ENGL 601-01: Aqueous Modernities
The imagination of the waters as immense, sublime spaces of adventure, peril, and exploration has fueled literature and art for centuries. This course focuses on how such imaginations were re-made in global literature and visual culture across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, during modernist eras defined by British maritime contraction and U.S. naval expansion as well as two world wars, and during postwar, postcolonial, and contemporary eras shaped by treacherous water-crossings under pressure of migrations and asylum seeking; new forms of piracy; deep-sea exploration for oil and gas; “natural” disasters such as spills; and climate crisis. This course participates in the current “hydro-critical turn” in literary and cultural studies by analyzing how the scientific, political, and economic systems of modernity that were tied to the waters inform our understandings of literature and visual cultures. We will frame our readings of literary and visual texts with critical scholarship in political theory, infrastructure studies, and eco-criticism. Anglo-European authors such as Joseph Conrad and Virginia Woolf will appear alongside lesser known but equally influential figures of the modernist era including James Hanley, Malcolm Lowry, and B. Traven. Poetry, novels, and short fiction by Caribbean and African authors such as Edwidge Danticat, Helon Habila, M. NourbeSe Philip, Monique Roffey, and Nuruddin Farah will be considered along with documentaries, art, and poetry by U.S-. and Euro-based artists and writers such as Gary Snyder, Anne Waldman, Ellie Ga, and Chris Jordan. Course requirements include a final research project, presentations, and regular postings on Canvas.