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Fall 2022 - Class Option #1


Throughout the past five hundred years, islands have witnessed some of humanity’s most daring experiments in autonomy and revolution, alongside of some of its most ambitious experiments in domination and administration. Is there something about the nature or scale of islands that tempts such experimentation? One thing seems certain: islands loom large in the imagination. A large body of influential writing, painting, and dreaming about islands has accompanied—and even preceded—encounters with them. In this exciting and experimental course, taught by two award-winning teachers, we will examine islands in both their historical and their imaginary aspects, ranging across a wide variety of novels, plays, movies and historical texts. We'll study islands as utopias, colonies, refuges, social laboratories, revolutionary spaces, objects of "discovery," centers of power, prisons, legal anomalies, and, most recently, harbingers of our environmental fate.

Course Outings

You might not associate Chicago with islands, but the city actually has three (of very different sorts!): Goose Island, Northerly Island, and a neighborhood officially known as “The Island.” We will make a class trip to at least one to explore up close how it fits with our course themes. We will also visit the Regenstein Halls of the Pacific (Chicago Field Museum) and attend the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s dazzling new production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Note: The Kaplan Institute pays for these outings.

Sample Texts

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Aimé Césaire, Une Tempête

Shawna Yang Ryan, Green Island

Epeli Hau’ofa, “Our Sea of Islands”

Susan Buck-Morss, Hegel, Haiti, and Modern History

R. L. Stevenson, Treasure Island

Ian Fleming, Dr. No

Benh Zeitlin (dir.), Beasts of the Southern Wild

Rom Clements and John Musker (dir.), Moana

David Vine, Island of Shame

Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, video poems.

Craig Santos Perez, from unincorporated territory

Bob Marley, Catch a Fire and Burnin’

Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings

Ishirō Honda (dir.), Godzilla

Thor Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki

Thomas Cole II, “(The) Bikini: Embodying the Bomb”

Raymond Craib, Adventure Capitalism 


Daniel Immerwahr is a professor in the history department, where he teaches global history and U.S. foreign relations. The topics he studies include the United States' empire, its foreign aid policies, and its pop culture (he recently published a scholarly article about Frank Herbert's Dune). His most recent book, How to Hide an Empire, was a national bestseller. He has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New Republic, and Jacobin. He is now writing a book about fire in U.S. history.

Jules Law is a professor in the English department, where he specializes in the Victorian novel, psychoanalysis and gender, and literary theory.  He is the author of The Social Life of Fluids:  Blood, Milk, and Water in the Victorian Novel, and has written widely on gothic and detective literature. He has received numerous teaching and public-service awards, including the Charles Deering McCormick Professorship of Teaching (2007) and the Centro Romero Community Leadership award (2008).

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