University Seminars

Spring 2014

ENGL 13186-01
University Literature Seminar
Chris Vanden Bossche
TR 9:30-10:45

Ways of Reading: An Introduction to the Study of Literature

This course examines the processes involved in reading literature. We will break these processes down into four elements, each of which we will study in one section of the course: 1) authors: questions about authors and literary creativity; 2) conventions: from figures of speech to genre; 3) worlds: the relation of literary texts to the worlds they represent; 4) readers: how readers find meaning in literary texts. We will discuss a variety of literary texts, and in each of the four sections we will focus in detail on one major literary work, including Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time, Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Athol Fugard “Master Harold”… and the boys, and Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess.”

Details about the organization of the course, specific readings, and assignments will be available at http://www.nd.edu/~cvandenb/13186.html

ENGL 13186-02
University Literature Seminar
Kate Marshall
TR 11:00-12:15

The Novel and the Posthuman

The figure of the “posthuman” in literary and philosophical discourse has undergone several transformations in recent decades. Students in this seminar will undertake a survey of theoretical texts that discuss the posthuman as a term that identifies contemporary consciousness and subjectivity, the cyborg body, and the world of objects and technologies with which we interact or are acted upon. Set against these theoretical texts will be a range of contemporary novels that ask similar questions through experiments with narrative and point of view. How can we understand the construction of the human through the strange narrators, sentient landscapes, or alien minds? Answers will be sought in novels ranging from contemporary literary fiction and realism (by Cormac McCarthy, Marilynne Robinson, and Teju Cole, for example), to science fiction and fantasy. Because this is a course devoted to the study of the novel, expect a heavy reading load and regular writing assignments.

ENGL 13186-03
University Literature Seminar
Greg Kucich
TR 11:00-12:15

On the Road:  Literature of the Quest

 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, Kerouac, and the Monty Python troupe.   

ENGL 13186-04
University Literature Seminar
Laura Knoppers
TR 12:30-1:45

Frankenstein and Friends: The Monstrous in Literature and Film

This course will explore the cultural construction of monsters and the monstrous through the enduring figure and myth of Mary Shelley’s Creature, popularly known as Frankenstein.  We will begin by reading Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818; 1831) alongside sources for her lonely and rebellious monster in Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound,  and John Milton, Paradise Lost (selections). We will then turn to Frankenstein’s Victorian analogues in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), as well as a later rewriting in Kirsten Bakis, Lives of the Monster Dogs (1997). We will also examine the Frankenstein monster on film, including clips from or screenings of James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) and campy Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Mel Brooks’s satiric comedy Young Frankenstein (1974), the rewriting of Shelley (and Milton) in Ridley Scott’s dystopian thriller Blade Runner (1982; final cut, 1994), and Stuart Beattie’s gargoyle- and demon-filled action film, I, Frankenstein (2014).   

As we discuss and analyze Mary Shelley’s monstrous myth, including its sources and its fictional and cinematic legacy, we will focus on such questions as: What is a monster? What is the relationship between the human and the monstrous?  How do individuals and societies define themselves through / against the monstrous? What do monsters tell us about ourselves and our deepest values?  What functions do monsters serve in literature, film, and society? What makes the Frankenstein monster so fascinating, adaptable, and durable? 

This course is discussion-based and writing-intensive.  Students will write short reading responses and four analytic papers. There will be an opportunity for students to write about film, as well as about literary texts. 

ENGL 13186-05
University Literature Seminar
Valerie Sayers
TR 2:00-3:15

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 connections between a story’s form and its content. We'll keep an eye on writers’ innovations and experiments as we explore the subjects of power, immigration, poverty, class, labor, and race, and the themes of individualism, group identity, and alienation. We'll continually ask: Why does the writer use this form for this subject?  How does the form affect the story's impact on readers? Is it really possible to separate form from content?   We’ll read, discuss, and write about forty-five stories over the course of the semester.  Perhaps most important, we’ll take pleasure in a surprising and satisfying literary form.

ENGL 13186-06
University Literature Seminar
Susan Harris
TR 3:30-4:45

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
Edward 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.