Celena E. Kusch
Associate Professor of American Literature
Co-Chair H. D. International Society
Ph.D. in English, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2002
M.A. in English, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1994
B.A. in English, St. Olaf College, 1993
Areas of Specialty: Transatlantic Modernism, 20th Century U.S. Literature, National Identity and American Studies, Gender and Sexuality, Poetry
Secondary Specialization: Postcolonial Literature
“H. D.’s American Sea Garden: Drowning the Idyll Threat to US Modernism.” Twentieth-Century Literature 56.1 (2010): 47-70.
"Disorienting Modernism: National Boundaries and the Cosmopolis." Journal of Modern Literature 30.4 (2007): 39-60. http://inscribe.iupress.org/doi/abs/10.2979/JML.2007.30.4.39
"How the West Was One: American Modernism's Song of Itself." American Literature 74.3 (2002): 517-538.
SEGL 428: American Literature 1910-1950
Modernist American authors describe their literary movements as a break from the standards and traditions of British and European literary culture. Their motto, as Ezra Pound describes it, is to "make it new," and these writers experiment with new ways to create and express a distinctly American literature and culture that can effectively describe the complicated problems of modern life. By reading texts about the cultural encounters and conflicts between rich and poor, popular and elite, masculine and feminine, immigrant and "native" and technological and traditional, students will develop skills in close reading and analytic writing, and they will demonstrate those skills through class discussions, response papers, class presentations, research papers and exams. Texts include poems, novels and plays published between World War I and the Cold War, such as The Waste Land, Passing, The Great Gatsby, The Sound and the Fury and A Streetcar Named Desire.
SEGL 427: American Literature 1865-1910
Law and order are central concerns in American literature from 1865-1910. The realism and naturalism produced during this period question the social and natural order and respond to new laws regulating race relations, Native American territories, immigration, industry and workers rights. The literature covered in this focuses on murder cases, race riots, immigrant stories and social climbing. Texts include Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Charles Chestnutt's The Marrow of Tradition, Henry James's Daisy Miller, Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth and many examples of short fiction from the period.
SEGL 398: Topics in Language and Literature-Postcolonial Literature
Colonialism and/or imperialism have shaped the histories of all continents. When we think of writing within and after colonization, we can imagine the texts of Egyptian authors under Greece, Greek authors under Rome, Middle Eastern authors under the Ottoman Empire, Korean authors under China or Japan and myriad African and South American authors under France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands. Postcolonial theory seeks to understand the ways members of colonized groups attempt to live with and resist cultural hegemony and articulate independent cultural identities.
Within literary scholarship, postcolonial literature designates a particular movement beginning in the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries during which the global push for resistance and independence movements ushered dozens of new sovereign nations into the world of international politics. As the editors of The Empire Writes Back state, "We use the term ‘post-colonial’ . . . to cover all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day. This is because there is a continuity of preoccupations throughout the historical process initiated by European imperial aggression. We also suggest that it is most appropriate as the term for the new cross-cultural criticism which has emerged in recent years and for the discourse through which this is constituted. In this sense, this book is concerned with the world as it exists during and after the period of European imperial domination and the effects of this on contemporary literature" (2). Postcolonial authors deploy several strategies to voice their national, cultural, and individual identities, often in the context of an imperial language, imperial education system, imperial class system, and lingering imperial economy. Our course will focus particular attention on the ways that literature addresses and articulates issues of development, difference, gender, race, self-definition and self-determination, and the crossing of borders between and among these categories throughout our global community.
SEGL 430: American Literature 1950-Present
Contemporary American literature includes texts by U.S. authors written from 1950 to the present, but defining it more specifically raises a number of questions. Given the contemporary literature market which is aimed at niche audiences, how can we define an overarching field of contemporary American literature? What demands does the increasing globalization of the contemporary world place on our definitions of “America” and “American?” How do we decide what kinds of movements and texts to value as “literary,” or does the high culture/low culture divide no longer exist? If we attempt to define the period in terms of postmodernism, do we risk excluding texts that display too much optimism or too stable a sense of identity? Our readings will focus on major poems, novels and plays published in the wake of World War II. Students may also consider very current texts as the subject of their final paper.
In this course, students will engage with a variety of contemporary U.S. texts in order to examine the scope and characteristics of this emerging field. We will explore the ways these writers define and respond to the conditions of post-WWII, postcolonial, post-civil rights, and postmodernity as they attempt to shape the direction of literature today. Students will develop skills in close reading and analytic writing and they will demonstrate those skills through class discussion, response papers, formal papers and exams.