ENGLISH 831 - Seminar: The Study of Genre
Fall 2021, Section 001 - Genre Theory & Contemporary Poetics in the U.S.
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing in English, Women's Studies, or English and Education Program. Permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


Genre is the kind of thing that gets scholars and critics into circles: It’s difficult to think or talk about anything without some idea about what kind of thing it is, because knowing what kind of thing it is (its genre) allows us to know what it makes sense to say about it and do with it. This recursive problem has been remarkably generative for poets, critics, and scholars of poetry and poetics, and in the broadest sense, this generative problem is what this course will consider.

Taking as its starting ground the field of my expertise – 20th- and 21st-century poetry and poetics in the U.S. (capaciously understood), we will explore theories of and questions about genre as they are taken up by critics, poets, and theorists of the C20 and C21, (though sometimes in order to think about poetry and criticism from earlier periods, and/or about the origins and politics of literary criticism as a field in itself). We will engage genre theory (including but not limited to M.M. Bakhtin, Gerard Genette, Jacques Derrida, Theodor Adorno, Sylvia Wynter), criticism and lyric theory, theories of the ballad, writings in contemporary poetics, a range of poetry, and several contemporary “writings” that identify themselves as hybrid, cross-genre, or “beyond genre. ”

One of my aims will be to explore the nearly obsessive critical and creative attention in contemporary U.S. poetics discourses to questions of genre distinction and indistinction. What kinds of problems and solutions does genre thinking create? In debates about the purported politics and ethics of “lyric,” the constitution of “world poetics,’ in a flurry of critical and creative attention to the purported social, ethical, and political limits and possibilities that genre, and/or its breakdown and recombinations might allow, and in the ambivalent attention to the rise of purportedly “new” or “non” genres that negotiate (at least in part) the unwieldy inheritance of capital-p Poetry -- “hybrids,” “lyric essays,” “new nonfiction”, “poeticriticisms”, “trans-genres” – what is invested in genre? How are genre, mode, and kind being imagined and claimed in figural and actual relation to questions about social relations? How do they factor in contemporary imaginings of art’s power to affect cultural and social change (or not)? What do we gain by comparing this moment’s investments in the genre with those of other moments? What are the histories that determine these conversations, and how do they converge and diverse? These BIG questions are importantly bound up in ways the current moment imagines and reimagines art’s ability to “matter.”

In an effort to further broaden course concerns to accommodate Ph.D. students working in a diverse set of fields and periods, we will consider instances of or arguments about genre’s limits, possibilities, breakdowns, and emergences brought forward by students from their own fields and periods, too.

Course Requirements:

Course assignments will include two presentations (one on a week of course reading, and one presenting an aspect of the student’s final course project), and a final project in one of several possible genres: academic essay or article draft; a book review project; annotated bibliography; a drafted “talk” or conference (joint presentations possible!)/ annotated bibliography…. depending on the student’s aims in doing this course work.

Class Format:


ENGLISH 831 - Seminar: The Study of Genre
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
Th 2:00PM - 5:00PM

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