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.
ENGL 90020/ENGL 30020
Literary Geographies of Gender: Computer-Assisted Study of Gender and Geography in 19th- and 20th-Century Fiction
*This is a 1 credit hr course
In this course, students and the professor will operate as a research team, each taking on particular tasks according to individual interests and all working towards a common goal: understanding how the geography of nineteenth- and twentieth- century British fiction was influenced by gender. Do novels show that men had more freedom of mobility than women? How did the author's gender influence what places and kinds of places they represented? Did the importance of gender change throughout the centuries, as it's often assumed? We'll strategize how to test large-scale hypotheses about gender, geography, and time using a variety of resources and techniques, including a large collection of geographic data extracted from British novels. The Center for Digital Scholarship instructional team will offer workshops on digital tools including Voyant, GIS (geographic information system), information visualization, machine learning (such as topic modeling and document clustering and classification), and on scholarly research. In consultation with the professor, students will be able to choose how they contribute to the project, gaining experience that will support their own research interests and professional aims. While prior experience with digital tools, programming, and/or nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction would be useful for the group, the course has no prerequisites. Everyone will join the class with different background knowledge and will learn through hands-on experience. Students may be at any stage of university education, from first year through graduate studies.
Graduate Poetry Workshop
The principal aim of this workshop is for students to generate work of publishable quality and to continue growing into a community of committed and thoughtful practitioners of the art of poetry. This semester we will focus on first collections of poetry, those by already established poets and those by younger poets beginning to forge their paths. Great care has been taken to select a diverse reading list, from Rita Dove and Galway Kinnell to Chanda Feldman and Javier Zamora. You will also be expected to give a presentation on a first collection of your choosing, thereby amplifying our range of diversity. All these activities will contribute toward fostering a communal dialogue about craft, poetics, and aesthetics. Apart from engaging in these discussions, you are also expected to provide your peers with careful and considerate feedback to their poems.
ENGL 90042-01/ ENGL 40042-01
The Weird, the Uncanny, and the Grotesque
This class will focus on some of the many weird and uncanny ways grotesque aesthetics has popped up in art, literature and pop culture over the past 100 years. Whether it is in Dadaistic cut-ups, Kara Walker’s silhouette atrocities, David Lynch’s para-noir crime movies, or the apocalyptic graphic novel Wolf, works that venture into the weird or grotesque challenge common representations of the body, the human, alterity and violence. In the process they often subvert or simply ignore established norms of decency, taste and morality. Some of the time these excesses appear decadently apolitical, at other times tastelessly political. We will explore the politics and anti-politics, the beauty and the ugliness of these modes in both critical and creative responses to these works.
ENGL 90112-01 (Crosslist)
Landscape of Words: Place, Migration and Movement in Medieval Ireland, Britain and Iceland
The medieval literatures of the North Atlantic — Medieval Irish, Icelandic, English and Welsh literature (Latin and vernacular) — feature a high concentration of sophisticated narratives invested in mapping the North Atlantic zone, and the movement, migration, and transformation of people as they move through these landscapes and seascapes. All unified by their conscientious use of a poetics of place, the texts we will examine variously focus on the movement of men and women, migrants and settlers, heroes, saints and colonizers through challenging and transformative geographies; some tales probe both individual and community reactions to being shepherded to or driven from the places, both mundane and otherworldly, they would like to call home; bountiful hunts and harvests demonstrate the happy union of a people with an intended homeland; these lands also show agency by catching fire or flooding in furious protest of a leader’s bad judgments or wholesale rejection of an invader. Rooted in the physical geographies of Ireland, Iceland, England and Wales, these narrative topographies move beyond the land itself and become powerful, portable worlds that can be accessed and occupied by readers anywhere and at any time.
All readings will be in English translation - no previous linguistic knowledge is assumed. Primary texts may include: Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica; various saints’ lives; Irish immrama or voyage tales; Old English poetry; Irish texts including Táin Bó Cuailnge (‘Cattle Raid of Cooley’); Mesca Ulad (‘Drunkenness of the Ulstermen’); Togail Bruidne Da Derga (‘Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel’); Acallam na Senorach (‘Colloquy of the Ancients’); Dindshenchas or ‘lore of high places’ poetry; the Welsh Mabinogi; topographical writings on Ireland and Wales by Gerald of Wales; and Old Norse-Icelandic poetry and sagas about voyaging, settlement and ‘land-taking’. We will also examine some contemporary environmental writing and placelore, including novels (The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth, and City of Bohane, Kevin Barry) and perhaps film to compare how and why medieval and modern authors create and deploy narrative topographies (and how audience members respond to them). Critical readings will be wide-ranging and will include material from anthropologists, environmentalists, geographers, literary and cultural studies theorists, and numerous medievalists.
Computational Literary History
Theory and methods of computationally assisted literary scholarship with special emphasis on questions of literary history at scale. Covers recent developments in the field of digital humanities and includes substantial technical instruction. No previous programming experience required; students will learn to manage data and perform statistical analysis, including basic machine learning, in Python.The primary object of analysis will be a large corpus of American fiction published between 1790 and 2000. Other periods and national literatures may be added to address student interests. Seminar work will be conducted in groups and will culminate in a substantial, co-authored piece of original scholarship in data-intensive literary history.Students having previous experience with digital humanities are strongly encouraged to enroll and to serve as informal project leaders. Please contact me with any questions.
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.
ENGL 90280-01 (Crosslist)
Anglo-Norman and Continental Romance and History
This seminar will offer the opportunity to read, discuss, and work with some texts that swam together in the same later-medieval waters—sometimes appearing in the same manuscript or serving as sources for one another—but tend to be channeled off from one another now: works in French produced in an English or Continental milieu, and narrative works purporting to chronicle the distant or recent past, now often partitioned as “Anglo-Norman” and (real) “French,” and “romance” and “history.” It seeks to break down some modern distinctions of language and genre that impede scholars from contextualizing the material that they already study and from recognizing the potential value of other material to their work and thought. While we analyze the works, we will also advance practical reading skills in both Continental and Anglo-Norman French, but this will not be a grammar or philology class. Students will have the opportunity to read in manuscript facsimile and conduct projects in transcription, editing, and translation if they desire. Works to be considered include those of Geoffrey Gaimar, Wace, Chrétien de Troyes, Marie de France, Jean de Joinville, and Jean Froissart, as well as the Anglo-Norman Crusade and Death of Richard I, the prose Brut chronicle, and La Vie du Prince Noir.
If there is student interest, we can also bring Middle English into the mix, with, e.g., consideration of Anglo-Norman and Middle English versions of the tales of Havelok the Dane, the contents of particular multilingual manuscripts, and/or Chaucer’s French analogues. Students should come to the class with competence in basic French reading but need not have previously studied medieval French. Please do contact me with any questions, concerns, or particular interests you may have.
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.
Reading Revolutions: Studies in the Eighteenth Century
The distinctive feature of the long eighteenth century lay partly in the rediscovery of classical values, but above all in the impetus created by a series of revolutions-scientific, religious, political, social and economic. We will explore representations of these revolutions in writers from Dryden to Burke.
A close study of James Joyce’s masterpiece.
Race, Law and Utopia in Atlantic America
In his 2012 work What Was African American Literature?, Kenneth Warren writes: “When racial identity can no longer be law, it must become either history or memory—that is, it must be either what some people once were but that we no longer are, or the way we were once upon a time, which still informs the way we are.” Both understandings of the meaning of race and its relation to identity suggest a problematic disjuncture between the past and the present that, in focusing on an imagined understanding, refuses all attempts to locate it in material reality. Following Warren’s argument, once detached from the law, race and its relationship to identity are caught in an infinite loop, no longer completely accessible in the real time of the present, continually wavering between two radically different poles of being. In the absence of the law, pitted against which it derives its interpretive power, race ceases, for Warren, to be useful both as a critical tool and, more importantly, as the foundation for the field of African American literature. Yet this problem also poses a number of crucial questions, particularly when viewing the significance of race through the lens of modernity—one that might not only ask us to reconsider our historical perceptions of race, but which interrogates our present understanding of the term while simultaneously pointing to its future possibilities. How can the conversation on race be continued without becoming trapped in what seems to be an ongoing critical circle, endlessly vacillating between an irreparable past and a tentative future? Is it possible to think race beyond the idea of race? What does race actually mean? What might a new conception of race actually look like? Would it help us to break through familiar stereotypes tired from overuse to a new vision of racial and democratic possibility? This course will take a step backward to investigate these questions and others as a part of what may be called the utopic impulse and its emphasis on the imagination in a number of 19th-century American authors whose work participates in a broad yet under-acknowledged vision of race and Atlantic modernity . Grounding our analysis in a number of 16th, 17th and 18th political philosophical texts and drawing on the theories of Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida and others, as well as insights from critical race theory, theories of law and literature, and utopian studies, our goal will be to gain a more nuanced understanding of our racialized past, through which we can better hope to reimagine its potential for our collective democratic future.
Course texts are to be determined, but will most likely include some of the following, either in their entirety or in the form of relevant excerpts: Plato’s Republic; Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince; Thomas More, Utopia; Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis; James Harrington, Oceana; Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan; Robert Filmer, Patriarcha, Or The Natural Power of Kings; John Locke, Two Treatises of Government; Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract or The Discourse on Inequality; Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America; Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia; Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations; Frances Wright, Views of Society and Manners in America; Nathaniel Hawthorne, Blithedale Romance; Moncure Conway, Pine and Palm; Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas; Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Iola Leroy; Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces or Of One Blood; Sutton Griggs Imperium in Imperio; W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
Towards an “Us”: Decolonial Imaginary
What is the difference between the colonial, the postcolonial, and the decolonial? In which ways do these schools of thought develop epistemologies that are best suited to registering, defining and memorializing the experiences of formerly colonized subjects? Departing from the definitions of coloniality and postcoloniality this course reads the literary and cultural experiences of those impacted by modernity in various manifestations: economic, political, epistemic, racial, sexual, and in terms of gender. Because independence movements, slavery’s abolition, and revolutions did not extinguish what Aníbal Quijano terms “the coloniality of power,” we will also engage with the decolonial—a school of thought emerging mostly from Latin America—as it attempts to reveal colonial influences rooted in subaltern practice. This course will thus seek to read diverse cultural representations (film, music, poetry, the short story, the novel) of a 20th and 21st century Americas, through the lens of the decolonial.
Practicum: Preparation for the Profession
Article Writing Practicum: this course will follow the 12-week article revision and publication model outlined in Wendy Belcher’s workbook on article publishing. Students from all fields and stages are welcome to participate in this practicum, and to prepare an article for submission to academic journals at the end of the semester. Students who have taken the practicum and would like to attend again for structure and accountability are welcome.
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.