New Courses by Graduate Students

Courses taught by graduate students offer new options for the undergraduate curriculum each year while giving graduate students in the humanities the opportunity to teach. Awarded students receive a standard stipend to develop and teach new public humanities courses.

Fall 2017-Spring 2018

ENGL/HURC 299 - Literature & Public Humanities: SURREAL HOUSTON 1917-2017 [Fall 2017]
Michael Miller
It is slightly surreal that Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2016 was “surreal.” Following three significant world events—two of which were terrorist attacks, the other the U.S. election in November––Merriam-Webster noted a significant spike in the number of users seeking an official definition for the word. While the adjective “surreal” derives from Surrealism—an avant-garde movement founded by André Breton in the mid-1920s that emerged out of Dada––it is clear from Merriam-Webster’s surge in “surreal” searches that the term still possesses an explanatory power that persists across time and cultures. This course asks: how and why is “surreal’s” definition broad enough to describe avant-garde paintings and films from the 1920s, terrorist attacks, the effect of Houston’s lack of zoning laws, and a large number of television shows housed on the Adult Swim network? What accounts for “surreal’s” contemporary appeal?

ENGL/HURC 245 - Invalid Women: Writing and Resisting Representations of Women’s Illness [Fall 2017]
Instructor(s): Rachel Bracken
Western biomedicine has historically been dominated by male theorists and practitioners. How, then, has U.S. biomedical culture accounted for women’s bodies, women’s health, and women’s illness? Looking to literary and cultural representations of “hysteria” and women’s mental health, beauty standards, sexuality, domestic abuse and sexual violence, reproductive health, and chronic illness, this course identifies persistent stereotypes of women as sickly, frail, or “crazy,” as well as the ways in which women authors have resisted these stereotypes in their own writing about women’s bodies, health, and sexuality. The novels, short stories, poems, memoirs, and films we will encounter over the course of the semester expose an obsessive medicalization of women’s bodies and a simultaneous, paradoxical neglect of women’s health.

ENGL 397 - Literature & Culture: Capturing Music, A Cultural Writing Clinic [Fall 2017]
Sydney Boyd
When singer-songwriter Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016, it marked a cultural and controversial shift in how we understand music in relationship to writing. Putting Dylan in the same company as George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, and Toni Morrison, the prize called attention to a long-standing interdisciplinary bond between music and literature that detractors hailed irrelevant and supporters called intuitive. This course will investigate classical music, writing, and culture with a hands-on approach. In addition to considering what music has to do with literature and vice versa through critical readings, we will ask cultural questions about the role of music in Houston and beyond: Why do we go to concerts? And how do we write about that experience? To answer these questions, our class will attend a variety of classical and contemporary concerts over the course of the semester that reflect Houston’s diverse population from opera to solo recitals, chamber music, and Hindustani tabla concerts. Additionally, in this class we will practice a variety of ways to write about music from liner notes to reviews, creative responses, presentations, and one final critical essay.

Politics of Cultural Heritage in the Modern Middle East, 1800 to the Present [Spring 2018]
Ümit Açıkgöz
This course will examine the history of the concept of “cultural heritage” in the Middle East from its inception in the nineteenth century until the present, particularly in its relation to politics and questions of identity. We will explore the emergence of concerns for archaeological sites and architectural monuments; the uses and meanings of cultural heritage at different historical moments; and the ability of cultural heritage to shore up contested claims of identity, ideology, and political legitimacy in imperial, colonial, and national contexts. Focus will be on the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel.

A Brief History of Madness [Spring 2018]
Benjamin Kozicki
There is no end to our cultural fascination with mental illness, and our ideas on the subject shift constantly, if only because it is one that has historically been plagued by misunderstanding. Indeed, as we are not that far removed from a time where the mentally ill were thought to be witches or possessed by demons, and even a half-century ago the standard treatment for even the most benign maladies called for institutionalization and regimens of treatment that hearkened back to the dark ages. And while the understanding of mental illness has increased dramatically since the deinstitutionalization movement of the latter half of the 20th century, mental illness remains severely misunderstood to this day – to the extent that portrayals of the mentally ill in popular media are often just as inaccurate and stigmatizing as the witch stories of centuries past. The purpose of this course is to examine the portrayals, understanding, and diagnoses of mental illness covering roughly the past 200 years: from the surprising barbarism of the early 19th century, and the outright quackery of the Victorian Era, to the discovery of the unconscious, on up to the era of deinstitutionalization and advent of Prozac.

Fall 2016-Spring 2017

ENGL/HURC 245 - Gender, Medicine, Technology [Spring 2017]
Alanna Beroiza
What is gender? And, what does it have to do with medicine and technology? This course offers an introduction to the concept of gender at the intersection of medicine and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will begin our study by asking when and how human bodies, sexual behaviors, and personal identities became subjects of medical interest in the modern Western world. The course covers pre-Enlightenment studies of sexual anatomies, behaviors, and pleasures; 19th and 20th century medical research on sexual "degeneracies" and "disorders"; the discourses and practices of cybernetics, endocrinology, and plastic surgery from the 19th and 20th centuries; and analyses of contemporary culture informed by our knowledge of gender as a product of medical diagnosis and biotechnology.

ENGL/HURC 299 - Curating Heritage [Spring 2017]
Instructor(s): Lindsey N. Chappell
In this course, we will investigate how heritage objects—and their arrangement and display as public narratives—can produce a collective sense of identity and belonging. We will engage with questions such as: How is cultural identity policed, by whom, and to what ends (historically and in the present)? How can objects become sacred or dangerous? How can they contain cultural identity and history? What are the logics, forms, and objectives that structure exhibition? How are cultural heritages constructed and deconstructed through the curation and exhibition of objects? Through a combination of museum visits, literature, and theory in each unit, we’ll analyze how institutions curate cultural heritage through the exhibition of antique objects. At the end of the course, we will think about the ethics and rhetoric of arrangement, possession, and exhibition theoretically and practically to produce our own virtual heritage exhibits.

Fall 2015-Spring 2016

HURC 213 - The Doctor is On:  Portrayals of Medical Professionals in Television, Fiction and Film [Spring 2016]
Instructor(s): Ben Kozicki, Graduate Student in English
Fictionalized characters such as House, Marcus Welby, Doc Martin, and Hawkeye Pierce reinforce stereotypes as much as they challenge assumptions and (re)define cultural attitudes toward doctors (and the medical profession in general). This course examines the portrayal of healthcare professionals in television, fiction and film to discuss philosophical and ethical questions as well as the modern medical apparatus from biological and social systems perspectives.

ENGL/HURC 299 - (Dis)Locating Art: Literature, Art, Music, and the Making of Communities [Spring 2016]
Meina Yates-Richard
Where is art located? Is a documentary film short about Beyoncé screened at Discovery Green “art?” Does it become art if screened at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston? This course seeks to answer these questions through an investigation of multiple spaces of artistic creation and reception in the greater Houston area. We will consider visual, literary, and performative art forms such as music and dance, and inquire into the effects of their social locations.