Ephemera, 1550 to the Present

Course Number: ENGL 236
Prerequisites: Graduate Standing
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 236
Quarter: Winter 2017
Instructor: Fumerton, Patricia
Day(s): W
Time: 12:30pm - 3:00pm
Location: SH 2635
Description:

*Please click here for full syllabus.*

Riding the recent wave of studies in ephemera that has swept across humanities disciplines as an extension of the turn to the object as both a thing and a moment in time, this course will study a selection of ephemera from 1550 to the present. The objects of study are necessarily selectively and subjectively chosen and roughly take us from older to newer forms of ephemera: including, tracts and libels; court masques; broadside ballads; woodcuts and comic strips; newspapers (guest speaker, Rachael King); miscellanies, excerpts, and marginalia (guest speaker: Arthur Marotti); extra-illustrated books (this class includes a trip to the Huntington Library to view some of its famed collection of such books, with guest speaker Lori Anne Ferrell); games, focusing on abandonware and app stores (guest speaker, Jeremy Douglass), and the transitory nature of the world wide web, or “404: Curating Networks” (guest speaker, Alan Liu).

An ongoing question the course will pursue is “what are ephemera?” The Ephemera Project at Rice University defines ephemera as “detritus or garbage that people produce without intending it to survive the moment,” http://chaocenter.rice.edu/ephemera/about.aspx. Would you agree? What about recycling? What role do hobbyists and collectors play in such a definition and our study of ephemera? Why even produce let alone collect “detritus”? Why do we as cultural literary critics care about the ephemera of any historical period?

You will be free in your class presentations to introduce what you consider to be a form of ephemera related to the kind we will be focusing on for the day (from whatever time period) and also to study ephemera in your research paper not touched upon by in the individual classes. As such, the course will count toward whatever departmental period requirement your research paper covers.

Requirements for the course include two oral presentations (of 10-15 minutes), a trip to the Huntington Library to view its collection of extra-illustrated books, newspapers and news manuscripts, and a research paper of 10-12 pp.