ENGL 231
Literature of the Sea Fall 2021 (also offered Spring 2022)
Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed MAST 231 / ENGL 231

Class Details

The ocean, and human relationships with it, have been central features of literatures and cultures around the world for more than a thousand years. But since literary study is typically based around authors’ homelands, careful examination of the oceanic experience is often pushed to the periphery–an “empty space” to be crossed between nations, a “vast darkness” antithetical to human life, or a mirror for land-borne concerns. Increasingly, however, scholars and readers are centering the sea and stories about it as a means stepping outside human frameworks of space and time, situating the complex emotions and narratives inspired by the ocean into a complex network of geologic history and teeming other-than-human life. This course examines a wide range of texts and perspectives on the ocean and human relationships with it. Doing so will help us consider how literature both plays into and subverts dominant viewpoints of the ocean. Through texts that consider 19th-century whaling, the Middle Passage, the postcolonial Caribbean, and islands throughout the Pacific Ocean, we will explore a range of questions, including: What can we learn from examining efforts to write about the ocean? How do ocean stories help individuals understand themselves, their communities, and their place in global environments? What can the range of cultural and literary perspectives on our “single, global ocean” reveal about the ways different people are both connected with and profoundly distant from each other? Most importantly, we will practice, as a classroom community, different strategies for carefully reading texts while connecting them to cultural traditions, surrounding environments, and personal experiences.
The Class: Format: seminar; weekly roundtable discussions, including coastal and near-shore field trips and multiple field seminars.
Limit: 25
Expected: 20
Class#: 1805
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: regular papers, class participation, journal-writing, and a final assignment
Prerequisites: N/A
Enrollment Preferences: Williams-Mystic Students only
Unit Notes: offered only at Mystic Seaport
Distributions: Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
MAST 231 Division I ENGL 231 Division I
DPE Notes: This course focuses on the range of cultural perspectives about the sea, as well as the ways those perspectives can unsettle and challenge dominant narratives about the sea and its role in colonial expansion. Furthermore, this course centers voices that are typically overlooked in the genre of "Sea Literature," paying particular attention to Indigenous and African-American narratives about the ocean.
Attributes: AMST Arts in Context Electives
ENVI Humanities, Arts + Social Science Electives

Class Grid

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