Graduate Fiction Workshop
This course is a chance for students in the graduate creative writing program to come together as writers/readers with the goal of helping each other develop as authors. Emphasis will be on writing as a contemporary art form rather than on polishing prose for particular genres or markets. That is, emphasis will be placed on articulating an aesthetic and personal vision through the writing of fiction more so than on the craft of fiction and the well-crafted cuckoo clock the word implies even as we acknowledge that no art takes place in a vacuum, that the personal operates within the constraints of audience and economy, be it the economy of the multinational publishing conglomerate, the not-for-profit poetry press, or the personal journal. It is hoped that students will articulate through their critiques of their classmate’s work, through the application of literature and theory read in other classes, but especially through the fiction they write in this class, an awareness of the contemporary moment as expressed through writing, a reason for doing whatever they are doing in their own fiction, and a practical way to bring the two together.
Requirements: three short fictions or novel excerpts for class discussion; critiques of fiction presented in class; critiques of outside reading (a little less than a novel a week); presentation of one of the novels from our reading list; attendance to readings by visiting writers; regular class attendance and participation, of course.
Graduate Poetry Workshop
Our goal in this class is to lock in on our vision for our own writing and help others to lock in on theirs. We will do this by reading widely and diversely and thinking about the aesthetic, occult and political powers of poetry in our contemporary and pre-contemporary publishing universes. We will read across cultures and languages with an open and receptive ear, eye, heart and brain, ready to be changed by poetry. We will think about poetry as a medium among media and we will test our ideas by encountering texts and artworks that we do not normally think of as poetry at all.
Graduate Translation Workshop
Perhaps the most famous definition of poetry in American literature is Robert Frost's quip that poetry is that which is "lost in translation." Translation, it appears, is both central and marginal in the way we think about literature in this country. Through translation seemingly stable texts and notions of authorship become volatile. That is in large part why translation has at times been a source of anxiety in American literature, and at times a source of inspiration. In this class we will explore this volatile zone of translation by translating literary texts (prose, poetry, drama etc), reading theoretical texts, and by bringing our experiences as writers and readers, artists and scholars to the topic. Although it would be helpful, fluency in a foreign language is not required. Translation Studies is in the middle of an exciting moment - conventional ways of viewing translation are being questioned and US literature is becoming increasingly interested in foreign literatures - and this class will participate in this moment.
Practicum: Teaching Creative Writing
In this course we'll work collaboratively to think through the practical, theoretical, institutional, interpersonal, political, and, oh yes, artistic implications of teaching creative writing at various types of academic institutions as well as in community settings.
Introduction to Middle English Manuscript Studies: Authors, Scribes and Readers
This course will examine the culture of the book in late medieval English, including the important literary writers who made it a national literary language, the scribes who transmitted and often transformed their works, and the wide range of readers they reached. Among the writers to be studied will be Julian of Norwich, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland, the Gawain Poet, Thomas Hoccleve, Margery Kempe and James I of Scotland; among the topics to be discussed: literacy, book illustration, marginalia, social conditions of authorship, the rise of heresy, women and book production, nun's libraries, patronage, household books, religious and political trends, and attempts at official censorship. Students will also learn both editorial theory and practice, and have a chance to transcribe and edit for publication in a forthcoming anthology of Middle English writings restored to their manuscript context.
Seventeenth-Century Women Writers
This course looks at the rich and diverse range of women's writing from the long seventeenth century in Old and New England, with special attention to transatlantic influences and connections. Genres will include women's autobiography, letters, lyric poetry, fictional and nonfictional prose, and closet and stage drama. We will be reading such texts as Anne Bradstreet's poetry and prose meditations, records on Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian controversy, Margaret Cavendish's fantastical prose romance, The Blazing World, and her comic plays, Loves Adventures and The Bridals, Aphra Behn's novel, Oroonoko, and her drama, The Widow Ranter, and Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. Among the questions to be addressed: how do these women fashion themselves in and through their writing? How does gender intersect with class, religion, politics, and race? How do women appropriate and boldly revise different literary forms?
The (Un)natural World in Medieval Literature
Can we get ‘back to nature’ by going back in time? Did medieval people perceive and represent their physical environments in ways radically different to ours? When did ‘nature’ divorce from ‘culture’ and why? How do ‘pre-scientific’ communities think the world works? Can we blame René Descartes for our alienation from the world that should nurture us? Or was feudalism at fault? Or Christianity?
In this course, we’ll attempt to answer these questions (and many more) through a crosscultural investigation of the nature of ‘nature’ in medieval literatures of the North Sea region. Informed by readings of ecocritical theory, we will attempt to navigate worldviews of medieval texts as they react to (and thereby conceive of and produce) space and place, landscape, the non-human, the inexplicable and uncanny, in the most mundane and most exotic surroundings: the worlds that medieval people called home and the worlds they created for themselves. This class will be seminar-based and student-led: students will be required to introduce primary texts to the group and will be called upon to lead off discussion when their text comes up in the schedule. The geographical and temporal scope is flexible, but we will potentially be looking at texts in Old English, Old Norse, Anglo-Norman and early Middle English, as well as Latin of different periods and a bit of medieval Welsh and Irish. All texts will be available in translation, although students will be encouraged to bring their linguistic expertise to bear on original texts wherever possible. Medievalists of all backgrounds are welcome—not just literary scholars—and students of other periods with interests in ecocriticism or the history of ideas may also find this course congenial.
Shakespeare and Film
This course explores the phenomenon of Shakespeare and film, concentrating on the meanings provoked by the “and” in the course-title. We shall be looking at examples of films of Shakespeare plays both early and recent, both in English and in other languages, and both ones that stick close to conventional concepts of how to film Shakespeare and adaptations at varying degrees of distance from his language, time, plot, reaching a limit in versions that erase Shakespeare from the film. The transposition of different forms of Shakespearean texts (printed, theatrical, filmic) and the confrontation with the specificities of film production have produced and continue to produce a cultural phenomenon whose cultural meanings will be the subject of our investigations. There will be screenings of the films to be studied in the Lab.
Co-Requisite: ENGL 91200, Shakespeare and Film Lab
Music and Theater, 1715-1830
While music had always been important to the theater, the relationship between music and drama became particularly fraught in Georgian Britain, becoming the pivot around which theater turned. Licensing Laws prevented anyone but the two patent theaters (Covent Garden and Drury Lane) from presenting plays with spoken dialogue, so a range of minor and “illegitimate” theaters produced ballet’s d’action, operas, burlettas, melodramas, pantomimes and miscellaneous theatrical productions, which all relied heavily on song and orchestral accompaniments. These proved remarkably popular, so the patent theaters sought to compete with the minor theaters by staging productions that would appeal to the popular taste for
music-based entertainment. Beyond what happened in the theaters themselves, the traffic between theater music and popular culture was considerable, with plays borrowing frequently from popular ballad tunes and ballad singers listening at the door of the theater to learn songs that they could take onto the streets.
Given the foregoing facts, one would think that music would be central to the way critics talk about eighteenth-century theater, but this is not always so, because theater music raises a series of difficulties, especially for the literary scholar trained in an English department. Firstly, the rarity of the music: the vast majority of the music performed has been lost, and of that which is extant there are very few recordings available, much of the music existing only in manuscript or in a few printed copies that can be hard to access and impossible to hear. Secondly, even when we have access to the scores, formal notation can be inscrutable when it comes to actual performance practice. Often we don’t know what instruments were available, we certainly don’t know what performer’s voices sounded like, and we know little about how much license actors employed in their interpretation of songs. Finally, and not insignificantly, theater scholars might not be trained musicians able to read music.
In this seminar it will be our collective task to find creative solutions to these problems. Our subject will be the gaps that exist between printed text and the performance of a play, with a particular focus on the challenges posed by theater music. For the first half of the semester we will cling to those plays (such as Gay’s Beggar’s Opera) for which there is substantial evidence and good scholarship. In the second half, our work will become more speculative as we attempt
to learn what we can from primary sources such as newspapers, magazines, broadside ballads, theater censors, and eighteenth-century playtexts. Along the way we’ll be reading liberal quantities of theater history and asking a series of theoretical and methodological questions about performance, historicism, the nature of archives, and limits of knowledge.
No prior knowledge of anything musical or theatrical will be assumed.
The Ecological Eighteenth Century
Primarily a study of major 18th-century authors, this seminar will also include readings in environmental history and ecocriticism. Some of the authors to be discussed are Anne Finch, Alexander Pope, James Thomson, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, Christopher Smart, Anna Barbauld, William Cowper, and Charlotte Smith. Secondary readings will depend to an extent on the interests and prior experience of the group, but likely texts include David Worster, Nature’s Economy; Timothy Clark, Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment (2011) and Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept (2015); Greg Garrard, Ecocriticism (rev. 2011); and Jeremy Caradonna, Sustainability: A History (2016). Requirements will include one or two oral reports, some short response papers, and either two essays of 2500-3000 words or a major final paper.
Gender, Print Culture, Modernity
Both the rapid transformation of existing communication technologies and the emergence of new media made possible the expression of new gender norms and roles in modernity. At the center of the course will be the complex and varied periodical cultures of modernity: little magazines that advanced literary and artistic experiments; “slicks” that advertised a modern lifestyle; feminist papers; women’s magazines, and more. We’ll explore the “mediamorphosis”
of modernity (during the period 1880 to 1940 or so) by taking up a few key sites of experiment and contest. These will include the role of the feminist periodical press in advancing a counter public sphere; the role of the little magazines such the Little Review and the New Freewoman in entwining questions of literary experiment with the cultivation of new identity categories for modern (‘advanced’) women and men; the role of popular magazines in circulating a “pulp modernism” marked as masculine; the circulation of images of a queer modernity in the pages of British Vogue. We’ll also consider literary representations of women’s encounters with new information systems: novels of the “typewriter girls” and secretaries of modernity; new woman novels of encounter with the new journalism and more. Along the way, we’ll explore theories of seriality, intermediality, and periodical time. Readings may include theoretical texts on the public sphere and on modernism’s relation to mass culture by Habermas, Huyssen; key works from the “new periodical studies” by Ann Ardis, Catherine Keyser, Sean Latham, David Earle, Mark Morrisson, Lucy Delap, Maria DiCenzo, Mary Chapman, and more; explorations modern periodicals housed on the Modernist Journals Project; novels such as The Typewriter Girl (Grant Allen) and The Story of a Modern Woman (Ella Hepworth Dixon). Requirements include leading a discussion, brief submissions, and projects selected from a menu of possibilities including conference papers, scholarly book reviews, and other options.
Modern Irish Drama
Victor Hugo said that in the theatre a mob becomes a people. The National Theatre of Ireland, the Abbey, became a zone not just of modernist experiment but of political radicalism, in which advanced intellectuals rehearsed ideas of revolution. This course will track the evolution of an indigenous Irish theatre from the work of WB Yeats, JM Synge and Augusta Gregory, through the controversial plays of Sean O'Casey, down to the more contemporary stage experiments of Brian Friel, Tom Murphy, Marina Carr, and Conor McPherson.
American Literature before 1865
In this class we will explore the rich traditions of belles lettres, religious and political writing, and the early novel that took shape in the British colonies of North America and the early republic. Our readings will extend through the American Renaissance, that great outburst of literary creativity that occurred in the decade leading up to the Civil War, and include works by Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, Whitman, Dickinson, and Douglass.
The colonial period was above all a contest of empires, and hemispheric and transatlantic methods will be integral to the course. We will also consider the textual practices of colonization, early Native writings, and alternative media including oratory, wampum, and pictographs. The mediascape of nation formation will likewise be a focus of attention.
This course will be of interest to students specializing in the Renaissance, the 18th century, or Romanticism, to those with an interest in colonialism, or in revolutionary or religious expression, or in reform movements, as well as to specialists in American literature.
In addition to works by the American Renaissance writers already listed, we will read standard works by Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Samson Occom, Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Jefferson, Phillis Wheatley, Charles Brockden Brown, and James Fenimore Cooper, as well as selections from John Smith, John Winthrop, Roger Williams, the Jesuit Relations, and Quaker writers John Woolman and Elizabeth Ashbridge. Many of our texts will be drawn from the Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vols. A and B, supplemented with some longer works.
The destiny of the novel as a genre, and the American novel in particular, has been persuasively attached to the structures and concerns of realist literary form over many generations of scholarship. Despite this, the status and definitions of realism remain objects of heated debate among writers and public intellectuals. At the same time, realism has experienced a resurgence in discussions between literary critics, even those who had previously consigned it either to an outmoded nineteenth-century form or to a signifier of a middlebrow refusal of experimental, avant-garde, or modernist aesthetics. Accompanying the popular disputes about the capacities of realism is a range of critical realisms – speculative, peripheral, capitalist, lyrical, and weird realisms, to name a few – that suggest a renewed urgency for literary scholars to take part in the project of identifying and historicizing its contemporary varieties, as well as accounting for the formal resemblances and distinctions from its previous iterations. This course will thus move between contemporary literary production and the recent discourses of realism among American literary critics and in the humanities more broadly, to begin to construct an account of what our realisms look like, and how they work.
Shakespeare and Film Lab
Certain films will be viewed for further discussion in class.
Co-Requisite: ENGL 90278, Shakespeare and Film
Practicum: Preparation for the Profession
A workshop on professional publication, conference activity, and job search procedures.
Practicum: Introduction to the Profession for PhD Students
Familiarizes PhD students with the forms through which professors of English communicate their research. Covers basic issues related to the study of literature in U.S. universities and colleges.
Practicum: Introduction to the Profession for MA Students
Familiarizes MA students with the forms through which professors of English communicate their research. Covers basic issues related to the study of literature in U.S. universities and colleges.