Emily Bloom

Undergraduate Discipline

Literature

BA, Washington University in St Louis. MA, Boston College. PhD, University of Texas at Austin. Special interests include 20th-century British and Irish literature, media studies, the history of technology, and disability studies. Author of The Wireless Past: Anglo-Irish Writers and the BBC, 1931-1968 (Oxford University Press, 2016), which was awarded the First Book Prize by the Modernist Studies Association, and, most recently, I Cannot Control Everything Forever: A Memoir of Motherhood, Science, and Art (St. Martin’s Press, 2024). SLC, 2021–

Undergraduate Courses 2023-2024

Literature

Care Work

Open, Seminar—Fall

How might we care for each other in the midst of accelerating planetary change? This course provides us with the theoretical frameworks to grasp the long and multifaceted history of environmental crisis on this continent and, likewise, to grasp the diversity of critical, careful responses to imposed disaster. The course begins with the proposition that dominant structures of care in the settler colony—afforded by the nuclear family, the state, and private enterprise—depend upon and reproduce racialized and gendered exploitation bound to the same systems that make environmental crisis inevitable. Throughout the semester, we will explore other literary and scholarly theorizations and enactments of care work that move outside dominant care regimes and that have always been responsive to environmental crisis in its long history. The reading for the course moves from Indigenous studies to queer studies to the energy and environmental humanities, illuminating critical intersections of use to a student interested in any one of those fields. Primary and secondary texts include works by José Esteban Muñoz, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Natalie Diaz, Sophie Lewis, Kim TallBear, Sheena Wilson, Imre Szeman, Samuel R. Delany, and Dean Spade, among others. Assignments for the course encourage students to take inspiration from the texts on our syllabus. In other words, you may present your work in creative as well as critical forms. Podcasts, manifestos, websites, –zines…are all more than welcome.

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Modernism Across Generations

Open, Seminar—Spring

I grow old...I grow old...I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. —T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Modernism is growing old. What does it mean for a movement that once rallied around Ezra Pound’s call to “make it new” to become a thing of the past. In this course, we will explore the enduring legacy of a movement that celebrated its 100th birthday. The year 2022 marked the centennial of the modernist “annus mirabilis,” or “miracle year,” when James Joyce published Ulysses, T. S. Eliot published The Wasteland, and Virginia Woolf published Jacob’s Room. Do modernist works like these still speak to new generational concerns, tastes, and values? Scholars have argued for fresh approaches to modernist texts, most notable in the “new modernist studies” that challenged earlier interpretations of “high modernism” as apolitical, elitist, and Eurocentric. Instead, these scholars emphasized the diverse and unwieldy political commitments that underlie modernism, its close interrelationship to popular culture and mass media, and its underlying transnationalism. This scholarly trend began at the start of this millennium and is now, itself, growing into middle age. In this course, we will examine changing approaches to modernism while also exploring how generational conflict and contact drives the narratives of many modernist novels. In these novels, the “revolutionary generation” confront their late-Victorian elders with new ways of understanding the world informed by Freudian psychology, scientific and technological change, and political radicalism. We will read Joseph Conrad’s The Shadow-Line, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable as novels that dramatize generational contact zones. The novelists themselves are originally from Poland, Ireland, Dominica, England, and India. Generational divisions in their novels also expose geopolitical conflicts and political divides as a younger generation faces the consequences of nationalism, colonialism, sexism, racism, and religious moralism while navigating a world scarred by war, economic collapse, and inequality. The question that we will return to throughout the semester is whether this world looks so very different from our own. As part of this course, we will partner with the Wartburg Adult Care Community to read several texts with our neighboring elders, who themselves grew up in the shadow of modernism, for a series of intergenerational discussions.

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Previous Courses

Literature

Care Work

Open, Seminar—Spring

What kind of work is care work? Is it a form of labor? Of love? Is caretaking a social or individual responsibility? And who pays for it? This course questions the role of caretaking in modern societies through a range of literary and sociological texts. We begin with the premise that caretaking is both fundamental to a functioning society and also grossly devalued. This devaluation is marked by the poor pay associated with caretaking professions, as well as the gendering and racializing of caretaking responsibilities. This course will draw on recent writing in disability studies, gender studies, political theory, and ethnic studies, as well as literary works such as Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, to consider the experience of both the individuals performing care work and those who require their care. We will discuss terms like self-care and prenatal care that have become commonplace but that we often encounter as marketing concepts that have been stripped of their origins. This course aims to situate the concept of caring into historical, political, and aesthetic contexts. Reading work by Audre Lorde, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Silvia Federici, and others, students are encouraged to imagine the future of care work in a changing society. As part of this course, you will partner with a senior at Wartburg to complete an oral history, podcast, and catalogue entry for a digital exhibition. This is a five-credit seminar that includes a community-based component working with an adult care community at Wartburg.

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Disability, Media, and Literature

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course examines representations of disability in literature and other media while also exploring how disability shapes the experience of readers and audiences. Course readings will include stories such as H. G. Wells’s The Country of the Blind, novels like Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, and poetry collections like Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic. We will also watch films such as The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Crip Camp. In addition to these works, we will read a range of secondary texts about the history of audiobooks for the blind and dyslexic, sign-language poetics, and legislation for closed captioning, among other topics. We will look at particular artists and their work to consider how a deaf playwright approaches writing for the stage, how a blind memoirist describes her experiences in art museums, and how an actor with cerebral palsy experiences the physicality of his craft. Conference work will include community engagement with the Wartburg Adult Care Community. You will be asked to consider the access needs of seniors at Wartburg and work together to help make literature, music, and film more accessible to them.

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Gender and Sexuality in the Irish Novel

Open, Seminar—Spring

Irish writers have long been interested in the correlation between gender and sexuality and issues of religion, class, colonization, revolutionary nationalism, migration, and poverty. When Ireland became the first nation to vote in favor of gay marriage by national referendum in 2015, Irish voters were acutely conscious of their country’s fraught history: Years of sexual-abuse scandals within the Catholic Church had weakened the hold of the Church on voters, and young Irish voters, in particular, now wanted their country to take a progressive lead on the world stage. This course will chart changing attitudes toward gender and sexuality from the 19th to the 21st century. We will do so by examining works of literature, history, and anthropology. Particular attention will be paid to literary genres, such as the national tale in which the 1800 Act of Union was figured as the marriage between a feminized Ireland and a masculine England; the Big House novel—an Irish variant of the country-house novel—pioneered by women writers; Gothic novels like Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray; the expatriate modernist novels of James Joyce and Elizabeth Bowen; banned books that were silenced by national censorship boards in the mid-20th century; and the new wave of 21st-century Irish writers led by Sally Rooney.

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Objects and Memory

Open, Small seminar—Fall

Why do we hold on to certain things and not others? Why do some objects have the power to evoke personal memories, while others leave us cold? Roland Barthes described certain objects as having “punctum,” and Marie Kondo tells us that a select few “spark joy.” In this course, we will learn firsthand about the relationship between objects and memory from residents and staff at the Wartburg Nursing Home by developing a multimedia project called “A History of Wartburg in 100 Objects.” Students will work to pilot this project, partnering with Wartburg to discover how objects can help unlock memories. Working together, students in this course will create a bibliography of relevant texts on the topic of objects and memory, produce an oral history of an object with a partner at Wartburg, and contribute to the infrastructure of the larger project. While developing the project, we will read a selection of literary and theoretical works by Roland Barthes, Alice Walker, Virginia Woolf, and others in order to understand the role of objects in preserving, accessing, and sharing memories. We will meet once a week to discuss course readings, connect with seniors and staff, and develop the multimedia project. The location of our meetings will alternate between our classroom on campus and meetings at Wartburg in Mount Vernon. This class will include a community-based component working with an adult care community at Wartburg.

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