Course syllabus





ENGL 769 Representing Imagining / 2018 U of Auckland (30 points)

Seminar: Wednesday 11 am-2 pm, Rehutai Building (bdg # 253) room 104

Associate Professor Lisa Samuels (, Humanities Building (Arts 1) room 631, office hour Wednesday 2:15-3:15 and by appointment


Course description

How do modern writers and readers perform representational styles, from the familiar to the new? How do we respond to recognisable writing and to “imagining what we don’t know”? How does imaginative writing conjure and interrogate representation? Can representation collapse or vanish? If it can, what events or imaginative purposes – ecstatic, traumatic and/or otherwise – position us in the unrecognisable and/or unspeakable?

Using these and similar questions, this seminar investigates styles of representation in imaginative writing. For our purposes, representation is language and other signs replicating and/or investigating what and how we perceive, experience, co-create and imagine our worlds. The principal focus is how individuals score themselves and their cultures in language and other imaginative signs near language: we’ll consider this topic in terms of genre, authenticity, translingualism, transnationalism, the page and the codex, the word and the phrase, testimony, the digitas, distributed centrality, cultural ethics, and the economy of the imaginative subject. Our texts range principally over the last forty years, with some earlier texts and contexts.


Required readings

The main (book) readings should be bought BY YOU DIRECTLY from or similar. Each book will be on short loan at the General Library.

Laura Riding, Progress of Stories (1935; 1994 Persea) ISBN 0892552034

Kamau Brathwaite, Mother Poem (1977); revised in Ancestors (New Directions 2001) ISBN 0811214486

Ida West, Pride Against Prejudice: Reminiscences of a Tasmanian Aborigine (1984, 1987, 2004) ISBN 0391031260

Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless (1988; Grove 2010) ISBN 9780802131799

Réda Bensmaïa, The Year of Passages (trans. from French 1995) ISBN 0816623937

Craig Santos Perez, from unincorporated territory [HACHA] (Tinfish 2008) ISBN 0978992962

Lisa Robertson, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture (2003; Coach House, 2nd edition 2011) ISBN 9781552452325

Erín Moure, Kapusta (Anansi 2015) ISBN 9781770894822

Other course readings as indicated (online and on Canvas and handouts)


Class requirements

Weekly seminar: everyone prepares materials in advance and participates in discussion. Some seminars will feature a student research presentation (guidelines will be distributed). The schedule features Comment prompts that will also help focus discussion of the readings.

Each student will give brief written reading responses four times in the seminar, present one research report to the seminar, and write two research essays (3250-4000 words apiece). Percentage totals: participation (10%), four in-class printed and read aloud reading responses (400-500 words, 5% each: 20%), class presentation (300-500 word handout 5%, oral presentation 15%: 20%), and two essays (25% each: 50%).

Seminar Reading Responses

Four times during the semester, in weeks when you are not doing your class presentation, bring to class 2 copies of a printed response to (some freely chosen part of) that week’s reading. Please hand one printout to me and read aloud the other printout to the seminar. Write openly without much concern for style; focus on investigating your response. The object is to notice something particular about the reading and to pose one clear question to be considered as a consequence of your response.

Technology policies

Though email is instantaneous, humans need time. I will ordinarily read messages within 48 hours and reply within 72; I extend the same timeline courtesy to you. Please do not use iPods, mobile phones, or other such devices during class time. If an emergency situation requires you to be contactable on a given day, let us know so that we can be ready for an interruption. You are welcome to use computers to take notes and check online materials in direct engagement with seminar discussion; please do not use your computer for things that take your attention from the seminar.

Disabilities Accommodation Statement

If you have a condition that impairs your ability to satisfy course criteria, please meet with me to discuss feasible instructional accommodation. Accommodation can be provided only for a documented disability. Please tell me about such circumstances by the second week of class or as soon as possible after a condition is diagnosed.

Student Services Online url


Schedule (subject to change; main print readings are set and should be bought BY YOU DIRECTLY from bookdepository or similar)

Week 1 (28 February)

Laura Riding, Progress of Stories (1935; 1994): Introduction, “Schoolgirls,” “The Incurable Virtue,” and “Reality as Port Huntlady”

Friedrich Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense” (1873 online)

Comment: How do we position ourselves in relation to assertions about truth and untruth in this week’s readings? How do we understand the implicit and explicit grounds and directions of linguistic representation in Riding’s work?


Week 2 (7 March)

Riding continued: “Miss Banquet,” “The Story Pig,” and “An Anonymous Book”

Giorgio Agamben, “What Is the Contemporary?” (2011)

Comment: What are some similarities and differences between making worlds and making fictions in this week’s readings?

Presentation: _______________________________________________


Week 3 (14 March)

Kamau Brathwaite, Mother Poem (1977), revised version in Ancestors (2001)

Brathwaite, “English in the Caribbean” (1979)

Comment on the representational signage of Brathwaite’s poetry from “ancient watercourses” to his SycoraX style. What relationality paradigm or energy is made evident in that representational signage?

Presentation: _______________________________________________


Week 4 (21 March)  

Ida West, Pride Against Prejudice: Reminiscences of a Tasmanian Aborigine (1984, 1987, 2004)

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, “What Is A Minor Literature” (1975; 1986)

Comment: how do we consider differences and consanguinities between identity testimony and imaginative testimony?

Presentation: _______________________________________________


Week 5 (28 March)

Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless (1988)

Comment: How can we perceive and discuss the interleavings of theoretical statement, historical narrative, and (novelistic and character-based) story in this book? Consider a particular passage that presents all three discourse types (such as the first part of V in the first section, pp 63-66 in the Grove edition).

Presentation: ______________________________________________


Research Essay 1 DUE by Tuesday 10 April by 3 PM

*INTRASESSION BREAK Saturday 31 March-Saturday 14 April*


Week 6 (18 April)

Réda Bensmaïa, The Year of Passages (1995)

Hannah Feldman, “New Writing Systems Writing New Systems” (2012)


Presentation: _______________________________________________




Week 8 (2 May)

Craig Santos Perez, from unincorporated territory [HACHA]

Epeli Hau‘Ofa, “Our Sea of Islands” (1994)

Comment: Hau’ofa’s essay thinks about land and water in ontological and political terms. Consider the traversable and the possessable alongside cultural identity in Perez’s poetry project.

Presentation: _______________________________________________


Week 9 (9 May)

Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace <> (ongoing), project leader Jason Edward Lewis. Also see Lewis’ The World Was White

Charles Sanders Peirce, “Some consequences of four incapacities” (1868)

Comment: Peirce argues that the sign situation is the situation of the knower: the embodied mind is the sign of and in knowing. How does that work in terms of the digital projects under the ATC umbrella?

Presentation: _______________________________________________


Week 10 (16 May)

Lisa Robertson, Occasional works and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture (2003)

Lisa Samuels, “Soft text and the open line” (Axon, 2018)

Comment: How do we consider the visible and/with the invisible as we walk in a place? How do soft architecture and soft text work in your reading?

Presentation: _______________________________________________


Week 11 (23 May)

Erín Moure, Kapusta (2015)

Comment: Consider the “open theatre” of Moure’s drama in terms of what can be performed on a stage. Consider such performed gestures, settings, and objects in comparison with the sayable and the unsaid on the page.

Presentation: _______________________________________________


Week 12 (30 May)

Johannes Heldén and Håkan Jonson, Evolution (2014) <>


Research Essay 2 DUE Tuesday 5 June by 3 PM


Course summary:

Date Details