ENGL 13186-01 (CRN 21544)
“What is Nature?”
The question, “What is nature?” has never been more important than now, during what one environmental thinker describes as “the most crucial decades in the history of the human species on earth.” This seminar will put our environmental moment in a larger context by exploring versions and visions of the natural world embodied in works of literature from the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Natural imagery and landscapes inform many of the greatest works of literary art. Through study and discussion of poems, novels, and environmental non-fiction, we will consider the role of nature (or Nature) in art and its rich range of imaginative meanings, from Edenic escape to ecological responsibility. Since seminars proceed through collaborative conversation, participation will be important. Students will be responsible for introducing class discussion once or twice during the term, fortnightly short papers, and midterm and final examinations.
ENGL 13186-02 (CRN 23228)
On the Road: The History of Quest Literature
The title of Jack Kerouac’s experimental Beat Era novel, On the Road, represents a modern variation on one of the most powerful trajectories in the great traditions of literary history. Narratives of pilgrimage and quest permeate these traditions, expressing fundamental, abiding human aspirations throughout time toward various types of great ideals: personal, national, moral, spiritual, even counter-cultural or underground. Yet this compelling quest motif also addresses the particular cultural and political priorities of specific societies and historical contexts. This seminar will explore the many different cultural inflections of quest narratives and the ways in which they reveal profound tensions between the persisting human search for the ideal and the ever changing historical forces at work in specific social communities. Our own journey of exploration will begin with Biblical and Classical sources, Homer in particular, followed by medieval quest romance. We will then proceed to forms of ironic and radically modernized quest narratives in selected works from the eighteenth century to the present by Swift, Voltaire, Byron, MW Shelley, Kerouac, McCarthy, and selected film makers, including the Monty Python troupe.
ENGL 13186-03 (CRN 21542)
Introduction to Poetry
This course will provide an introduction to poetry as a literary art form and develop students’ skills of critical analysis and interpretation. The course will address the major poetic genres, a variety of poetic forms, and a range of literary concepts and devices. We will also spend some time thinking about the oral performance of poetry through different activities, including listening to recordings of poems and potentially attending a poetry reading. We will read a variety of material both past and contemporary, with a special emphasis on poetry from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and particularly the Romantic period. We will try to understand why the poetry on our syllabus has spoken to readers over time, and to see how it might speak to us and about us.
ENGL 13186-05 (CRN 21541)
The Black First Person
While taking a hemispheric approach to black writing, this course will examine the creation of the black first person through autobiography. Taking up classic texts from across the Americas and the Caribbean, such as Biography of a Runaway Slave, Child of the Dark, The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and Black Boy, we will explore the multiple ways in which black writers create the black rhetorical self. Why is the black “I” ubiquitous across African American writing of the hemisphere, and what are its implications in relation to race, gender, class, and community? What does it mean for a black narrator to announce him or herself as author or speaking subject? What does it mean to speak or write oneself into the public’s consciousness, and why does it matter? What are the constitutive elements of a black rhetorical self, and how might they differ from other racial/ethnic identities? The class will pursue these questions through the examination and creation of autobiographies.
ENGL 13186-06 (CRN 21545)
On the Move: Migration in American Literature
In this class, we will examine the importance of migration in twentieth century U.S. Literature. We will consider how migration has been integral in telling or representing the American experience, particularly by investigating how movement has been used by authors to shape texts, ideas, and characters. In asking ourselves how the ideas of flux and movement impact both the content and the structure of a novel, we will reflect on how migration alters political ideas, ideals, and trends. Finally, we will explore the many ways that migration shapes or constructs our conceptions of homeland and region.
ENGL 13186-07 (CRN 25943)
“Literary Visions and Revisions”
In his poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T. S. Eliot writes that there is time "for a hundred visions and revisions, / Before the taking of a toast and tea.” While this seminar doesn’t promise toast and tea (although that’s negotiable), it does promise a feast of literary works well worth digesting, specifically ones about the many “visions and revisions” involved in literature itself. Through the study of poetry, plays, and a novel from across five centuries, we will become acquainted with literature as a mode of expression that involves artful negotiation with one’s cultural and historical heritage, notably through adaptation, echoing, imitation, and allusion. We will also discuss and practice the kinds of critical vision and revision involved in thinking and writing about literature at the university level. Writers figuring prominently in the syllabus are likely to include William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, and Tom Stoppard.
ENGL 13186-09 (CRN 27553)
The Death and Return of God in Radical Poetry
This course will introduce students to several of the key upheavals in twentieth-century thought that rocked spiritually-inclined poets, leaving them without easy paths back to devotional art. We will be particularly focused on those British, Irish and American poets whose cutting edge, radical ideas about themselves and culture would shake apart the very syntax of their medium – language – and cause them to write in forms that seemed very strange and even disturbing to unaccustomed eyes. At the crux of our discussions will be the fate of the idea of God in the works of “postmodern” poets whose secular political projects and views of language – “the word” – would conflict at the deepest levels with their desire for belief in divinity. We will focus mostly on the work of small-press writers like Brian Coffey (Ireland), Anglo-Welsh David Jones, Wendy Mulford (England), Fanny Howe and Hank Lazer (U.S.), all of whom have recently emerged, with the help of 21st-Century hindsight, as part of an important group of poet-thinkers engaged in this crucial project of “reconstructing God.” The course will begin with gentle introductions to the problems of reading late-twentieth-century philosophy as well as to the problems of reading poetry as a literary genre. During the semester students will be required to lead class discussion twice, with partners, and write either three short papers or substitute the final one with a creative response (to be accompanied by a written “argument” and approved before start of work).
ENGL 13186-10 (CRN 30001)
Why Literature Matters: 20th Century American Literature
The emphasis of this course will fall on the intersection of recurrent themes in American literature, as seen from a plurality of perspectives. For example, we will consider the position of African-Americans in the American landscape from the perspective of a white male (Mark Twain), an African-American male (James Baldwin), a white female (Kate Chopin), and an African-American female (Alice Walker). We will explore questions of contemporary spirituality as presented by a white male (Wallace Stevens), an African-American male (James Baldwin), a white female (Elizabeth Bishop), etc. Or, we may consider how various authors view the intersection of capitalism in America with ecological damage - as in selected works of Ernest Hemingway and Adrienne Rich. The course will include three novels, several short stories, and a healthy dose of very divergent poetries, while suggesting which genres proved most significant in different periods of our modern history. The course will be demanding, but rewarding, especially as it seeks to explore the apparent contradictions but important overlappings of our rich American literary heritage. All University seminars focus on writing components. Paper assignments will be discussed the first day of class. Texts (required): Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Kate Chopin, The Awakening, Alice Walker, The Color Purple, Wallace Stevens, The Palm at the End of the Mind, Adrienne Rich, An Atlas of the Difficult World. Texts (optional): James Baldwin, Selected Writings; Flannery O'Connor, Selected Short Stories; Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time; Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems (and selected handouts, including Robert Frost, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Joy Harjo, etc.).
ENGL 13186-11 (CRN 30002)
In this course we will examine a range of novels which might loosely be understood as “spy fiction,” yet each of them has a very different understanding of what it means to spy. We will ask what these novels can tell us about the relationship between literature and history, and what they reveal about ways of looking and narrative point of view. We will be reading novels by (among others): G.K. Chesterton, Ian Fleming, Patricia Highsmith, John Le Carré, and George Orwell. This course will be discussion based and will require regular written assignments designed to hone critical reading skills.
Point of View in the Novel
Section 01 – MW 12:30-1:45
Section 02 – MW 5:05-6:20
This course will focus on the introduction to the novel as a form, a means to view the world of the author/artist and the reader. Literature is an art whereby one consciousness seeks to communicate with another consciousness. One of the artist's techniques for controlling this flow is the concept of point of view. We will explore various approaches and uses of this "framing" in some nineteenth and twentieth century novels. The goal is to use an understanding of point of view to more fully comprehend, enjoy, and sensitively read this popular genre. Texts: Henry James, Turn of the Screw; Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights; Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary; Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome; James Joyce, Dubliners; William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!; Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter; E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime; Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke, Ha, Ha; and Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing America. Requirements: regular class participation; two short papers, a mid-term; and a final.
Mystery and Detection
"Mysteries" have become a dominant genre; their proliferation is a sign of modernity. What do we find in tales of crime and detection that we don't find elsewhere? Have these stories taken over from tragedy as the genre mainly dedicated to death? Such stories exercise our minds, while evoking also fearful delight in the unknown (or the "sublime" as defined by Edmund Burke). We read to learn fear -- cultivated in the "gothic" mode and central to the Romantic-era short stories of Hoffmann and Poe. Even the lightest "mystery stories" touch our anxiety about the instability of the outer world of social order; is it about to tip over? Fear of the foreign and of disorder have made some mystery stories historically vehicles of prejudice, while others take us beyond our current boundaries towards new relationships. Stories of "detection" enforce modern scientific logic. Their hero is the mind not to be baffled by the cleverest criminal, not to be taken in by the fictions of identity that we produce even in our "normal" lives. Sherlock Holmes is the hero of the intensive intellect-- the more effective as he never entirely blends into his own culture in the first place. Stories of detection from Sophocles on point to the problematic nature of identity, which can be shaped, tweaked, hidden or faked. Spy stories emphasize this point, for the job of the "spy" is to read a culture and blend into it. The observer or narrator also becomes problematic, given the limitations of individual points of view (as we recognize in The Moonstone's multiple narrators). Mystery stories can be used to examine social structures, political realities, sexual feelings, relationships and rules. Characters always include those with and those lacking power, including servants, women and minorities; in the 20th century mystery stories are increasingly written by women and members of minority groups. Narratives may point to inbuilt injustices, or to the aberrant individual, the killer who looks "normal". We like the idea that humans are multi -layered; the interpretation of signs or clues becomes more exciting. Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams proposes that the individual is a mystery who produces clues for himself (and the analyst) in dreams. The problem of identity is a rich source of tragedy and comedy; interpretation of signs or clues becomes more exciting. Detection itself can be a form of enjoyable obsession, and our suspicions may extend to the detective, that hero of reason in a world not governed by reason. TRUE CRIME: We will examine some "true crime" documents of the 18th and 19th centuries, including trials and confessions, while also looking at the development of policing through the growth of Scotland yard. FILMS: The selection of TV shows or movies is up to the students who will divide into report teams and present the film of their choice. TEXTS include one play by Sophocles; the short story of "Susannah and the Elders" in the Biblical Apocrypha; Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy ( a Renaissance revenge play); Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful; The Tryal of Miss Mary Blandy ; William Godwin, Caleb Williams; Ann Radcliffe, Sicilian Romance; short stories by E.T. A. Hoffmann and Edgar Allen Poe (to be selected); Sigmund Freud, Interpretation of Dreams ( excerpts); Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone; Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (unfinished novel); Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four; Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison; Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; Peril at End House; Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress.
The Gothic Novel
"From ghoulies and ghosties/ And long-leggedy beasties/ And things that go bump in the night,/ Good Lord, deliver us!" Why do we enjoy being scared out of our wits? Since its inception in the late eighteenth century, generations have loved the Gothic Novel with its grotesque murders and bizarre terror. The course will study a number of the most celebrated Gothic tales from horrors in castles and monasteries (Lewis's The Monk) to mysterious love stories (Brontë's Wuthering Heights) to the eerie stories of the paranormal (Shelley's Frankenstein) to contemporary horror stories. The purpose will be to study the ways in which the Gothic Novel entertains us and what it is about us that loves to be entertained by the Gothic.
Poetry, Science and Technology
What can poetry gain from science? What can science gain from poetry? In this course we will investigate these questions through a selection of readings from poets’ essays, works of poetry, scientific papers, and critical commentary. A primary focus for our consideration will center on the meaning of “experiment” in poetry and science. Readings will entertain concerns of “science” and “poetry” as discipline-specific approaches to knowledge, and our texts will also consider specific developments in technologies including typewriters, tape recorders, digital media, genetic sequencing, and computer code. This course will introduce students to tools and concepts of literary form, close reading, poetic vocabulary, and interpretation. By the end of the course, students will have explored the relationship between how poetry has adapted to certain scientific issues and techniques and will have developed necessary and lasting skills to interact with literature and the world in robust and engaging ways.
Rhetoric of the American Apocalypse
From Michael Wigglesworth’s “Day of Doom” (1662) to the bestselling Left Behind series (1995-2007), the impending apocalypse remains a compelling focus of American fiction. Literary genres as varied as the Puritan jeremiad, the abolitionist novel, the Cold War intrigue, and the cli-fi thriller use "the End” to argue for urgent action, reform, or protest. The term “Apocalypse” implies a teleological history; the “American Apocalypse” implies one in which “being American” matters. American stories about “the End”—whether a cosmic, national, or global end—are also stories about America’s role (if any) in bringing about or forestalling that end. In this course, we analyze how and why the American apocalypse endures as a rhetorical means of constructing, challenging, reforming, and rewriting national identity.
Tolkien’s Mythologies and Monsters: The Medieval English Roots of Middle Earth
Have you ever wondered where J.R.R. Tolkien found inspiration to create the monsters, races, and treasures which inhabit his Middle Earth? Did you know that Tolkien was a Professor of medieval English literature at Oxford, and he loved the Old English epic Beowulf, the Middle English romance Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Old Norse saga of Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer? This course is designed to introduce students to the multiple genres of medieval texts from England and Scandinavia which influenced The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, including tales of King Arthur, mythological texts about the Norse gods, and the adventures of shield-maidens. While the texts will be read in Modern English translation and primarily from the Norton Anthology of English Literature: the Middle Ages, students will learn about how Tolkien, as a philologist, used medieval languages in his construction of Middle Earth. The medieval primary texts readings will be supplemented by a few of Tolkien’s published literary criticism on medieval subjects. The goals of this course are to introduce students to an important period in English literary history and its persistence in the modern imaginary, but also to develop students’ analytic skill as they engage with medieval literature. We will discuss why certain medieval themes are still popular today in modern story-telling as well as determine what particular aspects of medieval culture are being reused and reimagined. Students will be assessed on their class participation, written essays, and an oral presentation. Course will be designed to fulfill the University Literature Requirement.
Sampling of texts on the syllabus (several will be excerpted): Beowulf, The Dream of the Rood, The Wanderer, Marie de France’s Lanval Ancrene Riwle, Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Orfeo (Tolkien’s own translation of the medieval work). Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, Volsunga Saga, Snorri Sturluson’s The Prose Edda or the Poetic Edda, Tolkien’s essay: “The Monsters and the Critics”.
Runaway Brides: Selfhood and Marriage in Female Fictions of Development
In light of contemporary inroads into gender equality, the idea that the end of a woman’s education is to prepare her solely for the role of wife and mother is now often regarded as nothing more than a bygone feminist bogeyman, a thing of the past. Yet throughout the history of the English novel, marriage as the traditionally desired end-goal of a young woman’s growth into adulthood is already and surprisingly more often than not stalled, hindered, or otherwise represented as a major source of serious interior conflict as much as it serves the necessary function of achieving narrative resolution in female fictions of development. This course asks the question of why so many ambivalent brides appear throughout classic Victorian and early twentieth-century British novels at the height of the cult of feminine domesticity, and considers how the institution of marriage was imagined, considered, and pondered from female, and increasingly feminist, perspectives within these periods of British history. Along the way, the course will also examine how female engagements with the idea of self-development contributed to the form of the modern coming-of-age novel in the West. In addition to classic Victorian and modernist readings from Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), the Brontës (Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre), George Eliot (The Mill on the Floss), Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, and others, the class will end with a study of contemporary representations of young female adulthood in film and fiction – including romantic comedies and Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games – to consider how current meditations on selfhood and marriage connect to a longer feminist tradition of grappling with the contradictions of “becoming a woman” in the face of patriarchal conceptions of gender in society at large.
Introduction to Irish Writers
As the visit to campus of the most recent Irish winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature suggests, this small island has produced a disproportionate number of great writers. Designed as a general literature course, the class will introduce the student to a broad range of Irish writers in English from the eighteenth century to the present. Writers will include Jonathan Swift, Maria Edgeworth, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Brian Friel, and John McGahern. We will also look at recent film versions of several of these writers' works, including Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest. Themes to be explored include representations of national character and the relationships between religion and national identity, gender and nationalism, Ireland and England, and "Irishness" and "Englishness." Students can expect a midterm, a paper (5-6 pages typed) and a final.
“One World”: Literature about New York City
“The collision and the intermingling of these millions of foreign-born people representing so many races, creeds, and nationalities make New York a permanent exhibit of the phenomenon of one world.” E.B. White, “Here is New York”
For E. B. White, the diversity of New York City constitutes a complete universe, and in this class we will ask if this is true for other authors and how. Reading from the corpus of literature about this city, we will encounter the diverse characters that inhabit this city, ask what separates them and what brings them together, and discover different visions of New York. In this class, we will focus on close reading and careful analysis, acquire a vocabulary of terms that allow us to understand and speak more fluently about literary works, and discuss our interpretations with one another during class discussions and through written assignments.
Introduction to Literary Studies
Section 01 - Laura Betz, TR 9:30-10:45
Section 02 - Chris Abram, MW 2:00-3:15
Section 03 - Susan Harris, TR 11:00-12:15
This course provides beginning English majors with experience in the analysis, interpretation, and appreciation of literary works of different kinds and eras. Texts assigned will vary from one section to another, but all sections will include attention to poetry and at least one other genre (fiction, drama, non-fiction prose). Frequent writing about works studied will introduce students to the practice of critical argument and consideration of how to read criticism as well as literature critically.