UC San Diego SearchMenu

Literature Graduate Course Descriptions Winter 2017

Swarm Theory
Instructor: Page duBois

How does the insect swarm serve as a figure for humanity? In some recent formulations , the swarm buzzes for the anonymous multitude, achieving creative solutions to humankind's problems “through collective and distributed techniques of problem solving without centralized control or the provision of a global model.” Such a vision constructs a benign and beneficent swarm that, although it lacks differentiation and specificity, accomplishes democracy without sovereignty. Achille Mbembe points out, nonetheless, that the swarm can have a more sinister and deadly aspect.

The ancient Greeks used the figure of the swarm to connote an anonymous and undifferentiated mass of human beings. Achilles' army of Myrmidons in the Iliad are at least antlike, perhaps even metamorphosed ants, ants become warriors. In the classical period, the comic poet Aristophanes uses the insect swarm of wasps to embody his crowd, his chorus of furious, cantankerous, militant, and class-conscious jurors. Such a swarm is depicted with affection even as Aristophanes seems to deplore their manipulation by demagogues. Their “becoming-animal” offers a riotous, exhilarating line of flight from the decorum of nouveau riche Athenian society, a form of politics as the demos, the people, demand their part. The tragedian Euripides presents a swarm of deadly, maddened cannibal women in his Bacchae. But the philosopher Plato removes the sting from the wasps and represents docile and obedient bees, model citizen-workers, and even cicadas, transformed from human beings who once loved the muses into tattletales for the gods; the swarm becomes an instrument of antidemocratic, philosophical espionage.

We will read various texts concerning the swarm, including passages from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s Thousand Plateaux, ancient theater by Aristophanes and Euripides, some Plato as well as modern considerations of the swarm, Mbembe and Eyal Weizmann. We will conclude with Kristin Ross’ recent book Communal Luxury.

This course will fulfill the Literature Department’s historical breadth (depth) requirement.  

Rewriting Cultural History
Instructor: Yingjin Zhang

This seminar explores theories, practices, and polemics of cultural history, especially when they pertain to the fields of comparative literature and film studies. We revisit conventional approaches to national literature and national cinema and reevaluate new challenges in terms of politics, ideology, epistemology, and methodology. What is involved in new cultural history? What constitutes world literature or world cinema today? How do we imagine literary or film history in a new era of transnationalism and globalization? Although the course title refers to “national cultures” and we pursue surveys of “national” cases from Asia, Australia, Europe (Eastern, Central, and Western), North and South Americas, our emphasis is placed on comparative, transregional, and interdisciplinary perspectives. Students are encouraged to bring their concerns of cultural history to this seminar, and we may adjust our readings to accommodate different needs.

Instructor: Margaret Loose

Please contact instructor for course description.

Instructor: Nicole Tonkovich

This course is intended for advanced graduate students. To enroll you must be at least in your second year of Ph.D.-level study. Our focus in this practicum is on the writing tasks that characterize the last years of graduate study and the first years of professional employment: qualifying examinations, dissertation prospectuses, proposals, conference papers, dissertation chapters, and journal publication. (If time allows and you are interested, we can also discuss how a dissertation differs from a published monograph.) We will also give sustained attention to writing clear, coherent, and readable academic prose and discuss how to plan and carry out archival research. Those who enroll in the seminar will pursue individual writing projects appropriate to their research interests and programs (qualifying documents, a qualifying paper, a dissertation prospectus, or a dissertation chapter). The quarter will conclude with oral presentations given in the context of an academic conference format.

Feminism, Gender, Sexuality
Instructor: Stephanie Jed

In this seminar, we will look at how feminist, gendered, and queer perspectives provide an opportunity to rethink traditional categories such as nation/state, genre, fact, library, archive, narrative, and theory.  We will discuss practical questions of methodology in relation to theory and literary research and critically explore each student’s theoretical approach in relation to feminism, gender, and queer theory.  We will especially ask the question: how does theorizing about gender and sexuality take different forms in different cultural contexts?  Areas of focus will include: globalization, epistemology, historiography, political theory, race, Marxism (and Hegel), psychoanalysis, narrative and film.