See Creative Writing.
Jay M. Dickson
The novel, British modernism, Victorian literature, queer studies, postcolonial studies.
Medieval British literatures, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, Arthurian literature, narrative theory, Celtic studies, and children’s literatures.
Eighteenth-century British literary and visual culture, the novel and its social and cultural contexts 1680–1850, aesthetic theory.
See Creative Writing.
Literary theory, the novel, text-image relations, consciousness studies.
Robert S. Knapp
Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, literary theory. On sabbatical 2014–15.
Early American literature and culture, American poetry, poetics and ethnopoetics, Native American literature and culture, postcolonial theory, gender theory, American studies.
Early modern lyric and poetics, Reformation literature and culture, book history, music and literature, aesthetics, cognitive poetics.
Roger J. Porter
Modern drama, modern fiction, Shakespeare, autobiography as a literary form, nonfiction prose.
See Creative Writing. On leave 2014–15.
African American literature; American literature and cultural history; modern and contemporary drama, poetry, and fiction; creative writing; American Indian fiction.
Gail Berkeley Sherman
Twentieth-century American fiction, gender studies, biblical narrative, medieval literature.
Lisa M. Steinman
Modern and contemporary poetry, creative writing, romanticism, eighteenth-century poetry. On leave 2014–15.
Nineteenth- and twentieth-century American fiction, transatlantic literature and culture, Irish drama and Irish studies, pastoral and environmental writing, the politics of classical education in postbellum America.
The English department offers courses in English and American literature; some courses also include works from other national literatures. The department offers introductory courses in drama, fiction, and poetry most semesters: nonmajors and prospective majors should begin their study of literature with these courses. Two of these introductory courses are required for the major; they are also a prerequisite for most of the department’s upper-division offerings.
In each academic year, the department offers at least 12 courses at the upper-division level. Among these are three junior seminars (intended principally for majors) and courses in American and British literature in various genres from the fourteenth to the twenty-first century. Some courses are listed under general rubrics such as “Studies in Shakespeare” or “Poetry and History.” (Students may register for more than one course under the same rubric, provided that the subject matter differs.) Courses in the catalog not offered in the current academic year will normally be offered in one of the next two academic years.
In consultation with their academic advisers, students majoring in English should plan to take courses from a range of genres, topics, and periods within the department. Students may also include in the major one 300-level course in creative writing or one 300-level course in translation given in other departments within the Division of Literature and Languages. (Students with special curricular needs may petition to allow a second 300-level course in literature in translation to count toward the major).
Requirements for the Major
For students matriculating in 2010 or thereafter, two 200-level English courses in different genres (Literature 266, when offered, may be used to fulfill this English department requirement as well); one semester of the junior seminar; at least four other 300- or 400-level English courses at Reed (study abroad courses not accepted), one of which may be in creative writing or literature in translation; English 470. Aside from the junior seminar and English 470, two of the six required English courses must be in literature prior to 1900, and one must be in literature prior to 1700.
For students who matriculated earlier than 2010, two 200-level English courses in different genres (Literature 266, when offered, may be used to fulfill this English department requirement as well); one semester of the junior seminar; at least three other 300- or 400-level English courses at Reed, one of which may be in creative writing or literature in translation; English 470. One of the English courses aside from the junior seminar and English 470 must be in literature prior to 1700.
Each student must pass a junior qualifying examination before beginning the thesis. The qualifying exam is generally taken at the end of March or at the beginning of April, over a weekend in the spring semester of the junior year, although it is offered also at the beginning of each semester. The exam usually consists of three parts, involving questions about a piece of fiction, two poems, and a critical or theoretical essay (which are handed out to be read before taking the exam). Students are given a weekend over which to work on the qualifying exam, although no more than six hours are to be spent writing on the examination questions.
Departmental courses are open to first-year students only with the consent of the instructor. This will be permitted only on very rare occasions. Students wishing to enroll in a particular course and lacking the prerequisite for it should consult with their adviser and the course instructor.
The department recommends that all majors take at least one course in each of the principal literary genres: poetry, drama, and fiction. 200-level courses are intended primarily but not exclusively for sophomores.
Majors or prospective majors intending to study abroad should confer with an adviser in the English department. Because of the integrated structure of its curriculum, and the importance of the junior seminar, the department strongly recommends that students taking a year abroad do so in their sophomore year.
English 201 - Introduction to Narrative
Full course for one semester. In this course we will consider the historical development of the genre and techniques of the graphic novel in America. Our reading of the graphic novel will be contextualized within postmodernism and the changes in the notions of childhood, heroism, and evil in twentieth and twenty-first century American culture. This course is designed to introduce students to the fundamental elements of narrative and will include analysis of genre, panels, framing devices, layout, speech, plot, and characterization. The course will emphasize close reading of the texts, and there will be frequent writing assignments. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Full course for one semester. This course is an introduction to Irish literature and its sociocultural contexts. Beginning with the writings of Jonathan Swift and Maria Edgeworth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the course then focuses on literature from the last hundred years, including the works of William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, Flann O’Brien, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, and Eavan Boland. The course concludes with reflections on the relationship of Irish and American culture in the work of Brian Friel, Roddy Doyle, Martin McDonagh, and others. There will be additional readings on social and literary history. In the course of these readings we will explore the relationships between Ireland and England as well as Ireland and America, and the representation of nation and national character, investigating key concepts in the discourse on Irish literature and culture: nationalism, colonialism, romanticism, the Anglo-Irish and the Protestant Ascendancy, the Literary Revival, and the Northern Irish Troubles of the last few decades. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Lecture-conference.
Medieval Celtic Literatures
Full course for one semester. This course will focus on early medieval texts from Ireland, Wales, and England in order to understand the particular concerns and narrative techniques of Celtic literatures and to consider their transformation and integration into later English traditions. At the same time, students will interrogate the usefulness of the term “Celtic” as an accurate descriptor of Welsh and Irish cultures. Other issues under consideration will include the shift from orality to literacy in early Ireland and Wales; the tensions between the pagan past and the Christian present; the construction of notions of gender, heroism, and sovereignty; and, most importantly, the impact of twelfth-century Anglo-Norman colonization upon Welsh and Irish literary cultures. Specific texts under consideration will include the Irish Táin, The Voyage of Bran, The Wooing of Etaín, The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel, and The Tales of the Elders of Ireland; Welsh texts from The Mabinogion and from the Arthurian, Aneirin, Merlin, Taliesin, and Heledd traditions; and finally Anglo-oriented texts by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Giraldus Cambrensis, and Chrétien de Troyes. All texts will be read in translation. Fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Native American Literature
Full course for one semester. This course is designed to introduce students to narrative theory through an exploration of contemporary Native American literature. We will pay particular attention to the native cultures of the Pacific Northwest, as well as literature from the Plains, the Southwest, and the Midwest. For each region we will consider contemporary literary production (novels, short stories, autobiographies, or essays) in light of both the oral tradition and the artistic and cultural traditions of the tribes living in that region. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Full course for one semester. This course studies the literature of travel, exile, and homecoming in a range of narrative genres, including autobiographical travel writing, novels about traveling, and scientific exploration. Many of the texts depict a voyager who, when crossing borders, explores both the unfamiliar place and the self. We’ll look at the reasons for the traveling, modes of representation of the wandering and their effects on the traveler’s consciousness, definitions of “the exotic,” ethnographic assumptions in designating an “other” defined against more “conventional” notions of the self, and the relation of the new place to home. We’ll also examine ways writers have described and imagined cities as places both familiar and strange. We will read essays on the criticism and theory of the travel genre. Authors will include Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), Flaubert (Letters from Egypt), Darwin (The Voyage of the Beagle), D.H. Lawrence (Sea and Sardinia), Henry James (The American Scene), Orhan Pamuk (Istanbul: Memories and the City) Mark Twain (The Innocents Abroad), Pico Iyer (Falling off the Map), Joan Didion (Miami), and David Foster Wallace (“Shipping Out” and “Ticket to the Fair”). Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
English 203 - Introduction to TheoryHistory of Rhetoric and Literary Theory
Full course for one semester. This course consists of an examination of classical rhetoric (“the art of persuasion”) and the ways in which rhetorical systems promulgated theories about the functions of memory, imagination, and language in relation to the composition and reception of literary texts of all genres. Part of the goal is to arrive at sophisticated and historically informed definitions of concepts such as mimesis, copia, and the sublime. Attention will also be paid to the theories and functions of literary tropes, particularly metaphor, metonymy, irony, and allegory. Theoretical texts will be read in conjunction with literary texts, enabling students to use and critique various theories in their own strategies for close reading. Theorists include Aristotle, Longinus, Cicero, Quintilian, Erasmus, Thomas Wilson, George Puttenham, Burke, Kant, Jakobson, Freud, and Lacan. The literary texts include Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, Shakespeare’s sonnets, and James Joyce’s Dubliners. Prerequisite: Humanities 110. Conference.
Not offered 2014-15.
English 205 - Introduction to Fiction
The American Con Artist
Full course for one semester. Does the American con shape U.S. literature more than the American Dream? What is the relationship between self-making and fraud? Where do we draw the line between swindling and savvy? How does the history of economic deceit relate to our financial crisis today? What, if anything, makes the con distinctly American? This course explores America’s fascination with speculative economic and fictional enterprises by examining the figure of the confidence artist in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We focus on the stories confidence artists tell and what stories, in turn, are told about them. This course covers the historical conditions that made the confidence artist a central figure of the nineteenth century (from debates about urban anonymity, counterfeit currency, and social mobility to representations of racial and national ambiguity in the international slave trade, tracing the cultural fusions that resulted from the African diaspora), as well as the role of immigration and migration in twentieth-century texts. Throughout the course, we will analyze the narrative techniques that create confidence and unmask deception. Readings may include works by Poe, Melville, Twain, Chesnutt, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Nabokov, and Bellow. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
The American Short Story
Full course for one semester. This course will examine the genre of the short story, especially its traditional and innovative narrative techniques, its various ways of constructing authorial point of view, its mode of plot compression and the relation of literary structure to temporality, and its range of styles from realism and naturalism to allegory and to impressionism. Additionally, we will see how diverse American experience is represented through the form. Readings will be drawn from Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, James, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Malamud, Cheever, James Baldwin, Joanne Greenberg, Paley, Carver, Ozick, Bharati Mukherjee, and Toni Cade Bambara, as well as a collection of best short stories of 2004. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
"A Native Tradition"? The American Novel and the Element of Romance
Full course for one semester. American Gothic, pastoral elegy, moral melodrama, and adventure-romance are just a few of the romance variants we encounter in American fiction. Why did this particular mode of narrative find such deep root in the American novel? And what can its heightened, Manichean form tell us about the persistent contradictions of American culture? In this course we will investigate the argument that locates the defining feature of American fiction, beginning in the late eighteenth century, in its alleged resistance to formal realism. Studying the romance genres of the American novel, we will also entertain comparisons with similar subgenres in European fiction. Readings may include works by Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Willa Cather, and William Faulkner. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
The British Novel, 1900–1950
Full course for one semester. This course serves as an introduction to the genres, strategies, and poetics of the fiction of the United Kingdom during the first half of the twentieth century, when both the novel as a dominant cultural form and the British Empire itself were understood as being in marked decline. The dominant literary movement of the period, modernism, will receive particular attention, as will such questions of form and style as the representations of consciousness and subjectivity, the treatments of time and history, and the practice of (and resistance to) literary realism. In addition, the course will also essay matters central to the period such as the depiction of empire, the urban experience, fears of fragmentation exacerbated by the two world wars, concerns with mass culture, and changing relations of class, gender, and sexuality. Major authors to be studied may include E.M. Forster, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Evelyn Waugh, and Graham Greene. The course will also include short critical readings on the theory of fiction. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
The History of the Novel
Full course for one semester. In this course we will examine the development of the novel from the seventeenth century through the postmodern era, especially its traditional and innovative narrative techniques, its various ways of constructing authorial point of view, its mode of plot compression and the relation of literary structure to temporality, and its range of styles. Special attention will be paid to the genre of the romance and to feminist theory. Novels will be chosen from Madame de Lafayette’s Princess of Cleves, Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, Jane Austen’s Emma, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, Elizabeth Stoddard’s The Morgesons, Nella Larsen’s Passing, Jean Rhys’s The Wide Sargasso Sea, Louise Erdrich’s Tracks, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
The Modern American Novel
Full course for one semester. This course will cover a number of works of modern American fiction which in various ways depict the idea of America itself. Each novel responds to events, ideas and conditions—political, cultural, racial—which the writers believe cannot be sufficiently represented in discursive prose but must be fictionalized to be adequately perceived and comprehended. In some cases the writers argue that ordinary experience itself seems to be fiction. We will examine the diverse forms with which these authors represent America and the American experience, by studying their narrative strategies, character interactions, authorial or narrative points of view, and the relations of setting to theme. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Modern American Novel: Philip Roth
Full course for one semester. The course will be an intensive study of the works of arguably the greatest living American writer. Philip Roth’s astonishing career as a novelist focuses on love, sexuality, Jews in America, the betrayal of American ideals, the human body, the power of memory, the perils of conscience, and the ravages of pain, derangement, age and death. A writer always concerned with self and consciousness, Roth also focuses on contemporary American social and political history (both real and imagined), including such issues as anti-Communism, the Vietnam War, 1960s rebellions, political correctness, social control and the misplaced conscience of society, race, feminism, and the way we suffer the tyranny of the majority. He is especially engaged with the surprises and dread of the unforeseen that befalls everyone. We will examine how Roth invents plots, making the act of narration a major subject of his fiction. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
The Nineteenth-Century Novel: The Bildungsroman and the Courtship Novel
Full course for one semester. This course examines the two dominant forms of the nineteenth-century novel, the Bildungsroman, or novel of formation, and the courtship novel. In examining these two forms we will discuss the nature and history of literary genres; narrators and narrative structure; the function of novelistic character; and the concept of realism. We will read a number of critical texts by major scholars of narrative to illuminate these discussions, along with major works by the following novelists: Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Honoré de Balzac, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Studies in the Novel: The PostWar British Novel
Full course for one semester. This course serves as an introduction to the genres, strategies, and poetics of British fiction from midcentury to the present day. The dominant literary movement of the time, postmodernism, will receive particular attention, as will questions as to how the fiction of the postwar period reflected changes in attitudes towards Britain’s eclipsed status as an imperial center, the roles of women and of sexual minorities, and the changing ethnic makeup of the nation. We will also discuss how British cultural anxieties regarding the welfare state, the Cold War, and Thatcherism are reflected in the fiction of the era. Major authors to be studied may include Sam Selvon, Iris Murdoch, Anthony Burgess, Angela Carter, Muriel Spark, Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, and Kazuo Ishiguro. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
The Victorian Novel After Midnight
Full course for one semester. The Victorians prided themselves on their commitments to reason, taxonomy, law, and rectitude. Their dominant literary form of the novel, however, often concerned itself with the dark underside of their culture, where superstition, chaos, crime, and vice held sway. These “nocturnal” Victorian fictions (particularly the related genres of the gothic, the sensation novel, the imperial romance, and the detective story), and their meaning for Victorian audiences, form the basis of study for this course. We will examine major works by Emily Brontë, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, J. Sheridan LeFanu, H. Rider Haggard, Oscar Wilde, and A. Conan Doyle as a means of understanding not simply Victorian culture but also more generally the forms and conventions of the novel; we will also read short critical and theoretical works in the study of narrative fiction. Applies toward the literature prior to 1900 requirement. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Lecture-conference.
English 211 - Introduction to Poetry and Poetics
Full course for one semester. This course is designed to introduce students to the fundamental elements of a poem, such as rhythm, diction, imagery, metaphor, tone, form, speaker, and audience. We will read texts from a wide historical range and consider the historical development of selected forms and techniques. The course will also examine what some poets and critics have regarded as the nature and function of poetry and what bearing such theories have on the practice of poetry and vice versa. The course will emphasize close reading of the texts, and there will be frequent writing assignments. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
English 213 - American Poetry
Full course for one semester. In this class we will consider the historical development of selected forms and techniques in the American poetic tradition. Poets will include Anne Bradstreet, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde, Sylvia Plath, Li-Young Lee, Elizabeth Alexander, and Luci Tapahonso. In addition we will read selections from Aztec sorrow songs, corridos, and the blues. This course is designed to introduce students to the fundamental elements of a poem, such as rhythm, diction, imagery, metaphor, tone, form, speaker, and audience. The course will emphasize close reading of the texts, and there will be frequent writing assignments. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Lecture-conference.
English 242 - Introduction to Drama
Introduction to Shakespeare
Full course for one semester. In this class, we will read plays from several genres: comedy, tragedy, history, and romance, including As You Like It, Measure for Measure, Richard II, Henry IV, Othello, and The Winter’s Tale. The course will focus on Shakespeare’s treatment of power, on love and the problematics of gender, on aggression and forgiveness; on the concept of dramatic form as well as the complexity and the politics of genre; and on the way Shakespeare regards the nature of character and yet how we might resist an exclusive concentration on character itself. Fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference.
Shakespeare and Film
Full course for one semester. This course will examine the way Shakespeare’s plays have been transferred to and transformed by the filmic medium. We will read five plays and study two films of each one in order to see how adaptation constitutes interpretation. The plays may include Macbeth, Othello, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, and The Tempest. The directors will include such masters as Orson Welles, Kurosawa, Roman Polanski, Peter Greenaway, Kenneth Branagh, and Baz Luhrmann. The course has three goals: to introduce students to film criticism, cinematography, and a vocabulary for film analysis; to study Shakespearean criticism and interpretation; and to examine the problems of adaptation, interrogating “fidelity” as a valid criterion for interpreting and judging the adaptations. Fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Shakespeare, Text, and Performance
Full course for one semester. This course will consider the relationship between literary analysis and theatrical or cinematic performance in several Shakespearean plays. We will pay particular attention to images of plays and playing in the scripts, to the different political and ethical implications of different performances, and to changes in conventions of representation. In addition to the normal responsibilities of any course, students will be expected to view films and to work up one or two staged readings of a scene. Plays to be examined include King Lear, Othello, The Tempest, Henry V, and Much Ado about Nothing. Fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Lecture and conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Twentieth-Century Irish Drama
Full course for one semester. “If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilized,” quips one of Oscar Wilde’s characters. His witty alignment of eloquence and nationality heralds the centrality of performance to the Celtic Twilight, the revival of Irish culture at the end of the nineteenth century. At the heart of the movement, the Abbey Theatre not only fostered emerging artists but also incited violent protests in the turbulent decades following its founding. Plays by J.M. Synge and Sean O’Casey provoked audience riots, and W.B. Yeats worried that the play he cowrote with Lady Gregory was responsible for sending the martyrs of the Easter Rising to their deaths. The second half of the course examines the international dimensions of speech and violence in modern Irish theater through the works of Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Marina Carr, and Martin McDonagh. This course analyzes the history of the Irish stage and the staging of Irish history from colonial rule and civil war to the Troubles and the Celtic Tiger. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
English 301 - Junior Seminar in English Literary History
Full course for one semester. This course offers a study of the methods and a sample of the materials of English and American literary history. Offered in two or three sections each year with different emphases, this course engages the in-depth study of one work and its precursors, influences, and effects, or may study a range of works attending to intertextual transformations and generic change. The course will also include substantial reading in literary theory, and students will develop their own critical history, together with an annotated bibliography of the work of a major author. This course is primarily for English majors, for whom the junior seminar is usually required no later than the end of the junior year. Prerequisite: junior standing and two 200-level English courses. Conference.
Studies in Nonfiction Prose
English 303 - American Studies Seminar
Dead and Undead
Full course for one semester. This course examines changes in the way Americans have understood and dealt with death from the Puritans through the postmodern era. Special attention will be paid both to elegies and to gothic literature about the “undead,” particularly the grim reaper, skeletons, ghosts, mummies, vampires, and zombies. Literary works by major American authors will be examined in the context of American history and material culture related to death, particularly cemeteries and places where the dead are prepared for burial or cremation. The timid should beware, as course assignments will include field trips to local graveyards in order to do iconographic and seriation studies. This course offers an introduction to the methods of American studies and digital humanities. Prerequisites: two 200-level English courses or one course in American history. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
The Death of Satan
Full course for one semester. Early Americans viewed their history as an epic struggle against Satan; yet today, Americans’ sense of evil is weaker and more uncertain. How and why did Americans lose their sense of evil? This course offers an introduction to the methods of American studies: we will look at literature in the context of American history and material culture. We will cover major American authors from the colonial period through postmodernism, including works by Rowlandson, Mather, Brockden Brown, Hawthorne, Melville, Douglass, Wharton, James, Lowell, and Morrison. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or at least one course in either American history or American religion, or consent of instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
English 311 - Studies in Nonfiction Prose
Autobiography: Writing American Selves
Full course for one semester. This course will introduce problems of narrative through the study of American autobiography and memoir. We will examine various strategies writers employ to describe the self, whether in isolation or in relationship to family and the surrounding culture(s). We will focus on the language of self-representation; the function and expression of memory; problems of truth, fiction, and lying in autobiography; the relation of performativity to identity; the ways autobiographers give symbolic meaning and form to their experience; and the relation of gender, race, ethnicity, and class to self-representation. We’ll look at ways that writers experiment with diverse forms, such as graphic autobiographies, or autobiographical novels. In addition to readings in autobiographical theory, texts may include works by the following writers: Henry Adams, W.E.B. DuBois, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Henry James, Emma Goldman, Gertrude Stein, Zora Neale Hurston, Vladimir Nabokov, Lillian Hellman, Joanne Greenberg, Maxine Hong Kingston, Richard Rodriguez, Ernesto Galarza, and Art Spiegelman. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses. Conference.
Studies in Fiction
English 333 - Studies in Fiction
Description and Narration
Full course for one semester. This course will focus on the relations between description and narration in examples drawn from American, French, and English fiction. In what ways does description serve various narrative drives? In what ways does description assert its separate purposes and what might those be? Primary texts include Callistratus’s Descriptions, Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain, Melville’s Typee, Flaubert’s A Sentimental Education, Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise, Woolf’s The Waves, Stein’s Three Lives, and Joyce’s Dubliners. Theoretical readings will be drawn from the work of M.M. Bakhtin, Michel Riffaterre, Roland Barthes, Elaine Scarry, W.T.J. Mitchell, and Paul Ricoeur. Weekly writing assignments and active participation are required. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
Full course for one semester. Modern literary critics have understood encyclopedic fiction as a genre crucial to the formation of national cultures by rendering the range of a nation’s knowledge and beliefs visible by means of the organizing skeleton of epic (or of another similarly sacralized form). This course will engage with four seminal encyclopedic fictions of the Anglo-American novelistic tradition in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts, and Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo-Jumbo. Because encyclopedic fiction makes full use of the resources of literary forms while simultaneously rendering them obsolete, we will use these challenging novels as test cases against which we will read a variety of critical (and fictional) shorter texts concerning narrative theory and the archive, including works by Borges, Lukács, Bakhtin, Freud, Derrida, and Foucault. In addition, we will learn something about the historical and national backgrounds against which these four novels are set. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
Fielding, Austen, Dickens: Narrative Theory and the Novel 1749–1861
Full course for one semester. This course will focus on readings of three major experiments with novel form published between 1749 and 1861: Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749), Austen’s Emma (1815), and Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861), along with other fiction by the authors and their contemporaries. Along with the novels we will read historical texts and readings on narrative theory. Topics will include modes of narration and focalization, the literary character, temporality in the novel, and the nature of literary style. Critics will include classic commentators on the novel genre such as Viktor Shklovsky, Mikhail Bakhtin, Wayne Booth, and Gerard Genette, as well as recent work by scholars of Fielding, Austen, and Dickens. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
The Literary Imagination and the Working Hand
Full course for one semester. This course will compare the material and social labor performed by the characters to the imaginative, rhetorical work done by their narrator(s). Our close readings will be grounded in the following questions: Are characters and narrators ontological equals or do they occupy different positions in an allegorical hierarchy? Are the text’s representations of material labor and the work of the literary imagination congruent or in conflict with one another? How prominently and to what purpose does a character’s work figure in the narrator’s consciousness of his or her own project? When and why is a figure in the narrator’s consciousness of his or her own project? When and why is a character’s work echoed in the narrative’s style? Finally, how does the represented status of material, ethical, and artistic work contribute to the text’s argument about which values are either ideally or distinctly American? Primary texts may include Hawthorne, Melville, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, Faulkner. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or two courses in art history and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
The Modern Novel
Full course for one semester. The focus of this course is a study of seminal modernist fiction. We will read novels by such figures as James, Conrad, Proust, Kafka, Faulkner, Woolf, Beckett, and Pynchon. We will examine such modernist strategies as the use of nonlinear time, stream of consciousness, fragmentation of the subject, subversions of realism, problems of “pure aesthetics” vs. history, and relativism as both form and subject matter. We will read a number of critical and theoretical texts centering on issues of narration, prose fiction as genre, and the concept of literary modernism, asking whether these writers collectively constitute anything we can regard as a movement. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Modernist/Postmodernist American Fiction
Full course for one semester. Does postmodernist fiction extend, or break from, modernist fiction? After a brief grounding in works by American modernists Henry James and William Faulkner, this course will focus on postmodernist fictions’ formal, political, and philosophical challenges to modernism. We will consider postmodern interrogations of narrative conventions; pastiche; the instability of literary forms; the relationship of postmodern fiction to popular culture, the avant garde, and technology; and postmodern reformulations of author, text, subjectivity, gender, and ethnicity. Readings will include historical, theoretical, and critical works (e.g., bell hooks, Haraway, Baudrillard, Jameson). Texts may be drawn from the following authors’ works: Grace Paley, John Barth, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Ishmael Reed, Cynthia Ozick, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, Gloria Anzaldúa, Sherman Alexie, Maxine Hong Kingston, Art Spiegelman, Marilynne Robinson. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference.
The Novel and Romanticism: 1770–1830
Full course for one semester. What is a romantic novel? Emphasis on the transcendental aspects of romanticism has tended to define the romantic era as one dominated by the great poetic texts of the era, but the period also marks an extraordinary high point in the development of the novel. In this course we will look at the novel’s figuring of transcendence, at its response to the events, aesthetic theories, and dominant figures of romanticism, and at the variety of forms the novel spans at this time, Works will be drawn from among the following: Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther; Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France; Matthew Lewis’s The Monk; William Godwin’s Caleb Williams; Jane Austen’s Persuasion; Shelley’s Frankenstein; Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor; and James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner; as well as poetic texts and essays by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Wordsworth and others. There will also be substantial historical and critical readings. This course may be applied to the pre-1900 requirement. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or permission of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Full course for one semester. In this course we will interrogate the problematic status of the fictional narratives generally classified as romances. Is the romance a historically specific genre, the medieval precursor to the modern novel? Or is it, as Northrop Frye maintains, “the structural core of all fiction”? In thinking through such questions, we will also consider the relationship of the romance to the categories/genres of epic, novel, and history in light of critical discussions by Jameson, Auerbach, Parker, and others. As we move from the Greek romance through the “classic” romances of the Middle Ages and finally on to modern continuations of the form, we will specifically address issues of narrative structure, chivalric vs. heroic identities, and the historical representations of class, gender, and the nation. Texts studied may include Daphnis and Chloe, Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Haggard’s She, and Morris’s The Wood Beyond the World, as well as several anonymous Middle English romances such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, King Horn, Orfeo, and Havelok the Dane. This course may be applied to the pre-1900 requirement. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
Studies in the Novel: James and Ozick, Faulkner and Morrison
Full course for one semester. Through intensive study of the work of four writers whose fictions invite comparative analysis, in this course we will address questions of modernism and postmodernism, intertextuality, American regionalisms and transnational literary traditions, civil rights and feminism, and representations of race, gender, and ethnicity. Toni Morrison’s master’s thesis treated the work of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner; Cynthia Ozick’s treated that of Henry James, “The Master,” as she referred to him in later essays. How does an understanding of the fiction of James and Faulkner inform our reading of the works of these two novelists from the second half of the twentieth century? We will also read critical pieces by the novelists, as well as selected critical and theoretical texts. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Southern Literature: Race and Region
Full course for one semester. This course analyzes the constructions of race and the vernacular from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to The Help. Tracing the use of dialect fiction, minstrelsy, and plantation pastoral from the nineteenth century to the present day, we will examine concepts of identity and authenticity; constructions of racial, regional, and national solidarity; and the contested politics of the African American vernacular. Although we will focus on the South, we will contextualize these writings within the broader American and British tradition, examining representations of class, educational access, and geography in a range of regionalist texts. Authors will include Mark Twain, Joel Chandler Harris, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes. Prerequisite: Junior standing or two 200-level English courses. Applies toward the literature prior to 1900 requirement. Conference.
Theories of Mind: Representations of Consciousness in Fiction and Theory
Full course for one semester. This course will explore how human consciousness is represented in twentieth- and twenty-first-century novels and theory, focusing on the topics of sensation, emotion, thought, language, memory, object relations, and intersubjectivity. Working from contemporary to modernist fiction, we will examine how the syntax of relations among narrators and characters or among plots and sentences participates in the modeling of consciousness. Every literary text will be paired with texts drawn from philosophy, phenomenology, psychology, and cognitive science. Writers will include Emma Donoghue, Jennifer Egan, Nicholson Baker, Virginia Woolf, Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Henry James. Theorists will include Merleau-Ponty, William James, Freud, Lacan, Nussbaum, Damazio, Jakobson, Husserl, and Amélie Rorty. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Studies in American Literature
English 341 - Studies in American Literature
American Literature to 1865: Sex and Gender
Full course for one semester. This course explores the origins and development of the notions of masculinity and femininity in American literature to 1865. We will pay close attention to how gender and sexuality were used to construct individual, communal, and racial identities and how definitions of transgressive behavior changed during periods of social unrest and cultural anxiety. Beginning with the "discovery" of the Americas, we will address the construction of identity over the course of four centuries and four distinct cultures: the Spanish American colonies, the Puritan colonies, the early republic, and the early to mid-nineteenth-century United States. Throughout the semester we will be using religion, philosophy, art, history, music, and material culture to enrich our understanding of these cultural and literary shifts. Prerequisite: two 200-level English courses, or Anthropology 344, or one U.S. history course, or consent of the instructor. Applies toward the literature prior to 1900 requirement. Lecture-conference.
American Pastoral: Literature and Environment
Full course for one semester. This course explores the relationship between idyllic fictions and concrete experience through two transformative centuries of American environmental history. Examining literature’s role as both the product and producer of “nature’s nation,” we trace the changing values attached to wilderness, farming, and the nonhuman environment, from Thomas Jefferson’s agrarian ideals to Harper’s soliloquies, in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, prophesying environmental crises as judgment day. We will examine the many ideological functions of pastoral imagination, including Henry David Thoreau’s use of retreat as protest; the fusion of tradition and modernity in Plains Indian ledger art; the emergence of new poetic forms in Walt Whitman's and Emily Dickinson’s descriptions of urban and rural ecologies; Booker T. Washington’s argument for agricultural technology over classical education as a path to racial equality; the alternation of Virgilian allusion and concrete locodescription in Willa Cather; and Upton Sinclair’s muckraking expose of industrial agriculture. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, American studies background, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
David Mamet and Suzan-Lori Parks
Full course for one semester. This course will develop a kind of literary conversation between two contemporary dramatists (David Mamet and Suzan-Lori Parks) who are both working on the problem of language and how people do or don’t communicate with each other about a variety of issues. In addition to the issue of language, the focus of the course will be on gender and race. Texts for Mamet include American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Oleanna. Texts for Parks include The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, TopDog/Underdog, and Fucking A. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Ethnicities and Genders in Graphic Narrative
Full course for one semester. This course will explore the modern history and theory of graphic narrative in the United States, with special attention to the construction and interrogation of ethnicities and genders in narrative. This course offers students the opportunity to analyze narrative strategies in several excellent examples of literary graphic narratives, fictional and autobiographical, focusing on independent narratives, rather than series comics. Texts may include work by Paul Auster, Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, Nunzio deFilippis and Christine Weir, Barry Deutsch, Will Eisner, Brian Fies, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Maira Kalman, Ben Katchor, Art Spiegelman, Belle Yang, Gene Luen Yang, and others. There will be substantial critical and theoretical reading on issues raised by the primary texts. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or two courses in art history and consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
The War in Vietnam: 40 Years After
Full course for one semester. April 30, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. On that day, the last US helicopter fled the country and victorious North Vietnamese soldiers liberated Saigon, later to be renamed Ho Chi Minh City. This course will analyze the American literature produced by that war, some written during the war and some written after. Texts will include Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried; David Rabe's trilogy, The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, Sticks and Bones, and Streamers; Karl Marlantes's Matterhorn; Michael Herr's Dispatches; Philip Caputo's A Rumor of War; Stephen Wright's Meditations in Green; and Michael Casey's Obscenities. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference.
English 356 - Studies in African American Literature
The Other Harlem Renaissance
Full course for one semester. While typical Harlem Renaissance courses focus on poetry and the novel, this course will look at the period through the lenses of drama and the short story. We will begin the course with two canonical texts, Jean Toomer’s Cane and Alain Locke’s The New Negro, and then read texts from the 1920s–1930s. Authors will include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, George Schuyler, Claude McKay, W.E.B. DuBois, and Nella Larsen. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level. Conference.
Not offered 2014-15.
Studies in Medieval Literature
English 352 - Studies in Medieval Literature
Full course for one semester. The late-fourteenth-century poet Geoffrey Chaucer is surely one of the greatest masters of irony in English literature. In this course we will study a generous selection of his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales. The first section of the course will focus on developing students’ facility with Chaucer’s language and with medieval culture through a study of the General Prologue. As we proceed through the tales, we will pay careful attention to Chaucer’s representation of gender and class through his use of irony and satire, his manipulation of genre, his relationship to his source materials and to medieval Christian authorities, and his subtle exploration of a poetics of instability. Throughout the course we will also consider and reconsider the implications of Chaucer’s ambiguous social status within the Ricardian court, as well the validity of thinking of the poet as a “skeptical fideist.” Students will learn to read Middle English fluently by the end of the semester, though no previous experience with early forms of English is required. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Not offered 2014-15.
Studies in Shakespeare
English 363 - Studies in Shakespeare
Language and Character in Shakespearean Drama
Full course for one semester. This course will address questions of character in Shakespeare’s plays, with a particular focus on the way in which language prompts inferences about the habits, the motives, and the self-constructions (and self-misapprehensions) of Shakespeare’s personages. We will examine some early modern accounts of personhood, we will read some classic studies of Shakespearean character (especially Hazlitt and Bradley), and we will consider some contemporary theories of the ways in which readers, spectators, and actors convert textual cues into imaginary agents. Along the way, we will watch some films, stage some scenes, and engage in lots of close reading. Among the texts to be studied: Henry V, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and The Winter’s Tale. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Full course for one semester. A study of the way in which Shakespearean theatre engages what Stanley Cavell calls the “catastrophe of the modern advent of skepticism.” Among the questions to be addressed are epistemological problems as they relate to tragedy, crises of belief and authority, and the gendering of skepticism. Plays to be read include King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, Much Ado about Nothing, All’s Well that Ends Well, and The Winter’s Tale. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Shakespeare and Film
Full course for one semester. This course will examine the way Shakespeare's plays have been transferred to and transformed by the filmic medium. We will read five plays and study two films of each one in order to see how adaptation constitutes interpretation. The plays may include Macbeth, Othello, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, and The Tempest. The directors will include such masters as Orson Welles, Kurosawa, Roman Polanski, Peter Greenaway, Kenneth Branagh, and Baz Luhrmann. The course has three goals: to introduce students to film criticism, cinematography, and a vocabulary for film analysis; to study Shakespearean criticism and interpretation; and to examine the problems of adaptation, interrogating "fidelity" as a valid criterion for interpreting and judging the adaptations. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference.
Studies in Poetry
English 366 - Studies in Poetry
From the Metaphysical Poets to the Modernists
Full course for one semester. This course will focus on several seventeenth-century English poets and poems that later came to be called “metaphysical,” including John Donne, Richard Crashaw, Andrew Marvell, Thomas Traherne, Henry Vaughan, and others. One of the guiding objectives will be to trace the history and meaning of the term “metaphysical” itself as it has been used to characterize this work, whether to malign or praise it. We will consider the reception of metaphysical poetry from the eighteenth century to the present, with particular attention placed on the revival of interest that occurred at the turn of the twentieth century, and that played a prominent role in both English-language modernist poetry and the New Criticism of the 1930s and 1940s. The course will conclude by considering contemporary poets who might be considered to work in the metaphysical tradition. Fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Landscape and the Local in Modern American Poetry
Full course for one semester. In this course we will explore the persistent attraction of nature and landscape for a range of twentieth-century American poets. We will investigate the ways that certain poets adopt and adapt the resources and perspectives of nineteenth-century predecessors, such as Edwards, Emerson, and Whitman. Our poets both encounter natural features and vistas and construct them, and in so doing they stage a confrontation not only with their own poetic predecessors, but also with the history of the United States. Poets to be considered may include Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, Lorine Niedecker, and Susan Howe. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200-level or consent of the instructor; English 211 recommended. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Modern Poetry and the City
Full course for one semester. Beginning with a consideration of Baudelaire’s most famous essay, “The Painter of Modern Life,” this course will explore seminal attempts on the part of poets to write of and for the modern metropolis. We will move from nineteenth-century examples in Blake, Wordsworth, Whitman, Baudelaire, and Poe to twentieth-century poems by Apollinaire, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandberg, and Frank O’Hara. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or consent of the instructor; English 211 recommended. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
English 384 - Poetry and History
Full course for one semester. Virginia Woolf wrote that on “or about December, 1910, human character changed,” voicing a widely shared excitement over an anticipated revolution in the arts. The American poets who stayed in the U.S. shared this excitement, but also faced unique cultural circumstances. We will do close readings of poetry by Williams, Moore, and Stevens, and look at how they were responding to and helping shape American attitudes about the arts, including the visual arts. In investigating the poets’ ideas about poetry’s place and function, we will also look at how modernist poetry circulated in the United States in the early twentieth century, drawing on the Reed library’s collection of small magazines from the period. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level, or English 211 or a twentieth-century American history course, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Contemporary American Poetry
Full course for one semester. This course is devoted to the works of American poets writing in the decades after 1945, beginning with poets ranging from Richard Wilbur to Charles Olson and ending with those writing now. The emphasis will be on the heterogeneous nature of poetic practices and poetic traditions and practices in the United States in the last half of the twentieth century, and most class discussions will focus on individual poems and essays about poetics, especially those less commonly read these days. We will also consider questions about the relationships between poetry, poetics, and American culture, characterizing major historical changes in the U.S. in the period. Prerequisite: English 211, and either one upper-division English course or one twentieth-century American History class, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Studies in Cultural Contacts
English 370 - Studies in Cultural Contacts
Ibsen and Shaw
See French 363 for description.
Ibsen and Shaw
Full course for one semester. This course will be an in-depth study of two giants of modern theatre from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) from Norway and George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) from Ireland. Both writers used their plays as platforms to talk about a number of social issues including war, marriage, prostitution, euthanasia, and sexually transmitted diseases. We will talk about these issues and locate both writers in their cultural contexts. Texts from Ibsen will include A Doll’s House (1879), Ghosts (1881), and Hedda Gabler (1890). Shaw texts will include The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891), Major Barbara (1905), and Heartbreak House (1919). Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
The Raj and After: Narratives of English India
Full course for one semester. For almost a hundred years, nearly the entirety of the Indian subcontinent was under the direct political control of the British Empire. This course seeks to examine this period through the rich and varied fictional responses to it by British and Indian writers both during and after the Raj. Topics considered are the mutual assimilations of both the ruling and the ruled cultures; the gathering strength of the independence movement; the gradual decline of imperialist vigor; the problems of linguistic impasse; and the intersections of gender, sexuality, and race within discourses concerning foreign rule and Indian nationalism. Major writers to be studied include Rudyard Kipling, Rabindranath Tagore, E.M. Forster, Raja Rao, Khushwant Singh, J.G. Farrell, Salman Rushdie, and Arundhati Roy. We will also screen films by Satyajit Ray, Michael Powell, and Emeric Pressburger. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 and two 200-level English courses or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
Full course for one semester. This course examines the economic, political, and cultural exchanges that created transatlantic writing and reading practices through an intensive study of two bestselling novels and the literary forms they deployed. Uncle Tom’s Cabin not only inflamed the conflicts that led to the Civil War but also revolutionized Anglo-American print culture, selling more copies in the nineteenth century than any book except the Bible. In 1851, as Harriet Beecher Stowe fans waited in suspense for each new installment of her megahit, Charles Dickens, already a celebrity author in Britain and America, started work on the novel that would mark a major turning point in his career: Bleak House. Reading the original serials of both novels, we draw on the methods of book history to consider contemporaneous reviews and journalism, visual cultures, and the proliferation of adaptations of Dickens and Stowe. Throughout the course, we will trace novelistic genres through the Atlantic world: the persistence of sentimentalism and the gothic; the slave narrative and black Anglophilia; documentary realism and the social problem novel; cosmopolitan consciousness; and the origins of detective fiction. In addition to recent work in transatlantic studies and history of the book, readings will include Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, Hannah Crafts’s The Bondwoman’s Narrative, Henry James’s Daisy Miller, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 and two 200-level English courses or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
English 393 - Literary Theory
Thinking Through Literature
Full course for one semester. This course will attempt a fairly systematic analysis of some central problems in literary theory, with emphasis on the relationship between literary theory and other relevant disciplines, such as philosophy and psychology. Four main topics will be addressed: signs and communication; tropes; narration; and spectacle and theatricality. Among others, these philosophers, critics, and theorists will be discussed: Aristotle, Bal, Burke, Cherry, Davidson, Debord, deMan, Derrida, Grice, and Norris. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or higher, or Literature 400, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2014–15.
English 400 - Introduction to Literary Theory
See Literature 400 for description.
English 470 - Thesis
One-half or full course for one year.
English 481 - Independent Reading
One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: approval of the instructor and the division.