University Seminars

Fall 2017

 

ENGL 13186-01

University Literature Seminar

Father Malloy

U 7:00-9:30p

 

Biography/Autobiography: One’s Life Story

 

In the course of the semester, we will seek to understand the uniqueness of particular historical persons through an analysis of their stories as created either by themselves or others.  We will also be interested in what can be learned about that person in cultural and historical context.

Attendance is expected at each class.

The students in the course are expected to contribute to the seminar discussions and to write papers on each assignment.  All regular papers are to be two to three pages.  The final paper is to be five to seven pages.  It will provide an opportunity to tell one’s own story in light of the work of the semester.
 

ENGL 13186-02

University Literature Seminar

Tim Machan

TR 9:30-10:45

 

Language in America

 

What we speak, it is often said, is who we are. In this course, beginning with that proposition, we will consider the history of English and other languages in the United States; the ways education, law, and entertainment frame language use; and the current state and possible futures of the American linguistic repertoire. We will ask about attitudes towards language use and shift, about bilingualism and regional variation, and about language’s political ramifications at various points in American history. We will look at census data, movie clips, educational practices, and legal decisions. And we will attempt to find out who we are by what we say.

 

ENGL 13186-03

University Literature Seminar

Ian Newman

TR 9:30-10:45

 

Spy Fictions

 

In this course we will examine a range of novels which might loosely be understood as “spy fiction,” yet each of them has a very different understanding of what it means to spy. We will ask what these novels can tell us about the relationship between literature and history, and what they reveal about ways of looking and narrative point of view. We will be reading novels by (among others): G.K. Chesterton, Ian Fleming, Patricia Highsmith, John Le Carré, and George Orwell. This course will be discussion based and will require regular written assignments designed to hone critical reading skills.

 

ENGL 13186-05

University Literature Seminar

Greg Kucich

TR 2:00-3:15

 

On the Road: The History of Quest Literature*

 

The title of Jack Kerouac’s experimental Beat Era novel On the Road represents a modern variation on one of the most powerful trajectories in the great traditions of literary history.  Narratives of pilgrimage and quest permeate these traditions, expressing fundamental, abiding human aspirations toward transcendental ideals. Yet this compelling quest motif also addresses the particular cultural and political priorities of specific societies and historical contexts. This seminar will explore the many different cultural inflections of quest narratives and the ways in which they reveal profound tensions between the persisting human search for the ideal and the ever changing historical forces at work in specific social communities. Our own journey of exploration will begin with Biblical and Classical sources, Homer in particular, followed by medieval quest romance. We will then proceed to forms of ironic and radically modernized quest narratives in selected works from the eighteenth century to the present by Swift, Voltaire, Byron, MW Shelley, Tennyson, and Kerouac.

 

ENGL 13186-06

University Literature Seminar

Susan Harris

TR 12:30-1:45

 

Crime and Detection in British & American Fiction

 

In this course we will look at the development of crime fiction as a genre from its nineteenth-century origins in Victorian sensationalist fiction to the latest developments of it in twenty-first- century American fiction. We will focus on the development of the two figures around which crime fiction revolves: the criminal and the detective. Discussions and written assignments will investigate questions about what these figures do for the cultures that create them. Why did Victorians love Sherlock Holmes--and why do we still love him now? Why, after the bloodbath of the First World War, did England become obsessed with the clue-puzzle murder mystery? Where did the police procedural come from, and why are we still fascinated by it? What explains the explosion of interest in serial killers in American popular culture at the end of the twentieth century? What do the fantasies and nightmares about the 'criminal' that we see in crime fiction tell us about the societies that produce and consume it? How are ideas about crime and criminality linked to beliefs about death, the supernatural, justice, and morality—as well as issues involving gender, race, sexuality, and class? How do all of those concerns affect the way crime fiction evolves as a literary form? Where do we find elements of this form in contemporary literary fiction? Authors will include but are not necessarily limited to Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Raymond Chandler, P.D. James, and Patricia Cornwell. Students will write three papers and will be responsible for one major presentation.

 

ENGL 13186-07

University Literature Seminar

Sara Maurer

TR 2:00-3:15

 

Knowing the World through the Novel

 

As readers, we often say that we read novels in order to understand people with lives different than ours. We think of reading as a way to be exposed to worlds unlike our own. But what exactly is going on when we read something that has clearly been made up in order to find out about actual experiences beyond our own? This class is designed to give students a way to think about the complexities and rewards involved in relying on fiction as a form of useful information. We’ll survey four landmarks in the development of the English-language novel in order to ask questions like: what techniques do writers use to establish their books as both true and invented at the same time? How do they teach their readers to pay attention to and make predictions about the stories they tell? When novels invite us to know the characters in their pages, what sorts of relationships are they inviting us to have? We’ll end the course by reading two novels written in the last twenty years, thinking critically about what sort of interactions they teach us to have with their fictional worlds. Students will be given a chance to push their writing skills further with frequent writing assignments and opportunities for revision. The class will mostly likely read Oroonoko by Aphra Behn; Tom Jones by Henry Fielding; Emma by Jane Austen; A Passage to India by E. M. Forster;  The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead; and We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulowayo.

 

ENGL 13186-08

University Literature Seminar

Margaret Doody

TR 11:00-12:15

 

Mystery Fiction

 

This course will deal with detection and mystery in fiction from Sophocles to Dashiell Hammett. The syllabus includes films to be chosen by the students .We follow the detective and the criminal (often strangely connected); that pursuit encourages us to consider various genres, including classic tragedy,  the Gothic novel, the “thriller,” film noir.  Entering the dark Paris streets of Poe’s Dupin, the foggy London of Sherlock Holmes, the pleasant Chinese tea-gardens and rough  highways  known to  Judge Dee, we  hope to be surprised. We will consider what kinds of pleasure the “mystery story” offers us, and why such a repellent matter as murder provides such strong entertainment.  The study of mystery turns us towards philosophical mysteries, questions regarding good and evil, revenge and justice, the appeal of the ugly and the sublime.

 

ENGL 13186-09

University Literature Seminar

Valerie Sayers

TR 5:05-6:20

 

The Art of the American Short Story

 

Our course will celebrate the history and impact of the American short story throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.  We’ll pay particular attention to major literary movements from modernism to post-postmodernism, and especially to the relationship between a story’s form and its content. We'll keep an eye on writers’ innovations and experiments as we explore stories about immigration, family, class, labor, and race.

 

ENGL 13186-10

University Literature Seminar

Kathryn Kerby-Fulton

TR 2:00-3:15

 

Introduction to Medieval English Literature (or: The Literature Tolkien Loved)

 

This course is designed to introduce students to the great genres of English literature, using medieval works particularly loved by J. R. R. Tolkien. Using the Norton Anthology of English Literature, supplemented by some texts originating in the Viking age, students will be introduced to the genres of epic, lyric, romance, comedy, saint’s life, and drama. The list includes famous texts representing diverse Northern European cultures, and ranging across heroic, chivalric, spiritual, and social themes (among the latter, the roles of women, slaves and non-Christian peoples). Among the earliest modern interpreters of the Middle Ages was Tolkien, both as a novelist and as an Oxford professor of medieval literature and language. He was a philologist, meaning literally “a lover of words,” a scholar of Old and Middle English, Old Norse, runes, and several medieval languages. Medieval works have also inspired a large array of modern writers and filmmakers with re-workings of Beowulf and Arthurian legends. In the final weeks of the course, students will lead the class in oral presentations and discussions aimed at understanding the medieval texts in relation to Tolkien or other modern renderings, or, if they prefer, in relation to other medieval sources they have enjoyed reading. Having learned to analyze the medieval material using professional literary methods, with access to scholarly editions, glossaries, and published articles (some by Tolkien), students will have an unusual chance to appreciate the sources of famous literary motifs in their original contexts.

 

ENGL 13186-11

University Literature Seminar

David Thomas

TR 3:30-4:45

 

The British Novel

 

This course surveys the remarkably varied modes and motivations on view in the history of the British novel over three centuries.  Our "knowledge goals" target such matters as: the ongoing relationship between novelistic discourse and political modernity; the distinctiveness of various fiction modes, such as realist, gothic, romantic, bourgeois, imperial, aestheticist, modernist, and more; and the evolution and refinement of novelistic techniques, such as narrative perspective, plotting, characterization, and style.  Textual emphasis goes mainly to authors I’ve found students to find entertaining to read or, in some cases, provocative (or both).

 

ENGL 13186-12

University Literature Seminar

Francisco Robles

TR 11:00-12:15

 

On the Move: Migration in American Literature

 

In this class, we will examine the importance of migration in twentieth century U.S. Literature. We will consider how migration has been integral in telling or representing the American experience, particularly by investigating how movement has been used by authors to shape texts, ideas, and characters. In asking ourselves how the ideas of flux and movement impact both the content and the structure of a novel, we will reflect on how migration alters political ideas, ideals, and trends. Finally, we will explore the many ways that migration shapes or constructs our conceptions of homeland and region.

 

Course Texts:

Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)

Nella Larsen, Quicksand (1928)

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

Dorothy West, The Living is Easy (1948)

Tomás Rivera, …y no se lo tragó la tierra/...And the Earth Did Not Devour Him (1971)

Arturo Islas, The Rain God (1984)

Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo (2002).

 

ENGL 13186-13

University Literature Seminar

Sarah Quesada

TR 9:30-10:45

 

The Extraordinary Americas:  “Magic” and Reality in 20th and 21st-Century Latina/o and Latin-American Literature

 

What is the difference between reality and magic or reality and legend? What if magic were conceived of as an accepted part of reality? This course allows students to question the origins of essential myths through some of the most legendary accounts of the supernatural in 20th- and 21st-century literature of the Americas.  Specifically, we will be focusing on work from such renowned voices as Junot Díaz, Sandra Cisneros, Rudolfo Anaya, Achy Obejas, Gabriel García Márquez and Alejo Carpentier.  Students will engage in discussion and critical thinking on what constitutes the fantastic, the magical, the uncanny, the marvelous real, or the spiritual from colonial times to neoliberalism to a distant science-fictional future. Course requirements may include response papers, presentations, a short essay, and a longer final essay.

 

ENGL 13186-14

University Literature Seminar

Mark Sanders

TR 12:30-1:45

 

The Black First Person

 

While taking a hemispheric approach to black writing, this course will examine the creation of the black first person through autobiography. Taking up classic texts from across the Americas and the Caribbean, such as Biography of a Runaway Slave, Child of the Dark, The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and Black Boy, we will explore the multiple ways in which black writers create the black rhetorical self. Why is the black “I” ubiquitous across African American writing of the hemisphere, and what are its implications in relation to race, gender, class, and community? What does it mean for a black narrator to announce him or herself as author or speaking subject? What does it mean to speak or write oneself into the public’s consciousness, and why does it matter? What are the constitutive elements of a black rhetorical self, and how might they differ from other racial/ethnic identities?

 

The class will pursue these questions through the examination and creation of autobiographies.

 

Authors will include Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Solomon Northup, Richard Wright, Anne Moody, Esteban Montejo, Carolina Maria de Jesus, and Barack Obama