Graduate Fiction Workshop
The major work of the semester will be the analysis, appreciation, and critique of our own fiction and nonfiction manuscripts in light of contemporary literary concerns. Because we work in two major genres (as well as hybrid and in-between forms), we’ll certainly examine the aesthetic and even ethical implications of labeling work ‘fiction’ or 'nonfiction' and of being published in online, printed, and yet-to-be-imagined venues. (Has anybody installed a Gibsonesque chip in the forehead yet?) We’ll be particularly interested in the innovations that cross-pollination might encourage. All semester long, we’ll commiserate over the state of contemporary mainstream publishing, but we’ll also celebrate and encourage against-the-odds, online, and alternative success.
Graduate Poetry Workshop
This course is for candidates of the MFA program in poetry. The course places its main emphasis on student writing and will be run as a week-to-week workshop of student work. The objective of the course is to provide students with meaningful feedback on their work, as well as to build students’ facility in the critical, constructive discussion of peer and published work. All other course activities, including readings, will vary from section to section.
ENGL 90055 / LIT 73024 – Crosslist
Searching Scripture: Literature in a Biblical Light
The Scriptures seek us out, demanding the utmost concentration of intelligence, imagination and emotion. Literature is a way of summoning language to deal with the most profound and exciting questions that we are likely to encounter. This course examines the manifold and often contrasting ways in which literary texts have responded to the demands and stimuli of Scripture.
Biblical texts to be considered include, particularly, Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, The Book of Wisdom, The Song of Songs, the Magnificat as found in the Gospel of St Luke, and the Book of Revelation. Literary texts for discussion will be drawn from the English and [in translation] the Italian traditions. These will include Dante’s Commedia, as well as works by Chaucer, Tasso, Shakespeare, Milton, Manzoni, Hopkins and T. S Eliot.
Practicum: Teaching Creative Writing
For students in the MFA program: a series of seminar meetings on the teaching of creative writing. Discussion will include theoretical approaches and practical teaching situations from introductory to graduate level. The class will also take up the process of the job search, both inside and outside the academy, from applying to interviewing to accepting an offer. Students will have their submission letters, vitas, and job application letters reviewed, and will be given the chance to share in the work, writing, and teaching experiences of visiting authors. Class times will be arranged after enrollment, in order to avoid scheduling conflicts.
MFA Literature Seminar
Azareen Vander Vliet Oloomi
INTROSPECTION AND VOYAGE: EXAMINING NARRATIVE ACROSS TIME
In an interview titled Crossing the Borders, Julia Kristeva states: “To be able to think, you cannot stay confined to one place, because then you do not think, you only repeat what is being said around you. To think...thought is a question. To be able to ask, you must have a distance, be both on the inside and on the outside of things.” In this course we will read voyage literature and travel chronicles alongside mystical and poetic texts in order to examine the introspective and exploratory aspects of of thinking and narrative. We will read a wide variety of authors (ranging from medieval to contemporary) in order to examine how writers across time and space have grappled with the unknown and with self-knowledge, and, ultimately, with what it means to be human. Texts include, but are not limited to: St. Augustine’s Confessions, Petrarch’s Ascent of Mont Ventoux, The Travels of Ibn Battuta, Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man and The Truce, John Hawkes’ Death, Sleep & the Traveler, Anna Kavan’s Ice, Lynne Tillman’s Motion Sickness, and Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s Running Away and, its sequel, The Truth About Marie. This course is reading and writing intensive. Students will have the choice to complete a novella, a series of short stories, a collection of poems, or to submit a cohesive body of lyric essays that engage with course themes in rigorous and innovative ways as their final project.
Medieval Codicology, Literary Culture, Social Contexts: Reading MS Harley 2253
The Harley manuscript (London, British Library MS Harley 2253) is a book crucial to our understanding of Middle English literature as it was produced and circulated, read and used, in a nonmetropolitan region of England. Its rare contents bring into view a vibrant social and literary scene that existed in the West Midlands not far from the Welsh border. Without this book’s survival, we would not suspect that literary activity existed in such a concentrated way before the age of Chaucer, which came some forty years later. No other book preserves so rich a snapshot of what was clearly a vital world of poets, minstrel entertainers, preachers, and patrons. Because the scribe collected poems that were otherwise ephemeral, we can here recapture a world of trilingual social interaction, of performances in hall, of a taste for comedy mixed with edifying moralisms, of social pretensions mixed with low bawdy, of linguistic register matched to content. The Harley manuscript contains tantalizing love lyrics, poetry of fierce politics, verse of devout religion. It also has saints’ tales and outrageously funny fabliaux, satires and comedies of complaint, debates and interludes, proverbs and guides on etiquette, as well as outlaw tales, Bible stories, a dream handbook, and guides for travelers to the Holy Land. Bursting with texts in three languages, the book’s overall range is astounding. The scribal maker of this manuscript was a curious and acquisitive person, a connoisseur of popular literature and learning. Because the Harley manuscript has only just been made available in its entirety – its Latin and Anglo-Norman texts edited and translated for the first time, its more obscure English texts also made accessible—this course will offer students many opportunities for pursuing new research and generating innovative ideas. Methodological possibilities include classic literary analysis, studies of gender and class status, explorations of social history, investigations of genre (poetry, romance, fabliaux, comedy), and crosslingual practice. As we read the divergent texts of Harley 2253 straight through, we will continuously examine the scribe and his practices, while also considering authors and audiences. To understand medieval contexts, we will simultaneously delve into areas pertinent to Harley studies: (1) the Middle English lyric (all kinds: religious, secular, political); (2) matter-of-Britain romance, with local notions of nation, politics, and history; (3) saints’ lives, pilgrimage texts, and views of the Jewish or Muslim Other; (4) fabliaux, both in French and English, and debates on the “nature” of women; (5) courtesy texts, proverbs, and practical lore; (6) comparable contemporary miscellanies of note (for example, Digby 86, Auchinleck, Laud misc. 108, the later Vernon); (7) the literary landscape of pre-1350 trilingual England, particularly in the West Midlands; and (8) issues of palaeography and codicology, along with the current critical boom in scribal studies.
Writing the Conversion of Northern Europe
The conversion of the Germanic and Celtic lands to Christianity was perhaps the greatest revolution in European history. It precipitated or hastened the spread of literacy, the development of the nation state, and the extinction or effacement of many indigenous cultural traditions. In this class, we will consider what it might have been like to be involved in this epochal shift. Whereas many historical studies of conversion concentrate on the causes and processes by which change took place, we will center our investigation on its effects and affects. How did individuals experience conversion and how did they or others relive or evoke these experiences in written narratives?
We will read widely across the medieval literatures of Germany, the British Isles, the Frankish lands and Scandinavia. All primary texts will be read in translation. We will test various modern theoretical models as potential keys to unlocking the lived—and narrated—experience of conversion.
This class is open to all interested graduate students.
Introduction to Middle English Manuscript Studies
This course will examine the culture of the book in late medieval English, including the authors who made it a national literary language, the scribes who transmitted and transformed their works, and the wide range of readers they reached. Among the writers whose literary manuscripts we will explore are Julian of Norwich, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland, the Gawain Poet, Thomas Hoccleve, Margery Kempe and James I of Scotland. The course will end with an opportunity to look at early Tudor secretary hands, and some early seventeenth-century materials, including John Donne's poetry. Among the topics to be discussed: literacy, book illustration, marginalia, social conditions of authorship, colonial book production (in Ireland and Scotland), women scribes and readers, nuns’ libraries, patronage, household books, clandestine literature, and attempts at official censorship. Students will also learn the basics of editorial practice, and look at issues ranging from script to print to the digital revolution that is now democratizing medieval studies by making thousands of medieval manuscripts available on the web.
Note: this course is open to those with no experience in Manuscript Studies, as well as more advanced students (assignments are adaptable to individual levels of experience).
Shakespeare: Editing and Performance
You pick up a copy of Shakespeare - but what is the object you are holding? This course will explore the history, theory and practice of editing Shakespeare as an example of the complex issues in editing literary/dramatic texts. From the work of early modern printers, through the tradition of 18th century editions (Rowe to Malone), towards current, 21st-century editorial practice and the future of online/print editions, we will investigate how practice has shaped theory and vice versa. In particular, we will be concerned with the problematics of the representation of performance (early, recent, possible) in text/paratext/commentary. Work required will include editing segments of Shakespeare plays (generating text, collation, commentary), attending performance(s) as well as experimenting with possible new ways in which a Shakespeare edition might be conceived and, of course, writing a substantial research paper.
Swift and Pope
John Sitter and Chris Fox
A team-taught inquiry into the major works of two of the greatest writers of the eighteenth century and in the English language. Emphases will range from historical and philosophical contexts to close reading and some attention to theories of satire and irony.
Seminar members will become collaborators through shared short papers and reports and through discussion of drafts of the final article-length paper.
The Habits of Modern Life: Gender, Mobility and the Everyday
Barbara Green and Elizabeth Evans
This team-taught graduate course, cross-listed with Gender Studies, is intended to introduce students to the contours of two conversations currently animating gender studies approaches to modernism/modernity: discussions of the everyday and of modern mobility. Interdisciplinary approaches to everyday life in modernity draw our attention to the habits, routines, and patterns of ordinary life, to the non-events of modernity and the organizing practices that governed behavior and sensibilities. Discussions of mobility, especially when combined with gender analysis, focus our attention on the new freedoms for women offered by modernity—the movement of women “out of the cage” as one classic history of the period puts it. When brought together, these two approaches highlight the ways in which the interwar period in Britain has been read as both a period of enhanced freedoms for women and a period of great retrenchment. Additionally, the combination of these two discussions allows us to begin parsing the relationship between the “event” and the “non-event” as well as the transformation of one into the other—the radical “shock” of the street becomes the “blasé” attitude of the city dweller, the emergence of the airplane as a mode of transport accompanies an “airmindedness” that governs modern sensibilities. We will read texts by Benjamin, Simmel, de Certeau, Highmore, Lefebvre, Woolf, Rhys, West, and others, as well as explore women’s magazines and feminist papers of the interwar period. Students will develop an article-length essay, a brief book review, and will guide a class discussion.
The British Social Novel in the Nineteenth Century
Nineteenth-Century Britain is squarely at the center of a centuries-long historical transition often called simply "modernity"--a transition, that is, from a traditional (feudal and agrarian) social order to a social order marked by the rise of democratic politics and industrial, urban society. This course focuses on 19th-century novels that aimed to represent this transformation at the social level--novels that aimed to paint a large picture of British society. Therefore, although readers often appreciate novels for their detailed focus on individual lives, we will keep alert to how novels represent the complex social conditions within which such lives must be lived. Our thematic focus will allow us explore some of the largest controversies in scholarship of recent years. We will see how scholars have staked out several different, even antithetical ways of understanding how literary works reflect and inform social life in this period. Foucauldianism and New Historicism, for example, derived importantly from Marxism and emphasized how literary works serve the ideological agenda of liberal modernity and capitalism. In that view, the novel genre tends to celebrate individualism and to cultivate reformist rather than revolutionary thinking. But another set of scholarly arguments, deriving from several different political theories, has challenged the Marxian criticisms by seeking to develop more nuanced and sometimes redemptive interpretations of liberal culture and political modernity. This course will put students in a position to engage our primary texts and current scholarly debates in a strong, informed fashion. The central goal is the creation of an article-length term paper with strong prospects of eventual publication.
Walter Scott, Waverley
Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil
Charlotte Brontë, Shirley
Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
George Eliot, Middlemarch
George Gissing, New Grub Street
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 investigation of 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, 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, Eugene O'Neill, Ernst Toller, 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.
In his 1962 book, The Gutenberg Galaxy, media theorist Marshall McLuhan claims that the advent of the printing press led ultimately to the “visual homogenizing of experience.” It is the printed word, he argues, that is ground zero for our image-saturated culture. In this course, we will examine the close relationship between modern visual technologies and literary modernity, and we will pay particular attention to the ways in which visual epistemology is embedded within notions of ideology and ideology critique. While McLuhan’s claim is suggestive, we will take a slightly less ostentatious approach and begin our investigation in the early nineteenth century when, according to Walter Benjamin, lithography fundamentally transformed our relationship to the visual arts and to visual experience. We will work our way through key visual technologies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—including photography, film, and television—with a keen eye to their literary analogues. Likely points of interest along the way include the work of William Blake, Karl Marx, Frederick Douglass, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin, Gertrude Stein, the Frankfurt School, Ralph Ellison, Guy Debord, and W.G. Sebald.
Knowledge, Belief, and Science in Melville's America
Hawthorne said of Melville that he could neither believe nor be comfortable in his unbelief—a phrase that puts Melville at the center of the bitter struggle waged by 19th-century American intellectuals as religious skepticism, commercial gain, and scientific knowledge tore apart the grounds for religious belief, even as politics tore apart the young nation. This course will view 19th-century American literature through a transatlantic, transdisciplinary lens, reading it as an inquiry into the conditions for scientific knowledge, religious belief, and democratic community. Although the works of Melville will anchor this course, we will consider a wide range of his friends and contemporaries as well, mostly American, though with a nod to Great Britain and Europe: Cooper, Emerson, Hawthorne, Stowe, Thoreau, and Douglass, with shorter readings from such as Humboldt, Darwin, Carlyle, Tennyson, and Henry Adams, plus selected readings in critical theory and science studies. The global shift in thought we will trace has been named “modernism,” but, as we are now understanding with frightening clarity, it continues to destabilize all certainties, including any firm conclusions about what “modernity” might be or whether it ever existed. As Emerson asks in “Experience,” what is this stairway, this series, on which we awake to find ourselves, with no traces of a beginning, no sign of an end?
Practicum: Prep for Profession
A workshop on professional publication, conference activity, and job search procedures.
Practicum: Intro to the Profession for PhD students
Familiarizes PhD students with the forms through which professors of English communicate their research. Covers basic issues related to the study of literature in U.S. universities and colleges.
Practicum: Intro to the Profession for MA students
Familiarizes MA students with the forms through which professors of English communicate their research. Covers basic issues related to the study of literature in U.S. universities