ENGL S114 Course Descriptions

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The Dream Factory - Jordan Brower

Are art and commerce fundamentally opposed?  Who counts as the author of a collaboratively produced art object?  The title of this course brings together two terms that rest uneasily alongside each other. On the one hand, beginning in the late 1910s, the American film industry, or what we now call “Classical Hollywood,” produced works of art—something like dreams—that appealed to audiences around the world.  On the other, it did so by way of a tremendously complex and thoroughly managed industry populated by studios—something like factories—of various sizes and strengths.  How did Hollywood overcome this tension and maintain its dominance despite a wide array of challenges, both internal (for instance, the coming of sound) and external (for instance, the threat of censorship or the rise of television)?  Through readings in disciplines as varied as economics, film history, and political science, as well as through the careful viewing of notable films, we will come to understand what the great critic André Bazin termed “the genius of the system.”

Jordan Brower earned his Ph.D. in English and Film and Media Studies from Yale in 2016. His dissertation, titled “A Literary History of the Studio System, 1911-1950,” studies the genesis, efflorescence, global proliferation, and decline of Classical Hollywood through the literature it influenced. He hails from Morganville, New Jersey, where he once worked very New Jersey jobs like scooping Italian ices and directing parking at a rock club.

Globalization: Power, Politics, and Culture - Karin Gosselink

In 1999, over 40,000 people—union members, environmentalists, and progressive political activists—gathered on the streets of Seattle to protest the annual meeting of the World Trade Organization and the larger phenomenon of globalization. Nearly twenty years later, Republican Donald Trump was elected U.S. president on a conservative, populist “anti-globalization” platform.  But what is globalization?  Why is it the subject of such intense criticism on both the political left and right? And why has it been embraced by both conservative and liberal mainstream parties in the U.S. and all over the world? What are the benefits of globalization and to whom do they accrue? What are the negative impacts and who is most harmed? Is globalization a phenomenon that can be resisted or altered? If so, how?   

Karin Gosselink is a lecturer for the English Department and directs the Academic Strategies program for the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning. She also helps oversee Yale College’s writing-intensive program. Originally from Bolingbrook, Illinois, she worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago before pursuing her Ph.D. in global literatures in English at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Her teaching at Yale includes courses on globalization, freedom, and the literature of exile.


The Trouble with Equality - Tim Kreiner

How do we make sense of social divisions today?  Why do they rule our lives with such ferocity? And why has that rule so swiftly intensified in recent years?  This course seeks to shed light on the persistent problem of inequality by querying what we mean when we say equality today.  Perhaps most provocatively, we will spend a good deal of time making heretical if corollary inquiries: What if the trouble lies with the notion of equality itself?  To do so we will tarry with a few historical touchstones such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and the Declaration of Independence.  From there we will take up the trouble with equality today in terms of sexuality, race, gender, and class, before bringing what we glean to bear upon the Black Lives Matter movement and contemporary inquiries into mass incarceration and the legacy of slavery.  We will conclude with a case study that considers recent social movements at Yale alongside the rise of the Alt-Right, free speech debates, and no-platform campaigns.

Tim Kreiner is a Lecturer in English at Yale University where he teaches courses on literature and politics. He is writing a book of literary history that theorizes the relationship between American poetry and social movements after 1960 titled “The Long Downturn and its Discontents: Poetry, Culture Wars, and the New Left.”

The Real World of Food - Barbara Stuart

Every time we sit down for a meal, we might very well question the (e)quality of our food system.  Why doesn’t everyone in the United States have access to nutritious, affordable food?  If food in our nation is cheap and plentiful, why are so many Americans food insecure?  And why is it that those who are food insecure suffer from obesity and diabetes? Is our food system just broken?

This section will examine the Farm Bill, or what Michael Pollan calls the “Food Bill,” that omnibus legislation that largely controls what ends up on our plates.  Students will discuss which food fixes are palatable, politically and economically.  A Food Film Fest featuring films like Food Inc., King Corn, A Place at the Table, and Fed Up will supplement assigned readings.  At the end of the semester, students will test their theories by visiting grocery stores, a farmers’ market, and by completing research to develop a solution to a real food problem in our country.

Barbara Stuart earned her Ph.D. long ago and has been teaching happily at Yale for almost 26 years. The focus of her doctoral work was the Victorian novel, and she often re-reads those novels with great pleasure, but at Yale she has taught documentary film, the contemporary essay, and two courses inspired by her own and her students’ interest in our food system: “The Real World of Food” and “Writing about Food.”


Consumer Culture in the United States - Andrew Willson

“We no longer live life, we consume it.” —Vicki Robin

Consumerism has changed our national landscape by covering our towns with malls and making retail businesses the largest employers of Americans.  And consumerism has also become so embedded in the ways we think that it influences how we see activities much different from buying goods at a store.  The ideal of consumer choice affects not only how many different types of jeans we can buy from the Gap or how many different iPods from the Apple store but also how we choose things like partners, health care, and colleges.  What is the significance and what are the effects of the language and logic of consumerism permeating society?  What does this permeation tell us about the world we live in and how we think?

Andrew Willson has been teaching at Yale since 2012, where he also earned a Ph.D. in English. His scholarly focus is on nineteenth-century literature, though he is interested in books from all periods. He is originally from Cleveland, Ohio.