Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Junior Research Seminar: Nonsense Worlds

ENGL 200.307
instructor(s):
TR 12-1:30pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

What is the relationship between fictional, nonsensical worlds and our social realities? How do we “make sense” of nonsense? When can nonsense be a mode of critique? Whose work is deemed legible as literary Nonsense and whose is dismissed as (pejoratively) nonsensical?These are the kinds of questions we will ask in this class as we venture into a topsy-turvy and idiosyncratic set of nonsense worlds across media. Our aim in this class will not be to create one genealogy of nonsense worlds, but to consider possible lineages and develop a critical vocabulary to characterize the shifting face of nonsensicality. We will begin with some well-known works of Nonsense literature and then turn our focus to nonsense-making from the margins. Potential texts include: Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark” (1876), the Looney Tunes short Duck Amuck (1953), Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet (1974), Fran Ross’s Oreo (1974), Junji Ito’s Uzumaki (1999), and selections of visual art, short film, animation, and video games. Through these objects we will think about the many seeming contradictions within the concept of nonsense including the abstract and particular, structured and amorphous, and local and global.

This Junior Research Seminar is designed to introduce students to a variety of critical research skills and academic writing methods such as close-reading, visual analysis, and the use of archival materials, culminating in a final research project. Final projects for this class will have the option of being a critical-creative work of designing and theorizing your own nonsense world (with a written research component) or writing a research paper on an existing nonsense world of your choosing.