Fall 2022 

Chaucer, Fortune, and Questions of Tragic Free Will

Seminar Instructor: Kevin Whetter

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde is a complex hybrid of stories, genres, and themes. The story is set during the Trojan War and involves Troilus fighting against the Greeks, but generically the tale is partly a mediaeval romance, partly a reflection upon heterosexual love and masculinity, and partly a mediaeval tragedy that balances Classical Fate with Christian Providence and Heaven. The Classical-Christian duality is partly inherited from the influential De Consolatio Philosophiae by Boethius, a work that Chaucer translated. In this seminar we will spend five weeks studying the Consolatio and five weeks studying Troilus and Crisedye; the remaining weeks shall introduce or conclude the term, and allow for tracing connections between each work to answer the question – which several senior scholars have answered negatively – of whether or not the Middle Ages could have a secular literary tragedy. The questions of tragedy and free will, particularly with regard to Troilus and Criseyde themselves, will be connected to a variety of other issues, including those of poetic inheritance and genre, as well as love and gender.

The Imposter Phenomenon: Women, Work, and Alienation in Contemporary Culture

Seminar Instructor: Kait Pinder

This seminar in cultural theory examines what psychologists call the “imposter phenomenon” (colloquially, imposter syndrome)––the feeling among some professionals that they have not earned their success and the accompanying fear that they are about to be revealed as frauds. First identified by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Ament Imes in 1978, the imposter phenomenon was originally only associated with women. Although recent studies have found that all genders experience imposter syndrome, Clance and Imes’s early feminized understanding of the phenomenon continues to characterize its appearances in contemporary culture: new genres of self-help books offer cures to feeling like a fraud while promising to help women activate their inner “boss bitch,” and popular fiction marketed to women has begun to imagine the psychological fears associated with the imposter phenomenon as plot events in stories about women with corporate or public-facing careers. We will approach the imposter phenomenon not as a psychological pathology but as a cultural phenomenon. This course wonders: what cultural histories and ideologies inform the way we think about the imposter phenomenon? What does this phenomenon tell us about work and gender today?


Haunting the Symbolic: the Role of ‘Nature’ in Undoing and Reimagining Social Formations

Seminar Instructor: Lance La Rocque

In this course we will focus on theorists and poets who challenge the limits/authority of the given. The poets on the course were chosen for their use of nature in challenging the authority of western rationalization. The strategies studied will include Emily Dickinson’s quirky transcendentalism, Georg Trakl’s otherworldly expressionist landscape poems, Elena Johnson’s imploding science poetry, Tomas Transtromer’s surrealist landscape poetry, and Shalan Joudry’s resistances to colonization. To speak broadly, the theorists on the course all focus on the problems of reification and possibilities for exceeding rigid symbolic systems. The course itself will look at the specific language such theorists use (reification, the real, being, etc.)

Radical Unreadings: Exploding and Reprogramming William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Seminar Instructor: Jon Saklofske

This course will reconsider William Blake’s collection Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) as more than a literary text or collection of illuminated poetry. We will approach Blake’s work as a 200-year-old creative provocation that inherently exceeds and necessarily interrogates traditional forms and functions of linguistic and artistic representation, communication, and reception. After engaging with an editorial history of the work within its historical context, we will interpret and critique a sampling of individual poems within the collection to reveal their uniquely networked complexities and their connective and interactive implications. Finally, we will engage with the Songs as a “platform” by variously inhabiting, exploring, and reconfiguring Blake’s work as a site of critical potential and meaningful plenitude that supports and encourages a number of critical making and research creation interventions. The purpose of this kind of engagement is to become more aware of the structural and signifying expectations we bring to our reading methods and to imagine such encounters otherwise, extending Blake’s work in directions unanticipated by him but still motivated by his aesthetic perspectives.  This course will draw from textual studies, media studies, digital humanities, and game studies perspectives to encourage multiple, co-existing intersections with Blake’s experimental and undertheorized creations.


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