Most students in the English department come into the major with a genuine love of literature and the desire to grow as a writer. Classes are designed to nurture these interests, from the general requirements all the way through the seminars, with professors challenging their students at every level of the major. Students are motivated to widen their outlook by critically thinking about the texts and participating in classroom discussion, which is the cornerstone of the English pedagogy. Faculty advisors are dedicated to engaging students in dialogue both inside the classroom and on an individual basis.
The Department of English has made a commitment to small class sizes, especially for advanced classes and seminars, to encourage class discussion. Along with their own views, English faculty members present a variety of critical perspectives when leading discussion. The questions and opinions of the students are an essential addition to this range of viewpoints. Creative writing classes are structured to allow students to critique each other’s work—a process that helps them develop as readers as well as writers.
Along with permanent faculty members, the English department has enjoyed hosting several distinguished visiting writers; classes taught by these visitors offer students a chance to ask questions and have their work evaluated by established writers.
The Department of English issues a projected list of course offerings for the next two years to help students plan their schedules; however, course offerings are subject to change based on enrollment. BannerWeb is always the most accurate and up-to-date place for current students to find course offerings for the upcoming semester.
Students who want to transfer credits for an English course taken at another college or university should consult the transfer approval guidelines.
This is an introduction to college-level critical reading, thinking and writing. Goals include helping writers to move beyond personal writing and opinion to the production of nuanced and well supported work for academic audiences. To that end, 103 focuses primarily on analysis and source-based writing in which students demonstrate strong organizational, grammatical, and analytical skills for textual and visual subjects.
This course is an introduction to general principles. Students' fiction and poetry receive critical evaluation through workshops and conferences. The course is designed to improve students' creative and critical faculties through exposure to a variety of styles and genres in contemporary literature—e.g., poetry, fiction, drama, creative nonfiction, hybrid forms. The course emphasizes the finished product as well as the writing process, which includes not only putting words on paper, but also reading, analysis, and revision. Students examine forms and structures, word choice, line lengths and line breaks, sentences, paragraphs, beginnings and endings, rhetorical strategies, cadences and music, tone and voice, and syntax and diction. Class sessions include variations of the following: writing exercises, craft talks, discussion about the assigned readings, and discussion of student work. No prerequisite.
This course offers a selective survey of literature for children and young adults. The focus may shift from semester to semester, but will always include a range of fairy tales and novels for children and young adults, as well as a selection of picture books, early readers, and/or poetry for children. The course emphasizes the literary quality rather than the pedagogical value of literature for children. During the course of the semester we will focus on finding the cultural, historical, and literary contexts for the literature of childhood, exploring the relationship between what we know and what we think we know about children and their literature, and understanding a body of literature that is widely enjoyed but rarely respected.
Literature and Culture - Hilliard
In this course students read a selection of novels that explore various kinds of contact between people from different cultural traditions. What happens when individuals cross from one cultural setting into another? How are people in a minority culture influenced by the majority culture—or vice versa? What happens in this or that person’s mind when he or she is exposed to, or influenced by, the traditions, values and characteristic ways of behaving associated with a culture that is not his or her own? This, of course, an increasingly frequent experience in today’s globalized world.
The novels in the syllabus for fall, 2010 will consist of four pairs, each pair dealing with similar kinds of intercultural contact. For example, E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India (1924), one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, concerns the deeply unsettling effects of Hindu and Muslim traditions in India on a diverse group of British colonial officials, while a recent Pulitzer Prize-winning American novel, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake (2003), deals with the challenges of cultural adaptation faced by two generations in a family of recent immigrants from India to the United States. The Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), which is thought by many people to be the best novel written anywhere in the world during the last sixty years or more, deals in part with the problems of identity experienced by people in an imaginary South American town because of their awareness of how Latin Americans are viewed both by Europeans and by people in the U.S. Similarly, the American Nobel Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon (1979) deals with the way that the values and perceptions associated with white American culture subtly impact the self-perception of a family of middle class black Americans.
Literature and Culture – Pelletier
Contemporary scholars commonly assert that the roots of our present understanding of race and racial difference can be traced back to the nineteenth century, a period in American history when the idea of race was interrogated with remarkable intensity. With this in mind, we will look at how conceptions of race developed and were debated throughout the nineteenth century, and the ways in which the literature of this period participated in this larger cultural conversation. We will explore how race preoccupied nineteenth-century authors (even when they were not writing on race per se, race still seems to be an important component of their thinking), and how this preoccupation led to diverse and oftentimes conflicting (and even bizarre) accounts of race. Several key questions will guide our reading throughout the semester: What role did race play in the way writers were imagining “America”? Did a national identity require an imagined “Africanist presence,” as Toni Morrison argues? How was “whiteness” imagined in contrast to other racialized identities? In attempting to answer these questions, we will see the various ways in which writers like Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, and Mark Twain understood their culture, at least in part, through its racial organization.
Although the specific emphasis for each section of English 206 may change, in general this course is designed to introduce students to one or more major periods, patterns, or themes in American literature. Students read selections from multiple genres, including poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. In addition to discussions and studies of form and literary technique, the course also emphasizes how culture, history, and literature influence and shape each other. At the end of the course, students will be able to identify some of the varied characteristics of literature, apply techniques of literary analysis, use these skills in careful reading and clear writing, and demonstrate an understanding of the diverse social and historical contexts in which the texts are written.
Twentieth Century American Fiction – Ashe
The focus of this version of “Twentieth Century American Fiction” is “Blurred Boundaries.” We will persistently mine fictional texts of the mid-20th-to-early-21st century for their exploration of identity. We will critically “read” these texts, addressing the patterns that emerge: a sense of ambiguity (sexual, racial, gender, socioeconomic class, among others) and a tension between the interior self and the projected self. But not only will we address the identity of characters in these texts, we will also examine the texts formally. Some fictional texts of the mid-20th-to-early-21st century reflect that ambiguity, that blurriness, in formal terms. These writers often place fluid, ambiguous characters inside narratives that simultaneously explore form, and often the goal is to undermine objective reality, undermine certain notions of Truth. Some of the fiction writers that are discussed in this class include Junot Diaz, John Barth, Colson Whitehead, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Ames, Danzy Senna, Jonathan Lethem, and Nicholson Baker.
Twentieth-Century American Fiction - Lurie
This course focuses on the thematic and formal developments of modern American fiction. Novels and short stories of the twentieth century catapulted American writers to the forefront of literary achievement, with figures such as Stephen Crane, Hemingway, Faulkner, and Gertrude Stein fashioning an entirely new kind of prose. Along with their counterparts in Britain - but often with a focus that was uniquely American - writers like these sought ways to express authentic experience authentically and to convey what was new about modern experience. This modernity was defined in a great variety of ways, including reactions to historical events such as World War I, rapid increases in urbanism and industrialization, the Great Migration of African Americans, women's suffrage and advancing professionalism, and the Depression (among others). These developments in turn prompted textual strategies that departed significantly from the straightforward realism or Victorian sentimentality of their forebears. Above all, authors of this period discovered the enormous wealth of experience and expressive capacity available to writers who focused on interior, subjective experience - the narrative of mental life that characterizes a great deal of modernist literature. Emphases in this course vary, and students may find themselves focusing on writers of a particular region, a certain literary school, or from a particular period of the twentieth century, such as post-World War II writers, the Civil Rights era and its aftermath, or postmodernism. Other writers may include Sherwood Anderson, Willa Cather, Nella Larsen, Nathanael West, Truman Capote, Chester Himes, Vladimir Nabokov, Charles Johnson, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, Tim O'Brien, Thomas Pynchon, Bernard Malamud, or Cormac McCarthy.
This course explores works by modern Indian writers including novels, poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. Focusing largely on texts written in the past sixty-five years since India gained national independence from Britain, we will pose a series of questions as we read: How are the British Raj and the relation between British and Indian subjects represented? How have Indian writers evoked the 1947 Partition of the Indian subcontinent? How do various “minority” groups emerge in Indian literature in relation to the Indian nation-state? How, as readers in the West, do we read “hybridized” English – or what Salman Rushdie has called the “chutnification” of English? How are India and “Indianness” represented in works written by Indian writers living abroad? How is cosmopolitanism figured in Indian literature? Readings may include works by Anita Desai, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Jhumpa Lahiri, Rohinston Mistry, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Nayantara Sahgal, Bhisham Sahni, Bapsi Sidhwa, and Kushwant Singh.
This course introduces students to work spanning a range of science fiction and fantasy produced since the mid-nineteenth century, with a special emphasis on writing from the last half-century. Possible authors included in the course range from Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne to Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison and Ursula K. LeGuin to writers not typically identified with the genre. Students will consider a variety of interpretive frameworks—formal, psychological, feminist and others—through which literary sci-fi and fantasy are frequently read. Texts will include short stories, novels and film.
In general, this course looks at literary and nonliterary texts that react, in given societies and periods of history, to technological change and the social effects of technology. The course content will change from semester to semester, but a recently repeated topic has been "The Road," a survey of films and literary texts that concern themselves with cars, the experience of automotive travel, and the way writers, filmmakers, and urban-planners depict a "car culture."
The Bible is without a doubt the single most influential text in Western culture. Its language, stories, characters, and mythic patterns have provided the cultural grammar upon which much of our art and literature are based. Subsequent works have rewritten, borrowed, parodied, critiqued, or otherwise shown the influence of this Biblical foundation. In this course, no familiarity with the Bible is required; students read a generous sampling of biblical texts from the Old and New Testament before proceeding to measure their influence on a range of works from erotic poetry of the mystics to Renaissance epic to Romantic tragedies to the fantasy of C. S. Lewis.
Many students have read Chinua Achebe's classic Nigerian novel Things Fall Apart, but beyond that most people in this country are unaware of the rich, diverse body of writing that has arisen over the past six decades in Africa, a continent that has already produced four Nobel laureates in literature. This course is designed as an introductory survey and is intended, in part, to provide a more broadly based familiarity with the literature of Africa. It focuses attention both on thematic concerns characteristic of many modern African works (colonialism and revolution, uncertain cultural identity, etc.) and on special problems of expression faced by contemporary African writers (use of a second language, the interaction of African and European forms, etc.). It includes works by writers from various regions of the African continent - texts originally composed in English as well as works translated from French and from various African languages. It also examines ways in which one's own culture shapes one's reading of the products of other cultures. More generally, this course aims to extend students' powers of literary interpretation and to help them rethink literary analysis as an activity that is open to a variety of different approaches, some of which entail quite different kinds of results
This course introduces students to basic concepts of drama and theater. They read plays and theoretical essays with a view to analyzing how drama works both as a text on the page as well as a spectacle on the stage, examining all the elements that together constitute the dramatic experience. The course also focuses on significant theatrical traditions that have influenced modern drama, particularly with regard to the changing relationship between stage and audience. A fundamental question underlies all these readings and discussions: Why drama at all? What can the theater accomplish that other art forms cannot?
This course introduces students to the practice of film studies; the theoretical, historical, and aesthetic analysis of the cinema as an art form and as a socio-cultural phenomenon. The course begins by considering film in its earliest history, looking at the invention of the cinematic apparatus and the development of the earliest forms of film narrative as well as the audience for these spectacles. The course then considers film in other national and historical contexts: possible areas of examination include the Italian neorealist movement, the French New Wave, German Expressionism, and Soviet Montage, among others. Further units include an in-depth investigation of the work of a significant director such as Alfred Hitchcock or Ingmar Bergman, and an analysis of the history and development of film genres such as the Western, the screwball comedy, or film noir. Students who take the course learn to engage with film interpretively and imaginatively. These interactions encourage a more active, critical engagement with the medium and add to one's recognition of the complex ways in which film operates as a symbolic and cultural-historical system.
Introduction to Poetry -- Schwartz
The purpose of this class is to introduce students to lyric poetry as it has been written and read in Modern English since the early 16th century. The course is arranged thematically, rather than historically, however, and is designed to allow students to explore how poems have served their readers and authors in the face of some of the basic difficulties of being human and in the course of changing historical conditions. We explore the ways in which certain aspects of the art have made it particularly well-suited to the contemplation of loss and human isolation. We also explore poems that describe or invite us to contemplate extreme states of consciousness, that invite us to return to or imagine origins, that reveal connections to the past, to other human beings, or to a God or truth that has been hidden or obscured by history or by pain. The final sessions explore the role that poems play in the construction, promulgation, and possible reform of political ideals and ideologies. We conclude with an extended examination of a single volume of poems by one author. Considerable attention is also paid to meter and other aspects of line-construction as well as to various lyric forms and genres.
This course provides an understanding of the concepts, techniques, and artistic goals associated with literary modernism, and it examines classic examples of modernist fiction by writers such as E.M Forster, Franz Kafka, and Virginia Woolf, as well as work by recent inheritors of modernism's legacy, such as Ian McEwan, Cormac McCarthy, and Penelope Fitzgerald. The larger goals of the course are to give the student experience in identifying and writing about the concerns, values, and world views of novelists and the strategies by which novelists convey these elements. Students emerge from this course, in other words, with a much more detailed and sophisticated understanding both of "the modern" and of "the novel."
The major questions posed in this course are 1) what makes a novel "great," significantly superior to most others, and 2) how we reach such value judgments and, indeed, of what use it may or may not be to do so. The course pursues these questions by close study of some of the most celebrated works in the genre, by writers such as Austen, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, James, and Kafka. Together they offer a stunning variety in character, vision, and style. They also offer significant challenges to the reader: how to identify and evaluate the concerns, values, and world view of the author, and the literary strategies by which the author conveys those concerns and values.
This is a readings course that focuses upon life-writing as an art. It explores the ways meaning is constructed within biography and autobiography and considers the means by which life-writers collect, evaluate, and shape data from their own lives or the lives of others. It also attends to the similarities and differences in the processes of generating, interpreting, and presenting material used by life-writers and writers of fiction. In addition to assigned texts, students have the opportunity to read and write about a biography and autobiography of their own choosing.
Primarily, this course entails the study of and growing familiarity with the black vernacular tradition. We study novels, autobiography, music, film, dance, and, occasionally, selected popular culture texts (basketball games, church services, barbershop visits, etc.) that encompass a range of black social classes, sexual orientations, and genders, peering into each text in order to “read” it from a distinctly black vernacular perspective. Once we become proficient at recognizing and identifying the vernacular, we talk about what the use of the vernacular by black folk means in the larger American culture. At the same time, we also examine black vernacular-inspired texts from non-black artists and writers, and talk about what it means—not just to (white) America but to black America. The last portion of the course is devoted to black commentary on white participation in the black vernacular, sometimes while artists are executing their vernacular-based art itself. What is the range of responses available to blacks when confronted with non-black black vernacular practitioners? What do those responses tell us about African American culture? about American culture? This course uses the black vernacular as a broad, in-depth cultural lens through which to view American culture, and in so doing, seeks to locate the black vernacular in the American cultural imagination.
This course examines literary representations of the modern woman's search for identity and struggle for self realization. It begins with two major questions: Do women write differently than men? Do women read differently than men? Because the novel is central to women's literary history, the course focuses on fiction and the changing nature of narratives by women. As literary critic Rachel Blau DuPlessis has pointed out, "Once upon a time, the end, the rightful end, of women in novels was social - successful courtship and marriage - or judgmental of sexual and social failure; death." As an example of such conventions, the course begins with a novel by either Jane Austen or Emily Brontë, then moves to early modernists such as Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, and Zora Neale Hurston, who critique the romance tradition, and finally to writers such as Virginia Woolf, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Danzy Senna, Penelope Lively, and Josephine Humphreys, who experiment with new literary forms, new endings, and new definitions as they examine women in untraditional roles.
This course introduces students to a selected body of writings by African Americans from the colonial period to the present. The class looks at varied forms, including the traditional genres (novels, poems, plays, short stories, essays), slave narratives, and oral forms (narratives and performance pieces, such as political speeches, sermons, songs, etc.). Some attention is given to distinctive and persistent elements of style in the Black tradition (oral and written), such as double vision, masking, signifying, wit, irony, verbal play, and all the complex area of language (voice/silence, metaphors, rhythms, idioms, dialect, etc., etc.).
The South of myth and the South of history have combined to produce a literature fascinating in both its range and conflicting images. Issues of familial and communal heritage, conceptions of place and region, and relations among various racial and ethnic groups are among the most prominent and pressing themes in southern fiction, but since such might be said of any regional American fiction, this course asks, what makes this fiction particularly "southern"? We can begin to understand some of the oppositions constructed in the Old South and represented in its fiction between blacks and whites, the landed gentry and the yeoman farmer, and the strict gender roles of ladies and gentlemen by examining southern attitudes toward honor, race relations, and the land in works by Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Chesnutt, Jean Toomer, and Kate Chopin. The course then investigates the effects of changing social conditions and new fictional forms on representations of the South by writers such as Richard Wright, William Faulkner, Ellen Glasgow, and Eudora Welty. The final weeks of the semester focus on the following questions: Is today's South more a matter of social perception than social distinction? Is there anything still "southern" about the South? What role do writers play in mythologizing, reconstructing, and/or reinventing the South? We may find answers in contemporary fiction by such writers as Walker Percy, Ernest Gaines, Josephine Humphreys, Christine Wiltz, and Robert Olen Butler. A highlight of the fall 2014 semester will be a visit by Robert Olen Butler.
This course investigates a selection from Shakespeare's comedies, histories, tragedies, and romances. Special emphasis is placed on close reading and on genre analysis. Both comedy and tragedy are complex literary modes that have been invested with a variety of meanings and functions in the Western tradition. We explore what these roles have been, and in particular how Shakespeare adopted and manipulated generic conventions to serve his own purposes. This course also engages a variety of recurring issues that emerge in these works, including questions about the nature of the individual subject, gender roles, communities, history, political institutions, art, and questions about the relations among all of these. We also explore what theater is and how it works, making use of film clips of various performances of the plays as one way of approaching this issue. The most important goal of this course is for students to reach a good level of familiarity with and understanding of Shakespeare's language and imagery. Students also examine how interpretations of these plays may be affected or influenced by our own involvement in the Shakespeare "myth," and we will consider ways in which the playwright himself seems to offer his readers hints for approaching his own texts.
This course is designed to introduce students to a body of literature from the Caribbean. Using a variety of interpretive frameworks, we do close, critical readings of selected writings representing varied periods, areas, and groups. Specific emphasis may change from term to term; the focus is generally on the English-speaking Caribbean, but works in translation from the Spanish-, Dutch-, and French-speaking islands may be included from time to time. We consider the process by which Caribbean texts have been created and received, the historical and cultural contexts in which they have developed, and their relationship to each other and to other bodies of American, European, and world literature.
Darkness and Desire: Gender and Representation in the Lyric and the Noir Aesthetic – Lurie and Schwartz
The purpose of English 297 is to introduce students to “genre” and “mode,” terms that scholars use to identify two of the most important conceptual categories that writers and readers use in the composition, sorting, comparing, and interpreting of literary and cultural works. This course takes up two quite distinct genres and/or aesthetic modes -- the lyric poem, and the roman and film noir -- that frequently take up questions of masculine identity as a thematic element or formal feature (and often both). Consonant with this is the importance of women: as objects of desire (as in the poetic speaker’s “beloved”), antagonists (as in the film noir's "femme fatale"), or as a speaker or interlocutor herself (as female poetic speaker, or as confidant or possible partner). Such generic modes of utterance are significant-- for example, the male "voice" and the effort to articulate a masculine sense of self within a particular verse scheme or through the conventions of cinema and prose fiction. Or as in what happens when a woman becomes a speaker in roles traditionally occupied by men. Certain canonical lyric poems derive their generic force through expressions of longing and anxiety about identity and social positioning that are traditionally male; similarly the detective mode features characters whose encounter with the criminal world includes a questionable but nevertheless desirable woman and the effort to understand or "know" her, often through acts of speaking (or sexual repartee). Manifested in an actual or figurative voice -- the protagonist's voice-over in film noir, the first-person narration of the "hard boiled" detective novel, or the emotive first person utterance of lyric -- acts of narrating, confessing, complaining or persuading are key elements in both noir works and in love lyrics, where story lines and situations often suggest profound challenges to stable notions about power and manhood. The module on noir will consider early examples of this genre in the detective stories of Edgar Allen Poe, continue with the hard-boiled detective novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James Cain, and the African-American writer Chester Himes, then turn to the Hollywood film noir of the 1940s and beyond. We will examine the historical and social pressures on masculinity that might have led to this genre's flourishing (the end of World War II, employment opportunities for ethnic Americans and women, a burgeoning U.S. corporatism) and to its critical and scholarly receptions. We will also look at revisionist models in cinema, such as Roman Polanski's Chinatown or other "neo-noir" films that question the premises of classic noir narratives and its heroes (or anti-heroes). The module on Love Lyric will survey poems from three key periods in the development of the genre in England and the U.S. The establishment of the genre and the explosion of creativity it experienced in the 16th and early 17th centuries (poems by Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Philip Sidney, Shakespeare, Thomas Carew, Milton, and Donne); the revisions the genre underwent in the Romantic and Victorian periods (lyrics by Keats, Shelley, Christina Rossetti, and Robert and Elizabeth Browning); and the radical and often experimental revisions it again underwent in the 20th century (poems by T.S. Eliot, e.e. Cummings, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Gary Snyder, and Adrienne Rich).
The Forms of Eros: Love and Desire in Novels and Films – Cheever and Hilliard
This course will introduce the fundamental importance of the concept of genre to the study of texts by examining the working of Eros in human experience. How does Eros—defined as both love and sexual desire, and also as the drive towards self-realization or self-creation—shape and guide human experience? And what happens when Eros and its related drives are thwarted: by other individuals, by cultural expectations and requirements, and by the random unfolding of events?
Using two of the most influential of cultural forms—the novel and the narrative film—we will explore the ways in which Eros is represented and transformed by the traditions and expectations of different genres. One half of the course examines the representation of Eros in four types of novels: an eighteenth-century epistolary novel, a nineteenth-century century realist novel that critiques the older narrative type called the “romance,” an early twentieth-century Modernist steam-of-consciousness novel, and a contemporary novel in the style known as Magic Realism. The other half examines how Eros is imagined in the post-World War II genre of Film Noir and the cinematic melodramas of the mid-twentieth century. These genres reveal the workings of Eros in relation to other aspects of human experience such as the desire for social power, the influence of consumerist romantic fantasies on the experience of love, and so on. They also provide the opportunity to consider how individual genres, and their forms or conventions, work to shape and guide the representation of human experience.
Imagining the Self in Poetry and the Novel - Hickey and Hilliard
It is through the self that the world is organized and perceived. In this course we will examine the role played by the self in two major literary genres, poetry and the novel. Specifically, we will consider how different types of selves are conceived and represented: the implied self of a poet or novelist; the self of the speaker in a poem or the narrator in a novel; and the kinds of selves (characters) imagined in various sorts of poems and novels. We will read poetry by James Wright, Richard Hugo, and Nancy Willard and fiction by Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary), Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway), and a contemporary novelist.
Lightness and the Dark: American Romanticism and the Gothic in U.S. Cultural Expression - Pelletier and Lurie
This course explores two important literary genres in their distinctively American variations. The Romantic movement spanned many countries and a long historical period, yet writers from the United States found particular ease with the genre’s emphases on individualism, freedom, and an exalting of imaginative flights of fancy and intense emotion. The module on Romanticism focuses on how American writers such as Whitman, Emerson, Melville, Dickinson, Hawthorne and others drew energy and inspiration from an approach to literature that had been advocated in England by the Romantic poets Wordsworth, Keats, and Byron. It was within—and perhaps because of—the Romantic mode that American authors were able to develop very particular views regarding the self, nature, and the sublime that modern readers would now understand to be quintessentially American ideals. In what particular ways, then, are these ideals, which are the hallmarks of American Romanticism, born out of and shaped by the English Romantic tradition that preceded it?
At something of a tonal distance stands the dark, brooding Gothic, the focus of the other module. At first glance, this quite different-seeming genre would appear unlikely in American contexts. As one scholar put it describing this odd pairing: “an optimistic country founded on the Enlightenment principles of liberty and ‘the pursuit of happiness,’ a country that supposedly repudiated the burden of history and its irrational claims, has produced a strain of literature that is haunted by an insistent, undead past and fascinated by the strange beauty of sorrow.” How might we account for the traction that Gothic literature and film have found in U.S. culture? What aspects of American life and experience find useful expression in the Gothic’s haunted characters and claustrophobic interior spaces (the opposite of the vaunted, American frontier)? In what ways might we trace connections to particular aspects of Romantic literature that further help us understand the similarities as well as differences between these genres? Examples of works we’ll read include the 18th Century novel Wieland, or, the Transformation; stories of Edgar Allen Poe; Henry James’s novella “The Turn of the Screw”; and Faulkner’s modernist Sanctuary. We will also consider one example of the Gothic in U.S. cinema such as Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining.
Romance in Fiction and Film -- Gruner and Cheever
The fairy tale romance is one of the sturdiest building blocks of narrative, forming the foundation of the courtship novel, fantasy fiction, and romantic comedy, to name only a few. Shifting the metaphor, we can see the fairy tale romance as the root of a tree that branches in many directions; in this course we will explore some of the literary and filmic branches that derive from the same root. In the first half of the class we will begin with some of the best-known fairy tales from the collections by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, in order to establish the origin point for many of the subsequent generic revisions we will analyze. (Fairy tales themselves have many earlier origins, but for most of the texts we will examine these tales serve as a source.) We will then read novels from several different periods to see the ways in which similar source material shifts its meaning in different forms. The second half of the course examines these narratives—both the tales themselves and the novels that draw on them—as they are adapted into familiar film genres. Considering first the Disney’s animated versions of the tales under consideration, we will then analyze their evolution into the live-action genres of fantasy and romantic comedy. This formal variation will provide the opportunity to explore the thematic and stylistic consequences of the move to a predominantly visual form of narration. What are the consequences for meaning of the adaptation of literary works into filmic texts?
Shapes of Desire: Narrative and Lyric – Jones and Schwartz
This course will explore the ways in which two broad types of literary expression, the fictional prose narrative on the one hand and the lyric poem on the other, have engaged the subject of desire. We will examine how authors and readers, by working with particular genres and modes, have created and perceived certain kinds of meanings. We will also be concerned with how approaches have changed over time and why. The module on narrative will concentrate on formal elements of two overarching categories of prose fiction in four different historical moments: the romance as it was adapted by two nineteenth-century century American short story writers, Hawthorne and Poe, and the novel as it was written by the French realist writer Gustave Flaubert in the 1850s, then significantly revised by the English modernist Virginia Woolf in the 1920s, and further modified by the English postmodernist John Fowles in the 1960s. The module on the lyric will follow the development of the love lyric written in English over the past 500 years, beginning with a set of poems by the 14th century Italian poet, Francesco Petrarcha in order to introduce some of the key motifs and themes that will occupy the later writers and then moving on to three sets of poems written in English during three important historical periods: the 16th and early seventeenth centuries, the mid-19th century, and the 20th century.
The Western in Fiction and Film – Siebert and Stevens
The American Western has its roots in earlier frontier fiction, which in turn has roots in European romance, Judeo-Christian determinism, and classical mythology, to name a few. How, then, do scholars separate the Western as a genre from the more diverse frontier tradition of which it is a part? And where does the Western find its terminus, blending into other literary forms that engage similar themes or issues? The fiction module will begin with an overview of the frontier tradition in American writing, starting with the fiction of Cooper and progressing through the 1890s, where the cultural forces giving rise to the Western arguably become most acute. Students will read two seminal Westerns—Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902) and Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage (1912)—exploring how the genre deals with matters of masculinity, domesticity, race, religion, and violence. The course will then examine two anti-Westerns—Walter van Tillburg Clark’s The Ox-Bow Incident (1940) and George Bowering’s Caprice (1988)—to determine how Western themes and tropes have been adopted, adapted, or undone by later writers. Full-length works will be supplemented with shorter selections from Twain, Harte, Crane, Remington, and L’Amour, as well as relevant criticism from scholars like John Cawelti and Richard Slotkin. The module will conclude with a discussion of “western writing” and other literary categories into which the Western blends. The film module begins in 1903, the year of the genre’s inception with The Great Train Robbery and continues with its development through the silent western and the studio period, revival in the 1940s and 1950s, internationalization of the genre in the 1960s, its decline in the 1970s and yet another revival in the late 20th and early 21st century. We will study different iterations of the genre and consider how changing technology, such as introduction of location shooting, sound, color, television, and digital imaging, transformed it over time. We will examine how the Western was appropriated outside of the United States through examples of Mexican comedia rancheria, Italian spaghetti westerns, Eastern European Indianerfilme, and westerns from Australia and Asia. We will consider the Western as cinema (both genre and institution) and as an ideological discourse variously inflected depending on its particular historical junctions and locations. For example, we will study the different ideological functions of the Western during the Cold War period in the United States and in Europe and the functions of the revisionist and border westerns in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
The American Civil War and its Aftermath – Browder and Jones
This course will explore the literature arising from the American Civil War and its aftermath in the twentieth century. Professor Browder’s module on the Civil War focuses on how a diverse array of writers—from anti-slavery activists and politicians to fiction writers, ex-slaves and journalists—debated the issues that inevitably led to America’s most devastating conflict and then bore witness to the resulting upheaval. Professor Jones’s module will focus on the aftermath of slavery and the Civil War in the twentieth century with an emphasis upon the impact of those events on the portrayal of American race relations both before and after the civil rights movement and on the representation of racial identity, including biracial identity.
The Colonial and the Postcolonial Novel – Hilliard and Singh
Between the 16th century and the 1950s, Western European powers claimed most of the world’s territory as their own. By the start of the First World War, a striking 85% of the earth had become Western territory, and most of the world’s population at that time was governed by foreign rule. By the middle of the 20th century, the world changed drastically as most of the regions under colonial rule – from Africa to South Asia to the Caribbean and beyond –fought to gain national independence from their colonizers. In this course we will examine the relationship between Western colonial expansion and the novel as a literary form. We will explore a range of novels that represent the colonial experience, considering both what the novel has to do with colonization and why the colonial experience has been such a critical topic for the novel. In the first half of the course, we will examine novels written by European writers in the colonial period, considering how writers imagined and evoked the colonial experience in fiction. In the second half of the course, we will turn to post-colonial literatures that “rewrite” these colonial novels from a post-colonial perspective, imaginatively refiguring the colonial experience by fundamentally altering these colonial narratives. The novels we will read in this course are key texts in the history of British and Anglophone literatures, and are critically acclaimed works not only for their representation of colonization but also for their aesthetic value. Writers will include Emily Brontë, J. M. Coetzee, Joseph Conrad, Daniel Defoe, Jean Rhys, and Tayeb Salih. (FSLT)
Debating Race in American Literature – Pelletier and Ashe
Contemporary scholars commonly assert that the roots of our present understanding of race and racial difference can be traced back to the nineteenth century, a period in American history when the idea of race was interrogated with remarkable intensity. With this in mind, the first module of this course will look at how conceptions of race developed and were debated throughout the nineteenth century, and the ways in which the literature of this period participated in this larger cultural conversation. We will pay particular attention to the pre-war disputes over slavery as well as this nation’s effort to rebuild and reimagine itself after the Civil War. During this period of Reconstruction—a moment W.E.B. Dubois called “easily the most dramatic moment in American history"—this nation struggled to incorporate four million newly emancipated slaves, debated the significance of racial difference, and asked itself if freedom means more than simply not being a slave. Situating these texts within the key social, political, and legal debates of the period, we will see how writers like Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, and Henry David Thoreau understood their culture, at least in part, through its racial organization. The second module examines African-American writers of the middle of the 20th century—and the “Protest Era” during which they wrote—in order to grapple with the difficult task of reading literary texts and then placing them in historical context. How do literary historians go about the business of gathering discrete texts into coherent groups? Since artists of any stripe create their art with and against the circumstances of the time in which they live, to what extent should the literary historian take that fact into account in reading and “placing” the text? Can a writer who is expected to write “protest” literature truly escape that label if that’s what is expected of him or her? And what of readers? To what extent do these contextual issues matter when words fly off the page up into the brain of the reader? How does historical context affect literary interpretation? We will struggle with these questions this semester, as we place literature in context while pondering texts in history.
The Literary “I”: Self and Identity in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Literature – Gruner and Outka
This course will consider some of the many ways Anglophone writers imagined the self in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature. We’ll discuss how poets, novelists, and playwrights conceived of identity, how notions of a “true” or “authentic” self changed over time and among writers, and how both literary selves and real selves may be seen as constructions and always to some extent performances. Throughout the semester, we will investigate how changing social and cultural norms and historical events affect notions of identity, and how these writers explore the ways gender, race, ethnicity, and class radically shape ideas about the self. Authors may include Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, J. M. Coetzee, and Wole Soyinka.
Literature and War - Outka and Pelletier
The American Civil War and World War I were two of the most destructive conflicts of their times, and both wars spawned a distinctive literature and marked a shift in literary content and style. This course examines the literature of each war, culminating in a community based learning project on veterans and memorials in Richmond. Writers considered may include Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Ambrose Bierce, Charles Chesnutt, Thomas Nelson Page, T. S. Eliot, Rebecca West, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and others.
Modern and Early Modern Selves – Russell and Schwartz
One unit of this course will trace the rise of the theater in Elizabethan (and Jacobean) England and answer the following questions. What were the cultural and historical circumstances of this period that may have led theater to develop as quickly and remarkably as it did? In what ways were new perspectives on the nature of the cosmos, of social relations, and of the self tied to an interest in theatricality? We will begin by examining Machiavelli's Prince and Pico della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man in order to trace some very different early approaches to "theatrical" conceptions of the self. We will then focus on a set of history plays by Marlowe and Shakespeare, since this genre afforded unique opportunities for commentary on contemporary social and political conditions. The other module will leap ahead several centuries to the shock of another new form. Beneath the seemingly placid surface of 1950’s America, a cultural ferment was at work that over the next several decades would produce a wide variety of new art-forms. This unit will survey some of the new kinds of poetry that arose out of a rising interest in individual and mass psychology, political and social rebellion, and new ideas about language suggested by continental philosophy.
This course focuses on the essentials of close textual analysis, with special attention to the theoretical and critical vocabulary and methodology of literary interpretation. It pursues these goals by way of different topics each semester.
American Autobiography – Browder
Autobiography, with its valorization of individualism and its emphasis on self-fashioning, is a form peculiarly suited to American national mythologies. While some American autobiographies emphasize Emersonian traditions of self-reliance, many others, especially works which describe the experience of belonging to a minority group in the United States, have traditionally been written, and read, as a means of helping frame the complex cultural relationships of a multi-ethnic society. In this course we’ll read a range of autobiographical works, from canonical texts by Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass to popular memoirs by Forrest Carter and Nile Rodgers. We will consider many forms of autobiography, from some of the most canonical autobiographies by such figures as Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass, to graphic novels, oral histories, autobiographical documentary films, and web-based work like the It Gets Better Project.
American Misfit: Geek Literature and Culture – Ashe
Musician Brian Eno, in a May, 1995 interview in Wired magazine, said this: “Do you know what a nerd is? A nerd is a human being without enough Africa in him or her.” Who—and what—is a nerd? Why are there nerds? What is the familiar nerd narrative? And once the nerd narrative is identified, how does that narrative implicate American views on beauty, conformity and cultural norms? Using books like Benjamin Nugent’s American Nerd: The Story of My People, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Trey Ellis’s Platitudes, films like Ghost World and Revenge of the Nerds, and television shows like “Freaks and Geeks,” American Misfit: Geek Literature and Culture will explore these and other questions, using the “geek” archetype as a portal though which we examine American culture. Geeks stand at the nexus of issues of race, style, physicality, gender, and verbal linguistics. We will discuss geeks in these contexts as we grapple with the key question of why nerds exist, and what the nerd construct means to and for America.
Border Crossings in Global Literatures – Nethersole
Crossing borders of countries, oceans, and continents has become commonplace in our globalizing world. Intersecting with different peoples of diverse cultures, beliefs, ethnicities, and identities captures contemporary experience for many of us. This course, based on texts by such internationally known writers as Appadurai, Bhabha, Ghosh, Gurnah, Ondaatje, Roy, and Rushdie, and including the films, The Namesake and Babel, introduces students to a growing body of literary representations of people on the move across a multifaceted international spectrum, stretching from India, to England, America, Africa and beyond. We will explore reasons and outcomes of such border crossings, and acquire a critical vocabulary that will enable students to deal with more detailed and sophisticated understanding of the “transnational” and “global.”
Global Women Writers – Singh
In this course, we will explore women’s writing from around the world, from regions as diverse as South Asia, Africa, North America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. Through reading novels, short stories, poetry, and essays by and about women, we will examine how the concerns of women writers travel across national and political lines. What particular challenges do women writers face and how do such challenges influence their writing? How is the role of women represented in and across different literary and non-fiction texts? How does sexuality figure into women’s writing and what does it say about the “naturalized” ways that women are imagined across cultures? What current global issues concern women writers, and how are they linked to gender and sexuality? These are some of the questions that we will ask as we travel around the globe to explore works by contemporary women writers. Writers may include Tsitsi Dangarembga, Margaret Atwood, Edwidge Danticat, Ama Ata Aidoo, Nawal el Saadawi, Bapsi Sidhwa, Zora Neale Hurston, Arundhati Roy, Vandana Shiva, Wangari Maathai, and Audre Lorde.
The Great American Novel – Stevens
In 2012, the Pulitzer Prize Board refused to award a prize in fiction even though its literature advisory committee offered three titles as finalists. Why did the Board refuse the nominees? How did the committee arrive at its finalists? What are the mechanics of awarding a literary prize in the first place? These questions strike at the heart of how reading communities negotiate value. It’s a question we don’t often ask in the literature classroom, where matters of quality and cultural importance have been negotiated before students walk through the door. The Pulitzer decision stands that paradigm on its ear. How does anyone know what’s worth reading? In this course, we will examine two of the three novels rejected by the Pulitzer Board alongside novels nominated in the same year for other literary prizes (the National Book Award, the Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN awards). Our conversations will focus on an orientation of literary value—not just an assertion of our own tastes but an attempt to articulate the various ways that critics and readers seem to offer aesthetic judgments. Student writing will include an extensive annotated bibliography of contemporary book reviews for a given text, several short essays on the subject of literary value, and a final longer paper making the case for the “prize winner” out of all the novels we read during the semester.
Immigrant Literature – Browder
One of the goals of the course is to better understand the immigrant experience in America as it has been recorded in literature. To this end, we will read a variety works that span the twentieth century, such as Abraham Cahan’s Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom, Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York, Mary Antin’s The Promised Land, Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers, Ole Rolvaag’s Giants in the Earth, Mario Puzo’s The Fortunate Pilgrim, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Danny Santiago’s Famous All Over Town, Esmerelda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Interpreter of Maladies, and Gary Shteyngart’s The Russian Debutante’s Handbook. One project for the course will be modeled on the Ellis Island Family Histories. For this project, each student will interview an immigrant – either someone you already know, or someone you meet through an agency in Richmond (such as the Catholic Diocese of Richmond’s Refugee and Immigration Services or Jewish Family Services). Your job will be to record an interview, take or scan photographs of your subject, and present his or her story on our class website. Additionally, you will write a paper discussing the ways your subject’s story does and does not conform to the models of immigrant narratives we will be reading.
International Jazz and American Culture –Ashe
Jazz, though certainly born on U.S. soil, was both product and instigator of early-twentieth-century processes and trends that were global in scope: the mass manufacture of culture, urbanization, the leisure revolution, and primitivism,” writes E. Taylor Atkins in Jazz Planet. “It is this fact—combined with the sheer, and early, ubiquity of the music—that leads us to conclude that, practically from its inception, jazz was a harbinger of what we now call ‘globalization.’ In no one’s mind have the music’s ties to its country of origin been severed, yet the historical record proves that it has for some time had global significance, if not necessarily for the commonly accepted, purely aesthetic reasons. Jazz exists in our collective imagination as both a national and a postnational music, but is studied almost exclusively in the former incarnation. Our purpose here,” in International Jazz and American Culture, is to study primarily literature about jazz—as well as literature in the form of jazz—in order to “recuperate [jazz’s] career as a transgressor of the idea of the nation, as an agent of globalization.
Literature after 9/11 – Siebert
The early responses of American writers to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, converged in their despair at the failure of language to describe what transpired that day. “I have nothing to say,” wrote Toni Morrison, while Suheir Hammad found that “there have been no words./ no poetry in the ashes south of canal street./ no prose in the refrigerated trucks driving debris and dna./ not one word.” Like the European writers in the wake of World War II, who declared that there could be no poetry after Auschwitz, many American writers saw 9/11 as an event that made language itself useless and literature irrelevant, if not impossible. Their international counterparts concurred: in 2002 Salman Rushdie confessed to struggling, “like every writer in the world…trying to find a way of writing after September 11” and Martin Amis claimed that “after a couple of hours at their desks on September 12, 2001, all the writers on earth were reluctantly considering a change of occupation.” And yet, in the ten years since, imaginative fiction attempting to grasp the meanings of September 11, and of the changed world it ushered, proliferated both in the United States and abroad. We will study this body of writing to understand how writers in the United States and abroad have variously responded to the challenge of depicting 9/11 and confronting the crisis of literary imagination that followed. We will read American fiction such as, for example, John Updike’s The Terrorist, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close, Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Sherman Alexie’s Flight, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, Deborah Eisenberg’s “The Twilight of the Superheroes,” Lynne Schwartz’s The Writing on the Wall and Art Spiegelman’s comic book, In the Shadow of No Towers along with novels by British, French, Algerian, and Pakistani writers such as Frederic Beigbeder’ Windows on the World, Ian McEwan’s Saturday, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Slimane Benaïssa’s The Last Night of a Damned Soul and a selection of non-fictional commentary by writers such as Slavoj Zizek, Frederic Jameson, Richard Rorty, Salman Rushdie, Judith Butler, Pankaj Mishra, Jonathan Raban, Orhan Pamuk, and Ashis Nandy.
Modern Drama – Browder
In this course we will explore the aesthetically and sometimes politically radical international movement known as modern drama. During a period that, for the purposes of this course, spans roughly from 1880 to 1935, playwrights broke with long-established theatrical conventions and developed new dramatic techniques, such as realism, naturalism, expressionism, and epic theater, in order to critique conventional gender roles, look at class mobility in a rapidly changing society, examine the notion of technological progress, and talk about warfare. Because plays are not meant to be read but to be performed and seen, we will be viewing performance videos as well as acting and directing scenes in class. Plays may include Shaw’s Pygmalion, Odets’ Waiting for Lefty, Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest, Brecht’s Mother Courage, Čapek’s R.U.R., Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Glaspell’s Trifles, Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, Schnitzler’s Hands Around, O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape, August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, Treadwell’s Machinal, and Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. (FSLT. This course does not count for the English major or minor.)
Queer Literatures – Singh
The representation of “queer” identity and sexuality – whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transsexual – faces a critical challenge. Since there remains today an entrenched set of images and ideas associated with homosexuality that has been largely governed by heterosexual culture, queer aesthetic expression must struggle with how to voice the experience of homosexuality. In this course, we will examine contemporary queer literature and film that is concerned with both the formation and formulation of queer identities. We will ask a series of questions: What distinguishes and differentiates queer aesthetics? What does it mean to be queer? Who can or should represent queer identities? Throughout the semester, we will examine works that traverse sexual, racial, national, and political lines. As such, we will pay careful and critical attention to a plurality of queer expressions and representations. Authors may include: Shyam Selvadurai, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Tony Kushner, James Baldwin, Dionne Brand, Jeffrey Eugenides, Ismat Chughtai, Leslie Feinberg, Shani Mootoo, Manuel Puig, and William Burroughs. Films may include: Boys Don’t Cry, Happy Together, Fire, Philadelphia, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Before Night Falls, and Paris is Burning. (FSLT, WGSS. This course does not count for the English major or minor).
Vampires – Snaza
The vampire’s bite brings either death or eternal life. From Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, vampires have not ceased to scare us, and to attract us. They travel easily across media and through time: Vampires are in our nightmares, our folktales, our books, our breakfast cereals; they are on our television and computer screens. They also travel through space, transgressing spatial and political boundaries, sometimes as bats or as mist; almost always they come from somewhere strange, or they estrange us from our homes. In this course we will ask: What are vampires, and why are we so attracted to—and afraid of—them? How are the vampires of folklore different from the vampires of fiction, or the vampires of film? Why have we gone from being terrified by vampires and the threat they pose to our communities to looking toward vampires for new modes of social relation (as in The Lost Boys or Twilight)? To answer these questions, we will pursue these vampires through literary and film history, reading authors such as Lord Byron, John Keats, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer, and watching films including Nosferatu, The Lost Boys, and Let The Right One In. Along the way we will investigate the various anxieties—sexual, political, racial, generational, and technological—that vampires inspire in us.
Group A: Courses in Literature Before the Early to Mid-19th Century
The Middle Ages is a period of vast diversity, spanning some ten centuries and presenting an almost dizzying array of literary styles and genres. This course explores the literature and culture of both the early and later Middle Ages, from Beowulf to Chaucer. The purpose of the course is to sample the broad variety of medieval literature while attending to its linguistic, historical, and cultural contexts.
This course is designed to introduce students to sixteenth and early seventeenth century English literature. Students read a variety of texts in roughly chronological order, focusing primarily on lyric poems, narrative verse, and plays, paying close attention to the cultural assumptions that governed the way literary texts were written, read, and performed in the period. The course also helps students develop the special analytical skills needed to read this literature carefully and to write about it effectively. Students learn to identify genres and make sense of archaic language, while developing a familiarity with historical contexts and the relationship between these contexts and the major stylistic and thematic concerns that not only characterized the age, but set up the template for much later literary production in the English language.
In this course we read a selection from Shakespeare's plays, organized according to their genre. The primary goal is to achieve an in-depth knowledge of these works through close reading and structural analysis. While investigating the specific concerns articulated in each of these plays, we pay particular attention to Shakespeare's use of generic conventions to create his meanings. This requires us to investigate various approaches to the nature and function of comedy and of tragedy. What are some of the recurring characteristics of these genres, and how have they been approached from the perspectives of literary history, of anthropology, of philosophy, of cultural materialism, and of gender studies? As we become familiar with some of the major concerns linked to particular genres, and with some of the principal characteristics of generic conventions, it becomes easier to understand how Shakespeare appropriates and manipulates those conventions for his own purposes. In particular, we trace his tendency to combine genres within his works, particularly in the histories and romances. By focusing on questions of genre, we are also able to trace some of the principal thematic connections among the plays. In what ways, for example, is The Merchant of Venice tragic, or Othello comedic? How does Shakespeare's presentation and/or understanding of love, theatricality, virtue, or history - to name just a few concepts - seem to develop as he moves from the comedies to the tragedies to the romances? Throughout, we are concerned with the plays' cultural and historical contexts. How do Shakespeare's texts implicitly and explicitly respond to or comment upon contemporary social structures, political and religious ideologies, and cultural values and traditions? Perhaps the highest achievement of the English Renaissance, and certainly the most popular at the time, is its rich dramatic tradition. In this class, therefore, we also seek for clues in Shakespeare's plays that may explain why this form of representation struck such a responsive chord in Renaissance society. We see that drama perhaps most compellingly engaged a society in which the self's relation to others and to reality was increasingly understood as dynamically flexible and uncertain rather than fixed and predictable. Drama vividly displayed the problematic relationships between fact and fiction, skepticism and idealism, politics and ideology, magic and science, which were of central concern to thinkers in the Renaissance. Finally, we also consider the question of Shakespeare's hallowed status in the literary tradition. What factors contributed to his literary "canonization"? Indeed, how are judgments about aesthetic value made, and what purposes might they serve?
The purpose of this course is to explore the cultures of the Middle Ages and Renaissance from the perspective of a number of different fields of inquiry. These fields include the history of art and architecture, literature, philosophy, religious studies, history, and political philosophy. The basic assumption behind this course is that the various kinds of artifacts, physical or conceptual, that a culture produces constitute together a unique symbolic "universe." In order to interpret this universe of signs and symbols, whose meanings have been blurred by the passage of time, it is often illuminating to explore their rich and complex interrelations. Thus, for example, by studying together Michelangelo's David, Luther's Freedom of a Christian, and Shakespeare's Hamlet, it is possible not only to further one's understanding of each of these works, but also to achieve a more complex and thus more accurate insight into Renaissance conceptions of the human self. Such an interdisciplinary study of a distant era fosters a capacity for intellectual flexibility, as students are asked to learn some of the "languages" of these historical periods and to fit together from them a version of a coherent culture. The point of this course, it should be noted, is not necessarily to trace the influence of one work on another. Depending on the instructor, this course places more emphasis either on the Middle Ages or on the Renaissance. The course usually has a subtitle that describes the particular theme or topic it will focuses on. For example, "Empire, Antiquity, and Myth: The Idea of Rome in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance" explores the various and often compelling ways in which poets, artists, theologians and political theorists in this period incorporated and constructed conceptions about ancient Rome and classical antiquity in their works. Another version of the course is entitled "The Divine, the Will, and the Performative Self." It begins with Augustine's Confessions and goes on to explore the works of Boethius, Spenser, and Chaucer, Gothic Architecture, and Giotto's frescoes, among other texts.
In this course we trace the development of lyric poetry from the 14th to the 17th centuries, a period of time that spanned the Italian, French, and English Renaissance. The nature of the self and of its relation to the other remains a central concern in all the works examined in this course, though the perspectives articulated differ widely. Some of the more specific questions or issues to be investigated include: 1) the relation between the poetic imagination and reality. To what degree does imagination reveal or occlude truth? To what degree is the self an unstable poetic construct rather than a divinely constituted and fixed “essence”? Does the self create its own fragmented and illusory reality, or does it inhabit a coherent universe structured by God? 2) the relation between self and other, especially as played out in the context of romantic love. Is physical beauty a manifestation of the divine? Can physical desire be sublimated into spiritual passion? Is it possible to have both? Is genuine contact with an “other” possible? To what degree can the beloved survive the process of absorption into a poetic text? 3) the relation between the poet and his predecessors, between imitation and originality. 4) the relation between ethics and aesthetics. What kind of knowledge does lyric poetry provide? Can poetry be transformative or redemptive, or is it inherently about itself? Is poetic creation an act that reflects or parodies/perverts divine creation? What is the proper relation between art and nature? 5) the relation between poet/poem and the social and political context out of which the work emerges.
This course is intended to introduce students to some of the best-known writers and literary works written during a period in British literary history (specifically, English literary history) that extends from the Restoration of the monarchy (after a prolonged civil war) in 1660 to the advent of the Romantic era at the end of the eighteenth century. British writers during this stretch of time were still very conscious of the traditional literary genres as established by ancient Greek and Roman writers, and by European writers of the Renaissance, but they were also creatively undermining the traditional boundaries between genres and inventing new and important modern genres such as the realist novel and modern biography. Instead of being organized according to a straightforward historical chronology from 1660, the course will focus on major writers and works several genres: prose fiction (including both a novel and the greatest satirical work in the English language, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels), poetry (Alexander Pope, one of the five or six great English-language poets), comic drama, biography, and (briefly) literary criticism. As we look at works in each of the genres we’ll pay attention to chronology. British literature in what, in literary history, is often called “the long eighteenth-century” (from 1660 to, roughly 1789) is best known for comedy and satire and for the emergence of the dominant modern literary genre, the novel. In addition to Swift and Pope, our writers will include William Wycherly, William Congreve, John Gay, Samuel Johnson, and others.
Along with the Renaissance, the Romantic era represents one of the two great intellectual watersheds of Western culture. The industrial revolution, political upheavals in Europe and America, the founding of democracies and the growth of capitalism, secular assaults on religion, liberal humanism and new conceptions of the individual, all made for a tempestuous era of paradigm shifts across the spectrum. In the realm of aesthetics, literary models underwent their most dramatic transformations since antiquity. We study some of the intellectual and cultural underpinnings behind Romanticism and examine some of the movement's early manifestations in France and Germany, before turning to the study of British Romanticism proper. Figures to be studied include Rousseau, Chateaubriand, Goethe, Blake, Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, and Shelley.
The earliest American writings were by definition travel literature. The early explorers and settlers described the land, its inhabitants, and their ventures in the new world. These early travelers began a long tradition of travel writing by and about America. Over the course of the semester we study a number of key texts in American travel literature from 1590 to 1840. We read books by English and African travelers to America, as well as books by Americans traveling across and beyond the continent. Some of the questions we pursue include: how was the notion of America, and more precisely of the United States, shaped by the experience of traveling? In what ways is U.S. American identity built upon this legacy of travelers and traveling? How do ideas about mobility, the landscape, and space, for example, work to construct a distinct American ethos and literature?
This course examines the diverse texts that emerged during the American Renaissance, a period from roughly 1840 to 1865, which saw the first great flowering of a distinctly American literature. In addition to focusing on canonical writers (Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman), students also explore how writers from different classes, races, and genders contributed to discussions of national significance, including debates over slavery, women's and Native Americans' rights, industrialization, and national expansion. Ultimately, then, the course examines how writers perceived literature's role in the larger question of what it means to be an American in such a time of excitement, change, and uncertainty.
This course allows the selection of topics arising in other period courses for more in-depth study. Examples may include "Eros, Magic, and the Divine in the Renaissance Imagination," "Nationalism and the Novels of Cooper and Scott," "The Poetry of John Donne," or "Romance, Allegory, and Mysticism in Medieval Literature." Topics vary by semester, and the course may be taken more than once for credit.
Transnational American Renaissance – Pelletier
Like their French contemporary, Alexis de Tocqueville, the American Renaissance writers read across oceans and across nations because they knew then what we are beginning to appreciate fully today; that is, the territoriality of one’s reading practices is not inexorably bound by the territoriality of one’s region or nation-state. The implications of this insight are far reaching. Focusing on the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Herman Melville, we will explore the emergence of America’s first “distinctive” literary tradition—the American Renaissance—in a transnational setting. In addition to reading some of the canonical works from this period, we will read a selection of texts that these Renaissance writers encountered as a result of their own transnational reading practices. We will also read a sampling of works that these writers have influenced beyond this nation’s borders as a way of charting the transnational effects of the American Renaissance. In this course, the American Renaissance should be understood, not as something onto which one adds a transnational framework, but as something that emerged organically as a transnational phenomenon. What, then, inspired such a movement? What were some of its primary preoccupations? How is the “American” in “American Renaissance” complicated by its transnational influences and transnational effects? How do we historicize a group of “American” writers who read against and outside of the nation? How do we periodize a set of texts (e.g. “1850-1855”) that are informed by works much older than the America these texts helped shape? How we do periodize texts that profoundly influence works by authors who will live and write long after the Renaissance has ostensibly come to an end? As one of its central overarching aims, this course will seek to understand how transnational reading practices among Renaissance writers helped to form bedrock ideas that modern readers have come to identify as distinctly “American” but whose origins are deeply rooted in foreign literary and cultural traditions. Given this reality, how are we supposed to understand the “American” literary canon if some of its central “American” axioms emerged from sources that are not, in the end, American? (Counts for AMST)
The Family, Courtship, Marriage, Love, Sex, and Money in the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Novel – Hilliard
The simple aim of this course is to read, discuss, and write about five great English novels, Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, and either Charles’s Dickens’s Bleak House, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, or Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now. The last three of these novels are among the greatest in our language and each is all quite long; this is the reason why we’ll read a total of five texts in the course rather than six or seven. The novel in its characteristic modern form was first invented by Defoe in the early eighteenth century, and from that point until the late nineteenth century novelists tended to focus on the cluster of themes mentioned above, the family (the primary social unit or institution), etc. Through this focus great novelists were able to say or imply a great deal about the social and economic circumstances in which people of the times experienced their lives. The various novels are more or less representative of the Realist style that dominated novel-writing in the two centuries, and we’ll pay attention to this style (and to significant deviations from it), which was inaugurated by Defoe when he published his first novel, Robinson Crusoe, in 1719. We’ll also consider the persistent influence in a few of the novels of the type of narrative that was dominant in Western culture prior to the emergence of the Realist novel, the romance.
Group B: Courses in Literature After the Early to Mid-19th Century
This course examines a wide selection of Anglophone works as well as works translated into English from other languages, drawn from several regions of Africa. It draws attention to themes of colonialism and decolonization, tradition and modernity, cultural hybridity, shifting gender roles and relations, rural-urban exchanges, and a variety of other concerns explored in distinctly different ways in the work of writers like Chinua Achebe, Bessie Head, Wole Soyinka, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nuruddin Farah, Nadine Gordimer, and others. It also takes up issues particular to this body of literature, like the relationship between written texts and the ongoing oral tradition, the choice for the writer between colonial and indigenous languages, and the theoretical problems posed in studying African literature from the position of American and Northern readers.
This course offers a survey of some of the major writers of the English-speaking Caribbean, with an emphasis on contemporary works and with some attention to the historical and cultural contexts that influenced the literature. It examines the work of poets as well as fiction writers, including writers like Derek Walcott, V.S. Naipaul, Erna Brodber, and Jamaica Kincaid.
This course focuses on modern 20th century literature written (by and large) in English, examining novels, short stories, poems, historical essays, and political writings from South Asia. We will investigate several key topics in contemporary South Asian writing: How have the struggle for and achievement of national independence been represented in South Asian literature? How have these texts addressed the violent social turmoil that erupted during the Partition of India in 1947? How have writers addressed the politics of caste and class in the region? What is the status of women in this body of literature? How do South Asian writers in the diaspora “re-member” home from abroad? We will read theoretical texts in this course to situate ourselves within the context of postcolonial studies, and we will read
historical, philosophical, and political writings of the 20th century as we analyze South Asian literary texts.
This course is an invitation to read a broad selection of American Indian fiction in order to consider different ways in which its authors negotiate the representational quandaries of multiculturalism and the politics of recognition in the United States. We will focus on how these texts confront the challenge of depicting the many versions of indigeneity as it is variously transformed (and transforms) in the meeting and clash with settler society and culture at a time when such representations are eagerly appropriated by the public discourse intent on redeeming the United States as a properly multiculturalist democracy. To set a broad agenda for our meetings throughout the semester, we will begin with a book that has stirred more controversy than perhaps any other contemporary Native American novel, Sherman Alexie’s 1996 Indian Killer. Then, we will retrace our steps to the two key texts of the Native American Renaissance of the late 1960s and 1970s (N. Scott Momaday’a 1968 The House of Dawn and Leslie Marmon Silko’s 1977 Ceremony). From among writers publishing in the last twenty years, we will read fiction by Louise Erdrich, Gerald Vizenor, LeAnne Howe, James Welch, Diane Glancy, Greg Sarris, David Treuer, Linda Hogan, and Gordon Henry. In addition to literary texts, we will study a selection of critical writings in the field in order to trace a shift from ethnographic and ethnohistorical criticism to indigenous nationalist approach advocated by contemporary American Indian scholars.
This course provides an overview of literature produced by Black women writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Their writings are viewed within the larger context of world literature, while attention is given to the unique problems faced by Black female writers, the concerns upon which they focus in their works, the importance of their individual works, the milieu that produced them and their works, their triple consciousness, the critical reception accorded them, and the affinities that unite them in an unusual sisterhood.
This course will approach two distinct but related ways of thinking about the relations between literature and globalization. On the one hand, we will analyze how various literatures produced around the globe represent the economic, cultural, political, and aesthetic effects of globalization. On the other hand, we will look at how globalization produces “literature” and its associated practices through educational institutions, translations, international prizes, and global markets. Throughout we will ask two questions: What is globalization? And when is globalization: does its appearance mark the end of the twentieth century or is it something that has been in process for much longer? Readings may include literary texts by authors such as Nadine Gordimer, Frederick Douglass, Agha Shahid Ali, Rabindranath Tagore, and Daniel Defoe, and critical texts by Arjun Appadurai, Karl Marx,Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Pascale Casanova, Gauri Viswanathan, and Chandra Mohanty.
This course considers twentieth-century literature written in and about the former colonies of Europe's modern empires. It concentrates on writing composed in English. Although the course approaches this literature on its own terms, doing so mandates attention to its complicated relationships with the Euro-American canon. Thus, the course considers how postcolonial literature repudiates and seeks to revise European literary forms as well as how postcolonial literature increasingly defines a new sort of canon from an established position inside its boundaries. This course considers how work that emerges from the former colonies or from the migrant populations engendered by imperialism helps to transform the English canon into a more heterogeneous archive. Writers may include Chinua Achebe, Yvonne Vera, Raja Rao, V.S. Naipaul, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Anita Desai, and others.
The period spanning the years 1832 to 1901 in the British Empire was a period of rapid political, economic, social, and literary change. Industrialization and imperial expansion mark an era also known for the flowering of both the realist novel and children's literature, as well as biography, autobiography, and new experiments in both epic and lyric poetry. This course provides a survey of selected literature of the Victorian period, including some if not all of the listed genres and emphasizing the following goals: to acquaint students with the major literary genres and figures of the Victorian period, and to explore the process of canon formation in and after the period; to provide students with an understanding of some of the sociological factors and intellectual movements of the Victorian period, both as reflected and as constructed by the literature of the time; to develop more effective analytical skills in both discussion and writing, through class discussion, in-class exams, and course papers; to explore some of the variety of on-line resources available for the scholar of Victorian literature, with an eye to developing a more thorough awareness of what the resources and their limitations are, and perhaps to developing our own; to identify some of the research "problems" in Victorian literature, and to begin to find approaches to those problems through research and writing.
In this course, we will trace the emergence and development of literary modernism in Europe and America from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. In a brief, revolutionary period (roughly 1900-1930), artists transformed literature, the visual arts, music, dance, and even interior design in ways that continue to influence art and culture today. We will consider British, Irish, American, and selected Continental literature, as well as selections from music, painting, dance, and psychology. Our approach will be roughly chronological, as we explore first the rebellion from — and revision of — cultural mores before World War I, and then the struggle to form a new kind of art from the fragments of culture that remained after 1918. Throughout the semester, we will investigate how modernism is constituted by its tensions, encompassing Ezra Pound’s demand to “make it new” and the counter impulse towards nostalgia and elegy; the embrace of empire and its radical rejection; and the constant search for new (and often contradictory) ways to find meaning.
This is a course about modernism that focuses on a range of novels, some of them fully canonized, all of them centered on what was surely the main item of concern among British intellectuals during the first half of the century, namely, the fate of Empire in a rapidly changing world. We consider how fiction participated in this discussion by reimagining relations between England, the inner colonies of the Celtic Fringe, the Victorian colonies of India and South Asia, emergent colonies in Africa, and the fringes of imperial interest in South America. The special interest of this fiction was establishing rules of engagement between self-identified Englishmen and Englishwomen, immigrants such as the Pole Joseph Conrad and the West Indian C.L.R. James, and colonial populations increasingly well-versed in English language, literature, and culture. By concentrating our attention on the relationship between intellectuals, both colonizer and colonized, we may acquire a clearer sense of how the era of high imperialism transformed into the age of globalization in which we live. We also gain an understanding of what modernism was, what it did in the world, and why it still matters to readers of literature worldwide. Writers may include Olive Schreiner, Rabindranath Tagore, Elizabeth Bowen, James Joyce, Evelyn Waugh, R.K. Narayan, and Graham Greene.
Most scholars of American literature have identified realism as the dominant mode in fiction of the late nineteenth century. However, many of the writers who have been lumped together under this rubric, such as Edith Wharton and Mark Twain, would seem to have little in common, either in the formal qualities of their work or in the issues they hoped to address in their writing. Why, then, have critics insisted that the late nineteenth century witnessed the emergence of a "movement" called realism? This course includes a variety of texts from the general period in order to explore literary realism as a problem. What is at stake in defining literary works as "realist," and what elements of texts must be suppressed, ignored, or neglected in order to make them fit into this category? The course also pays special attention to the relationship between "realism" and "regionalism," asking why some writers are relegated to the status of regionalists while others are given national importance. A closely related concern is the work of literature in the reformation of the national political culture of the United States following the Civil War.
The South of myth and the South of history have combined to produce a literature fascinating in both its range and conflicting images. Issues of familial and communal heritage, conceptions of place and region, and relations among various racial and ethnic groups are among the most prominent and pressing themes in Southern literature, but since such might be said of any regional American literature, this course asks, what makes this literature particularly "Southern"? We can begin to understand some of the oppositions constructed in the Old South and represented in its literature - between blacks and whites, the landed gentry and the yeoman farmer, the strict gender roles of ladies and gentlemen - by examining particularly Southern attitudes toward honor and the land in works by Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Chesnutt, and Kate Chopin. To chart the evolution of Southern literature from the romantic rhetorical mode to the modern dialectical mode and subsequent postmodern permutations, the course investigates the effects of changing social conditions and new fictional forms on representations of the South in works by such writers as Dorothy Allison, William Faulkner, Ernest Gaines, Ellen Glasgow, Josephine Humphreys, Randall Kenan, Jean Toomer, Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, and Richard Wright. The final weeks of the semester focus on the following questions: Is today's South more a matter of social perception than social distinction? Is there anything still "Southern" about the contemporary South? Does the South now look like the rest of the country, as some, such as John Edgerton in The Americanization of Dixie, claim? Or as others, such as Peter Applebome, have suggested, does the United States now look like the South? What role do writers play in mythologizing, reconstructing, and/or reinventing the South?
This course explores literature by American writers dealing with issues of racial or ethnic identity studied in relation to historical contexts. It approaches this subject by way of various genres, for example, representations of race and ethnicity in modern and contemporary American drama. Studying dramatic texts, critical material and occasional video productions, we analyze how various ethnic minorities have used the stage as a means of analyzing, questioning, subverting, and modifying dominant power structures as well as of defining, and redefining cultural identities. We study some of the most exciting and compelling plays that have emerged since the Harlem Renaissance and have fundamentally reshaped American theater and American identity.
This course offers a survey of representative figures from twentieth-century American poetry. The course will begin with a brief introduction to verse form so we can recognize the ways in which poets used formal innovation to challenge and reshape poetic tradition. We will cover a range of movements and schools, such as Modernism, Imagism, the Harlem Renaissance, the New Critics, Objectivism, the New York School, the Beats, the “confessional” poets, and Language Poetry. We also will examine how poets responded to major issues of their time, such as war, industrialism, racism, sexism, and cultural conformity.
This course attends to new social, philosophical, and aesthetic concerns in American writing in the mid- to late twentieth century, and to the new forms of fiction that have developed to express them. It examines the work of writers such as John Barth, Kurt Vonnegut, Donald Barthelme, Thomas Pynchon, and William Gass, while developing an understanding of literary postmodernism in relation to the cultural and philosophical movements within which the term first arose and assessing its application and usefulness as a tool for literary analysis.
This course traces the development of writings by African American women. The class will consider the unique problems faced by these writers, the distinctive features of their literature, the concerns upon which they focus in their works, the milieu that produced them and their works, their triple consciousness, their womanist/feminist perspectives, and the critical reception accorded them.
This course examines major trends in American literature of the past fifty years - from the existentialist writing of the immediate postwar period and the development of literary postmodernism to the increasing prominence of ethnic literatures towards the end of the century. The syllabus pairs individual works by prominent late twentieth and early twenty-first century writers such as Saul Bellow, Thomas Pynchon, Joan Didion, E.L. Doctorow, Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Philip Roth with pertinent theoretical and critical writing. These pairings allow us to consider how these works engaged with some of the central preoccupations of the last half-century: the Cold War, post-American affluence and the problem of conformity, Civil Rights and the student movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the Vietnam War, the rise of postmodernity, and the omnipresence of technology in American culture.
How are African-American artists who were born or came of age after the civil rights movement responding to this contemporary American culture? Today, as a result of the civil rights movement, black creativity isn't produced or viewed solely within the context of the pursuit of freedom for black people, a reality that is reflected in the literature, film, art, and music of …the “Post-Soul” aesthetic. One reason you likely haven't heard of the Post-Soul, among several, is that, while the Post-Soul aesthetic (PSA) is a legitimate “school” of African-American literature and art, many of its practitioners don’t want to be labeled, even if the label is one that suggests they believe in unfettered artistic freedom. Although she prefers the term “postblack,” art curator Thelma Golden spoke directly to the heart of the PSA artistic dilemma when she wrote: “For me, to approach a conversation about ‘black art,’ ultimately meant embracing and rejecting the notion of such a thing at the very same time. . . . It was a clarifying term that had ideological and chronological dimensions and repercussions. It was characterized by artists who were adamant about not being labeled as ‘black’ artists, though their work was steeped, in fact deeply interested, in redefining complex notions of blackness.” Many Post-Soul writers critique the events or mindset of the civil rights movement in their fictions, and it's important to this sense of African-Americans being “post” that these artists have no lived, adult experience with that movement. Many of the best known younger black artists have a complicated relationship with the PSA, and therefore many of these artists often show up on PSA syllabi: Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Kara Walker, Wynton Marsalis, Spike Lee, Danzy Senna, Mos-Def, and more.
This course analyzes some of the most influential dramatic texts and theories that have shaped Western drama and theater since the late 19th century. We cover a range of theatrical traditions, including Realism/Naturalism, the Art Theater movement, Futurism and Dadaism, Expressionism, Political Theater, the Theater of the Absurd, the Theater of Cruelty, as well as postmodern Performance Art. We look at texts by American, British, Russian, German and French playwrights and theorists.
English 367 Indigenous Cinema in North America -- Siebert
This course serves as an introduction to the contemporary cinema by indigenous filmmakers in the United States and Canada. We will study a broad selection of documentary and feature films in order to understand how American Indian filmmakers have negotiated representational quandaries of multiculturalism in the United States and Canada. We will focus on how these films confront the challenge of representing indigenous specificity as it is variously transformed (and transforms) in contact with settler forms of social and cultural organization at a time when such representations are eagerly appropriated by the public discourse intent on redeeming the United States and Canada as properly multiculturalist democracies. To establish a historical context for our discussions of contemporary films, we will begin with early ethnographic films (Robert Flaherty’s 1922 Nanook of the North and H.P. Carver’s 193O Silent Enemy), western and anti-western tradition (John Ford’s 1956 The Searchers, Kevin Costner’s 1990 Dances with Wolves, and Jim Jarmush's 1998 Dead Man, for example) and the contemporary multiculturalist retellings of early encounters between American Indians and European missionaries and of contemporary indigenous realities in the United States (Bruce Beresford’s 1991 Black Robe, Terrance Malik's 2005 The New World, and Courtney Hunt’s 2008 Frozen River). For the remainder of the semester we will turn to contemporary documentary and feature films by indigenous filmmakers. Our examples will include films by Arlene Bowman (Navajo Talking Picture, 1984), Victor Masayesva Jr. (Imagining Indians, 1992), George Burdeau (Backbone of the World, 1998), Greg Sarris and Dan Sakheim (Grand Avenue, 1996), Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals, 1998 Skins, 2002 and Edge of America, 2004), Sherman Alexie (Business of Fancydancing, 2002), Randy Redroad (The Doe Boy, 2001), Zacharias Kunuk (2002 The Fast Runner), Valerie Red-Horse (Naturally Native, 1998), Shelley Niro (Honey Moccasin, 1998, The Shirt, 2003), Blackhorse Lowe (5th World, 2005) Sterlin Harjo (Four Sheets to the Wind, 2007) and a selection of shorts by the youngest generation of indigenous filmakers. The course’s reading list will include theoretical, historical, and critical accounts of settler and indigenous cinema along with histories of indigenous-settler relations in North America. (This course is crosslisted with Film Studies.)
This course examines the principles and history of film aesthetics by focusing in depth on the work of one or two individual directors (for example, Alfred Hitchcock or Akira Kurosawa) or on a particular stylistic movement (such as Film Noir, the French New Wave, Hong Kong Action Cinema) that has had a significant impact on filmmaking more generally. The course's emphasis is less on the interaction of individual films with the cultures that produce them, and more on the development of film language and style. Questions to be considered are: what is film style? Can style be defined individually or nationally? How do styles evolve over the course of a career? and with the introduction of new technologies? Ultimately, how are style and meaning related?
The purpose of this course is both to teach students to analyze film within a larger cultural matrix - what do films tell us about American culture? what does American culture teach us about film? - and to introduce the methodology of cultural studies by way of visual and narrative analysis. The course is structured around a particular filmic genre (melodrama, film noir, horror, etc.) and/or historical moment (the 1940s, the postwar era, the 1980s etc.) which varies from semester to semester. Recent topics have included "Hollywood Melodrama and Popular Feminism, 1937-1990" and "Conspiracy Film from the Cold War and After, 1945-2000." In each semester, the selected films are read alongside relevant contemporaneous material as part of an ongoing conversation between Hollywood films and the culture that produces them. Questions to be considered include: Are Hollywood films mere reflections of the society that produces them or do they play an active role in the evolution of social institutions? Can popular film be a force for social change? How and what do mainstream movies mean?
This course allows the selection of topics arising in other period courses for more in-depth study. Examples may include "The British Modernist Novel", "Films of the Cold War and After", "Gender and Class in the Nineteenth-Century Novel", or "Victorian Fantasy." Topics vary by semester, and the course may be taken more than once for credit.
American Narrative Poetry -- Hickey
This course focuses on American Narrative Poetry in the late 20th century and explores the many guises of the narrative poem: extended dramatic monologue; the highly descriptive, linear narrative told in third person that often includes extended meditation (in service to a story); and the poem of multiple characters and dialogue that either makes use of linear story-telling or makes use of the non-linear poetic sequence. We will also examine how these categories blur, that is, how poets combine strategies. Finally, we will try to arrive at some criteria for describing and evaluating the art of the narrative poem. Our readings will include narratives in rhymed and metered verse as well as free verse; longer and more mercurial narrative forms; poetic sequences; and a contemporary novel in verse. Some general questions we’ll consider as read poems and critical essays are: How does the writer draw upon verse as a source of narrative power? What would the story lose if re-written as prose? How do the verse form and the narrative work together? A poem, narrative or lyric, must be entirely built as a poem. Given that, a question worth asking is: If you want to tell a story, why do it in verse? What does the form give to the story? Can we bring the same criteria we use for evaluating lyric poetry to narrative poetry? What’s the middle ground between the compression of the short lyric and the breadth of the epic? What criteria can be brought to bear on a mixed form—a work that is neither extended lyric nor prose fiction? The ultimate question is: What might a modest aesthetic of the narrative poem be?
Contemporary American Poetry -- Henry
This course will examine American poetry from 1950 to 2010, with a particular focus on poetry that responds to both modernism and mainstream culture by extending the artistic innovations of modernism and by positioning itself against the mainstream. In a number of ways, the story of contemporary American poetry is one of rebellion—against convention, certainly, but also against war, racism, sexism, environmental degradation, homophobia, and exploitation. The course will cover the Beats, the New York School, the Black Mountain poets, confessional and post-confessional poets, Language Poets, and conceptual poets, among others.
Literary New Orleans – Jones
Americans have long been fascinated with New Orleans. With its tropical climate, its racially and ethnically diverse population, its mixing of peoples and cultures, and its distinctive architecture, cuisine, and music, many have distinguished it as the most “foreign” city in the United States. From its origins, New Orleans has been both praised and denigrated, but almost always, it’s been thought of as America’s “exotic other” for one reason or another. In this course we will discuss how American writers have represented New Orleans in literature and film from the late nineteenth century to the present. We will analyze how some of the country’s best writers, both native and non-native to New Orleans, from Kate Chopin and William Faulkner to Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams, have enhanced myths of the city or complicated them. If as literary critic Lewis Simpson argued, “the literary imagination isolated the Vieux Carré as the only interesting setting in the city thereby reducing the whole expanding city to one of its small parts,” more recent writers such as Walker Percy, Anne Rice, Christine Wiltz, Tom Dent, Brenda Marie Osbey, and filmmakers Spike Lee and J. Leo Chiang, have put other neighborhoods on the map: Gentilly, the Garden District, the projects, Tremé, the lower 9th Ward, and outlying Versailles. Over the course of the semester, students’ two short research essays will be published online as part of a collaborative interactive map of Literary New Orleans.
Performing Texts – Henry
The focus of this course will be two-fold: on the ways in which texts can be performed and on the ways in which texts themselves perform. We will look at performance-oriented work (stand-up comedy, performance art, performative poetry) as well as traditional literary work (fiction and poetry) that performs on the page. We will examine texts written, composed, and/or improvised for both the page and live performance while analyzing how text itself can perform via heteroglossia, homophones, skaz, wordplay, language games, etc. The course will be enriched by performances and readings by many of the artists and writers on the syllabus: Sherman Alexie, Amiri Baraka, Mike Birbiglia (via Skype), Junot Diaz, Holly Hughes, Sharon Olds, and Anne Waldman. We also will read theory and critical work by Erving Goffman, Julia Kristeva, and Philip Auslander, among others, and consider the work of comedians Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman, and Louis C.K. through films and film clips.
Politics, Social Change, and 20th Century Drama - Outka
This course will explore the development of modern drama from Ibsen’s ground-breaking naturalism, to abstract modernist rebellions, and finally to contemporary drama’s new variations. We will consider how playwrights alter the dramatic form—and to what end—and what distinguishes the theater from other artistic endeavors. Throughout the semester, we will return to the question of social reform and the theater, asking how different playwrights saw their work in relation to, and even as a remedy for, various social, political, and cultural concerns. We will explore the performative elements of the plays we read by holding in-class readings, producing a written scene study, “casting” different plays, attending live performances, and analyzing videotaped productions. Writers may include Henrik Ibsen, Anton Chekhov, Bertolt Brecht, Eugene O’Neill, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Caryl Churchill, Wole Soyinka, Harold Pinter, August Wilson, and Paula Vogel. Note: This course counts towards both the Theatre major (as an elective) and towards the English major (as an elective or a Group B course). Theatre 205 or IS 290 can be used as an alternate prerequisite.
Group C: Other Advanced Courses in Literature, Language, and Writing
This course traces the development of the tragic mode in Western drama. Few other literary modes have been as resilient in the history of Western culture, and this is partly due to the unique adaptability of this genre to changing historical, political, socio-economic and other cultural conditions. In order truly to understand the complex nature and role of tragedy in the West, therefore, it is necessary to study its various manifestations across historical periods and national boundaries. Some of the problems the course explores include the nature of the tragic; how tragedy imagines the individual and his/her relationship to society; how tragedy imagines the relationship between human beings and the divine and between human beings and history. The course pays particular attention to the various ways in which tragedy has functioned as a site of affirmation or contestation of prevalent cultural/political values and ideals. Some of the playwrights investigated in this course may include Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Webster, Racine, Büchner, Chekhov, Ibsen, Pirandello, Beckett, Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller, Lorraine Hansberry, and Marsha Norman. Non-dramatic texts, including poems, novels, and films may also be included.
Theater and Society pursues the study of theater with regard to its social relevance. It examines the various ways in which theater not only reflects but also seeks to intervene in ongoing cultural and political debates relevant to a given society. It draws attention to the politics of form and production as well as to the politics of reception. Topics might include such offerings as “Theater and Politics/Political Theater”, “Theater and War,” or “Postcolonial Theater”.
“Film Theory” refers to the body of philosophical work that, in short, tries to define what we mean by the term “cinematic.” Such efforts conceptualize the unique attributes of cinematic art and expression, treating film in both its aesthetic aspect and its socio-historical dimensions, including factors of film production, reception, and dissemination as well as the role of Hollywood as a profitable entertainment industry. The course will survey works of film theory from the earliest endeavors to understand cinema’s technical effects as motion pictures through the so-called “Grand Theory” of the 1970s and 80s, when thinkers extended the reach of film studies into fields like structuralism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis; the historicist and culturalist theory of the 1990s; theories of cinematic modernism and postmodernism; and speculations about the emerging cultural role of digital video and the Internet. In addition to our readings, we will regularly screen films that complement or help illustrate the concepts described by seminal works of film theory. Focus points may include realism, auteurism (or theories of film “authorship”), the studio and star systems, feminism, the Frankfurt School, genre studies, and critical race studies. Directors may include but will not be limited to: Alfred Hitchcock, D.W. Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, Robert Weine, Maya Deren, François Truffaut, Vittorio de Sica, Yosujiro Ozu, Howard Hawks, John Ford, Busby Berkeley, Orsen Welles, Kathryn Bigelow, David Lynch, and the Coen brothers.
This course considers ways of looking at art and literature in their philosophical context. Theories of such philosophers and writers as Plato, Dante, Pope, Kant, Wordsworth, Shelley, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Jung, Robert Penn Warren, Sartre, Woolf, and Derrida are applied to texts ranging from the Bible to Ulysses.
The emergence of literary studies as a discipline with its own methodologies and theoretical underpinnings is a relatively recent development, with beginnings in the early twentieth century. After a brief overview of ancient conceptions of literature, we turn to the study of Russian Formalism and American New Criticism, which set about putting literary studies on an equally rigorous foundation with scientific disciplines of the day. We then survey a range of approaches to the study of literature that followed from mid-century on, most of which had origins in other disciplines. These schools or critical theories include Feminism and Marxism, Structuralism (influenced by linguistics and anthropology), Reader-Response criticism (from German philosophy) Deconstruction (from French philosophy), Psychoanalysis (from Freud and other psychologists), and New Historicism and Postcolonial criticism (both blending Marxism and post-structuralism). This is a course that emphasizes the analysis of theoretical texts (many of which are quite difficult) more than practical, applied criticism, though we spend time both reading and writing criticism of literary texts as well.
This course is about the meaning of poetic form. We are concerned with the basic mechanics of traditional formal verse in the English language as it has developed in England and North America since the 14th century and with the values conferred on its forms by various reading communities (by readers and writers who saw themselves as working within and upholding a central tradition and by those who saw themselves as deliberately working against or outside such a tradition). The first part of the course reviews basic methods for perceiving, describing, and interpreting the formal mechanics of verse in English (with particular attention to the rise of modern accentual-syllabic verse). The second part covers various conceptual and historical matters: the development of period styles, the ideological content and context of particular lyric genres and devices, the development of an "English Poetic Tradition" in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, and a series of stances in opposition to that tradition among British and American poets of the 19th and 20th centuries.
In this course students read a selection of novels that represent the historical development of the novel in its various manifestations since its emergence in the early eighteenth century as what would become the dominant modern literary genre. These include at least one novel (e.g., Jane Austen's Emma or Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights) that is linked to the romance, the narrative mode that was most characteristic of Western culture prior to the rise of the novel; at least one novel that represents the realism which strongly typified the genre in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and which is still an important tendency in the novel (e.g., Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders or Charles Dickens's Great Expectations); at least one early twentieth-century modernist novel (e.g., Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse or Mrs. Dalloway); at least one example of postmodern fiction (e.g., Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, or perhaps a novel in the style called "magical realism" such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude); and perhaps a contemporary novel that is an amalgam of several of these novelistic modes, such as Ian McEwan's Atonement. Beyond attending to the different modes of fiction and to their historical development, students examine each of the novels from several of the theoretical perspectives that have been brought to bear on narrative fiction in recent decades, perspectives associated, for example, with Marxist theory, feminist theory, cultural studies, psychoanalysis, and so on. Students attend to two larger questions as they progress through the course: What is a novel? How should I read a novel?
Film Genres: Conspiracy! Films of the Cold War and After – Professor Cheever
This course examines the evolution of conspiracy films as a specific Hollywood genre during the Cold War and to situate these films within the larger cultural sphere that shaped their production. What can these films and this emergent genre tell us about American culture during the Cold War period? And how can a more complete understanding of the social and political history of the Cold War help us to understand the generic conventions of these films? Beginning with the political thrillers of the late 1940s and 1950s, such as Reed’s The Third Man, Kazan’s On The Waterfront, Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate, the course uses primary political documents, sociological readings, and historical accounts as well as contemporary critical analyses to establish the conventions of the genre and the context of the period. The course then considers the genre’s evolution from political to corporate intrigues during the 1970s and 1980s, viewing films such as Antonioni’s Blow Up, Pakula’s The Parallax View, Landis’s Trading Places, and Nichol’s Working Girl. The course then concludes with an analysis of the post-Cold War interest in conspiracy as entertainment in such 1990s films as Donner’s Conspiracy Theory and Fincher’s The Game.
This course is an introduction to the theories of modern grammarians. Although it particularly attends to the grammars described by the structuralists and the transformationalists, it neither assumes nor demands that students have mastered the language of either traditional or descriptive grammar. Instead, it devotes special attention to the innate competency of native English speakers and explores the system they already use to communicate with others. (This course meets state licensure requirements for teaching. Modern Literatures and Cultures 407, Topics in Linguistics, also meets this licensure requirement.) Prerequisite: English 103 with a grade of C or better.
This course serves as a practicum for writing fellows and students seeking teacher licensure. Students get an overview of how the practice and theory of writing instruction in the past two decades have radically changed. Topics include how peer-tutoring has evolved, how the Internet has changed the nature of writing, and what approaches work best for writers struggling with grammar, a second language, or the conventions of academic discourse. Theory and practice meet for students as they apprentice in the Writing Center each week.
This is an upper-level course in the crafting of short stories that assumes previous experience in creative writing. Students are asked to draft between three and four stories over the course of the semester, culminating in a revised portfolio of 20+ pages. The course is primarily workshop in nature, so class members are responsible for reading and commenting on drafts by their peers. In addition, class members read and briefly respond to short stories by professional writers, whose work might serve as models for student writing. In an effort to broaden student understanding of literary short narrative, the class covers a broad range of contemporary forms, including but not limited to the traditional short story, the short-short, micro-fiction, and experimental narrative. This course may be taken up to three times for credit.
This course entails analysis of literary models and discussion and evaluation of students' own poetry. It is designed to help students become better poets and readers of poetry. It emphasizes the finished product as well as the writing process, which includes not only putting words on paper, but also reading, reflection, analysis, and revision. Students examine poetry with a special focus on how a poem can be made, paying particular attention to forms and structures, word choice, line lengths and line breaks, beginnings and endings, rhetorical strategies, cadences and rhythm, tone and voice, and syntax and vocabulary. Class sessions include discussion about the assigned poets and readings, craft talks, general discussions about poetry and publishing, and discussion of student poems. This course may be taken up to three times for credit.
This is an upper-level course in script and screenplay production that assumes previous experience in creative writing. Over the course of the semester, students submit at least three substantial manuscripts to workshop (examples of a “substantial” manuscript include, among others, a full one-act play or monologue, a single act from a longer play, or a 15-20 page segment of a screenplay). Because of time constraints, reading assignments focus on shorter dramatic forms designed to instruct students in the art of narrative, character-building, and dialogue. Though no experience in acting or stagecraft is required, students might engage in some form of production (e.g. table readings or small-scale presentations of peer work). Technical aspects of scripts and screenplays will also be discussed. This course may be taken up to three times for credit.
Comparative literature can be understood most simply as the study of literary works, genres, periods, or types, without regard for the artificial boundaries formed by language and politics. The guiding assumption is that literature always bears influence that transcends easily contained categories, and comparatists attempt to study literary relations across disciplinary, historical, and linguistic boundaries. It therefore presupposes the ability to work in at least one language (and/or one discipline) in addition to English. This course provides a grounding in the history and methodology of comparative literature as a distinct discipline and focuses on one topic (revolving from year to year) that allows students to practice an interdisciplinary or comparative approach to the subject. A recent course studies the Sublime, for instance, as an example of a topic that yields especially fruitful results if studied from more than one literary tradition (such as English and Italian) or more than one discipline (such as literature and philosophy).
This is a workshop course focused on the "literature of fact": memoir, personal essay, travel writing, nature writing, literary journalism, and other fact-based literary forms. Each week participants read and discuss examples of the form and write their own, sharing them in a workshop with other students. Students hone their critical faculties and produce a portfolio of creative non-fiction by the end of the semester. This course may be taken up to three times for credit.
This course is designed to give students an opportunity to learn about literary editing and publishing, contemporary literature, and literary culture. Students will read literary journals, books and essays on editing and publishing, and works of literary journalism, particularly book reviews and essays; learn about the history of literary magazines and publishers and the role of literary magazines and publishers in contemporary literary culture; and be introduced to various practical issues such as production and distribution.
This is an upper-level, special-topics course in creative writing whose focus varies with each offering. There are two possible models for this course. The first involves a variation on - or more intensive treatment of - a form studied in another 300-level writing course (e.g. novel writing, the memoir, the formal poem). The second involves work in a literary form or genre not traditionally encountered in another 300-level course (e.g. hybrid narrative, science fiction writing, performance art). Interested students should contact the instructor prior to registration for a detailed description of the course and/or a copy of the syllabus. This course may be taken up to three times for credit.
Literary Translation -- Henry
This course will introduce students to the practice and theory of translation, with a particular emphasis on translation after 1900. The course will focus on translation as both a process and a product, as a creative act and a critical act. Readings will include key texts on translation, such as Walter Benjamin's "The Task of the Translator," Vladimir Nabokov's "Problems of Translation," and George Steiner's After Babel. The course also will examine the profession of translation, including publishing and grant opportunities. Students will learn about magazines and presses amenable to work in translation and how to submit work for publication. Proficiency in a second language is welcome but not required. Because assignments will be individualized, students can work according to their own level of comfort with another language. Students will have the option to work from existing English versions of foreign-language texts, as prominent writers such as Ezra Pound and W.S. Merwin have done.
The course will be taught by Brian Henry, Professor of English and Creative Writing. In addition to publishing ten books of poetry, Professor Henry has translated four books and has received the Best Translated Book Award, the Best Literary Translation into English Award, and translation fellowships from the Howard Foundation, the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Slovenian Ministry of Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Students who have taken Literary Translation have published translations in such venues as Guernica and The Brooklyn Rail and have reviewed books of translation for such publications as The Rumpus.
Microfictions and Prose Poems -- Henry
This course will focus on two apparently similar genres, exploring where they intersect and diverge. Students will write their own microfictions or prose poems while reading recent work in both genres.
Students may work independently with a faculty member, outside the framework of a conventional course, to pursue an interest not covered in established English courses or to do more advanced work on a topic studied in a course. Examples of recent independent-study topics include "The Work of Salman Rushdie", "Anglo-Saxon Language and Literature", "Dorothy Sayers and the Crime Novel", "Creative Nonfiction about Motherhood", "Queer Cinema", "Global Perspectives on the American South", and "Films of the Seventies." Prerequisite: Permission of the directing faculty member. 1-4 sem. hrs.
Topics vary by semester, and the course may be taken more than once for credit. Examples of recent topics include "American Literature Between the World Wars", "The Black Vernacular", "Indian Wars in Fact and Fiction", "The New Nineteenth Century: Filmed and Other Adaptations", "The Postmodern American Short Story", "Theater as Philosophy", and "Writing and Picturing."
The seminar offers in-depth treatment of topics in genre, historical periods, critical theory, and other areas of literary study. Enrollment is half the size of other English courses, allowing for greater classroom participation by each student and more extensive research projects. Topics vary by semester. Prerequisite: Two 300-level English courses with grade of C (2.0) or better. 4 sem. hrs.
American Autobiography – Browder
Autobiography, with its valorization of individualism and its emphasis on self-fashioning, is a form peculiarly suited to American national mythologies. While some American autobiographies emphasize Emersonian traditions of self-reliance, many others, especially works which describe the experience of belonging to a minority group in the United States, have traditionally been written, and read, as a means of helping frame the complex cultural relationships of a multi-ethnic society. In this course we’ll read a range of autobiographical works, ranging from canonical texts by Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass to popular memoirs by Forrest Carter and Patty Hearst.The Black Lyric Essay – Ashe
Some call it the “essay.” Some call it “Creative Nonfiction.” Some call it the “Lyric Essay.” Others simply refer to it as a peculiar type of nonfiction. Perhaps the various names suggest just how diffuse, sprawling and expansive the genre can truly be. And yet, regardless of the name one chooses, pieces of writing from this genre generally share two aspects: one, the idea that certain nonfiction texts intend not merely to inform but also to exist as self-consciously “artistic” texts; and two, that these same texts are exploratory in nature, that they literally “essay forth”—toward a truth, toward a sensibility, toward a greater idea that might be gleaned from the reading of the text itself. In this Black Lyric Essay seminar, we will first examine the history and concept of the essay itself, and then we will read a variety of essays—which will take a variety of forms—written by black literary artists. W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, and Zadie Smith are a few of the writers this seminar will discuss in terms of the form and content of the black lyric essay.
Black Style – Ashe
If the Judeo-Christian work ethic can be summed up in one line, it might be, “A job worth doing is worth doing well.” A mirror line, just as heartfelt, from African-American culture might well be, “A job worth doing ... is worth doing with style.” Black Style, a junior-senior seminar, will explore the tensions between these two stances—particularly since, of course, “work” matters to black folk, and “style” matters to whites. The seminar will be grounded in the black vernacular, and not only explore African-America’s own relationship to its own stylistic acumen, but will also closely examine America at large, and her longtime and ongoing fascination with black style. We will employ a variety of creative texts—film, music, fiction, poetry, memoir—exploring them in order to make sense of black style and its American cultural influence, particularly in the areas of black hair, a black clothing aesthetic, and basketball—as well as other ways that trace the stylized performance of the black body in American culture.
Colonization and Its Legacies – Singh
The diverse body of writing known as “postcolonial” is as varied as the cultural settings and geographic regions from which it is produced. What unites such a diversity of texts is that they emerge through Western colonization and from its historical aftermath. That is, they are written from geo-political regions that were formerly under colonial rule and have since gained national independence. Since, as many postcolonial theorists have argued, the process of colonization is both material and psychological, its effects last far beyond the achievement of national independence. The postcolonial literary texts that we will examine in this course variously represent and question this state of postcoloniality – a state which, after the colonial encounter, is neither “native” nor Western, but nevertheless bound to both traditions. In this course, we will read African, Caribbean, and South Asian literary texts as we engage with some of the major tenents of postcolonial criticism and theory. We will investigate the role of the nation and nationalism in the struggle for independence; the relation between memory and violence in the colonial context; the ambivalent relation between colonizer and colonized; the role of the tribal within the independent nation; and the politics of gender and sexuality in the post-colony. Readings may include works by Chinua Achebe, Ama Ata Aidoo, Miriama Bâ, Dionne Brand, J. M. Coetzee, Jamaica Kincaid, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Tayeb Salih, and Shyam Salvadurai.
Cross-Cultural Influences: Poe, Faulkner, and the Film Noir – Lurie
As these three examples reveal, French sensibilities often embraced American culture that was initially cast as “unwholesome”—or at least, outside American tastes and the country’s celebrated ethos of optimism. Their later valuation, however, depended on the role of French opinion to first appreciate what these writers and films achieved. The course will be divided between these three examples or units. Beginning with Poe, we will read representative works and consider the French poet Baudelaire’s exalting of Poe as a dark poetic genius—his writerly “frère” and inspiration. We will also trace Poe’s later reclaiming by American scholars and his capacity to haunt the critical imagination long after his death, in part due to Poe’s French admirers. Upon reading Faulkner’s early novels, French scholars were first struck by his work’s formidable surface: a density of style and language as well as a seeming emphasis on the grotesque or the absurd (incest, death, and familial as well as bodily decay). Yet, unlike his American critics, they found in Faulkner’s baroque stylistic and even his tone a compelling vitality. We will read The Sound and the Fury (1929)and As I Lay Dying (1930) as well as the slightly less “purely” canonical Sanctuary (1931) in both their American and influential French receptions. The final unit of the course departs from the realm of the literary. Yet here as well we will find a responsiveness to features in American cinema by a group of enormously influential critics similar to what Faulkner and Poe provoked. Coining the term film noir in 1946, cineastes found something moving in these films’ notably dark or “black” world view as well as their shadowy mise-en-scène. While American critics, flush with the Allied victories, shunned these pictures as too brooding or pessimistic, the French experience during the war allowed them to trace an emerging doubt or even despair in U.S. culture – traces of the war’s incalculable losses – which these films expressed. We will screen several classic films noir as well as read French critical and theoretical responses to them. (Counts for AMST, FMST)
Devils and Angels in Literature – Givens
Devils and angels are more than just mythic icons and vestiges of primitive religion. They are embodiments of the most deeply rooted human fears and aspirations, reflections of shifting conceptions of good and evil, and windows into a moral universe that gives orientation and meaning to mortal life, with its myriad temptations and secret triumphs. They may also serve as simple projections of the light and darkness found in every human soul. We will read several examples of poetry, drama, sci fi, and novels, that employ devils or angels to represent conflicts both cosmic and personal in nature.
Hauntings, Transformations, and Revisions: The Persistence of the Nineteenth Century – Gruner
Nineteenth-century novelists gave us some of the literary world’s most memorable characters: Frankenstein’s creature, Dracula, Alice (in Wonderland), Peter Pan, the Madwoman in the Attic, and others. In this course we will examine a selection of nineteenth-century originals and trace their persistence into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. After reading the novels in question, we will look at relatively straightforward adaptations, "homages" in both fiction and film, parodies, and intertextual connections as we discuss what makes a novel "Victorian" or neo-Victorian, why 19th-century novels have proved such a rich source for film adaptation, and what these new fictions owe to their nineteenth-century forebears. Many of these revisions are centrally concerned with the status of women and/or racial minorities: both feminist and "post-feminist" writers have taken on the nineteenth century and interpreted it for us. Central issues for discussion will be questions of sexuality, gender identity, race, and class status: are these fictions nostalgic for some perceived Victorian stability, or do they remind us of the complexities of identity and art even among our "staid" and "proper" forebears? Requirements will include out-of-class viewings, a heavy reading load, informed class discussion, and both brief papers and a sustained research project.
Indigenous Film and Literature – Siebert
This seminar offers an opportunity to study in depth some of the most original and influential literary and cinematographic works by contemporary indigenous writers and filmmakers in North America. The turn of the twenty first century has witnessed an unprecedented flourishing of indigenous cinema and fiction. This flourishing has been fuelled by the multiculturalist mandate to celebrate the diversity of the United States and Canada, which fashion themselves as nations of immigrants nurturing their many cultural traditions while pledging allegiance to the same political ideal of representative democracy. This focus on culture, however, presents a set of unique problems for indigenous nations who have experienced a history of colonization rather than a tradition of immigration in North America. It leads to a fundamental misperception of American Indians as ethnic Americans or Canadians rather than as citizens of sovereign political entities that they are, rendering much of the contemporary American Indian activism on behalf of political, legal, and economic self-determination incomprehensible to the settler Americans. This seminar will focus on selected examples of contemporary indigenous literature and film to study how American Indian artists capitalize on the possibilities for creative expression offered by multiculturalism, while resisting multicultural national incorporation. We will approach this task by taking up five separate but related case studies, two each in film and literature, and one in a national tradition. We will consider the work of a Cheyenne/Arapaho filmmaker based in the United States, Chris Eyre, beginning with his 1998 Smoke Signals, the film credited with jumpstarting American Indian feature cinema, and then turning to his films for TV, We Shall Remain documentary series and Thief of Time and Skinwalkers mysteries for PBS, along with his latest feature, Hide Away (2011). In another unit of the seminar, we will study the work of Isuma, the first indigenous production company to gain international recognition for its feature films, by considering its early local TV productions, its groundbreaking 2001 film Atanarjuat as well as the subsequent parts of The Fast Runner Trilogy: The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (2006) and Before Tomorrow (2009) along with some documentaries. In the sections of the seminar devoted to literature, we will read several novels by Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene) and LeAnn Howe (Choctaw) to take measure of the range of the aesthetic conventions and political ramifications of contemporary American Indian fiction. The remaining case study will be devoted to the artistic production of Cherokee writers and visual artists. We will begin with the historical fiction of Diane Glancy, continue with the filmmaking of Randy Redroad, and conclude with the newest media, the Cherokee language claymation comics of Joseph Erb. To put these primary materials into a variety of interpretive frameworks, we will read a selection of historical and theoretical essays on American Indian history and art as well as follow some of the most salient contemporary issues in the American Indian press (such as, for example, the Cherokee referendum on the citizenship of Cherokee freedmen or ongoing struggles for federal or state recognition of American Indian nations). During the unit devoted to the Cherokee Nation, we will work in collaboration with a guest lecturer, Professor Circe Sturm, author of two books on past and current struggles over Cherokee identity, Blood Politics (2002) and Becoming Indian (2011). During the course of the semester, we will also visit the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with its Fall 2013 film and video programs and engage in occasional collaboration with the students in Professor Jan French’s Tocqueville seminar, Native America Today.
Magic, Faith, and Skepticism in the Renaissance -- Russell
The Renaissance period was characterized by a renewed interest in magic, passionate (and sometimes bloody) debates over the Christian faith, and an emerging skepticism towards traditional claims about “reality”. How did the art, literature, and theater that emerged in this time negotiate these often conflicting and conflicted approaches to knowledge and belief, to the ideal and the real? How did the very idea of what art is and does become redefined in terms of these tensions? And, finally, how did these changing perspectives influence how we approach works of art today? These are some of the principal questions this seminar will explore through the study of a very diverse set of works that will include Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, Luther’s Bondage of the Will, Thomas More’s Utopia, John Donne’s Holy Sonnets, Shakespeare’s Tempest, Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, and Montaigne’s Essays.
Medicine, Mortality, and Meaning – Hilliard
Contemporary medical science has become increasingly concerned with the psychological and spiritual-existential issues that surround mortal illness and death. This English 400 seminar will involve students in studying a broad array of literary works (novels, shorts stories, and perhaps poems) and films, taken from various literary traditions (we’ll read many works in modern English translation, including Sophocles’s great play Philoctetes, Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych,” and a couple of stories by Franz Kafka). The stress in the course, as in the lecture series, will be on how literary and filmic art helps people to prepare themselves to deal with what we’ll all face in the course of our lives, the experience of illness and dying, either our own experiences or those of family and friends. The course will be divided into more or less distinct thematic segments—for example, one segment will focus on family dynamics in relation to illness, as in what many consider to be the greatest American play, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. There will be much emphasis throughout the course on how human beings, both the ill and dying and those around them, deal, or might learn to deal, with the kinds of meaning-of-life issues that almost invariably arise in such circumstances. Each student will produce a carefully-researched paper on a topic of his or her choosing—for example, the questions surrounding addiction, the questions surrounding AIDS, or illness as metaphor in modern Western thought (consider how often we use “cancer” as a metaphor). This is not aimed specifically at science majors (though pre-med students have taken the course and claimed to benefit from it), and the emphasis will not be on medical science; rather, it will be on the literary and filmic representation of issues that we normally associate with doctors, hospitals, and so on. In other words, though this is to a great extent a course that emphasizes “themes” or ideas, it’s also a course in which the focus will be on literary analysis.
Milton – Schwartz
A seminar on the life and work of John Milton. We will read all of the major poetic works, selected “minor” poems, major prose, and a selection of major critical approaches. We will pay close attention to the ways in which Milton conceived of himself—and then reconceived of himself—as an author (as scholar, polemicist, and poet) in response to rapidly changing personal and historical circumstances. We will also pay close attention to literary and intellectual backgrounds, to Milton’s own highly idiosyncratic religious and political views, and to the structural innovations he introduced to English verse.
Postwar American Fiction and Film – Cheever
This course will provide the opportunity for in-depth study of American culture from 1945 to 1975. This moment saw, among other things, the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, the arrival of postwar posterity and the creation of the suburbs, the development of youth culture and the concept of the teenager, and the Vietnam War protests and the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement and women’s movement. Important and influential novels and films— such as Ellison’s Invisible Man, Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause, Nabokov’s Lolita, Nichols’s The Graduate, Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, Mailer’s The Armies of the Night, Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, and Didion’s Play It as It Lays—will be paired with contemporaneous psychological and sociological readings, philosophical treatises, and journalistic explorations. These pairings will allow us to consider how the writers and filmmakers of the postwar period responded to some of the central preoccupations of their era: the omnipresence of mass culture and the conformity of the middle class; the development of the so-called youth culture; the situation of women and minorities, and the overarching threat of nuclear war. Our goal will be to use a variety of different media (film, novels, non-fiction writing), to create a detailed and rigorous picture of a crucial moment in American literary and cultural history. Authors and filmmakers to be considered include: Antonioni, Didion, Ellison, Coppola, Ford, Highsmith, Kazan, Nabokov, Penn, Plath, Pynchon, Ray, and Yates.
Race, Identity, and Community in the Contemporary American Imagination – Jones
Can fiction and film foster social change? In this seminar we will focus on the flurry of very recent novels, memoirs, and films about racial identity and race relations that attempt to intervene in old patterns of thinking about black-white relationships. We will be using the current Quest question--“How is it connected?”--to help us answer key questions: When does the reader become an author during the act of reading? Can desire bridge the old color line? How are the projects connected to upscale neighborhoods? Should the one-drop rule be rethought? Pending Quest funding, in November Bliss Broyard, the author of One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life—A Story of Race and Family Secrets, will join our seminar and give a public talk, thereby making for broader community involvement in our discussion. We will begin the semester with stories by Alice Walker and Toni Morrison that theorize problems of reading and writing about race. We will consider the reader’s response to the Other’s perspective as well as the writer’s dilemma in writing about race from the perspective of the Other. For the remainder of the semester we’ll add to these formal concerns the analysis of two key subjects: questions of community, which are made difficult by residual racism and identity politics, and definitions of racial identity, which are complicated by gender, class, and sexual orientation. We will read prize-winning works by talented young writers, like Danzy Senna (Caucasia), and by well-known authors, like Barack Obama (Dreams from my Father) and Rosellen Brown (Half a Heart). We'll view Paul Haggis’s highly acclaimed film Crash, set in Los Angeles, and read Christine Wiltz’s Glass House, set in New Orleans, as we try to come to terms with why race comes into play so often in the United States. We’ll compare the cultural work of popular romantic films, such as Something New, and dramatic films, such as Monster’s Ball. We will examine all of these works in relation to theoretical essays from several disciplines (communications, law, literary studies, philosophy, and sociology) and against a backdrop of contemporary events, such as the change in racial identification on the 2000 U.S. Census. Throughout the semester we will be talking about our own responses to the writers’ attempts to change ideas, as well as reading reviews and informal reactions on internet web sites. The final paper or project could definitely involve original research since most of the works we’re studying have only rarely been the subject of scholarly analysis.
Radical Voices: Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield – Outka
“I thought her cheap, and she thought me priggish.” So wrote Virginia Woolf, describing her strained friendship with Katherine Mansfield. Two of the most important writers of the 20th century, Woolf and Mansfield were radical literary innovators, breaking Victorian sexual and gender taboos and shattering narrative conventions in their work. And yet their relationship was marked by profound conflict as well as deep alliance, an uneasy and creative tension arguably at the basis of modernism itself. We will consider the central works of each author, analyzing how they transformed both literary form and content, and exploring their responses to some of the central issues of the 20th century, including shifting gender roles, the politics of empire, the causes and effects of war, and the role of the artist in the modern world.
Reading Reading: Metafiction and Intertextuality in Literature for All Ages – Gruner
That prototypical novel for children, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, begins with a scene of reading—sort of. Alice is in flight from her sister’s engagement with a book “without pictures or conversations” when she first sets off down the rabbit hole. Jane Eyre, on the other hand, takes refuge in a book from her oppressive cousins at the beginning of the novel that bears her name—and ends up having it thrown at her head. The subject of this class, then, is the way books figure within books—especially, how reading and literacy figure within novels for children, young adults, and adults. What do books tell us about themselves? Do they teach us how to read? Do they comment on each other? (A subsection of the course may also deal with how English class is represented in literature, and whether Dead Poets Society is the right way to think about literary study.) Course texts may include such texts as Jane Eyre (Brontë), The Eyre Affair (Fforde), Cold Comfort Farm (Gibbons), Alice’sAdventures in Wonderland (Carroll), UnLunDun (Mieville), The Wee Free Men (Pratchett), Metafiction (Waugh), and other literary and critical texts to be named later. Requirements will include a heavy reading load, informed class discussion, and both brief papers and a sustained research project.
Self as Performance in the Renaissance – Russell
The English Renaissance is associated most famously with the rise of the theater. This seminar will attempt to explore some of the reasons why this form of representation struck such a responsive chord in early modern English culture. We will begin by reading a few classics of Renaissance thought, including Pico della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man, Erasmus' Praise of Folly, and Castiglione's Book of the Courtier in order to trace some early perspectives on the "world as stage" and human beings as actors. We will then examine the ways in which works by the likes of Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, and Middleton employed the unique elements of the theater to represent (and perhaps also to help mold) a society in which the self's relation to others and to reality was increasingly understood as dynamically flexible and uncertain rather than fixed and predictable. As we will see, theater in this period also vividly enacted the increasingly problematic relationships between illusion and reality, faith and skepticism, politics and ideology, magic and science, which were of central concern to thinkers in the Renaissance.
Shakespeare and His Contemporaries – Russell
In this seminar, we will read a selection of some of the most important and compelling plays written during the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods in England, including works by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, and Webster. Drama is no doubt among the highest achievements of the Early Modern period in England, and it was certainly one of the most popular forms of representation at the time. We will, therefore, seek for clues in these works that may explain why theater struck such a responsive chord in Renaissance society. We will see that drama was particularly effective in reflecting (and thus perhaps helping to mold) a society in which the self's relation to others and to reality was increasingly understood as dynamically flexible and uncertain rather than fixed and predictable. Drama vividly enacted the problematic relationships between illusion and reality, love and desire, faith and skepticism, politics and ideology, self and society, history and providence, magic and science, which were of central concern to thinkers in the Renaissance.
Speculative Poetics: History and Theory – Schwartz
This course is about the meaning of poetic form. Or more precisely, about how, over the course of English Literary History, certain formal elements of verse have come to be manipulated or understood by writers and readers as carrying particular kinds of meaning. We will be concerned with the basic mechanics of traditional formal verse in the English language as it has developed in England and North America since the 14th Century and with the values conferred on those forms by various reading communities. We will examine works by writers who saw themselves as working within and upholding a central tradition and by writers who saw themselves as deliberately working against or outside of such a tradition (who were attempting to change the nature of the tradition, to destroy it, or to create new ones). The first part of the course will consist of a review of basic methods for perceiving, describing and interpreting the formal mechanics of verse in the English language (with particular attention to the modern accentual-syllabic tradition). We will then move through a survey of a series of important moments in the history of English and American poetic style, with particular attention to a set of oppositional moments in this history, moments at which American poets of the 19th and 20th Centuries introduced stylistic devices designed to break away from what they considered, in various ways, an oppressive tradition, and concluding with a consideration of a set of avant garde poets working in the U.S. from the 1950’s through the end of the millennium.
US Apocalyptic Literature and Culture – Pelletier
Why are Americans so preoccupied with fantasies of apocalypse? What is an apocalypse, for that matter? What do we really mean when we describe some event as “apocalyptic”? Does an apocalypse have to be a religious event? And if so, why is the apocalypse often invoked to describe natural disasters (like the flood in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina), global warming (as in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth), wars, economic crises (like the recent financial collapse), epidemics (like AIDS), and terrorism? This seminar will explore the figure of the apocalypse and its place within American history and culture. We will consider how it has been imagined and is continually reimagined within different historical and political contexts. We will survey a variety of apocalyptic representations, beginning with the New England Puritans and continuing to the present moment. We will read Protestant sermons and poetry, nineteenth-century political tracts, and twentieth- and twenty-first century fiction. We will screen films and television episodes, explore comic books, and enjoy a wide range of apocalyptic music. Students interested in taking the course should heed this warning: there will be zombies. Lots of them. By examining the apocalypse within these diverse contexts, we will establish a better understanding of what is at stake when the apocalypse is invoked and why it has enjoyed a central presence in America’s cultural imagination.
William Faulkner’s Major Fiction – Lurie
This course will examine the reasons for the centrality of William Faulkner to the American literary canon. Through close analysis of his most important novels and short stories, we will pursue several formal and thematic elements of Faulkner’s work that contribute to his stature as arguably the most important American writer of the twentieth century, among them: Faulkner’s relationship to historical modernity and to literary modernism; his treatment of subjects such as race, history, and identity; his ongoing, conflicted relationship to the South; and his radical experimentation with the novel form. Readings vary by semester and could include The Sound and the Fury; As I Lay Dying; Sanctuary; Light in August; Absalom, Absalom!; Go Down, Moses; or The Hamlet as well as selected short stories.
Women and Creativity – Jones
In “Professions for Women” (1942), Virginia Woolf wrote, “I mean what is a woman? I assure you, I do not know. I do not believe that you know. I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill.” Almost 70 years later and with the women’s movement in between, we may be in a better position than Woolf to judge, as we examine the representations of the female artist from Woolf’s painter in To the Lighthouse (1927) to Penelope Lively’s landscape architect in The Photograph (2003). Whereas 19th-century female artist figures gave up their art for motherhood, turn-of-the-20th-century women artists renounced motherhood for their careers. If in the '20s and '30s women writers reshaped the Künstlerroman, or artist novel, with domestic images of creativity, thereby freeing their artist figures from the either/or imperative, how are writers today representing creative women characters? A. S. Byatt’s Possession (1990) provides a fascinating comparison between a pair of 19th-century male and female poets and a pair of 20th-century male and female literary critics who study them. As we read this novel and works by writers such as Pat Barker, Rosellen Brown, Willa Cather, Susan Power, Adrienne Rich, Alice Walker, and Edith Wharton, we will ask such questions as: Are women writers being represented any differently than male writers in contemporary literature? Is creative power synonymous with autonomy and authority? Has the function of the muse changed? Do women artists still experience tensions between role and vocation? In A Room of One’s Own (1929) Woolf argued “we think back through our mothers if we are women.” By reading a variety of 20th-century women writers, we will examine how they perceive their relationship to their literary predecessors, both male and female, and we will look at how feminist critics’ analysis of women’s writing has changed in the last 30 years.