Introduction to Creative Writing
A writer is one who writes. Nothing more, but absolutely nothing less. In this class, we will learn through doing. We will grow as writers by writing profusely and intensely – keeping a daily journal, submitting work for workshop, revising, building a final portfolio of polished creative work, and thoughtfully critiquing the work of our peers. We will supplement our rigorous writing practice with a healthy diet of texts which will enlarge our conceptions of writing. ‘Fiction’,’ nonfiction,’ ‘poetry’ – we will read from across the literary spectrum, noting what is distinct about each of these genres but also the many ways in which they blur into each other and are frequently the same.
Introduction to Creatiive Writing
We are bombarded with images daily, but what do they mean? What is an advertisement telling us? Is a picture really worth 1,000 words? Do images shape our reality, or does our reality shape the images? This course will introduce students to the craft of creative writing, be it poetry, fiction, or non-fiction, by exploring how images, both still and moving, shape our understanding of the world. With a combination of contemporary literature, poetry, and philosophy, we will learn how to combine critical thinking and creative writing. We will also learn how to support each other's work through constructive criticism in the workshop environment. Students should expect to be challenged, both creatively and intellectually. By the end of this course each student will have produced a portfolio they can be proud of.
Introduction to Creative Writing
From the Odyssey to The Little Mermaid, fairy tales and myths have permeated the literary world for centuries. This course will introduce students to creative writing by using these classic fairy tales and myths that we all know and love as writing models. Over the semester, students will study the forms, techniques, and language of poetry and prose by first close reading the stories, and then responding to them through creative writing of some form. We will read some of the classics, such as Ovid's Metamorphoses and theGrimm’s Fairy Tales, but will also study writers who are currently adapting the forms and techniques of fairy tales and myths, such as Kate Bernheimer and Claudia Rankine. We will use these readings as starting points for creative writing of all sorts--formal writing, ekphrastic writing, social and political writing, non-fiction writing, and so on. Students will share their creative pieces in a workshop setting a few times over the course of the semester, but will also practice creative writing with in-class exercises and group projects. As this course is an "introduction to creative writing," students will be expected to experiment with writing in different genres, such as poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, so that, by the end of the semester, each student will have produced a unique body of writing in various modes.
Introduction to Poetry Writing
Everything & everyone is POETRY! So, this course will stand on a wide range of classic, contemporary, and other poetic styles & methods. The underlining concepts of self-evaluation, improvisation, & performance will be key in this course. Students enrolled in this course will acquire an understanding of how to read & write poetry! Class will be held outside of the classroom here & there! Additionally, students will have the opportunity to examine the performance continuum of poesia through official Notre Dame poetry readings, poetry on social-networks/media, and our own readings in class. We will write every single class! Prepare to create beautiful | mystical | terrifying | funny | avant-garde werk! Let us begin creating something from nothing! Let’s dissect life.
Introduction to Poetry
This course is designed to introduce students to poetic forms and techniques currently in circulation in the poetic world. To this end, students will critically engage with a variety of texts produced within the last five years. In concert with these readings, students will investigate forms, techniques, language, and tropes of poetry by producing their own poetic work both in and out of class. By the end of the semester, students will have produced a unique portfolio of work. Class format will include discussion, in-class writing activities, and opportunities to receive feedback on work.
Introduction to Poetry
This is introductory class is intended to make you feel comfortable and confident reading, writing, discussing and performing contemporary poetry. We will read a wide variety of poetry – including slam poetry, song lyrics, gothic dirges, surrealist fantasias, Internet-inspired chat poems, protest poems and more – from many different cultures and contexts in order to explore the possibilities for poetry in our convulsive age. We will use what we learn from other poems to develop our own poetic styles; and we will use our own poems to understand other people’s poems. In addition to weekly exercises, we will write two longer portfolios, giving students the opportunity to further develop their writing skills.
Introduction to Fiction Writing
Welcome to the wild side, writers. In this course, we praise Alton Brown for his creative genius in all things cooking and science, thus we establish our genius in creative writing and experimentation. Fiction exists in countless forms, and this course will encourage you to analyze form by engaging in innovative methods of telling stories. Up for the challenge? Good. This course will take you through a series of “writing rounds” similar to those in the Food Network series, Cutthroat Kitchen, in which your writing style, your narrative, and your creative process will be challenged and sabotaged in order to generate your most creative work. In addition to writing, you will read contemporary prose, workshop the work of your peers, and create a new portfolio of your own fiction.
Introduction to Fiction Writing
“If writing cannot and writing must change things,” said writer Kathy Acker, “logically, of course, writing will change things magically.” And we’re going to do just that! This is your invitation to consider writing fiction as the art that, in secret and in plain sight, works to compose the reality that we live, love, and languish in. In this class we'll use a game framework derived from Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs to navigate a variety of constraint-based writing challenges on the way toward unlocking the magic potential of your own writing. Together we’ll explore different unorthodox methods of producing work, write and share pieces of our own, learn how to revise and re-vision pieces already written, read fun and troublesome stories in a variety of forms, and maybe—just maybe—figure out how all of this mucking about with words is meant to leave its mark on ourselves, each other, and our world.
Introduction to Creative Non-Fiction
How do you turn an experience into a story? How do you translate observations into a compelling #longread that people will actually read? Going further, how can we use writing not just to record our impressions of reality, but to change and expand reality itself? In this course, we will read and practice three main genres of creative nonfiction—literary journalism, cultural criticism, and memoir—in order to explore the political, personal, ethical, and literary potential of attentive, self-conscious, nonfiction prose. Texts will include work by Ta-Nahesi Coates, Maggie Nelson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Eula Biss, Hunter S. Thompson, Walter Benjamin, Joan Didion, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Creative Writing and Multiculturalism
What does multicultural writing look like in America? Who is writing it, how are they doing so, and why? During this semester, we will engage with these questions both as readers and writers through the study of a variety of texts, as well as create our own texts to add to this tradition. We will analyze fiction (novel and short story length), poetry, graphic novel, memoir, personal essay, play, film, television and oral storytelling and mine them for both understanding and methodology. Through the study and practice of these media, we will begin to formulate our own writing projects and figure out how we fit into the multicultural literary tradition. This class will require students to turn in both academic responses and creative writing.
Point-of-View in the Novel
Section 01 – MW 11:00-12:15
Section 02 – MW 2:00-3:15
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 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 (Shelley'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.
ENGL 20152/ENGL 40149 – Crosslist
Literature and the World-Historical Imagination
In this course we will dive deeply into a small number of audacious literary textsmotivated by the desire to sketch the biggest of big pictures. We will read texts that imagine: the world-historical arc of time; creation myths; foundation narratives of law and justice; the comparative origins of religion, culture, power; the posthuman world. We will also investigate the turn to digital mediation of literary form and the emergence of a meaningfully transnational literary frame of reference in the present. All of that while paying close and careful attention to the technical craft and patterns of influence, adaptation, and transformation on display in our texts.
Can there be such a thing as a children's literature or is such a thing inevitably produced by adults to answer adult needs? Why did the designation of a children's literature emerge so markedly in the late nineteenth and twentieth century? Is the writing so produced subversive of adult codes or a conservative lament for lost traditions and values? Does the experience of childhood vary over time and from one nation to another? This course will attempt to offer some answers to these and other questions by analyzing texts by such authors as Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Louisa M. Alcott, Mark Twain, JM Barrie, L Frank Baum, PL Travers, CS Lewis, JD Salinger, Philippa Pearce, Roddy Doyle, JK Rowling and others.
History of Detective Fiction: Dark and Stormy Night
In this class, we’ll read about murderers and monsters, vampires and vixens, the undead and the uncanny as we explore the history of Detective Fiction and its roots in the Gothic tradition. By reading creepy novels, short stories, poetry and plays from 1767 to 1920 ( and beyond), we will first define and then interrogate the concept of the Gothic and the figure of the detective, both as historical markers and as literary devices. We’ll consider what the things we’re afraid of, and the ways we write about them, have to say about us culturally, and how these fears mutate over time. We’ll consider the implications of gender, race and class on spooky stories, and examine how such stories can both enact and resist stereotypes. We’ll trace large-scale historical and cultural shifts through these creepy-crawly tales, starting with classic Gothic novels and moving through female gothic, monster stories, detective fiction, and revisions of these genres as well as film versions. We’ll even try our hand at writing scary stories of our own.
The American Literature of Discovery: Strange New Worlds
In 1838, the first governmentally sponsored American exploring expedition, commanded by Charles Wilkes, departed for a four year journey that would include surveying countless Pacific islands, world circumnavigation, and the confirmation of the existence of Antarctica. Although relatively obscure for contemporaneous readers, the six-volume account of the voyage became an immediate best-seller, and would advance the work of multiple scientific disciplines. A young Herman Melville would purchase a costly complete set with the proceeds from his first book. Other literary giants of the American Renaissance would be equally influenced, including James Fenimore Cooper, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe. The same popular and cultural influence can be traced to the works of other writers who comprise the genre of exploration literature. Using the Wilkes’ narrative as a key text, this course traces the cultural impact of exploration or discovery on non-fiction prose and major American literary texts from the 18th-century to the present.
Medieval Monstrosity and the Modern Imaginary
Monsters haunt our cultural imagination and make countless appearances in literature, bringing entertainment in the forms of horror, fantasy and satire, while offering social critique on virtually every aspect of human behavior and experience. But, what makes a monster? Attempting to answer and better understand this question will be the object of our academic discussion and the primary intellectual inquiry at the center of the course.
Contemporary shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Dexter reflect a continued interest in the darker side of human nature and the psychology of terror, concerns which extends back to the so-called Dark Ages, and some of earliest works of English literature. Monsters transgress boundaries; liminal figures living on the fringes of society and in contrast to social norms. Group identity and one’s humanity are often defined in opposition to notions of monstrosity—against those others—strangers—foreigners—aliens—whose very existence challenge the established order and ethos of a given community. The word monster (from the Latin monstrum meaning “a wonder” or “a marvel” even “a miracle”) has transformed from something awesome into something awful. In this course, we will explore the category of “monster” and discuss the extent to which one’s imagination and prejudices participates in constructing, interpreting and anticipating literary representations of the monstrous.
Beginning with the Old English poem Beowulf, our focus will center on monsters in medieval and modern literature. Together as a class, we will analyze heroic poetry, Latin lore, Old Norse sagas, Shakespearean plays (such as The Tempest), modern novels (such as M. Shelley’s Frankenstein), contemporary films (such as N. Jordan’s Interview with a Vampire) and TV series as we categorize the various representations of monstrosity, and consider their literary work, socio-political context, individual characterizations and narratological functions in each respective text.
Global Drama: Tradition and Modernity
This course will examine the relationship between tradition and modernity in drama and film from places as diverse as Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and the Caribbean. The upheavals of the modern world in the twentieth century brought about a multitude of encounters which have left their mark on peoples across the globe: effects stemming from the varied experiences of settling a foreign country or being colonized by a foreign power, of gaining independence or living as a cultural minority within one’s ancestral home, or of leaving one’s home to seek a new and better life, continue to reverberate throughout contemporary global cultures. By exploring these experiences as they are represented in contemporary drama we will grapple with questions about the role that tradition has to play within the changing world of postcolonial modernity: how is “tradition” established and who decides what practices and beliefs are included or excluded in its name? What is the relationship between literary, cultural, and national forms of tradition? Are modernizing and traditionalizing forces antithetical to each other? Does tradition tie us to a static past, or can it open up new and productive possibilities for the future?
Our discussions and assignments will apply the techniques of literary and dramatic analysis to help us understand these texts in light of historical context, intellectual ideas, literary and dramatic form, and aesthetics. The overarching goals of this course are to help us all, as a class: to learn how to read and engage with unfamiliar literary works; to think critically about formal and aesthetic elements of texts in both their written and staged forms; to gain an understanding of non-Western literary works and their historical contexts and cultural environments; and to think, discuss, and write critically and creatively about both our own ideas and the thoughts of others.
ENGL 20436 / IRLL 20115 - Crosslist
Great Irish Writers I
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 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 thinking about the identities of those who have more recently translated and edited the versions of the texts we will read, by questioning the different topics that scholars have chosen to explore, and by articulating our own responses to often arresting works from the Irish literary tradition, we will begin to understand the complexities and rich possibilities inherent in experiencing these literary masterpieces in a time and place very different from medieval or early modern Ireland. Participants will read both primary literary texts, which may include but are not limited to The Táin, stories from Early Irish Myths and Sagas, poems from An Duanaire: Poems of the Dispossessed, Merriman's Midnight Court, as well as a number of critical essays. Participants will be required to write several short response papers, to compose discussion questions to help direct class conversations, and to write 2 papers (4-5 pp. and 6-7 pp.)
This course will focus on how the family emerged from the apocalypse of the post-war era. We will particularly pay attention to how real and imagined dystopian worlds envision the family. In “Dystopias,” we will primarily be looking at American and English literature, film, television, and YouTube videos (i.e. After Hours by Cracked) in order to explore this change. In the first half of the semester we will explore the “real” catastrophes of post-war life. From terrible mothers in Small Island to incestuous fathers in Sunset Song, we will examine how 20th- and 21st-century fears of the future play out in family dynamics. The second half of the semester will be devoted to fantastic dystopias. From childbearing vessels in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to the massacre of children in the dystopian worlds of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games and James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, we will explore how these works comment on the problems of today. By exploring these various genres, we will attempt to answer what the “literary” can do that other forms of communication cannot and vice versa.
ENGL 20720 / ILS 20303 - Crosslist
Lationo/a Poetry Now
This course offers an opportunity to read, discuss, and write about a generous sampling of contemporary American poetry by Latino/as, utilizing as its principal text the anthology: The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry. We will supplement this anthology with handouts from other poets, including Juan Felipe Herrera, the current Poet Laureate of the United States, who will be visiting Notre Dame, and our class. We will also be relying significantly on a series of online video interviews and audio recordings-interviews conducted here at Notre Dame and the Library of Congress, respectively-with a number of the poets we'll be studying. We will focus mainly on a younger generation of writers, discovering and examining some of the themes and traits that characterize this poetry. But we'll also encounter poetry that challenges and undermines what one might expect when one hears the term, "Latino/a poetry."
ENGL 20731 / ILS 20701 - Crosslist
Latinos in American Society
This course will examine the Latino experience in the United States, including the historical, cultural, and political foundations of Latino life. We will approach these topics comparatively, thus attention will be given to the various experiences of a multiplicity of Latino groups in the United States.
Introduction to Literary Studies
Section 01 – Laura Betz : MW 9:30-10:45
Section 02 – Sandra Gustafson : MW 12:30-1:45
Section 03 – Matthew Wilkens : TR 12:30-1:45
Section 04 – Romana Huk : TR 3:30-4:45
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 covers a selection of British literature, from the time of Beowulf (an Anglo-Saxon) epic) to the end of the 17th Century (with a very different epic by John Milton). In between, we will read a wide array of shorter poems, seminal essays, and pivotal plays (including Shakespeare’s King Lear). The authors chosen represent artistic finesse, significant social commentary, and/or historical interest, especially in terms of literary periods. Although the history of England, from the relatively small sect of early Anglo-Saxons, through the cultural upheaval of the Norman invasion, to the emergence of a major world power by the Renaissance will be important to understanding the context of the works chosen, the majority of class time will be spent on close reading and classroom discussion.
American Literary Traditions I
This course introduces American literature from its beginnings to the Civil War, a span of over 250 years from Pocahontas and the Pilgrims all the way to Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman and Dickinson. Our readings will trace the emergence of what we now know as “America” from the small and struggling British colonies of Virginia and New England, founded early in the 1600s on lands cultivated for millennia by Native Americans. We will consider the early “contact zones” in which settler societies from Europe met and mingled with indigenous Native American cultures, languages, and literatures; the institution of slavery as the foundation of American economies, and the growing contributions of free and enslaved African-Americans to the development of a distinctive “American” voice and literary tradition; and the literature of the American Revolution that established the United States as an independent nation. Finally, we will conclude with several works from the American Renaissance that characterize an emerging modern American literary tradition. Requirements include brief weekly response papers, class participation, midterm and final examinations, and two short papers designed to develop research and writing skills.
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.
This course will encourage you to make all kinds of stories and to think about what kinds of stories are most crucial to you and to our culture. We’ll read everything from flash fiction to graphic fiction to long stories to a novel, and we’ll think about the possibilities available in all kinds of forms, from surrealism to satire, from apparently conventional realism to full-bore experimentalism. We’ll begin with short exercises designed to loosen up your narrative voice, and we’ll build to complete stories or novel chapters. By mid-semester you’ll be reading your peers’ drafts for ideas and perspective—and also to offer them serious feedback. The final project will be a revision of one of the drafts you’ve already submitted, alongside a brief contemplation of why you’ve chosen the form you have for the story you tell. At our last class, we’ll celebrate with a final reading highlighting our diverse aesthetic choices and voices.
The British Bildungsroman
The theme of this course is the Bildungsroman (sometimes called the “coming-of-age novel,” the “novel of formation,” or the “novel of education”), as it is exemplified in British literature from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. We will read some novels that have been seen as classic examples of this genre, and others that assume a more complex or ironic posture toward it. We will also explore how themes of formation and education are important to some key poetic texts of this period.
Possible works include: Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling, Frances Burney’s Evelina, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Emma, William Wordsworth’s The Prelude, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.
Literature and the World-Historical Imagination
In this course we will dive deeply into a small number of audacious literary texts motivated by the desire to sketch the biggest of big pictures. We will read texts that imagine: the world-historical arc of time; creation myths; foundation narratives of law and justice; the comparative origins of religion, culture, power; the posthuman world. We will also investigate the turn to digital mediation of literary form and the emergence of a meaningfully transnational literary frame of reference in the present. All of that while paying close and careful attention to the technical craft and patterns of influence, adaptation, and transformation on display in our texts.
Reading list (set)
John Milton, Paradise Lost
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, The Tempest
TS Eliot, The Waste Land
Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses
Bertolt Brecht, Galileo
Lana and Larry Wachowski, dir (The Matrix) and Garland, dir. (Ex Machina)
Reading list (co-created with students).
During the course, students will participate in designing the syllabus and select two works from the list below to add to our syllabus:
Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Chimamanda Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland
Orhan Pamuk, Snow
Peter Heller, The Dog Stars
Suleiman Al-Bassam, The Al-Hamlet Summit
South African Fictions
In this course we will examine how South African writers engage their recent history, confront the complexities of memory, and envision possible futures through fiction. We will study novels and short stories produced in the apartheid years as well as contemporary texts published within the last two decades. As expected, we will be especially attentive to representations of race and nation, but we will also complicate our analysis with a thorough interrogation of how questions of gender, class, sexuality, coloniality, language, space, resistance, and violence are mobilized, (re)defined, and imagined in narratives by the highly-acclaimed and emerging writers from South Africa. We will also grapple with how and why fiction has served as an especially important genre in both the anti-apartheid and a growing post-apartheid literary canon. Along with the fiction written by a broad set of authors, our critical conversation will center the diverse theorizing offered by South African scholars, artists, and activists who have much to contribute to the decolonizing of the past and present.
ENGL 40192 / CSLC 20301 - Crosslist
Introduction to Linguistics
This course provides a background in several core areas of the study of human language: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and social aspects of language and language change.
ENGL 40193 / CSLC 20303 - Crosslist
Pedagogical English Grammar
This course enhances students' understanding of English grammar and helps them to develop a pedagogical approach to teaching it.
ENGL 40206 / FTT 40600 - Crosslist
Shakespeare and Film
A course built upon conversations. In terms of method, the course will rely on conversations between the professors as well as conversations with and between the students. In terms of subject, the course will be about what one might call conversations between the plays and films of those plays. Additionally, there will be conversations between certain subjects or events from the plays and other films structured upon those elements. To play with the metaphor a bit further, we can also suggest that there will be conversations between theatre and film, between the Renaissance and late 20th century, between Britain and America, and, particularly, between cultural versions of gender and ethnicity. We expect to explore four or five plays in film versions, perhaps Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Taming of the Shrew, and Much Ado About Nothing. Additional films might include Men of Respect, Maqbool, Scotland,PA, A Midwinter's Tale, 10 Things I Hate About You, an episode of Moonlighting. There will be a required 'lab,' a showing of films on Tuesday evenings. Written work will include a major independent project. So, a lot of talk: good talk by interested people about great art. Join the conversation.
Corequisite: ENGL 41206
Introduction to Old English
In this course – in just one short semester! – students will acquire a reading knowledge of Old English, the form of English used in Anglo-Saxon England. We begin with an intensive introduction to Old English grammar (interspersed with short readings) and move quickly to the translation of representative poetry and prose about battles, visions, journeys, and hope. Though our focus is Old English language, attention is also given to Old English literary strategies and to Anglo-Saxon culture.
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."
Revenge Tragedy: Shakespeare and his Contemporaries
Ghosts. Skulls and corpses. Deceit, disguise, intrigue, and madness. Blood, poison, and melodrama. Extravagant violence and murder. Such were the conventions of revenge tragedy that Elizabethan and Jacobean theater-goers flocked enthusiastically to see in late-sixteenth-and early-seventeenth-century London. This course will explore the fun, fascinating, and sometimes spectacularly horrifying revenge tragedies produced by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. We will begin with examples of classical revenge tragedy in Seneca’s Medea (for an example of a strong female revenge figure) and Trojan Women (for a vengeful ghost). We will then move to Thomas Kyd’s resoundingly successful The Spanish Tragedy (1587), before turning to Shakespeare’s brilliant reworking of revenge tragedy in the gory but gripping Titus Andronicus (1594), the psychological masterpiece Hamlet (1600-1), the poignantly destructive Othello (1604), and the darkly violent Macbeth (1606). We will end with John Webster’s disturbing and sinister Duchess of Malfi (1612-13). Film clips (not for the faint-hearted) will supplement and enhance the primary readings.
As we discuss and analyze the excitement and flourishing of revenge tragedy in Shakespeare’s time and beyond, we will address such questions as: What characterizes revenge tragedy and the revenge hero? Why does justice fail in the public arena? Is it possible to seek revenge for a wrong without becoming worse than the original perpetrator? To what extent do revenge tragedies depend on blood, gore, and sensationalism and to what extent do they explore psychological complexity and questions of morality? How does gender shape (or re-shape) the genre? How do issues of revenge, including free choice versus apparent determinism, point to broader ethical questions? Why does revenge retain its perennial fascination?
Romantic Revolutions: British Literature and Culture, 1790-1830
This course examines British literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in the context of the period’s profound social and political upheavals. Our readings and discussions will focus on how writers of poetry, fiction, argumentative prose engaged with ideas concerning the rights of men, women, and slaves; the circumstances of poverty and war; the nature and powers of the imagination; and the social role of the writer. We will read selections from some of the best-known poets of the age – including Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Byron – alongside works by some of their most innovative and influential contemporaries. Instances of contemporary visual art will help broaden our understanding of this intensely creative period in British literary history.
Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury
The modernist feminist writer Virginia Woolf lived and worked with a loose collective of writers, painters, and social thinkers that we call the “Bloomsbury Group,” though many members of the group disliked the phrase. We will look at the novels, essays, art, and political writings of some of the members of Bloomsbury —Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Roger Fry, Leonard Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey and others — 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 will find that they can easily develop projects that engage more than one area of interest.
ENGL 40538 / IRLL 40308 – Crosslist
Modern Irish Language Poetry in the 20th and early 21st Century
Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill
This course will use (often multiple) translations into English to chart the development of Irish Language Poetry in the 20th and early 21st century from rather meagre beginnings as an instrument of the language revival movement to become a fully fledged and highly sophisticated art form. The main poets of this period will be richly represented, and some lesser known talents will also be discussed in terms of sociological context. Though taught in English, the course will include detailed close analysis of key texts in the original Irish. This will be useful to students studying Irish, but knowledge of Irish is not mandatory for the course.
ENGL 40542 / IRLL 30313 - Crosslist
Flann O'Brien's Ireland
Flann O'Brien (aka Myles na Gopaleen) is a major figure in twentieth-century Irish and world literature. Regarded as a key figure in postmodern literature, his novels - At Swim-Two-Birds, The Third Policeman and An Béal Bocht are canonical texts for any student of postmodernism, humour studies and modernist metafiction. This course examines these texts in the context of the author's life and the Irish and European events which shaped his fiction and worldview. In addition to his three novels, his journalism including his famous column 'The Cruiskeen Lawn' in the Irish Times will be considered. Particular attention will be paid to the author's life and his fractious and complicated relationship to the Irish revival and the forces of modernity.
Law and Utopia in Atlantic America
Is it possible to think of the 21st century as a post-racial, post-feminist world? In her provocative 2012 study, Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender, Janell Hobson suggests that rather than having been eradicated, millennial hopes that the historical difficulties represented by race and gender have lost their significance in the present day are as far, if not even further away from the mark as they have ever been. For Hobson, policing the body, whether that be in terms of its race, its gender, or its sexuality, has remained paramount.
“…[W]hile the early-twenty-first century discourse of ‘postracial’ and ‘postfeminist’ often declares the loss of meaning attached to race and gender,” she argues, “…the global scope of our media-reliant information culture insists on perpetuating raced and gendered meanings that support ideologies of dominance, privilege, and power.” In Hobson’s view, the body and how it is imagined rests at the center of such ideologies, pointing also to a number of crucial questions that become particularly important when considering the significance of race and gender through the lens of modernity. How might a reconsideration of race point also to a rethinking of gender and vice-versa? What does race actually mean? How does/can it alter the way we understand gender? Is it possible to think race beyond the idea of race? What might a new conception of race actually look like, and how might this influence our thinking on gender? How are the problems of race and gender intertwined, and how is/has the body been imagined in and through them? What can such questions tell us about today’s racial and gendered realities, both inside and outside the university, both in the past and the present? This course takes a step backward to investigate these and other like questions in the context of the utopic impulse and its emphasis on the imagination in several 19th-century American authors whose work may be viewed as participating in a broad yet under-acknowledged vision of race, gender and Atlantic modernity that seeks to interrogate hierarchies of race and gender as these have been constructed and maintained within dominant ideologies. Grounding our analysis in a number of 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century political philosophical texts on law and utopia and drawing on insights from critical race theory, gender studies, feminist theory, theories of law and literature, and utopian studies, our goal will be to gain a more nuanced understanding of our racialized past and its troubled link to questions of gender both then and now, so that we may better hope to imagine—and reimagine—the shape of our collective democratic future in the 21st century’s global community.
Course Texts: To be determined, but will most likely include some of the following, either in their entirety or in the form of relevant excerpts: Plato’s Republic; Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince; Thomas More, Utopia; Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis; James Harrington, Oceana; Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan; Robert Filmer, Patriarcha, Or The Natural Power of Kings; John Locke, Two Treatises of Government; Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract or The Discourse on Inequality; Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America; Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia; Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations; Frances Wright, Views of Society and Manners in America; Nathaniel Hawthorne, Blithedale Romance; Moncure Conway, Pine and Palm; Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas; Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Iola Leroy; Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces or Of One Blood; Sutton Griggs, Imperium in Imperio; W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk.
Course Requirements: To be determined, but will most likely include two five-page essays, an oral presentation and two or three digital projects.
Dilemmas of American Transcendentalism
The Transcendentalists were a loose group of rebels, dreamers, and freethinkers who, inspired by the American Revolution and European philosophy, set about remaking America—and thence, they hoped, the whole world. Skeptics mocked them with the name “Transcendentalists,” meant to be a slur on their European, “anti-American” pretensions, and the name stuck. Inspired by such resistance to their radical ideas, this group of men and women—including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Orestes Brownson, Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa May Alcott—launched a daring movement to use literature to set things right in a nation shot through with contradictions: slavery, economic inequality, social injustice and environmental destruction. Did they succeed? Was their idealism just a noble dream? Or did their work bring real progress? That’s our dilemma: both answers are correct. How are we still living the consequences of their failures, and their successes? Can they still speak to us today, in our own moment—shot through as it is with so many similar contradictions?
Readings to include selected essays and stories by Emerson, Hawthorne, Orestes Brownson, and Margaret Fuller; Thoreau’s Walden, Frederick Douglass’s Narrative, poems by Whitman and Dickinson, novels by Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott, plus shorter writings by supporters, detractors, and participants.
Gender and Sexuality in American Drama
Ever since Nora Helmer walked out on her husband and slammed the door in Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play A Doll’s House, modern drama has been closely connected with the struggles to redefine gender and sexuality that have shaped the twentieth and twenty-first century. In this course, we will look at how this story plays out on the American stage, as we examine the works of American playwrights who have participated in the many long-running debates about gender and sexuality in modern and contemporary America. We will read both canonical modern playwrights--Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Lorraine Hansberry, etc.—and a variety of contemporary playwrights, including but not necessarily limited to Tony Kushner, Larry Kramer, David Mamet, Sara Ruhl, Melissa George, and Susan Lori-Parks. Students will write at least two papers, keep a journal, and give at least one in-class presentation.
Postwar U.S. Fiction
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. Authors may include Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, Gaddis, Plath, Beckett, Pynchon, Nabokov, Hansberry, O'Connor, Kerouac, and others. Theoretical readings as appropriate.
Jim Crow Fiction
Readings in Southern fiction from 1890 to 1960, roughly the period of the Jim Crow laws that imposed racial segregation in the U.S. South. All these storytellers grapple with “sin, sex, and segregation,” in the old Southern phrase; themes of madness and violence abound. We’ll question whether each work challenges or reinforces Southern myths and racial and gender stereotyping, as we simultaneously marvel at the innovative narrative forms so many of these Southern writers embraced. The period we examine is rich in literary theory and experimentation: we’ll discuss modernism, the Southern Renaissance, the Harlem Renaissance, the New Criticism, and agrarianism—and perhaps we’ll even decide whether Southern fiction can be identified by the presence of a dead mule. We’ll alternate novels, short stories, and essays by writers including James Weldon Johnson, Kate Chopin, Jean Toomer, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Eudora Welty, Ralph Ellison, Carson McCullers, and Flannery O’Connor. Reading responses, two short papers, and a final ten-page essay.
ENGL 40778 / RU 30215 – Crosslist
Nabokov (in English)
Intended for those who are interested in the works of the Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), the course spans both the Russian- and English-language parts of the writer’s career and focuses on his achievement as an innovative stylist and thinker. Students will learn more about the “Nabokov effect,” or the tension between realism and its subversion in literature; the writer’s love of pattern; and the system of cognitive challenges and rewards in his prose. We will also discuss Nabokov’s views on sex in literature and his ideas on the relationship between sexuality and art. The purpose of the course is to delineate Nabokov’s creative philosophy and to demonstrate its relevance for the contemporary reader from the perspectives of history (the “nightmare of history” in the European 20th century), art (the connection between art and play), and cognition (the evolutionary advantages of sophisticated artistic endeavor).
The writing component will include two 7-9-page papers and weekly quizzes.
Sonic Fugitivities: The Soundscapes of the African-American Literature
Historically denied the right to literacy and education, African-Americans have utilized sound, primarily in the form of music and orature, as a mode of protest and an expression of freedom, subjectivity, and citizenship. This course explores the rich interplay between sound and literature in nineteenth and twentieth-century African-American letters, particularly how African-American writers have drawn on this rich sonic tradition to make political claims about race, gender, class, region, nation, and cultural identity. While many of the readings feature music, we will also attend to other modes of sonic expression—such as laughter, oratory, screams, yells, shouts, grunts, and noise—to think more expansively about the multiplicity of sounds that emanate from black literature and their various cultural and political connotations. We will read seminal works by Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Gayl Jones, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Paul Beatty, among others. Readings will often be accompanied by sound recordings, ranging from early minstrel and vaudeville ditties to speeches, work songs, blues, jazz, gospel, spoken word poetry, and hip hop. As such, practices of critical listening and audition will figure centrally in our discussions. Some of the concerns we will take up include: How does sound function as a hermeneutic for analyzing African-American literature? How have black writers adapted literary form to mirror musical forms and vice-versa? How does the African American literary tradition rupture the putative binary between orality and literacy? What is the relationship between sound, the body, and subjectivity? How has sound recording technology impacted the way that we hear racial identity?
Advanced Fiction Writing
What are the poetics of prose? How do we make voices speak on the page? In this reading-intensive workshop, we will approach these questions through philosophy, literary theory, close reading, and experimental practice. The strange technology of writing easily turns invisible in its everyday familiarity—in order to see fiction-making in all its deep weirdness, we must be willing to take it apart, break it, and remake it. We will perform our experiments with the seriousness of scientists and play with the abandon of the possessed, for as much as writing is a technology, it is also an attunement, a moment shaping collective vibrations as they pass through gatherings of cells. Examples will include work by Gertrude Stein, M. NourbeSe Philip, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jorge Luis Borges, Jane Bowles, and others.
Advanced Poetry Writing
This class is for writers who have tried their hands at writing poetry and would like to push themselves further. We will read and write broadly, immersing ourselves in contemporary poetry and its traditional antecedents, as well as combing fiction, plays, visual art, film, music, and other media to find forms and techniques to try out in our poetry. We will draft, revise, improvise, workshop, critique and perform with and for each other, and we will also think about the means and media by which poetry is published. With our minds on the currents shaping, for good or ill, the world we live in, will deeply consider the possibility that poetry might change, enhance, redefine and ornament the world—and make new worlds.
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. 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.
Love Stories from Africa
It could be argued that within the canon of Anglophone African literature, African women writers show a particular attentiveness to the dynamics of love, romance, and intimacy. In this course, we will study postcolonial and contemporary African fiction written by women as a site to examine the politics of romantic love. We will consider the following critical questions: What do these literary representations centered on love tell about us about the economies of gender, sexuality, class, power, and desire in contemporary Africa? How have African women writers (re)configured the romance genre? In what ways do these African love stories extend, transform, or critique theories of African, Western, and transnational feminisms and sexual politics? How might a love story from Africa circulate as a response to colonialism and its aftermath; and how do these imaginings of love take up issues of race, migration, violence, poverty, xenophobia, and globalization? How do African women writers employ “the love story” as a means to envision new possibilities and radical futures for their communities, countries, and continent? Readings may include texts by Ama Ata Aidoo, Bessie Head, Zoe Wicomb, Yvonne Vera, Chimamanda Adichie, Leila Aboulela, Monica Arac de Nyeko, and others.
What We Talk About When We Talk About China: Discourse, Philosophy, History
This course will explore the nature and purpose of comparative Chinese studies in humanities fields, what it means and what it has meant to “talk about China” in the humanities. We will read and discuss a variety of English-language texts written over the past 100 years that attempt to "explain" various aspects of Chinese history and culture in comparative terms, and others that hold the comparative project itself up to scrutiny. Our primary emphasis will be less the “facts” about China per se than the complex and shifting processes by which such "facts" are constructed, and how such constructions change both China and the West, as we examine the goals and implications of different approaches to comparative analysis within such fields of literature, cultural history, philosophy, linguistics, and art history. Students who have interests squarely in the history of East-West encounters and/or China studies will develop a maximally original vocabulary for their own projects, which we hope to see both as conference papers and possibly articles that will emerge from their coursework. Students whose interests are peripheral will be rigorously trained to read and apply theory from a range of intellectual traditions from pragmatism to translation studies, visual theory to postsecularism.
ENGL 41206 / FTT 41066 – Crosslist
Shakespeare and Film Lab
Certain films will be viewed for further discussion in class.
Seminar: Fin-de-Siecle Literature and Culture
The French term Fin de Siècle means simply "end of the century," but cultural historians conventionally understand the end of a particular century to be at issue: the 19th. Focusing primarily on Britain, this course exposes students to literature, artworks, periodical discourse, and other aspects of this period, looking especially to the 1880s and 1890s. We encounter a kaleidoscopic array of writers and artists and social activists who were pursuing new artistic and social innovations, hatching radical political philosophies and utopian social schemes, rethinking women's roles in the public sphere, and fashioning new understandings of human psychology, sexuality and race. Oscar Wilde is the most notable literary figure of this period, and we will consider his works at some length. We will also read some other familiar writers, such as Robert Louis Stevenson and his Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But a centerpiece for the course will be the anthology Literature and Culture at the Fin de Siècle, edited by Talia Schaffer and perfect for this course, as it gathers, organizes, and introduces numerous smaller works and enables students very quickly to understand potential research areas of greatest appeal. As with all Research Seminars, the goal is to work incrementally through various small assignments to support the development of an extended, research-based argument by the end of the term.
Senior Seminar: Politics and the American Novel
This course will focus on major American novels, with an emphasis on how the life of the polis is represented in fiction. Taking inspiration from Irving Howe's classic treatment in Politics and the Novel (1957), the course has as its central aim an in-depth consideration of the relationship between aesthetics and politics. More specifically, we will explore questions of form and style as they register distinctive visions of the common good. The presidential elections will provide an enlivening backdrop for what will be engaged, nonpartisan discussions. Readings are likely to include Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, Henry Adams's Democracy: An American Romance, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time, Katherine Anne Porter's Pale Horse, Pale Rider, and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Historical, critical, and theoretical readings will deepen and enrich the discussions. Course requirements include the guided development of a 15-20 page research paper.