246: Topics in Popular Culture: Baseball and American Culture Text List