CoursesSenior Seminars

Fall 2020

Senior/Capstone Seminars for American Literature and Culture Majors

Immigrant Stories: Literary and Cinematic

Topics in 20th and 21st Century American Literature
English 183C / Prof. Decker

This course examines literary and cinematic representations of the American immigrant experience over the last century. To live between cultures, to experience the confounding processes of racialization and assimilation, to labor to translate one’s deepest interiority into a foreign language––all these aspects of migration make a new imaginative relationship with the world a necessity for the migrant and, as such, are fertile ground for literary exploration and cinematic expression. In this class, we study novels and movies as distinct mediums even as we attend to their affinities, such as an impulse toward narrative storytelling. Among our films, one is from the silent era (Chaplin’s The Immigrant); among our novels, one is a wordless story of sequenced, illustrated panels (Tan’s The Arrival). Other novels include Eugenides’ Middlesex, Ozeki’s A Tale for a Time Being, Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World. Other movies: Coppola’s The Godfather, Nair’s The Namesake, Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Xiaolong Qiu’s Inspector Chen Detective Fiction Series

Capstone Seminar
English 184.1 / Prof. Cheung

This course explores how world-renowned immigrant writer Xiaolong Qiu uses the popular detective genre as political fiction. Set mostly in Shanghai but often with national and international repercussions, the detective fiction series explores contemporary issues hushed in the mainstream media, circumvents censorship via Anglophone and Francophone mediums, elevates the popular genre to the position of world literature by casting the private eye as a poet manqué and translator of The Wasteland, a bilingual literati who alludes constantly to Chinese and Western poetry. It is available as a BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Crime Series:

https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Inspector-Chen-Mysteries-Audiobook/B07DV4PW7Q?source_code=GPAGBSH0508140001&ipRedirectOverride=true&ds_rl=1257028&ds_rl=1260658&ds_rl=1262685&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu6jdvPSa6QIVidlkCh1CmgLnEAYYASABEgKsxvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Narrating the 1960s: Creative Nonfiction in an Age of Electronic Media

Capstone Seminar
English 184.2 / Prof. Decker

This course examines the 1960’s literary movement called New Journalism and the culture that gave rise to it. We read the most celebrated New Journalists––Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter Thompson––to consider how they use their talents as non-fiction novelists to respond to upheavals in mass media and society at large. We address the following kinds of questions. How can an older (print) form like the novel compete for the attention of consumers within a new mediascape brought about by the proliferation of film and TV? Is the New Journalist’s non-fiction narrative mode up to the task of representing a reality––political assassinations, urban riots, black and Chicano protests, sexual revolution, psychedelic drugs, moon walks, Vietnam War, Watergate––that threatens to outstrip the writer’s imagination? Readings include: In Cold BloodElectric Kool-Aid Acid TestWhite AlbumDispatchesStrange Rumblings in Aztlan. Feature-length documentary films: Rush to JudgmentMedium CoolHearts and Minds. Plus TV news coverage from the era.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

The World Through Susan Sontag

Capstone Seminar
English 184.3 / Prof. Stefans

Susan Sontag (1933 – 2004) could be described as the first “celebrity” intellectual in the United States — not of the type that appeared on TV regularly, but whose opinions, when expressed, became flashpoints for conversation about culture and politics. Essays from the Sixties such as “Notes on Camp” and “Against Interpretation” and the series collected in On Photography (1977) became required reading for anyone wanting razor-sharp insights into contemporary art and culture, particularly of the relationship between “high” and “low” art. Eschewing the life of an academic in 1964, Sontag — who considered herself primarily a novelist, and whose The Volcano Lover (1992) became a best-seller — granted herself incredible freedom in what she wrote about, penning classic, and very approachable, essays on artists and writers such as Antonin Artaud, Leni Riefenstahl, Jean Luc Godard, Albert Camus, the Marquis de Sade and Walter Benjamin. “Sontag has seemingly read everything, from Sophocles to Sartre, but has the gift of explaining ideas in reader-friendly prose – a gift not shared by all the critics who followed the trail she blazed,” writes a contemporary critic. Sontag eventually became known for her political activism, not to mention for various controversial views on issues such as the origins of 9/11, cancer as a metaphor for “white” civilization (a view she retracted), communism and the contemporary Left. Books such as Illness as Metaphor (1977) and AIDS and Its Metaphors (1988) demonstrate a trajectory toward investigating “pain” in general. This course will focus largely on Sontag’s cultural essays and will include much reading and viewing of the objects of her investigations, such as early films by Godard and writing by Camus. We will also read some of her fiction and, if possible, view some of her films, such as Duet for Cannibals (1969) which was recently restored by the UCLA Library Film & Television Archive. UCLA’s Young Research Library holds the complete Sontag archives which we will utilize should circumstances permit. Final projects can include work on Sontag herself, on one of the concepts she explored, or on one or more of the writers and artists she covered.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

The “Bad” Kids: A New Generation of Asian American Writing

Capstone Seminar
English 184.4 / Prof. Wang

This seminar delineates and interrogates the idea of a homogeneous “Asian American Experience” by way of texts that challenge, subvert, or simply chuck that model minority myth out the window. Readings will highlight the recent explosion of contemporary Asian American voices, writers who are introducing new perspectives, styles and subject matters to the English language literary canon. We will analyze and discuss notions of “bad” and “bad kids” in the works of Asian American writers who portray themes that include but are not limited to: race, ethnicity, boredom, sexuality, mental health, religious marginalization, and rebellion.We will also look at issues of class, family, love, and friendship as portrayed by second-generation, first-generation, and one-point-five generation immigrant writers. How do their voices differ and what stylistic and thematic similarities are shared?  The course covers work by Cathy Park Hong, Mira Jacobs, Yanyi, Charles Yu, Jia Tolentino, Kevin Nguyen, and others.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Asian American Short Fiction

Topics in Asian American Literature
English M191C / Prof. Ling

This course examines selected Asian American short stories (including a novella) published from the pre-WWII period to the present. We will close-read these texts, considering their subject matters, writing styles, social relevance, and historical impact. The reading assignments are determined with an eye to the readability and artistic sophistication of the works chosen, as well as the range and depth of their representation of Asian American experiences. It should be noted that short fiction, by virtue of its rhetorical density and ellipsis, tends to be harder to interpret than longer works, in which plots or characterization are more fully developed. This means that the time taken to digest a 20-page short story may be similar to that spent on reading 100 pages from a novel. So, close engagement with and sustained interpretation of literary text are expected in this class throughout the Fall Quarter. Students will be updated on the requirements and grading policies for the seminar during Summer.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Queer Indigenous Literatures

Topics in Gender and Sexuality
English M191E / Prof. Mo’e’hahne

This seminar considers the intersections of queerness and Indigeneity in the Indigenous literatures and arts of North America. By reading fiction, poetry, memoir, and critical theory as well as examining cinema, performance art, and visual art, we will analyze how queer Indigenous authors/artists conceive of Indigeneity through anti-colonial conceptions of gender, sexuality, embodiment, and sociality. With an emphasis on writers/artist who are indigenous to the geographies currently occupied by the United States and Canadian North-American, settler-imperial colonies, we will read for the ways that artists/authors imagine queerness as a site of decolonial, embodied knowledge, memory, and relationality that resists anti-Indigenous gender and sexual violence. Listening to and thinking with these authors/artists, we will consider the centrality of dismantling settler-imperial heteropatriarchy to decolonization. We will also ask, what roles have queer Indigenous literatures played in histories of Indigenous art and critical thought in North America, and how do they represent crucial spaces for practicing anti-colonial politics?

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

 

Senior/Capstone Seminars for English Majors

Theory of the Novel

Topics in Genre Studies
English 181A / Prof. Dimuro

The theory of the novel falls into two categories: the development of its generic and material form over time, and its affinities with narratology. In the first case, the novel is studied in its relations with social reality, the rise of the middle class, capitalism, print reproduction, consumer markets and distribution practices, rates of literacy, and discursive origins to name a few. In the second case, scholars tend to collapse the novel’s distinctive rhetorical, narrative, and structural features into the broader technical elements it shares with other forms of narrative. These include plot, character, point of view, and other common features of prose fiction. We will study the differences between the novel as a genre and the novel as a sub-category of narrative. Most of the readings are theoretical, but we also read three novels from the nineteenth century that lend themselves to theoretical analysis: Jane Austen’s Emma, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, and Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady.

The Literature of the Law

Topics in Renaissance and Early Modern Literature
English 181B / Prof. Shuger

The seminar will read selections from the classic texts of British law, from Bracton in the thirteenth century to Blackstone in the eighteenth. We will explore a variety of topics: contract, oaths, the jury system, sexual regulation, murder, equity, suicide, censorship, and (my favorite) stellionatus. The readings tend to be long and hard—and therefore wonderful preparation for law school (especially since 90% of modern American law is rooted in the English common law)—although we will also read some utterly electrifying trial narratives. Although the course has obvious relevance for prospective law students, it should also be of great value for those intending to do graduate work in English history or literature. . . . I strongly recommend reading J.H. Baker’s Introduction to English Legal History over summer break. There will be weekly short papers on the readings, but no exams.

 

Not available for credit for students who completed English 182B with Prof. Shuger in 14F.

The Passions and the Novel

Topics in 18th-Century Literature
English 182C / Prof. Kareem

Eighteenth-century moral philosophy held that human nature is governed by the passions; in this course we’ll read novels that dramatize this belief by representing what happens to novelistic characters when passion overtakes them. Readings will include novels by authors including Madame de Lafayette, Eliza Haywood, Choderlos de Laclos, and Jane Austen.

Immigrant Stories: Literary and Cinematic

Topics in 20th and 21st Century American Literature
English 183C / Prof. Decker

This course examines literary and cinematic representations of the American immigrant experience over the last century. To live between cultures, to experience the confounding processes of racialization and assimilation, to labor to translate one’s deepest interiority into a foreign language––all these aspects of migration make a new imaginative relationship with the world a necessity for the migrant and, as such, are fertile ground for literary exploration and cinematic expression. In this class, we study novels and movies as distinct mediums even as we attend to their affinities, such as an impulse toward narrative storytelling. Among our films, one is from the silent era (Chaplin’s The Immigrant); among our novels, one is a wordless story of sequenced, illustrated panels (Tan’s The Arrival). Other novels include Eugenides’ Middlesex, Ozeki’s A Tale for a Time Being, Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World. Other movies: Coppola’s The Godfather, Nair’s The Namesake, Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Xiaolong Qiu’s Inspector Chen Detective Fiction Series

Capstone Seminar
English 184.1 / Prof. Cheung

This course explores how world-renowned immigrant writer Xiaolong Qiu uses the popular detective genre as political fiction. Set mostly in Shanghai but often with national and international repercussions, the detective fiction series explores contemporary issues hushed in the mainstream media, circumvents censorship via Anglophone and Francophone mediums, elevates the popular genre to the position of world literature by casting the private eye as a poet manqué and translator of The Wasteland, a bilingual literati who alludes constantly to Chinese and Western poetry. It is available as a BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Crime Series:

https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Inspector-Chen-Mysteries-Audiobook/B07DV4PW7Q?source_code=GPAGBSH0508140001&ipRedirectOverride=true&ds_rl=1257028&ds_rl=1260658&ds_rl=1262685&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu6jdvPSa6QIVidlkCh1CmgLnEAYYASABEgKsxvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Narrating the 1960s: Creative Nonfiction in an Age of Electronic Media

Capstone Seminar
English 184.2 / Prof. Decker

This course examines the 1960’s literary movement called New Journalism and the culture that gave rise to it. We read the most celebrated New Journalists––Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter Thompson––to consider how they use their talents as non-fiction novelists to respond to upheavals in mass media and society at large. We address the following kinds of questions. How can an older (print) form like the novel compete for the attention of consumers within a new mediascape brought about by the proliferation of film and TV? Is the New Journalist’s non-fiction narrative mode up to the task of representing a reality––political assassinations, urban riots, black and Chicano protests, sexual revolution, psychedelic drugs, moon walks, Vietnam War, Watergate––that threatens to outstrip the writer’s imagination? Readings include: In Cold BloodElectric Kool-Aid Acid TestWhite AlbumDispatchesStrange Rumblings in Aztlan. Feature-length documentary films: Rush to JudgmentMedium CoolHearts and Minds. Plus TV news coverage from the era.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

The World Through Susan Sontag

Capstone Seminar
English 184.3 / Prof. Stefans

Susan Sontag (1933 – 2004) could be described as the first “celebrity” intellectual in the United States — not of the type that appeared on TV regularly, but whose opinions, when expressed, became flashpoints for conversation about culture and politics. Essays from the Sixties such as “Notes on Camp” and “Against Interpretation” and the series collected in On Photography (1977) became required reading for anyone wanting razor-sharp insights into contemporary art and culture, particularly of the relationship between “high” and “low” art. Eschewing the life of an academic in 1964, Sontag — who considered herself primarily a novelist, and whose The Volcano Lover (1992) became a best-seller — granted herself incredible freedom in what she wrote about, penning classic, and very approachable, essays on artists and writers such as Antonin Artaud, Leni Riefenstahl, Jean Luc Godard, Albert Camus, the Marquis de Sade and Walter Benjamin. “Sontag has seemingly read everything, from Sophocles to Sartre, but has the gift of explaining ideas in reader-friendly prose – a gift not shared by all the critics who followed the trail she blazed,” writes a contemporary critic. Sontag eventually became known for her political activism, not to mention for various controversial views on issues such as the origins of 9/11, cancer as a metaphor for “white” civilization (a view she retracted), communism and the contemporary Left. Books such as Illness as Metaphor (1977) and AIDS and Its Metaphors (1988) demonstrate a trajectory toward investigating “pain” in general. This course will focus largely on Sontag’s cultural essays and will include much reading and viewing of the objects of her investigations, such as early films by Godard and writing by Camus. We will also read some of her fiction and, if possible, view some of her films, such as Duet for Cannibals (1969) which was recently restored by the UCLA Library Film & Television Archive. UCLA’s Young Research Library holds the complete Sontag archives which we will utilize should circumstances permit. Final projects can include work on Sontag herself, on one of the concepts she explored, or on one or more of the writers and artists she covered.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

The “Bad” Kids: A New Generation of Asian American Writing

Capstone Seminar
English 184.4 / Prof. Wang

This seminar delineates and interrogates the idea of a homogeneous “Asian American Experience” by way of texts that challenge, subvert, or simply chuck that model minority myth out the window. Readings will highlight the recent explosion of contemporary Asian American voices, writers who are introducing new perspectives, styles and subject matters to the English language literary canon. We will analyze and discuss notions of “bad” and “bad kids” in the works of Asian American writers who portray themes that include but are not limited to: race, ethnicity, boredom, sexuality, mental health, religious marginalization, and rebellion.We will also look at issues of class, family, love, and friendship as portrayed by second-generation, first-generation, and one-point-five generation immigrant writers. How do their voices differ and what stylistic and thematic similarities are shared?  The course covers work by Cathy Park Hong, Mira Jacobs, Yanyi, Charles Yu, Jia Tolentino, Kevin Nguyen, and others.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Asian American Short Fiction

Topics in Asian American Literature
English M191C / Prof. Ling

This course examines selected Asian American short stories (including a novella) published from the pre-WWII period to the present. We will close-read these texts, considering their subject matters, writing styles, social relevance, and historical impact. The reading assignments are determined with an eye to the readability and artistic sophistication of the works chosen, as well as the range and depth of their representation of Asian American experiences. It should be noted that short fiction, by virtue of its rhetorical density and ellipsis, tends to be harder to interpret than longer works, in which plots or characterization are more fully developed. This means that the time taken to digest a 20-page short story may be similar to that spent on reading 100 pages from a novel. So, close engagement with and sustained interpretation of literary text are expected in this class throughout the Fall Quarter. Students will be updated on the requirements and grading policies for the seminar during Summer.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Queer Indigenous Literatures

Topics in Gender and Sexuality
English M191E / Prof. Mo’e’hahne

This seminar considers the intersections of queerness and Indigeneity in the Indigenous literatures and arts of North America. By reading fiction, poetry, memoir, and critical theory as well as examining cinema, performance art, and visual art, we will analyze how queer Indigenous authors/artists conceive of Indigeneity through anti-colonial conceptions of gender, sexuality, embodiment, and sociality. With an emphasis on writers/artist who are indigenous to the geographies currently occupied by the United States and Canadian North-American, settler-imperial colonies, we will read for the ways that artists/authors imagine queerness as a site of decolonial, embodied knowledge, memory, and relationality that resists anti-Indigenous gender and sexual violence. Listening to and thinking with these authors/artists, we will consider the centrality of dismantling settler-imperial heteropatriarchy to decolonization. We will also ask, what roles have queer Indigenous literatures played in histories of Indigenous art and critical thought in North America, and how do they represent crucial spaces for practicing anti-colonial politics?

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Graduate Seminars Open to Advanced Undergraduate: Please Read Information Below

Narrative Across Media

Graduate Seminar in Literary Theory
English M270 / Prof. Heise

This combined lecture/workshop aims to introduce graduate and advanced undergraduate students to to basic concepts, methods, and practices  in narrative. We will cover a range of theories from sociological, anthropological, and linguistic approaches to recent cognitive-science and digital perspectives in order to explore storytelling situations, narrators, voices, plot structure, character construction, setting, fictionality vs. nonfictionality, modes of reading/hearing narrative, image-text relations, and cross-media translation. Fictional and nonfictional narratives across the media of print, film/video, online narrative, and video games will provide us with practical examples on which to try out different analytical approaches, as well as with models for our own storytelling experiments. We’ll put particular emphasis on environmental, medical, and urban stories, but the assignments will encourage students to apply the theories we discuss to their own areas of interest and creativity, individually and in teams. Graduate students from across different departments are welcome, as well as advanced undergraduates (undergraduates, please contact the instructor at uheise@outlook.com before enrolling).

 

This course is eligible to fulfill the capstone requirement for the Literature & the Environment minor.

This course is eligible to fulfill the senior seminar requirement for the English major.

Global Chaucer: From Canterbury to the World

Graduate Seminar in Old and Medieval English Literatures
English 244 / Prof. Chism

This class will focus on tales from Chaucer’s last great work, The Canterbury Tales, exploring the ways it thinks both through and beyond “every shires end/ of Engelond” and reimagines the premodern world.   Situating Chaucer among premodern networks of cultural production and circulation speaks urgently to our own global milieu, inviting methodological self-reflection about theories of race, postcoloniality, gender and sexuality, migration and diaspora, and world literature from a time before European hegemony. We will explore the CT in the light of other frame tale collections from the Mediterranean and Western Asia, such as Boccaccio’s Decameron and the Arabic Alf Layla wa Layla (1001 Nights).  We will also explore the recent transdisciplinary scholarship of Karla Mallette, Alexander Beecroft, Geraldine Heng, Barbara Rosenwein, and others.  We will also look at recent and contemporary global Chaucers, including the Refugee Tales project, the poetic adaptations of Patience Agbabi, the plays of Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo, and other texts drawn from the Global Chaucer project:https://globalchaucers.wordpress.com/

 

Limited spaces are available to advanced undergraduate students who need to fulfill the Historical: Pre-1500 or Senior Seminar requirement. Interested students should email Professor Chism at chism@english.ucla.edu.