English Major Courses
Introduction to Creative Writing
This course will introduce you to writing fiction and poetry. We will explore several types of poetry, including but not limited to ekphrasis, epistolary poetry, and erasure. We will experiment with different elements of fiction (characterization, plot and structure, scene and summary, points of view, voice, setting, and dialogue), and learn about how to utilize these elements effectively in narratives. We will read poetry and fiction written by a diverse group of poets and fiction writers, and examine their techniques.
Introduction to Creative Writing
In this course together we will forge a community that seeks to question the parameters and potentials of genre. While cultivating a dynamic space of experimentation, creative risk-taking, and honest discussion, this course will aim to adapt to the particular interests and questions of the community; in doing so we will read widely and explore deeply while stretching our creative-writing hands. We will cross-pollinate fiction, poetry, screenwriting, translation, and intermediate works as we dialogue with contemporary authors to hone-in on new understanding. Douglas Kearney, Matthea Harvey, Gwendolyn Brooks, Koffi Kwhaulé, and Layli Long Soldier are just a few of the many voices that will inform our explorations.
Introduction to Poetry Writing
In Introduction to Poetry Writing, I invite you to develop an intimate, intellectual and social relationship to poetry. Roland Barthes, in his “Death of the Author,” says: “writing is the destruction of every voice, of every distinct point of origin.” As we acquire an understanding of and relationship to the elements of poetry, we will explore the relationship between creation and destruction as they inform and are informed by the art form. We will work to understand and relate to poetry through reading collected works, as well as critical essays, which we will respond to. We will generate new work, engage in collective discussion to further our words’ trajectory (i.e., “workshop”) and, ultimately, complete mini-portfolios as artifacts of our shared learning and engagement with the written word.
Introduction to Fiction Writing
Class motto: “Writers make decisions.” In this class, we will read and write literary fiction (whatever that means), with a primary focus on crafting the short story. We will investigate, in both the published stories we will read and in our own work, the “architecture” that an author implements — this will include but is not limited to the relationship between back-story and front-story, different points of view, modes of narrative, and how an author transitions between those modes. We will read as writers, and write with intention ourselves. At the end of the course, we will know why we wrote each paragraph the way we did, why it arrives when it does in the story, and the function it serves for the piece overall. We will know well what to consider when we sit down and write, and how to make the decisions we make on the page.
Introduction to Fiction Writing
In this course, students will learn techniques to aid in the crafting of stories inspired from both life and imagination. We will explore components of short story writing such as: plot, setting, character, description, point of view, dialogue, tone, voice and symbol. Class time will be spent analyzing fiction, talking craft, and giving feedback on each other’s work. Come prepared to read with intention and to write with vigor. Together we will build a writing community where everyone’s vision is taken seriously. Artistic support is a key component to the success of this classroom. What you say matters. What you create matters. With a heavy emphasis on drafting and revision, this course will provide students with the tools to better understand fiction writing.
Fiction Writing and the American Short Story
Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi
In this introductory course we will focus on 1) reading traditional and innovative 20th-and 21st-century American short stories and 2) on workshopping original student writing. In order to examine the range of narrative strategies available to us as writers, we will read speculative, meta-fictional, hyper-real and surreal fictions, as well as essays on the art of writing. Throughout the course of the semester students will develop as story-tellers, and will learn to read as writers and critique work-in-progress.
Point-of-View in the Novel
Section 01: MW 2:00-3:15
Section 02: MW 5:05-6:20
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.
William Shakespeare composed his plays over 400 years ago, and yet they continue to be performed, revised, adapted for contemporary audiences, sometimes far removed from their original shape. But when we transform a centuries-old piece of literature into a contemporary stage play, movie, high school curriculum, or comic book, what are the stakes? What do we gain—or lose—in the process of adaptation? This course will explore issues of form, content, and audience when adapting Shakespeare’s plays. We’ll read four plays—Hamlet, Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest—and analyze a variety of adaptations ranging from live productions, YA fiction, and graphic novels to investigate how each of these texts responds to the original plays while also becoming literary creations in their own right. We will apply our growing knowledge by creating our own adaptations to share with one another.
Frankenstein in Contexts: Politics, Literature, Film, and Science
As part of a campus-wide bicentennial, this new course explores the impact of politics, literature, film, and science on the making of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and the novel’s impact on politics, literature, film, and science since its publication. While the novel remains at the center of the course throughout the semester, the course will consistently situate it in dynamic relation with the following relevant works: political theory by such writers as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Wollstonecraft and Godwin; literary texts by such authors as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and Percy Shelley; scientific writings by such figures from Shelley’s time as Erasmus Darwin and Humphry Davy and more recent work in the history of science and bioethics; film and theatrical adaptations of the novel from the nineteenth century to the present. Students will assimilate this demanding amount of material through the division of the course into four broad categories of analysis: Political Theory and the French Revolution; Gender and Family; Race, Refugees, and Human Rights; History of Science and Bioethics.
Each category will include readings, lectures, and discussion across the disciplinary frameworks (literature, film, politics, and science) established as modes of inquiry for this course. Students are also required to attend a film lab that will feature a significant number of films inspired by Frankenstein.
Writing assignments will consist of three 5-page papers, linked to the course’s main categories of analysis, and students will be required to utilize the interpretive tools of at least two of the course’s disciplinary frameworks for each paper. A final examination will enable students to integrate their considerable range of knowledge acquisition with their interdisciplinary thinking skills in understanding both the making and the impact of the Frankenstein story.
Human Rights and Its Discontents: Literature and Identity Politics
There are few notions more central to Western democracy than that of universal and inalienable human rights. As we see from the Declaration of Independence (1776), the first French Republic's Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789), and the much more recent Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafted by the United Nations in 1948, Western political thinkers have done a lot of "declaring" when it comes to this subject. But the idea that all humans have the same fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness often falls short, and the notion of "identity politics" - political positions based on group identities such as race, gender, and class - seeks to redress the shortcomings of liberal democratic governments.This course will examine how universal human rights and the identity-based claims about their incomplete application are mediated by texts. As mentioned above, the idea of universal human rights is a textual one, based in a series of "declarations" that are meant to have transformative power over nations and, in the case of the UN's declaration, the world at large. Beginning with these documents, this course will move on to explore how calls for better treatment of groups such as women, African Americans, immigrants, and LGBT citizens have taken different forms in nonfiction, life-writing, fiction, poetry, and finally social media. We will examine each genre for the persuasive powers it uniquely possesses due to its structural qualities, asking how texts take different shapes in order to better advocate for the basic rights and dignities of all human beings.
ENGL 20409 / IRLL 20120 - Crosslist
The Irish Short Story
The Short story continues to be among the most vibrant and exciting literary forms in the Irish language. This course explores the themes, motifs, approaches and various forms common to the Irish short story as well as the critical debates associated with the genre. We begin with a survey of the literary history and traumatic cultural politics of Ireland in the nineteenth century. In addition to comparing it to the American and French traditions, we consider the relationship between folklore and literature, the relationship between orality and print culture, tradition and modernity. Among the authors we read in detail are: George Moore, P.H. Pearse, James Joyce, Pádraic Ó Conaire, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Frank O'Connor, Sean O'Faolain, Liam Ó Flaithearta/Liam O'Flaherty, Seamus Ó Grianna, Seosamh Mac Grianna, Angela Bourke, Pádraic Breathnach, Seán Mac Mathúna, Micheál Ó Conghaile, Alan Titley, Dara Ó Conaola and Eilís Ní Dhuibhne. Stories are read primarily as literary texts that shed light on evolving cultural, political and social conditions and provide incisive insights into the Irish literary and cultural tradition. This course is an ideal introduction to literary criticism and cultural studies. No prior knowledge of Irish or Ireland is required. All texts will be available in English.
ENGL 20436 / IRLL 20115 – Crosslist
Great Irish Writers I (Survey 1)
Ireland can lay claim to one of the most extensive, unique, and oldest literatures in Europe. By engaging with a wide range of literary texts (saints' lives, poetry, myth and legend, prose epic, laments, placelore and travel literature) from the medieval and early modern periods (ca. 800-1800), participants will consider how changing social, cultural, literary and intellectual contexts, in terms of both authors and audiences, have dramatically transformed Ireland's literature over the centuries. By looking at authors ranging from heroic bards and literary monks to lamenting wives and satirizing schoolmasters, we will examine the dynamics of production and the voices that speak to us from Ireland's past. Additionally, by considering the different topics that scholars have chosen to explore, and by articulating our own, contemporary responses to often arresting works from the Irish literary tradition, we will begin to understand the complexities and rich possibilities for appreciating Irish literature in our own time and place. Participants will read both primary literary texts, which may include but are not limited to the Lives of St. Patrick and St. Brigit, The Táin, excerpts from The Acallam, stories from Early Irish Myths and Sagas, a selection of Old Irish verse, poems from An Duanaire: Poems of the Dispossessed, Merriman's Midnight Court, as well as a number of critical essays.
Novels of New York
This course addresses a selection of the novels that have explored New York City as a central subject.
Uneasy Environments: Australasia and the American South
Occasionally, when we read a novel, poem, or short story, or watch a film or play, we are struck by the way that both natural and urban environments can suddenly seem to become a character of their own: they sneer, gnarl, and haunt, hanging over characters like a threat, unsettling them (and us). This course will explore twentieth century literature and film from the American south, Australia and New Zealand, which depict environments in such a way as to generate these uneasy feelings. Taking up classic texts, such as William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, and the 1951 film adaptation of Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as lesser known texts from Australasia such as Patrick White’s play The Season at Sarsaparilla and Jane Campion’s film The Piano, this course will explore the multiple ways that literary and dramatic representations of eerie, harsh, and macabre spaces help us to interrogate the more sinister aspects of life at the edges of society. Requirements: regular participation, short reading responses, a midterm exam, and a final essay.
American Literature, Sound, and Popular Music, 1860-1945
US literature and popular music between the mid-19th century and the end of World War II. We will read key works of American prose (as well as some poetry) from the period's principal literary movements, including realism, naturalism, modernism, and multimedia documentary. We will also listen to musical works--Broadway tunes and blues songs, spirituals and symphonies. We'll pay particular attention to how segregation and other racial politics, changing roles for women, and the mass production of commodities influenced the art of this period. Texts will include writing by Stephen Crane, W.E.B. Du Bois, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Harriet Jacobs, and Edith Wharton, as well as music by George M. Cohan, George Gershwin, Scott Joplin, Paul Robeson, and Bessie Smith. Course requirements will include two essays, presentations, and active participation in online and in-class discussions.
Non-Fiction Writing: Style and Fact
The quality that separates creative nonfiction from workaday prose is style. The quality that separates nonfiction from fiction is fact. In this course, we dive right into the complicated relationship between style and fact through Gonzo journalism, made-up memoir, ambiguous essays, and second-hand dream gossip, rigorously attending to well-wrought examples while also practicing our own exercises in style. Texts will include work by John D'Agata, Walter Benjamin, Vladimir Nabokov, Susan Sontag, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Beyoncé, Omer Fast, Samuel Delaney, and others.
Intro to Literary Studies
Section 02 – Betz (MW 11:00-12:15)
Section 03 – Johnson-Roullier (MW 2:00-3:15)
Section 04 – Quesada (TR 2:00-3:15)
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, the development of genres, and key questions with which writers struggled. You will also develop your abilities to read, interpret, and think with poetry. 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 include short weekly writing assignments, two formal essays, a final exam, and regular, enthusiastic preparation.
American Literary Traditions I
This course is designed to introduce students to the critical study and aesthetic enjoyment of American literature up to 1865. We will examine a range of works from initial European contacts through the American Renaissance writings of Douglass, Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, and Dickinson. Themes and practices of voice will provide a common interpretive framework for our readings. We will explore the literatures of America with particular attention to oral traditions, vernacular influences, rhetorical styles, and narrative and poetic forms. In addition to the readings, the class requirements include regular attendance and active class participation; quizzes and short exercises; two essays; a midterm exam and a final exam.
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, poetic films), media (print, photography, the Internet, the desert of the real), and languages and cultures. We will consider what poetry means 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.
Fiction Writing: Fantastic Worlds
Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Westeros, Panem: every story starts somewhere. How do you build a compelling world that's not just backdrop, but part of the story? In this reading-intensive fiction workshop, you'll learn to create vivid and dynamic worlds, embed those worlds in your characters' thoughts, and bring those worlds to life through your characters' actions. While focusing primarily on fantastic, speculative, and weird fiction, this workshop will help you develop the skills you need to make any world breathe on the page - even this one. Readings will include work from William Blake, Kelly Link, George R.R. Martin, Nnedi Okorafor, Laurie Penny, J.K. Rowling, and Jeff VanderMeer.
This course will be devoted to the history, culture and literature of Scandinavia during the age of the Vikings. Our concerns will be both with the social and political events of the period and with the ways in which medieval Scandinavians used fiction, history, and mythology in order to present and interpret the world in which they lived. The issues we will consider include Viking religion and mythology; the unification of the individual Scandinavian kingdoms; the Christianization of a heroic warrior culture; the Vikings' own concerns with history and self-representation; the raids and colonizing missions that they effected in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the North Atlantic; and the reception of the Vikings in the post-medieval era. Readings will include selections from Norse sagas and poetry (all in translation) as well as secondary works on history and art.
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 40212 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.
John Milton wrote poetry of astonishing beauty and power. He is a complex and paradoxical figure: a theological writer constantly at odds with religious establishments, a republican political theorist finally mistrustful of the people, an advocate of both patriarchalist and quasi-egalitarian understandings of gender, a celebrant of virginity who matured into one of the great singers of erotic love and sexuality. History has treated Milton paradoxically as well. A radical figure, pushed to the margins in his own time, he has come to be seen by many as the voice of establishment authority. In this course we will study the length and breadth of Milton's career, looking for keys to these paradoxes. Perhaps more than any other major English author, Milton is present in his works; we will pay close attention to his self-representations. We will test the possibility that the dissonances in the early self-representations bear fruit in the creative tensions of the mature poetry. We will pay attention 1) to the high level of control Milton exerts over his texts and his readers and 2) to what happens when that control slips. Above all, we will also work toward an appreciation of Milton's aesthetic achievements. We will read widely in Milton's poetry, with special emphasis on the "Nativity Ode," A Mask, "Lycidas," Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes. We will study also several of his prose works (e.g., The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Areopagitica, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, and The Readie and Easie Way). While our focus will be on Milton's texts, we will explore some of the central debates of Milton criticism. A series of assignments (bibliography, prospectus, etc.) will lead up to completion of a substantial article-length scholarly essay.
William Blake and the Culture of Modernity
The writings and images of William Blake represent one of the most significant and original artistic achievements of his or indeed any age. They confront some of the most profound challenges and opportunities faced by the modern world and they offer a radical challenge to the way we think about what art and literature are and how they work. From the apparent simplicity of "Tyger tyger burning bright" to the disturbing visual imagination at play in his complex visions and prophecies and tempura paintings, Blake's work has a range that can be as perplexing as it is inspiring. An understanding of Blake's works requires us to confront the major issues of his day, which continue to shape our own: the expansion of empire, the political revolutions in America and France, the Rights of Women, the growth of a consumer economy, and the abolition of the slave trade. Yet for all his reputation for difficulty, Blake insisted that his work could be best understood by children, an insistence that suggests the best approach to his work is to unlearn things we think we know. The particular challenge of Blake's works then is to ask simple questions the answers to which we frequently take for granted: what is a book? What is the relationship between an author and a reader? How should we understand the relationship between text and image? In this class we will ask such questions as we seek to understand Blake's place in the modern world. Readings for the class include William Blake's major works alongside texts by contemporaries such as Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft, and more recent works such as Alan Moore's From Hell that can help us understand Blake's legacy.
Thinking with Abbeys
The startling success of the TV series Downton Abbey in the USA as well as in England demonstrates the enduring appeal in the English speaking world of an abbey as an image connected with change. What do we keep of the past and what do we discard? The Dissolution of the Abbeys in the 1530s under Henry VIII was a monumental change, religious and social, as well as the most sweeping and immediate privatization. Private owners took over land once used for education, medical care and care of the poor. The buildings were often torn down for sale of valuables ( such as lead roofing); some were reconditioned as private abodes. Through the following centuries, to own an abbey became a sign of great wealth and status. The treatment of Church lands in France during the early French Revolution revived questions regarding England's own history. In the late 18th and early 19th century abbeys begin to figure in English literature as settings, as social signs, and as bones of contention. They are associated with issues of class, gender and sexuality—not least in the notorious real-life case of Sir Francis Dashwood and the "Hellfire Club" of Medmenham Abbey. Abbeys are signs of change, as well as of economic and political power—and power shifts. They exhibit or stand for personal growth or loss, acquisition and dispossession, and conflicting aesthetic and moral values. To William Gilpin the travel writer they are aesthetic adornments; their ruins are a benefit to the "picturesque" but the institutions were rightly destroyed.Abbeys raise questions of social usefulness—or waste. We will pursue some persistent questions that seem constantly to be raised by literary contemplation of abbeys. What does England want to keep, and what should be changed and modified? Who is disinherited and why? Who is in power—and why? Frustration and anxiety are often associated with contemplating an abbey. Authors use both real and imaginary places; women writers -not least Jane Austen--are particularly skillful in creating imaginary estates with developed social, economic and historical backgrounds. The "Gothic" mode is only one approach to the puzzles and hidden pain associated with the inheritance of an abbey and the endeavor to suppress the past. As we learn how to think with an abbey, students will be invited to explore the use and significance of abbeys in fiction ( both "high" and "low") of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and of our own times." and "low". Texts will include Downton Abbey (script by Julian Fellowes); William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey; William Gilpin, Observations ( selected travel writings); Charlotte Smith, Ethelinde; Regina Maria Roche, The Children of the Abbey; "Mrs. Carver," The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey: Jane Austen, "History of England,"Northanger Abbey, Emma; Thomas Love Peacock, Nightmare Abbey; Sir Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel, The Monastery; Margaret Powell, Below Stairs.
Some of the most enduring stereotypes of British Romanticism involve the cultivation of solitary genius, the return to a pristine Nature, and the celebration of local, rural community. Compelling as these cultural ideals may seem, they have been complicated and enriched by recent scholarship that situates the literary productions of Romanticism within the larger geopoitical frameworks of their historical epoch: such as Britain's colonial enterprise, the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars, worldwide commercial systems, the transatlantic slave trade, travel and exploration. To become alert to the interaction of these global forces with the period's literary activity is to develop a new,complex appreciations of multiple forms of "Romanticisms" operating and clashing together in relation to rapidly changing, increasingly interconnected world developments. This class will explore the intersection of the local, the national, and the global in well-known canonical writers such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Byron, and the Shelleys as well as woks by such lesser-known figures as Bailie, Smith, Yearsley, Morgan, Cowley, and Starke. Readings and discussion will range generically across fiction, drama, poetry, life writing, abolitionist literature, and political prose.
Poetry and Community: Four Poets
Careful reading and discussion of the poetry of Alexander Pope, Walt Whitman, Adrienne Rich, and Seamus Heaney, four poets intent upon enlarging the voice of poetry in their communities. Very different in their styles and engagements, all four authors would have agreed with contemporary ecopoet Julianna Spahr’s dictum that “things should be said more largely than the personal way.” We will read some criticism, but the primary project will be to bring our private experiences of the poetry to the table of collaborative meaning.
One or two reports, four papers, and a take-home final.
This course approaches "writing India" by two paths. It examines representations of India, where "India" may designate a location, idea, or fantasy, and it considers how literature about the nation helps to create the nation. These paths come together in the Indian novel in English, which often turns on the self-reflective question: "What is India(n)?" The course emphasizes the relationship between nation and narration, between colonial discourse and postcolonial politics, and the ongoing, dynamic role of gender. It begins with the colonial encounter, investigating two crucial side effects of British occupation of India: the formative influence of the British novel in Indian literary culture and the continuing relevance of "India" (both nation and idea) for British national identity. Primary texts will likely include Rudyard Kipling's Kim and E.M. Forster's A Passage to India, which we'll read alongside significant work by critics such as Edward Said. It then turns to the postcolonial period to examine how Indian novelists respond - in the language of the erstwhile occupier - to colonial representations of India. These novels (focusing on Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children and Arundathi Roy's The God of Small Things) revisit colonial and national history, re-imagining how history and nation come together to shape the idea of India. The last part of the course focuses on the contemporary moment, analyzing how post-millennial representations grapple with contemporary India's emergence as a global force, even as long-standing social divisions remain powerfully relevant in very local ways. Our texts will include novels (likely Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger and Rupa Bajwa's The Sari Shop), creative nonfiction (as by Katherine Boo and V.S. Naipaul), and film (Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire). Throughout the semester, we'll examine the role of gender as it intertwines with narratives of the nation, with colonial discourse, and with postcolonial politics and as it intersects with categories of religion, class, and caste. The course, cross-listed with Gender Studies, satisfies the ethnic minority literature requirement.
Modern, Postmodern and Post-postmodern Poetry and Religion
This course will focus on the last 120 years in literary history, zeroing in on one particular problem - the writing of religious poetry - in order to probe the philosophical collisions that resulted in what we now call our "post-secular" era of thought. Beginning with Gerard Manley Hopkins at the end of the nineteenth-century and major modernists who continued to write powerfully after WWII - T.S. Eliot, David Jones, W.H. Auden - the syllabus will chart a course through the rapidly changing poetic forms of two further generations of poets working devotedly, if differently, out of various religious systems of belief. The many dilemmas of postmodernity include redefining the very notion of "belief" itself after the secular revelations of science and modernity; we will explore the theoretical issues involved in order to better understand what's at stake for each writer we encounter, among them Brian Coffey, Wendy Mulford, Fanny Howe and Hank Lazer. We will ask, among other things, why ancient mystical frameworks seemed newly hospitable, for some, in the face of postmodern suspicions about language and institutions, while for others embracing the sciences renewed faith; we will consider the crucial input of Judaism in Christianity's rethinkings of language and religious experience as well as consider how issues of race and gender inflect changing relationships between poetry and religion. Students will emerge conversant with the major debates in contemporary literary theory as well as with developments in contemporary poetry; they will be required to write two papers and co-lead class discussion twice in the course of the term. No prior expertise in reading poetry is necessary for this course.
Postwar U.S. Fiction and the Birth of Postmodernism
In-depth study of the literature and culture of the United States in the years after the Second World War. Particular emphasis on the collapse of modernist forms and the rise of postmodernism between 1945 and 1970. Related consideration of post-industrial economic production, domestic liberation movements, and Cold War politics. Authors may include Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, Gaddis, Plath, Beckett, Pynchon, Nabokov, Hansberry, O'Connor, Kerouac, and others. Theoretical readings as appropriate.
Discussions of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century literary and cultural movement of modernism often center on those qualities of the movement described in the work of early modernist literary critics, such as Harry Levin or Edmund Wilson. Such examinations emphasize the modern movement's experiments in form, structure, linguistic representation, characterization, etc., while paying much less attention to the role of the modernist movement in the larger context of a given culture. In this course, we will explore the significance of the modern movement from the perspective of American culture, as well as the manner and meaning of American literary participation in the movement. To that end, we will consider not only the work of authors generally accepted as modernists, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein; we will also consider the role of authors such as Sherwood Anderson and Waldo Frank, of the early Chicago Renaissance (1910-1925), and a number of authors from the Harlem Renaissance. We will examine the work of these authors not only in the context of modernism, but also as it relates to many issues of the day, including progressivism, primitivism, race and ethnicity, immigration, cosmopolitanism vs. regionalism, and the importance of the vernacular, in addition to the question of "Americanness" and its importance to an understanding of American literature during this time. Considering these different vantage points in American literary modernism, we will try to imagine the contours of "American modernisms," and draw some conclusions about their significance within the larger modernist context. In so doing, we'll seek to arrive at a more comprehensive, more nuanced perspective on the meaning of the modern in American literature and culture. Course Texts: Edith Wharton, Age of Innocence; Willa Cather, O Pioneers!; Sherwood Anderson, Dark Laughter; Waldo Frank, Holiday; Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie; Ernest Hemingway, Torrents of Spring; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Gertrude Stein, Three Lives; Jessie Fauset, Plum Bun; Jean Toomer, Cane; William Faulkner, Absalom! Absalom! Course Requirements: Two 5-page essays, two 5-page drafts, presentation American Modernismo: Twentieth-Century Literature of the US and Latin America Jesús Costantino It is a commonplace to treat American modernism as a transatlantic affair—with special attention given to the relationship between the US and Western Europe. Less common, at least from the US side, is to delve into American modernism's "second axis" between the US and Latin America. This class will attempt to rectify, in its own small way, the Eurocentric approach to American modernism by instead looking at the literary interchange between the US and Latin America throughout the twentieth century. While the inflection will be toward writers in and from the US, we will also read (in translation) work by Latin American authors. Possible authors include: José Martí, Gertrude Stein, Alejo Carpentier, Ernest Hemingway, Katherine Anne Porter, William Carlos Williams, Rubén Darío, Jorge Luis Borges, Jack Kerouac, Oscar Acosta, Carlos Fuentes, Gloria Anzaldúa, Toni Morrison, and Roberto Bolaño.
You Can't Always Get What You Want: Disappointment and Disillusion in 20th-Century
This seminar explores literature and culture connected with 20th-century US social movements and their periodic failures. The 20th century included periods when major expansions in American democracy seemed possible, even inevitable. But these periods often ended without delivering on their transformative potential. In this class, we will analyze political disappointment and disillusion as it turns up in fiction and poetry, journalism and memoir, music and film, feminist best sellers and classics of psychoanalytic theory, by Ralph Ellison, Sigmund Freud, Audre Lorde, Tillie Olsen, Ezra Pound, Adrienne Rich, Nina Simone, Richard Wright, and others. In all of this, we will explore how individuals and collectives work to produce political meaning in and out of season. Course requirements will include two substantive essays, presentations, and active participation in online and in-class discussions.
American Migrant Communities
In this class, we will explore various American migrant communities. Along with Sui Sin Far’s Mrs. Spring Fragrance, we will begin with W.E.B. DuBois’s classic sociological and literary text, The Souls of Black Folk, initiating the semester with a provocative and urgent question: Should we consider the European colonists to be the paradigms of American identity, or rather, the people whose labor and/or land was used to build the United States? By pursuing this question, I hope we will vigorously and rigorously explore the many facets and difficulties of American identity.
We will end the semester with Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues. Thus, rather than positioning American Indians at the beginning of American history—and thus repeating the myth of their disappearance—we will end with an exploration of what it means to survive, renew, and flourish in contemporary America, a question made particularly poignant and potent in Alexie’s novel.
The various migrant communities we will explore are: African Americans, Chinese Americans, Caribbean Americans, Filipino Americans, Anglo Americans, Southern Americans, “Okies,” Armenian Americans, Mexican Americans, Dominican Americans, and American Indians. While this is by no means exhaustive, it gives us an idea of the diversity of peoples who find themselves in “American”—and what it means to navigate this identity as a migrant. What are the benefits and pitfalls of migration? What should one’s relationship be to assimilation? What does migration do to the idea of homeland? As you can see, we will also tackle tough political issues while keeping in mind the role of literature in creating identities: national, local, ethnic, and racial (and that’s just the beginning).
Although we will be working chronologically through the 20th Century, our progress will be atypical. Our circuitous route through the literature in this class will be a literary journey that echoes the various movements of people in the American 20th Century.
Potential course texts include: Mrs. Spring Fragrance, Sui sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton); Bread Givers, Anzia Yezierska; Quicksand, Nella Larsen; Whose Names Are Unknown, Sanora Babb; My Name is Aram, William Saroyan; Migration, Jacob Lawrence; American Is in the Heart, Carlos Bulosan; Maude Martha, Gwendolyn Brooks; …y no se lo tragó la tierra, Tomás Rivera; The Rain God, Arturo Islas; How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez; Reservation Blues, Sherman Alexie.
Advanced Fiction Writing
This is a course in writing fiction for students who have moved beyond the introductory level, and are looking for a way to come into their own as authors. The course focuses on the development of individual student-authors, and so asks them to develop an awareness of contemporary fiction and exemplify, through their own writing, their place in this literary landscape. Just as it is difficult to be a musician without seeing other live musicians play, or a visual artist without looking at the art, ideas, and methods of other working artists, so it is difficult to be an author without reading as authors read, and interacting in the conversation of other, living practitioners. As such, students are asked to identify a literary “conversation” or tradition, or family of works that their own writing extends and/or takes part in; they are asked to think of fiction in terms of the forms they use and how this form will contribute to the aesthetic experience and ideas they are striving to convey. No one style or type of fiction is advocated over another; in fact, students are encouraged to find their own voice, perspective, and subject matter, and to develop a form suited to their work. However, students will be expected to write fiction that demonstrates awareness of the difference between writing as an art form and formula entertainment. The goal of the course is for each student to emerge with a manuscript at the level of a beginning author writing as a literary artist.
Advanced Poetry Writing
This is a class for students with some background in poetry. We will write & read intensively & widely, exploring what it means to write, read & publish poetry in an era of small-press & Internet publishing, cross-genre & cross-media explorations (poems that invoke film or novels or essays for example). The class will ask for extensive independent work, as students will work on their poems & develop their portfolios. Part of the class time will be spent discussing readings, but much of it will consist of discussing student work. We will develop an artistic, creative & supportive community to help each student grow as readers & writers. The course is ideal for students who are thinking about applying to graduate programs, or for students who simply want to hone their skills in a supportive but dynamic environment.
Advanced Fiction Writing II
This course is intended for students who have already taken an Advanced Fiction Writing and who are seriously interested in writing fiction.
Advanced Poetry Writing II
This course is intended for students who have already taken Advanced Poetry Writing and who are seriously interested in writing poetry. 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.
Advanced Fiction Writing III
This course is intended for students who have already taken an Advanced Fiction Writing and who are seriously interested in writing fiction. 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: “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous”: Lord Byron and Percy Shelley
“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know” is how Lady Caroline Lamb famously described the Romantic poet Lord Byron. The phrase also resonates with contemporaneous regard for fellow poet Percy Shelley: while at school, his nickname was “Mad Shelley.” Both labels endured, held fast by the social scandal of the poets’ unconventional opinions and lifestyles. And yet the terms of these labels merit more than just nodding assent. This seminar will use them as points of entry into the poets’ remarkable bodies of work. For our purposes, “mad” will encapsulate nineteenth-century attitudes toward Byron’s and Shelley’s heterodox social and political views and activities, including as regards revolution, capital/industry, religion, family, sexuality, and love. The term will also reflect the poets’ shared interest in representing seemingly unreasonable or insane characters. “Bad” will evoke contemporaneous opinions of the poets’ morals—daring, dubious, or depraved, depending on who was judging—as well as some readers’ assessments of their verse. “Dangerous” will capture the sense that each poet posed a threat to established ways of thinking, feeling, imagining, and acting. We will gauge the relevance of these terms through the careful reading of various works, including shorter lyrics (like Shelley’s “England in 1819” and Byron’s Hebrew Melodies), protest poems and satires (Shelley’s The Mask of Anarchy and Byron’s Vision of Judgement), verse dramas (Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound and Byron’s Manfred), and epics and mock epics (Shelley’s Queen Mab and Byron’s Don Juan). Selections from the poets’ essays and letters will help contextualize their works, while reviews and criticism will attune us to the multiplicity of responses that Bryon and Shelley have elicited from the Romantic period to the present. In addition, readings from writers with whom they shared their work—such as John Keats, Leigh Hunt, and Mary Shelley—will help us understand Byron’s and Shelley’s writing and reputations as, to some extent, coterie phenomena.
On this whole, the seminar aims to convey a deep understanding and appreciation of the boldness, craft, wit, drama, and enduring relevance of two of the most exceptional (and exceptionable) poets of the Romantic era. The seminar will also hone your skills of analysis, research, and writing, including through the composition of a research paper of approximately 20 pages.
Seminar: Gender and Sexuality in Irish Fiction After Joyce
In this course we will look 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. We will focus on the ways in which Irish novelists responded to the Irish state's regulation of reproduction and sexuality, beginning with the emergence of the Irish Free State in the 1920s and the establishment of government censorship. We will investigate how Irish novelists and short story writers coped with and challenged government censorship while representing aspects of women's and LGBT experience which neither the Irish church nor the Irish state wanted to acknowledge. We will conclude with 21st-century responses to the revelations of institutional corruption and clerical abuse that shocked the nation during the 1990s and 2000s. Writers will include, but are not necessarily limited to: Liam O'Flaherty, Sean O'Faoilain, Kate O'Brien, Mary Lavin, John McGahern, Leland Bardwell, Eilis ni Dhuibhne, Jamie O'Neill, Anne Enright, Tana French. Students will give one major presentation and write a 20-page seminar paper.
The Honors Colloquium will introduce students completing the honors thesis to research methods in literary studies. Students will complete a series of assignments designed to enable them to develop her thesis topic. They will conduct research in consultation with their thesis advisor and begin work on the thesis project, which will be completed in the Spring semester.
Creative Writing Honors Colloquium
This is a class for students working on their creative honors thesis. It will serve three main purposes: to support the writing of the thesis as well as the required essay that accompanies the thesis; to introduce students to a range of skills which support literary careers (writing reviews, editing publications, events and promotion, etc); and, if they are so inclined, to help prepare students to apply for graduate programs.