CoursesSenior Seminars

Winter 2021

Senior/Capstone Seminars for American Literature and Culture Majors

Experiments with Nonfiction

Topics in 20th and 21st-Century Literature
English 182F.4 / Prof. Schmidt

The central goal of this seminar will be to explore the distinction between literature and nonfiction in post-1945 writing from both directions. To do so, we will read texts categorized as poetry and fiction that expressly incorporate documents and other signifiers of journalism, history, or research as well as a handful of essays that incorporate materials and approaches frequently associated with the literary as such. The backbone of the course will be a collective project: an attempt to isolate, name, and analyze specific techniques writers use to blur the literature/journalism or fiction/nonfiction distinction. Students will complete regular short writing assignments as well as a longer final project, which may be either an academic essay examining one of the authors we have read or an experimental essay using techniques we have described.

Over the quarter, we will read a few examples of literary criticism to situate our central questions, but our focus will be “primary” texts by at least a handful the following authors: Joe Brainard, Gwendolyn Brooks, Teju Cole, John D’Agata, Joan Didion, Eve Ewing, Otto Friedrich, Diana Hamilton, Kiese Laymon, Tao Lin, Valeria Luiselli, Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Srikanth Reddy, Muriel Rukeyser, Elaine Scarry, Elizabeth Schambelan, Ali Smith, Juliana Spahr, William Carlos Williams.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Knowing New World Rebellion

Topics in Colonial American Literature
English 183A.2 / Prof. Mazzaferro

This seminar explores the competing forms of political knowledge that emerged during the colonization of North America and the Caribbean. We’ll track the era’s major transformations—namely, the process of settlement and the rise of slavery—and the violent rebellions and revolutions that followed. Focusing on three key modes of knowing (reasoning, observing, and imagining), we’ll consider how European ideas were adapted to New World circumstances. What literary strategies did elite writers use to represent the outbreaks of mutiny, heresy, native warfare, and slave revolt they faced? And how did these depictions relate to enduring assumptions about politics and later accounts of the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions? We’ll read texts by John Smith, John Winthrop, Aphra Behn, J. Crèvecoeur, Tom Paine, and Leonora Sansay alongside works by Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Edmund Burke. And we’ll conclude with two retrospective attempts to understand New World rebellion: Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno (1855) and a graphic novel about Nat Turner.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Philip K. Dick

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

A study of the fiction of Philip K. Dick and a few of the films derived from it. We will try to determine why a writer who was only a middling success in his lifetime became a major cultural force toward the end of the 20th century. Works considered will include The Man in the High Castle, Ubik, VALIS, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” Minority Report, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Pornography and the Politics of Sexual Representation

Capstone Seminar
English 184.4 / Prof. Mott

As a capstone seminar, the course proceeds from the assumption that students will pursue an independent research project representing a culmination of their learning at UCLA. We begin with a study of Linda Williams’s Hard Core from the perspective of researchers, reading to discover her process and methods as much as her argument. In the third week, students meet individually with the instructor to plot their research project. For the following five weeks, students post the results of their research to the course website, creating an archive for themselves and their peers. The postings scaffold the final project into “What’s at Stake,” “Critical Approach,” and “Close Reading” entries. At the same time, class functions as a workshop in which students receive suggestions on their works-in-progress. During ninth week, we will conduct a round-robin editing workshop during which students will receive more pointed suggestions on a substantial piece of their project. In the final week, students present their nearly-complete project in a “mini-conference.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Narratives of Contagion

Capstone Seminar
English 184.5 / Prof. Silva

The aim of this seminar is to think deeply about the ways that illness and community have shaped the histories and literatures of the United States. Beginning with the early colonial violence that defined European? Indigenous relations for generations to come, we will ask ourselves two sets of questions: first, how have historical epidemics and pandemics set the terms through which writers imagine their communal ideal? Second, what are the strategies of inclusion and exclusion that continue to determine the boundaries of our public health debates? In all cases, we will consider the limits of our knowledge and vocabulary as we inquire into the meaning of health, disease, immunity, susceptibility, and medicine.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Senior/Capstone Seminars for English Majors

The Idea of Sacrifice

Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies
English 181B / Prof. Maniquis

Sacrifice has been a founding concept of civilization, used for many different purposes; this seminar is devoted to understanding some of them. Students interested in literature, political and social history, philosophy, anthropology, and religion are welcome in this seminar. We shall consider such questions as: how are Greek, Roman, and Egyptian sacrificial concepts related to the long-dominant Christian idea of sacrifice? What actually is Christian sacrifice and was it meant to cultivate or end eternal sacrifice? What have been the major instrumental uses of sacrifice by states and ideologies? Why have many attempted to eliminate the idea of sacrifice from progressive culture? How is sacrifice related to general theories of violence?

Readings will include classical and modern literature as well as theoretical essays by critics and scholars. Students will do oral presentations and write a seminar paper.

Psychoanalysis and Literature: The Case History

Topics in Critical Theory
English 181C / Prof. Kaufman

This class will investigate the genre of the psychoanalytic case history, considering it from a literary angle as well as a psychoanalytic one.  In addition to providing an overview of major psychoanalytic concepts, the class discussions will attend to questions of narrative perspective and reliability, to modes of characterization, including the role of major and minor characters, and to the role of the analyst.  We will read a substantial selection of Sigmund Freud’s case histories, as well as case histories and commentaries by Ella Sharpe, Melanie Klein, D.W. Winnicott, Jacques Lacan, and Frantz Fanon.  We will discuss the ways in which gender, age, sexual orientation, war trauma, and a colonial setting impact the telling and rendering of the case history.

Romantic Institutions: Urban Romanticism and its Intellectual Center

Topics in Romantic Literature
English 182D / Prof. Shaub

While we often remember the Romantic period in literature for its exaltation of nature and rural life, you may be surprised to learn that many of the most iconic Romantic-era writers actually spent their careers in London, the rapidly industrializing capital of the British Empire. And just as the idyllic Lake District in the English countryside became associated with Romantic inspiration, this course will focus on what I will be encouraging you to think of as similarly generative metropolitan center of intellectual and poetic productivity, London’s newly established “arts-and-sciences” educational institutions. Forming as a response to the decades of political and cultural change that followed the French Revolution, Britain’s proto-technological arts-and-sciences institutions aimed to unite the disparate audiences and disciplinary perspectives affiliated with earlier associations of either art or science, such as the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and the Royal Society of London. At such fashionable arts-and-sciences venues as the Royal Institution of Great Britain (est. 1799), or the more radically inclined Surrey Institution (est. 1807) in Southwark, figures like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Hazlitt, Thomas Campbell, Humphry Davy, and Charles Babbage delivered lectures on poetry, chemistry, and early engineering to diverse audiences that included William Godwin, Anna Barbauld, the Darwin-Wedgewood family, the Duchess of Devonshire, Thomas Malthus, Jeremy Bentham, Hannah More, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, Lord Byron, Thomas Moore, Mary Shelley, John Keats, and Michael Faraday, among many others, making these spaces key sites of post-revolutionary sociability, Romantic self-construction, and English cultural transmission. Yet, unlike the Lake District, the intellectual productivity associated with these locations is not well understood, which means that our fortunate task in this class will be to develop a more coherent account of why these spaces were so important to the intellectual life of the Romantic period. Particularly obscure is the question of how these arts-and-sciences institutions shaped the discourse of what we now call Romantic poetry and criticism, and as this is a course on British Romanticism, after all, this question will be our guiding theme. Though we will be reading texts from many different disciplines, in many different genres (and I encourage you to write on these texts according to your interest), all of the readings I have selected bear some significant relation to this primary theme of poetry. During the course of our reading, I will ask you to be attentive to ways in which these urban institutional spaces form a dialogue with the more conventional themes and locations of British Romanticism, and whether that dialogue augments or alters our view of what it means to be “Romantic.”

David Copperfield for Fiction Writers

Topics in 20th and 21st-Century Literature
English 182E / Prof. Huneven

In this seminar, we will do a slow, close, writer’s reading of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens to focus on character construction and the use of autobiographical detail in fiction. We will also pay close attention to structure and how serialization determined the novel’s plot and shape; also, how the narrative has been adapted in various film versions. Students will do presentations on different literary techniques, biographical material, and historical context. Midterm exam and final project, which can be creative with instructor consent.

James Joyce Seminar

Topics in 20th and 21st-Century Literature
English 182F.2 / Prof. Jaurretche

In this seminar we will read DublinersA Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManUlysses, and representative sections of Finnnegans Wake. As Ulysses is the pivotal novel of the twentieth-century, the greater portion of the class will be given over to its discussion.   Our conversations will range from Joyce’s vision of the role of the artist in society, to considerations of the ways in which his work advances textual, gender, postcolonial, ecological, historical, and philosophical scholarship.  Discussion will be based upon close reading of the works, as well as materials generated by members of the class. At the end of the quarter we will begin to read Finnegans Wake, with an eye to introducing strategies for interpretation of Joyce’s most obscure text.

Experiments with Nonfiction

Topics in 20th and 21st-Century Literature
English 182F.4 / Prof. Schmidt

The central goal of this seminar will be to explore the distinction between literature and nonfiction in post-1945 writing from both directions. To do so, we will read texts categorized as poetry and fiction that expressly incorporate documents and other signifiers of journalism, history, or research as well as a handful of essays that incorporate materials and approaches frequently associated with the literary as such. The backbone of the course will be a collective project: an attempt to isolate, name, and analyze specific techniques writers use to blur the literature/journalism or fiction/nonfiction distinction. Students will complete regular short writing assignments as well as a longer final project, which may be either an academic essay examining one of the authors we have read or an experimental essay using techniques we have described.

Over the quarter, we will read a few examples of literary criticism to situate our central questions, but our focus will be “primary” texts by at least a handful the following authors: Joe Brainard, Gwendolyn Brooks, Teju Cole, John D’Agata, Joan Didion, Eve Ewing, Otto Friedrich, Diana Hamilton, Kiese Laymon, Tao Lin, Valeria Luiselli, Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Srikanth Reddy, Muriel Rukeyser, Elaine Scarry, Elizabeth Schambelan, Ali Smith, Juliana Spahr, William Carlos Williams.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Knowing New World Rebellion

Topics in Colonial American Literature
English 183A.2 / Prof. Mazzaferro

This seminar explores the competing forms of political knowledge that emerged during the colonization of North America and the Caribbean. We’ll track the era’s major transformations—namely, the process of settlement and the rise of slavery—and the violent rebellions and revolutions that followed. Focusing on three key modes of knowing (reasoning, observing, and imagining), we’ll consider how European ideas were adapted to New World circumstances. What literary strategies did elite writers use to represent the outbreaks of mutiny, heresy, native warfare, and slave revolt they faced? And how did these depictions relate to enduring assumptions about politics and later accounts of the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions? We’ll read texts by John Smith, John Winthrop, Aphra Behn, J. Crèvecoeur, Tom Paine, and Leonora Sansay alongside works by Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Edmund Burke. And we’ll conclude with two retrospective attempts to understand New World rebellion: Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno (1855) and a graphic novel about Nat Turner.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Philip K. Dick

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

A study of the fiction of Philip K. Dick and a few of the films derived from it. We will try to determine why a writer who was only a middling success in his lifetime became a major cultural force toward the end of the 20th century. Works considered will include The Man in the High Castle, Ubik, VALIS, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” Minority Report, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Writing the Digital Archive: Old Books in New Worlds

Capstone Seminar
English 184.1 / Prof. Fisher

What do old books look like now? Originally, this class was designed to work hands-on with manuscripts, printed books, and archived primary materials held in UCLA’s Special Collections. COVID, of course, has changed that. We will focus on the processes of discovery and encounter with items in the archive. We will be working with digital surrogates as we explore the implications of old, rare, unusual, or just weird books in the digital age. We will study how special collections are assembled (and what’s excluded), how digital archives are curated and presented (and what voices are silenced), and how books are bought and sold. We will also do all of these things as a class. There will be an emphasis on a variety of writing practices, from writing tombstones and introductions to curate digital galleries, to critical and bibliographical essays, to grant proposals. The final project will involve writing a grant proposal and pitch to acquire a rare book or archive actually for sale. YRL has provided funding, so the item(s) identified and proposed by the winning grant-writer/team will be acquired for the UCLA library. Class requirements include large amounts of reading, larger amounts of “flipping” through digitized books and archives, a digital gallery assignment, a 7-8 pp critical essay, and a final grant proposal portfolio.

 

Limited spaces in this course may be available to students pursuing the Professional Writing Minor or the Digital Humanities minor.

Complex Genres and Neurodiversity

Capstone Seminar
English 184.2 / Prof. McHugh

This seminar examines various approaches to TV genres.  Beginning with an overview of analytical approaches to media genres and specific approaches to television genres, we will then turn to a number of current T.V. shows that incorporate and exceed the “operational aesthetics” identified as a key component of contemporary television. Operational aesthetics, as defined by Jason Mittell, refer to virtuosic narrative complexity that draws spectators’ attention not so much to “what will happen next?” than to “how did they do that?” An example would be Seinfeld’s deft half-hour manipulation of four distinct storylines. The works we will ultimately focus on, by contrast, solicit spectators’ engagement in extremes – of emotional expression and social behavior – caused by trauma and/or indicative of addiction and other neurodiverse states. Along with the “how” question of operational aesthetics, these shows also provoke exclamatory incredulity for their canny and unexpected alignments of affect, genre, and political/ethical stance — “I can’t believe they just did that!” We will explore how shows like The BridgeOrange is the New BlackNurse JackieHomeland, Crazy Ex-GirlfriendI May Destroy YouFleabagGentleman Jack, and Jessica Jones use conventions of the thriller, detective, musical, melodrama, costume, horror or comedy/drama to explore stigmatized affects (shame, abjection, depression, rage), “bad” behaviors (stalking, bullying, lying and deception, vengeance, violence), and diagnoses (autism, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, depression).  How do they mobilize distinct generic logics, serial textuality, and character complexity to “make sense” of these affects, behaviors, and neurodiverse states and to what purpose? Students should expect to watch 1-3 hours of media weekly in addition to regular reading assignments. Structured assignments, short writing exercises, and regular consultation with instructor will prepare students for their capstone project. Students will give a course presentation and complete a capstone project.  The capstone projects will entail students engaging with a show or shows of their choice on a relevant topic, making use of methods or critical approaches we have covered.

Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge

Capstone Seminar
English 184.3 / Prof. Grossman

Charles Dickens wrote two historical novels. One is very famous, and you may have heard of it: A Tale of Two Cities. That novel also depicts a very famous event: the French Revolution. The other historical novel that Charles Dickens wrote is called Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ’Eighty. In this seminar, we are going to immerse ourselves in this other novel, in Barnaby Rudge—Dickens’s powerful and brilliant forgotten historical novel. Barnaby Rudge contains breakthrough ways of writing about crowds, about urban unrest, and about historical prejudice. It seems concerned with an historical event long forgotten, an explosive week in London in 1780. In fact, it slyly looks back, as we will explore, to another very famous revolution: the industrial revolution. Students will create and follow their own interests through this capacious novel, and they will author an original research essay about it. Lively class participation is expected.

Pornography and the Politics of Sexual Representation

Capstone Seminar
English 184.4 / Prof. Mott

As a capstone seminar, the course proceeds from the assumption that students will pursue an independent research project representing a culmination of their learning at UCLA. We begin with a study of Linda Williams’s Hard Core from the perspective of researchers, reading to discover her process and methods as much as her argument. In the third week, students meet individually with the instructor to plot their research project. For the following five weeks, students post the results of their research to the course website, creating an archive for themselves and their peers. The postings scaffold the final project into “What’s at Stake,” “Critical Approach,” and “Close Reading” entries. At the same time, class functions as a workshop in which students receive suggestions on their works-in-progress. During ninth week, we will conduct a round-robin editing workshop during which students will receive more pointed suggestions on a substantial piece of their project. In the final week, students present their nearly-complete project in a “mini-conference.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Narratives of Contagion

Capstone Seminar
English 184.5 / Prof. Silva

The aim of this seminar is to think deeply about the ways that illness and community have shaped the histories and literatures of the United States. Beginning with the early colonial violence that defined European-Indigenous relations for generations to come, we will ask ourselves two sets of questions: first, how have historical epidemics and pandemics set the terms through which writers imagine their communal ideal? Second, what are the strategies of inclusion and exclusion that continue to determine the boundaries of our public health debates? In all cases, we will consider the limits of our knowledge and vocabulary as we inquire into the meaning of health, disease, immunity, susceptibility, and medicine.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Graduate Courses Open to Advanced Undergraduates for Seminar Credit

 

Medieval Care of the Mind

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

This course examines writing about cognitive impairment from Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, while offering a broader introduction to research in literature and cognition, disability studies, and the medical humanities, on the one hand, and to some key scholarly genres on the other: the book review, the abstract, the conference paper, and the syllabus. Our primary focus will be on how mental illness was understood and treated hundreds of years before the advent of the asylum and the development of psychoanalysis. As we will see, medieval thinking about eccentric minds often reflects a tension between theories about individual cognition and beliefs in divine or diabolical influences from angels, demons, fairies, and ghosts. At the same time, visions, voices, and other devotional experiences trouble the distinction between reason and insanity. Readings will include medieval medical treatises, chronicles, and restorative charms as well as saints’ lives, first-hand accounts, and poems, supplemented by selections from contemporary theorists.

 

Limited spaces are available to advanced undergraduates who need to fulfill the Historical: Pre-1500 or Senior Seminar requirement. Interested students should email Professor Weaver at ericaweaver@humnet.ucla.edu.