University Seminars

Fall 2022

ENGL 13186-02
No Frills Jane Austen
Yasmin Solomonescu
TR 12:30-1:45

Jane Austen is often popularly understood as the creator of intricate social worlds in which people and things are at once frilly and frivolous - stylish and silly. And she is just as often celebrated for those qualities (think of the many adaptations that play up the ballroom finery, lighthearted exchanges, and happy endings) as dismissed for them, notably by readers who see her works as insufficiently intellectual. Yet Austen herself was playfully critical of her masterpiece Pride and Prejudice for being “rather too light & bright & sparkling” and suggested it needed more “sense,” or at least some “sober … nonsense.” This course considers how the light, bright, and sparkling and the serious or sensible in fact come together in Austen’s fiction. Reading a selection of her novels (including but not limited to Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion) and learning about their contexts while also discussing select film adaptations, we will get to know Austen as not merely a frilly writer but also a no-frills one: a serious thinker tuned in to the controversies and conundrums of her era - from rights to revolution, moral life to mental life - and an equally serious artist who devised ingenious ways of bringing those issues into her fiction.

 

ENGL 13186-03
Literature and Citizenship
Sandra Gustafson
TR 2:00-3:15

What does it mean to be a citizen? Both a legal status and a way of being in a community, citizenship folds together central aspects of political identity and touches on some of our most urgent concerns today. Modern concepts of citizenship emerged in the early United States, as political identities suited to a republic replaced those of British subjects. The construction of republican citizenship was influenced by writings from ancient Greece and Rome, and so we will begin by considering the philosophical, symbolic, existential, and narrative aspects of citizenship in Pericles' funeral oration on the Athenian war dead, selections from the Roman orator Cicero, and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, which depicts the final years of the Roman Republic—and briefly includes Cicero as a character. 

We will then turn to works from America's founding era, reading poems by the enslaved author Phillis Wheatley, the Declaration of Independence, and Judith Sargent Murray's essay "On the Equality of the Sexes." Next, a cluster of literary works from the mid-nineteenth century on the expansion of citizenship— and highlighting the “second founding” of the American Civil War— will include prose and poetry by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Modern literary reinterpretations of citizenship will round out our readings, including selections of poetry from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s The Age of Phillis, as well as George Saunders's Civil War novel Lincoln in the Bardo. 

There will be around 25 pages of writing for the course, with ample opportunities for revision.

 

ENGL 13186-06
Feminist Fictions: Popular Feminism, Literature, and Culture
Barbara Green
TR 2:00-3:15

The red cloak of The Handmaid’s Tale vaulted from the pages of Margaret Atwood’s novel to film and television, marches and protests, memes and collectibles. Feminist fictions enable radical commentary on culture, provide points of identification and connection to movements, and deliver the vocabulary, imagery, and textures of new ways of being and living. This course looks at popular feminist fictions of the 20th and 21st centuries in the context of other elements of feminist print culture (memoir, non-fiction prose, manifestoes, blogs, magazines and ‘zines) and social life. Students will explore a wide range of classic feminist texts including movement novels coming out of the suffrage movement as well as second-wave and third-wave contexts, feminist dystopian fictions, graphic novels, and more. Texts may include: Gertrude Colmore’s Suffragette Sally, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Audre Lorde’s Zami, Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and selections from criticism, theory, non-fiction prose or memoir by feminist thinkers such as Christabel Pankhurst, Angela Davis, Sara Ahmed, Betty Fridan, Alice Walker, Rebecca Solnit, Roxanne Gay, bell hooks, Maggie Nelson.

 

ENGL 13186-08
Theories of Literature
David Thomas
TR 9:30-10:45

When studying literature - and the humanities, in general - we use the term theory to indicate a specific way of looking at things.  For example, a gender theorist insists upon the importance of gender or sexual identities, a Marxist theorist emphasizes how economic conditions affect social and political realities, and a narrative theorist examines the operations of such matters as perspective and plotting in storytelling.  Rather than promoting one theoretical perspective, this course surveys several important styles of literary theory. We explore key issues in topics such as: aesthetic theory; Marxism; psychoanalysis; various feminisms, gender theory and masculinity; structuralism and post-structuralism; race and ethnicity studies; and the development of literary canons. 

There is a great deal of sheer fun and surprise in learning about these various approaches.  But such knowledge is also empowering, raising our consciousness concerning our own commitments and interests as readers, citizens, friends and family.  Our study materials will include works of literature but also film, art history, music, and more, taking the viewpoint that pretty much everything - even something so simple as the way we dress - is meaningful and therefore some kind of “text.” 

Graded coursework centers on several short papers, including a paper documenting a point of theory controversy that interests you individually. Regular journal writings and active participation are also graded factors.



ENGL 13186-09
The Bible and English Literature
Susannah Monta
TR 9:30-10:45

This course explores how the Bible has influenced English literature from the medieval to the modern eras. We'll read major narratives from the Bible -- the story of the creation and the fall; stories of exile and return; narratives of the Incarnation and Passion of Christ; and important parables such as the Parable of the Prodigal Son -- and consider how major authors such as William Shakespeare, John Milton, George Herbert, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, T. S. Eliot, Geoffrey Hill, and Marilynne Robinson adapt and respond to the Bible in their creative work. You will have a chance to think about the Bible and its literary adaptations in short exercises, essays, and an optional creative project. By the end of this course, you'll have a good understanding of the many ways English literary traditions draw on and transform their biblical inheritance; you'll know the differences between quotation, allusion, and echo; you'll learn how to read poetry well; and you will develop your skills as a writer, preparing yourself for the rest of your academic career at Notre Dame.

 

ENGL 13186-11
On the Move: Migration in American Literature
Francisco Robles
TR 3:30-4:45

In this class, we will examine the importance of migration in twentieth century U.S. literature and film. 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, or the themes and lyrical expressivity of a poem, or the narrative framework of a film, 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 13186-12
Performance and Rebellion
Sara Marcus
TR 11:00-12:15

Within human collectives structured by rules and expectations, there are always some people who endeavor to break out. In this seminar, we will look at American literature, popular music, and film, along with sociology and anthropology, with an eye toward the ways social lives are given shape through performance - that is, the routines, acts, and practices that people enact every day. We’ll pay special attention to instances in cultural texts where people rebel against some form of regulation, from enslaved people on the run to Dionysian rock & roll stars. What can these rebellious characters and moments teach us about the rules we follow in order to live together - and about the possibilities and stakes of saying no?

 

ENGL 13186-13
Reading the 1619 Project
John Duffy
TR 3:30-4:45

The 1619 Project is the Pulitzer Prize winning, highly controversial retelling of the history of slavery in the United States and its continuing influence on U.S. institutions and culture. A series of essays, photographs, stories, poems, and podcasts, the project places slavery at the center of the American experience and argues that it is the foundation of systemic racism in contemporary U.S. life. Critics have denounced the project on political grounds as a shameful misrepresentation of U.S. history, and prominent historians have criticized its scholarship, particularly its argument that the American Revolution was fought to protect slavery. Other historians have defended the project as necessary and courageous. In this course, we will read essays from the project and essays critical of it. We will also read materials, listen to speeches, and watch videos from outside the project that touch on themes of race and racism.

 Why make The 1619 Project the subject of our course? To answer that question, we turn to a concept from the ancient Greek: kairos, which may be translated as “timeliness” or the “opportune moment.” Given the reckoning on race taking place in the U.S. at present, expressed in the George Floyd protests, the Black Lives Matter movement, the toppling of Confederate statues and more, it seems an opportune moment to study arguments about race and racism in the U.S.  As we read, discuss, argue, and write, we will keep several questions at the forefront of our inquiries: What are we learning? Why does it matter? And what do we do with what we have learned? What responsibilities, individual and social, accompany the privilege of learning?

 

ENGL 13186-16
Digital Literatures
Matthew Kilbane
TR 5:05-6:20

From the invention of writing to the arrival of that momentous literary gadget, the printed book, and through all the book’s subsequent iterations and updates, new technologies for reading and writing have always shaped the material possibilities for literary production. For the last fifty years, the next frontiers of literary technology have been digital in nature. This course examines how digital machines and digital cultures have conditioned both the everyday infrastructures of literature (word processing, e-reading, Amazon, social media) and the material horizons of literary experiment (hypertext, net art, virtual reality, AI). Attending closely to literary works in print and on screens, we’ll study the technical and social transformations wrought upon literature by new media, asking too how imaginative writing can help us understand the effects of digital machines on the ways we live, learn, and love now. Students will also be invited to scrutinize their own variously digital habits of reading and writing, since we will take as our subjects of inquiry not only the artworks and techniques of literary writers, but our own Kindles and iPads, our social media accounts, and our personal hopes and anxieties about the future of literature—and perhaps the future of democratic governance and collective life more generally—in the digital age. Assignments will include argumentative analyses, an extended research project, and some digitally creative writing of our own.

 

ENGL 13186-17 No Frills Jane Austen Yasmin Solomonescu TR 9:30-10:45

Jane Austen is often popularly understood as the creator of intricate social worlds in which people and things are at once frilly and frivolous - stylish and silly. And she is just as often celebrated for those qualities (think of the many adaptations that play up the ballroom finery, lighthearted exchanges, and happy endings) as dismissed for them, notably by readers who see her works as insufficiently intellectual. Yet Austen herself was playfully critical of her masterpiece Pride and Prejudice for being “rather too light & bright & sparkling” and suggested it needed more “sense,” or at least some “sober … nonsense.” This course considers how the light, bright, and sparkling and the serious or sensible in fact come together in Austen’s fiction. Reading a selection of her novels (including but not limited to Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion) and learning about their contexts while also discussing select film adaptations, we will get to know Austen as not merely a frilly writer but also a no-frills one: a serious thinker tuned in to the controversies and conundrums of her era - from rights to revolution, moral life to mental life - and an equally serious artist who devised ingenious ways of bringing those issues into her fiction. 

 

ENGL 13186-18 From Sleepy Hollow to Brokeback Mountain: Introduction to The Short Story Essaka Joshua MW 11:00-12:15

This course introduces students to the British and American short story from the nineteenth century to the present day. Areas of focus will include the history and development of the short story as a prose fiction form and the many subgenres, such as the gothic tale and science fiction. The short story is an important popular genre that engages with many social, political, scientific, and moral issues. This allows for a wide-ranging reach across the debates of the last two centuries. Through class discussions and written assignments, students will develop close-reading and critical thinking skills and discover the work of a variety of authors. 

 

ENGL 13186-20
Theories of Literature
David Thomas
MW 12:30-1:45

In literature and the humanities, we use the term theory to demarcate ways of looking at things.  For example, a gender theorist insists upon the importance of gender or sexual identities, a Marxist theorist emphasizes how economic conditions affect social and political realities, and a narrative theorist examines the importance of such matters as perspective and plotting in storytelling.  Rather than promoting one theoretical perspective, this course surveys numerous styles of literary and cultural theory more broadly.  Students will come to understand key features and issues in topics such as: aesthetic theory; Marxism; psychoanalysis; various feminisms, gender theory and masculinity; structuralism and post-structuralism; race and ethnicity studies; and more. There is a great deal of sheer fun and surprise in learning about these various approaches.  But such knowledge is also empowering, raising our consciousness concerning our own commitments and interests as readers and citizens.  This course is therefore about various tools for life, but perhaps of special value to students anticipating thesis writing or graduate study in the humanities, social sciences, and law. Our principal text is The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (3rd Ed.).  It's a typically huge Norton tome but worth the wrist damage as a superb launching point into numerous areas of literary and cultural theory.  Graded coursework involves two midterm papers and a final paper. Regular journal writings and active participation are also graded factors.