Castaways and Cannibals: Stories of Empire

British Marketing Board Poster. EmpireOnline.com

In this class, we evaluate the premise that many contemporary geopolitical realities have been shaped by the imaginative work of British imperialists who, by capitalizing on terms like cannibal and castaway, claimed the land and the resources of colonized territories and dismissed the rights of the indigenous peoples that populated them. The scope of the course is broadly based, and readings range from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and The Narrative of James Murrells to Phillip Noyce’s film Rabbit Proof Fence and Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Paradise.

E-Lit: New Media Narratives

Screenshot from Poundstone’s
“Project For Tachistoscope”

Imagine a book we might read by touching the words, choosing among possible paths, or even by allowing our own faces or voices to be part of the scene.  Electronic literature, that is, literary works designed to be read or experienced on a computer, often requires exactly such multi-sensory engagement, asking readers to make unusual connections between words, images, sounds, or movement, and, sometimes, to put themselves into the story.  In this class, we  read and write about electronic literature and experimental print literature, including a story in a deck of cards, hint fiction, works of hypertext, digital games, multi-modal narratives, digital documentaries, and social media (as social narrative). These stories give us insight into how we “read” and how digital spaces influence how we understand, experience, and respond to ideas, places, and people.

Border Crossings: Travel, Culture, and Identity

Walking in Ireland

Focusing on the dynamics of place and mobility, the class explores the transformative nature of travel in regard to individual and cultural identity. We consider how people define themselves in personal, local, and national contexts and how we redefine ourselves and our world as we cross diverse landscapes and geographical borders. Readings range from nineteenth-century exploration narratives like Conan Doyle’s The Lost World to journeys of self discovery like Robin Davidson’s Tracks and Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation to accounts of tourist experience and leisure travel

Diversions: Experimental Stories and New Media

Image by Austin Kleon’s Blog

We read, view, listen to, and interact with writing that exceeds conventional boundaries of time and space, that questions reality and disappoints our expectations, that operates in terms of its own internal logic, that resists being pinned down to a single meaning or, in some cases, resists even being understood. We read print fictions that follow twisting, digressive paths like Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49 and Alasdair Gray’s Poor Things, and we consider how diverse media and technologically innovative forms of storytelling, like hypertext fictions, narrative games, remixes and mash-ups, and performance art, influence how we engage with the stories and practices of everyday life.