Intro to Fiction Writing
This is a beginning course in writing short prose fiction. No experience in the form will be necessary. Students will be writing every week, primarily short fiction and other prose forms, guided by assignments. There will be in-class student discussion of each other's work. There will be readings in both traditional and contemporary fiction.
Intro to Poetry Writing
This course introduces students to the basic elements of poetry writing: language as matter and its creative organization through rhythm, form and different kinds of patterning. The course emphasizes the preeminence of sound as the distinguishing feature of poetry, with listening and speaking poetry as a necessary basis for writing it. Technical exercises, language games, writing exercises both collective and individual, and encounters with poetry in print and through attending readings are required. Original poetry by participants is discussed both online and in workshop sessions.
01: Steve Tomasula – TR 2:00-3:15
02: Steve Tomasula – TR 3:30-4:45
03: Lynda Letona – MW 4:30-5:45
Students will begin with narrative exercises in style and form and ultimately write complete drafts and revisions of literary short stories. Readings in modern and contemporary literature will provide critical perspective and vocabulary, as well as narrative possibilities.
This course invites you to build on the basics, develop your technical abilities, and broaden your approaches to the form, genres, media, language, and performance of contemporary poetry. Students should expect to read and view works from a variety of periods and cultures, and will generate their own poems in response to course readings and prompts as well as their own impromptu in-class writing. Students will also sharpen their critical vocabulary as they analyze assigned readings, critique peer work, and receive critiques of their poems from both peers and instructor. Specific readings, activities and assignments will differ from section to section.
Point-of-View in the Novel
01: MW 11:45-1:00
02: MW 3:00-4:15
This course will focus on the 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, 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; and Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America. Requirements: regular class participation; two short papers, a mid-term; and a final.
Heroes and the Heroic in Literature
This course focuses on depictions of heroes and heroines in British literary works from the 18th to the 20th century, and on the various ways literature of this period engages the theme of the heroic. Given the wide range of meanings associated with the figure of the hero/heroine, from the mere protagonist to the cultural revolutionary, we will investigate how this figure functions and changes over time, often in ways that reflect the values and developments of a particular period and culture. In particular, we will look at the preoccupation in key texts of this period with specific figures such as Napoleon, Prometheus, or Ulysses, and ask what notions of the heroic underlie their portrayal. Additional specific topics will include: this period’s new emphasis on previously “unsung heroes,” such as the rural and industrial poor; the growing importance of women as authors and as literary subjects; the portrayal of the poet or man of letters as a kind of hero; and, at the same time, this period’s ironization of the figure or concept of the hero. This course will focus on a number of literary figures, including: Thomas Gray, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Felicia Hemans, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and Simon Armitage.
The Gothic Novel
"From ghoulies and ghosties/ And long-leggedy beasties/ And things that go bump in the night,/ Good Lord, deliver us!" Why do we enjoy being scared out of our wits? Since its inception in the late eighteenth century, generations have loved the Gothic Novel with its grotesque murders and bizarre terror. The course will study a number of the most celebrated Gothic tales from horrors in castles and monasteries (Lewis's The Monk) to mysterious love stories (Brontë's Wuthering Heights) to the eerie stories of the paranormal (Shelley's Frankenstein) to contemporary horror stories. The purpose will be to study the ways in which the Gothic Novel entertains us and what it is about us that loves to be entertained by the Gothic.
This introductory lecture course surveys the cultural controversies, doctrines, and principles expressed in the First Amendment protections for free expression and religious liberty. We will be especially interested in some large interpretive questions: what is a speech act? What counts are protected speech? What is the relationship between free expression and democratic-self government? Is there a difference between individual, group, and government speech? Where are the limits of permissible speech, and how have those limits evolved over time? Under what conditions is censorship permissible? Do literary texts enjoy privileged status as forms of expression? Should they? What does the future of free expression look like in light of the rise of digital media? We will consider a selection of exemplary cases, controversies, and literary texts: among out topics will include the following: censorship, hate speech, obscenity and pornography; student expression; cyberspeech; individual religious expression; libel; legislative prayer and government-authored religious speech; establishment of religion; blasphemy. Disclaimer: many of our materials describe potentially offensive topics, while some are themselves examples of offensive speech.
Religion, Literature, and the Environment
As concerns about environmental degradation and even disaster loom larger and larger in the public consciousness, literature has become an increasingly important medium for thinking through such anxieties and about our relationship to the natural world. Literature has helped bring together questions of science, ethics, the limits of human perspective, and imagination that are at the heart of the current discussion on climate change and sustainability. Furthermore, environmental concerns have sparked a number of religious and spiritual questions as well: is God the creator of a “scarce” Earth? Can spirituality to be found in nature? And is religion at the heart of our environmental problems, or is it a source of their solution? This course will explore how literary writers over the last few centuries have approached such questions about nature, the environment, and religion. We will focus on works by (amongst others) Milton, Mary Shelley, Defoe, Thoreau, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, and Marilynne Robinson. This class will also serve as an introduction to a number of different literary genres, such as poetry, personal essay, short story, and the novel.
Going Somewhere: Tales of Travel and (Self) Exploration
According to the U.S. Travel Association, Americans logged some 1.5 billion leisure trips in 2011 (GenYers seem especially prone to wanderlust, averaging almost four leisure trips per person per year). Even when we’re at home, many of us turn to Travel Channel shows like “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” or bestselling travel books such as Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. What do we hope to gain from our travels, or more puzzlingly, what do we hope to gain from reading about or watching other people’s travels? In this course, we’ll read a wide variety of travel narratives (nonfiction, fiction, and everything in between), examining the features and functions of the genre. From the Age of Exploration and the Grand Tour to postmodern travelers, we’ll go “on the road” with many famous authors. Some of the travelers whose work we’ll read include Petrarch, Columbus, Swift, Voltaire, Darwin, Forster, Orwell, and Kerouac. Major writing assignments include an original short travel narrative and a final paper.
London, World City
This course focuses on London in twentieth- and twenty first-century literature. When historian Asa Briggs described London as “the World City,” he had in mind London’s importance as a nexus of global trade, the standard bearer of learned professions in the West, and, by 1900, the center of a vast empire. But London was, and increasingly became, a “world city” in another sense–its inhabitants came from the world over. They came especially from Britain’s colonial possessions, particularly after large numbers of those colonies began to win independence in the 1940s. This course asks how literature has tried to make sense of London and the diverse experiences of those who have made it their home. We will consider how identities (as of gender, race, class, sexuality, and nation) are constructed in relation to the city. Our texts will represent a range of perspectives and techniques but they will share a focus on London as an influential setting and often as a character in its own right. They may include novels, films, short fiction, and poetry by Joseph Conrad, Andrea Levy, Jean Rhys, Salman Rushdie, Sam Selvon, Iain Sinclair, Zadie Smith, and Virginia Woolf, among others.
ENGL 20213 / Crosslist MI 20001
The World of the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages have been praised and reviled, romanticized, and fantasized. Books, movies, and games like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Prince of Persia, Assassin's Creed, and Game of Thrones continue to spark our interest in and curiosity about the Middle Ages. Because of these, most of us have some kind of imaginative vision of the Middle Ages. But what were these ten centuries between Rome and the Renaissance really like? What do we mean when we talk about a "Medieval World?" This course will consider major themes and creations of the medieval civilization(s) that grew up in Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Islamic world after the fall of Rome, exploring continuities and changes, war and peace, contacts and separations. We will constantly ask how can we know about the Middle Ages, and what kinds of things can we know, as we examine many types of medieval sources, including literary works, historical texts, religious and philosophical writings, and works of art. We will especially focus on certain kinds of people in medieval history and literature across cultures: rulers, lovers, warriors, traders, and believers. This course will constitute an extended introduction to the dynamic and fascinating world of the Middle Ages.
Coming of Age in the 20th Century
Adolescence, it has been argued, is a modern invention. Certainly, cultural phenomena that take as their subject the transition from child to adult—rock music from bands like the Who, teen movies, the seven Harry Potter books—are all but unique to the twentieth century. This course will examine the twentieth-century British and Irish literature that provided the foundation for, and eventually is in conversation with, these more culturally visible phenomena, literature that depicts childhood, adolescence and the trials and tribulations of growing up. The literary genres and media we will engage necessarily vary, and it will be our goal to discern how these genres and media uniquely approach the topic of coming of age against the differing cultural backdrops of Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. The novelistic genre known as the Bildungsroman will determine one set of our readings, bookending the century with Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (1895) and Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies (2010), and, along the way, encountering, amongst others, James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1917). We will also look at poetry and drama, with texts such as Brian Friel’s play Dancing at Lughnasa as well as poetry from the likes of Seamus Heaney and Philip Larkin. To finish out the course, we will examine filmic representations of childhood and adolescence, focusing particularly on the British Realist films of the past thirty years – films like Kes, Ratcatcher and Fish Tank, which depict those children who are raised, or not raised, in harsh urban British landscapes (and which surely take as their literary precedent a novel like Jude). Texts: Jude the Obscure, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Country Girls, Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Butcher Boy, Reading in the Dark, Skippy Dies; Poetry from W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney, Thom Gunn, Eavan Boland, Paul Muldoon; Drama: Dancing at Lughnasa; and Films: Kes, Ratcatcher, Fish Tank.
True Confessions in American Literature: Fact, Fiction, and the American Quest for the “Real”
The American obsession with truth-telling—or at least its appearance—is as evident in its earliest literature, comprised largely of personal narratives about coming to the new world, as it is in reality TV today. “True stories” fascinate us: Mary Rowlandson knew this when she wrote her famously scintillating narrative of being captured by Indians in 1682, just as Gertrude Stein did when she wrote her first commercial success—a mock autobiography of her lover, Alice B. Toklas—in 1932, and Charles Reznikoff did when he distilled twenty-six volumes of survivor testimony from the Eichmann and Nuremburg trials into his book of transcribed poetry, Holocaust, published in 1975.
But if Americans are hungry for real stories, they are also ruthless about inaccuracy; James Frey's now infamous fictionalization of his so-called experience of addiction in his memoir A Million Little Pieces sparked a national frenzy of indignation in 2006, but it also brought into public discourse the sorts of questions that confront many American writers grappling with how to tell the truest stories and present the realest realities: how reliable is memory and perception?; where is the line between faithful representation and literary artifice?; where is personal confession illuminating and where is it self-indulgent?; when does documentary-style writing give a voice to the voiceless and when does it exploit them? We will examine a wide array of American literature engaged in the project of telling “true stories” against the backdrop of attempts in popular culture to do the same, and together we'll work to address the questions above, and to produce a definition for ourselves of the “American real.”
Texts covered will include excerpts of early American settler and slave narrative writing, Henry David Thoreau's Walden, Gertrude Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Charles Reznikoff's Holocaust, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Sylvia Plath's Ariel, Lyn Hejinian's My Life, Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, Nick Flynn's The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir, Moisés Kaufman's The Laramie Project, Claudia Rankine's Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, and Lauren Slater's Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir.
Irish Ghost Stories
"Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own free will! " So begins Bram Stoker's classic Dracula as well as our investigation of Irish ghosts, haunted houses, and the supernatural. Do you, rational reader, believe in ghosts? In things illogical, inexplicable, and mysterious? In this course we will consider the most spine-chilling Irish, English, and American novels, short-stories, films, and photographs, from Dracula (1897) to the contemporary. Trust no one as we wander from Henry James's uncanny Turn of the Screw to James's Joyce's short story "The Dead." We then travel to the West of Ireland, to dim rooms with turf fires, where folklorists and literary folklorists, such as W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, collected accounts of ghost-sightings and superstitions. What are these ghosts and why do they tend to live in old houses and rural retreats? How does the oral tradition of ghost stories compare to the more canonical written tradition? And what can ghosts tell us, if we dare to listen, about the places, politics, and cultures they inhabit? Before returning to Dublin we head to the American South and the Gothic fiction of Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner to investigate the idea of the ghost as a necessary evil. In Dublin we'll watch John Huston's film adaptation of "The Dead" as well as the classic Dracula-inspired, horror film, Nosferatu. We end by considering photographs focused on Ireland's contemporary ghosts: the never-finished ghost-estates and vacant houses, which were abandoned when the economic prosperity of the Celtic Tiger collapsed in 2007.
God & Evil in Modern Literature
01: MWF 11:45-12:35
02: MWF 12:50-1:40
A study of selected modern writers whose concern with God and evil, faith and despair, and the reality and significance of suffering animates their writings. In considering the relationships between the religious imagination and experience and its expression in literature, we will discuss the ways in which writers envision the nature and purpose of narrative and of language itself --as efficacious and even sacred or as ineffectual. Before dealing with particular modern writers, we will reflect on the presuppositions of the Bible and medieval thought and literature in relation to truth, faith, and narrative. Readings will be selected from the following: St Francis, Little Flowers; Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov; DeVries, The Blood of the Lamb; Melville, Billy Budd; Greene, The Power and the Glory or The End of the Affair; Flannery O'Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge or The Violent Bear It Away; Hammarskjold, Markings; Roth, Job; Hawthorne, Selected Tales; Wiesel, Night; and narratives by Primo Levi, Dinesen, and Updike.
Love Stories from Africa
In their recent fiction, many African writers show an increasing attentiveness to the dynamics of love, romance, and intimacy. In this course, we will study postcolonial and contemporary African fiction as we delve into politics of love. We will consider the following critical questions: What do these literary representations centered on love tell about us about gender, sexuality, identity, power, and desire in contemporary Africa? How have African writers (re)configured the romance genre? How might a love story from Africa circulate a response to coloniality, race, violence, poverty, xenophobia, and globalization? Why do African writers employ “the love story” as a means to discuss the subtle and radical changes faced by their communities, countries, and continent? Texts may include: Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes, Chimamanda Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck, Yvonne Vera’s Butterfly Burning, Nadine Gordimer’s The Pick-Up, Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love, Bessie Head’s Maru, Mariama Ba’s The Scarlet Song, Zukiswa Wanner’s Men of the South, and Monica.
Introduction to Literary Studies
01: Matthew Wilkens – MW 1:30-2:45
02: Romana Huk – TR 11:00-12:15
03: Kate Marshall – TR 12:30-1:45
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 II
This course follows the main tradition of British literature by studying major writers from the end of 17th century to the beginning of the 21st. We will read selected poems, fictions, and essays intensively and in light of social contexts, the history of ideas, and connections with other arts. Informal lectures will engage texts, contexts, and illustrative parallels in the visual arts; at least half of each class period will be devoted to discussion. Particular attention to the capacities that knowledge of a literary tradition can contribute to one's life-long reading, thinking, and writing. Requirements include frequent short response papers, class participation, midterm and final examinations.
Anerican Literary Traditions II
This course is premised on the contested concepts of "American" and "literature." It posits and departs from the idea that a certain cultural stances were generated in the American colonial period and the earlier nineteenth century prior to the Civil War, subject always to transnational influence. Among these are Puritanism, the "Other," nature, commerce, and the category of literature itself. Such positions continued to extert a powerful - if always conflicted and contested - hold on subsequent major writers in the United States after the Civil War into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will closely examine writers such as Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Henry James, Kate Chopin, T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, William Faulkner, Américo Paredes and James Baldwin on through J.D. Salinger, Sylvia Plath, Thomas Pynchon and Oscar Casares to see how they they practice their craft in response to and revision of this inherited American tradition.
Fiction Writing for English Majors
Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi
This is a course in writing short fiction for English majors who come to writing with a broader literary background than non-majors. It is conducted through a discussion format centered on fiction written by students in the class, and in the context of readings drawn from the contemporary, literary landscape. Students will be encouraged to explore how style and language create aesthetic experience and convey ideas. No one type of fiction is advocated over another, and the emphasis in the class will vary from section to section; however, students will be expected to write fiction that demonstrates an awareness of the difference between serious literature and formula entertainment.
Poetry Writing for Majors
This course invites students to learn about the practice of poetry writing with reference to both contemporary and traditional forms, media and genres. Though assignments and readings will vary from section to section, typically, students will build up the range and depth of their writing through impromptu exercises, homework poems, and the assembling of a final portfolio of revised, polished works. Students receive feedback on their poetry from class members as well as from the instructor and will be expected to give consistent, constructive feedback on peers' poems. Other topics under consideration might include translation, performance, hybrid genres or multimedia, depending on the section.
Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi
This is a course in writing short fiction. It is conducted through a discussion format centered on fiction written by students in the class. Readings drawn from the contemporary, literary landscape will be included. Students will be encouraged to explore how style and language create aesthetic experience and convey ideas. No one type of fiction is advocated over another, and the emphasis in the class will vary from section to section, depending on the instructor.
Literature and Ecology
The course will study representations of the ecological imagination, particularly in contemporary literature but with some attention to foundational authors such as Wordsworth, Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson. More recent authors of non-fiction, fiction, and poetry will include Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, Denise Levertov, T. C. Boyle, Margaret Atwood, E.O. Wilson, Pattiann Rogers, and Bill McKibben. Through these authors and some works of ecocriticism we will explore ecological awareness in various kinds of literary writing, including recent understandings of challenges to sustainability—diminishing resources, extinction of species, and climate change—as major themes in late 20th- and 21st-century literature. We will attend to the heightened importance of literary tone, narrative, metaphor, and beauty in expressing what it is to live “right now, at the beginning of the most crucial decades in the history of the human species on earth” (in the words of one ecocritic) and as new meanings of “human” and “nature” emerge around us.
Class, Desire, and the Novel
Literary plots involving social and erotic progress will be examined in works from the seventeenth century to the present. Topics include social ambition or decline, the marriage plot and its alternatives, the narrative role of family or social outsiders, sexuality and narrative form, the losses and costs of progress and ambition. Readings will include Austen, Persuasion, Balzac, Père Goriot, Dickens, Great Expectations, Maupassant, Bel Ami, Proust, The Guermantes Way Part I, Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Bassani, The Garden of the Finzi-Contini, Ernaux, A Woman’s Story, Kincaid, Annie John.
Autobiography and Subjectivity
This course brings together theories of subjectivity and the genre of autobiography to consider ways of representing the self. 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. We'll consider examples of traditional autobiography as well as examples drawn from the broad category of "life-writing," a term used to describe a variety of private and public statements about the self that range from diaries and letters to the representation of virtual selves in new media forms. A broad range of critical approaches to subjectivity as well as samplings from critical studies of autobiography as a genre will assist us as we attempt to map changing notions of the self. Texts may include autobiographical writings (poems, memoirs, autobiographies) by Rousseau, Wordsworth, Gertrude Stein, Harriet Jacobs, Samuel Delany; graphic memoirs by Art Spiegelman, Bechdel and others; self-portraiture by Frida Kahlo and others. Requirements include an oral presentation, two mid-length papers (10ish pages) and short written responses.
Essential Shakespeare is an intensive introduction to some of Shakespeare’s most enduring dramatic works. Throughout we will explore the implications of the course title: What constitutes the essence of Shakespeare? Can the essential Shakespeare be located in a particular set of plays? In specific dramatic or literary achievements? In peculiar habits of mind or patterns of thought? What set of characteristics are designated by the adjective Shakespearean? These broad questions will frame our reading of ten of Shakespeare’s most popular plays: Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Merchant of Venice, Richard II, 1 Henry IV, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Lear, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. Assignments will include two papers, a midterm, a final, and several smaller assignments designed to help students engage with Shakespeare’s language.
Imitation and Devotion, or, Are We Being Original Yet?
Susannah Monta/Katherine Zieman
This team-taught course will ask, What does it mean to write ‘original’ poetry in imitation of the Bible? To voice one’s own prayers by redeploying words and forms set down by another? To write one’s life narrative using scriptural narratives as the primary frame? To presume to write a prophetic allegory in imitation of Revelation? How did medieval and Reformation-era men and women legitimate their efforts to imitate, in writing and in practice, the highest forms of religious authority for their own religious and literary purposes? In the late middle ages and the early Reformation period, imitation of prior literary models, not originality, was the highest literary value. In devotional practices as well imitation of exemplary figures, most especially Christ himself, was critically important. This course will explore questions about authoritative literary and religious discourses, and about the relative values of imitation and originality, in the late medieval and early Reformation periods. Over the semester, we’ll raise questions about areas of continuity and change across the supposedly sharp historical line dividing pre- from post-Reformation culture. The authors we’ll read include Margery Kempe and Anne Askew (two of the earliest female religious writers in the English language); Richard Rolle and Thomas a Kempis (author of the vastly popular Imitatio Christi); Richard Maidstone, Thomas Brampton, Sir Thomas Wyatt, and Philip and Mary Sidney (poets who versified the Psalms); treatises arguing for (and sometimes against) biblical translation; and the visionary poetry of William Langland and Edmund Spenser. Assignments will include regular response papers, a research-based paper of ten to twelve pages in length, an oral presentation, and a final exam.
Allegory and Imagination: Theory and Practice in Some Medieval Poetic and Prose Texts
In this class we will read a selection of writings from the early Christian era through the late Middle Ages that make use of allegorical varieties of representation. Readings will include the prison diary of St. Perpetua, and 4 dreams she records there while awaiting execution by wild beasts; the Old French Quest of the Holy Grail, one of the greatest exemplars of medieval allegorical method (and the ancestor of Monty Python's provocative 20th c. re-write); four mythic fictions from Medieval Wales [The Mabinogion]; and the four great poetic narratives included in the unique manuscript (British Cotton Nero Ax) that include Pearl [a dream vision]; Purity [a homiletic verse narrative that traces themes and varieties of 'cleanness' throughout salvation history, from the fall of the angels to the poet's own contemporary era]; Patience [a short and imaginatively provocative re-telling of the story of Jonah & the Whale] and the courtly romance, Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, one of the best known and most loved imaginative texts from the medieval period. Through this highly varied set of texts--all of which make unique uses of the allegorical method of representation so favored by medieval poets and writers--we will try to understand the theoretical basis of the emerging practice of allegory, and ways in which that theory produces such a rich array of poetic and prose texts.
The Romantic-Era Novel
Long associated chiefly with the genre of poetry, the Romantic period in Britain saw a remarkable surge in the publication and popularity of novels. This course examines the development of the novel form in the Romantic period (ca. 1790-1820) and the emergence of new subgenres including the Gothic novel, the novel of manners, the historical novel, and the “novel of opinion.” Our readings are likely to include works by Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Mary Shelley, and Thomas Love Peacock, which we will consider in their literary and historical contexts, and from several major critical perspectives. Topics of discussion will include the novel’s exploration of individual (particularly female) psychological experience, its attitudes toward social and political convention, and its role in forging a regional or national sense of com
Gender and Modernism
A study of modern British fiction in terms of the various shifts in the meaning and "doing" of gender during the early 20th c with special attention paid to the ways in which ideas about the modern were themselves gendered. We'll look at the sex radicals of modernity and new discourses of gay sexuality circulating in the public sphere, New Women and New Women novels, suffragettes and militancy, efforts to rethink the meaning of (gendered) labor, the domestic sphere and marriage. Special attention will be given to women's experiences of modernity, especially in relation to those aspects of culture typically excluded from definitions of the modern (shopping, the consumption of middlebrow culture, fashion etc.). Novelists considered may include Lawrence, Lewis, Richardson, Delafield, Forster, Marsden's journal Freewoman, E.M. Hull's bestseller The Sheik, Robin's The Convert.
Culture and Politics in Northern Ireland
This course explores the politics of culture, and the cultures of politics, in the north of Ireland during the twentieth century. Using a multiplicity of genres - drama, fiction, poetry, film, painting, and documentary material - we will unravel the history behind partition, the causes of the Troubles, and the nature of the conflict. Among the key moments or events upon which we will concentrate are the Somme, the sinking of the Titanic, Bloody Sunday, the hunger strikes, Drumcree, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and the Shankill Butchers. Certain key themes will stretch through our semester's work. Among these are sectarianism, the relationship between violence and culture, the role of religion in the state, borders, hatred, identity, and issues of social and political justice. Some of the writers whose work we will read are Seamus Heaney, Frank McGuinness, Sam Thompson, John Montague, Seamus Deane, Eoin MacNamee, Robert MacLiam Wilson, Colin McCann, and Thomas Kinsella.
A Room of their Own: Modern British Women Writers
Modern British Women Writers
Through a selection of novels and essays, this course will explore mid-twentieth century British women writers’ attempts to create and define distinctly female forms of literary creativity. We will consider their work in relation to major literary and cultural phenomena including modernism and middlebrowism, and examine how their writing responds to war, politics (including women’s suffrage), and changing social norms and values (especially those pertaining to marriage, sexuality, and motherhood). Authors we will study include Virginia Woolf, Stella Gibbons, E.M. Delafield, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Rebecca West, Jean Rhys, and Dorothy Sayers.
In the decades leading up to the Civil War, religious certainty, economic stability, and political authority were everywhere in doubt, and sweeping change seemed not merely possible, but essential. As a result, Utopian dreams jostled against the brutal realities of slavery, injustice, and the emerging industrial revolution, conflicts played out in America's first great literature: "The American Renaissance" or "America Reborn." This was the time of abolitionism, women's rights, and Thoreau at Walden Pond; of Emerson's defiant "Self-Reliance," Hawthorne's twisted psychic dramas, Melville's breakthrough fictions, and Poe's grotesque fantasies; of the rise of women's fiction and mass literature; of Walt Whitman's expansive poetry of the body and Emily Dickinson's dense poetry of the mind. As we navigate this period, our questions will be: what connects these writers with their time? With each other? With us?
A study of Twain's life and writings in light of the history of ideas and the literary, political, philosophical, and religious currents of nineteenth-century American culture. We will also consider such figures as Harte, Stowe, Douglass, and Lincoln, who illuminate Twain's style and social and moral preoccupations. Special concerns: Twain's place in the tensions between conventional literary forms and the emerging American vernacular; his vision and critique of American democracy, slavery, "exceptionalism," and later geopolitical expansionism; his medievalism, including Joan of Arc, and larger interpretations of history; his treatment of women, individualism, and the family; and the later Gnosticism of No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger. We will also address the current (and perennial) discussions of unity and pluralism in American culture, as in Garry Wills's delineation of an underlying American identity in Under God, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s fear of "balkanization" in The Disuniting of America. Readings: selected shorter works, including Diary of Adam and Eve; Innocents Abroad; Life on the Mississippi; Tom Sawyer; Huckleberry Finn; A Connecticut Yankee; Pudd'nhead Wilson; No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger; and selections from the Autobiography. Students will be expected to write a series of brief, incisive papers and a longer critical paper.
A look at what makes a film American. The course will be structured by pairing films from the classic period with films from the more recent past, in order to highlight essential features, particularly genre characteristics, the work of directors, and the performance of "stars." Possible films: It Happened One Night, French Kiss, The Lady Eve, Double Indemnity, Body Heat, Basic Instinct, Zero Effect, Shane, Unforgiven, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Die Hard, The Godfather, Bound, Silence of the Lambs, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Don Juan de Marco, Moulin Rouge, Crash, The Hours, The Maltese Falcon and others.
Postwar U.S. Fiction
In-depth study of the literature and culture of the United States in the years after the Second World War. Particular emphasis on the collapse of modernist forms and the rise of postmodernism between 1945 and 1970. Related consideration of post-industrial economic production, domestic liberation movements, and Cold War politics. Authors may include Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, Gaddis, Plath, Beckett, Pynchon, Nabokov, Hansberry, O'Connor, Kerouac, and others. Theoretical readings as appropriate.
With the international success of films like “Oldboy” (South Korea, 2003), “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (Sweden, 2009), and “Once upon a Time in Anatolia” (Turkey, 2011), it is clear that film noir is still alive and kicking throughout the world. Why does an American B-movie genre from the 1940s resonate so strongly abroad today? Why do films about grizzled investigators, dirty cops, dark cities, and deadly women continue to speak to an international audience? How do different countries differently adapt the genre, and to what degree—if any—does its “American-ness” remain intact? We will begin the course by looking at seminal American films noirs from the 1940s. From there, we will expand our gaze outward into a broad sampling of international film noir. In addition to those films named above, these will likely include films from France, China, India, Japan, Algeria, and Mexico, among other possibilities. And since many international films noirs are based on written works from a thriving detective fiction industry, we may also read a small handful of novels and short stories by authors such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Haruki Murakami, and Jorge Luis Borges.
A multicultural study of the historical, cultural, and political circumstances behind what has come to be known as the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. The course will focus on the many different cultural voices that were a part of the movement, and examine their contributions to the cultural meaning of race at this time in literary history.
Advanced Fiction Writing
This course is intended for students who have already taken a Fiction Writing course (or the equivalent) and who are seriously interested in writing fiction, and graduate students who are not in the Creative Writing program. The expectation is that the student is beyond the point of requiring assignments to generate stories. Over the semester, in a workshop setting, student stories will be taken through various stages: due attention will be paid to revision, rewriting, polishing, editing, with a goal that the stories be brought as close as possible to the point of submission as finished work. Practical as well as theoretical issues will be investigated; there will be assigned readings from a variety of fiction authors.
Sem: Shakespeare's Religions
Though recent scholarship has once again taken up the question of Shakespeare’s religious identity, this course will focus not on the vexed issue of Shakespeare’s personal faith but on the various religious practices and discourses represented in the plays. Writing during a time of turbulent religious change, Shakespeare’s plays evince an almost anthropological interest the varieties of religious experience. Depictions of pagan rites, of the old religion, and of the new learning associated with the Reformation all find a place on Shakespeare’s stage. Arguably Shakespeare’s willingness to display a multiplicity of religious orientations both registers and contributes to a momentous shift in European culture: the splitting of the once unitary and singular notion of religion into a plurality of religions. Plays read will likely include Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, Lear, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and King Henry VIII. Students will be expected to produce a research paper of approximately 20 pp. A key part of this project will be original research using EEBO (an electronic database of early modern books) and other archival sources. In addition, everyone will be asked to give a short in-class presentation on their research topic.
Sem: 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 French Revolution, but to what extent was it also characterized by a “revolution” in poetry? This seminar considers the varied ways that poets revived and reinvigorated older traditions and forms – including narrative romance, epic, sonnet, ode, and song – to speak for or about contemporary culture and explore the individual mind as it responds to the world. Spanning a remarkably productive forty years (ca. 1790-1830), our readings will center on works by some the most famous poets of the age – including Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, and Byron – and some of their most innovative contemporaries. We will examine this poetry in its literary and historical contexts, and pay particular attention to the prose documents and letters in which the poets sought to explain their aims and ideals. We will also become familiar with a range of critical perspectives. The main element of assessment will be the step-by-step composition of a research paper of approximately 20 pages.
Sem: The Graphic Novel
Over the past two decades graphic novels have branched off from the American comics industry and gained critical recognition as thoughtful, highly coordinated works of visual and narrative art. Yet in crossing the typically separate domains of comics and literature, the graphic novel form has been notoriously difficult to categorize, much less evaluate as a hybrid textual artifact. This seminar will introduce students to the research and analysis of literature as sequential art, focusing in particular on six or seven widely acknowledged classics in the field. Extensive coursework in conventional textual analysis is required for enrollment, but the seminar presumes no prior knowledge of the study of visual culture in print form. Texts will include graphic novels by Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, and Alison Bechdel; independent comics made available through the library’s virtual database; and a fair amount of sequential art theory and criticism. Students should expect their work for the seminar to culminate in a 15-20pp. interdisciplinary research essay.
Translating Anglo-Saxon Poetry
The most famous Anglo-Saxon translator, King Alfred, recommended translating sometimes ‘word for word’ and sometimes ‘sense for sense’. But how would we apply his advice to poetry, where the relationship between the text’s words and the sense(s) it conveys is particularly vexed, fluid, open, or strained? Or where making ‘sense’ is not even the communicative goal of the text?
In this course, we will examine all aspects of the art and science of translating Old English verse. We’ll introduce ourselves to translation theory as it applies to poetry; we’ll delve into Old English verse aesthetics in an attempt to understand what makes these poems worth translating, what we can hold on to and what we have lost from the poetic idioms available to us; we’ll see how the Anglo-Saxons themselves translated poetry by looking at their renderings of Latin texts into the vernacular; we’ll look at the history of translating Old English in the modern era, and we’ll read and discuss many translations by professional Anglo-Saxonists and professional poets alike. Naturally, we will also translate lots of Old English poetry ourselves, but our goal will not be the production of sterile, philologically ‘correct’ glosses to the texts, but to see how we might recapture the force and beauty of the poetry in modern English, or to see what we might gain from transforming or deforming it in a spirit of creative and critical experimentation.
This course is open to all: students of modern poetry, practising poets and Anglo-Saxon specialists alike will have much to contribute to our discussions. Knowledge of the Old English language is not a prerequisite for this course—students will be able to pick up the essentials as we go along. Alongside full participation in classroom activities, this course will require students to submit two polished, annotated translations of their own and one research paper.
British Internationalisms in the Long 19th Century
While this seminar emphasizes British literary history, it does so with constant attention to the ways in which that national tradition is informed, energized and challenged by transnational and global factors, ranging from formal arrangements of colonialism and empire to more variegated factors such as commerce, world media, militarism, and technology. Students taking this course will have great leeway to research relevant topics in keeping with their own interests. Geographic contexts of much interest include India, Africa, the Arab world, the Caribbean, Australia, Canada and many more. As regards our theoretical goals, we should all come away with a strong sense of the interrelations between Marxism, liberalism, post-colonialism, and other socio-historical visions of change, progress and the public sphere.
Anticipated Primary Works:
Olaudah Equiano, Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789)
Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan], The Missionary: An Indian Tale (1811)
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1814)
Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857)
Assorted short travel writings by Anthony Trollope
George Eliot, Daniel Deronda (1876)
Rudyard Kipling, Kim (1901)
Representative Secondary Works:
Anderson, Perry. “Internationalism: A Breviary.” New Left Review 14 (March-April 2002): 5-25.
Boelhower, William. “The Rise of the New Atlantic Studies Matrix.” American Literary History 20.1-2 (Spring 2008): 80-100
Burton, Antoinette. “Who needs the nation? Interrogating ‘British’ History”. Cultures of Empire: A Reader. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2000. Ed. Catherine Hall. 137-157.
Drayton, Richard. “The Collaboration of Labour: Slaves, Empires, and Globalizations in the Atlantic World, c. 1600-1850.” In A. G. Hopkins, ed. Globalization in World History (London, 2002): 98-114.
Gikandi, Simon. “Race and Cosmopolitanism.” American Literary History 14.3 (2002): 593-615.
Gilroy, Paul. “The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity.” In The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1993. 1-40
Hall, Catherine, Keith McClelland and Jane Rendall. “Introduction.” Defining the Victorian Nation: Class, Race, Gender and the Reform Act of 1867. Ed. Catherine Hall et al. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 1-70.
Marcus, Sharon. “Same Difference: Transnationalism, Comparative Literature, and Victorian Studies.” Victorian Studies 45.4 (2003): 677-686.
Moretti, Franco. “Conjectures in World Literature.” New Left Review 1 (January-February 2000) 54-68.
Said, Edward. “Jane Austen and Empire.” In Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage, 1993. 80-97.
Sartori. Andrew. “The British Empire and its Liberal Mission.” Journal of Modern History 78.3 (September 2006): 623-642.
Stepan, Nancy Leys. “Race, Gender, Science and Citizenship.” Cultures of Empire: A Reader. Ed. Catherine Hall. 61-86.
John Milton is a paradoxical figure: a theological writer constantly at odds with religious establishments, a republican political theorist finally mistrustful of the people, an advocate of both patriarchalist and egalitarian understandings of gender, a celebrant of virginity who matured into one of the great singers of erotic love and sexuality. History has treated Milton paradoxically as well. A radical figure, pushed to the margins in his own time, he has come to be seen by many as the voice of establishment authority. In this course we will study the length and breadth of Milton's career, looking for keys to these paradoxes. Perhaps more than any other English author, Milton is present in his works; we will pay close attention his self-representations. We will test the possibility that the dissonances in the early self-representations bear fruit in the creative tensions of the mature poetry. We will pay attention to the high level of control Milton exerts over his texts and his readers, and at the same time we will explore what happens when that control slips. Above all, we will also work toward an appreciation of Milton's aesthetic achievements. We will read widely in Milton's poetry, with special emphasis on the 'Nativity Ode,' A Mask, “Lycidas,” Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes. We will study also several of his prose works (e.g., The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Areopagitica, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, and The Readie and Easie Way). While our focus will be on Milton's texts, we will explore some of the central debates of Milton criticism. Students will complete a series of assignments (bibliography, prospectus, etc.) leading up to completion of a substantial research essay.
Sympathy, Charity and the Victorians
Modernist rejections of Victorian literature convict it of a gooey sentimentalism, unbecoming to serious aesthetic endeavors. Foucaultian and Marxist analyses of Victorian literature suggest the era’s focus on charity was only an alibi for keeping the powerful in power. This course takes as its central preoccupation the sympathy and charity that have become Victorian literature’s most embarrassing traits. After reviewing theories of moral sentiments that Victorians inherited from the eighteenth century (Shaftesbury, Hume, Smith), we will examine romantic narratives of poverty (Wordsworth and More) and consider how they inform Victorian understandings of sympathy in works by Charlotte Yonge, Elizabeth Gaskell, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Our explorations will be thematic, as we examine representations of sympathy and charity meant to refer to action in the wider world, but they will also be formal, as we consider the lyric voice and the novel’s habit of free indirect discourse as in themselves new forms of sympathetic encounter.
Modern Irish Drama on the World Stage
When W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, and Edward Martyn decided to launch their first effort at an Irish theater in 1897, they were responding not only to a reawakening of Irish national feeling, but to the phenomenon of radical and often national "free theaters" springing up all over Europe during the preceding decades. In this course, we will consider the Irish dramatic revival in both its national and international contexts. While investigating the relationship between the major Irish revival dramatists and the Irish cultural and national politics that so often shaped their plays' reception in Ireland, we will look at how Irish playwrights responded and contributed to international developments in twentieth- and twenty-first century theater. We will also consider, through our study of recent scholarship investigating the possibilities and pitfalls of "global" criticism, whether or how transformative events in international politics should be considered part of the story of twentieth century Irish drama. In addition to major dramatic works by W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge, Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, Lennox Robinson, Douglas Hyde, Sean O'Casey, George Bernard Shaw, Denis Johnston, and Samuel Beckett, we will also read the work of playwrights that influenced or were influenced by modern Irish dramatists, possibly including but not necessarily limited to Maurice Maeterlinck, Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Henrik Ibsen, Federico Garcia Lorca, Bertolt Brecht, Lorraine Hansberry, Eugene O'Neill, Rabindranath Tagore, Zeami (as filtered by Ezra Pound), and Derek Walcott. (All non-Anglophone texts will be assigned in English translation.) The theoretical questions about gender, sexuality, and the body that are always raised by theatrical performance will be foregrounded in our discussions of all this material.
A close study of James Joyce's masterpiece.
Modern American Poetry & Media
Stephen Fredman/Kate Marshall
If we live in the Age of Media, then what difference has this made to poetry? How do media signify in modern American poetry? Modern poetry begins in the nineteenth century with the recognition by poets like Mallarmé that language has to be considered a “medium” of poetry and investigated as such. What is the relationship of subsequent American poetry to media such as print technologies, the poster, the manifesto, the book, radio, cinema, the typewriter, audiotape, video, the poetry reading, performance art, the computer, hypermedia? To what extent do media function like genres in modern poetry? Does the collage form of prominent modern poems represent the interpenetration of several media? What can the study of modern American poetics offer to media theory?
In this course we will read a wide variety of poetry and poetics and explore a range of key texts in media theory. The poets we might consider include: Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Laurie Anderson, and Susan Howe. In addition to contemporary literary criticism, we will survey central thinkers in media studies, including Friedrich Kittler, Joseph Vogl, Matthew Fuller, N. Katherine Hayles, Adalaide Morris, and others.
Materiality and the Black Text
This graduate seminar aims to cultivate a broad understanding of the African American literary tradition while mapping out new directions in the study of texts as nodal points in what Robert Darnton once termed the “communications circuit” of modern print culture. By attending to the publishing, distribution, and reception contexts of key black-authored works, we will seek to displace a transhistorical conception of racial textuality in favor of one that is grounded in material practices such as composition and patronage, editing and design, bookselling and marketing. During the semester, the umbrella term “materiality” will index our negotiation of methodologies drawn from bibliography, textual criticism, book history, literary history, and cultural studies. Primary sources may include work by David Walker, James Weldon Johnson, Toni Morrison, and the Broadside poets. Theory and criticism may be drawn from McKenzie, Bourdieu, and Radway, as well as Goldsby, Edwards, and Warren.
Caribbean Literature: Conquest to Post-Modernity
English 9XXXX is a graduate-level introduction to Caribbean literature (Anglophone, Hispanophone, and Francophone) and to seminal texts in post-colonial theory. (All texts will be in the original English or in English translation.) One important question that will be asked throughout the semester is whether these texts construct a single and unified Caribbean identity, despite the region's obvious linguistic, cultural, and racial heterogeneity. Assignments will include weekly response papers, class presentations, and a final project of substantial scope, which can either be scholarly, creative, or a combination of both.
ENGL 90904 / Cross list LIT 73902
Philology and Weltliterature
The Literature Programs course on Literary Theory deals with theories of different time and places with emphasis on the critical problems that arise when what we call "Literature" is investigated in a multicultural context. Issues that may be expected to arise include the following the problems of translation, the meaning of metaphor, hermeneutics complexity, the meaning of the word "style" the relation between oral and written literatures. Eric Auerbach's essay "Philology and Weltliteratur", from which this course derives its title, serves as a point of departure for exploring the possibility of developing an approach to literary history and literary interpretation that: (a) attends to the historical, cultural and aesthetic specificity of the individual literary work and (b) at the same time, brings into relief the complex ways in which cultures interact, overlap, and modify one another. The course will focus primarily on the pertinent works of Vico, Herder, and the German Romantics, Auerbach (and other historicists), Arnold, C. L. R. James, Raymond Williams, and Edward W. Said, as well as selections from the writings of Fanon, Ngugi, Lamming, Cesaire, and others.