Note on the University and College Literature Requirement: Students seeking to fulfill the literature requirement may also take courses offered by other language and literature departments (Romance languages, Asian languages, Classics, etc.). To obtain a complete list of all of these courses go to the class search page, then select the "literature" attribute and press control (on a Mac command) shift and select all departments.
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.
Mystery, Crime, Detection
“Mysteries” have become a dominant genre; their proliferation is a sign of modernity. What do we find in tales of crime and detection that we don’t find elsewhere? Have these stories taken over from tragedy as the genre mainly dedicated to death? Such stories exercise our minds, while evoking also fearful delight in the unknown (or the “sublime” as defined by Edmund Burke). We read to learn fear—cultivated in the “gothic” mode and central to the Romantic-era short stories of Hoffmann and Poe. Even the lightest “mystery stories” touch our anxiety about the instability of the outer world of social order; is it about to tip over? Fear of the foreign and of disorder have made some mystery stories historically vehicles of prejudice, while others take us beyond our current boundaries towards new relationships. Stories of “detection” enforce modern scientific logic. Their hero is the mind not to be baffled by the cleverest criminal, not to be taken in by the fictions of identity that we produce even in our “normal” lives. Sherlock Holmes is the hero of the intensive intellect-- the more effective as he never entirely blends into his own culture in the first place. Stories of detection from Sophocles on point to the problematic nature of identity, which can be shaped, tweaked, hidden or faked. Spy stories emphasize this point, for the job of the “spy” is to read a culture and blend into it. The observer or narrator also becomes problematic, given the limitations of individual points of view (as we recognize in The Moonstone’s multiple narrators).
Mystery stories can be used to examine social structures, political realities, sexual feelings, relationships and rules. Characters always include those with and those lacking power, including servants, women and minorities; in the 20th century mystery stories are increasingly written by women and members of minority groups. Narratives may point to inbuilt injustices, or to the aberrant individual, the killer who looks “normal”. We like the idea that humans are multi -layered; the interpretation of signs or clues becomes more exciting. Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams proposes that the individual is a mystery who produces clues for himself (and the analyst) in dreams. The problem of identity is a rich source of tragedy and comedy; interpretation of signs or clues becomes more exciting. Detection itself can be a form of enjoyable obsession, and our suspicions may extend to the detective, that hero of reason in a world not governed by reason.
TRUE CRIME: We will examine some “true crime” documents of the 18th and 19th centuries, including trials and confessions, while also looking at the development of policing through the growth of Scotland Yard.
FILMS: The selection of TV shows or movies is up to the students who will divide into report teams and present the film of their choice.
TEXTS include one play by Sophocles; the short story of “Susannah and the Elders” in the Biblical Apocrypha; Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy (a Renaissance revenge play); Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful; The Tryal of Miss Mary Blandy; William Godwin, Caleb Williams; Ann Radcliffe, Sicilian Romance; short stories by E.T. A. Hoffmann and Edgar Allen Poe (to be selected); Sigmund Freud, Interpretation of Dreams ( excerpts); Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone; Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (unfinished novel); Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four; Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison; Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; Peril at End House; Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress.
ASSIGNMENTS: Contribution to discussion in class is essential.
-- Three essays .Essays 1 and 2, each 5 to 8 pages. Essay 3: 10-15 pages in length. Students are
encouraged to undertake rewriting of the first essay, in consultation with the instructor.
--6 journals (electronic; 3 to be handed in before Break. These are ungraded but their production is necessary for a grade to be assigned.
-- 1 mid-term Quiz
-- Share of team Film Report
Once Upon A Time
These days, children's literature is big business. Movie houses make billions on adaptations of Children’s comic books (The Avengers, Little Orphan Annie), television shows, (Teenage Mutant NinjaTurtles), and books, (Alice in Wonderland, Where the Wild Things Are, The Giver). Perhaps most notable is the fact that these current college undergrads grew up reading the Harry Potter novels and watching their movie adaptations, a cultural zeitgeist that is still reverberating today (illustrated versions of the novel are due to appear in October 2015). In this world, children's literature is both beloved and, often, underestimated. For children raised on Harry Potter, this form of fantasy literature may be so much a part of the atmosphere that they don't stop to consider where it came from and how it developed. This course gives students a conceptual background in children's literature, and provides them with the tools to analyze and appreciate these beloved childhood classics with sophistication. The course balances favorites students are likely to have read and embraced in their youth with lesser-known novels, popular in their own day, that provide the necessary framework. Students will have the opportunity not only to analyze the individual texts, but to place them in a genealogy and hence to consider the current state of children's publishing and its indebtedness to older models. Along the way, they will be encouraged to complicate their own understandings of children's literature, and reflect critically on both their own culture, and their own personal practices of reading, both as a child and as a current college student and young adult.
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.
Introduction to the First Amendment: Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age
This introductory course surveys the core texts, doctrines, ideas, and cultural controversies related to First Amendment protections for free expression. We will be especially interested in some large questions: what is expression? How have our ideas of freedom of expression evolved as we enter the digital age? What kind of expression should be permissible? What happens when the public forum is fully online? What is the relationship between free expression and democratic-self government? Is there a difference between individual, group, and government speech? How do we navigate alternative ways of thinking about free expression in a global media ecosystem? We will consider a selection of exemplary cases, controversies, and literary texts: among our topics will include the following: the transformation of speech in the age of digital media; libel, satire and parody; piracy, intellectual property and copyright; privacy and surveillance; hate speech and incitement; obscenity and pornography. We will investigate the topic by studying relevant case law, literary texts (including fiction, film and new media), political philosophy, and information policy?
Disclaimer: you will encounter speech that is potentially offensive and discomforting in this course.
Note: this is an Office of Digital Learning course; most of our course materials will be provided at no cost through an interactive digital platform.
ENGL 20174 / ESS 33624 - Crosslist
Teaching Literature in the Classroom
Central to this course is the study of Shakespeare and Tolkien, both of whom, while separated by over 300 years, nevertheless, stay in the mind. We will examine in-depth Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, and Lord of the Rings, aiming to hone your ability to read closely and carefully and to write strong literary analyses. We will also examine these works in the context of contemporary education (where, for example, students complain about reading in part because they lack the skills and patience to read long or difficult texts), aiming to address questions about the purpose of literature and issues of literacy in our schools today.
iPhone User: Are you human?
Siri: Does it matter?
iPhone User: Answer my question, are you human??
Siri: Close enough, I'd say.
What are the qualities that make us human? Is it our bodies, our language, or our culture? Or is it the ability to create, to write crime fiction, drive a car, and cook chocolate soufflés? In short, what makes us different from animals or machines? What would it take, in other words, to make Pinocchio a real boy? In this course, we will focus on a handful of key texts and films drawn from the last two hundred years to trace and map different understandings, approximations, and counterfeits of the human. We begin with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. What is the difference between a monster and a work of art? We then look to the advent of the creative machine and automatic writing in early twentieth-century literature. The Irish poet W. B. Yeats believed, for instance, that there could be such a thing as a machine that would write poetry. Shifting to the contemporary, we will watch sections of the provocative BBC series Black Mirroras well as contemporary films namely Ex Machina (2015) and Her (2013) in which Scarlett Johansson plays the voice of a very human computer operating system. In this final unit, we discuss the recent phenomenon of Reading Machines and how Natural Language Processing is changing the way we think about literature, the act of writing, and what counts as human.
“In another moment down went Alice…never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.” This course, grounded in medieval literature, looks at works that draw the reader into other worlds and dimensions. Students will familiarize themselves with texts by authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Douglas Adams, and William Shakespeare that consider not only literal other worlds, but also those that skew or distort familiar territories and make them strange. The course will investigate how these narratives construct not only the value and meaning of curiosity and fear, but also the concepts of home and what it means to belong.
Among other worlds, students will explore Faerie with Sir Orfeo, Paradise with the bereaved dreamer in Pearl, and, with Neil Gaiman’s baffled Richard Mayhew, a London out of synch with time and reason in Neverwhere. As students themselves will be travelers in the unfamiliar world of medieval English, translations will be provided.
Civilization and its Discontents in British Literature
This course takes “civilization and its discontents” as a guiding theme for reading British literature from the 18th-20th centuries. Many key texts from this time period explore, in various ways, one of Sigmund Freud’s central arguments in Civilization and its Discontents (1930): that as human beings attain higher and higher degrees of civilization, which Freud defines as mastery over nature, space, and time, they do not gain happiness, as one might expect, but actually become more miserable. This claim and others in Freud’s text will serve as touchstones in this course, but we will also perform our own investigation of how the literature of this time defines the terms “civilization” and “discontents,” as well as important related terms like “happiness.” Our reading list will feature a variety of genres (poetry, novels, essays, short stories) and will include many of the following authors: Samuel Johnson, William Wordsworth, William Blake, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Matthew Arnold, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf.
Becoming Beasts: Human and Animal Life in Eighteenth-Century British Literature
Animals play many roles in human society: they provide companionship and comfort as pets, labor and service as beasts of burden, as well as bodies and materials for experimentation, manufacture, and consumption. Many of these roles were invented, developed, or refined over the course of the eighteenth-century, and the period’s artists frequently investigate the boundaries between animal and human beings. Through a variety of novels, poems, and visual narratives, this course explores how eighteenth-century British writers and artists characterized human beings and animals. We will seek to understand the period’s philosophical and theological distinctions between animal and human beings, the relationships between people and animals, and the role that animals play in Enlightenment narratives of scientific progress, the nation, and the self. While reconsidering these relationships, we will try to understand how literature and the arts mediate between human beings, philosophical discourses, and animal lives.
As a term in European cultural history, decadence most often indicates a late-nineteenth-century movement in which writers and artists provoked the respectable middle class with racy, sordid, overblown and/or absurdist subject matter and methods. This course explores that environment but also takes a broader view, examining alternative visions of decadence over the last two centuries and more, where decadence becomes one way of viewing secular modernity more generally. Our materials include fiction, poetry, drama, philosophy, visual arts, cinema and criticism. Early on, we lay conceptual groundwork with texts by Freud and Nietzsche. Well-known authors (in addition to Freud and Nietzsche) include Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Walter Pater, Virginia Woolf, and Patrick Süskind. We also read several lesser-known authors and study films by Ken Russell, Peter Greenaway and Sally Potter. Please note that our discussion matter is not for the prudish or faint-hearted. Bring a tolerance for the grotesque and a readiness to think carefully about authors who deliberately challenge deeply held Western attitudes concerning morality and values. Assignments include two written exams (one or more in take-home format), an interpretive paper, and bi-weekly reflective writings.
ENGL 20409 / IRLL 20120 – Crosslist
Irish Short Story
This course introduces students to 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 cultural politics of Ireland in the nineteenth and the emergence of the Irish short story and compare it to the American and French story, before considering the relationship between folklore and literature and the origins of the modern short story form. Having discussed various theories of the short story, we proceed to examine the interactive relationship between orality and print culture, tradition and modernity, native and foreign, natural/authentic and artificial/other. 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, Samuel Beckett, Máire Mhac an tSaoi, 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
Irish Literature and Culture 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.)
Contemporary British Fiction
What is “British” about British fiction? What does fiction “do” in today’s world? We’ll explore these broad questions through close attention to a selection of British fiction of recent decades. We’ll pay special attention to how the contemporary British novel revisits key historical events, grapples with the legacy of a lost empire, and posits globalized and “post-national” identities. And we’ll investigate how gender, class, and ethnicity operate in these texts and what they have to tell us about our time. We’ll thus consider novels not only in the context of British literary traditions (which they variously extend, revise, or overturn) but also in the framework of contemporary culture. We’ll pay additional attention to how a range of avant-garde, postcolonial, and popular novels find another life in film. Our texts are likely to include such novels as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004), Andrea Levy’s Small Island (2004), Ian McEwan’s Atonement (2001), Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity (1995), Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Them Go (2005), Ali Smith’s There But For The (2011) or How to be Both (2014), and recent adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic fiction in the television series Sherlock. Course requirements include active participation, a group presentation, three essays totaling 16-18 pages, and occasional responses posted to the online discussion forum.
This course addresses the role and significance of the family in American and British texts written in the 20th century. The family will be treated as a concept that has been standardized, destroyed, and reconstructed in what we call “literature.” Terrible mothers and incestuous fathers gain special significance in the 20th century. How do these dysfunctional relationships, in a product of culture (i.e. the novel), reflect or even respond to difficult if not negative situations in real life? In other words what can the “literary” do that other forms of communication cannot and vice versa. How do we position ourselves in the world by looking at models of family? We will examine how economic, social, and political pressures alter the idea of family across time.
To facilitate our investigation, we will read works by novelists like D. H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, and James Joyce, but also works of theory by Freud, Edward Said, and others.
Contemporary Latino Literatures
This course examines the literature produced by different communities of Latinos -people of Latin American ancestry but who have spent most, if not all, of their lives in the United States. Because of this predominant US identity, all the literature we will read was originally written in English. Among such Latino groups we will deal primarily with writers of Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican ancestry such as José Marti, Américo Paredes, Tomás Rivera, Piri Thomas, Esmeralda Santiago, and Cristina García among several others and with the genres of fiction, poetry, memoir, and drama.
ENGL 20720 / ILS 20303 – Crosslist
Latino/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 textbook an award-winning anthology: The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry. We will supplement the anthology with two full-length books, whose authors will be visiting our class during the semester, as well as a supplementary reader, some online video interviews with a number of the poets. We will focus mainly on a younger generation of writers, examining some of the themes and traits that characterize this poetry, but we'll also encounter poems that challenge and undermine what one might expect when one hears the term, "Latino poetry."
Media and Cultural Crisis
Media technologies and ‘the media’ are important features of American what are they and what do they do? If, as Freidrich Kittler has suggested, “media determine our situation,” what might this tell us about our historical moment and contemporary political climate? How do media technologies produce or arrange the terms of our reality? How do the forms of specific media contour, reinforce, or contest the ways we know or think about class, race, gender, and sexual orientation? Looking at texts from across the twentieth-century through to the present, we will consider the ways a variety of novels, short stories, films, poems, and graphic novels frame (or reframe) how we perceive and know contentious social and political issues or conceive of “cultural crisis.”
This course will emphasize multi-modal reading and will prepare students to critically engage with a range of media. Students will write two short papers as well as a longer (6-8 page) final paper. Likely course texts will include: selections of William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Pynchon, and Shelley Jackson; Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Allison Bechdel’s Fun Home; the films Dr. Strangelove, Zero Dark Thirty, The Dark Knight, and The Matrix.