Fall Courses

I'm teaching two courses this fall, a graduate seminar called "Literary Theory and Anti-Theory," and an advanced undergraduate class on James Joyce.

Here are the descriptions for the courses; I may post excerpts from lectures from time to time (if I have my act together).

Literary Theory and Anti-Theory

This course introduces students to several important paradigms in literary theory, including Jacques Derrida's deconstruction, Lacanian psychoanalysis, contemporary feminist theory, Edward Said’s postcolonial theory, and the emerging field of “science studies.” However, alongside some of the most influential theoretical arguments of the latter part of the 20th century, we will also engage with critics and skeptics of these theoretical approaches, who wonder if there is any "there" there. So alongside Derrida, Barthes, Foucault, and so on, we will read essay-length critiques by J.R. Searle, M.H. Abrams, Martha Nussbaum, Noam Chomsky, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Stephen Adam Schwartz, Valentine Cunningham, Denis Donoghue, and others. Some of these theory skeptics would prefer a return to an earlier era and traditional methodologies, but others disagree with the premises of certain recent theories for reasons that might be seen as non-ideological. The larger goals of the course are 1) to help students decide for themselves whether given theoretical approaches are valuable, and 2) to enable students to use literary theory as a tool in shaping their research. A vigorous climate of debate will be encouraged; no previous experience with literary theory is required.

And here is the course on "James Joyce and Modern Ireland":

James Joyce and Modern Ireland

This course will survey the major works of James Joyce, one of the 20th century's greatest writers. The course begins with Joyce's earlier works, including Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, where he developed the seeds of an experimental prose style. We will also discuss the historical and cultural background out of which Joyce emerged, and consider the influence of the Irish relationship with England, the status of the English language in Ireland, and Joyce's struggle with the Catholic Church. Much of the semester will be spent with Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, the two longer works through which Joyce effectively reinvented the modern novel. The range of topics raised by Ulysses alone is quite vast, and includes the changing relations between men and women in the early part of the 20th century, the representation of sexuality and the body, the advent of advertising and mass culture, the status of Jews in Ireland and Europe, and the changing philosophical understanding of the "self" in modern society. This course will give students the tools to decode Joyce's obscure referents and find threads of meaning in Joyce's work. We will also work closely with reference texts so that reading this so-called difficult author becomes an enjoyable and stimulating experience.