Claire Class

Postdoctoral Fellow
PhD, Washington University
MEd, University of California Riverside
BA, University of California Riverside
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    • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
    • CB 1122
    • ONE BROOKINGS DR.
    • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
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    Claire Class’s research sits at the intersection of literary studies and sociology. Her book project, “Beyond the Chicago School: Literature, Gender, and Sociology in Modern America,” focuses on a cluster of reformers who deployed modernist techniques, such as linguistic collage and iteration, in their fiction and life writing to disrupt the institutionalization of sociology in the United States. It argues that Jane Addams, Ida B. Wells, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman rejected the essentialism of early academic sociologists and instead sought to expose the knowledge sociology provides as contingent and to contextualize the experiences of African Americans, immigrants, and women. Ultimately, “Beyond the Chicago School” demonstrates how literary modernism allowed American progressives to rethink the ways knowledge is presented.

    Class was formerly a Volkswagen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Freiburg in Germany and an Assistant Professor of English at the New York Institute of Technology campus in Nanjing, China. While completing her PhD, she researched at L’École des hautes études en sciences sociales in France and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She has also presented at conferences in London, Utrecht, and Dubrovnik. An enthusiastic globetrotter, Class is delighted to be back in St. Louis, jogging in Forest Park and sampling toasted ravioli in The Hill.

    Class has taught courses in multi-ethnic American literature; feminist science fiction; film; gender and sexuality studies; critical thinking; and developmental, basic, and advanced writing. She enjoys helping students discover and interpret unusual texts, from neglected utopian novels to music videos to Twitter threads.

    Course Information

    Feminist Science Fiction: Reproduction, Death, and the Beyond, Spring 2020 (L14 E Lit 3522)

    This course explores representations of the beginning and end of life in feminist science fiction. As we read, we will consider what anxieties surround reproduction and death, how reproductive technology (in vitro fertilization, genetic testing, cloning, etc.) is changing what it means to be human, how technologies from the pen to the pipette mediate our experiences of death, and how societies reproduce themselves and deal with dying and grief. Texts may include novels and short stories by Mary Shelley (the first science fiction novelist), Judith Merril, Samuel Delany, Jeanette Winterson, and others. Additionally, we will consider depictions of reproduction and death in such science fiction films and television shows as "Aliens" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

      Social Justice Writers, Fall 2019 (L14 E Lit 3525)

      Inspired by the frequent online derision of so-called “SJWs,” or “Social Justice Warriors,” this course takes a more sympathetic view toward social justice writing in an American context. Keeping our focus on literature that advocates on behalf of marginalized groups or that intervenes in social problems, such as environmental destruction or tainted pharmaceuticals, we will look at writings by W. E. B. Du Bois, Upton Sinclair, Rachel Carson, Gloria Anzaldúa, and others. Our readings will span different social justice genres, including fiction, nonfiction, manifestos, pamphlets, and posters. Often ridiculed for being “too preachy,” social justice literature nevertheless inspires social movements, overturns laws, and even leads to the creation of new policies. We will grapple with questions of enduring relevance: What makes social justice literature particularly resonant or caustic? Can we responsibly advocate on behalf of another group? And how is backlash to social justice literature gendered and racialized? We will also examine more recent representations of social justice warriors, from Captain Planet to Gamergate to South Park’s PC Principal.