Undergraduate Courses

ENGL 347 “Literary Things: Material Culture in American Literature”
Professor Martin Brückner

This course explores the rise of “literary things” and examines how objects, from symbolic icons to everyday stuff, impact literary forms and genres in American literature between 1700 and 1900. Topics to be discussed are the rise of the “It-Narrative” and popular print culture; the birth of the modern “child” and the consumer revolution; literacy, gender, and self-representation; theatricality and performance; race and objectification; and the agency of “literary things” from eighteenth century Age of Reason to nineteenth century Sentimentalism and Realism. Readings include a few theoretical texts. Primary sources cover different genres (biography, travel narratives, folktales, drama, novels, magazine stories, textbooks, news).

ENGL 205 “British Writers 900-1700”
Professor Julian Yates

Traditionally taught as a literary historical survey, this course meets that burden but also attends closely to the object world of writing and reading. Working in reverse chronological order, we travel back from the world of books printed in paper made from rags to books made from parchment (animal skin), handwritten manuscripts, and oral poetry. The course includes units held in Morris Library’s Special Collections on vellum, books of hours, Shakespeare’s folios and quartos, and an in class experiment with writing in invisible ink. Typically, this course is offered every fall.

ENGL 110 “Critical Reading and Writing”
Professor Sarah Wasserman

Though the “subject” of this course is critical reading and writing, in my course we frame our inquiries around the topic of collecting. Everybody collects something: photographs, ticket stubs, shoes, pens, Apple devices, or “likes “on Facebook. We often think of a college education itself as a collection of courses or knowledge. And whether students are interested in the collection of data or in a collection of short stories, they see that the accumulation and curation of ideas and objects holds a central place in our scholarly and daily lives. In this course, students are invited to reflect on their own collecting practices.  In which ways might writing and collecting be similar? In which ways do they differ? We examine these questions in discussion, through reading, and in written work. We also visit Special Collections to learn more about the incredible objects that the UD library collects, maintains, and organizes.

English 361-011 “Digital Cultures: How To Read the Internet”
Professor Sarah Wasserman

Has the Internet really “changed everything?” If so, how do we recognize and make sense of those changes? This interdisciplinary seminar offers examines the many ways in which the Internet has changed the way we experience, shape, and conceive of culture. This course introduces students to the dizzying array of components that constitute digital culture: technological forms, social practices, narrative structures, economic arrangements and political relations.

English 361-010 “Superheroes, Supervillains, and Sequential Art: Comic Books and Graphic Novels”
Professor Sarah Wasserman

From caped crusaders to intimate autobiography: comic books and graphic novels contain a wide range of characters and stories. They ask their readers to engage with both image and text—to reflect on how meaning is made on the page and what it means to read. In this course, students develop techniques for reading “sequential art,” a medium that combines words and images. We study the history of the medium from its origin in turn- of-the-century newspaper comic strips to recent work by graphic novelists. We also consider the impact of digitization on the medium, as e- comics become ever more popular and innovative. By taking “the funnies” seriously and reading widely in literary and cultural theory along the way, we uncover the way that comics—and, more generally, narrative—work.

ARSC 390-086 “Civil War Stuff: Writing History Through Objects”
Professor Sarah Beetham

In this course, we will explore the significant objects used to wage, picture, and remember the American Civil War. Using methods from material culture studies, we will examine prints, photographs, fine art, weapons, textiles, medical objects, landscapes, memorials, and souvenirs to understand how objects can increase our understanding of how the Civil War happened and what it has meant to us as a nation. We will read testimonials from soldiers, witnesses, family members, enslaved people, artists, and statesmen of the Civil War along with works by scholars of material culture. Students will write brief response papers and two formal essays analyzing the representation of Civil War objects in popular culture. For their final project, students will be asked to write a research paper proposing an exhibition based on a theme related to the Civil War using the types of objects studied during the semester.

ART215 “Seeing and Being”
Professor Jon Cox

This course focuses on how people see, process and respond to visual information embedded in the world, from immediate personal environments to the larger places in which we live. Visual impact and social action are explored within contexts of change. Design thinking and innovation processes are highlighted.

SOCI/MCST449 “Sociology of Art and Culture”

Professor Anne Bowler

This course is designed to introduce students to a sociological framework for the analysis of culture and the arts. Topics include the role of culture in the creation and legitimation of social inequality, the historical emergence of a hierarchical division between the fine and popular arts, fashion, gender and culture, race and representation, public controversies over art, and Outsider Art.

WOMS 336: Feminist Cultural Studies, “The New Woman in Black and White”
Professor Margaret Stetz

In both Britain and the U.S., the turn-of-the-century was an exciting period for women in the arts and for feminist political struggle. Using a variety of works of fiction, journalism, essays, and memoirs by and about figures ranging from Ida B. Wells to Amy Levy, this course will examine the intersections of race with the fight for gender equality. We will also explore the increasing importance of visual culture at the start of the twentieth century thanks to the rise of photography, which opened opportunities for women as photographers and propelled to fame women whose careers depended upon the circulation of images, such as those who were dress designers. At the same time, we will consider the material changes in dress and the evolution of fashion as signs of women’s shifting social roles.