Graduate Fiction Workshop
A fiction workshop for graduate students in the MFA in Creative Writing program, with an emphais on students developing their own aesthetic and personal vision, juxtaposed to and within the larger movement of the contemporary literary world.
Graduate Poetry Workshop
This seminar, which uses the traditional workshop method, is restricted to graduate students in the MFA program. The principal aim of the course is for students to generate work of publishable quality by the end of the semester, and for students in the second year of the program to begin completing the MFA thesis. Permission required; MFA students only.
Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England
An introduction to the literature and culture of Anglo-Saxon England, with readings taken from Old English and Anglo-Latin poetry, saints’ lives and homilies, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, charters and biblical commentaries, legal and scientific texts, charms and joca monachorum dialogues, and the Alfredian translations of the late ninth century. We will make an effort to proceed chronologically in order to sketch out a literary history of the period, negotiating the perils that beset such an enterprise at every turn. Students with experience reading Old English and Latin will be encouraged to read as much as they can in the original languages, but all readings will be made available in modern English translation as well for the benefit of students with no prior knowledge of these languages. In addition to regular reading and contributions to class discussion, requirements include a series of weekly response papers, an oral presentation to the seminar, a short bibliographical essay, and a research paper.
An introduction to non-Shakespearean drama, this course will cover approximately 14 plays by Beaumont and Fletcher, Chapman, Dekker, Ford, Heywood, Jonson, Kyd, Marlowe, Middleton, and Webster. We will focus on the emergence of London’s professional theater as well as the development of a market for printed plays. Along with standard reference works and resources, we will make use of new electronic databases, such as DEEP (Database of Early English Playbooks) and EEBO (Early English Books Online). In addition, we will visit Special Collections to examine some printed plays, including Jonson’s Workes (1616). Students will be asked to make multiple in-class presentations, prepare an annotated bibliography, and write a research paper of 20-25 pp. Spanish Tragedy, Shoemaker’s Holiday, The Changeling , Chaste Maid in Cheapside, White Devil, Volpone, Duchess of Malfi, Bussy D’Ambois, Woman Killed with Kindness, Arden of Faversham, Westward Ho!, The Honest Whore, Faustus, Tamburlaine, Knight of the Burning Pestle.
The Rise of English Literature: Medieval Book Production and Reading Practices (Theirs and Ours)
The Ricardian ‘Golden Age’ gave birth to what Chaucer’s literary executors and disciples suddenly recognized as a national literature, largely the result of the immigration of a young, under-employed clerical “proletariat” who found jobs in the burgeoning Westminster civil service. This included alliterative poets of the West, Continentally influenced writers of the South and East, and less noticed contributors from the out-posted colonial civil service in Dublin. Recent discoveries in Manuscript Studies, alongside newer theories of medieval reading practices (which include performative, meditational, allegorical, mnemonic, and cognitive methods, to name but a few) have changed how we approach this 'Rise of English'. Scholars are now tracing its roots ever earlier, even back to the Anglo-Saxon period. The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in English (Oxford, 2010), which will be one of our guides in this course, offers the first scholarly attempt to harness major critical approaches of the 21st century by integrating these book production and reading discoveries into mainstream criticism. It also departs from 20th-century criticism by integrating both Old and Middle English literature into each of its essays, emphasizing continuities between the eras rather than rupture. This course will cover book production, reading communities, courtly, clerical and bureaucratic elites, medieval subjectivities and emergent Englishness, diversities in the 'national literature', and the rising importance of travel writing, myth and legend. Authors to be covered, in whole or in part, may include: Bede (Ecclesiastical History, especially St. Hilda and St. Aethelthryth), Christina of Markyate, Gerald of Wales (Topographia Hibernica, and its later 15th c. Dublin translation), La3amon's Brut, Ancrene Wisse, Susannah, the A-Text of Piers Plowman, Mandeville's Travels, Chaucer (House of Fame, Parliament of Foules, and Fragment I of the Canterbury Tales), Hoccleve (Complaint and Dialogue), Malory (Morte Darthur, Books 7 and 8). The course will work backwards chronologically to accommodate those newer to Middle English reading who want to join us. Students presenting papers at the Manuscript Studies and Reading Practices Conference in Honour of Derek Pearsall at the ND London Facility can use those as the basis for their term papers and seminar reports, with a goal to preparing them for publication.
British Romanticism and the Sciences of Life
“Then, what is Life?” Percy Shelley’s unfinished poem The Triumph of Life (1822) concludes with a question that resonates throughout the Romantic period, carrying rich philosophical, aesthetic, and political overtones. This course will examine the productive intersection of literature and life science in the Romantic period, or what Wordsworth described as the “ennobling interchange / Of action” between mind and nature (Prelude XII.376-77). Our particular areas of interest will include debates about the origins, characteristics, and meaning of life or “animal vitality”; theories of race and generation; theories of the mind, particularly as they pertained to the use and comprehension of language; and, more generally, the persistent tension between mechanistic and organicist modes of thought as they applied to literature, the imagination, and society. A central objective of the course will be a re-evaluation of the idea – chiefly derived from Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria – that Romanticism was fundamentally a reaction against Enlightenment empiricism and materialism. To help demonstrate the permeability of disciplines in the period (at least, in the early Romantic period), we will read “literary” writers alongside their contemporaries in natural philosophy, as the domain of what we now call “science” was known. These will include Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hartley, Darwin, Priestley, Thelwall, Blake, Blumenbach, Mary and Percy Shelley, Davy, and Keats. Our readings and discussions will also take stock of the recent surge of critical interest in Romantic literature and life science. The main element of assessment will be the stage-by-stage composition of an article-length paper, ideally suitable for eventual publication.
Enlightenment Forms and Frictions
Whether considered as period or movement, that strange multiplex entity that we call “the Enlightenment” created or transmuted numerous forms of writing. Authors created the matrix for new modes of thinking regarding history, “human nature,” self, psyche, nation-state, and the future.
Works of the Enlightenment are noticeably concerned with change, and with hopes and fears regarding alteration. They are speculative. ( “What if…?”) The dominant manner of writing tends to be personality- oriented, demonstrative, chatty, theatrical, self-dramatizing—as can be seen in works as various as Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution , Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Casanova’s Escape from the Leads. Discourses of philosophy or history are emphatically voiced, employing mimicry of personal speech. Biography and memoir are reinvented as vehicles for speculative voices. Tropes of exaggeration abound. Social, economic and sexual “realities” are transformed. On inspecting the forms and formulations of an era often advertised (as it were) as specializing in a beige universe of calm reason and common sense, we may be surprised by productions so highly colored, anti-linear, transporting and disconcerting. (We shall consider en route some examples of graphic art, and of new musical and dramatic forms, including the opera.) Temporal and spatial perspectives constantly alter. The invention of the “Gothic” is only one of the period’s many engagements with vivid and disconcerting material.
Enlightenment literary forms prefer friction and contradiction. A work may announce its contradictions from the outset, as in the title Ceci n’es pas un conte (“This is not a story”). Like a snowball, a work can gather dissent, alternatives and revisions as it proceeds. We will look at a variety of new forms freshly drafted for a new age: the “blog” in the Tatler and Spectator; the political or literary manifesto; the “Fairy Tale” and Oriental tale; the epistolary novel; “Science Fiction” and freshly invented “Others” like the Sylph and the Vampire. Investigation of “Human Nature” provides new possibilities of form and mode in works as varied as Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Mandeville’sThe Fable of the Bees. Memoir and biography offer fresh modes of investigation of the contradictions within both observer and object, including the self. Commonly, works engage in internal self-parody, turning against an anticipated linear meaning. The possibility of self-contradiction, of ironic reversal (or multiple reversals), appears central. This applies to Locke’s great Essay as much as to Diderot’s Le Neveu de Rameau (Rameau’s Nephew), Richardson’s Clarissa , Sterne’s Tristram Shandy or Lewis’sThe Monk. What kind of reading is demanded of us—and what exactly is the effect? With the help of theory (old and new) we can consider what we have derived, both individually and in our own culture’s practices, from such colorful and contradictory (even perverse) creations.
“To read any of my work you must read all of it”. That might seem an arrogant claim, but there is a sense in which Joyce’s writings from first to last form part of a lifelong project. That project grew in scope and ambition, as Joyce in successive works pulverized the traditional forms of literature. In extending the range of language, he also came up against its limits. From the sumptuous minimalism of his early stories of colonial Ireland in Dubliners, through the coming-of-age narratives in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Exiles, to the dazzling experiments with word and image in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Joyce was adamant that “the style is the subject”. While critics scoffed that his texts developed only at the instigation of language, he tried to shape sentences which would register the pressure of felt experience---and to claim new zones of consciousness for art. This course will locate Joyce against his backgrounds in revival Ireland and modernist Europe, attempting also to establish the distinctive nature of his artistic vision. Texts for discussion: Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, Exiles, Finnegans Wake
The American Novel and the Speculative Turn
The focus of this course will be the constellation of questions that have emerged under the theoretical umbrella of “the speculative turn” in the humanities. We will examine examples of such thought including speculative realism, object-oriented ontologies, and dark ecology from the point of view of narrative fiction, and ask what key texts from the American literary tradition might contribute to such debates.
At the heart of our literary study will be the recent international literary movement of “New Weird Fiction” and its correspondences with the cultural productions of what Greil Marcus has referred to in another context as “Old, Weird America.” The range of fictions, therefore, will travel from Melville to Miéville by way of H. P. Lovecraft.
Weekly readings from the speculative realist tradition, American and international fiction, and narrative theory.
Cultural Studies: On Birmingham and Brownsville
In two sections this graduate seminar will track the movement, from “literary into cultural studies,” in Antony Easthope’s words. While we will review the high canonical points of departure exemplified by Matthew Arnold, T.S. Eliot, and F.R. Leavis, the first and major section will be devoted largely to the decisive Marxist interventions of Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart, the formation of the Birmingham School, the subsequent permutations offered by theorists such as Stuart Hall, and the Americanization of cultural studies with figures such as Janice Radway. But, as a significant part of the American turn, the second section will examine the semi-autonomous development of a Latino/Latina cultural studies beginning in 1958 with Américo Paredes from Brownsville, Texas and subsequent figures such as Renato Rosaldo, José Saldívar, Juan Flores, Frances Aparicio and myself.