Spring 2016 Courses

Excited to find out that I’ll be teaching two classes in Spring 2016 at UPenn –

ENG 088: Twentieth-Century American Poetry

We will read — Hart Crane, T.S. Eliot, Mina Loy, Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Leslie Marmon Silko, Ofelia Zepeda, Amiri Baraka, Jack Spicer, Agha Shahid Ali, Alice Notley, Bernadette Mayer, Claudia Rankine — among many others!

ENGL 102 601 (2016A)
The Uncanny in Literature:  Haunted Houses and Habitats

In this class we will begin by entering the haunted house of literature and film: the domestic transformed by the presence of something strange—the figure in the mirror, the odd thump, the sliding chair…the man-eating piano. Not only in dwellings designed and built, we will go on to explore literary and cinematic spaces that have become saturated with the presence of threat, of the doppelgänger, of the monstrous–places where lingering spirits dwell among the living. How and why does the book or tale or film work to introduce the audience into such spooky places, how do they make them believable? The appeal and thrill of the uncanny is undeniable; we will both enjoy the weird and yet also think beyond the thrill and spookiness to grasp what is at stake in such tales–for our own experience of our own domesticity, our lived environments, and our own sense of home. Such tales reveal our anxieties about security and familiarity, and they perhaps ease these through exposure. How can we interpret the ways in which such tales are resolved, in terms of family, gender, ethnicity, culture and the lingering presence of architecture and landscape itself? Through a study of architecture of the haunted place, we will come to better understand the architecture not only of the story and film itself, but of the way we go on living in our own lives in the aftermath of tragedy and uncertainty. Works to be studied will be selected from but not limited to films such as Poltergeist (Dir, Tobe Hooper 1982), The Conjuring (Dir. James Wan 2013), The Amityville Horror (Dir. Stuart Rosenberg 1979), House (Dir. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi 1977), The Spirit of the Beehive (Dir. Víctor Erice 1973), Night and Fog (Alain Resnais 1955), Hiroshima mon Amour (Dir. Alain Resnais 1959) and novels and stories such as Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown, The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Jolly Corner” by Henry James,The Turn of Screw by Henry James, Ashe of Rings by Mary Butts, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko, Ghosts by César Aira, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, Haunted Houses by Lynne Tillman, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola, We Wish to Inform Your Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch, excerpts from American Horror Story: Asylum, and American Horror Story: Hotel (which we will watch over the course of the semester in its entirety as it airs, perhaps also along with Fear the Walking Dead). We will watch Slavoj Zikek’s A Perverts Guide to Cinema (2006) as a partial guide, and we will complement our reading of these fictions and non-fictions wth selections from such works asThe Spectralities Reader: Ghosts and Haunting in Contemporary Cultural Theory, Freud’s essays “The Uncanny” and “Mourning and Melancholia,” Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism by Mike Davis,  Julie Kristeva’s Powers of HorrorSpace, Place and Gender by Doreen Massey, “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias” by Michel Foucault,  Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History by Cathy Carruth, The National Uncanny: Indian Ghosts and American Subject by Renée L. Bergland, Space & Psyche by Elizabeth Danze and Stephen Sonnenberg, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely by Anthony Vidler and Home: A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski.


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