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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Spring 2021

ENGL 600

MLA Seattle 2020

(1 credit, C/NC)

Instructor: Kathleen Woodward (English, Simpson Center for the Humanities)

Description: The annual convention of the Modern Language Association, to be held January 9-12, 2020, at the Convention Center and the Sheraton, will be meeting in Seattle for the second time in its 130-year history. The convention is a wonderfully stimulating intellectual experience, bringing together hundreds of scholars and teachers from across the country and around the world. The number of sessions scheduled is 780! Topics range from “American Settler Colonialisms,” “Black Time and Temporality,” and “Habitat: French Ecocritical Perspectives,” to “Migration, Islam, Islamophobia,” “Witness, Testimony, Story: Languaging Race and Racism in the Teaching of Writing,” and “Has Postcritique Run Out of Steam?” Many faculty members and graduate students from the University of Washington are participating. See the MLA website (MLA 2020) for more information—about registration, the presidential theme, and the program.

The purpose of this microseminar is to introduce graduate students to the intellectual feast that is the annual convention (if you have not attended it before), as well as to spark discussion and deliberation on matters important to us all—including basic issues of human rights and the future of the humanities. This is also an opportunity for you to meet graduate students in literary and cultural studies from other departments.

Eligibility: Students from all departments in our modern languages and literatures can enroll; each will each receive a stipend of $100 to help defray the cost of attending MLA (registration), with the exception of students in the English Department itself (English has agreed to underwrite the cost of registration). Note: this independent study is not intended for graduate students who are on the job market. Enrollment is limited to 30.


  • Attend a meeting before the convention on Monday, Jan 6, 5:00-6:30 in the Simpson Center (Communications 202); short pieces by PMLA editor and literary critic Wai Chee Dimock and an essay by political philosopher Judith Butler, both MLA Seattle 2020 speakers, will be discussed.  
  • Attend at least four sessions at the convention, including:

Thursday, Jan 9, 5:15-7:00 in the Washington State Convention Center (6A): Session #116 on “Human Rights and the Human,” with Wai Chee Dimock and Judith Butler, among others; this plenary session intersects with the presidential theme of “Being Human”

Saturday, Jan 11, 5:15-6:30 in the Washington State Convention Center (4C-4): Session #613 on “The Future of the Humanities,” with national leaders in the humanities, including Joy Connolly, Neal Lester, Robert Newman, and Jon Parrish Peede; this session addresses issues of higher education

Two other sessions of your choosing, with one devoted to your particular intellectual interests. Recommended is the Fri, Jan 10, 3:30 pm session #339 on “Keywords for the Future,” with seven lightning talks on such keywords as aesthetics, queer, indigenous, and gender

  • Attend a meeting on Monday, Jan 13, 5:00-6:30 at the Simpson Center (Communications 202)
  • Submit a short response paper (two pages) related to your experience of the convention and intersecting with our discussion, if applicable, due Mon, Jan 19, 2020.

How to Apply: Please send an email to Kathleen Woodward ( by Monday, December 2, explaining in a short paragraph your intellectual interests and where you are in your degree program (if more than 30 students wish to sign up, Professor Woodward will select students based on diversity across intellectual interests and departments). Everyone will be notified by Monday, Dec 9.

Stipend: With the exception of those in English, students will receive a stipend of $100 to defray the costs of registering for MLA. Registration fees through December 4 for graduate students are: $65 for MLA members; $90 for nonmembers. After December 4 registration fees for graduate students are: $75 for MLA members; $97 for nonmembers.


  • Wai Chee Dimock, “Editor’s Column: Endangered,” PMLA 134.2 (March 2019): 233-241.
  • __________, “Editor’s Column: Historicism, Presentism, Futurism,” PMLA 133.2 (March 2018): 257-263.
  • Judith Butler, “Introduction,” Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2015) 1-23.   

HUM 596 B

The Black Embodiments Studio

(2 credits, C/NC)

Time Schedule

Instructor: Kemi Adeyemi (GWSS)

Course Meetings: January 17-18 and February 29-March 1

Description: The Black Embodiments Studio is a critical arts writing incubator that explores enactments of, and arts criticism surrounding, black embodiments in contemporary art. Residents meet for daylong intensives January 17-18 and February 29-March 1 to discuss diverse models of writing on black embodiments and to gain intimate contact with artists, curators, and scholars whose work on black embodiments models innovation, accessibility, and criticality. Over the course of the quarter, residents will visit five exhibitions and develop their own short-form arts criticism. 

How to Apply: Interested graduate students and postgraduates should submit a 2-page letter of inquiry in PDF format to Dr. Kemi Adeyemi ( by 5 pm PST on December 20, 2019. This letter should detail the applicant’s critical practice, how thinking through black embodiments and contemporary art may be generative to it, and what they hope to gain through The Black Embodiments Studio. Ten residents will be notified of their acceptance by December 25, 2019. 

Kemi Adeyemi is Assistant Professor of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington. She is currently writing her book, Making New Grounds: Black Queer Women’s Geographies of Neoliberalism, which explores the sonic, affective, and embodied methods black queer women have for taking pleasure in the neoliberal city, and she is in the process of co-editing Queer Nightlife, a collection that documents the diverse expressions of queer nightlife worldwide.

HUM 597 A

Writing the Planetary: A Microseminar on the Work of Anna Tsing

(1 credit, C/NC)

Time Schedule

InstructorsJason Groves (Germanics) and Jesse Oak Taylor (English)

Description: This microseminar will focus on the work of anthropologist Anna Tsing, who will deliver the Katz Distinguished Lecture on February 25, 2020. Anna Tsing’s pathbreaking work cuts across numerous disciplinary and conceptual boundaries, exploring topics ranging from community-based conservation and mushroom hunting to global supply chains and the deep history of human domestication. She is also one of the most innovative writers at work in academia today. If there is a single consistent strand in Tsing’s work, it is her capacity for eschewing empty abstractions while tracing long-distance connections among seemingly disparate phenomena, as evidenced in her recent multi-species ethnography The Mushroom at the End of the World. This seminar will bring together scholars from a number of disciplines to discuss the formal innovations of Tsing’s writing and the way it enables her to cultivate a voice at once critical, witty, engaging, capacious, and devastating. We will follow Tsing’s textual footsteps through the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the jungles of Indonesia, and into the monstrous, haunted landscapes of the “Plantationocene,” exploring the “unruly edges” of disciplines, discourses, and genres to explore the “possibility of life amidst capitalist ruins.” Readings will focus on Tsing’s extensive body of work, including: Friction: An Enthography of Global Connection (2005), The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015), essays such as the recent feminist critique of the Anthropocene, “Earth Stalked by Man” (2016), and collaborative projects such as the edited collection Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene (2017), as well as previews of her current work, an interactive digital-media project "Feral Atlas."

Requirements: Attend all sessions, which meet in Communications 218D every other Wednesday, 2-3:30, January 15-March 11. Students will also be expected to attend Anna Tsing's Katz lecture on Friday 25. 

Students can enroll through the UW Time Schedule.

Questions? Please contact the instructors: Jesse Oak Taylor, at and Jason Groves, at