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- Spring 2014
DEVOTIONAL LYRIC: WYATT TO WATTS
In the wake of the Reformation-era’s massive upheavals came the greatest flowering of devotional poetry in the English language. This body of literature offers its readers the opportunity to explore questions pertaining broadly to the study of lyric and to the study of the relationships between religion and literature. Early modern devotional poetry oscillates between eros and agape, private and communal modes of expression, shame and pride, doubt and faith, evanescence and transcendence, mutability and permanence, success and failure, and agency and helpless passivity. It experiments with gender, language, form, meter, voice, song, and address. We’ll follow devotional poets through their many oscillations and turns by combining careful close reading of the poetry with the study of relevant historical, aesthetic, and theological contexts. You’ll learn to read lyric poetry skillfully and sensitively, to think carefully about relationships between lyric and religion, and to write incisively and persuasively about lyric. Authors we'll read may include Thomas Brampton, Richard Maidstone, Francesco Petrarca (in translation), Sir Thomas Wyatt, Anne Locke, Mary Sidney, Sir Philip Sidney, St. Robert Southwell, S.J., Henry Constable, Fulke Greville, Edmund Spenser, John Donne, George Herbert, Robert Herrick, Henry Vaughan, Richard Crashaw, John Milton, and the great hymn writer Isaac Watts.
*This is a special course whose enrollment is capped at 3 students
NARRATIVE, NARRATOLOGY, NOVELS
What are stories for, where do they come from, how are they put together? Using stories and novels drawn from a variety of literary traditions, this course examines theories, principles, and ideas of narrative form. Crosslist LIT 73895
GRADUATE FICTION WORKSHOP
Limited to students in the Creative Writing M.F.A. Program, the workshop's major emphasis is on analysis, criticism, and discussion of participants' fiction, nonfiction, and hybrid manuscripts. Assigned readings in contemporary prose further the discussion of literary movements, critical schools, and publishing realities, as well as the aesthetic and philosophical implications of genre, style, and subject.
Graduate Poetry Workshop
This course is for candidates in 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.
Graduate Translation Workshop
Perhaps the most famous definition of poetry in American literature is Robert Frost’s quip that poetry is that which is “lost in translation.” Translation, it appears, is both central and marginal in the way we think about literature in this country. Through translation seemingly stable texts and notions of authorship become volatile. That is in large part why translation has at times been a source of anxiety in American literature, and at times a source of inspiration. In this class we will explore this volatile zone of translation by translating literary texts (prose, poetry, drama etc), reading theoretical texts, and by bringing our experiences as writers and readers, artists and scholars to the topic. Although it would be helpful, fluency in a foreign language is not required. Translation Studies is in the middle of an exciting moment – conventional ways of viewing translation are being questioned and US literature is becoming increasingly interested in foreign literatures - and this class will participate in this moment.
Marxism and Culture II
Last semester, we examined various meanings of the term culture, as well as a number of reasons for its centrality in modern thought. This semester, we shall look more directly at Marxist and other materialist conceptions of the origin, value and function of culture, with some attention to Marxist approaches to literary criticism. Readings: as before.
A graduate-level survey of issues and methods in digital humanities. The majority of the semester will be devoted to quantitative analysis in literary and cultural studies, reading foundational texts alongside recent research results from the journals. The course will also introduce students to practical tools and techniques for computational analysis and to allied topics in media studies and theory of technology as time allows. Final projects related to students' own research interests strongly encouraged. No technical expertise is assumed, but students will develop basic skills in programming and quantitative analysis.
Lyric Poetry in Theory
This course (which satisfies the “Theory” requirement) is a revised version of my 2012 seminar, “Lyric Poetry and Society,” built around its title’s allusion to Theodor Adorno’s famous essay by that name. This seminar will examine the contradictory burdens placed upon the lyric genre over the last hundred years, beginning with its (and the writing subject’s) fracture in the late nineteenth-century and the critical scramble that nonetheless ensured its enshrinement in both the newly institutionalized “study of English” and modernism’s new “art religion.” Readings for the course will trouble such formulations from within the poetry itself, watching it absorb the various crises of thought, history and increasingly iconoclastic literary theory that would lead, by mid-century, to such deep suspicions about the lyric subject’s productions of a speaking presence, and the form’s supposed/opposed cultural/universal work, that it became something of a “genre non grata” – up until, that is, our new century, which has rather surprisingly resurrected it in what forums in PMLA, for example, have called “the new lyric humanism.” Why has the lyric such a volatile critical history – which at times even erupts in quasi-military language – and what continues to be at stake? Though the course’s focus will remain largely upon British poetry, it will spend a good deal of time too on transatlantic episodes like the infamous “Movement” against “Modernism” (with a capital M) in postwar Britain, where the term was associated with both ideological extremism in pre-war Europe and with American-driven poetic experiment’s displacements of lyric subject and syntax – which Movement poet-critic Donald Davie allied with “theaten[ing] the rule of law in the civilized community,” with “choosing a leader out of the ruck” (Purity of Diction in English Verse, 1952). And the course will end with comparisons of transatlantic 21st-century avant-gardes, like the post-postmodern poets stateside who refrain from politics, calling themselves “post-avant,” and those in the UK who assert that they write “political lyric.” Students should emerge from the course with a good sense of not only a crucial and current debate in literary studies, but also of what’s been happening on the British poetry scene, particularly since the last world war. And though all with take part in leading seminar discussion and presenting work, each student will have options to choose from when it comes to writing requirements.
Medieval Interiorities and Modern Readers: Historical and Formalist Approaches
This course will examine issues of interiority in the major Middle English writers, especially Chaucer, Langland, Hoccleve, Julian of Norwich, and in some anonymous English and Irish lyrics. We will begin with brief extracts from key introspective texts originating in Latin (by St. Perpetua, St. Augustine and Christina of Markyate) and from the Early Middle English period (e.g. Ancrene Wisse, La3amon’s Brut, the "Kildare" Lyrics, the Arundel Lyrics). We will move then to the introspective works of the major Edwardian and Ricardian writers, especially Langland (Piers Plowman), Chaucer (Prologue to Legend of Good Women, the “women’s” Canterbury Tales, his Retraction, and selected lyrics), and Hoccleve (Complaint and Dialogue). We will finish with a look at the London Carthusian house as a "leaky conduit" (in Vincent Gillespie's words) for sophisticated, daring writing by women, notably Julian or Norwich and Marguerite Porete.
The methodological threads of the course will follow the most influential of the critical trends for medievalists to date. Until the mid-1980s, the Middle Ages was seen as having had no very sophisticated literary theory, no serious engagement with realism and no great interest in the individual; culturally the period was characterized as an era of unquestioning credulity and unmitigated historical pessimism. Twentieth-century critical trends (from New Criticism to Deconstruction) did little to test the accuracy of these views. New Historicism, a critical approach developed in part from ethnography that took Renaissance literary studies by storm in the 80s, offered medievalists an alternative, if somewhat flawed methodology for understanding their literature in its cultural contexts. Since then various kinds of historicist and historical approaches have been developed, now encompassing an emphasis on formalism and aesthetics in newer literary histories. We will begin with an examination of both the achievements and the blindspots of “classic” New Historicism, and proceed to a study of more recent approaches to interiority that involve cognition (“embodied” or otherwise), material culture, and theories of narration (Spearing’s “textual I”). We will finish with some very new ways of looking at modern response, especially those that supersede “medievalism” approaches by focusing instead on formalist ways that scholars of 21st c. art and literature understand Medieval (rather than “Early Modern”) art forms as the true forerunners of the contemporary. Topics to be discussed will include "self-fashioning," authorial self- representation, the impact of the under-employed clerical proletariat on secular writing, political and religious dissent, the pressures of patronage, scribal censorship, and the role of women in the rise of English literature. We will also sample how the top discoveries in Manuscript Studies and medieval reading practices (focusing on performative, meditational, allegorical, mnemonic, and cognitive methods) have changed the way we approach the “medieval self.”
British Romantic Literature and Science
“Then, what is Life?” Percy Shelley’s unfinished poem The Triumph of Life (1822) concludes with a question that resonates throughout the Romantic period, when writers and scientists often made common cause in their exploration of the workings of nature – physical, animal, and human – and what Coleridge called “the one Life within us and abroad.” Focusing chiefly on the British context, this seminar examines the creative intersections between literature and science with particular attention to the sciences of the body and mind, including debates about “animal vitality” or the principle of life; ideas about generation and monstrosity across species; and theories of perception and cognition, notably as they relate to language and the imagination. Figures to be covered include Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Byron, the Shelleys, and Kant, as well as the scientists Joseph Priestley, Erasmus Darwin, Humphrey Davy, and Michael Faraday, among others. Our readings and discussions will also take stock of a wide range of critical approaches to literature and science, in the Romantic period and beyond. One aim of the seminar will be to explore the aesthetic and ideological ramification of scientific concepts and theories in Romantic literature; another will be to examine the relationship between materialist and vitalist or idealist modes of thought and expression. The main element of assessment will be the stage-by-stage composition of an article-length paper, ideally suitable for eventual publication.
This collaborative seminar, open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates, will be devoted to James Joyce’s final, elusive work. Each week two students will be responsible for researching a substantial section of the novel and presenting it to the seminar. We will closely read individual passages from each of these sections together as a group.
Black Mountain Poetry
This course looks at the highly influential, mid-twentieth-century American poetry movement known as Black Mountain. The movement was named for Black Mountain College in North Carolina and for the Black Mountain Review, edited by Robert Creeley. In addition to Creeley, the most prominent poets associated with the movement are Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, and Edward Dorn.
Notre Dame is a unique site for studying these poets because we own nearly the entirety of Robert Creeley’s personal library, which includes presentation copies of books by these poets as well as his own copies of his books, many of these volumes acting for Creeley as files for the storage of unique materials relating to them. In addition, we have two other recent library acquisitions: important correspondence and notebooks from Edward Dorn, and a capacious collection of little magazines from 1960-1980—often featuring these poets. An exhibition of items from the Robert Creeley Collection will be on display for the semester in Special Collections, and there will be a one-day symposium, to include participation by Notre Dame graduate students, that will celebrate the exhibition and the simultaneous publication of Creeley’s Selected Letters.
In addition to reading extensively in the work of these five poets, we will examine several important contexts for understanding them: Black Mountain College, which gave birth to many important artistic movements; the other poets who were joined with them by Donald Allen in his groundbreaking anthology, The New American Poetry (1960); the Objectivist poets, including Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, who provided much of the inspiration for Black Mountain poetry; and the philosophical background for the movement, including figures such as John Dewey, Alfred North Whitehead, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In developing a seminar paper, students will be encouraged to engage in exploratory archival research in the new poetry collections in our library, which you will be among the first to visit.
“The return to realism” is how prominent critics of American literary history characterize the present era of literary production in the United States, yet the boundaries of this realism remain much contested. This course will invite students to examine several formal aspects of the recent realisms, and to account for the varieties of realism circulating in critical discourse. Background readings in the critical history of American realism (Kaplan, Jameson, Pizer, etc.) will also be required. Readings for the course will include the realism debates among contemporary writers, including a discussion of how definitions of the genre have been articulated and policed by writers such as Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides, or Zadie Smith’s dismissal of “lyrical realism” as a benign yet persistent mode. We will also survey the status of realism in current debates about the category of the contemporary, and then turn to the recent reevaluations of realism as a productive category for thinking about world literature, as in the “peripheral realism” described by Jed Esty and Coleen Lye, the “speculative realism” claimed by Ramon Saldivar as the emergent genre of ethnic American writing, and the “weird realism” available to literary theorists interested in the figure of the nonhuman. Guiding our excursions through this recent critical history will be a range of exemplary novels of recent American realism or its contested counterparts. Authors may include Cormac McCarthy, Marilynne Robinson, Colson Whitehead, Rachel Kushner, Mat Johnson, Teju Cole, Don DeLillo, and Ken Kalfus.
From Philology to World Literature
This course, one of two required classes for every student in the Ph.D in Literature Program, offers an overview of different theoretical models that have been used to justify the comparative study of literature. Our particular focus will be on the role that the extra-literary world plays in various forms of criticism. Topics wil thus include the relationship between literary studies and investigations of cosmopolitanism, imperalism, transnationalism, translation theory, and environmental studies. Authors may include Erich Auerbach, Roland Barthes, Raymond Williams, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, David Damrosch, Pascale Casanova, Emily Apter, Fanco Moretti, Wai Chee Dimock, and others. Open also to graduate students in other disciplines as well as to advanced undergraduates who secure prior permission from the instructor. Cross list with LIT 73894