El 68A Syllabus

** Syllabus Subject to Revision**


Available either online or in the course packet (designated CP).

Pandemic Policy
We have a lot of reading in this course, but I plan on adjusting the load depending on how we’re doing, especially in light of family emergencies, medical issues, societal breakdowns, mass hysteria, the dead rising from their graves, and so forth. Flexibility is a virtue in these times.


Participation (20%)
1. In-class participation.
Active classroom conversation is essential to any graduate seminar. Please see me if this poses any difficulties or anxieties; happy to make any accommodations, and lack of participation in class can be made up on the

 2. Discussion Board (available on Slack). By midnight before each seminar, write a paragraph or so a question raised in the reading / secondary texts. The presenter on the week will “lead” this discussion by writing first; I expect other students to respond, so that we can generate an energetic conversation before class.

Presentation (20%)
: Every session will begin with one student presenting on a theoretical or critical piece, assessing its relation to our literary text within the context of the broader questions of the course. I expect the presenter to have read all the readings, including the discussion board carefully. Presentations should not take the class line-by-line through a reading, but connect readings in interesting ways that prompt a conversation.

Professionalization Activities (10%), due weeks 6-8
1. Formulate a field and a research question
: By week 6, students will choose a field, and formulate a research question within that field (let’s call it a “garden” within the “field”). This garden should touch on the aesthetics and/or horror, and engage the “early modern” in some way, but need not be formulated from the perspective of an early modernist.

2. List of journals. In week 7, students will hand in a list of 5 the “most important” journals within their field.

3. Syllabus. In week 8, students will construct a syllabus for a junior or senior-level class addressing their topic/research question. Students should include a series of primary readings and no more than 5 secondary readings. Students should also construct useful assignments. Creativity is encouraged.

Conference Paper (First Draft 25% Revision 25%): This is the final paper for the course, no more than 10 double-spaced pages exclusive of bibliography/endnotes. You should touch on aesthetics and/or horror and engage the “early modern” in some way, but you are under no obligation to write about the texts assigned in class. You can, in short, write from within your garden. You will turn in a first draft during week 13, which I will grade promptly and return. We will then have a mini-conference where you will read these papers after revising them. Part of this assignment will require you to practice reading your paper; your presentation should not last longer than 20 minutes. If you wish, you may incorporate powerpoint or images in your presentation, but a more traditional paper-reading is OK too. Final papers must include an abstract.

Weekly Schedule (subject to revision)

Week 1: Horrors of the Profession
WATCH: In the Mouth of Madness (Dir. John Carpenter, 1994)

Terry Eagleton, “What is literature?” and “The Rise of English,” in Literary Theory: An Introduction (1994), 1-46; Eagleton, “Free Particulars” and “The Kantian Imaginary,” in The Ideology of Aesthetics (1990), 13-30; 70-101; J. M. Bernstein, “Aesthetic Alienation,” in The Fate of Art (1993), 1-16; Eugene Thacker, “Introduction,” in In the Dust of this Planet: The Horror of Philosophy vol. 1 (2011) 7-18. 

Related Content: M. H. Abrams, “Art-as-such: The Sociology of Modern Aesthetics” and “From Addison to Kant” in Doing Things with Texts (1989), 135-87.

Week 2: Sovereignty, Political Theology, and the Question of the Early Modern

Jean Bodin, “Of Sovereignty,” Book 1, chapter 8 from Six Books on the Commonwealth; Carl Schmitt, Political Theology; Victoria Kahn, “Introduction” in The Future of Illusion: Political Theology and Early Modern Texts (2014); Simon Critchley, The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology (2012), 21-93.

Related Content: Graham Hammill and Julia Lupton, “Introduction,” in Political Theology and Early Modernity (2012), 1-20. Timothy Rosendale, “Authority, Religion, and the State”, in The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Literature and Religion (2017).

Week 3: The Aesthetics of Exceptional Experience I: Consensus

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine Parts I and II (CP); Agamben, State of Exception (2003), 1-31, 74-88; Richard Wolin, “Carl Schmitt: The Conservative Revolutionary Habitus and the Aesthetics of Horror,” Political Theory 20 (1992): 424-47.

Related Content: Shakespeare, Richard II; Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies (1957), chapter 2; Marlowe, Doctor Faustus A-text; Raphael Falco, “Tamburlaine’s Pure Charisma,” Charismatic Authority in Early Modern English Tragedy (2000), chapter 1.

Week 4

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine Parts I and II; Ovid, “The Birth of Maiestas”, from Fasti bk. 4 (cp); Amanda Bailey and Mario DiGangi, “Introduction,” in Affect Theory and Early Modern Texts (2017), 1-24. EITHER David Thurn, “Sights of Power in Tamburlaine”, ELR (1989): 3-2. OR Andrew Bozio, “Timur the Lame: Marlowe, Disability, and Form” (working paper, forthcoming ~2021).

Related Content: John Parker, Aesthetics of Antichrist (2007), esp. Introduction and chapter 4; Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign I (2011), 205-35

Week 5: The Aesthetics of Exceptional Experience II: Dissensus

Shakespeare, Hamlet (Q2) (CP); Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics (2004), 13-30; “Aesthetic Separation, Aesthetic Community,” in The Emancipated Spectator (2009), 51-82.

Related Content: Linda M. G. Zerilli, “The Turn to Affect and the Problem of Judgment,” New Literary History 46 (2015): 261-86; Yves Citton, “Political Agency and the Ambivalence of the Sensible,” in Jacques Rancière: History, Politics, Aesthetics (2009), 120-39; Kevin Curran, “Shakespearean Comedy and the Senses,” in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Comedy (2018), 236-48.

Week 6

Shakespeare, Hamlet; Christopher Pye, “Introduction,” in Political Aesthetics in the Era of Shakespeare (2020), 1-23. Victoria Kahn, “Hamlet or Hecuba: Carl Schmitt’s Decision,” in The Future of Illusion: Political Theology and Early Modern Texts (2014); Ethan Guagliardo, “The Experience of Authority: Hamlet and the Aesthetics of Majesty,” ELR (forthcoming).

Related Content: Christopher Pye, “Early Modern Political Aesthetics,” in The Storm at Sea: Political Aesthetics in the Time of Shakespeare (2015); Richard van Oort, “Shakespeare and the Idea of the Modern,” NLH 37 (2006): 319-339; Rachel Eisendrath, “The Long Nightwatch: Augustine, Hamlet, and the Aesthetic” ELH (2020): 581-606; Thacker, “Three Quaestio on Demonology,” in In the Dust of this Planet.


Week 7 Back to the Question of Horror

Thomas Nashe, The Terrors of the Night (CP); Fulke Greville, “Sonnet 100”; “Chorus Tartarorum”; “Chorus Sacerdotum” (CP); Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay in Abjection (1982), 1-55. Eugene Thacker, “Addendum: On Schmitt’s Political Theology,” from In the Dust of this Planet, 132-36. 

Related Content: Noel Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror (1990), 12-35.


Week 8: Frankenstein’s Novel: Horror of Genre-assignment

Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller (CP); Emily King, “Dirty Jokes: Disgust, Desire, and the Pornographic Narrative in Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller,” in Disgust in Early Modern English literature (2016), 23-37 (CP).

Related Content: Raymond Stephenson, “The Epistemological Challenge of Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller,” SEL 23 (1983): 21-36.


Week 9
Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller; Joseph Campana, “The State Of England’s Camp,” Prose Studies, 29: 347–358.

Related Content: Andrew Fleck, “Anatomizing the Body Politic: The Nation and the Renaissance Body in Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller,” Modern Philology 104 (2007): 295-328.

Week 10: Devils Black and White

William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus; D. J. Palmer, “The Unspeakable in Pursuit of the Uneatable: Language and Action in TA,” Critical Quarterly 14 (1972): 320-39; Carol Mejia LaPerle, “If I might have my will”: Aaron’s affect and race in Titus Andronicus” in Titus Andronicus: The State of Play (2019).

Related Content: Cynthia Marshall, “I can interpret all her martyr’d signs: Titus Andronicus, Feminism, and the Limits of Interpretation,” in Sexuality and Politics in Renaissance Drama (1991), 193-213; Francesca T. Royster, “White-limed Walls: Whiteness and Gothic Extremism in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus,” Shakespeare Quarterly 51 (2000): 432-455; Jennifer Edwards, “Metamorphically Speaking: Titus Andronicus and the Limits of Utterance” in Titus Andronicus: The State of Play (2019).


Week 11: Violent Delights

Thomas Middleton, The Bloody Banquet (CP); Gary Taylor, “Gender, Hunger, Horror: The History and Significance of The Bloody Banquet,” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 1 (2001): 1-45.

Related Content: Middleton, Women Beware Women; John Ford, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore

Week 12: Violent Ends

Shakespeare, Macbeth (CP); Bryan Lowrance, “Modern Ecstasy: Macbeth and the Meaning of the Political,” ELH 79 (2012): 823-49; Suparna Roychoudhury, “Melancholy, Ecstasy, Phantasm: The Pathologies of Macbeth,” Modern Philology 111 (2013): 205-230.

Related Content: John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi

Week 13

NO CLASS: First draft of conference paper due

Class Conference TBA; final draft due on day of conference

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