Spring 2024

Literary Storms

Listed in: English, as ENGL-116


Anna J. Abramson (Section 01)


In this course we will weather famous storms featured in literary, artistic, and cinematic works from the nineteenth century through the present day. Together, we will make our way through snow, sleet, hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, superstorms, and everyday rain showers. This topic will provide a unifying thematic thread for a class focused on the fundamentals of close reading, viewing, writing, and revision. We will examine how various genres, narrative styles, and authorial voices engage this common topic in strikingly different ways. We will also use storms to learn about literary and aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, and to think about the basic building blocks of narrative. How do storms blur lines between setting, plot, characterization, suspense, and closure? What does it mean for a setting to come to life or function as a character?

Together, we will discuss: How do stories of environmental violence and human violence collide? Who gets to tell the story of a storm? What stories emerge on either side of the ostensibly rupturing event itself, before and after the storm? How do storms expose and exacerbate disparities along racial and socioeconomic lines? Can reading local storm stories provide a way of thinking about global climate change?

Some of our storms will be based upon actual events, including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Irene; this will raise complex questions about the boundaries between history and art.

Possible works include paintings by J. M. W. Turner; short stories by Kate Chopin, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Ben Marcus; novels by Zora Neale Hurston, Ben Lerner, and Jesmyn Ward; film by Behn Zeitlin, and documentary by Spike Lee.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Abramson.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference will be given to first-year students and English majors who still need to complete their 100-level requirement.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: emphasis on written work, readings, group work