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During my first semester as chair of English at GW, I attempted something foolish: running a rather large department and teaching an ambitious graduate seminar on medieval race (you may access the syllabus here). A good seminar takes me two solid days of prep work, and I didn't possess that much time any more. I ended up losing a major portion of each weekend, and was also a bit more on edge for this class than I should have been. So I've taken three years off from teaching graduate seminars as a result. This spring I return, and I am looking forward to it: there is an intensity to graduate-level teaching that I love.
Below is my description for the course I'll teach this coming spring. The primary texts have been more or less chosen: crazy narratives like Sir Orfeo, Gowther, Cleges, Launfal, Emare, Octavian, the Franklin's Tale, Guigemar, Bisclavret, Milun. And Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. I'm still working on the theory list, but will append the draft below the course description. Any and all suggestions for primary and secondary texts will be welcomed.
Seminar in Medieval and Early Modern Studies:Agency, Objects, and the Constitution of Life
This seminar explores the topics foregrounded by the March GW MEMSI conference "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects." We will survey contemporary ways of rethinking materiality and causality such as actor network theory (Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour, Manuel de Landa), object-oriented ontology (Graham Harman), psychoanalysis (Slavoj Zizek), vibrant materialisms (Jane Bennett), and queer ecocritical approaches (Timothy Morton), among others. We will in tandem investigate a body of work that constitutes a kind of minor literature for early Britain, wonder-filled "Breton lais" (short romances) that unfold -- or, better, explode -- in oceanic, geographic, cultural and temporal interspaces. Middle English works will be read in their original; French in translation. Time permitting, we will trace these durable narratives of possibility to their early modern forms.
Guiding aphorism: "Herein, perhaps, lies the secret: to bring into existence and not to judge."
(Gilles Deleuze, "To Have Done with Judgment")
List of possible secondary texts:
- Graham Harman, Prince of Networks
- Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (maybe "One or Several Wolves?" or "How Do You make Yourself a Body without Organs?")
- Bruno Latour (Aramis, or The Love of Technology; The Pasteurization of France; Conversations on Science, Culture and Time; Pandora's Hope; OR Reassembling the Social. I am having a very hard time choosing because what I'd really like to do is teach a seminar on Latour!)
- Manuel de Landa, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History
- Elizabeth Grosz, Chaos, Territory, Art
- Gil Harris, Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare
- Ian Hacking, The Social Construction of What?
- Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology
- Steve Mentz, At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean
- Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology
- Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature; "Queer Ecology"
- Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter
- postmedieval 1.1 "when did we become post/human?"
- Queering the Non/Human, ed. Noreen Giffney and Myra J. Hird