Course Digital Infrastructure

We will make use of three different online systems in this course:

We will use our course site to manage course information and our schedule. You will find an online version of our course calendar here (including the most up-to-date version of reading assignments and due dates), as well as information about all course assignments. We will use a shared class Box folder ( to distribute course readings and other materials. Every UM student, staff, and faculty member has free access to Box, but you will need to create a Box account to access the shared folder if you don’t have one already. You will receive a link to this shared folder via email. Finally, we will use a class Google drive folder to manage the weekly response assignments (see below).


You must complete all assignments to pass the class.


All of our course readings are available online or through our shared Box folder. However, we will be reading many selections from Saidiya Hartman’s newest book Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (Norton, 2019). While these selections will be included among the materials available via our Box folder, if you would like to read this book in its hard copy form, you may wish to purchase it.

Note that in some cases, when they are available, I have given you a pdf of an entire book when we are only reading a chapter for this class. Please refer to the course schedule for the assigned readings.

Attendance and Active Participation

As with any graduate course, you are expected to do the reading for, attend, and actively participate in every class period, barring emergencies or illness. If you know you will miss a particular class period, please let me know in advance. The reading load for this course is ambitious, as we have a lot of ground to cover. The reading will also not be easy, and many of our conversations will revolve around the frustrations and productive potentials of difficulty. While you are expected to complete each week’s reading before coming to class, you are not expected to master it. In our class discussions, we will explore together what we don’t know or understand. Not knowing or not understanding will be our expected collective starting point, not a sign of individual failure.

Weekly Responses: 20%

For most weeks of the course, you will complete a short response assignment on that week’s reading, due by class. Those weeks where no response is due are marked on the course calendar. You will submit your responses to our class Google drive folder. Your responses will take two different forms: 1) keyword definition (unit 1); and 2) tracking keywords in scholarly conversation (unit 2). Your responses will be graded on completion.

  1. Keyword response: During weeks 3-6, you will select a word or concept from the week’s reading with which you are unfamiliar, vaguely familiar, or about which you would like to learn more. Your keyword may be a term used in a specific reading, or a concept that unites two or more of the week’s readings (in the style of the recent Keywords series from NYU Press, for example). Following the template outlined in the “Keywords” doc in our Google drive folder, you will provide a quote or two from the reading that features the word or concept, and write a paragraph that defines the word or concept in your own words and discusses what you see as its importance and/or influence on contemporary criticism and theory. For help with your keyword response, you may wish to refer to the Wiley-Blackwell Dictionary of Cultural and Critical Theory (second edition, 2010), which I’ve included in our course Box folder, or to one of the NYU Press Keywords volumes (although this is not required). The only stipulation is that you may not choose a keyword someone else has already posted. See the Keywords doc in our Google drive folder for more details.
  2. Keywords in conversation: During weeks 8-12, you will select one of the readings for each week and begin to track one conversation that piece is having with another work. To do this, you might select a keyword, concept or argument explicitly cited by the piece you have chosen, and then refer to that citation to see how the piece you have chosen is in conversation with that cited keyword, concept or argument. Alternatively, you might recognize a keyword, concept or argument from our reading in this class (or even from that particular week) that the piece you have chosen implicitly refers to or works from. Following the template outlined in the “Keywords in Conversation” doc in our Google drive folder, you will name and briefly define your chosen keyword/concept/argument, record the two works you are putting in conversation with one another, and write no more than 1 paragraph discussing how your chosen piece uses, adapts, builds on, critiques, challenges, etc. the keyword/concept/argument. The only stipulation is that you may not choose a conversation that someone else has already posted. See the Keywords in Conversation doc in our Google drive folder for more details.

Keyword Essay: 30%


  • You should come to class on Tuesday, October 1 ready to report the keyword you have chosen to write about. If you miss class on this day, email me with your keyword.
  • Keyword Essay: Friday, October 4 via email.

In the spirit of the NYU Press Keywords volumes, you will write an essay that defines and dilates on the meaning and influence of a specific critical or theoretical concept (~1500-2000 words). As with the weekly keyword responses, this may be a term used in a specific reading, or a concept that unites two or more readings. You may select from among the keywords already identified in the weekly responses (by you or by someone else in the class), or you may choose a new keyword. Your essay should define your keyword in your own words, but the majority of the paper should discuss its importance and influence on literary/cultural criticism and theory.

While this specific kind of paper may be new to you, what I am asking for here is still an essay informed by research. This means your essay should trace what you see as the importance and influence of your keyword on later scholarship. You should aim to provide a rich picture of the keyword’s importance and influence, although you may choose to discuss some aspects of this importance and influence more than others. There are no requirements about the number of works you should discuss, they can be from our course reading or not (most likely, it will be a combination of the two), and you can organize the essay however you would like. However, keep in mind that you don’t have a lot of space. 1500-2000 words is quite short, so you should think strategically about how best to accomplish your essay’s goals in that amount of space. You should include a works cited page/bibliography.

References available to you to help with this assignment:

  • Wiley-Blackwell Dictionary of Cultural and Critical Theory, Second Edition (included with our course readings in our course Box folder)
  • The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism (available via U Miami library; click the “Online Access” link and sign in with your UM credentials to search the database)

Final project: 50%


  • Come to class on Tuesday, November 12 ready to report the option you have chosen for your final project. If you miss class on this day, email me with your choice.
  • Abstract: Tuesday, November 19 by class via email.
  • Final project: Tuesday, December 10 via email.

Final Project
The final project in this class asks you to assemble and reflect on your own archive for literary and/or cultural studies. You have three options: 1) You can write a more traditional research paper/work of cultural criticism, i.e. choose an object or objects and interpret/contextualize/think through/critique/do a reparative reading of/do a surface reading of/etc these objects using critical theory (~2500-3000 words); 2) You can develop a syllabus for an undergraduate special topics in literary/cultural theory course, focusing on the topic(s), theory(ies) and objects of your choice, and write a paper explaining the rationale of the course (~1500-2000 words); or 3) You can write a prospectus, or part of a prospectus, for a dissertation or other long-form or large research project that assembles theories and objects of your choice and articulates an argument about them (~2500-3000 words). Whatever option you choose, at least some of the theory you incorporate into your final project should be from this class.

We will talk more about each of these options in class.

The abstract lays out the general gist of your ideas for your final project. It should be no longer than 1-2 paragraphs. The more specific you can be at this stage, the better. While a good deal of thought should go into the abstract, it does not commit you to anything, and the project may change as needed as you work on it.

Meeting with the Instructor
You must meet with me to discuss your final project before it is due, ideally either during the week before Thanksgiving break or the week after Thanksgiving break. To facilitate these meetings, I will hold office hours during our class time on Tuesday, December 3. Please email me to arrange a time to meet.