Graduate Fiction Workshop
A fiction workshop for graduate students in the MFA in Creative Writing program, with an emphasis on students developing their own aesthetic and personal vision, juxtaposed to and within the larger movement of the contemporary literary world.
Graduate Poetry Workshop
Our goal in this class is to lock in on our vision for our own writing and help others to lock in on theirs. We will do this by reading widely and diversely and thinking about the aesthetic, occult and political powers of poetry in our contemporary and pre-contemporary publishing universes. We will read across cultures and languages with an open and receptive ear, eye, heart and brain, ready to be changed by poetry. We will think about poetry as a medium among media and we will test our ideas by encountering texts and artworks that we do not normally think of as poetry at all.
ENGL 90142-01/ CDT 30360-01 Crosslist
Introduction to Digital Humanities
Can computers help us read better? What would it mean to read distantly rather than closely? How is big data challenging traditional modes of study in the humanities? The emergent field of digital humanities asks these questions, and others like them. This course offers an overview of the field, including current practices that might include computational analysis, digital mapping, information visualization, and the production of digital exhibits. Students from all disciplinary backgrounds are welcome. The course will culminate with students producing a DH project on a topic of their choosing. No programming experience required.
We will begin with ancient precursors to medieval romance and then track the development of the genre through key Arabic, French, and English sources. All texts will be available in English. We'll start with Xenophon and the earliest Alexander romances, then move on to parts of the Thousand and One Nights, literature from the Layla and Majnun tradition, Marie de France, Chrétien de Troyes, Sir Orfeo, Floris and Blancheflour, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, among others.
Shakespeare and the Supernatural
Shakespeare’s engagement with the supernatural has long been a source of mild embarrassment for critics and scholars, who have usually preferred to celebrate his depiction of nature (predominantly human nature but also the flora and fauna of the English Midlands). Surprisingly, the recent explosion of work on Shakespeare and religion has not led to a reconsideration of the supernatural. This course will remedy the oversight by attending to Shakespeare’s staging of the supernatural as a specifically post-Reformation development. In particular, we will consider the ways that special effects associated with the supernatural promoted a range of not always predictable affective responses. The syllabus will feature six Shakespeare plays (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1 Henry 6, Hamlet, Macbeth, Cymbeline, The Tempest) and a range of theoretical and historical writings falling into five broad categories: classical sociology dealing with secularization and disenchantment (e.g. Weber and Durkheim), New Historicism and its discontents (Stephen Greenblatt, Deborah Shuger, Sarah Beckwith, Julia Reinhard Lupton), early modern history (Stuart Clark, Peter Marshall, Alexandra Walsham, and Alec Ryrie), the history of emotions (Barbara H. Rosenwein, Ruth Leys, Jan Plamper), and affect theory (Brian Massumi, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, William E. Connolly). Student work will include a class presentation and a seminar paper.
Romantic Refugees: The Literature of Dislocation
One of the greatest challenges and potential tragedies of our own time arises from the perilous refugee quests crisscrossing today’s world, particularly from the Middle East and Africa to Europe. The history of refugee quests, sadly, stretches way back in time. However, it reaches a similarly intense high point during the Romantic Era when such early types of global formations as colonialism, world war, world trade including the horrific slave trade, and revolutionary social movements unleashed large refugee movements throughout the world. Our course will explore the many complex, fascinating ways in which Romantic Era texts by such writers as Wollstonecraft, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Smith, Barbauld, PB and Mary Shelley, Byron, Austen, Baillie, Prince, Cowley, and Starke depict and seek to resolve the massive refugee crises of their time, which include the psychological alienation and imaginative refugee status of some, perhaps, unexpected groups of people, such as women. The relevance of these Romantic Era refugee scenarios for our world crises today will figure centrally throughout the course, which will give rise to specialized readings in refugee and cosmopolitan theory.
The Formal Habits of the Victorian Novel
This course is designed to give students a broad working knowledge of both the texts and the central scholarship related to novelistic form in the British nineteenth century. We will read widely in scholars analyzing the strategies Victorian novels share for signaling reference to a non-text-based world (Roland Barthes, George Levine, and Harry Shaw), managing readers’ relationships with both characters and narratorial voices (Catherine Gallagher, Alex Woloch and Audrey Jaffe), filtering events through multiple viewpoint (Mikhail Bakhtin, Dorritt Cohn, Rae Greiner), solidifying a consistent sense of space (Elizabeth Ermath, Frederic Jameson, Deanna Kreisel), and creating a reading experience that seems to change speeds despite the static text (Nicholas Dames, Jesse Rosenthal). We will take into account some of the abiding cultural concerns of the Victorian era that impacted how novels were narrated – the moral aspiration to be impartial even in the face of overwhelming evidence for human bias; the rise of bureaucracy and ever more complex divisions of labor scientific discoveries that revised received ideas about cause and effect; and a British imperial structure which accorded increasing political participation and economic mobility to inhabitants of Great Britain while blocking access to the same in areas of the globe annexed by the British Empire.
Alongside a significant body of scholarship on the form of the Victorian novel, we’ll read seven novels– Jane Austen’s Emma, William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, and George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Students will be led through a series of assignments building toward an original research paper based on what we’ve read in class. They will also be asked to script and record a podcast summarizing central scholarship on one Victorian novel.
Theory and Practice of Theatrical Realism
Theory and Practice of Theatrical Realism examines the emergence and transformations of realism as a dramatic mode from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first. We will focus primarily on American, British, and Irish drama, along with some European playwrights in translation. We will investigate the historical context and theoretical foundations of theatrical realism—as they are revealed via the manifestos, acting theories, and criticism of the playwrights and avant-garde ensembles of the period—alongside the interrogation of reality that unfolds in late twentieth- and twenty-first century critical theory. We will conclude by investigating the withering-away of theatrical realism at the end of the millennium, and the impact of twenty-first-century digital technology on theater’s relationship with the real. Playwrights may include, but are not necessarily limited to: Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov, George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Synge, Sean O’Casey, Lorraine Hansberry, Arthur Miller, Clifford Odets, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Brian Friel, David Mamet, John Osborne, Edward Bond, Conor MacPherson, Tracy Letts, Tony Kushner, Wendy Wasserstein, Sarah Ruhl.
Poetry and Religion from Hopkins to Howe
Yeats famously suggested that “poetry and religion are the same” – and while many might have thought such ideas died with him in 1939, or even much earlier, changing conceptions of what both poetry and religion do (or might be) have recently reopened the debate in rather spectacular ways. My interest is in bringing students into the increasingly busy intersection between these once opposed modes of thinking (and into the site of my own current book project). The course will introduce them to several of the major movements in philosophy and literary theory that most powerfully impacted “theopoetics” – among them phenomenology, Wittgensteinian linguistics (or his “philosophy of religion,” as some have described it), and deconstruction (which Derrida late in life admitted had been “structured like a religion”). Starting with (Lutheran convert) Edmund Husserl’s claim that the whole point of his phenomenological project was to discover a “path back to God,” the course charts collisions between essentially Christian existential phenomenology and, for example, the Jewish thought of its later critics by focusing on how poets on both sides of the Atlantic absorbed and continued to process such ideas. Neo-Thomist thinking as put forward by figures like Jacques (and Raïssa) Maritain will also be studied, alongside various mystical and Gnostic alternatives. A relatively small number of poets will be picked for attention and close-reading, among them Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, Mina Loy, David Jones, George Oppen, Denise Levertov and living poet-thinkers Hank Lazer and Fanny Howe. Seminarians will be expected to take turns leading class discussions and presenting their own developing research for the course; each will write one article-length essay by its end.
The Crisis of Literature in the Anthropocene: The Nineteenth Century
The Anthropocene—as concept and as reality—is having a seismic impact across the humanities because it breaches our founding principle: Humans are not Nature. Given that this problem is not solved by “postmodern,” “post-human” or “post-natural,” we will assume, first, that we are not “post-” anything: the historical moment we call “Modernity” has always been plural and contested, and may never have existed at all. Second, that the cultural (as cf. the geological) Anthropocene was initiated by the long 19th century’s two crucial innovations: the steam engine—the literal engine of industrial capitalism—and the Earth as a geologically ancient and self-creating planet writing its own narrative, its geohistory. Both innovations were recognized, sometimes together, as posing an existential threat to human exceptionalism; the shock waves are still reverberating. We will trace those shock waves in canonical American writers (Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Melville, Hawthorne, Norris, William James), but also in “nature” writers (Thoreau, Susan Cooper, Marsh, Muir) as well as in selected Continental writers, including scientists (Humboldt, Lyell, Darwin). For help we will draw on theorists who have tried to name our condition and suggest what we must do about it: likely readings include Bruno Latour (Facing Gaia), Isabel Stengers, Timothy Clark, Timothy Morton, Amitav Ghosh, Donna Haraway, Peter Sloterdijk, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Roy Scranton, and Pope Francis, among others. This is designed as an inquiry course, so the boundaries of our readings are open to suggestion; students of all periods are welcome.
Rethinking 20th and 21st Century US Fiction
In this class, we will explore alternate routes of theorizing and conceptualizing America through the matrix of "American Literature," especially given the changing political environment and the shifting identity of the United States, its literatures, its people, and its artists. By attending in particular to U.S. prose fiction, we will examine how literary movements might be reconsidered, articulated, and theorized by works that respond to and expand our ideas of "the canon."
ENGL 90900-01/ ENGL 40900-02 Crosslist
“Writing+” is a hybrid writing and literature course centered on poetry and narratives that incorporate sound and images or space. One part critical reading, one part creative writing, this class will study literature that incorporates imagery, sound, and other non-textual materials by asking students to write fiction, poetry or criticism that incorporates imagery, sounds, and other materials as an inherent part of its message, story, experience. That is, the class will move through a range of literary art forms, from graphic novels to electronic literature. Along the way, students will be asked to respond to the works read in class by designing and writing either hybrid image-text fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, or hybrid critical narratives, using the authoring tools of this hybrid literature. Rudimentary familiarity with basic authoring tools like a pencil & paper, a camera, PowerPoint, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, iMovie, Scalar, Gimp, or html programming helps, but is not required. Collaborative work is encouraged, though not expected.
Practicum: Preparation for the Profession
A workshop on professional publication, conference activity, and job search procedures.
Practicum: Writing and Publication
A review of the current state of literary publishing in the U.S. and abroad.
Practicum: Public Writing for the Humanities
Workshop-style practicum for humanities graduate students who would like to write for more public venues. Focus on identifying appropriate public venues for scholarly topics, writing style, and the essay form.