See Creative Writing.
Fiction, postcolonial fiction.
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. On sabbatical and leave 2016–17.
Literary theory, the novel, text-image relations, consciousness studies.
Robert S. Knapp
Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, literary theory.
Early American literature and culture, American poetry, poetics and ethnopoetics, Native American literature and culture, postcolonial theory, gender theory, American studies. On sabbatical 2016–17.
Early modern lyric and poetics, Reformation literature and culture, book history, music and literature, aesthetics, cognitive poetics. On sabbatical fall 2016.
Roger J. Porter, Emeritus
Modern drama, modern fiction, Shakespeare, autobiography as a literary form, nonfiction prose.
See Creative Writing.
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. On sabbatical 2016–17.
History and forms of lyric in English poetry, nineteenth-century French poetry, American modernism, modern and contemporary American poetry.
Lisa M. Steinman
Modern and contemporary poetry, creative writing, romanticism, eighteenth-century poetry.
Shakespeare, Renaissance drama, theatre history, book history, Chaucer.
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
Art of Speech
Full course for one semester. Studies suggest that Americans fear public speaking more than they fear death itself. Yet many of us would agree that skilled orators have the ability to change not only minds, but also the world. In this course we will examine the hallmarks of exceptional speeches. Using influential speeches from antiquity to the present, we will pay attention to rhetorical devices, pathos, ethos, structure, audience, openings, visuals, body language, vocal variety, humor, storytelling, and “sticky” endings. Assignments will include oral presentations and written analyses. Oral presentations will develop skills in delivering original speeches, giving effective speech evaluations, and becoming comfortable with impromptu speaking. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2016–17.
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: sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2016–17.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
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 2016–17.
Monsters and Marvels in the Middle Ages
Full course for one semester. In this course we will explore the contours of the medieval imagination as it made sense of the world in a variety of literary and historical texts from the sixth through the fourteenth centuries. We will focus on the function of marvels and monsters as plot devices, as ways of representing cultural anxieties, and as modes of construing the relationship between self and “other” and between the natural world and the social world. We will focus mainly on texts from the British Isles and France, including Beowulf, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, the Lais of Marie de France, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, Gerald of Wales’s Journey Through Wales, Chrétien de Troyes’s Arthurian romances, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Middle Welsh Mabinogion, as well as shorter excerpts from Isidore of Seville, Walter Map, Gervase of Tilbury, and others. This course applies to the English department’s pre-1700 requirement. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
English 203 - Introduction to Theory
History 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 2016–17.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
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 2016–17.
Memory, Desire, and the Modern Novel
Full course for one semester. T. S. Eliot begins his 1922 poem The Waste Land with the admixture of memory and desire, reflecting literary modernism’s preoccupations both with the subjective life and with time and historicity. This course will examine the ways in which fictions from roughly the first half of the twentieth century repeatedly return to questions of a remembrance of eros past, both in their thematic content and in their formal narrative complexities. Marcel Proust, the most influential literary explorer of these questions, will occupy a central position in our analysis, but we will also examine novels by transatlantic modern authors who may include Virginia Woolf, Ford Madox Ford, Willa Cather, Jean Rhys, Christopher Isherwood, Graham Greene, James Baldwin, and Vladimir Nabokov. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or above. Conference. Not offered 2016–17.
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 2016–17.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
Full course for one semester. This course explores a range of modern novels from several countries: America, England, France, and Israel. The works will be drawn from Toni Morrison, Faulkner, Philip Roth, Proust, Virginia Woolf, Nabokov, and A.B. Yehoshua. The two major themes center on race and the depiction of “the other” and time and memory across generations. We will examine such modernist strategies as the use of nonlinear time, stream of consciousness, fragmentation of the subject, subversion of realism, “pure aesthetics” vs. history, and relativism in both form and subject matter. We will also read some critical texts focusing on 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: 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 2016–17.
No Place Like Home: Colonial and Postcolonial Fictions
Full course for one semester. Colonialism and its social, economic, and political consequences transformed both colonizers and colonized, while reshaping the history and nature of modernity. As colonial literature gave way to postcolonial perspectives (even before the formal end of empire), fiction served as a means of navigating, delimiting, and challenging colonial rule. How were colonial encounters represented in fiction? What is the connection between colonial and postcolonial narratives? Addressing these and related questions, this course examines literature produced in the context of the British empire and its aftermath in order to explore the character of colonialism from a variety of perspectives. Considering works of fiction by authors including E.M. Forster, Chinua Achebe, R.K. Narayan, and Kiran Desai, the course reckons with the complex catalysts, experiences, and legacies of colonialism in the modern world. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
Victorian Gothic Fiction
Full course for one semester. The Victorians prided themselves on their commitments to reason, taxonomy, order, and rectitude. The novel, however, which was their dominant cultural form, often concerned itself with the dark underside to their world, where concomitant fascinations with superstition, chaos, crime, and vice instead held sway. These gothic Victorian fictions—dominated particularly by the related forms of the sensation novel, the detective novel, and the imperial romance—will be the object of study for this course, which will examine major works by such potential authors as Emily and Anne Brontë, Charles Dickens, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Wilkie Collins, H. Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker as a means of understanding not simply Victorian culture but more generally the form of the novel. We will also read short critical and theoretical works in the study of narrative to accompany our readings in Gothic fiction. This course applies to the English department’s pre-1900 requirement. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
African American Poetry
Full course for one semester. This course serves both as a general introduction to poetry and poetics and as an introduction to African American poetry. Using primarily but not exclusively examples taken from the full history of African American poetry, students will learn about meter and prosody, rhythm, imagery, rhetorical tropes, metaphors, and different ways of conceiving the role of the poet. We will consider a range of poetic genres or kinds and see the way that African American poets have adapted and innovated those forms over time. One of our main tasks will be to explore and consider the ways that African American poets have embraced or resisted the demand to offer representative voices, and to contribute to the cause of social justice through their poetry. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
English 242 - Introduction to Drama
Full course for one semester. As with its seven previous iterations, this course looks at European drama in its social and political context in a limited time frame from the perspective of different countries. In this version, we cover the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s. Probable authors will include Marguerite Duras, Dario Fo, Tom Stoppard, David Storey, Vaclav Havel, Peter Handke, and Arnold Wesker. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
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, 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 2016–17.
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 2016–17.
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: at least one 200-level English class or one U.S. history course, or consent of the instructor. Applies toward the literature prior to 1900 requirement. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2016–17.
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.
Not offered 2016—17.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
Full course for one semester. Critics and scholars have repeatedly hailed James Joyce as the most influential and important fiction writer of the twentieth century, noting that he effectively rewrote the forms and capabilities of the short story, novel, and epic. Over the track of his career, Joyce’s fiction progressed from its roots in literary naturalism to more complex modernist forms, exhibiting his uncanny ability to master and also invent different rhetorical discourses. This course will track the full range of this development, from his earliest fictions in Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man all the way through selections from his last and most difficult work, Finnegans Wake; we will focus particular attention on the entirety of Ulysses. We will pay attention as well to critical, biographical, and historical contexts for Joyce’s work. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
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 2016–17.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
Short Story Cycles
Full course for one semester. This course will focus on the development in North America in the nineteenth through twenty-first century of a form of narrative found in many cultures and languages (The Thousand and One Nights, The Decameron, Dubliners). This narrative form (short story cycle, or sequence, or composite) differs from story collections in its degree of unity, and from the novel in the relative independence of its constituent parts (stories rather than chapters). As a complex narrative form, it affords unique opportunities to analyze literary structure, aesthetics, ethics, and social function. In this class, we will explore how and why short story cycles have been especially favored by ethnic American writers. Readings may include work by some of the following authors, as well as critical and theoretical essays on narrative: Anderson, Anzaldúa, Barth, Hemingway, Garcia, Erdrich, Kingston, Jewett, Munro, Naylor, O’Brien, Salinger, Stein. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2016–17.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
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 2016–17.
The Victorian Novel and Its Social Formations
Full course for one semester. The Industrial Revolution, the entrenchment of the bourgeoisie, and the two Reform Bills made possible tremendous transformations in the social worlds of Victorian Great Britain. This course will examine how these changes were both documented and reimagined in the novels of five seminal writers of the period: Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Anthony Trollope. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which these novelists figure communities around the penal system, the family, the factory, the beau monde, and the church. There will be substantial historical, critical, and theoretical readings in addition to the novels. Fulfills the pre-1900 requirement. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or the instructor’s permission. Conference. Not offered 2016–17.
Virginia Woolf's Modernist Networks
Full course for one semester. The idea of the network was central not only to the ways in which Virginia Woolf conceived of relations between and among people in her novels but also according to the terms by which she understood her own fictional career. Woolf’s affiliations with her Bloomsbury Group cohort, her literary collaborators and rivals, and the younger writers she mentored informed her own sense of herself as an author, and were ultimately turned into literary capital regarding the complex manner by which selves are constituted through their engagements with others. This course will explore this dynamic not only through Woolf’s own fiction and essays but also those within the works of Woolf’s modernist network both during her lifetime and after by figures such as Katherine Mansfield, E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, T. S. Eliot, Arnold Bennett, Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Bowen, and Ali Smith. We will also read critical and theoretical readings relevant to the concept of the network and to these writers. Prerequisite: sophomore standing and two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
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.
The War in Vietnam: 40 Years After
Full course for one semester. April 30, 2015, marked the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. On that day, the last U.S. 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. Not offered 2016–17.
English 356 - Studies in African American Literature
The Black Radical Tradition III: Critical Race Theory
Full course for one semester. Critical race theory began as a movement in the 1970s, primarily fueled by those in the legal profession, who came to the conclusion that the gains of the civil rights era had either stalled or were being rolled back, and that too often, the legal profession was complicit in upholding white supremacy and the hierarchies of gender, class, and sexual orientation. Critical race theory thus attempted to reinterpret and remake the world to reveal silenced suffering and to relieve social misery. Critical race theorists responded to the “objective” notion of the law by positing that race needed to be brought to the center of any analysis, and that the notion of a colorblind society needed to be challenged and constantly fought against. One of the ways they did this was by abandoning traditional legal objective language and instead writing from a subjective perspective, using storytelling, parables, and autobiography to confront what Derrick Bell has called “the permanence of racism,” and arguing that pedagogy, scholarship, and struggle are intimately connected. Among others, we will read works by Derrick Bell, Patricia Williams, Michelle Alexander, Lani Guinier, and Kimberlé Crenshaw. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2016–17.
Contemporary African American Fiction
Full course for one semester. In 2011, University of Chicago professor Kenneth Warren published What Was African American Literature? in which he argued that African American literature as an entity was a product of the Jim Crow era. When Jim Crow died, according to Warren, so did African American literature. What came after was something new and different. This course will interrogate Warren’s idea by first looking at several theoretical texts by Saunders Redding, George Schuyler, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, and Richard Wright from the 1920s–1950s to get a sense of the early form of the debate. We will then read two “African American” novels by George Schuyler and Richard Wright to ascertain what African American literature was. The rest of the semester we will engage in reading texts from 1998–2015 to test Warren’s theory. Authors will include Danzy Senna, Percival Everett, Suzan-Lori Parks, Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, Teju Cole, and Paul Beatty. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
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.
Dante’s Divine Comedy
Full course for one semester. In this course we will study Dante Alighieri’s fourteenth-century masterpiece The Divine Comedy, seeking to understand this ambitious poem both on its own merits and as an index of the major literary, artistic, and intellectual currents of European culture during the High Middle Ages. The Divine Comedy as a whole narrates Dante’s fictional journey through the afterlife, where he witnesses the eternal torments of the damned souls in hell, the patient endurance of the restless Christian spirits in purgatory, and the ineffable delights of the blessed in paradise. As we follow Dante-pilgrim on his journey, we will look specifically at the poetic and narrative strategies that Dante-poet employs in thinking through the changing relationships between language and truth in the separate canticles of the poem, thinking about how an infernal poetics, for example, differs from a paradisiacal one. In light of ongoing debates in Dante studies, we will also focus on the extent to which Dante’s poem enjoins readers to a process of conversion and on the ways in which Dante establishes his own poetic and moral authority as a counterweight to the corruptions of the fourteenth-century church. Readings will be from the English translation by Robert and Jean Hollander, with the Italian text of Dante’s poem on the facing page. This course fulfills the English department’s pre-1700 requirement. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2016–17.
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 2016–17.
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. Not offered 2016–17.
Full course for one semester. As Hamlet says, the purpose of playing is to hold the mirror up to nature. This course examines that purpose, exploring three main topics: 1) what mimesis meant to early modern literary theorists; 2) how within a partly deterministic framework of textual and rhetorical devices, Shakespeare creates the illusion of human character, freedom, and fatality; and 3) how readers and viewers of these plays can understand the implications of his artistry. The course focuses on not more than half a dozen plays (e.g., As You Like It, Hamlet, King Lear, Henry V, and The Tempest), looking also at texts drawn from early modern literary controversies (e.g., Gosson and Sidney) and contemporary analyses of comparable issues (e.g., Bloom, Montrose, and Palfrey). Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2016–17.
Full course for one semester. In this course we will explore the astonishing breadth of Shakespeare’s tragedies by reading his major masterpieces in the genre (such as Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear) alongside plays that complicate and expand our understanding of the tragic (such as Richard II, Troilus and Cressida, and The Winter’s Tale). We will consider Shakespeare’s tragedies in relation to classical and medieval precedents as well as theoretical accounts of the genre from antiquity to the twentieth century. Engaging with criticism, performances, and films, we will approach the plays both as literary texts and as embodied theatrical events. We will give special attention to Shakespeare’s poetic language, dramaturgy, and complex treatments of power, politics, community, family, sex, and the self. This course applies to the English department’s pre-1700 requirement. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
Studies in Poetry
English 366 - Studies in Poetry
Beauty and the Poetic Text
Full course for one semester. What makes us perceive things as beautiful? Why do certain works of art move us emotionally, while others engage us intellectually? The concept of aesthetics is nothing if not fluid: it can relate to perception through the senses; the philosophy of beauty; the art (or science!) of what is pleasing; the study of good taste; the standards by which art is judged—the list goes on. We will embark on a transhistorical exploration of beauty and the senses in Western literature across multiple genres, beginning with Plato and moving through the ideas of beauty and the sublime in the medieval world, representation and the self in the Renaissance, taste and sentiment in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, finally ending with the modern period and the turn toward self-conscious artistic creation. Likely texts include Shakespeare’s Sonnets and T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, as well as works by Longinus, Aquinas, Donne, Thomas Gray, Edmund Burke, Wordsworth, Emerson, Dickinson, Wilde, and Walter Benjamin. This course applies to the English department’s pre-1900 requirement. Prerequisite: sophomore standing and two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
Crafting Presence in Early Modern Lyric
Full course for one semester. Early modern England was home to a flourishing of lyric poetry arguably unmatched before or since. Often used as a blanket term for short-form poetry, the essence of lyric lies in its vivid representation of a voice, whether as a script for the reader or a dramatic depiction of a scene, rendering the reader a spectator. But how is this voice on the page made “real” to readers? How do early modern poems situate readers with respect to the action or moment of a lyric poem? Focusing in equal part on the major poets (Wyatt, Sidney, Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne, Milton) and less canonical figures like Anne Locke, Richard Barnfield, and Mary Wroth, we will consider the reader’s relationship to the speaker imagined in a poem—how readers are interpolated by texts rhetorically, grammatically, and materially, as audiences and as speakers. Literary theory focused on linguistics, reader response, and material culture will frame our approach to lyric, testing the boundaries between spoken and silently read word and song to better understand the ways lyric was and can be read and used. Students will develop a working knowledge of ancient and early modern rhetoric; theoretical texts will include Plato, Benjamin, Saussure, Jakobson, Austin, Barthes, de Man, Derrida, Jonathan Culler, Barbara Johnson, and Peter Stallybrass. Course requirements: weekly responses to the reading posted to the class site, a short midterm paper, and a longer final paper. Prerequisite: English 211 or 213. Fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2016–17.
Early Modern Poetry
Full course for one semester. Tudor-Stuart England was home to a remarkable flourishing of poetic culture in a concentration unseen before or since in English. This course will survey the development of major poetic forms in English from 1500 to 1640, with attention to cultural context and developing skills in formal analysis. We will read both sacred and profane poetry, beginning with Petrarch’s sonnets (in historical and modern translations) and their central role in shaping the English lyric poem. Focusing in equal part on the major poets (Wyatt, Sidney, Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne, Milton) and less canonical figures like John Skelton, Anne Locke, and Mary Wroth, to name a few, we will examine these poems for their commentaries on love, religion, gender, and politics, while reading literary and poetic theory from the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. To what extent do changes in literature reflect shifts in English history and culture, including religion, politics, science, and class and gender relations? This course applies to the English department’s pre-1700 requirement. Prerequisite: sophomore standing and two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
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 2016–17.
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 2016–17.
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.
Studies in Cultural Contacts
English 370 - Studies in Cultural Contacts
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 2016–17.
Full course for one semester. The history of reading is a history of revolution. From ancient times onwards, readers have transformed written works through creative, active, and often subversive engagement with them. This class explores reading as a key dimension of citizenship, community making, and resistance to oppression. We investigate how the practice of reading contributes to political practice, particularly in postcolonial contexts. Combining the study of literary theory and history with works by writers including Virginia Woolf, V.S. Naipaul, Jamaica Kincaid, Lloyd Jones, and Claudia Rankine, this course considers reading as a creative and radical act with the potential to resist power, prejudice, and injustice. Prerequisite: sophomore standing and two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
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 2016–17.
English 393 - Literary Theory
Meaning and Interpretation
Full course for one semester. In this course we address debates within literary and legal theory concerning our practices of interpreting texts. In ordinary personal communication, people use various sounds, gestures, and marks to express thought and feeling. The course begins by examining this activity, asking what factors determine what we mean, and what we interpret each other to mean. Several distinctions matter to our investigation: 1) the distinction between what we directly mean or say and what we indirectly mean or imply; 2) the distinction between what we literally or explicitly mean and what we nonliterally, figuratively, or inexplicitly mean; and 3) the (putative) distinction between the exchange of sounds, gestures, and marks in a shared present context and the production, reception, and cultural and political deployment of text(s) across some distance in space and time. We examine the phenomena of vagueness, ambiguity, underspecificity, indeterminacy, and undecidability; develop accounts of lying, pretense, irony, and fiction; and finally engage controversies about the nature of genre, the meanings of texts, and the interpretation of statutes. Readings are drawn from the philosophy of language (e.g., Grice, Kripke, and Neale), from literary theory (e.g. Booth, de Man, and Derrida), and from legal theory (e.g. Scalia and Fish). We use a few literary texts as test cases for some of our analyses (e.g., a novel by Jane Austen, a play by Samuel Beckett, and a poem by W.B. Yeats). Conference. Prerequisites: two upper-division courses in philosophy or two courses in English, or Literature 400, or consent of instructors. Conference. Cross-listed as Philosophy 414: Meaning and Interpretation. Not offered 2016–17.
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.