ENGL428E - Seminar in Language and Literature; The Postmodern Enlightenment
0101 - Tita Chico

“Postmodern” and “Enlightenment” are historical and theoretical designations that rarely, if ever, occupy the same breath: postmodern connotes a challenge to orthodoxy, enlightenment an enthusiastic articulation of it.

This course challenges such a dualism by studying literary (and some visual) texts from the long eighteenth century and the early twenty first century, texts that repeatedly grapple with what it means to exist in society, what value might be, and how representation mobilizes and occludes subjectivity. We will study Enlightenment texts that begin to articulate a range of ideals and critiques concerning race, diaspora, gender, celebrity, and affective relations; these are paired with contemporary rewritings that explicitly revisit and rework the Enlightenment materials. Our operating premise is that the articulation and legacies of the Enlightenment—both as an ideal and as an uneven and inequitable practice—linger profoundly in our contemporary, postmodern moment.


Margaret Cavendish, “A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life” (1656); Cavendish, The Blazing World (1666); Danielle Dutton, Margaret the First (2016); Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite (2018)

Casta paintings by Miguel Cabrera, José Joaquín Magón, José de Ibarra, and Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz; Natasha Tretheway, Thrall (2012); Beyoncé and Jay-Z, “Apeshit” (2018); Titus Kaphar, “Enough about You” (2016) and “Unfit Frame” (2016)

John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera (1728), selections from Newgate Calendar, and Jordy Rosenberg,Confessions of a Fox (2018)

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726) and Colin Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016)

Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African(1789) and Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (2016)

[Anon.], The Woman of Colour, A Tale (1808); Lucy Peacock, “The Creole” (1786);  and Amma Asante, Belle (2013)

Mary Shelly, Frankenstein (1818)Victor LaValle, Destroyer (2017)Ahmed Saadawi, Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel (2018)

Restriction: Junior standing. For ENGL majors only. Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs. Course intended primarily for students in English Honors Program. English majors with strong academic records may also apply. Permission from the Director of Honors (Jason Rudy) required.