Spring 2018: Courses at the University of Pennsylvania

Disability Studies: Aging, Illness, Dying & Death in Literature and Film:  20th and 21st Century Therapeutic Media, Memory Texts, and the Work of Mourning

Our society stigmatizes and secludes the old and infirm beyond sight, out of mind. The endgame for us all, Death is a rather overwhelming topic. The goal of this course is to closely analyze a limited number of texts and films in order to confront, familiarize, and enrich our comprehension of and compassion for the dying. Over time, people we care for (including ourselves) will age, grow ill, and die; we will develop an “ethics of dying” that will allow us to experience death with dignity, responsibility and compassion.

The dying can have much to tell us about their condition. Diagnosed with cancer, poet Audre Lorde continued to write poems and memoir and cultivate community. Derek Jarman’s film Blue (1993), Peter Friedman’s and Tom Joslin’s documentary Silver Lake Life (1993) and David Wojnarowicz’s memoir Close to the Knives (1991) were all produced after terminal AIDS diagnoses received while grieving friends lost to the epidemic. We will read Cory Taylor’s recently published memoir, Dying (2017), followed by excerpts from recent books on geriatric and palliative care: The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America by Ann Neumann, 2017; Death by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 2009; and Death, Mourning, and Burial: A CrossCultural Reader. We will read about the biology of dying in How We Die: Reflections on Lifes Final Chapter by Sherwin Nuland (1995) and in Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (2014). We will survey the state of the commercial funeral industry in Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Life Revisited, 2000. In Still Alice, (Glatzer Westmoreland 2015), an accomplished professor succumbs to dementia. We will consider the question of euthanasia through Amour (Haneke, 2013), print and practice completion of living health directives after watching Wit (Nichols, 2001).

We will turn to Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. (Weerasethakul, 2010), a Thai film of both peaceful dying and the unthreatening return of the dead.  We will look at fiction and film in which young people maintain warm relationships with the aged, as in The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson (1972) and Gerontophilia (La Bruce, 2013). We will turn to the reassurance of angels in Wings of Desire (Wenders, 1987), of ghosts and elders in Louise Erdrich’s Tracks. Survivors, however, must grieve; we will turn to Freud’s Mourning and Melancholia, then to works of mourning such as Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) and Blue Nights (2011), Agha Shahid Ali’s “Lenox Hill,” and perhaps most importantly of all, Darwin’s Worms: On Life Stories and Death Stories by Adam Philips (1999), which tells the story of Darwin’s loss of his beloved daughter.

The class will visit a nursing home to talk with residents and welcome expert guest speakers to class. Students will complete two brief take-home exams, design and complete a final research project, and engage in vigorous, exploratory classroom discussion.

Fall 2017: Courses at the University of Pennsylvania

ENGL 096.001: Sex/Gender/Queer

Download Syllabus:  syllabusQueertheory

A Course Description in 50 Questions

1 What is sexuality? 2 Does it exist in the body or the mind? 3 Is it a collection of actions, desires, and fantasies, or is it rather a disposition, a way of seeing oneself, an identity? 4 Can it be both? 5 What is gender? 6 Does it exist in the body or the mind? 7 Is it a collection of actions, desires, and fantasies, or is it rather a disposition, a way of seeing oneself, an identity? 8 Does what we desire depend on who we are as social beings ever-being formed by our surroundings? 9 Does what we desire depend on who we are biological creatures? 10 Does what we desire depend on what we lack or have lacked? 11 On what the brain and body want? 12 Does what we desire bring us pleasure? 13 Do our desires define who we are? 14 Do our pleasures define who we are? 15 Do our bodily actions define who we are? 16 Does sexuality arise from the sex organs, or the other way around? 17 Is one’s sex defined by one’s genitalia? 18 Or is sex exclusively a type of special and unique action of the body on itself or achieved in contact with another body? 19 Does one lack sexuality if not engaging in sex acts? 20 Why are sex acts surrounded by surveillance and cultural anxiety, guilt and longing, shame and ecstasy as if they have been sprinkled on by divine love gods, sexual pleasures a-glitter with the most dangerous traps, with physical and psychological dangers? 21 Where does desire come from? 22 Why do some bodies react to some bodies and not others? 23 What does an orgasm mean? 24 To you? 25 To society?  26 How does the queer impact the world? 27 Create a world? 28 Is being queer a choice? 29 Is there a difference that matters between being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Homosexual, Heterosexual, Polyamorous, Intersexual and being Queer? 30 What powers are contained within a word, within these particular words? 31 What powers are contained within a gender? 32 Are male and female the only sexes? 33 How do masculinity and femininity circulate, how do they function in the directions of one’s desires and identity? 34 Are they internal or external, intrinsic or a type of cognition, a type of uniform, a type of passkey through public space? 35 What is drag and what does it perform? 36 What might a queer itinerary through one’s day look like, feel like, discover? 37 How might one develop queer modes of attention? 38 How have communities organized themselves historically around majority sexualities, conventions of gender definitions, and how have communities organized themselves in their deviations from the desires and relation-formations taken as given, as unquestioned by the general public? 39 What are the fractures and solidarities in contemporary LGBT communities and Queer communities, and are those two categories interchangeable? 40 Are these communities actively excluded from institutions, familieseconomies, the legal system, the nation? 41 Do they form their own isolated versions of institutions, familieseconomies, the legal system, the nation that might exclude them, in earnest imitation or are they not replicas but queer improvisations? 42 Are these communities resistant or eager to enter the central flows of the national and global economy or do they prize their isolation?  43 Are these communities resistant or eager to obtain the recognition and protection of the legal system? 44 Of the police? 45 Of the military? 46 Are these communities resistant or eager for incorporation into the general public or do they prize their isolation? 47 Can the public be queered by the entrance of the queer, or is the queer dissolved into the mainstream by desiring acceptance by the public — in that case do the words lesbian bisexual gay trans* continue but lose any spark of taboo or possibility? 48 Do your intuitions and pondered answers swerve or vary if one assumes that the queer person in question is a woman or a man; do you ask a person for their gendered pronoun preference? 49 Or does the modifier queer destabilize these binary terms and should we use non-gendered words to describe people? 50 How do feminists and queers and people of color and people committed to class struggle find common ground for action, for community? Of course, one could go on indefinitely with a list of possible identities and imagine what tensions, hybridities, and invention might be possible, between people, and within any one of us.

Course Objectives

This course will attempt to address such questions as the above and the questions students introduce in class through introducing you to several of the classic texts in the history and theory of sexuality, gender, and queer theory along with a few other materials from cinema, poetry, the news, and otherwise. There are no correct answers to the questions above; they simply have been presented to you to focus your attentions, for you to find which questions you find most difficult, infuriating, urgent; for you to use them to guide your focus are you proceed through course readings, films, and activities. What we can do is trace the politics and meanings of non-normative sexualities and genders across time. Topics we will cover will include feminist priorities and internal frictions over time, race, class and gender, the obscene, a tour through some fragments of queer history, engagement in feminist and queer experiments in art, writing, film and performance, the consequences of the responses to HIV/AIDS, sex panics and sex radicalism and sex racism and exclusions among racial, regional, national, class, body type and ageist lines, transgender histories, queer spaces, queer time (what that might mean and why it matters), queer generations, intersex identity, queer privilege in the U.S. and situations for queer people elsewhere, gay normalization and recognition by the state, the commodification of ‘queer’ communities, and the pleasures of queer attentions.  The primary goal of the course is to have you learn to think comfortably and critically about sexuality and gender.


HauntedPlacesSyllabusENGL102Zuzga (click to download pdf)

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 2.43.23 PM

Angela Deane ‘untitled (ghost photograph no. 128)

Ghosts, spirits, the undead, trauma, memories that refuse to pass; all these manifestations evoke in us the complex concept of the uncanny. In literature and film, encounters with uncanny phenomena disorient us from comforting assumptions about the safety and integrity of “home,” whether that be a particular house, a particular building, or the reliability of the ground and material world itself.  The paradoxical appeal of the uncanny is undeniable; at a secure distance, experience of the uncanny induces a kind of pleasure, a spine-chilling tour through our own deep and discomforting fears, allowing us to experience and dismiss them. Beyond the haunted houses of Poltergeist, The Conjuring, The Haunting, all of which we will enter, experience, and analyze, we will go on to explore broader literary and cinematic spaces that have become saturated with the presence of threat and loss, place shaken by war and genocide, violent memory forcing its way into the present–places where lingering spirits dwell among us. As well, ghosts might be actively summoned, as in the Plains Indians Ghost Dance religion. How can we interpret the ways in which such tales and histories are (un)resolved, in terms of family, gender, ethnicity, culture, such as in the novel Beloved? Through our study of the concept and impact of the uncanny, 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. The class will visit Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia and confront our own weird fascinations and fears amid cells that held lives long past. Further materials to be consider will include episodes of American Horror Story, the film Goodnight, Mommy, Elephant,  Night and Fog, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the BBC series In the Flesh, public memorial structures and artworks such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the AIDS quilt, as well as the cinematic projections that give presence to the dead among the living.

Spring 2017 – March 1-28.  “Frank O’Hara” – A free and public online mini-class through Coursera and Al Filreis’s MOOC:  Modern & Contemporary American Poetry .  The course and discussion will continue as long as it remains live on the website on the main O’Hara course page.  The sequence is as follows:


  1. watch a brief documentary on O’Hara filmed in 1966: LINK TO VIDEO
  2. read a short chronology of O’Hara’s life: LINK TO TEXT
  3. read O’Hara’s “Autobiographia Literaria”: LINK TO TEXT
  4. watch a discussion of O’Hara’s “Autobiographia Literaria”: LINK TO VIDEO
  5. read O’Hara’s “Music”: LINK TO TEXT
  6. listen to Jason and his students reading O’Hara’s “Music” across from the Plaza Hotel in NYC: LINK TO VIDEO
  7. read O’Hara’s “Personal Poem”: LINK TO TEXT
  8. read O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You”: LINK TO TEXT


  1. read O’Hara’s “Personism: A Manifesto”: LINK TO TEXT
  2. read O’Hara’s “Poem”: LINK TO TEXT
  3. read O’Hara’s “Homosexuality”: LINK TO TEXT
  4. read O’Hara’s “At the Movies:” LINK TO TEXT
  5. read O’Hara’s “To the Film Industry in Crisis”: LINK TO TEXT
  6. read Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp”: LINK TO TEXT
  7. read a shorter excerpt from Sontag’s “Notes on Camp”: LINK TO TEXT


  1. read O’Hara’s “Poem en forme de saw:” LINK TO TEXT
  2. read O’Hara’s “In Memory of My Feelings”: LINK TO TEXT
  3. read some notes on O’Hara’s “In Memory of My Feelings”: LINK TO TEXT
  4. watch a discussion of “In Memory of My Feelings”: LINK TO VIDEO


  1. read O’Hara’s Red Ryder comic panels (with Joe Brainard): LINK TO IMAGE 1; LINK TO IMAGE 2
  2. read more of O’Hara’s comic “Hard Times (After Dickens)” with Joe Brainard: LINK TO IMAGES
  3. read O’Hara’s “Blue Territory”: LINK TO TEXT
  4. view Helen Frankenthaler’s Blue Territory, 1955. Oil and nail polish on canvas. 115″ x 59′: LINK TO IMAGE
  5. watch video on Jackson Pollock’s painting process: LINK TO VIDEO
  6. listen to interview with Barnett Newman: LINK TO VIDEO
  7. view Barnett Newman’s, Vir Heroicus Sublimus, 1950. Oil on canvas 202″ x 95″: LINK TO IMAGE
  8. view Jackson Pollock’s Number One (1948): LINK TO IMAGE
  9. read O’Hara’s “Digression on Number One, 1948”: LINK TO TEXT
  10. view Larry Rivers’ Washington Crossing the Delaware (1953): LINK TO IMAGE
  11. read O’Hara’s “On Seeing Larry Rivers’ Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art”: LINK TO TEXT

Please come look over the materials and add to the discussion! You will need to register with Coursera first, and then you can enter the course.

Spring 2017: Courses at the University of Pennsylvania

ENGL261.001: Bad Kids: Misfits and Mayhem in Literature and Film 
Syllabus: engl-261-2017a-bad-kidszuzga

Are minors presumed guilty, threatening, spoiled, presumed ready to rumble, already-sexualized, unpredictable, violent, lazy, wild, resistant to potty training? Are some kids inherently bad on some genetic or other level compared to their peers? What disciplinary methods and restrictions have been thought appropriate to shape a child, and what role is education imagined to play? When did the category of the kid, the child, emerge? To address these questions, this intimate class will provide a rich immersion in the history of childhood and the literature of child development and psychoanalysis, working our way through texts by Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, Jean Piaget, D.W. Winnicott, and Adam Phillips. En route, we will meet a whole range of kids: from those who spy, to those with active imaginations, to the sexually precocious, to the bullies and the bullied, to those who befriend vampires, to those who use automatic weapons to kill fellow schoolmates, to the disabled, to those who lack language. We will consider the cultural presentation of childhood in recent films, novels, documentaries and news coverage. Particular works we will consider will be chosen from such films, television shows, and novels as Sesame Street, The 500 Blows, Heathers, Elephant, Kids, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Bully, My Own Private Idaho, The Bad Seed, Thirteen, Let the Right One In, Where the Wild Things Are, South Park, the BBC’s Skins, Menace II Society, Les Enfants Terrible, Sarah: A Novel, The Story of the Eye, A High Wind in Jamaica, Beloved, Cavedweller, Peter Pan, Harriet the Spy, The Exorcist, In Youth Is Pleasure, and Mary Poppins, among a number of others. Above all, this course will ask each student what is gained and what is lost when a child learns right from wrong, when independence and order are imagined to be obtained at childhood’s end. Students will be required to write weekly reading/viewing responses, complete two brief exams, and to design a final project involving research.

20th and 21st Century American Poetry

Syllabus: 20thand21stcenturyamericanpoetryzuzga

Language laps formatively at the borders of both nations and selves. At the opening of the 20th century, various strands of modernism transformed poetry. The idea of what poetry should do, of what it was, impacted various locations and brought together various communities, both poetic and language-bound. We will explore the ways in which modernism(s) challenged relations between language, self, and world, as poets experimented with words’ capabilities and limits in ways that continue to influence and shape the horizons of contemporary poetry and literary arts. Meanwhile, other traditions persist. In some places, several languages exist in complex relation to one another. In order to gain a sense of poetry across the continent, we will bring close attention to poems written by poets from the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada, and from various Native American tribes, considering the the oral tradition and the impact and possibility of translation and the circulation of language within and across borders, along with the ways in which race, heritage, sexuality, and gender influence and inflect voice and reception. Above all, we will pour our close attention though open, collaborative readings on selected individual poems, becoming confident readers of poetry with full permission to explore and experience works as unique, informed readers, remaining sensitive to all of the properties of language and the potentials unleashed when words constellate together. Students will gain an understanding of various historical movements up to the present, including current practice and circulation among audiences through performance and publication. Poets whose work may be encountered include Hart Crane, Ezra Pound, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Mina Loy, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Aimé Césaire, Allen

Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, Robert Duncan, John Ashbery, Harryette Mullen, Sylvia Plath, Leslie Marmon Silko, Jerome Rothenberg, Anne Carson, Frank Stanford, Christian Bök, Kamau Braithwaite, Derek Walcott, Nancy Morejòn, Alice Notley, Teresa Hak Kyung Cha, M. Nourbese Philip, Monica Youn, and Claudia Rankine, among many others. Creative responses, several brief papers, and a final project will be required.

Fall 2016 at Upenn:

Creative Writing {Poetry and Fiction}

We will be going on adventures and writing poems, fiction, and mashups of the two. Students’ work will be carefully and attentively workshopped by the class – as well we will discuss some innovative works in the genre(s) such as CITIZEN by Claudia Rankine, SOLIBO MAGNIFICENT by Patrick Chamoiseaux, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF RED by Anne Carson, FAIR PLAY by Tove Jansson, and STORY OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHER STORIES by Ted Chiang.

introduction-to-creative-writing <


Summer 2016 at UPenn:

Creative Writing {Poetry and Nonfiction}

We will be going on adventures and writing poems, essays, and mashups of the two. Students’ work will be carefully and attentively workshopped by the class – as well we will discuss some innovative works in the genre(s) such as CITIZEN by Claudia Rankine, THE ARGONAUTS by Maggie Nelson, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF RED by Anne Carson, THE SUMMER BOOK by Tove Jansson, — and other contemporary hybrid works.

Introduction to Creative Writing SUMMER SYLLABUS


I am teaching two classes in Spring 2016 at UPenn

ENG 088: Twentieth-Century American Poetry

20th Century American Poetry SYLLABUS

Charles Demuth, watercolor, The Circus (1917)/ Charles Demuth “My Egypt” oil on canvas 1927 / Smith Corona Corsair Typewriter/ Wiki North America / Charles Demuth, Vaudeville, 1917, Watercolor and pencil on paper  / Grandes Carrières, 1961–62. Oil on canvas, 78 3/4 x 118 1/4 inches (200 x 300.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Estate of Joan Mitchell

This fast-paced course will provide an immersion in a diverse and exuberant array of American poetry.  We will consider the poem as an artwork made out of words, and specifically, in this case, words of the English language, asking, immediately, “how does a poem work?” as well as, more broadly, “what does it mean to make art out of English?” and “what are the stakes of a poem for various 20th-century United States citizens?”  We will consider individual poems through careful, close readings, but we will also put poems into context, considering the poem in relation to historical events and the surrounding media such as 20th century painting, cinema, television and the internet. We will consider the poem as an object embedded in a rapidly changing world in which language matters in terms of identity and gender, commerce and desire. Who is speaking in the poem? Authors may include Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, William Carlos Williams, Ronald Johnson, Lorine Niedecker, Jack Spicer, Rae Armantrout, Leslie Marmon Silko, Frank O’Hara, Langston Hughes, Agha Shahid Ali, Claudia Rankine, among many others,  Above all, students will gain an understanding of central themes and issues in 20th-American poetry and will learn about the properties of language as an art-making medium. Both creative exercises and scholarly work will be required.

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


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Angela Deane ‘untitled (ghost photograph no. 128)

We begin by entering the haunted house of literature and film and with Freud’s essay on the “uncanny”: the domestic transformed by the presence and return of something strange. The appeal 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.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 and loss, of repressed memory that insists on returning, forcing its way into the present–places where lingering spirits dwell among the living. 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 the 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 chosen from but not limited to Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, the Winchester House in San Jose, CA, various monuments, films such as Poltergeist (Dir, Tobe Hooper 1982), The Conjuring (Dir. James Wan 2013), Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul 2010), 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 the television show American Horror Story. Novels, essays, nonfiction and stories may include 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, Ghostsby César Aira, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley, Angels in Americaby Tony Kushner, Haunted Houses by Lynne Tillman, Beloved by Toni Morrison, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola, and We Wish to Inform Your Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch. 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.

the_birds_by_shureoner-d5diwxeCINE 202 – SEEING ANIMAL


“From zoos to aquariums, from the shows of Animal Planet to Jaws to the March of the Penguins to Happy Feet, why do people long to be able to witness and gaze upon the figures and experiences of animals in both documentary and narrative cinema, television, and video? What hopes and fears do we project upon the animal, what do with learn from the animal? Cinema traces its roots back to two key inquiries into animal motion by Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey. We will move from those early innovators to interrogate a number of films that foreground the lives of animals, such as those that foreground animal consciousness and endangerment, such as Blackfish, asking what might be the difficulties and paradoxes in doing so. Our investigation will range from videos in which cameras have been physically attached to a animal, to films where the animal is either a vortex of cuteness, such as various viral Youtube videos, life-threatening presence, as in Grizzly Man, Jaws, The Birds, saviors, as in Flipper, or all of the above, as in the rat thriller Ben. We will watch experimental films in which the question of the human in relation to the animal is central, as well as some of the recent documentaries exposing abusive treatment. How might we compare the eye of the animal to the eye of the camera? Students will be required to film animals and to discuss challenging materials across a variety of media, and to complete a research project involving medium-specificity and human-animal relations.”

 Wednesdays 6pm to 9pm.


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Spring 2015 UPenn

ENGL 102.601 Study of a Theme: Bad Kids

DOWNLOAD SYLLABUS:  CLICK –>bad_kids_syllabus

ENGL 261.601 Topics in 20th-Century Literature: Animal Tales

DOWNLOAD SYLLABUS:  CLICK –>animaltalessyllabus

Summer 2014 Upenn

ENGL 075.920 Science and Fiction

An article from Penn Frontiers about the class. 

Fall 2013 at UPenn

Spring 2013 at UPenn

And an article about a class I taught at the University of Arizona Poetry Center in 2004:

Poetry Audio/Visual 


Photo: Evan Caravelli

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