Summer 2016 Graduate Flyer

St. John’s University Department of English

Summer 2016: Graduate Course Offerings Online


Summer session 1: June 1 – July 11

English 180:  African American Literacies:  From the Plantation to the University

Dr. Robert Fanuzzi (


When African-American studies took shape in the 1960s and 70s, “literacy” served as a synonym for “liberty.” Particularly for scholars of Phyllis Wheatley’s poetry and Olaudah Equiano’s and Frederick Douglass’s slave narratives, the formal complexity of their writing proved the equality of the “unlettered African” and their mastery of Western ideals of higher learning.  Now scholars are more likely to embrace a more complex range of literacies—from the African vernacular to the French creole to the messianic and the melodramatic—and to recognize the racial structures of knowledge itself.  Using methods from composition theory (past and present), critical race theory, and performance studies, this course takes a deep dive into an African-American literary archive that grows more striking and unsettled as campuses around the country become newly alive to issues of diversity. We begin with the revolutionary vocabularies of the Haitian leader Jean-Jacques Dessaline and American spokespersons for slave rebellion, Nat Turner and David Walker. We read the fiction of William Wells Brown, Frances Harper, Pauline Hopkins and the academic sociology of W. E. B. DuBois as new vocabularies for an unwritten history.  Finally, we revisit the nineteenth century’s black abolitionists as educational trailblazers, inventing new forums and media for learning that defied the institutions of higher learning.


Summer Session II: July 11 – Aug 11

Eng 140: Topics in Theory: Theoretical Anxiety and the Academic Novel

Dr. Steve Mentz (


This course reads a collection of satiric novels about academic life in dialogue with a series of classic (short!) theoretical essays by leading figures in feminist, post-modern, and post-humanist theory. The working hypothesis of the course is that the foibles and anxieties that the novels playfully expose as evidence of academic exaggeration or hypocrisy bear a more than coincidental relationship to the critical interventions made possible by turns in critical theory since the 1970s. We will juxtapose Luce Irigaray’s “This Sex which is Not One” (1977) with Julie Schumaker’s Dear Committee Members (2014) to explore the changing nature of gender; Michel Foucault’s “Nietzche, Genealogy, History” (1971) with James Hyne’s The Lecturer’s Tale (2001) to think about the operations of power in academic life; and Jacques Derrida’s “The Law of Genre” (1980) with Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot (2011) to think about the shaping force of generic and social conventions. Other possible novels include Jane Smiley’s Moo (1995), David Lodge’s Nice Work (1989), and Richard Russo’s Straight Man (1997). Other possible theorists include Bruno Latour, Stacy Alaimo, and Timothy Morton.


For information, please contact Lana Umali or Steve Mentz, Director of Graduate Studies