ENGL 13186-01 (CRN 21544)
“What is Nature?”
Nature’s meaning has never been more important than now, during what one environmental thinker describes as the “most crucial decades in the history of the human species on earth.” This seminar will put our environmental moment in a larger context by exploring versions and visions of the natural world embodied in works of literature from the 20th and 21st centuries. Through study and discussion of poems, novels, and environmental non-fiction, we will consider the role of nature (or “Nature”) in its rich range of imaginative meanings, from Edenic escape to ecological responsibility, from nature poetry to “climate fiction” by novelists Margaret Atwood, Paolo Baciagalupi, and Kim Stanley Robinson. Because seminars proceed through collaborative conversation, participation will be important. Students will be responsible for introducing our class discussion once or twice during the term, several short papers, and midterm and final examinations.
ENGL 13186-02 (CRN 23228)
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 throughout time toward various types of great ideals: personal, national, moral, spiritual, even counter-cultural or underground. 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, Kerouac, McCarthy, and selected film makers, including the Monty Python troupe.
ENGL 13186-03 (CRN 21542)
Introduction to Poetry
This course will provide an introduction to poetry as a literary art form and develop students’ skills of critical analysis and interpretation. The course will address the major poetic genres, a variety of poetic forms, and a range of literary concepts and devices. We will also spend some time thinking about the oral performance of poetry through different activities, including listening to recordings of poems and potentially attending a poetry reading. We will read a variety of material both past and contemporary, with a special emphasis on poetry from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and particularly the Romantic period. We will try to understand why the poetry on our syllabus has spoken to readers over time, and to see how it might speak to us and about us.
ENGL 13186-05 (CRN 21541)
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.
ENGL 13186-06 (CRN 21545)
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.
ENGL 13186-07 (CRN 25943)
“Literary Visions and Revisions”
In his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T. S. Eliot writes that there is time "for a hundred visions and revisions, / Before the taking of a toast and tea.” While this seminar doesn’t promise toast and tea (although that’s negotiable), it does promise a feast of literary works well worth digesting, specifically ones about the many “visions and revisions” involved in literature itself. Through the study of poetry, plays, and a novel from across five centuries, we will become acquainted with literature as a mode of expression that involves artful negotiation with one’s cultural and historical heritage, notably through adaptation, echoing, imitation, and allusion. We will also discuss and practice the kinds of critical vision and revision involved in thinking and writing about literature at the university level. Writers figuring prominently in the syllabus are likely to include William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, and Tom Stoppard.
ENGL 13186-09 (CRN 27553)
The Death and Return of God in Radical Poetry
This course will introduce students to several of the key upheavals in twentieth-century thought that rocked spiritually-inclined poets, leaving them without easy paths back to devotional art. We will be particularly focused on those British, Irish and American poets whose cutting edge, radical ideas about themselves and culture would shake apart the very syntax of their medium – language – and cause them to write in forms that seemed very strange and even disturbing to unaccustomed eyes. At the crux of our discussions will be the fate of the idea of God in the works of “postmodern” poets whose secular political projects and views of language – “the word” – would conflict at the deepest levels with their desire for belief in divinity. We will focus mostly on the work of small-press writers like Brian Coffey (Ireland), Anglo-Welsh David Jones, Wendy Mulford (England), Fanny Howe and Hank Lazer (U.S.), all of whom have recently emerged, with the help of 21st-Century hindsight, as part of an important group of poet-thinkers engaged in this crucial project of “reconstructing God.” The course will begin with gentle introductions to the problems of reading late-twentieth-century philosophy as well as to the problems of reading poetry as a literary genre. During the semester students will be required to lead class discussion twice, with partners, and write either three short papers or substitute the final one with a creative response (to be accompanied by a written “argument” and approved before start of work).
ENGL 13186-10 (CRN 30001)
Why Literature Matters: 20th Century American Literature
The emphasis of this course will fall on the intersection of recurrent themes in American literature, as seen from a plurality of perspectives. For example, we will consider the position of African-Americans in the American landscape from the perspective of a white male (Mark Twain), an African-American male (James Baldwin), a white female (Kate Chopin), and an African-American female (Alice Walker). We will explore questions of contemporary spirituality as presented by a white male (Wallace Stevens), an African-American male (James Baldwin), a white female (Elizabeth Bishop), etc. Or, we may consider how various authors view the intersection of capitalism in America with ecological damage - as in selected works of Ernest Hemingway and Adrienne Rich. The course will include three novels, several short stories, and a healthy dose of very divergent poetries, while suggesting which genres proved most significant in different periods of our modern history. The course will be demanding, but rewarding, especially as it seeks to explore the apparent contradictions but important overlappings of our rich American literary heritage. All University seminars focus on writing components. Paper assignments will be discussed the first day of class. Texts (required): Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Kate Chopin, The Awakening, Alice Walker, The Color Purple, Wallace Stevens, The Palm at the End of the Mind, Adrienne Rich, An Atlas of the Difficult World. Texts (optional): James Baldwin, Selected Writings; Flannery O'Connor, Selected Short Stories; Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time; Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems (and selected handouts, including Robert Frost, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Joy Harjo, etc.).
ENGL 13186-11 (CRN 30002)
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.