ENGL 13186, Section 1
University Literature Seminar: Contemporary American Literature
What does it mean to write in the “Naughts” (2000–2010)? In the age of MySpace, RSS feeds, American Idol, and YouTube, what do the terms “contemporary,” “American,” “literature” even mean?
In this class, we will read several novels, short stories, poems, and plays published since January 2001. In addition to covering the “usual” topics (plot development, character relationships, themes, etc.), we’ll also think about what it means to “write” in an “America” that is increasingly being parsed into smaller and smaller pieces both “home” and “abroad.”
A partial list of novels include (subject to change): Look at Meby Jennifer Egan, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu, A Day at the Beach by Helen Schulman, and Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta. We’ll also view excerpts of television shows, movies, and other media, as well as attend some campus literary events. Required work: various writing assignments (ranging from 2–4 pages to 5–7 pages each, for a total of approximately 25 pages over the course of the semester) and active class participation.
ENGL 13186, Section 3
University Literature Seminar: Medieval and Renaissance Lyric Poetry
This is a course on lyric poetry of the twelfth century through the early seventeenth century, with a particular emphasis on the lyrical tradition in French, Italian, and English that leads up to Shakespeare and that can be traced in some of Shakespeare’s immediate heirs. To see how this tradition develops, we will read poems by the twelfth-century Troubadours, select poems by Petrarch and Dante, a handful of Middle English lyrics, the entirety of Sir Philip Sidney’s sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella, all of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and a small number of poems by Samuel Daniel, Mary Wroth, and John Donne. Once we get past the Middle English lyrics, we will shift gears and spend two weeks working through Timothy Steele’s All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing: An Explanation of Meter and Versification to equip ourselves with the necessary skills and terminology to evaluate the formal qualities of Shakespeare’s verse. For three weeks we will then luxuriate in a meditative close reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, followed by a brief glance at the poetry of Daniel, Wroth, and Donne. The course is thus meant to provide a solid grounding in an important tradition of European literature, one that arguably reached its pinnacle in Shakespeare, and one that has exercised a powerful influence on Western notions of romantic love all the way up to the present. Requirements include six essays, a midterm and final exam, an oral presentation, and some memorization.
ENGL 13186, Section 4
University Literature Seminar: Prisoners & Patriots: Ideology, Public Discourse and the Idea of America
This course explores the relationship between the individual and the state and how each constitutes the other. Prisoners and patriots are an ideal pairing because of their interchangeable nature. As we will discover, so often individuals who speak out for change are imprisoned (MLK) and just as often the previously incarcerated will emerge to blaze a trail to reimagine democracy (Malcolm X). Class discussions will focus on the way social stratification, institutional coercion, government censorship, cultural conventions, political needs, language and literature all contribute to the shaping of American identity. To that extent, we will attend closely to the political mind with particular attention to the contradictions, disjunctions, and disentitlements embedded in the everyday narrative of America. Some of the questions we will consider are: What is the relationship between personal and national narratives of identity? How do we define freedom and what role does art and culture play? What role do American political institutions play in constructing and maintaining difference? How do we define government? Does literature reflect or constitute national identity? The fiction and non fiction accounts under consideration straddle racial, regional, class, gender and social boundaries to facilitate our understanding of how African Americans within the nation create narratives of cultural fragmentation, exile and alienation. Course texts will likely include Priscilla Wald, Constituting Americans; Henry David Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government”; Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July Fourth to the Negro”; Harriet Wilson, “Our Nig, Machiavelli,” “The Qualities of the Prince”; Hannah Arendt, “Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government”; Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”; Autobiography of Malcolm X; Gramsci, selections from the Prison Notebooks; Gayl Jones, Eva’s Man.
ENGL 13186, Section 5
University Literature Seminar: Life-Writing: Autobiography and Subjectivity
Life-writing is a capacious term that can be used to describe a variety of private and public statements about the self. Some of these are easily recognizable as artistic representations of subjectivity (for example, memoirs, diaries, letters, self-portraits) and some less so (for example, legal testimony, graphic novels, blogs, oral narratives delivered on Oprah, even medical forms have been read as part of the complex project of articulating subjectivity). This course will attend to a wide variety of forms of life-writing in order to trace shifting notions of what counts as a self and track the complex project of defining and representing subjectivity. A broad range of critical approaches to subjectivity and definitions of the autobiographical project will assist us as we attempt to map changing notions of the self. Many, but not all, of our primary materials will be drawn from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Texts may include selections of writings by Wordsworth and Rousseau; Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus; Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl;Virginia Woolf’s Sketch of the Past; Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior; selections from Samuel Delany’s The Motion of Light in Water; photography by Cindy Sherman, Jo Spence, and others; and self-portraits by Frieda Kahlo. In addition, Web projects, My Space sites, political and legal testimony or “witnessing,” and other examples of autobiography “at work” will also be considered. Requirements: participation, short commentaries, and three essays (two of middle-length [around 5 pages] and one of 8 to 10 pages).
ENGL 13186, Section 6
University Literature Seminar: Crime and Detection in Popular Culture
In this course we will look at the development of crime fiction as a genre, from its origins in Victorian sensationalist fiction to the proliferation of sub-genres in contemporary American film. We will be looking specifically at the development of the two figures around which crime fiction revolves: the criminal and the detective. Discussions and written assignments will focus on questions about what these figures do for the cultures that create them. Why does Victorian Britain love Sherlock Holmes? What explains the explosion of interest in serial killers in American popular culture at the end of the twentieth century? 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? Authors will include Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Raymond Chandler, P. D. James, and Patricia Cornwell.
ENGL 13186, Section 8
University Literature Seminar
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’s 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 2 to 3 pages long. The final paper is to be 5 to 7 pages long. It will provide an opportunity to tell one’s own story in light of the work of the semester. Readings will include Ernesto Che Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries; Antonia Felix, Condi; Felix Markham, Napoleon; Doris Pilkington, Rabbit Proof Fence; Malika Oufkir, Stolen Lives; John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage; Kathryn Spink, Mother Teresa; and Roald Dahl, Boy: Tales of Childhood.
The courses in this section, all numbered 20XXX, do not fulfill requirements for the English major. This is the place to look for Creative Writing courses that fulfill the University or College Fine Arts requirements and for Literature courses that fulfill the University or College Literature requirements.
20XXX-Level Creative Writing Courses
Introduction to Fiction Writing
Why do people make up stories? Is this a natural process, or an abnormality of the human brain? We will attempt to answer this question through practice of the craft, while also picking apart stories by the masters. There will be short creative assignments as well as personal responses to fiction read for class. The final project, creative in nature, will be your attempt to perfect the basic elements of fiction, such as story, characterization, voice, and dialogue. For inspiration, we will be reading short pieces by authors from all over time and space, including George Saunders, David Foster Wallace, Anton Chekhov, Lorrie Moore, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Introduction to Poetry Writing
In this course, the focus will be on reading contemporary poetry, both formalist and experimental, while we write and revise our own work. We will discuss matters of craft such as sound, rhythm, syntax, and line length, as well as particular forms, and try them out in our writing to see what possibilities they open for us. This course will be held in a workshop format.
Have you ever finished reading a novel or a short story and thought: “I wish I could do that”? Or: “I think I can do that”? Or: “I want to do that”? Well, this course is for you.
In this workshop-style course we’ll explore the craft as well as the artistic aspects of writing fiction. We’ll read a sample of contemporary short fiction as “writers,” meaning we’ll dissect the various techniques writers employ in the writing of their stories. We’ll also work on several in-class and out-of-class writing assignments (1–4 pages) designed to practice those techniques. Students will then write three original short stories which will be read and discussed by other members of the class. At the end of the semester, students will complete a portfolio of revised work. And, in order to assist us in our explorations, we will be attending campus literary events, to hear “up close and personal” from actively publishing writers. Writing is a journey. Ours begins now.
This intensive reading, writing, viewing, and creating course will be a practitioner’s tour of contemporary trends in prose writing. We’ll study such genres as the road novel, the graphic novel, short story, modern parable, modern fairy tale, collage, hypermedia, memoir, photo-essay, and creative non-fiction, while testing the boundaries of such conventions of prose writing as sentences, images, narration, characters, temporal structure, setting, and so on. Authors under scrutiny could include Nabokov, Kafka, Robert Smithson, Junot Diaz, B. S. Johnson, Denis Johnson, Joy Williams, Bhanu Kapil, Kate Bernheimer, Selah Saterstrom, Zadie Smith, and Hannah Weiner. Students will be responsible for course reading and response assignments, presentations, peer feedback, and their own short pieces of prose.
This will be a workshop course devoted to the writing of shorter fiction. A good bit of flexibility will be retained (depending upon the level of experience of students who elect the course), but what students may expect is this: brief assignments, at the start, will be made to encourage — and to display — the development of a variety of narrative and fictional techniques. Beyond those exercises, two stories (and two revisions) will be required. Student stories will be duplicated. There will be collateral readings from significant contemporary writers. Regular attendance and participation will be taken for granted. More than casual interest in writing and fiction is expected. Individual conferences will be arranged to discuss student stories.
The class will be organized around two assumptions: Poems are made things, and no good poem is an accident. We will explore the idea of voice, and various ways and methods poets have used it to define and organize the world they know, in the ways they know it. Some of the questions we will ask as we read will be: How does one’s culture influence a poet’s language? Who is a poet’s audience, and what obligations (if any) do they have to it? Who gets to tell the story, and what changes occur when assumptions about the canon are questioned? Students will be required to write and revise poems, leading to a portfolio of revised work as a final project, keep a writer’s journal, write response papers to the books we read (there will be at least four, plus hand-outs), attend at least one reading, and commit to memory a poem to be recited by the end of the semester.
Point of View in the Novel
This course will focus on an 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, The 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 Ha; Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America.
Requirements: regular class participation, two short papers, a midterm, and a final.
Voracious Reading: Four Centuries of Food and Fiction
Despite Virginia Woolf’s assertion that most novelists seldom spare a word for what was eaten by their characters, a wide range of writers have incorporated vivid descriptions of food often in ways that contribute to the plot, themes, and character development in their stories, and that reflect the trends, conditions, and anxieties characteristic of their milieu. This course will explore some of the ways that depictions of food, drink, and consumption have functioned in literature during different periods of time. Reading assignments for the class will be omnivorous, including material from many different genres including poetry, fairytales, cookbooks, novels, short stories, and film. The course will also provide a liberal sampling of texts from different time periods and cultural contexts ranging from eighteenth-century France to twenty-first-century America. As such, it is designed to whet students’ appetites by introducing them to new and fruitful ways of engaging with texts that are inspired by critical perspectives and methodologies, including cultural studies, feminism, and the growing interdisciplinary field of food studies. We’ll be reading some canonical works such as Voltaire’s Candide and Joyce’s “The Dead” alongside less familiar ones like Molly Keane’s darkly comic Good Behavior and Jean Rhys’s powerful short story “Hunger.” Students will be encouraged to think critically about both the texts they read and foods they ingest, though the primary aim of the class is to equip students with the tools necessary to fully savor a rich variety of literary texts. Students will write four short response papers (2 pages each) and one longer paper (7–10 pages) on a text of their choice. We will have a midterm and final.
Staging the Religious: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries
How do we imagine religious experience? What happens when religion becomes animage, either visually, dramatically, or on the page? In this course, we will approach this question through the plays of William Shakespeare and a handful of his contemporaries, focusing on English Renaissance playwrights whose works “stage” the cultural tensions and competing religious claims of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and atheists, not to mention the supernatural (ghosts, witches, devils, etc.). While we will explore a handful of themes in relation to these works — faith and the will, religious outcasts, and violence and justice — we will spend most of our time asking how the presentation of these religious themes in dramatic form and on the stage affects their meaning. We will do so by way of comparison, comparing Shakespeare’s plays with the frequently under-read works of Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson, and setting their images of religious experience against the Bible, Renaissance painting (e.g., Bosch, Bruegel, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt), and contemporary film versions of the plays.
Work and Desire in the Victorian Novel
This course will look at different representations of work and desire in a wide range of Victorian novels. Gender and sexuality studies will play a central role in our discussions of these novels and their representations of work and desire. We will, for example, consider the interconnections among constructions of masculinity and working men’s collectives. And we will ask how heterosexuality and models of femininity inform representations of the division of labor and gendered separate spheres. Readings include novels by Elizabeth Gaskell (North and South), George Eliot (Felix Holt the Radical), William Morris (News From Nowhere), Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray), Isabella Ford (On The Threshold)and H. G. Wells (Ann Veronica). Course requirements include two papers (one 6–8 page paper and one 10–12 page research paper) and four short (2–page) response papers.
Shakespeare in Performance
Shakespeare’s plays are not isolated artifacts that exist in a vacuum: as literary scholar and artistic director Kevin Ewert has said, Shakespeare’s “creations were not birthed, Athena-like, from his balding pate into this world to stand alone as singular, finished and fully-formed edifices; neither playwright nor play existed or ‘worked’ autonomously.” The plays were originally produced as popular entertainment and both reflected and constructed the cultural conditions of early modern England. Modern interpretations of the plays — on paper, on stage, on film — likewise engage with their own historical moments: each interpretative act is a socially, politically, theoretically informed, and further generative, response. In this course, we will focus on six of Shakespeare’s plays to develop an understanding of the formal, linguistic, and stylistic aspects of the genre. We will examine not only the literariness but also the liveliness of these texts, considering each in terms of performance by viewing contemporary theatrical and cinematic works, including the Actors From the London Stage’s production of Much Ado About Nothing here at Notre Dame, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s staging of Macbeth, and various film adaptations. Through reading, discussing, watching, and maybe even performing Shakespeare, students will develop the analytical skills to consider diverse interpretations and make their own informed, critical interventions.
Inventing Modernity in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century England
Much of what we consider to be “modern” first emerged in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Our two-party system has its roots in the political upheavals of the seventeenth century, and our paper economy began with the creation of the Bank of England in 1694. Trade, consumerism, and advertising grew dramatically during the period, and shopping became a pastime. The scientific revolution unsettled traditional understandings of the world, and the importance of classical learning decreased. These political, economic, and intellectual changes were accompanied by significant shifts in cultural values. The sexual libertinism of many late-seventeenth-century literary works gradually gave way to celebrations of sensibility and domesticity. These new ideals contributed to the development of the conception of marriage as a loving partnership and not an economic contract between two families. This change in ideas about marriage was part of a larger reconsideration of the role of women in society. During this period, women began to make significant public contributions to the arts and society. Women actors appeared on stage for the first time, and women writers made well-regarded contributions to the formerly male-dominated literary marketplace. We will examine how writers of this period (roughly 1660–1780s) engaged with these breaks with the past and what seemed to be the emergence of modernity. In addition to tracing this theme, we will consider how the idea of modernity affected language and literary form. Requirements: a quiz, a group presentation, three short papers, two longer papers, and a final exam.
Major texts: Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders; Jonathan Swift, “The Battle of the Books” and Gulliver’s Travels; Tobias Smollett, Humphry Clinker; George Etherege, The Man of Mode; Aphra Behn, The Rover; John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera; poems by the Earl of Rochester, John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Oliver Goldsmith, and William Cowper.
Ghosts, Ghouls, and Other Victorian Nasties: British and Irish Gothic in the Victorian Period
Although the Gothic is most often associated with the Romantic period, the Victorian period was marked by a revival in interest in Gothic themes and literary strategies. This course explores how Victorian writers refashioned the Gothic to reflect the anxieties of their own period, creating in particular distinct domestic and urban versions of the Gothic. Texts will include Emily Bronte’sWuthering Heights, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’sCarmilla, Mary Elizabeth Braddon’sLady Audley’s Secret, Bram Stoker’sDracula, Robert Louis Sevenson’sDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Oscar Wilde’sThe Portrait of Dorian Gray among others. Students will become familiar with Gothic influences in the art and architecture of the period.
From Work to Text: Representing Labor in Twentieth-Century America
This course is designed to introduce you to the ways in which American novelists, poets, artists, musicians, and filmmakers have attempted to represent labor and labor issues throughout the twentieth century. In traditional approaches to literary studies, labor is often subsumed within broader discussions of class or literature’s general engagement with political or social questions. This course, on the other hand, will focus as much as possible on direct representations of actual laboring bodies and the labor movement and their evolution throughout the twentieth century. Our engagement with these issues will focus specifically on the relationship between labor and American identity and the ways in which representations of labor raise questions about the literary treatment of race and gender throughout the same time period. Although the primary objective of the class will be to get you to bring these issues to bear on literary interpretation, the course will also have to include a very basic introduction to American labor history. This will include a discussion of recent phenomena, such as the WGA strike, which bring the relationship between labor and culture into sharp relief, as well as the cultural repercussions of labor in its current form under globalization. The texts we will look at will include novels by Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, Jack London, and Richard Wright; labor songs by Joe Hill, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger; films such as Harlan County U.S.A. and Modern Times; and poetry by Langston Hughes and Tillie Olsen.
Contemporary American Literature
What does it mean to write in the “Naughts” (2000–2010)? In the age of MySpace, RSS feeds, American Idol, and YouTube, what do the terms “contemporary,” “American,” “literature” even mean? In this class, we will read several novels, short stories, poems, and plays published since January 2001. In addition to covering the “usual” topics (plot development, character relationships, themes, etc.), we’ll also think about what it means to “write” in an “America” that is increasingly being parsed into smaller and smaller pieces both “home” and “abroad.” A partial list of novels includes (subject to change) Look at Me by Jennifer Egan, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu, A Day at the Beach by Helen Schulman, and Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta. We’ll also view excerpts of television shows, movies, and other media, as well as attend some campus literary events. Required work: two essays, midterm, final, occasional quizzes, active class participation.
U.S. Latino/a Poetry, Art, and Film
The literature of Latina/o immigration and migrancy brings together a range of contemporary concerns, from identity, to the transnational, to definitions of the literary. How does international movement inflect notions of American identity? How do writers create and describe communities in constant movement? These are only two questions that can be posed to the literatures of Latina and Latino transnational and intra-national movement. In this course, we will read a range of recent materials dealing with immigration between Mexico and Latin America and the United States, and with intra-national migrancy. Key texts will include Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway, Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban, Tomas Rivera’s …and the Earth did not devour him, and Elva Treviño Hart’s Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child. In addition, we will draw upon various critical readings focusing on transnationalism, displacement, and new theories about contemporary globalization. Students will write three short essays and a final exam, and will be required to participate actively in class.
Required Courses for English Majors
In the following section, you’ll find courses, all numbered 30XXX, that are specifically required for the English major. The first course listed is ENGL 30101, “Introduction to Literary Studies.” If you are a newly declared major this semester, you should sign up for a section.
Introduction to Literary Studies
Section 1, Sara Maurer, MW 3:00–4:15
Section 2, Cyraina Johnson-Roullier, TR 11:00–12:15
Section 3, Maud Ellmann, TR 12:30–1:45
Literary History Courses
English majors are required to take three Literary History (LH) courses, one LH-A, one LH-B, and one LH-C. If you declared the major before February 2006, the “Traditions” requirement is now described as the “Literary History” requirement; your “Traditions” courses count under the “Literary History” requirements.
British Literary Traditions I
This course provides an introduction to British literature from its earliest recorded forms through the seventeenth century — fromBeowulf to John Milton’sParadise Lost — geared towards familiarizing you with its key literary conventions and some of its linguistic challenges. As we survey the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, John Donne, William Shakespeare, among others, we will focus on literary forms and genres of the medieval and Early Modern periods, including lyric, epic, romance, and drama; we will also attend to the historical contexts in which these writers worked and to their own meditations on what “literature” could be or could do in their respective cultures. Course requirements: regular quizzes, two short essays, a midterm and a final exam.
British Literary Traditions II
This course surveys British literary history from the 1660s to the present, covering standard periods and terms (e.g.,Restoration,gothic,modernism) and developments in the literary genres (romantic poetics, the “rise of the novel”). The course examines this tradition with ongoing reference to British imperial history, ranging from early colonial concerns with the “New World” to latter-day issues of globalism. Throughout, we will explore how British literary texts invoke ideas ofEnglishness andBritishness, and we will see how those categories are understood in opposition to various ideas offoreignness and thenon-European. Currently projected primary readings: John Dryden, The Indian Emperour; Aphra Behn,Oroonoko;Daniel Defoe,Robinson Crusoe; Samuel Johnson,Rasselas; Frances Sheridan,The History of Nourjahad; William Beckford,Vathek; Lord Byron,The Giaour; Jane Austen,Mansfield Park; Thomas De Quincy, “The English Mail Coach”; H. Rider Haggard,King Solomon’s Mines; Rudyard Kipling,Kim; E. M. Forster,A Passage to India; and Salman Rushdie,Midnight’s Children. Graded work includes three examinations, a paper, regular reading quizzes, and active participation.
American Literary Traditions I
A consideration of American literature to the Civil War in light of cultural, philosophical, and religious currents and the history of ideas. We will pay special attention to the relation between American “exceptionalism” and national self-criticism and to the dynamic between faith and writing, commitment, and narrative. Readings: Norton Anthology of American Literature (5th shorter edition) and several selected works by individual writers. Assignments include a brief series of critical papers and a final examination.
American Literary Traditions II
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
— Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning”
What are we to make of these “ambiguous undulations”? This course is a survey of American literature with an emphasis upon writers from the twentieth century, writers struggling to discover or invent a life that might be called meaningful. How does a life in America become meaningful, particularly in a century characterized by almost constant war as well as escalating racial, ethnic, and gender conflicts?
There will be two exams and a paper. In the readings we will give careful attention to the works of Henry James, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, T.S.Eliot, and Ralph Ellison along with the following novels: Kate Chopin, The Awakening; Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; and Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five.
Electives for English Majors
Courses in the following section count toward the five electives that are required for the English major. These include 30XXX-level creative writing courses and 40XXX-level literature electives. To register for any English major elective, you must have already completed either a “Methods” course (taken prior to Fall 2006) or ENGL 30101 “Introduction to Literary Studies.”
ENGL 30850, Section 01
Fiction Writing for English Majors
Between my finger and my thumb,
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
— Seamus Heaney
This class will be a workshop on student prose writing, designed for and limited to English majors. In the first segment of the course, we will be looking at several contemporary short stories, “looking at” in terms of how a fiction writer “looks at” short fiction. We will examine how the stories are (and are not!) constructed, what narrative techniques are (and are not!) employed by their authors, what the authors are (and are not!) “saying” in their works. The second segment of the course will be a workshop, in which student-generated stories will be discussed. There will be short (1–4 page) writing assignments at the beginning of the semester; afterwards, students will be expected to produce two (possibly three) full-length short stories. Active class participation will be expected, as will oral and written critiques of student work. At semester’s end, students will submit a portfolio of their revised work. We will also be attending campus literary events as announced. This course fulfills either the Fine Arts requirement or a major-level Elective requirement.
ENGL 30850, Section 02
Fiction Writing for English Majors
This will be a workshop course devoted to the writing of shorter fiction. A good bit of flexibility will be retained (depending upon the level of experience of students who elect the course), but what students may expect is this: brief assignments, at the start, will be made to encourage — and to display — the development of a variety of narrative and fictional techniques. Beyond those exercises, two stories (and two revisions) will be required. Student stories will be duplicated. There will be collateral readings from significant contemporary writers. Regular attendance and participation will be taken for granted. More than casual interest in writing and fiction is expected. Individual conferences will be arranged to discuss student stories. This course fulfills either the Fine Arts requirement or a major-level Elective requirement.
Poetry Writing for English Majors
This class assumes that poetry can be an exploration, not just a craft with rules to follow. In our wide-ranging reading and writing, we will explore the lyric poem, the prose poem, poetry as performance, video poetry, Internet poetry, poetry that works for social change, poetry that denounces all social relevance, public poetry, private poetry, poetry for the masses, poetry not meant to be read by anyone. To help us in this investigation we will use contemporary books of poetry by young poets, such as Cathy Park Hong’s “Dance Dance Revolution” and Eric Bauss’s “The To Sound.” But as those two titles suggest, we will also explore how poetry can be influenced by or react to art forms and other material traditionally seen as outside of poetry. Most importantly, this class will explore the interests and obsessions of the members of the class. Weekly poems and three major projects will be required. This course fulfills either the Fine Arts requirement or a major-level Elective requirement.
Psychoanalysis and Literature
This course examines psychoanalytic approaches to literature, with a focus on the Freudian tradition. We’ll begin by reading selections from Freud’s writings on dreams, sexuality, creativity, and art, in connection with literary works, such as Poe’s “The Purloined Letter,” Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw,” Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which have inspired controversial psychoanalytic readings. Drama (e.g. Hamlet), poetry (e.g. T. S. Eliot) will also be explored. In addition we’ll read selections from later psychoanalysts, such as Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, Jacques Lacan, and Adam Phillips, and literary theorists such as Slavoj Žižek, who have brought psychoanalysis and literature together in exciting new ways. At the end of the course we’ll turn our attention to psychoanalysis and film, focusing on Alfred Hitchcock’s movies.
Literature of Disability
“This new critical perspective [Disability Studies] conceptualizes disability as a representational system rather than a medical problem, a discursive construction rather than a personal misfortune or a bodily flaw, and a subject appropriate for wide-ranging cultural analysis within the humanities instead of an applied field within medicine, rehabilitation, or social work. Such an approach focuses its analysis, then, on how disability is imagined, specifically on the figures and narratives that comprise the cultural context in which we know ourselves and one another.”
—Rosemarie Garland Thomson, “The Beauty and the Freak,” p. 181.
What is disability? What does it mean to be considered disabled? What is the relationship of disability to what is thought to be “non-disabled,” or “normal”? In this course, we will consider writings and films about disability and individuals labeled disabled. Our readings will include fiction and nonfiction works about people with various physical and cognitive disabilities, including blindness, multiple sclerosis, autism, and others. We will explore the ways in which the disabled have been represented in such works, and the rhetorical resources for constructing “disability” in literature, non-fiction, and film. We will consider the ways in which writers considered disabled write about themselves, telling their own stories, and the ways in which these writings may complicate, subvert, or defy conventional representations of the disabled. In exploring these and related issues, we will consider the implications of disability for individuals and society.
The Canterbury Tales
An introductory study of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, this course will cover a range of genres (romance, fabliau, saint’s life, mock-epic, legend, dream vision, and allegory). We will read Chaucer’s texts in the original language, and examine the historical, literary, and cultural contexts of his poetry, exploring themes like popular piety, anticlerical satire, women’s issues, courtly love, magic, and social unrest.
A study of The Divine Comedy, in translation with facing Italian text, with special attention to the history of ideas, the nature of mimesis and allegory, and Dante’s sacramental vision of life. We will also consider the influence of Augustine’s Confessions on Dante’s imagination and experience and read selections from the Fioretti, or Little Flowers of St. Francis, and from such later figures as Teresa of Avila as well as modern writers — including T. S. Eliot — for whom Dante constitutes a powerful presence.
Readings: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, trans. John D. Sinclair (Oxford); St. Augustine, Confessions. Assignments: several brief, incisive critical papers and a longer critical paper.
In this course we will read, in roughly chronological order, the plays from the second half of Shakespeare’s career as dramatist. Beginning with Julius Caesar and concluding with Two Noble Kinsmen, we will cover nineteen plays over the course of the semester. Though we will read several comedies, the syllabus is dominated by the mature tragedies — Hamlet, Othello, Lear, and Macbeth — and late romances — Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. This course is paired with Shakespeare I (Fall 2008), which covers the first half of the Shakespeare canon (though Shakespeare I is not a prerequisite for this course). Requirements will include a midterm, a final, several passage analyses, and one 5–7 page paper.
Reforming Victorian Literature
Chris Vanden Bossche
The Victorian critic and poet Matthew Arnold complained about one of his own poems that it depicted a situation in which “suffering finds no vent in action.” This complaint expressed a characteristic Victorian belief that literature should imagine possibilities for action — for social change, transformation, or reform. In this course, we will explore how Victorian authors sought to create literary works that would reform the members of their audience and, in turn, the society in which they lived. In addition, we will examine the various ways in which Victorian writers sought to re-form literature, creating new literary forms and forming old ones anew, in order to achieve this aim. We will study works by Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, John Henry Newman, Christina Rossetti, John Ruskin, Alfred Tennyson, and others. Prior to the start of the semester, an online syllabus will be posted at www.nd.edu/~cvandenb.
The Romantic Period 1780–1840
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven!
— William Wordsworth
One of the most exciting things about the Romantic period in Britain is its engagement with ideas and themes that attract the young: human rights, democracy, travel, satire, love, melancholy, and horror. We will sail with Coleridge’s ancient mariner, walk the Lake District with William and Dorothy Wordsworth, peer into Percy Shelley’s soul, and luxuriate with Keats. We will discover what it means to see poetry as “indeed something divine” and poets as “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” We will learn the language of sensibility and understand how Marianne Dashwood’s “effusions of sorrow,” in Austen’s Sense and Sensibility,fit into to a cult of writing on the expressive body. Why is John Clare so interested in birds’ nests? Why are mountains “sublime” and ruins “picturesque”? Who is the “Man of Feeling”? Central themes will include Romantic historicism, revolutionary politics, the dissenting tradition, human rights, picturesque and sublime aesthetics, feminism, sensibility, experimentalism, gothic literature, and travel writing. Key authors will include Jane Austen, William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, Percy and Mary Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, John Keats, Robert Southey, John Clare, and William Hazlitt.
Contemporary Women Writers
We’ll read, discuss, and write about a wide range of contemporary writing by women, with a particular concentration on the short story and the writers visiting Notre Dame’s Women Writers Festival. Our readings will include realistic fiction as well as innovative and experimental work, including graphic fiction; some of our readings will focus on women’s experiences and perspectives, but some will “make the leap” to imagine men’s consciousness and reality. We’ll also read critical essays and reflections by the writers themselves to situate the work within the history of women writers; we’ll be especially interested in the publishing and critical realities facing women writers today. Reading journal, midterm and final, brief presentation, and an 8–10 page critical paper.
National Cinema: Film, Literature, and Irish Culture
This course will examine some of the dominant images of Ireland in film and literature from the Celtic Twilight to the Celtic Tiger, and will place the development of a national cinema in a wider cultural and historical context. Comparisons between film, literature, and other cultural forms will feature throughout the course, and key stereotypes relating to gender, class, and nation will be analyzed, particularly as they bear on images of romantic Ireland and modernity, landscape, the city, religion, violence, family, and community. Particular attention will be paid to questions of emigration, the diaspora, and Irish America, with a view to looking later in the course at issues relating to race and multiculturalism in contemporary Ireland. In terms of film and literature, key figures such as Yeats, Synge, and Joyce, and contemporary writers such as Brian Friel, John McGahern, Maeve Brennan, William Trevor, Patrick McCabe, Seamus Deane, Alice McDermott, and Roddy Doyle will be discussed. The resurgence of Irish cinema and new forms of Irish writing in the past two decades will provide the main focus of the second part of the semester, tracing the emergence of new distinctive voices and images in an increasingly globalized and multicultural Ireland.
Contemporary British and Irish Fiction
Mary Burgess Smyth
This course will introduce students to the contemporary fiction of Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, as well as some of the best recent Black British fiction. Some of the authors whose work we will read are Pat McCabe, Neil Jordan, John Banville, Zadie Smith, Monica Ali, Andrea Levi, Irvine Welsh, James Kelman, and Pat Barker. These writers will be read in the context of “the Break-up of Britain” and a concomitant sense of the changes in British and Irish identity in the past twenty years or so. Expect a lot of reading, but also some superb novels. Two 12-page papers and a presentation.
Women and Magazines
This course will explore women’s print culture by focusing on women as producers and consumers of periodicals. Some of the key figures in what is sometimes called a “female” modernism made their living by publishing literary pieces and journalism in periodicals or through serving as literary editors — Djuna Barnes, Rebecca West, Virginia Woolf, Jesse Fauset, to name a few — and many of the key texts of literary modernism made their first appearance in periodicals. In addition, the periodical press has been called the medium that best “articulates the unevenness and reciprocities of evolving gender ideologies” and thus is ideal for a study of the role literary culture plays in constructing and diagnosing the contradictions of femininity in modernity. The period between the coincident rise of the New Woman and New Journalism in the 1880s and the dominance of the “woman’s magazine” in the interwar years is extraordinarily rich in examples of diverse approaches to understanding femininity presented in the press. As we consider the connections between women and periodical culture from various angles (reception, circulation, representations of women journalists, the centrality of Little Magazines, “slick” magazines and women’s magazines as key venues for publishing modernist texts, etc.) we will meet the modern woman journalist and her close relations: female editors, “sob sisters,” “stunt girls,” “agony aunts,” to name a few. We will take a good look at a variety of publication venues — modernist “Little Magazines,” feminist periodicals, so-called “women’s magazines” as well as the daily press. We will be working with periodicals in various formats: microfilm, digitalized texts, edited collections, and bound volumes. Requirements include one brief essay, two mid-length (8–10 page) essays, and one group presentation.
Literatures of the American Hemisphere
National borders mark our Americas today, but for the first European explorers the landscapes of their “new world” were uncharted and unbounded. The newly encountered land invited utopian dreams even as it became the arena for genocidal violence. To reconsider these moments of violence and possibility, we will approach early American literature intra-hemispherically, reading not just from the British colonial record, but also Spanish documents in English translation. We will read comparatively in order to ask key questions about American identity both then and now. For example, what do we learn when we juxtapose Cortés’ invasion of the Mexican empire to King Philip’s War in the New England colonies? To what degree do these legacies of imperialism still shape our modern world? What comparisons arise between the poetry of Anne Bradstreet and Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz, between the captivity adventures of Cabeza de Vaca and Mary Rowlandson? How might these contact points continue to shape our views of “others”? How have Native Nations across the Americas written or spoken the loss of worlds? The authors and subjects noted above will serve as key markers, but we will also read primary works by William Bradford, Bernal Díaz, John Smith, William Apess, and others as we reconsider the literatures and histories of the Americas in a cross-national paradigm. Students will be expected to write three short papers, take a final exam, and participate actively in class.
Tragedy: Shakespeare and Melville
In this course we will read some of the great tragic works in the English language, indeed, in all of literature. Our syllabus will cover four plays by Shakespeare and Melville’s finest achievement, Moby-Dick. As the course title suggests, we will study these works in the context of their historical moments and in the context of tragedy as a genre. Reading Moby-Dick after Shakespeare will also enable us to witness in detail the nature of literary influence and to compare the tragic visions of Shakespeare and Melville as they explore such themes as good and evil, freedom and fate, and the individual and society. As we study these texts, we will consider the various reasons for their important place in the literary canon. Ultimately, let us make the most of our time together with works of art that are timeless in their beauty and ever timely in their relevance, works that continue to teach and to delight. Assignments include four essays (3–4 pages each), a final exam, an oral presentation, and a daily question or close reading on the assigned text.
Twentieth-Century American Feminist Fiction
In this course we will read a number of works, by both women and men, which may be described as feminist fiction. In so doing, we will raise issues about the relation of aesthetics to politics, about the process of canonization, and about aesthetic integrity. Ultimately, we will also be examining the place of women within American culture during the twentieth century — how it has changed, how it has remained the same. At the end of the course, students should feel that they have discovered a new body of exciting literature, as well as new ways of reading some of our best-known literature.
Texts: Kate Chopin, The Awakening; Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Alice Walker, The Color Purple and The Temple of My Familiar; Toni Morrison, Sula and Song of Solomon; possibly Elizabeth Dewberry Vaughn, Many Things Have Happened Since He Died.
Requirements: two papers, a midterm, and a final examination (25% each).
Poetry and Painting in Manhattan 1950–1965
This course approaches the poetry and painting of Manhattan during its rise to international pre-eminence as an artistic center through the work and friendships of Frank O’Hara (1926–1966), poet and curator at the Museum of Modern Art. It introduces the New York School of poetry, referring to visual art from de Kooning to Warhol and with side-glances at film, photography, music, and dance. The course will develop primarily through reading poems, although students will be directed to the critical and historical context. Readings will draw on The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara (ed. Donald Allen); John Ashbery, The Mooring of Starting Out; Ted Berrigan, The Sonnets; and a course pack. Course requirements are written analyses of poems (every two weeks), a final exam, and a 5–7 page paper.
What was the Harlem Renaissance? While traditional notions of this time in literary history have conceived of it as a brief but luminous flowering of the arts in African-American culture, not so much attention has been given to the many different voices that contributed to the movement, and which shaped its representations of race in the early twentieth century. In this course, we will examine the meaning and significance of the Harlem Renaissance as conventionally understood, then move on to an exploration of Harlem’s Americas, or the many cultural locations from which race and racial representation were being considered both inside and outside the movement’s accepted parameters. Thus, rather than studying the Harlem Renaissance solely as an African-American phenomenon, we’ll also explore the interrelationships between a number of its core works, along with several others from the same period not generally studied in this context. In seeking to understand the writing of Harlem’s Americas, we’ll investigate how all of the texts we examine are engaged in a larger dialogue on the meaning of race in the early twentieth century, both in the United States and beyond. In so doing, we’ll try to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of the Harlem Renaissance, while considering what this may have to tell us about race and racial representation not only in the early twentieth century, but on into the twenty-first.
Texts: Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery; W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk; Jessie Fauset, Plum Bun; Nella Larsen, Quicksand & Passing; Sherwood Anderson, Dark Laughter; Jean Toomer, Cane; Carl van Vechten, Nigger Heaven; Claude McKay, Home to Harlem; Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South.
Requirements: three 5-page essays, in-class writing, 20-minute group presentation.
American Fiction since 1945
Many contemporary writers began long and productive careers during the decades after the second world war. In this course we will study some of them, using representative texts to try to work out an aesthetics of the time. We will need to look at questions of personal identity, as they embrace spiritual, sexual, social, and racial dimensions. And we will also give close attention to the elasticity of the novel form itself. A very tentative reading list: Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man; Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America; Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five; Saul Bellow, Herzog; John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse;
John Updike, Rabbit Run; Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant; Walker Percy, The Second Coming. There will be a mid-term and final as well as an independent paper on a novel selected by each student.
Contemporary American Women Poets
Although the range and productivity of American women writers over the last two centuries has been enormous, the proliferation of extremely accomplished and important women writers has virtually mushroomed in the last few decades, embracing leading poets (such as Elizabeth Bishop and Adrienne Rich), leading novelists (such as Alice Walker, Joyce Carol Oates, and Toni Morrison) and altogether new voices such as the Chicana poet Lorna Dee Cervantes, the Asian-American novelist Amy Tan, and the Native-American Susan Power (to name only a few). To narrow the range of this explosive development in American literature, we will primarily focus on the work of women written in this country after World War II, with special emphasis on the last two decades. In addition to a small sampling of a number of different writers to be found in our class reader, we will ultimately focus on seven writers: Elizabeth Bishop (poetry), Adrienne Rich (poetry and essays), June Jordan (poetry and essays), Amy Tan (fiction), Lorna Dee Cervantes (poetry), Susan Power (fiction), and Sandra Gilbert (poetry and essays).
Students will be expected to participate in genuine class discussion, to develop a rationale for how to interpret these works (i.e., the most suitable critical perspective for given works or authors), and to do some external readings by and/or on one author of their choice for the final project. Written assignments will range from an occasional 1-page response to the longer, final project, with two shorter papers in between. At the end of the course, I hope students will have been inspired by these writers to produce creative work of their own. If this is true, students’ own creative work (if of high quality and if also clearly related to the themes of the course and the writers studied) can be substituted for one of the assignments.
Texts: Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems; Adrienne Rich, An Atlas of the Difficult World and selected essays; Lorna Dee Cervantes, Emplumada; June Jordan, Naming Our Destiny and selected essays; Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club; Susan Power, The Grass Dancer; Sandra Gilbert, Belongings and selected essays.
Advanced Fiction Writing
An advanced workshop for students who have already completed several works of fiction and would like to spend a semester working intensively on new pieces. Though most students will be concentrating on stories, novelists and would-be novelists are most welcome. We will criticize contemporary fiction, including our own, and attend on-campus re