This course is designed as a capstone course offering students an opportunity to integrate and reflect upon what they have learned in the major while focusing on current topics and critical debates in English studies. Students are expected to be able to build on courses they have taken before and should consult individual colloquium co-ordinators before registering for the course. There will be no formal lectures but weekly meetings for the discussion of texts and issues, led by students. Assessment will be based on contributions to colloquium discussions and a final essay.
Wednesday, 16:30 - 18:20, CPD-G.03
In this capstone course, we will be reading some of Shakespeare’s most debated political plays, such as 2 Henry VI, Julius Caesar, and Coriolanus. In these plays, Shakespeare addresses the role of the people (the commons) in the broader body politic or commonwealth. He does so in wildly varying ways that can be amusing, festive, cynical, mocking, or outrageously violent. We will compare conservative readings of Shakespeare’s plays to more recent attempts to identify a positive popular voice in both Shakespeare’s work and early modern society. Students will be asked to engage with these critical debates and develop their own position by analysing Shakespeare’s plays and selected historical documents.
Ideally, students enrolling in this course will already have taken courses in Shakespeare or early modern literature. The course is student-run and we will have individual presentations and a final writing output written in stages. Students should expect to read a substantial amount each week.
Tuesday, 10:30 - 12:20, CRT-7.45
In the context of the Western tradition, language has been considered as belonging exclusively to the human domain. As the linguist Max Müller famously put it in 1862: ‘Language is our Rubicon, and no brute will dare to cross it’. Recently, scholars informed by a posthumanist approach have raised serious concerns about the anthropocentric approach to language (and languages). In their opinion, animals and even objects may possess language. Leonie Cornips (2019) speaks of the ‘animal turn’ in sociolinguistics and has called for putting animals “on the linguistic research agenda”. In turn, Alastair Pennycook (2018) has claimed that thinking about language in non-anthropocentric terms will help us understand better what it means to be human. The posthumanist turn in the humanities is a political movement characterized by an activist agenda. The goal is the decentering of humans, among other things by rethinking the nature of language (and languages). The decentering of an anthropocentric conception of language is at the same time the attempt to decenter the Western intellectual tradition: its views on the universe, our planet, human culture, knowledge, rationality, science, religion and art. It is also an attempt to produce a decolonial linguistics. Scholars from the so-called ‘Global South’ are questioning the idea of a ‘science’ of linguistics as developed in Western linguistic thought (Hauck & Heurich 2018, Pennycook & Makoni 2019). What, they ask, if language had different ontologies in different cultural spheres? The anthropocentric position of language would then be merely a cultural phenomenon. In this senior colloquium we will be discussing a selection of topics relevant to this new paradigm in the language sciences. The range of topics is broad and encompasses such questions as: if extraterrestrials exist, would they have language (and languages)? What do we gain from broadening the concept of ‘language’? Is anthropomorphism inevitable? What would the decolonial project in linguistics look like? Does the way we think and talk about language and communication impact our attitudes towards sustainability, climate change, indigenous peoples’ rights, animal rights, etc.?