Intro to Literary Studies
Section 01 – Cyraina Johnson-Roullier (MW 12:30-1:45)
Section 02 – Susan Harris (MW 2:00-3:15)
Section 03 – Laura Betz (TR 11:00-12:15)
Section 04 – Barbara Green (TR 3:30-4:45)
This course provides beginning English majors with experience in the analysis, interpretation, and appreciation of literary works of different kinds and eras. Texts assigned will vary from one section to another, but all sections will include attention to poetry and at least one other genre (fiction, drama, non-fiction prose). Frequent writing about works studied will introduce students to the practice of critical argument and consideration of how to read criticism as well as literature critically.
British Literary Traditions I
This course is an intensive survey of literary history in England from the seventh to the seventeenth centuries. Early British literature is anything but dull: dragon fights, scatological humor, scheming devils, cross-dressing, seduction poetry: it's all here. You'll learn about major periods and authors during this long history, about changes in the English language, about the development of genres, and about key questions of language, belief, culture, and practice which writers explored. You will also learn how to read poetry well. To accomplish these goals, you must make three commitments: to read carefully with an openness to the power and pleasure of early literature, to express freely your thoughts about what you read, and to write (and rewrite) with passion and precision. Works and authors we'll read may include The Dream of the Rood, Genesis B, The Battle of Maldon, selections from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Wakefield master's Second Shepherds Play, the Chester cycle's Noah's Flood, selections from Middle English religious and secular lyric, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney, Mary Sidney Herbert, William Shakespeare, John Donne, George Herbert, Amelia Lanier, and John Milton.
American Literary Traditions I
Introduction to American literature from its beginnings through the Civil War, emphasizing important figures, literary forms, and cultural movements.
Fiction Writing for Majors
As an English major, you’ve read lots of stories. Now is the time to put your own voice in the conversation that is literature, drawing on your reading to write narratives that resonate with your own time, your own place, your own view of the world. This is a “studio” class where we learn by doing: students will be pressed to think about what fiction is for, and how it works, through the writing of their own works of fiction. It is designed for those who come to fiction as readers and want to use fiction as an art form to do what narrative has always done: to explore what you think, and to give a sense of something meaningful that we can believe in at our time and in our place. Unlike nonfiction, fictional narratives usually raise more questions than answers; unlike other kinds of writing, how a work of literature is written is as important as what’s said. But the course could also be called ‘having fun with story,’ as narratives in a variety of forms and shapes will be used to inform the work done in class; students will be asked to draw on the conversation that is literature to write narratives in ways that are surprising, or grow out of other forms, as well as those that are more traditional. If this were a music class, you would be invited to compose a rock blast, or a classical organ fugue, some hybrid of the two, or a completely different conceptual sound; you’ll be asked to articulate why you’re writing one way and not another; you’ll be asked to demonstrate through your writing the difference between fiction as an art and popular or formula entertainment, finding along the way how flexible, moving, probing, and convincing, the medium of words can be. In general, the course work will consist of daily readings and critiques of those readings. Students will also be asked to write original short fiction to be turned in for class discussion. Regular class attendance and attendance at reading(s) by visiting author(s) also required.
In this course, students will read and model their poems upon writers who, by virtue of their talent and craft, have left their mark in the English and American poetic traditions. As English majors, students’ knowledge of these traditions will provide an important and productive background for class readings and for feedback on peers’ poems. We will also examine performative aspects of poetry by attending a variety of readings either on or off campus. Students will circulate their own poems among all the participants, who will then discuss and critique them in a workshop setting. Throughout the semester attention will be given to those proven strategies for composing and revising one’s poetry. Assignments will be fashioned so as to provide practice both in traditional forms and in free verse.
Fiction Writing: Writing the Future
What's up with all the zombies in contemporary literature—and what's up, for that matter, with all the rising waters, pandemics, technological wonders, new life forms? This course is designed for any student interested in writing fiction and fascinated by the spate of contemporary narratives about humankind's future. Our reading list will focus on a wide range of literary artists contemplating what that future holds, and will include Margaret Atwood, Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Colson Whitehead, and Ursula K. LeGuin. This is not a course in formulaic or easily categorized writing, so we'll also think a great deal about what literary writing entails, and how art can engage, celebrate, and challenge popular culture. Whether you hope to write fiction for the first time, have experimented on your own, or have had an introductory writing course, you are most welcome. The class will also give you plenty of opportunities to write about the present and the past, and to design your own time travels.
Riddling the Lyric
John Stuart Mill famously claimed in 1833 that "Eloquence is heard, poetry is overheard," thereby imbuing poetry with a sense of the private, the secretive -- something mysterious but with the potential to be deciphered. This course examines 20th- and 21st-century translations of this particular notion of poetry, with particular focus on the lyric poem -- the ways lyric performs the work of riddles, puzzles, games or codes, private communiques with ghosts or the creaturely, gateways to ineffable emotion and affect, or even "philosophical toys." In unpacking these various configurations of lyric, we will uncover their importance with regard to the many aesthetic and cultural debates that have animated lyric and its various traditions over the past hundred or so years, from the public role of poetry (and the work of suspicion in that role) to questions of gender and sexuality, comparative poetics, language and affect, and new media and the avant-garde anti-lyric. Focus will primarily be on British and Irish poets -- e.g., Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, Veronica Forrest-Thompson, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Denise Riley -- but important counterpoints will be provided by poets across the Atlantic -- e.g., Wallace Stevens and Anne Carson. Primary readings will more often than not be paired with theoretical or critical texts. Students will be graded on participation, a series of short response papers, and two substantial writing assignments.
ENGL 40010 / FTT 30470 – Crosslist
New Media and the Metamorphosis of Journalism
"The traditional categories of journalism subsumed by the figures of the “journalist-witness” or “reporter,” as well as the “journalist-creator” and the “journalist-activist” (or socially engaged), might still apply in today’s world. But the social function, the profession and the industry have probably changed more during the past twenty years than during the previous five decades or so. The increasing diversification of media outlets and the accessibility to technologies has generated a very large spectrum of journalistic expressions.
The goal of this course is to reflect on today’s profound transformation of the “document,” of the expression and of the audience within the activity known as “journalism” with a special focus on social realism: we will study a wide range of expressions including film, comics-journalism, photo-journalism, digital journalism and art. We will pay special attention to citizen journalism, media critique and social crises, journalism and war, journalism and dictatorship, journalism and literature (including theatre), corporate vs. not for profit journalism, journalism and politics, ethics of journalism…
Renowned journalists, authors and creators will join our class: photo-journalists, comics-journalists, documentary filmmakers, writers…"
Can there be such a thing as children’s literature? Or is the writing so named most often produced by adults to answer adult needs? If there is such a category, why did it emerge most notably in the heyday of empire, the nineteenth and early twentieth century? Some critics find children’s literature subversive of the orthodoxies of the age in which it was produced, while others see it as a deeply conservative practice, forever lamenting the loss of tradition and of a “green world”. Does the experience of childhood vary from age to age or from one nation to another. This course will explore these and other questions by offering close readings of texts by such authors as Jonathan Swift, William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Louisa M Alcott, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, L Frank Baum, Oscar Wilde, P L Travers, C S Lewis, J D Salinger, Roddy Doyle, Philippa Pearce, Edna O’Brien, Kate Thompson and J K Rowling.
Queer Plots: Narrative and Sexuality in 20th and 21st Century Fiction
How do you tell a story that is supposed to be unspeakable? In this course, we will investigate the ways in which gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgendered writers have transformed narrative conventions as they explore their experiences and their identities through fiction. Beginning with the short fiction of Oscar Wilde at the end of the 19th century and continuing through the modern and postwar eras into the contemporary period, we will look at GBLT British, Irish and American writers whose work engaged with or dramatically departed from the dominant conventions that typically shaped fictions of identity formation, of love and marriage, of sexual experience, of political protest, and of death and loss. We will also investigate the public responses to some of these fictions, and the changing discourses about gender identity, homosexuality, and sexual orientation that have shaped both the realities and the fictions of GBLT writers over the past 125 years. Students will write three papers and be responsible for one in-class presentation.
ENGL 40162 / IRLL 40115 – Crosslist
History and Film: Documenting Ireland
Briona Nic Dhiarmada
“In its manifold forms, from the newsreel to the ‘feature; film is a major source of evidence for, and an important influence upon, contemporary history, and a vivid means of bringing the recent past to life…The Historian and Film, Paul Smith ed. Cambridge University Press
This course will examine how modern Irish history has been presented in both documentary and feature film from the silent era to the present day. It will interrogate the possibilities and pitfalls of history for film-makers and look at how Irish history has been presented to a mass audience through cinema and television. Films discussed will include Irish Destiny (1926), The Dawn (1936), Anne Devlin (1984), Michael Collins (1996), The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2003), Mise Eire (1959), Saoirse?/Freedom? (1961), Insurrection (1966) A Television History of Ireland, The Troubles (1981), Seachtar na Casca.
ENGL 40192 / CSLC 20301 – Crosslist
Introduction to Linguistics
This course provides a background in several core areas of the study of human language: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and social aspects of language and language change.
ENGL 40193 / CSCL 20303 - Crosslist
Pedagogical English Grammar
This course enhances students understanding of English grammar and helps them to develop a pedagogical approach to teaching it.
Introduction to Old Norse
‘A person should be wise enough—but never too wise; life is most pleasant for those who know just enough’. Old Norse proverb, from Hávamál.
In this course, students will come to grips with Old Norse—a term that encompasses the medieval vernacular languages of Scandinavia and the vernacular literatures that flourished in Norway and Iceland between the Viking Age and the Reformation. The Old Norse literary corpus is remarkable for its breadth and variety, its literary quality and its cultural value: Norse manuscripts preserve our fullest record of pre-Christian mythology from northern Europe; traditional Germanic narrative and poetic traditions are uniquely well-represented in Old Norse versions, some of which date back to well before the Conversion; in the Icelandic sagas, one of Europe’s most distinctive medieval genres, we see an unprecedented forerunner of ‘realistic’ prose fiction. Knowledge of Old Norse also gives access to many primary sources relating to the perennially controversial and fascinating Vikings, who took their language as far afield as Russia, Rome, Reykjavik and Rouen. (And Old Norse was probably the first European language spoken in North America.)
Over the course of a semester, we will learn the fundamentals of Old Norse grammar, syntax and vocabulary. Although it has some quirks, Old Norse is not a particularly difficult language to pick up, and students will soon be able to read a saga in the original. We will introduce students to the history and literature of medieval Scandinavia, using translations at first but gradually bringing in original language material as our mastery of Old Norse increases.
This course will be assessed by means of regular grammar quizzes and translation exercises, and a final exam.
ENGL 40206 / FTT 40600
Shakespeare and Film
A course built upon conversations. In terms of method, the course will rely on conversations between the professors as well as conversations with and between the students. In terms of subject, the course will be about what one might call conversations between the plays and films of those plays. Additionally, there will be conversations between certain subjects or events from the plays and other films structured upon those elements. To play with the metaphor a bit further, we can also suggest that there will be conversations between theatre and film, between the Renaissance and late 20th century, between Britain and America, and, particularly, between cultural versions of gender and ethnicity. We expect to explore four or five plays in film versions, perhaps Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Taming of the Shrew, and Much Ado About Nothing. Additional films might include Men of Respect, Maqbool, Scotland, PA, A Midwinter’s Tale, 10 Things I Hate About You, an episode of Moonlighting. There will be a required lab, a showing of films on Tuesday evenings. Written work will include a major independent project. So, a lot of talk: good talk by interested people about great art. Join the conversation.
Chaucer’s Biggest Rivals: The Poets of the Alliterative Tradition
This course will focus on the major poems of the 14th-century Alliterative Revival: Piers Plowman, Pearl, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Emphasis will be placed on close reading of these texts in their original language in order to appreciate the unique stylistic, social, psychological, and spiritual concerns of late medieval alliterative poetry. We will examine these works in the context of the cultural and political history of the period; among topics to be covered will be the use of Piers Plowman by rebel leaders during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the rise of heresy and other challenges to Church authority, issues of religious and social tolerance, freedom of expression, skepticism, heroism, the role of women, "courtly love" and sexuality.
Assignments and Examinations: two translation and commentary tests on Piers Plowman (15% each); one open-book test on translation critique and style analysis of either a Pearl or Gawain passage (your choice) (30%); Exam (40%).
Texts: D. Pearsall, ed., Piers Plowman: The C-Text; M. Andrew and R. Waldron, eds., The Complete Works of the Pearl Poet.
This course will explore the way in which Shakespeare’s plays emerged out of a culture of commonplacing (the literary practice of collecting choice quotations in a commonplace book for subsequent use in the process of composition) and almost immediately underwent a process of remediation as stage performances were transformed into printed books sold to an eager reading public. Stage performance and print publication led to an extraordinary proliferation of Shakespearean media, and the course will consider the way in which film and new digital media have in turn reshaped and extended our understanding of Shakespeare. The course will be organized around seven case studies— A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, 1 Henry IV, King Lear, Macbeth, The Tempest—in each case we will consider the play’s initial composition, earliest performance and first publication before going on to consider the ways in which the play has perpetuated itself in later times and places.
The Eighteenth Century As An Age of Communication
In the 21st century, innovations in communication have altered our lives. The 18th century underwent a similar experience. Trade and empire stimulated newspapers, letters, and literacy. The postal system expanded along with engineering of roads, bridges, and canals. Self-help publications teach aspiring readers how to write letters, how to do arithmetic, how to cook, or how to pray. The “blog” was invented or discovered early in the century and the political caricature or cartoon was not far behind. Theater instructed in fashion, manners and morals—and differences. Accounts of voyagers’ “discoveries” and exotic colonies were popular, as were images of the monstrous world to be seen under a microscope. Nationalism harnessed music and show to create the first national anthems—a crowd communication. Fashion separated the important people from the rest. Painters were in more demand than ever before as gentlemen advertised their wealth and importance through portraits of themselves, their children, their lands – even their horses.
Modern capitalism’s “birthday” might be set in 1694 with the foundation of the Bank of England. The “market” itself is a complex set of messages. Money (as coins or paper but also as idea) is essentially a communication. Images included more abstract graphics like diagrams, globes and maps, and non-verbal statistics. Clarifying economic, geographical and social relations could lead to uncomfortable questions. Journalism began to record the trials of common thieves and murderers (hitherto largely ignored); the last words of executed criminals gained financial value. The duty or desire to interpret moves beyond words and artistic pictures. What does a stone, or a dog, or a bodily organ have to tell us? Young King George III decided to allow the autopsy of the body of King George II to be made public in a magazine (with an image of his heart). This world of exchange and cascading information was hospitable to writers, artists and interpreters—including women. Novels and portraits demanded decoding. Differences between what is said and what is “meant” raise the status of irony. Much 18th- century literature deals with the complexities of communication itself.
We shall be reading together some major texts including Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, Susannah Centlivre’s A Bold Stroke for a Wife, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (excerpts), Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, Rousseau’s On Inequality, and the anonymous A Woman of Colour. In this Research Seminar we will investigate some material in the form in which it appeared to early readers. Students are encouraged to explore primary material, drawing on ECCO and other resources. Important materials are available online including the trials of “Common Felons” in The Old Bailey Sessions Papers; the last words of condemned men and women can be found in the write- up by the prison chaplain, The Ordinary’s Account. There is much research still to be done on this period. It is quite possible for an undergraduate to produce a valuable original paper.
Dickens & Wilde
This double-author course showcases what many readers would see as an "odd couple" among Victorian authors. Charles Dickens was the Shakespeare of his time, a prolific creator of memorable characters and incidents, at once comic and tragic. But post-Victorian critics often see him as a prime exponent of Victorian earnestness, sentimentality and even hypocrisy. And Oscar Wilde was, well, the Wilde of Victorian Britain: he was so dazzling that even those who wished to hate him often had to give up and laugh with him. But his life took a classically tragic form after his public humiliation and imprisonment for homosexual offenses. Our principal texts by Dickens will most likely be Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Our Mutual Friend. Our readings in Wilde (who did not write such long works as Dickens) will cover a wide gamut of his efforts but emphasize his society comedies and his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Modernism at Home
How did the moderns conceive of “home”? What is the relationship between domesticity and modernity? This course will explore the many notions of a modern home that made their way into the novel during the first decades of the twentieth century. Moderns often viewed the idea of home as a laboratory for lifestyle experiments, as a venue for contemplating the relationship of interiors and interiority, or as a site for innovative design. Home could be a site of boredom or comfort, a haunted place or one conceived of as revolutionary and new. We will read a number of modern novels—both experimental modernist novels and more popular, often more realist, modern texts—in order to take up the representations of home, family, and domestic life. To support our reading of modern fictions, we will also consult theories of place and space, architecture history and history of modern interior design, modern women’s magazines, narratives of domestic service, home-making guides, and other bits of non-fiction prose that introduced readers to radical changes in the idea of home—from technological innovations to shifts in ritual and behavior. Primary texts may include Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, E.M. Forster’s Howards End, Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier, Elizabeth Bowen’s The Death of the Heart, D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, Katherine Mansfield’s short fictions, E.M. Delafield periodical series Diary of a Provincial Lady, Elizabeth Taylor’s At Mrs. Lippincote’s, Enid Bagnold’s The Squire, and Dorothy Canfield’s The Home-Maker.
Joyce and Beckett and the Irish Voice
This course will deal with the challenge of reading Joyce and Beckett in a way that gives full relish to the various voices that permeate their works. These European Modernist works are suffused with an Irish sensibility which is often either ignored or misunderstood. Joyce's four great prose masterpieces will be considered with particular emphasis on Dubliners and Ulysses. Beckett's prose will be looked at in some depth with particular emphasis on the four stories or Nouvelles and the three novels Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable. The strong sense of irony and black humor with which these works are laced will be examined. The aim of the course is to leave the student with a fresh way of reading and, more particularly, hearing Joyce and Beckett leading to a fuller enjoyment of the work.
ENGL 40507 / IRLL 30107 – Crosslist
The Hidden Ireland
The Hidden Ireland denotes both a book and a concept. The book was written by Daniel Corkery in 1924 and was an immediate success as it encapsulated a version of Irish history which had not hitherto been available to the general public; it is still considered to be a classic of its kind. The concept promoted the notion that history should emanate from "below" and should not be confined to the elites and governing classes. Both book and concept have had a profound impact on our understanding of Irish identity, Irish history, and Irish literature. This course will examine the book in depth and utilize it to open a window on the hidden Ireland of the 18th century. The cultural, historical, and literary issues which are raised by the book will be studied in the context of the poetry of the period. Poetry will be read in translation.
Modern, Postmodern and Post-postmodern Poetry and Religion
This course will focus on the last 120 years in literary history, zeroing in on one particular problem – the writing of religious poetry – in order to probe the philosophical collisions that resulted in what we now call our “post-secular” era of thought. Beginning with Gerard Manley Hopkins at the end of the nineteenth-century and major modernists who continued to write powerfully after WWII – T.S. Eliot, David Jones, W.H. Auden – the syllabus will chart a course through the rapidly changing poetic forms of two further generations of poets working devotedly, if differently, out of various religious systems of belief. The many dilemmas of postmodernity include redefining the very notion of “belief” itself after the secular revelations of science and modernity; we will explore the theoretical issues involved in order to better understand what’s at stake for each writer we encounter, among them Brian Coffey, Wendy Mulford, Fanny Howe and Hank Lazer. We will ask, among other things, why ancient mystical frameworks seemed newly hospitable, for some, in the face of postmodern suspicions about language and institutions, while for others embracing the sciences renewed faith; we will consider the crucial input of Judaism in Christianity’s rethinkings of language and religious experience as well as consider how issues of race and gender inflect changing relationships between poetry and religion. Students will emerge conversant with the major debates in contemporary literary theory as well as with developments in contemporary poetry; they will be required to write two papers and co-lead class discussion twice in the course of the term. No prior expertise in reading poetry is necessary for this course.
American Literary Nationalism and Transnationalism
Profoundly uncertain about its contours, borders and internal cohesiveness, nineteenth-century America offered up the paradoxes of literary nationalism. Why, in consolidating “national” literature, did so many writers stage their American dramas elsewhere? Most of Moby Dick, for example, takes place in the southern Pacific. In this course we will explore the trope of displacement in nineteenth-century America’s literary imaginary, addressing texts through a key question: why does the story take place elsewhere? To answer this question, we will move from text (close-reading) to context (broader geopolitical history) and in so doing uncover the relationship between the private crises of reading and the public crises of nationhood that has been so crucial to American literature since its inception. The writers and works we will study include Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Lydia Maria Child, Frederick Douglass, Louisa May Alcott, and Herman Melville. Primary texts will be supplemented with appropriate secondary reading of literary historical and theoretical nature to aid our movement from text to context and address even broader questions related to reading cultures and nation-building.
Craving Experience: Poetry and Performance Art
In Art as Experience (1934), philosopher John Dewey posits art as having the nature of a fully lived experience. This notion of experience becomes the catalyst for a range of groundbreaking activity in the American arts, in which bodily experience and the present moment become dominant concerns. This course will consider the philosophies of Dewey, Walter Benjamin, and Richard Shusterman; poetry of William Carlos Williams, John Cage, Charles Olson, Allen Ginsberg, and Lyn Hejinian; and performances such as Happenings, the archaic/avant-garde anthology Technicians of the Sacred, the sound art of Meredith Monk, and the electronic storytelling of Laurie Anderson. In this way, we will see how an art of experience answers to the pressing issues of our world.
Novels of American Naturalism
In this course we will undertake a comparative survey of twentieth-century American naturalist novels. A genre of dirty materiality, human beasts, and beastly things, naturalism was historically a mode by which American writers challenged assumptions about the proper subjects of fiction, the role of scientific observation, and the dominance of deterministic thinking. By looking at its forms across three major epochs of American literature beginning in the 1890s and ending with contemporary fiction, we will examine the persisting questions that the genre encodes, questions that seem to have taken on renewed importance in recent years. The historical trajectory of this course will thus move from turn-of-the-century texts by Frank Norris and Stephen Crane, to the neo-naturalist fiction of a few decades later that operated alongside developments in modernist literary form (Gertrude Stein, Richard Wright, Ann Petry, John Steinbeck), and concluding with a look at its postwar resurgence in the novels of authors such as Don DeLillo and Cormac McCarthy. We will also discuss the return to these novels in films including There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men. Throughout the course we will be working with major critical essays that describe the key problems and questions of the genre, and students will respond to these essays in their critical writing, with the goal of developing original arguments about the place of specific works within the genre.
Literature of the Modern U.S. South
With its core states of Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama, the southern region of the United States has had a distinctive place in the American imagination from the colonial period through the present day, a distinction most clearly marked historically by the question of slavery and the Civil War. This regional-cultural distinctiveness also produced a distinctive body of literature particularly in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the time of modernity and post-modernity. In something of a survey fashion, this course will examine notable examples of such literature, mostly fiction, including writers such as Robert Penn Warren, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Flannery O'Connor, Tennessee Williams, and Cormac McCarthy. We will be concerned centrally, though not exclusively, with issues such as the problems of modernity, race, and regional culture but also with questions of literary style and the intersection of this literature with broader literary movements such as modernism.
Engendering Renaissance: Chicago, Harlem and Modern America(s)
In answering the question “What was American modernism?” most literary critical perspectives might commonly be expected to focus on a modernity represented by the authors of the “lost generation” in the U.S., such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway. While a conventional understanding of U.S. American modernism might serve to underscore the importance of the stylistic, cultural and artistic contributions of these and other canonical moderns, such a view might also give little consideration to the significance of those modern U.S. American voices not ordinarily heard in such a context. This course poses the question, ”What was American modernism?” to answer it by exploring its roots in two less conspicuous early 20th-century U.S. American modernisms: the Chicago Renaissance of 1912-1925, and the Harlem Renaissance of 1920-1929. In “engendering renaissance,” these two moments suggest a literary birth and rebirth of modern U.S. American identity that questions its seemingly stable boundaries and borders, reconfiguring the idea of “American” within and opening the door to the larger and more varied cultural fabric that is modern America(s). By locating the rise of U.S. American modernism in the relation between these two literary moments, this course will broaden our understanding of the idea of “American” at this time by considering how it is created within a frame determined by the interplay of race, gender, class and nation. In this way, it seeks to deepen our understanding of U.S. American culture and the idea of “American in the early 20th century, while suggesting new ways to engage the global social and cultural challenges facing the idea of “American” in the 21st.
A broad introduction to the major authors and themes of writing by Africa- Americans. Among the primary fields of discussion will be the literature of slavery and freedom, Reconstruction and turn-of-the-century, the Harlem Renaissance, urban realism and the Black Arts Movement, and the ascendancy of black women writers. Genres studied will include non-fiction prose, drama, poetry, short stories, and the novel. Texts: The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature, The Color Purple.
Advanced Fiction Writing
This course is designed for students who have already taken a fiction writing course (or the equivalent) and who are seriously interested in writing fiction; graduate students who are not in the Creative Writing program are also welcome. In a workshop setting, student stories, novel chapters, and other prose pieces will be presented, discussed, and taken through editing, revision, and polishing. Student goals may include submitting revised work for publication on campus or beyond, compiling a portfolio for application to an M.F.A. program, or making significant progress on book-length projects. Our reading list will include plenty of contemporary stories, novels, and essays.
Advanced Poetry Writing
This is a class for students who with some background in poetry. We will write and read intensively and widely, exploring what it means to write, read and publish poetry in an era of small-press and Internet publishing, cross-genre and cross-media explorations (poems that invoke film or novels or essays for example). The class will ask for extensive independent work, as students will work on their poems and develop their portfolios. Part of the class time will be spent discussing readings, but much of it will consist of discussing student work. We will develop an artistic, creative and supportive community to help each student grow as readers and writers. The course is ideal for students who are thinking about applying to graduate programs, or for students who simply want to hone their skills in a supportive but dynamic environment.
ENGL 40911 / AFST 40117 – Crosslist
African Literature and the Moral Imagination
To imagine is to form a mental concept of something which is not present to the senses. Imagination therefore deals with framing. Like everyone else, Africans ponder over their condition and their world on the basis of their experience, history, social location and other realities which provide the frame through which they construct and address reality. In this course, through the study of some significant African literary works and some literary works about Africa we will study the self-perception of the African and the way the African has ethically viewed his / her reality and tried to grapple with it over a period of time (colonialism, post colonialism, apartheid) with regard to various issues on the continent (political challenges, religion, war and peace) and over some of the social questions (class, urbanization/ city life, sex and sexuality, relationship of the sexes), etc. We will read such authors as Joseph Conrad, Amos Tutuola, Chinua Achebe, Athol Fugard, Wole Soyinka, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chimamanda Adichie, Syl Cheney-Coker, Tsitsi Dangaremga, Nawal El Sadawi, Ferdinand Oyono , and some others. Using these and many authors we will ask questions about what constitutes the moral imagination, how such an imagination is manifested in or apparent in the social, personal and religious lives of the various African peoples or characters portrayed in these literary works; to what extent the moral sense has helped/ conditioned or failed to influence the lives of these peoples and characters. We will also inquire into the extent and in what ways the writers in our selection have helped to shape the moral imagination of their people.
In Our Time
This one-hour credit course is designed as an in-depth study of Ernest's Hemingway's In Our Time, which (along with A Sun Also Rises) is regarded among scholars as constituting Hemingway's best and most influential work. However, it is almost always read as a collection of short stories and nothing more when, in fact, it is a far more than that: it is a book on its own, with its own integrity, and one that ruthlessly examines Hemingway's own time (from late 19th Century American reality, when the author was born) to post Great War Europe and America. As such, it offers a unique perspective in understanding one of the most momentous cultural shifts we have seen, and one that well applies to our own rapidly changing times. We will, certainly, examine certain major stories individually--for example, "Indian Camp" and "Big Two-Hearted River," to name only two. But we will also study the unnamed inner chapters, which are not even listed on the Contents page, as well as the added "Introduction by the Author" to the second publication of the work (now called "On the Quai at Smyra"). In the course of this study we will discover why Hemingway himself would say that In Our Time had a "pretty good kind of unity." We will also come to appreciate how Hemingway's insights on gender and sexuality, bullfights, war, even the ecology readily speak to the modern world and its structures that we have inherited and inhabit.
Digital Humanities: Text, Media, Computation
Approaches to texts as digital and computable objects. Includes elements of media theory, archival and text technologies, and computational methods of literary analysis. No previous technical expertise required.
The course will introduce students to thinking about literary texts as media objects and to the special problems involved in studying the millions of books that have been written and digitized in recent years. Students will use existing computational tools to analyze large collections of digital texts, culminating in a group project that makes an original contribution to literary scholarship.
Suitable for all English majors. No prerequisites. Counts toward the digital humanities track of the Computation and Digital Technologies interdisciplinary minor.
ENGL 41206/FTT 41600 - Crosslist
Shakespeare and Film Lab
Certain films will be viewed for further discussion in class.
Seminar: Donne and Herbert
This course will be a focused study of two of the early seventeenth century’s most influential poets: John Donne and George Herbert. Their work is critically important for theories of lyric, histories of devotional poetry, and ongoing poetic practice. George Herbert is arguably the master devotional poet in English and undoubtedly the most influential religious poet in the language. Donne’s poetry has served as an incubator for major literary-critical trends in the twentieth century; once the darling of the New Critics, Donne has proved hospitable to a variety of approaches, such as the New Historicism, gender and feminist studies, textual and bibliographical criticism, and scholarship on religion and literature, among much else. Both writers range widely, drawing influence from sixteenth-century sonneteers, contemporary drama, late medieval devotional writing, Italian and French verse, early modern university culture, contemporary legal thought, Reformation-era theological writing, religious polemic, liturgical and devotional practices, etc. Students in this course will read both writers in depth and become familiar with the critical tradition on each. At the course's end, we'll dip into later writers (from Dickinson forward) whose work engages Donne's and Herbert's poetry.
Seminar: Tradition and Experiment in British Romantic Poetry
The British Romantic period is often defined in terms of the momentous social and political upheavals that it witnessed, notably the American and French Revolutions and their aftermaths. But to what extent was it also characterized by what critics have termed a “revolution in poetry”?
This seminar considers the varied ways in which poets revived and reworked older traditions,
genres, and forms – including the ballad, sonnet, ode, epic, and romance – to speak for or about contemporary culture, explore the powers of the individual creative mind (including its powers of persuasion), and define the poet’s role in a changing society. Spanning a remarkably productive forty years (ca. 1790-1830), our readings will center on some the most famous poets of the age – Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, and Byron – as well as on some of their most innovative contemporaries, including Charlotte Smith, Felicia Hemans, and Letitia Elizabeth Landon. We will examine these poets’ works in their literary and historical contexts, paying particular attention to the letters, prefaces, and essays in which they sought to explain
their aims and ideals. We will also become familiar with a range of important critical perspectives. The main element of assessment will be the step-by-step composition of a research paper of approximately 15-20 pages.
Seminar: Visual Modernity
In his 1962 book, The Gutenberg Galaxy, media theorist Marshall McLuhan claims that the advent of the printing press led ultimately to the “visual homogenizing of experience.” It is the printed word, he argues, that is ground zero for our image-saturated culture. In this course, we will examine the close relationship between modern visual technologies and literary modernity, and we will pay particular attention to the ways in which visual epistemology is embedded within notions of ideology and ideology critique. While McLuhan’s claim is suggestive, we will begin from a more assured point in the history of visual culture—the twentieth century—and examine the close relationship between modern visual technologies and literature. We will attempt to keep one eye fixed on the history of visual media and another on modern developments in literary form. Our journey will take us through film, photography, television, digital media, traditional literary forms like poetry and prose, as well as hybrid visual forms like photo-texts, graphic novels, hypertext, print experiments, and visual novels. To give you a sense for the range of our (mostly American) material, likely texts include Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, Lynd Ward’s Vertigo, James Agee and Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Because this is a research seminar, you can also expect to read, present, and write on an array of relevant critical and theoretical pieces.
English Graduate Courses Fall 2015
Graduate Fiction Workshop
A fiction workshop for graduate students in the MFA in Creative Writing program, with an emphasis on students developing their own aesthetic and personal vision, juxtaposed to and within the larger movement of the contemporary literary world.
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.
Computational Literary History
Theory and methods of computationally assisted literary scholarship with special emphasis on questions of literary history at scale. Covers recent developments in the field of digital humanities and includes substantial technical instruction. No previous programming experience required; students will learn to manage data and perform statistical analysis, including basic machine learning, in Python.
The primary object of analysis will be a large corpus of American fiction published between 1790 and 2000. Other periods and national literatures may be added to address student interests. Seminar work will be conducted in groups and will culminate in a substantial, co-authored piece of original scholarship in data-intensive literary history.
Students having previous experience with digital humanities are strongly encouraged to enroll and to serve as informal project leaders.
Old and Middle English Philology
This course focuses on four inter-related aspects of medieval English: translation, pronunciation, dating, and regional localization. With the aid of modern grammars and critical studies of both language structure and usage, we will examine a range of texts dating from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. Familiarity with at least either Old or Middle English is necessary.
Requirements include weekly readings and assignments, presentations, and brief papers.
The Alliterative Revival: from Early Middle English Origins to the Great Fourteenth-Century Poets
One of the few indisputable facts of the history of English literature is that Anglo-Saxon England already had an arresting, beautiful and complex literary culture when the French conquered in 1066, and imposed a new literary language on its elite. But something we often forget when we think of English today as the language of Chaucer and a great modern poetic tradition is that it was not inevitable after 1066 that English would ever rise again to expel the French of its conqueror.
The rise, phoenix-like, of English literary culture – especially via the “Alliterative Revival” of Anglo-Saxonesque metrical styles - was never to be taken for granted. To what and whom to we owe this rebirth?
This course traces the post-Conquest revival of alliterative poetics. From its regional Early Middle English beginnings through to the full flowering of alliterative texts that took even late fourteenth-century London by storm, the course follows the trajectory of its rise in popularity. Starting with what George Kane once called “the language of a degraded people,” we will look at selections from Early Middle English works that use or incorporate alliteration, such as the Ancrene Wisse, the Brut, the Arundel Bestiary, and some of the best alliterative lyrics of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth-century. Continuing with the Edwardian era, which produced enigmatic pieces such as The Chorister’s Lament, Winner and Waster, and the strange, fragmentary “mini-version” of the A text of Piers Plowman known as “Z”, we will move to the other famous “Alliterative Revival” classics: Pearl, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and St. Erkenwald. We will examine the role that the legal community, the civil service, and clergy writing for the laity played in the early development of post-Conquest English. Other themes will include: relations with the literature of the “French in England,” the trilingual contexts of early book production, court culture, authorial self- representation, social and political dissent.
We will also look at an underappreciated dimension of alliterative poetry: works written for women or via a female patron: Susannah, and Aseneth, from the “heroines of the Old Testament” canon, and the lay guild-inspired “Alliterative St Katherine” lyric. Time permitting, we will look at the alliterative taste for history and tragedy, with extracts from the fiercely anti-Semitic Siege of Jerusalem, and the tragic Alliterative Morte d’Arthur.
The course will take in historicist and formalist approaches to the study of regional, “national” and more intimate reading circles, along with pertinent aspects of medieval literary theory, and newer methodologies such as history of the book, poetics and issues of material culture. The course will involve close reading of original texts throughout.
Seventeenth-Century Women Writers in England and Early America
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 non-fictional 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?
Reading Revolutions: Studies in Eighteenth Century
"the most important of all revolutions. . .I mean, a revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions."
"But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American War? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations. . . . The radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution."
How are the changes that took place in "the minds and hearts of people" in the long eighteenth century reflected in, perhaps influenced by, what we call literature? This is the big question of this course, which will explore a range of British writing from the 1650s through to Burke and his critics at the end of the eighteenth century, writing in the wake of the French Revolution. We will explore revolution here as a long term event that has its roots, too, in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century and in the political upheavals of the Civil Wars in England, Scotland and Ireland in the 1640s. We will begin with Marvell, Wycherley and Dryden and move to selections from Behn, Locke, Swift, Pope, Defoe, Johnson, Smollett, Goldsmith, Boswell, Sterne, Burke and Wollstonecraft. Expect two short papers and a research paper.
What makes a book popular? For some, popularity is something intrinsic to the text, a hard-to-define mixture of page-turning sensation, often married to an aesthetic experience that bestows its pleasures a little too easily. For others, it is a measurable quality, weighed out empirically in sales figures. Some define popularity by the audience a work seeks to capture, a particularly “wide” or “mass” market to whom the text is oriented. While others consider popularity to be a political category, opposed to the bourgeois and sympathetic to the common people.
In this course we will examine various paradigms for thinking about the popular: commercial; political; aesthetic, economic, while reading “popular” works. Our primary texts will be drawn largely from nineteenth-century Britain, a time and place in which political revolution, population expansion, and industrialization created new forms of popular literature, and new worries about the people who might be consuming it. Texts will range from poetry (Wordsworth) and novels (Scott, Dickens, Gaskell) to street ballads and penny dreadfuls. And we will sample a range of critical approaches to the popular: formalism (new and old), book history, distant reading, historicism, and some recent sociologies of literature.
Modern Irish Writing: Excavating the Present-- 1950 to 2010
Cultural introversion characterized Ireland during World War two and after but radical experiment could still be found in the work of overseas-based authors such as Samuel Beckett. By the 1960s, however, Time magazine could report “new spirit in the oul sod” as society began a process of secularization, urbanization and feminization (a more central role for women). The Irish language was no longer seen as an antique piety but as part of a vibrant counter-culture. However, the eruption of old conflicts in the North in the closing years of the decade suggested that not everyone was ready for change.
All of these social shifts led to the creation of major works of literature, music, film and dance. As the twentieth century drew to a close, immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe, Africa and China---Ireland was no longer (if ever it had been) monocultural. A period of rapid globalization witnessed the ‘worlding’ of Irish writing, only to be followed by a severe economic crisis. This led some people to return to one of the oldest questions---whether “Ireland” as a cultural and political project could survive into the twenty-first century.
Among authors to be studied will be Samuel Beckett, Edna O’Brien, Brian Friel, John Banville, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Michael Hartnett, Tom Murphy, Frank McGuinness, John McGahern, Seamus Deane, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne, Marina Carr, Paula Meehan, Conor McPherson, Roddy Doyle, Seamus Deane, Claire Keegan and Kate Thompson.
American Literature Before Emerson
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. We will also consider the textual practices of colonization, early Native writings, and alternative media including oratory, wampum, and pictographs. The colonial period was above all a contest of empires, and hemispheric and transatlantic methods will be integral to the course.
This course will be of interest to students specializing in the Renaissance, the 18th century, or early Romanticism, to those with an interest in colonialism, or in revolutionary or religious expression, as well as to specialists in American literature.
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.
Practicum: Preparing for the Profession
A workshop on professional publication, conference activity, and job search procedures.
Practicum: Intro 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: Intro 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.