GRADUATE COURSES I HAVE TAUGHT

FALL 2020: "LET PEOPLE TELL THEIR STORIES THEIR OWN WAY": TRISTRAM SHANDY AS NOVEL, PROVOCATION, REMIX

From 1759 until shortly before his death in 1767, Laurence Sterne published the weirdest work of fiction yet seen -- "postmodern" generations before the term would be coined.  In it, Tristram attempts to tell the story of his life -- his whole life, from conception on -- as he is rapidly running out of time.


Sterne claimed "Tristram Shandy... was made to baffle all criticism - and I will venture to rest the book on this ground - that it is either above the power or beneath the attention of any critic or hyper-critic whatsoever.” Critics will critique, of course: in 1776, Samuel Johnson huffed that it was "not English” and that "Nothing odd will do for long... Tristram Shandy did not last.”  Twentieth-century critic FR Leavis dismissed what he called Sterne's "irresponsible (and nasty) trifling.”  But Tristram Shandy has lasted, thanks to those like Virginia Woolf who found the novel brings us "as close to life as we can be,” C.S. Lewis, who found Tristram Shandy ideal teatime reading, and the generations of authors, from Karl Marx to Salman Rushdie to Milan Kundera, who were all inspired by Sterne’s style.

Because it was published a volume or two at a time, across eight years, readers were able to respond, creating fake continuations, songs, dances, card games, pornographic parodies, sermons, cartoons, portraits, and more. Much more. Ignatius Sancho wrote to Sterne to encourage his characters to voice support for the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, and their resulting correspondence became a talking point in the ongoing debate.

This course takes seriously the idea that transformative work (adaptation, fanwork, and the like) is a useful form of literary analysis and critique. Our "slow reading" of Sterne's masterwork will be punctuated by readings of other novels published simultaneously (a feminist utopia, the first Gothic novel) as well as debates from the period (the abolition of slavery, the buildup to the American Revolution, transformations of copyright law).  We will also consider the many creative responses by our own contemporaries (radio, film, and graphic novel adaptations), and do hands-on creative work using the tools of the new Book Lab Cart (marbling paper, setting type). 

FALL 2018: CROWDFUNDING, GIG-ECONOMY HACKS, AND CREATING YOUR BRAND: AUTHORIAL INVENTION IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY BRITAIN

Our notions of what an author is, what artistic and financial rights they have, was created in the case law and everyday practices of the eighteenth-century book trades.  Some authors self-published, using their own resources or those of their social networks.  Others used their talents and wits to get the upper hand on their publishers.  Others wrote voluminously in the eighteenth-century version of the “gig economy.”  

 This course will explore the different ways that authors connected with audiences throughout the long eighteenth-century (1660-1830).  This will include an introduction to the many people involved in the production of printed media (paper and ink makers, typesetters, printers, binders, publishers, booksellers, reviewers), ways readers accessed reading material (via booksellers, circulating libraries, coffee shops, the salon and the street).  We will read work by major canonical figures of the period (Pope, Defoe, Haywood, Richardson, Burney, etc.) as well as lesser-known and anonymous writers, including those that refused to enter the world of print entirely.

 Seminar participants will be introduced to (and complete assignments applying) a variety of real-life research tasks: transcription from manuscript, collating multiple editions, bibliographic research, and best practices in scholarly editing.

SPRING 2017: DIGITAL EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY

Much of what we think is unique to our particular historical moment is, in fact, shaped by the ideas and structures that emerged from the Age of Enlightenment. The eighteenth century was a time of overwhelming technological, scientific, and economic change, including transformations in public discourse, and new genres (and new governments) rising to accommodate new ideas. In short, we can learn a lot about our own period by examining transformative eighteenth-century texts, and thanks to new forms of knowledge created by various digital tools, we can look at them in even more transformative ways.
This seminar will introduce participants to a variety of texts from the long eighteenth-century (1660-1820), paired with digital resources and scholarly projects that give new insights to these texts. Students will learn traditional archival techniques alongside methods of mapping, text encoding, and data visualization, and will have the opportunity to create a pilot project as a component of their final paper. No prior training in either eighteenth-century literature or coding is presumed.

FALL 2014: NOVEL BEGINNINGS

Periodically (when student coursework demands) I teach a fairly traditional "Rise of the Novel" course, using Spacks's Novel Beginnings as a course through-line.

FALL 2013: AGE OF SENSATIONS

In this class on "Sensations" we discussed the cultural history of the senses, theatrical spectacle and the rise of melodrama.

SPRING 2011: LITERARY THEORY: ISSUES & APPROACHES, OR KNOWING WHERE YOU CAME FROM (ENG7790)

"Theory" is a strange signifier in literary studies, inspiring apprehension, giddiness, or crankiness when invoked.  More neutrally considered, the purpose of "theory" is try to ask (and answer) different questions about literature, language, representation culture, identity, and history.  Thus, this course is designed to give students a wide exposure to the variety of approaches available in contemporary literary and cultural theory.  We call these critical "lenses," a possible "toolkit" to better understand one's own work in conversation.  Participants will come away with an understanding on the historical context in which these ideas emerged, and hopefully a sense of which theoretical approaches best fit their work. I do not intend to teach this course again, but you never know.

FALL 2010: A LAUGHING MATTER - 1773 IN SNAPSHOT

April De Angelis’s 2002 play A Laughing Matter draws from a wide swath of eighteenth-century culture to paint a comedic picture of the backstage antics leading up to the production of Goldsmith’s She Stoops To Conquer. Using the playtext as a starting (and ending) point, this course will look at the work of “characters” such as Johnson, Garrick, Reynolds, Goldsmith, Burke, Woffington, Hannah More, Cumberland, and Boswell, as well as those whom De Angelis left out, including Hester Thrale and the looming Richard Brinsley Sheridan, as well as writers publishing in that year (Wheatley, Barbauld, etc.)

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