ENGL 294
On Occupations: Work, Colonization and Contemporary Life Spring 2025 (also offered Fall 2024)
Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed COMP 299

Class Details

Reading political essays, critical theory, historiography, and literary works, in this course we will ask what thinking through the different senses of “occupation” can teach us about contemporary life. The course wagers that there is a connection between why some nations are or were “under” occupation and why, as individuals, all of us must “have” occupations. On the one hand, we will think about work: What does it mean to have an occupation today? There was a time when most people could distinguish between the time of work and that of leisure. But we live under a different regime. What now is the difference between work and leisure for those working “gigs”? In the case of “creatives,” Bifo Berardi says, it is the soul itself that has been put to work. And then there are those who are unemployed, i.e., those occupied by the most widespread form of work there is–looking for work. On the other hand, we will ask questions about colonialism: Did not Europe’s occupation of the globe birth this world in which the only way to live is to be occupied in a narrow sense, i.e., to always be working or looking for work? And isn’t one economic function of the occupation of peoples in our own times to create a cheap workforce? Finally, we will ask what art and political organizing can teach us about a “de-occupied” life–a life after work, a life without colonization. Writers will include Marx, Jyotiba Phule, Du Bois, Raymond Williams, Premchand, M. E. O’Brien and Eman Abdelhadi, Bifo Berardi, David Graeber, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Mahasweta Devi, Edward Said etc.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3625
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students will read 100-120 pages each week. Each student will do one classroom presentation about the week's readings. Other assignments include weekly journals, an annotated bibliography, a proposal, and a final paper.
Prerequisites: 100-level English course or a 5 on the AP literature exam, or permission of the instructor.
Enrollment Preferences: first-years and sophomores considering majoring in English or Comparative Literature, and English majors who have not yet taken a gateway course.
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENGL 294 Division I COMP 299 Division I
WS Notes: Students will write over 20 pages in the semester and they will receive extensive feedback.
DPE Notes: Students will read and discuss texts about the organization of power in contemporary society. They will reflect upon the economic structures that underpin a range of oppressive social forms.
Attributes: ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses
ENGL Literary Histories C

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