Visiting Assistant Professor of British Literature
Daniel Block, visiting assistant professor of British literature, received his B.A. from Haverford College (magna cum laude) and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Department of Literatures and Cultures in English at Brown University.
His research and teaching interests include eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and culture, poetry and poetics, the history of the novel, aesthetics, historiography and historicism, theories of emotion and affect, transatlanticism, as well as rhetoric and composition.
He has published on the role of poetry in Walter Scott's historical novel, Waverley. Currently he is completing articles that explore Adam Smith's sympathy for the dead as well as the fractured temporality of emotion in John Keats's poetry. His book project, tentatively titled British Romanticism at the Degree Zero of Emotion, locates the minor emotions that attend Romanticism's desire for an evocative past.
This course examines the persistence of gothic fiction throughout the history of the novel. How does the gothic provide a mode or genre for exploring alternatives to the modern, self-governing individual, we ask? Moreover, why do eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British writers invariably put gothic tropes to work in novels that lay claim to realism? The seminar pursues a cultural-historical answer to these questions by considering the forms of subjectivity that the gothic both authorizes and renders phobic. The course concludes by investigating our ongoing fascination with the gothic as evident in contemporary reinterpretations of zombies, vampires, viruses, and other forms of mass life. Readings may include texts by Walpole, Radcliffe, Shelley, Eliot, Rossetti, Stevenson, Stoker, Collins, Conan Doyle, and Ishiguro.
This course asks students to examine the role of bodily sensation, feeling, and emotion in literary efforts to assess the credibility of historical representation. Is it possible to feel the past, we ask? What prompts such responses? How do writers adjudicate between their desire for a virtual experience of history and uncertainty about its adequacy or legitimacy? An initial unit investigates British Romantic literature and its emerging thirst for a visceral sense of history. To understand the legacy of Romanticism's demand to bring the past back to life, we subsequently consider several notable films, including Hitchcock's Vertigo, Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, and Allen's Midnight in Paris. Students conclude the course by researching some of the more dubious elements of contemporary historical culture: among them, the "period rush" of civil war reenactment, the affect of Antiques Roadshow, and retro style. Key readings include texts by Wordsworth, Austen, Scott, and Keats. Prerequiste: one literature course.
This course challenges commonplace assumptions about writing as a sedentary activity. Instead we traverse the literary history of writing while standing up, walking, and in conversation. Amid the contemporary fascination with standing desks and rising anxiety about the health implications of our deskbound lives, we ask a range of questions: What forms of writing put authors into motion or made them sit down? At what point in history did it become normal to compose in a chair? How does the physiology of writing affect what writers have to say and how they say it? Lastly, what do changing writing habits tell us about the modern conception of literary creativity, intellectual labor, and the post-industrial workplace? Readings include texts by Rousseau, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Thoreau, Poe, Whitman, Baudelaire, Kerouac, and Sorkin. In addition, students will experiment with ambulatory composition over the course of several Fall time sojourns in the Pioneer Valley.
This course investigates the eighteenth-century explosion of print from a new media perspective. Given our heightened awareness about the impact of social media, the class juxtaposes past and present concerns about what writing does to us. How has the internet reignited old anxieties about writing's capacity to change who we are and how we relate to others, we ask? In what ways has mass media prompted both fascination and alarm? What makes the experience of media overload a specifically modern phenomenon? Along these lines, the seminar looks to eighteenth-century print culture for a historical perspective on our digital lives. Accordingly, we investigate Pope's heroic couplet alongside Twitter, explore Swift's early rendition of Google, compare Johnson's Dictionary with Wikipedia, trace the origins of blogging back to Addison and Richardson, use Austen's Northanger Abbey to understand virtual reality applications, and chart the rise of the information technologist in Stoker's Dracula.
"Literature in the Age of Terror" undertakes a cultural study of terror that reaches from the French Revolution to the twenty-first century. The course argues that our specifically political use of the words "terror" and "terrorism" emerged alongside a late eighteenth-century fascination with anxiety, paranoia, and panic to form part of a broad historical phenomenon that literary scholars call Romanticism. Under what political conditions, we ask, did the genre of Gothic fiction come to be read as a "terrorist school of novel writing?" By extension, how do Romantic-era reflections on the fantastic and phantasmagorical, media and mediation, revolution and counter-revolution continue to inform the discourse surrounding 9/11 and "The War on Terror?" Readings explore British reactions to the Reign of Terror, the rise of the gothic novel, the threat of "theory" in the Anglo-American academy, and a growing body of contemporary writing that engages with the legacy of 9/11.
While we may live in a society that favors narrative, poetry remains a vital art form that we can learn to appreciate. This course is designed to enhance the experience of reading, knowing, responding to, thinking through, and articulating ideas about poems. Key units will address the language, sound, rhythm, and form of poetry as well as explore several enduring poetic themes. Readings will span the history of British and American poetry from the early modern to the contemporary.
This writing intensive course develops the communication skills that are necessary for college-level work. The class is premised on the view that writing well means entering into conversation with others. To explore the social activity of writing, students select discussion topics that matter to them. The semester builds toward a final in-class debate that dramatizes the give-and-take of academic arguments. In preparation for this work, we spend several weeks studying essays by well-regarded writers and developing a shared vocabulary for analyzing the components of academic writing. Subsequent class meetings address the skills that are essential for persuasive writing, including comparing and contrasting alternative viewpoints, experimenting with different ways to respond, assembling a critical conversation, seeing the other side's point of view, and assessing the effectiveness of one's argument.
Visiting Assistant Professor of British Literature
Mail Code HU
Dakin House 207
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002