ENGL 108
Idleness & Insubordination: Literatures Against Work Spring 2024 (also offered Fall 2023)
Division I Writing Skills
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Class Details

Under the regime of idleness, to kill the time, which kills us second by second, there will be shows and theatrical performances always and always. –Paul Lafargue, “The Right to Be Lazy” What right do we have to stay in bed? To laze about in the heat of the day? What is the relationship between loafing and literary production? Departing from the ancient paradigm of otium (idleness, leisure, retirement) and negotium (work, service, activity), this course tracks the diversions and detours by which artists and writers have insisted on not keeping busy. We’ll consider the possibilities and limits of idleness in the space of the household and on Wall Street; we’ll read about people who literally wander and those who stay in place and say, “I prefer not to.” Encountering Virgil’s world-weary shepherd-songs, Shakespeare’s colonial imaginary, and contemporary meditations on pastoral retreat, we’ll ask after the difference between idleness as rest and idleness as protest. What poetic, narrative, and visual forms constitute an “idle aesthetic”? Alongside literature and a few films, we’ll dip into a selection of theoretical essays that think about how repeated refusals to work can cultivate new subjectivities under capitalism. What forms of creativity and community are developed when we withhold our labors? How do such forms resist and remake the world? Our inquiry will likely include works by Nanni Balestrini, Zora Neale Hurston, June Jordan, Clarice Lispector, Herman Melville, Andrew Marvell, Arthur Rimbaud, Ed Roberson, Ousmane Sembène, Agnès Varda, among others.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3937
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: 4-5 papers, with revisions; a creative assignment. Regular discussion posts, self-reflections, and annotation/journal-entries. Two conferences with instructor.
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: first-year students who have not taken or placed out of a 100-level ENGL course
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
WS Notes: Students will produce at least 20 pages of polished writing across the semester. We'll devote class time regularly to discussing successful writing and revisions skills. Students will receive timely feedback on their assignments. As regular writing is part of an engaged reading practice, students will also be asked to do frequent short informal exercises (in class and out).

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