How are environmental problems linked to social justice? What roles does literature play in these cultural, political, and ethical debates? This course looks at how social categories such as race, class, nationality, and gender shape diverse encounters with the environment. Reading American literature from industrialism to the present (including works by Rebecca Harding Davis, Muriel Rukeyser, John Muir, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, June Jordan, Helena María Viramontes, and Simon Ortiz), we’ll discover the unique ways that poets and fiction writers protest urban and workplace pollution or express feelings of vulnerability in nature while they examine what it means to be an American. We’ll also consider what literature can teach us about the world we inhabit, researching current events and taking a Roxbury “Toxic Tour” field trip with a local environmental justice organization. As we tackle difficult problems of injustice, we will look at writing as a powerful tool of protest, hope, and resistance.
taught by Jill Gatlin
This course examines the writing of British, American, and Indian women writers within specific social, cultural, and historical contexts. We’ll explore surprising historical changes and continuities in women’s societal roles and literary works from the Middle Ages to the present. Many of our discussions will consider how these writers circulate, appropriate, and challenge stereotypes as they portray women in roles of political subject, ruler, slave, mistress, captive, religious subject, wife, lover, sister, mother, daughter, helpmeet, medical subject, activist, social critic, sexual object, liberated sexual being, worker, professional, consumer, artist, writer, and more. Students will choose some of the readings for the class from the course anthology, Women’s Worlds: Women's Writing in English across the Globe.
taught by Jill Gatlin
Many of the artistic and literary trends of our own time, as well as our moral and political dilemmas, are exemplified in the life and work of 20th century playwright Bertolt Brecht. This course will examine Brecht’s remarkable dramatic contributions, such as his experiments in Expressionist drama, his concept of Epic Theatre and the ‘alienation’ effect, his innovative incorporation of multimedia effects, and his musical collaborations with Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, and Paul Dessau. We will also place Brecht’s artistry in his ever-changing socio-historical contexts: the post-WWI generation in Europe, the influence of Marxist ideology, the rise of European Fascism, his American exile and confrontation with McCarthyism, and his ambiguous relationship with Cold War Europe. Students will also have the opportunity to set Brecht’s lyrics to music, including those for the Drama Workshop production of The Good Person of Szechwan.
taught by Patrick Keppel
This course will examine various styles, methods of writing, and groups of poets that have made contemporary poetry ‘contemporary,’ including the ways in which contemporary poetry records the workings of the mind and the ways it breaks down the hierarchies of language. As poet Robert Duncan says, “A poem is an event; it is not a record of the event.” Reading and listening to the work of some of the most innovative poets of our time, we will think about their choices in syntax, placement of words, speaker, imagery and figurative language, levels of diction, point of view, and word choice, and listen for tone, sounds, line breaks, and rhythmic effects. We will consider ecopoetry, queer theory poetry, innovative women’s poetry, conceptual poetry, and other poetries.
taught by Ruth Lepson