Introduction to Creative Writing
TBA: Section 01: MW 3:00-4:15
TBA: Section 02: TR 9:30-10:45
This course will introduce you to the craft of writing poetry and fiction. Thus, you will study the language, forms, techniques, and conventions of poetry and fiction with the purpose of putting that knowledge into practice. The hope is that by the end of the semester you will have also discovered ways of reading creative works that are stimulating and enriching for you. A large part of the semester will be devoted to the writing and sharing of exercises and original creative works in a workshop setting.
01: TBA TR 3:30-4:45
02: TBA MW 4:30-5:45
03: William O’Rourke TR 2:00-3:15
Students will begin with narrative exercises in style and form and ultimately write complete drafts and revisions of literary short stories. Readings in modern and contemporary literature will provide critical perspective and vocabulary, as well as narrative possibilities.
This is a course for the fearless. We’re going to take on innovative contemporary poetry as it breaks with, renovates, reinvents, reinhabits and even pays hyperbolic homage to traditional form. Expect to be immersed in contemporary poetry’s many forms, media, genres, languages, and materials, including writing you might not (at first) think of as poetry at all. In addition to writing your own poems, you will be expected to master a vocabulary for critiquing both published and peer poems, to demonstrate this mastery through discussion of assigned readings and peer poems, and to participate in a variety of in- and out-of-class experiences which bond you to your community of writers and help you to discover and develop your own visual, verbal, sonic and performance aesthetic. Expect to complete regular assigned poems, weekly responses to assigned writing, and a final project.
Introduction to Poetry
This course will provide an introduction to poetry as a literary art form and develop students’ skills of critical analysis and interpretation. The course will address the major poetic genres, a variety of poetic forms (such as the sonnet and the villanelle), and a range of literary concepts and devices (such as figurative language, meter and rhyme, tone, and diction). In addition, we will look at relationships among poems by studying them in groups, such as poems by the same author and poems that appear together in a volume. We will also spend some time thinking about the oral performance of poetry by reading verse aloud, listening to recordings of poems, and potentially attending a poetry reading. Our list of texts will include a variety of material both past and contemporary, with a special emphasis on poetry from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and particularly the Romantic period.
Point of View in the Novel
01: MW 11:45-1:00
02: MW 3:00-4:15
This course will focus on the introduction to the novel as a form, a means to view the world of the author/artist and the reader. Literature is an art whereby one consciousness seeks to communicate with another consciousness. One of the artist’s techniques for controlling this flow is the concept of point of view. We will explore various approaches and uses of this “framing” in some nineteenth and twentieth century novels. The goal is to use an understanding of point of view to more fully comprehend, enjoy, and sensitively read this popular genre.
Texts: Henry James, Turn of the Screw; Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights; Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary; Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome; James Joyce, Dubliners; William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!; Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter; E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime; Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke, Ha, Ha; and Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America.
Requirements: regular class participation; two short papers, a mid-term; and a final.
The Heroine’s Text: Form and Origins of the English Novel
Just how do novels think? How do novels experiment with voice, point of view, and the relation between time and history? The course will introduce students to the formal stylistic features of the novel, paying careful attention to how the novel’s unique emphasis on multiple and conflicting points of view shapes our perspective as readers. In addition, we examine the novel’s place in history as a distinctively modern literary form with its emphasis on the lived experience of particular individuals inhabiting a particular time and place. Accordingly, we follow the adventures of a series of clever and dauntless heroines from the Restoration to the early 20th century. Readings include: Aphra Behn’s epistolary hybrid text, Love-letters between a nobleman and his sister, an early precursor of the novel form; Eliza Haywood’s wildly improbable scandal fiction, Love in Excess; Defoe’s portrait of a scheming criminal, the incomparable Moll Flanders; excerpts from Richardson’s epistolary masterpiece, Clarissa; Austen’s Mansfield Park; Brontë’s Jane Eyre; and Forster’s Howard’s End.
The Gothic Novel
“From ghoulies and ghosties/ And long-leggedy beasties/ And things that go bump in the night,/ Good Lord, deliver us!” Why do we enjoy being scared out of our wits? Since its inception in the late eighteenth century, generations have loved the Gothic Novel with its grotesque murders and bizarre terror. The course will study a number of the most celebrated Gothic tales from horrors in castles and monasteries (Lewis’s The Monk) to mysterious love stories (Brontë’s Wuthering Heights) to the eerie stories of the paranormal (Shelly’s Frankenstein) to contemporary horror stories. The purpose will be to study the ways in which the Gothic Novel entertains us and what it is about us that loves to be entertained by the Gothic.
Some of the works with which we will deal are: Walpole's Castle of Otranto; Anne Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho; Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”; Matthew Lewis The Monk; Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Bram Stoker's Dracula; Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray; William Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily.”
The large body of history, verse chronicle, heroic narrative, poetic romance, and prose fiction - all gathered under the canopy term "Arthurian Legend" - represents one of the most fascinating and most enduring literary phenomena of western culture. In this class, which will follow a lecture-discussion format, we will read a selection of writings that reflect the textual trace of Arthur from his earliest appearances in mytho-historical chronicles beginning in the sixth century and extending from the earliest medieval poetic and prose fictions featuring Arthur and the members of his court, through the great array of writers, past and present, who have tended these myths and legends with such imaginative care. Our readings, which begin in the Middle Ages, will culminate with the "Arthurian revivals" of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the latter extending to theatrical and film texts ranging from "Camelot" and Eric Rohmer's Perceval to Monty Python and Indiana Jones in their post-modern questing for the Holy Grail. In addition to attending ways in which the sheer pleasures-of-the-text have been constructed by these gifted authors, our own "literary quest" will involve questions of historical and social context, gender and genre, the history of reception, modes of literary representation including techniques of symbolic and allegorical figuration, and ways in which the theoretical and/or ideological positions of both writers and their audiences constrain and inspire the works they produce. While pondering how and why this vast body of myth and legend, clustered around the figure of Arthur, has managed to survive and thrive through such remarkably variant shifts of time, place, and circumstance; and while reflecting thoughtfully on our own investment in - or resistance to - the variety of assigned readings, each student will choose for particular close study an Arthurian hero, heroine, or villain (Lancelot, Gawain, Guinevere, Galahad, Merlin, Modred, etc.), as well as some mytho-historical theme like the Round Table, the Grail Quest, the Sword-in-the-Stone, the Bride Quest, the Giant Combat, the Fatherless Boy, the Childless Queen, etc., as this "character" or "motif" presents some specific problem in interpretation. These "character studies" and thematic clusters will form the basis of two short essays, one due at mid term, one at end term. Specific topics, which will be shaped through individual consultation with the teacher, should, in the course of their critical argument, engage a variety of formal, stylistic, and rhetorical practices that have been employed by writers from the twelfth to the twentieth century as they conform to - and create fresh versions of - the plenitude of literary exemplars that characterize Arthurian Legend. Creative projects - individual or collective - are also welcome and, with the approval of the teacher, may be substituted for one of the essays. These alternative ways of investigating the materials of Arthurian Legend might include original poetic or prose compositions, dramatic presentations, graphic arts, videos, and/or musical performances, vocal or instrumental performances.
The Bodies and the Blood: Shakespeare, Violence & Religion
During the English Renaissance, drama became an immensely popular art form, appealing to citizens across classes both in London and in the country. Bloody, dark, sensational, and sometimes even comical, tragic drama (and all its sub-genres) became a box-office staple of English theaters. Because English drama grew in part out of the medieval morality play tradition, and because much of this drama paradoxically emphasized violence and morality, spectacle and spirituality, this course will examine the plays of the most influential dramatist of the English Renaissance and their intersections with problems of violence, tragedy, religion, and sacrifice. What are the possible connections between dramatic violence and English Renaissance culture? To what extent is religion or spirituality bound up with Shakespeare's stage, his plots, and his characters? How does drama represent tragedy and sacrifice, and what possible relationships are there between staged violence and the audiences that witness it? And what is it about tragedy both as a dramatic genre and as a way of making spiritual or religious sense of real-life events that is so appealing to Shakespeare's age, and to our own? In addition to introducing Shakespeare's major plays and examining some of them through film and performance history, this course will also include plays by Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, and John Webster.
Fictions of Science/Science in Fiction
Science and poetry have always spoken to one another—today perhaps more than ever—even as our modern culture assumes they have nothing in common. This course will look at science and literature, truth and beauty, and the world-changing power of both. How do we read novels that depend on scientific concepts, or science writing that uses the strategies of fiction and poetry? We’ll walk a transept across the divide between science and literature, from science fiction and realistic novels to plays, poems, popular science writing, and professional research science, taking samples all along the way and asking, How do we tell the difference? What do our answers tell us about the nature of our world, and the ways we can know it and live in it?
Readings to include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2, Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and James Watson’s Double Helix, as well as an assortment of poems, essays, films, and articles by scientists and philosophers—and by a few who defy classification.
Bewildered Beginnings: Coming-of-Age Novels from Victorian England to Celtic Tiger Ireland
Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional. As is often the case, maturity of the body does not necessarily coincide with that of the mind, which leads us to ask: How do we grow up psychologically? This course will explore the ways in which the development of an individual from childhood to early adulthood is depicted in literature in different periods and cultural contexts ranging from Victorian England to late 20th-century, Celtic Tiger Ireland. The readings include canonical works by Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, as well as more contemporary Irish novels. As we read, we will try to figure out how “coming of age” is understood and achieved in different times and also consider the social function of these texts. Students will be encouraged to think critically about both these texts and their own “coming of age” so that the appreciation of literary texts will engender a deeper understanding of one’s own self.
Interpreting Jane Austen
Jane Austen is one of the most widely adapted authors in the English language. Over the 200 or so years since she published her first novel, scores of plays, movies, spinoffs, sequels, parodies and homages have appeared in cultures from Hollywood to Bollywood. What's less well-known is that Austen's own works themselves parody, adapt and allude to plays and novels from her own time, making her novels themselves a part of the same process of cultural recycling that produced novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. In this course, we will study four of Austen's novels, two eighteenth-century novels that inspired her fiction, and several of her modern-day adaptations, including three film versions of Pride and Prejudice.
Beauty, Disability and the Novel of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
The archetypal hero is handsome and the archetypal heroine is beautiful. This course examines the ways in which the novel of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries attempts to challenge the beauty myth. We will cover topics such as the value of beauty in the bourgeois marriage market, sighted culture, the association of deformity with evil, stigma and punishment, and the feminist social gains associated with female plainness. The course will introduce students to disability-studies approaches to reading and will focus on concepts of bodily identity, impairment, stigma, monstrosity, marginalization, beauty, deviance, and difference. The main texts will be: Henry Fielding, Amelia (1751), Frances Burney, Camilla (1796), Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818), William Earle, Obi; or The History of Three-Fingered Jack (1800), Anne Plumptre, Something New (1801), Jane Austen, Persuasion (1818), Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818) and Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847).
This course is an opportunity to see the United States and its culture from a new, sidelong perspective and to sample the rich Irish literary tradition. Emigration to the United States has been a major theme for Irish literature since the 18th century, when famine forced masses of Irish people to board the ‘coffin ships’ and cross the Atlantic in the hope of a better life, a phenomenon treated in novels and plays by writers like Brian Moore, Brian Friel, Joseph O’Connor and Frank McCourt. Today, in an era of cheap flights, Skype and immigration control, moving Stateside has a very different slant, as we shall see from the poetry of Paul Muldoon and Vona Groarke. Finally, through works like The Butcher Boy and The Commitments, we’ll look also at the export of North American culture to Ireland, where that culture has variously been seen as a route to escapism, a means to rebel or a temptation to sin.
Observers of the political and cultural problems which continue to plague relations between the modern Irish State, six counties in the north of Ireland, and Great Britain cannot fail to note that the unresolved differences that have festered over the last two hundred years had their roots in the traumas of the preceding centuries of English colonialism in Ireland. Focusing on that crucial period in Irish culture, this course will explore the complex and contested cultural, political, and ideological identities of a group we have come to call the Anglo-Irish. How did they imagine themselves as a community, define themselves as a group? How did they differentiate themselves from others? We will examine these questions of identity and difference in several exemplary writers, beginning with Giraldus Cambrensis and with Edmund Spenser, author of a View of the Present State of Ireland (1596) composed during the initial phase of Tudor colonialism and published posthumously in 1633. We will move onto works by key figures who have dominated our understanding of eighteenth-century Ireland, including selections from Jonathan Swift, George Berkeley, Edmund Burke and Maria Edgeworth. We will conclude the course with some reading of Oscar Wilde. Students can expect a term paper, a midterm, and a final.
Religious Imagination in American Literature
01: MWF 11:45-12:35
02: MWF 12:50-1:40
A critical study of the religious and philosophical dimensions of selected American literary texts with a focus on literary forms, the history of ideas, and cultural and interpretive currents both traditional and modern. Students will be expected to write a series of brief, incisive critical papers.
Twentieth-Century American Fiction
In this course we will study the interconnections among six of our best fiction writers from the 20th century. Although these six authors could erroneously be divided along the lines of gender and race, as well as by periods (roughly pre- and post-World War II), the sometimes painful connections among these various authors and these texts in particular reveal the dynamic aesthetic and moral development of American fiction from Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby to Morrison's Jazz. Texts: Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, "The Jazz Age"; Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises, The Garden of Eden; William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Alice Walker, The Color Purple; Toni Morrison, Sula, Jazz.
Introduction to Literary Studies
01: Barbara Green TR 2:00-3:15
02: Susan Harris TR 12:30-1:45
03: Sara Maurer MW 3:00-4:15
04: Kate Marshall MW 1:30-2:45
This course provides beginning English majors with experience in the analysis, interpretation, and appreciation of literary works of different kinds and eras. Texts assigned will vary from one section to another, but all sections will include attention to poetry and at least one other genre (fiction, drama, non-fiction prose). Frequent writing about works studied will introduce students to the practice of critical argument and consideration of how to read criticism as well as literature critically.
British Literary Traditions I
This course is an intensive survey of literary history in England from the seventh to the seventeenth centuries. Early British literature is anything but dull: dragon fights, scatological humor, scheming devils, cross-dressing, seduction poetry -- it's all here. You'll learn about major periods and authors during this long history, about changes in the English language, about the development of genres, and about key questions with which writers struggled. You will also learn how to read poetry well. To accomplish these goals, you must make three commitments: to read carefully with an openness to the power and pleasure of early literature, to express freely your thoughts about what you read, and to write (and rewrite) with passion and precision. Course requirements will likely include some 4-5 page essays, weekly short take-home written assignments, a midterm and a final examination.
American Literary Traditions I
This course is designed to introduce students to the critical study and aesthetic enjoyment of early American literature. Our readings will span from the English literature of settlement, including iconic works by John Winthrop, Roger Williams, and John Smith, up through the American Renaissance writings of Emerson, Melville, Hawthorne, Whitman and Dickinson. We will also consider important works by Native American and African American verbal artists and discuss their contributions to the broad stream of American literature. Themes and practices of voice will provide a common interpretive framework. We will explore the literatures of America with particular attention to oral traditions, vernacular influences, rhetorical styles, and narrative and poetic forms. There will be a number of short assignments designed to develop your research and writing skills; an 8-10 page research paper; a midterm exam; and a final exam.
Fiction Writing for English Majors
In this class we’re going to read a wide variety of prose (gothic tales, metatextual screeds, scandalous interviews, personal testimonies, fairytales) in a variety of media (print, of course, but also the Internet, videos) from a variety of countries and cultures. We will consider what fiction means and can do in this spectacular age, but we will also explore more pragmatic concerns: where does one find out about writers? Where does one publish stories? Where does one discuss new writing? In addition to weekly writing exercises, we will engage in three longer projects allowing the students to develop and work on their own particular lines of aesthetic inquiry.
Poetry Writing for English Majors
In this class, we are going to write poetry, think about poetry and talk about poetry from a number of different perspectives. We’re going to read modern, contemporary and not-so-contemporary poetry, as well as works that move across genres (prose poetry, verse drama, music videos), media (print, photography, the Internet, the desert of the real), and languages and cultures. We will consider what poetry means and can do in this spectacular age, but we will also explore more pragmatic concerns: where does one find out about poets? Where does one publish poems? Where does one discuss new poetry? In addition to weekly writing exercises, we will engage in three longer projects allowing the students to develop and work on their own particular lines of aesthetic inquiry.
This is a course for the fearless. We’re going to take on innovative contemporary prose as it breaks with, renovates, reinvents, reinhabits and even pays hyperbolic homage to traditional prose. Expect to read stories, yes, but also prose poems, artist’s statements, plays and non-fiction, and writing that can’t quite be categorized. In addition to writing your own prose, you will be expected to master a vocabulary for critiquing both published and peer prose, to demonstrate this mastery through discussion of assigned readings and peer prose, and to participate in a variety of in- and out-of-class experiences which bond you to your community of writers and help you to discover and develop your own visual, verbal, sonic and performance aesthetic. Expect to complete regular assigned prose pieces, weekly responses to assigned pieces, and a final project.
‘Before Freud’: Dreaming in Some English Poetic and Prose Texts from the Middle Ages
Where do our dreams come from? What do they 'mean?' How and why do they matter? From ancient times to the contemporary present, the power of dreams to shape public and private experience has commanded the attention of authors writing both sacred and secular texts, with the human experience of dreams figured as crucial. In this class we will read an array of works from the medieval tradition in English where dreams hold a central place in the construction of meaning.
Our conversation will be grounded in an initial reading of key selections from two seminal theoretical works on dreams, one medieval; one modern: [Freud, On the Interpretation of Dreams and Macrobius, Commentary on the Dream of Scipio]. Subsequent readings will include the account in Bede's History of the English Church and People of how Caedmon's "Hymn of Creation"--the earliest surviving piece of poetry written in English--came to be composed by an illiterate cowherd under the inspiration of a dream; the Anglo-Saxon "Dream of the Rood"; some Middle English lyrics and ballads featuring dream texts; the Gawain-poet's powerful and moving dream-vision, Pearl; Chaucer's early "Book of the Duchess," an elegiac dream vision composed (probably for a memorial service) for Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster and wife of Chaucer's royal patron, John of Gaunt, after her death from plague. We will conclude the semester's readings withe selections from the English Arthurian poetic tradition that were influential in Malory's great prose composition, Le Morte D'Arthur, followed by close reading of Malory's final book in that great compendium of Arthurian stories--"The Death of Arthur"--where the accumulating burden of portentious dreams, and the failure to 'read' them correctly, results in those tragic and apocalyptic scenarios surrounding the death of the 'once and future king.'
Throughout the term, we will be observing connections between biblical and secular traditions of reading & writing dreams and their imaginative entwinement by medieval fictionists. We will also be building an articulate sense of what dreams might have to do with the theory and practice of allegory, a major aesthetic mode of imaginative creation and reader- reception in the Middle Ages.
Shakespeare and Film
This course explores the phenomenon of Shakespeare and film, concentrating on the ranges of meaning provoked by the conjunction. We shall be looking at examples of films of Shakespeare plays both early and recent, both in English and in other languages, and both ones that stick close to conventionalized and historicized conceptualizations of Shakespeare and adaptations at varying degrees of distance towards the erasure of Shakespeare from the text. The transposition of different forms of Shakespearean textualities (printed, theatrical, filmic) and the confrontation with the specificities of film produce a cultural phenomenon whose cultural meanings--meaning as Shakespeare and meaning as film--will be the subject of our investigations. There will be regular (though not necessarily weekly) screenings of the films to be studied.
Introduction to Old English
In November 1882, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote to his friend and fellow-poet Robert Bridges: “I am learning Anglo-Saxon and it is a vastly superior thing to what we have now.” Auden was similarly moved by his first encounter with Old English: “I was spellbound. This poetry, I knew, was going to be my dish . . . I learned enough to read it, and Anglo-Saxon and Middle English poetry have been one of my strongest, most lasting influences.” ENGL 40211 is an introduction to the language and literature that so captivated Hopkins and Auden, that later inspired Tolkien and Lewis, and that remains the historical and linguistic foundation of English literary studies. Our focus for about half the term will be the grammar of Old English, but from the very beginning we will read from a variety of texts in verse and prose (including riddles, a monastic sign-language manual, and King Alfred’s prefatory letter to the Old English translation of Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care), and the course will culminate in a focused study of The Wanderer and The Dream of the Rood. This course may be especially useful for students interested in historical linguistics and the history of the English language, in the Anglo-Saxon foundations of British literature, and in medieval literature in general. Requirements include two exams, a series of grammar quizzes, and a translation project. The final exam will involve a short oral recitation. Graduate students will meet for two extra class periods and will be assigned some additional reading. Textbook: Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, A Guide to Old English, 7th ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).
Chaucer: Canterbury Tales
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in a time of great social, political, and religious upheaval, a time in which the stakes of English writing were uncertain. This course examines Chaucer's efforts during that period to create sustained fiction in English through his most ambitious and experimental work, The Canterbury Tales. Ultimately, we will find out what earned Chaucer the title "Father of English poetry."
In this course we will read, in roughly chronological order, the plays from the first half of Shakespeare’s career as dramatist. Beginning with Two Gentlemen of Verona and concluding with Henry V, we will cover eighteen plays over the course of the semester. Though comedy and history dominate the syllabus, Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet provide two notable examples of tragedy. This course is paired with Shakespeare II (Spring 2012), which covers the second half of Shakespeare’s dramatic canon. Requirements will include a variety of shorter assignments (e.g. word history, paraphrase, and passage analysis), a midterm, a final, and a paper of 8-10 pages.
This course explores two different understandings of decadence. We will learn about its most familiar aspect as an 1890s movement in which figures such as Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley provoked the respectable middle class with racy, sordid, overblown and/or absurdist subject matter and methods. But we will also explore a broader historical view of decadence, one that begins in the Enlightenment period of the 1700s and extends to the present. There we will see decadence as one aspect of a period when traditional values and social structures came under the pressures of political, social and scientific revolutions. Our materials include fiction, poetry, drama, philosophy, visual arts, cinema and criticism. Early on, we lay conceptual groundwork with texts by Freud and Nietzsche. Our other well known authors include Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Walter Pater, Virginia Woolf, and Patrick Süskind. We also read several lesser-known authors and study films by Ken Russell, Peter Greenaway and Sally Potter. Please note that much of our discussion matter is not for the prudish or faint-hearted. Bring a tolerance for the grotesque and a readiness to think carefully about authors who deliberately challenge deeply held western attitudes concerning morality and values.
The Victorian Universe
The Victorian world was one made unsettlingly strange by industrialism, capitalism, technology, changing gender roles, and an increasing class mobility. Victorian authors dealt with this strange modernity by writing stories about the ways that society remained interconnected. The average Victorian novel was three volumes long and contained multiple plots in which characters were intertwined through romance, politics, money, secret identities, blackmail, disease and sometimes the sheer accident of sharing the same train. In order to become thoroughly acquainted with the Victorian novel’s ambition to offer its reader a vision of society’s totality, this class will focus intently on just three novels – Charles Dickens’s Dombey and Son, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now. We will closely study the formal techniques that each writer used to try to reproduce a sense of vast interconnectedness in Victorian society. We will also read excerpts from other Victorians who tried to explain the complexity of society – Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Alfred Lord Tennyson, John Stuart Mill and John Ruskin among them. Students can expect to be graded on class participation, a series of short response papers, a presentation, and three longer formal writing assignments.
The Romantic Novel
Although long associated chiefly with the genre of poetry, the Romantic period in Britain saw a remarkable surge in the publication and popularity of novels. This course will examine the major categories of novel that emerged and overlapped in the period straddling the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: the Gothic novel, the novel of sensibility, the ideological or propagandistic novel, and the historical novel. Focusing on the works of novelists including Radcliffe, Godwin, Wollstonecraft, Thelwall, Mary Shelley, Austen, Scott, and Peacock, we will attend to the formal and ideological development of the Romantic novel in its historical and literary contexts, as well as from several key critical perspectives. Was novel-reading the frivolous or potentially subversive activity it was feared to be? And why did this particular genre raise such concerns? A particular interest of the course will be the Romantic novel’s multiple and often contradictory perspectives on its own social situatedness and potency.
Eighteenth-Century Literature Imagines a Future
Margaret Doody and Patrick Mello
In literature of the late 17th century and the 18th century, fascination with possible futures-- desirable or undesirable , stimulates literary invention of alternative worlds. Poets may prophecy a time of great happiness to come after trial and destruction, as at the end of Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis (“The Year of Marvels”), and Pope’s Windsor Forest. Or they may imagine a time of coming catastrophe, as Pope does in his Dunciad. Imaginary voyages like Gulliver’s Travels and Candide offer visions of alternative societies that may or may not reflect England’s or France’s future. Science fiction appears, offering worlds in other planets, or fantastic cultures in this world, as in Cyrano de Bergerac’s A Voyage to the Moon,Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World, and Robert Paltock’s Peter Wilkins. The “fairy tale” becomes a popular new form, dealing with change, stress, resourcefulness and deliverance. All of these works play in various ways with the possibilities of change—social, legal, political, sexual.
Endeavors to imagine a better world stimulate creative encounters, as in Johnson’s Rasselas (set in Abyssinia and Egypt) and Lessing’s Nathan the Wise, envisaging harmony between Muslims, Jews and Christians. Philosophy of the period has much to say about human nature and how a better society might be made. Before the end of the 18th century, the American Revolution and the French Revolution attempt to bring ideals into actuality.
Throughout the period, new literature (including popular stage farce) entertains us with counterfactual personages, including not only familiar giants and fairies but also “Bear-men,” “Worm-men,” sylphs, giants, dragons, a cat princess, an autobiographical lapdog, animated portraits and—at last—the first vampire. Theatre and music burst into fantastic farces and enchanting operas, while the graphic arts develop the art of caricature. Towards the end of the century the invention of the “Gothic” mode offers a striking means of dealing with the relation of the future to the past—a past that refuses to be quite killed off and continues to haunt us.
Texts: De Bergerac, A Voyage to the Moon;Dryden, Annus Mirabilis; Cavendish, The Blazing World; Pope, Windsor Forest, The Rape of the Lock, The Dunciad; Perrault, Fairy Tales;Aulnoy, The White Cat;Swift,Gulliver’s Travels; Voltaire,Candide; Johnson,Rasselas;Paltock,Peter Wilkins;Lessing,Nathan the Wise;Walpole, The Castle of Otranto; Lewis, The Monk;Polidori,The Vampyre. Texts include excerpts from philosophical writings by John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and Edmund Burke. We shall enjoy operas by Handel and Mozart, as well as some art of the period (including caricatures, illustrations of myth, and theatrical designs and special effects).
Culture and Politics in Northern Ireland
This course explores the politics of culture, and the cultures of politics, in the north of Ireland during the twentieth century. Using a multiplicity of genres—drama, fiction, poetry, film, painting, and documentary material—we will unravel the history behind partition, the causes of the Troubles, and the nature of the conflict. Among the key moments or events upon which we will concentrate are the Somme, the sinking of the Titanic, Bloody Sunday, the hunger strikes, Drumcree, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and the Shankill Butchers. Certain key themes will stretch through our semester’s work. Among these are sectarianism, the relationship between violence and culture, the role of religion in the state, borders, hatred, identity, and issues of social and political justice. Some of the writers whose work we will read are Seamus Heaney, Frank McGuinness, Sam Thompson, John Montague, Seamus Deane, Eoin MacNamee, Robert MacLiam Wilson, Colin McCann, and Thomas Kinsella.
Wilde and Synge: Art as Subversion
On the surface Oscar Wilde and John Millington Synge seemed very different kinds of artist. Wilde won fame for his witty portrayals of the English aristocracy, whereas Synge was celebrated for his lyrical depiction of an impoverished Irish peasantry. Wilde pursued a career on the London stage and in high society, whereas Synge embraced a life of austerity and wrote for the nascent Irish national theatre in Dublin. Wilde was often dismissed as a mere entertainer, who was so fixated on his audience that he risked the betrayal of his subject. Synge was understood to be a pure artist, so committed to his subjects that he risked the alienation of his audience. Yet these products of Protestant Dublin had much in common: a fascination with fairy tales and folklore; an anarchist ideal in politics; a belief in the artistic value of lying and in the truth of masks; and a distrust of a merely representational art. For both men art should be an improvement on rather than a reflection of nature; and they saw their writing as a utopian project, addressed not just to present realities but to future possibilities. This course will offer an in-depth reading of the work of Wilde and Synge, assessing the differing opportunities and constraints faced by playwrights in London and Dublin in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It will consider the ways in which both dramatists, by challenging their audiences and subverting traditional forms of art, helped to create a modern Irish literary movement.
Oscar Wilde texts for discussion: Fairy Tales, The Picture of Dorian Gray, A Woman of No Importance, Lady Windermere’s Fan, The Importance of Being Earnest, ‘The Decay of Lying,’ ‘The Truth of Masks,’ ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol,’ and poems, Salomé, De Profundis available in Collected Works, one volume (Collins). JM Synge texts for discussion: Riders to the Sea, The Shadow of the Glen, The Tinker’s Wedding, The Well of the Saints, The Playboy of the Western World, Deirdre of the Sorrows, The Aran Islands available in Collected Works, Vols 2, 3, 4 (OUP).
A study of Twain’s life and writings in light of the history of ideas and the literary, political, philosophical, and religious currents of nineteenth-century American culture. We will also consider such figures as Harte, Stowe, Douglass, and Lincoln, who illuminate Twain’s style and social and moral preoccupations. Special concerns: Twain’s place in the tensions between conventional literary forms and the emerging American vernacular; his vision and critique of American democracy, slavery, “exceptionalism,” and later geopolitical expansionism; his medievalism, including Joan of Arc, and larger interpretations of history; his treatment of women, individualism, and the family; and the later gnosticism of No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger. We will also address the current (and perennial) discussions of unity and pluralism in American culture, as in Garry Wills’s delineation of an underlying American identity in Under God, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s fear of “balkanization” in The Disuniting of America. Readings: selected shorter works, including Diary of Adam and Eve; Innocents Abroad; Life on the Mississippi; Tom Sawyer; Huckleberry Finn; A Connecticut Yankee; Pudd’nhead Wilson; No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger; and selections from the Autobiography. Students will be expected to write a series of brief, incisive papers and a longer critical paper.
In 1542 the Spanish explorer, Cabeza de Vaca, published hisRelacíon, an imaginatively elaborated account of his long trek through what is now the U.S. Southwest after being shipwrecked on the Texas Gulf Coast. With its occasional imaginative elaborations, some critics, in a perhaps overstated fashion, have suggested that theRelacíon, with its themes of adversity, conflict and the “Other,” may be the first instance of an American literature largely set within what are now the boundaries of the United States. In later centuries and into our own time other literary examples set in the Southwest appeared from writers of Spanish and later Mexican heritage, literature written in Spanish. However, the nineteenth century brought four new inter-related developments: the incorporation of the Southwest officially into the United States; the identification of its resident and immigrant Spanish/Mexican peoples as citizens of the United States; the continuation of literary work from such peoples but now also written in English; and finally, the clear emergence of fiction within this literary discourse. This course will closely examine several examples of such English-language fiction from the nineteenth century to the present. For demographic reasons, the largest and most artistically and culturally significant work has come from the states of Texas and California, and therefore we will restrict our inquiry to those bodies of work, but we will do so in an inter-regional comparative fashion. Among others, our writers will include early authors such as Jovita González, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Américo Paredes and José Antonio Villarreal and later writers such as Tomás Rivera, Helena María Viramontes, Sandra Cisneros and Oscar Casares.
Conflict and Democracy in Classic American Literature
In his influential study Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville described the United States as an unprecedented experiment in political democracy that would soon reshape the world. Tocqueville particularly noted the prominence of deliberative bodies, which ranged from town hall meetings, to voluntary associations, to local, state, and national legislatures, where social concerns could be addressed and conflicts peaceably resolved. He also observed the exclusion of many people – women, African Americans, Native Americans – from those deliberative bodies and anticipated some of the difficulties that would arise from those exclusions.
In this class, which is cross-listed with the Peace Studies program, we will read iconic works of American literature that explore the main social conflicts of American history, including poverty and class difference, colonialism and westward expansion, slavery and racism, prejudices regarding gender and sexuality, religious difference, environmental degradation, and war. Beginning with colonial-era and early national statements about the good society, we will trace the themes of conflict and democracy through classic literary works that centrally and explicitly engage the problem of how best to democratically resolve differences. Conflict is an essential element in all plots. What distinguishes this class is its focus on works that foreground the rich experiential and social sources of major conflicts and that explore the means to resolve them in a manner that respects democratic ideals.
Our readings will include social and political writings such as James Madison, selections from The Federalist Papers; Judith Sargent Murray, “On the Equality of the Sexes”; Daniel Webster, The Second Reply to Hayne (opposing nullification and defending deliberative democracy); David Walker, An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World; and William Apess, “An Indian’s Looking-glass for the White Man.” We will also read a number of novels, which are likely to include James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Upton Sinclair, The Jungle; Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms; Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; Norman Mailer, An American Dream (with a response by Kate Millett from Sexual Politics); Joan Didion, Democracy; and Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony.
Dilemmas of American Transcendentalism
America’s first great literature, and its first great reform movement, were born together just before the Civil War in the group of writers named “the Transcendentalists.” The name was intended to mock their romantic ideas, but it stuck, and with it has come 150 years of debate. Were they fired more by religion, literary ambition, or social reform? Were they American nationalists or international cosmopolitans? While some of them—Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, Alcott—wrote some great books, and they inspired the likes of Hawthorne, Whitman, Poe and Melville, their goal was not to write great literature but to change the course of American society. Did they succeed? We may not settle this debate, but in taking it on, we will find haunting lessons for our own time as well.
Readings to include selected essays by Emerson, Brownson, and Fuller, Thoreau’s Walden, poems by Whitman and Dickinson, Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and a variety of shorter readings by a range of supporters, participants, and detractors.
A genre approach to film through the filter of “love” in many of its Hollywood forms including romantic love. What does love look like in a film and how is it used to account for the actions of characters and the developments of plot? We’ll begin with romance comedy while taking a careful look at its twisted sister, film noir. Then we’ll explore other versions of love such as filial, sexual, parental, creative, and obsessive.
The primary written requirement will be a research paper in which you work with a film of your choice. There will also be a mid-term and final exam.
There will be no scheduled showings of the films. Instead, I will ask you to join Netflix or some comparable service. Thus, you can work with the films according to your own schedules. I expect that we will work with at least twenty films.
Possible films: It Happened One Night, The Lady Eve, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Body Heat, Basic Instinct, Lars and the Real Girl, A Beautiful Mind, Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Godfather, Bound, Silence of the Lambs, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Don Juan de Marco, Moulin Rouge, The Hours, The Maltese Falcon and others.
Poetry and Performance
Artists are taking on many of the most crucial questions of our time, in ways that offer insight into what's happening to us and that propose models for what to do about it. In this course, we investigate the meeting ground of poetry, conceptual art, and performance—not only through reading, discussion, and writing, but also through seeing live performances and videos and through doing our own performance art. What this class requires is an open, exploratory mind and a keen spirit of fun. Caution: exposure to the avant-garde can be habit-forming.
Contemporary U.S. Novel
This course is devoted to the last decade of U.S. fiction. Its aim is to provide an overview of currently developing -- and often competing -- trends in contemporary literature and to offer a preliminary theorization of the literary-cultural present in the United States.
To this end, we'll read a bit of theory and six American novels published since 1996. These texts present an array of responses to the changing cultural landscape of what we might call late postmodernism, a period concerning which there is as yet little critical consensus. The books we read will provide us with material for an emerging understanding of what this moment and its aesthetic production look like; the ways in which they embrace, differ from, and reject the cultural dominants of postmodernism proper; the paths they suggest for twenty-fist century fiction; and the ways in which they adapt and redeploy earlier cultural forms. By the end of the semester, you will be in a position to offer your own analysis of contemporary cultural production and to speculate on the future of American literature. Note that the reading load will be fairly heavy, especially during the first half of the semester.
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (1996, 1104 pp.)
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible (1998, 576 pp.)
Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation (2005, 142 pp.)
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005, 368 pp.)
Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007, 352 pp.)
Rivka Galchen, Atmospheric Disturbances (2008, 256 pp.)
Advanced Fiction Writing
This course is intended for students who have already taken a Fiction Writing course (or the equivalent) and who are seriously interested in writing fiction, and graduate students who are not in the Creative Writing program. The expectation is that the student is beyond the point of requiring assignments to generate stories. Over the semester, in a workshop setting, student stories will be taken through various stages: due attention will be paid to revision, rewriting, polishing, editing, with a goal that the stories be brought as close as possible to the point of submission as finished work. Practical as well as theoretical issues will be investigated; there will be assigned readings from a variety of fiction authors.
Seminar: Woolf and Bloomsbury
The modernist feminist writer Virginia Woolf lived and worked with a loose collective of writers, painters, and social thinkers that we now call the “Bloomsbury Group” (though many members of the group disliked the phrase). We will look at the novels, essays, art, interior design, and political writings of some of the members of Bloomsbury–including works by Virginia Woolf, E.M.. Forster, Roger Fry, Leonard Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell–to explore the complex moments of cross-fertilization, critique, and revision that define their encounters. In addition, we will attend to a few areas that have dominated discussions of Bloomsbury modernism: ideas of nation, “civilization,” and critiques of Empire; the formation of literary modernism’s often tense relation to mass culture; the development of modern discourses of sexuality; the relationship between literature and the modern metropolis; and explorations of women’s “experience” of modernity. Because members of the Bloomsbury Group worked in a number of fields beyond the literary–painting, economics, social thought, publishing, and interior design to name a few–students often find that they can easily develop projects that engage more than one area of interest and that combine skills developed in a second major with those that belong to literary criticism. Requirements include one seminar paper (written in stages in consultation with me) of 25 pages, participation in one group presentation.
Seminar: Modern Irish Fiction
A close examination of the works of major Irish writers of fiction after the Second World War--Flann O'Brien, Frank O'Connor, Mary Lavin, Patrick Kavanagh, Edna O'Brien, Michael MacLaverty, Sam Hanna Bell, and Brian Moore.
Seminar: Gender Troubles: Contemporary Irish Fiction
In this course we will be looking at the relationship between gender politics and national politics as it plays out in the development of Irish fiction after the era of James Joyce. Focusing on Irish novels and short stories which were groundbreaking and/or controversial in terms of their exploration of gender and sexuality, the course will also investigate the historical contexts in which they were produced and the controversies they produced. Our investigation will focus on the question of how the 'trouble' generated around these controversial explorations of gender and sexuality relates to other kinds of trouble that have shaped the history of twentieth century Ireland. We will begin with the reaction against government censorship in the Irish Free State during the 1930s and 1940s, follow the emergence of Irish women writers and Irish feminism from the 1950s to the 1980s, and conclude with the rise of gay and lesbian Irish writers in the 1990s and early twenty-first century.
Contemporary American Women Poets
Although the range and productivity of American women writers over the last two centuries has been enormous, the proliferation of extremely accomplished and important women writers has virtually mushroomed in the last few decades, embracing leading poets (such as Elizabeth Bishop and Adrienne Rich), leading novelists (such as Alice Walker, Joyce Carol Oates, and Toni Morrison) and altogether new voices such as the Chicana poet Lorna Dee Cervantes, the Asian-American novelist Amy Tan, and the Native-American Susan Power (to name only a few). To narrow the range of this explosive development in American literature, we will primarily focus on the work of women written in this country after World War II, with special emphasis on the last two decades. In addition to a small sampling of a number of different writers to be found in our class reader, we will ultimately focus on seven writers: Elizabeth Bishop (poetry), Adrienne Rich (poetry and essays), June Jordan (poetry and essays), Amy Tan (fiction), Lorna Dee Cervantes (poetry), Susan Power (fiction), and Sandra Gilbert (poetry and essays).
Students will be expected to participate in genuine class discussion, to develop a rationale for how to interpret these works (i.e., the most suitable critical perspective for given works or authors), and to do some external readings by and/or on one author of their choice for the final project. Written assignments will range from an occasional 1-page response to the longer, final project, with two shorter papers in between. At the end of the course, I hope students will have been inspired by these writers to produce creative work of their own. If this is true, students’ own creative work (if of high quality and if also clearly related to the themes of the course and the writers studied) can be substituted for one of the assignments.
Texts: Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems; Adrienne Rich, An Atlas of the Difficult World and selected essays; Lorna Dee Cervantes, Emplumada; June Jordan, Naming Our Destiny and selected essays; Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club; Susan Power, The Grass Dancer; Sandra Gilbert, Belongings and selected essays.
Seminar: Engendering Renaissance: Chicago, Harlem and Modern America(s)
In answering the question “What was American modernism?” most literary critical perspectives might commonly be expected to focus on a modernity represented by the authors of the “lost generation” in the U.S., such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway. While a conventional understanding of U.S. American modernism might serve to underscore the importance of the stylistic, cultural and artistic contributions of these and other canonical moderns, such a view might also give little consideration to the significance of those modern U.S. American voices not ordinarily heard in such a context. This course poses the question ”What was American modernism?” to answer it by exploring its roots in two less conspicuous early 20th-century U.S. American modernisms: the Chicago Renaissance of 1912-1925, and the Harlem Renaissance of 1920-1929. In “engendering renaissance,” these two moments suggest a literary birth and rebirth of modern U.S. American identity that questions its seemingly stable boundaries and borders, reconfiguring the idea of “American” within and opening the door to the larger and more varied cultural fabric that is modern America(s). By locating the rise of U.S. American modernism in the relation between these two literary moments, this course will broaden our understanding of the idea of “American” at this time by considering how it is created within a frame determined by the interplay of race, gender, class and nation. In this way, it seeks to deepen our understanding of U.S. American culture and the idea of “American in the early 20th century, while suggesting new ways to engage the global social and cultural challenges facing the idea of “American” in the 21st.
Course Requirements: Four short thesis practice papers, two Essay Introductions, two 5-page essays, presentations.
Course Texts: Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America, excerpts; Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, excerpts; Henry Blake Fuller, The Cliff-Dwellers; Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie; Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio; Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark; Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery, excerpts; W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, excerpts; Jean Toomer, Cane; Jessie Fauset, There is Confusion; Claude McKay, Banjo; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Graduate Fiction Workshop
A fiction workshop for graduate students in the MFA in Creative Writing program, with an emphais on students developing their own aesthetic and personal vision, juxtaposed to and within the larger movement of the contemporary literary world.
Graduate Poetry Workshop
This seminar, which uses the traditional workshop method, is restricted to graduate students in the MFA program. The principal aim of the course is for students to generate work of publishable quality by the end of the semester, and for students in the second year of the program to begin completing the MFA thesis. Permission required; MFA students only.
Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England
An introduction to the literature and culture of Anglo-Saxon England, with readings taken from Old English and Anglo-Latin poetry, saints’ lives and homilies, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, charters and biblical commentaries, legal and scientific texts, charms and joca monachorum dialogues, and the Alfredian translations of the late ninth century. We will make an effort to proceed chronologically in order to sketch out a literary history of the period, negotiating the perils that beset such an enterprise at every turn. Students with experience reading Old English and Latin will be encouraged to read as much as they can in the original languages, but all readings will be made available in modern English translation as well for the benefit of students with no prior knowledge of these languages. In addition to regular reading and contributions to class discussion, requirements include a series of weekly response papers, an oral presentation to the seminar, a short bibliographical essay, and a research paper.
An introduction to non-Shakespearean drama, this course will cover approximately 14 plays by Beaumont and Fletcher, Chapman, Dekker, Ford, Heywood, Jonson, Kyd, Marlowe, Middleton, and Webster. We will focus on the emergence of London’s professional theater as well as the development of a market for printed plays. Along with standard reference works and resources, we will make use of new electronic databases, such as DEEP (Database of Early English Playbooks) and EEBO (Early English Books Online). In addition, we will visit Special Collections to examine some printed plays, including Jonson’s Workes (1616). Students will be asked to make multiple in-class presentations, prepare an annotated bibliography, and write a research paper of 20-25 pp. Spanish Tragedy, Shoemaker’s Holiday, The Changeling , Chaste Maid in Cheapside, White Devil, Volpone, Duchess of Malfi, Bussy D’Ambois, Woman Killed with Kindness, Arden of Faversham, Westward Ho!, The Honest Whore, Faustus, Tamburlaine, Knight of the Burning Pestle.
The Rise of English Literature: Medieval Book Production and Reading Practices (Theirs and Ours)
The Ricardian ‘Golden Age’ gave birth to what Chaucer’s literary executors and disciples suddenly recognized as a national literature, largely the result of the immigration of a young, under-employed clerical “proletariat” who found jobs in the burgeoning Westminster civil service. This included alliterative poets of the West, Continentally influenced writers of the South and East, and less noticed contributors from the out-posted colonial civil service in Dublin. Recent discoveries in Manuscript Studies, alongside newer theories of medieval reading practices (which include performative, meditational, allegorical, mnemonic, and cognitive methods, to name but a few) have changed how we approach this 'Rise of English'. Scholars are now tracing its roots ever earlier, even back to the Anglo-Saxon period. The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in English (Oxford, 2010), which will be one of our guides in this course, offers the first scholarly attempt to harness major critical approaches of the 21st century by integrating these book production and reading discoveries into mainstream criticism. It also departs from 20th-century criticism by integrating both Old and Middle English literature into each of its essays, emphasizing continuities between the eras rather than rupture. This course will cover book production, reading communities, courtly, clerical and bureaucratic elites, medieval subjectivities and emergent Englishness, diversities in the 'national literature', and the rising importance of travel writing, myth and legend. Authors to be covered, in whole or in part, may include: Bede (Ecclesiastical History, especially St. Hilda and St. Aethelthryth), Christina of Markyate, Gerald of Wales (Topographia Hibernica, and its later 15th c. Dublin translation), La3amon's Brut, Ancrene Wisse, Susannah, the A-Text of Piers Plowman, Mandeville's Travels, Chaucer (House of Fame, Parliament of Foules, and Fragment I of the Canterbury Tales), Hoccleve (Complaint and Dialogue), Malory (Morte Darthur, Books 7 and 8). The course will work backwards chronologically to accommodate those newer to Middle English reading who want to join us. Students presenting papers at the Manuscript Studies and Reading Practices Conference in Honour of Derek Pearsall at the ND London Facility can use those as the basis for their term papers and seminar reports, with a goal to preparing them for publication.
British Romanticism and the Sciences of Life
“Then, what is Life?” Percy Shelley’s unfinished poem The Triumph of Life (1822) concludes with a question that resonates throughout the Romantic period, carrying rich philosophical, aesthetic, and political overtones. This course will examine the productive intersection of literature and life science in the Romantic period, or what Wordsworth described as the “ennobling interchange / Of action” between mind and nature (Prelude XII.376-77). Our particular areas of interest will include debates about the origins, characteristics, and meaning of life or “animal vitality”; theories of race and generation; theories of the mind, particularly as they pertained to the use and comprehension of language; and, more generally, the persistent tension between mechanistic and organicist modes of thought as they applied to literature, the imagination, and society. A central objective of the course will be a re-evaluation of the idea – chiefly derived from Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria – that Romanticism was fundamentally a reaction against Enlightenment empiricism and materialism. To help demonstrate the permeability of disciplines in the period (at least, in the early Romantic period), we will read “literary” writers alongside their contemporaries in natural philosophy, as the domain of what we now call “science” was known. These will include Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hartley, Darwin, Priestley, Thelwall, Blake, Blumenbach, Mary and Percy Shelley, Davy, and Keats. Our readings and discussions will also take stock of the recent surge of critical interest in Romantic literature and life science. The main element of assessment will be the stage-by-stage composition of an article-length paper, ideally suitable for eventual publication.
Enlightenment Forms and Frictions
Whether considered as period or movement, that strange multiplex entity that we call “the Enlightenment” created or transmuted numerous forms of writing. Authors created the matrix for new modes of thinking regarding history, “human nature,” self, psyche, nation-state, and the future.
Works of the Enlightenment are noticeably concerned with change, and with hopes and fears regarding alteration. They are speculative. ( “What if…?”) The dominant manner of writing tends to be personality- oriented, demonstrative, chatty, theatrical, self-dramatizing—as can be seen in works as various as Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution , Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Casanova’s Escape from the Leads. Discourses of philosophy or history are emphatically voiced, employing mimicry of personal speech. Biography and memoir are reinvented as vehicles for speculative voices. Tropes of exaggeration abound. Social, economic and sexual “realities” are transformed. On inspecting the forms and formulations of an era often advertised (as it were) as specializing in a beige universe of calm reason and common sense, we may be surprised by productions so highly colored, anti-linear, transporting and disconcerting. (We shall consider en route some examples of graphic art, and of new musical and dramatic forms, including the opera.) Temporal and spatial perspectives constantly alter. The invention of the “Gothic” is only one of the period’s many engagements with vivid and disconcerting material.
Enlightenment literary forms prefer friction and contradiction. A work may announce its contradictions from the outset, as in the title Ceci n’es pas un conte (“This is not a story”). Like a snowball, a work can gather dissent, alternatives and revisions as it proceeds. We will look at a variety of new forms freshly drafted for a new age: the “blog” in the Tatler and Spectator; the political or literary manifesto; the “Fairy Tale” and Oriental tale; the epistolary novel; “Science Fiction” and freshly invented “Others” like the Sylph and the Vampire. Investigation of “Human Nature” provides new possibilities of form and mode in works as varied as Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Mandeville’sThe Fable of the Bees. Memoir and biography offer fresh modes of investigation of the contradictions within both observer and object, including the self. Commonly, works engage in internal self-parody, turning against an anticipated linear meaning. The possibility of self-contradiction, of ironic reversal (or multiple reversals), appears central. This applies to Locke’s great Essay as much as to Diderot’s Le Neveu de Rameau (Rameau’s Nephew), Richardson’s Clarissa , Sterne’s Tristram Shandy or Lewis’sThe Monk. What kind of reading is demanded of us—and what exactly is the effect? With the help of theory (old and new) we can consider what we have derived, both individually and in our own culture’s practices, from such colorful and contradictory (even perverse) creations.
“To read any of my work you must read all of it”. That might seem an arrogant claim, but there is a sense in which Joyce’s writings from first to last form part of a lifelong project. That project grew in scope and ambition, as Joyce in successive works pulverized the traditional forms of literature. In extending the range of language, he also came up against its limits. From the sumptuous minimalism of his early stories of colonial Ireland in Dubliners, through the coming-of-age narratives in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Exiles, to the dazzling experiments with word and image in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Joyce was adamant that “the style is the subject”. While critics scoffed that his texts developed only at the instigation of language, he tried to shape sentences which would register the pressure of felt experience---and to claim new zones of consciousness for art. This course will locate Joyce against his backgrounds in revival Ireland and modernist Europe, attempting also to establish the distinctive nature of his artistic vision. Texts for discussion: Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, Exiles, Finnegans Wake
The American Novel and the Speculative Turn
The focus of this course will be the constellation of questions that have emerged under the theoretical umbrella of “the speculative turn” in the humanities. We will examine examples of such thought including speculative realism, object-oriented ontologies, and dark ecology from the point of view of narrative fiction, and ask what key texts from the American literary tradition might contribute to such debates.
At the heart of our literary study will be the recent international literary movement of “New Weird Fiction” and its correspondences with the cultural productions of what Greil Marcus has referred to in another context as “Old, Weird America.” The range of fictions, therefore, will travel from Melville to Miéville by way of H. P. Lovecraft.
Weekly readings from the speculative realist tradition, American and international fiction, and narrative theory.
Cultural Studies: On Birmingham and Brownsville
In two sections this graduate seminar will track the movement, from “literary into cultural studies,” in Antony Easthope’s words. While we will review the high canonical points of departure exemplified by Matthew Arnold, T.S. Eliot, and F.R. Leavis, the first and major section will be devoted largely to the decisive Marxist interventions of Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart, the formation of the Birmingham School, the subsequent permutations offered by theorists such as Stuart Hall, and the Americanization of cultural studies with figures such as Janice Radway. But, as a significant part of the American turn, the second section will examine the semi-autonomous development of a Latino/Latina cultural studies beginning in 1958 with Américo Paredes from Brownsville, Texas and subsequent figures such as Renato Rosaldo, José Saldívar, Juan Flores, Frances Aparicio and myself.