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. On sabbatical 2012–13.
Eighteenth-century British literary and visual culture, the novel and its social and cultural contexts 1680–1850, aesthetic theory.
Rhetorical and narrative theory, the novel, autobiography, gender studies, creative writing.
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 leave spring 2013.
Roger J. Porter
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
Medieval literature, gender studies, biblical narrative, twentieth-century American fiction.
Modern and contemporary American poetry, history and forms of lyric in English poetry, nineteenth-century French poetry, American modernism.
Ellen Keck Stauder
Modern poetry, Victorian literature, prosody, literature and the arts. On sabbatical fall 2012.
Lisa M. Steinman
Modern and contemporary poetry, creative writing, romanticism, eighteenth-century poetry.
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.
Crystal A. Williams
See Creative Writing.
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 centuries. 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, 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 seven required English courses must be in literature prior to 1900, and one of these 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, the first two involving questions about a piece of fiction and a critical or theoretical essay (both of which are handed out to be read before taking the exam). There is generally also a question about a poem or poems, copies of which are sometimes not available in advance. 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. This course explores the vital relationship between American literature and environmental values, and traces the origins of the America’s understanding of the relationship between nature and culture. The class will focus upon Transcendentalist and Utopian movements of the mid-nineteenth century and will include authors such as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and Fuller. We will pay special attention to changes in the New England landscape during this era, including the rise of industrialization and urban centers. Special attention will be paid to the sublime, tourism, urban planning, utopian communities, and sustainable farming. Genres covered include essays, short stories, novels, and travel literature. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. This class applies toward the English department’s pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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.
Introduction to Film
Full course for one semester. This course focuses on questions of film form and style (narrative, editing, cinematography, framing, mise-en-scène, sound) and introduces students to concepts in film history and theory (auteurism, spectatorship, the star system, ideology, genre). We will pay particular attention to principles of film narration and film form that are instrumental across the study of literature: plot vs. story, dramatic development, temporal strategies, character development, point of view, symbolism, reality vs. illusion, visual metaphor, and so forth. Students will develop a critical vocabulary for examining the cinema as an art form, an industry, and a system of culturally meaningful representation. Coursework will include frequent short writing assignments and brief experiments in visual storytelling. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Literary and Visual Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain
Full course for one semester. This course is designed to introduce students to the literary and visual cultures of eighteenth-century Britain and their connections. We will read prose by Defoe, Johnson, Walpole, and Austen; poetry by Pope, Swift, Gray, Goldsmith, Blake, Collier, and Duck; and drama by Gay. We will also study discussions of aesthetics by Burke and Reynolds and the work of artists Hogarth, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Angelica Kauffman, and Wright of Derby, as well as the role of patrons such as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Throughout our readings and viewings we will return to the following guiding questions: how are stories narrated, in images as well as in words? What are the major aesthetic categories of this period and how do they operate to construct aesthetic experience? Do these categories span literary and visual culture, or are they different in each form? What are their modern legacies? Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Not offered 2012–13.
The Making of the Twentieth Century
Full course for one semester. This course will focus on American writing produced between 1890 and 1910. Though much of our time will be spent reading novels and short stories—in particular, examples of realist, naturalist, and modernist fiction—we will approach the novel as just one of many narrative arts that played a crucial role in defining the nascent twentieth century. Other genres that we will consider include life writing, the tale, aesthetic and cultural criticism, reportage, photojournalism and the photo book, and protest writing. Our readings will be grouped into five units—“American Life, Writing, and Life Writing,” “Race after Reconstruction,” “Narrating City Life,” “Between Asia and America,” and “Modern Women”—and will be drawn from writers such as Henry Adams, Abraham Cahan, Charles Chesnutt, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, W.E.B. Du Bois, Sui Sin Far, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Henry James, Okakura Kakuzo, Jack London, Frank Norris, Jacob Riis, and Gertrude Stein. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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.
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. Not offered 2012–13.
The American Novel, 1850–1990: Housing the American Self
Full course for one semester. A survey of American novels, highlighting proprietary models of selfhood and nation (and various challenges to them). The course will run from Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables (1851) to N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn (1968) and Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987). Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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.
American Success and Failure
Full course for one semester. An abiding concern of American literature is an obsession with individual success, particularly the conundrum of attaining material success at the expense of other values. Taking classic essays by Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson as our points of departure, we will examine how nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writers such as Horatio Alger, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Frank Norris, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Nella Larsen have explored that obsession through the form of the novel. We will pay particular attention to the development of literary styles such as regionalism, realism, and naturalism as responses to changes in American culture that likewise shape different novelistic subgenres, such as romance, the realist novel, melodrama, the modernist novel, and the psychological novel. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
"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 2012–13.
The Basics of the Novel
Full course for one semester. This course serves as an introduction to the history of both the idea and the form of the English novel, beginning in the early eighteenth century and continuing through to the present day. We will look at short critical writings by major narrative scholars in conjunction with examples of the novel’s various subgenres, including the gothic, the marriage plot, the Bildungsroman, the historical novel, the detective novel, the modernist novel, and the postmodern novel. The course will cover major novels by Daniel Defoe, Matthew Lewis, Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Virginia Woolf, and J.M. Coetzee. There will be numerous short writing assignments. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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 2012–13.
British Women Novelists since 1900
Full course for one semester. Using Virginia Woolf’s classic feminist literary polemic A Room of One’s Own as our point of departure, we will in this course read works by women novelists from the United Kingdom over the span of the last hundred years, paying particular attention to the subgenres of the novel (such as the realist novel, the gothic romance, the Bildungsroman, the modernist novel, the postmodern novel, and the postcolonial novel) and how these forms are shaped and affected by gender considerations. Writers to be studied include Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, Elizabeth Bowen, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Iris Murdoch, Jean Rhys, Angela Carter, and Jeanette Winterson. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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.
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.
Writing Race: Southern Literature
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: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. 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.
Not offered 2012—13.
English 242 - Introduction to Drama
British and Irish Drama from 1956 to the Present
Full course for one semester. From the early days of London’s Royal Court Theatre, a theatre recently described as "the most important theatre in Europe," to the work of playwrights from Ireland and England’s industrial heartland, companies trained in European physical theatre, and black British and British Asian writers, the past 50 years have been an especially rich period of experimentation and innovation in British and Irish drama. We will read a number of plays from the last five decades and consider their innovations with respect to performance as well as their relationship to social, cultural, and historical phenomena. Though our class discussions will touch upon many issues, the reading list has been designed to highlight five interrelated topics: gender, race, the British Empire, devised and process-based theatre, and affect on the stage. Likely dramatic texts include those of John Osborne, Ann Jellicoe, Samuel Beckett, Edward Bond, Caryl Churchill, Marina Carr, Forced Entertainment, Complicite, Sarah Kane, Debbie Tucker Green, and Roy Williams. We will also read relevant critical and theoretical texts. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Introduction to Drama
Full course for one semester. This course studies plays from the Western canon to focus on such essentials as the nature of plot, character, dramatic conflict, the language of argumentation and confrontation, genre, and the relation of individual psyches to the cultural issues represented in the play—the conjunction of personal to political narratives. We will investigate ways characters can be both sympathetic and unsympathetic at the same time, and how playwrights structure their work and its dialogue to achieve such emotional complexity. We will read many plays, from dramatists such as Euripides, Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov, Strindberg, Wilde, Brecht, Beckett, Ionesco, O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Sam Shepard, and Suzan-Lori Park. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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. 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. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference.
Shakespeare: The Love Plays
Full course for one semester. This course will focus on a range of Shakespeare’s plays in which the representation of love is a central theme. We will study such topics as the nature and language of romance and sexuality, the construction of gender roles and their deployment in games of love and power, the function and ideology of cross-dressing and its significance for the status of women, conflicts of love and war (or love as war), the relation of age to love, the origins and consequences of jealousy in love, and the way attitudes towards love are shaped and represented by genre (tragedy and comedy). Plays may include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Othello, and Antony and Cleopatra. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference.Not offered 2012–13.
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. Lecture and conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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
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 2012–13.
Messianism and Mysticism in the Jewish Atlantic World
Full course for one semester. Jews in the Atlantic World (1620–1820) didn’t stay put for long: one year they were in Amsterdam, the next in London, New York, Newport, Curaçao, Jamaica, Barbados, or Suriname. These wanderers, referred to as “Port Jews,” were primarily merchants who resided in and traveled between port towns during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Often Port Jews were descendants of conversos: Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism under the Inquisition and who may have practiced Judaism in secret for generations before they escaped the Iberian Peninsula. Raised in two worlds, Port Jews commonly saw their ties to the “Jewish collectivity” as voluntary and yet saw Jewish (re)education as a must. Many were quite wealthy and had at least indirect ties to the slave trade. They created and sponsored a rich visual and literary culture that trod the line between devotion and heresy. They were deeply messianic, and their belief permeated their shared visual and religious ethos. The course examines this world through close reading of material culture and literary and religious texts. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or Religion 152, or consent of the instructor. This class fulfills the English department’s pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Jews in the Americas
Full course for one semester. This course will cover early poetry, drama, autobiographies, letters, novels and sermons written by and about Jews and crypto-Jews living in North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean from 1560 to 1820. Literary works will be placed in the context of both historical documents and material culture produced by the communities, including ritual baths, food, houses, synagogues, and gravestones. Also explored will be how Jews (and non-Jews) in various colonies defined and regulated the boundaries of who and what was a Jew, and how slavery and local customs helped create a new creole religion. This course fulfills the pre-1900 literature requirement for English majors. Religion majors may use the course toward the fulfillment of the three 300-level units in religion requirement. Prerequisite: two 200-level English classes, or Religion 152 or 201. Conference. Cross-listed as Religion 375. Not offered 2012–13.
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.
English 329 - Film and Fiction
Full course for one semester. This course looks at ways film directors have adapted significant novels for the screen. We will focus on narrative in fiction as it has been transformed into narrative for films; the different techniques for storytelling each medium employs; and various criteria for assessing the success or failure of such adaptations, along the way examining the notion of “fidelity” as a valid criterion for assessing film adaptations. We will also regard how point of view is established in each genre. Some attention will be given to cinematic codes and to ways of discussing how literary language is rendered in visual terms. Novels and the films adopted from them will include such classics as Nabokov’s Lolita, Mann’s Death in Venice, Graham Greene’s The Third Man, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (Apocalypse Now), John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Henry James’ Washington Square (The Heiress), and Julio Cortazar’s Blowup. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses. Conference.
Not offered 2012—13.
Studies in Fiction
English 333 - Studies in Fiction
Black and Asian British Literature
Full course for one semester. Over the past several decades, the work of Britain’s immigrant and native-born ethnic writers has had a truly global impact. This course will offer an in-depth, interdisciplinary examination of black and Asian British literature. First, we will study the origins of Britain’s black and Asian population, particularly in the postwar period. Dominated first by immigrants from the Caribbean and then by immigrants from South Asia, the postwar mass migration of the formerly colonized forever changed the complexion and culture of Britain. Then we will examine the rise of “black British” identity as a response to racism, particularly during the 1970s and 1980s, when it was claimed by individuals of African, Caribbean, and Asian descent. Finally, we will consider the last two decades, when, after the so-called “Rushdie Affair” (the controversy over The Satanic Verses), the notion of Afro-Asian unity began to fall apart. Our readings will be drawn from novelists, poets, and filmmakers such as Sam Selvon, Buchi Emecheta, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Isaac Julien, Black Audio Film Collective, Salman Rushdie, Hanif Kureishi, Jackie Kay, Monica Ali, and Gautam Malkani. We will also read critical works by Homi Bhabha, Hazel Carby, Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall, C.L. Innes, Kobena Mercer, and others. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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 2012–13.
Full course for one semester. Edward Mendelson has identified the encyclopedic narrative as a genre crucial to the formation of national cultures by rendering the full range of a nation’s knowledge and beliefs visible by means of the organizing skeleton of epic form. This course will engage primarily with three seminal encyclopedic fictions of the Anglophone novelistic tradition from the last 150 years: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick or, The Whale; James Joyce’s Ulysses; and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Because encyclopedic fiction makes full use of the resources of literary forms while simultaneously rendering them obsolete, we will use these three 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 Jorge Luis Borges, Gyorg Lukács, M.M. Bakhtin, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. In addition, we will learn something about the historical and political contexts against which these three novels are set. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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’ 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.
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.
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.
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 in addition to the novels. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or permission of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
The Social World of the Victorian Novel
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 works of five seminal novelists of the period: William Makepeace Thackeray, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, and Charles Dickens. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which these novelists figure communities as constituted around such institutions as the workplace, the home, the beau monde, the church, the legal system, and the government. There will be substantial historical, critical, and theoretical readings in addition to the novels. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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 2012–13.
Full course for one semester. This course will examine an important phenomenon in contemporary literature: the rise of fiction that can legitimately claim to be transnational. We will read several transnational novels by ethnic American and postcolonial writers such as Monique Truong, Ruth Ozeki, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Jessica Hagedorn, Caryl Phillips, Amitav Ghosh, Indra Sinha, and Michael Ondaatje. In addition, we will read influential works in transnational theory and the critical perspectives out of which it emerged and with which it continues to intersect, including those of postcolonial, diaspora, and ethnic studies. Our key theory text will be Lisa Lowe’s influential essay, “The Intimacies of Four Continents,” which will provoke a look forward and backward to the work of thinkers such as Homi Bhabha, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Pheng Cheah, David Eng, Bishnupriya Ghosh, Fredric Jameson, Walter Mignolo, Edward Said, and Gayatri Spivak. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Studies in British Culture
English 337 - Studies in British Culture
British Literature, Colonialism, and Slavery, 1680–1830
Full course for one semester. In this class we will read a series of texts that focus on the nature of national and imperial identity in an age of exploration, conquest, and colonization. Most of the works are British, along with some French, American, and Caribbean texts, and range from canonical texts by writers such as Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, and Jane Austen to journals, letters, autobiographies, and poetry by less well-known authors from the social periphery or margins of empire. Through these readings we will explore two kinds of questions: first, in close readings of the varied forms of these texts (satire, fiction, the memoir and journal, and poetry) we will trace the impact of various literary genres on political arguments and vice versa. Second, we will investigate what national identity is, what it means to be an imperial power, and what the nature of the non-European "other" is in a literary culture fascinated by the possibilities of colonial domination and confronted with the fact of slavery. Associated topics such as the development of a culture of ethnographic and cultural tourism in this period will also be examined. There will also be substantial secondary reading in recent criticism and theory on the questions raised by the readings. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Not offered 2012—13.
Studies in American Literature
English 341 - Studies in American Literature
African American Cinema
Full course for one semester. In this course, we will take a look at African American cinema from classical Hollywood studio productions and the independent race film industry. We will explore a range of films from the silent period to the early sound era that depict the lives of black Americans and consider the social, cultural, and historical constructs that guide these depictions. While much of the scholarship on African American cinema is a response to negative imagery and stereotypes, we will explore how issues of race and its attendant issues (class, gender, sex, etc.) pose questions of spectatorial pleasure, aesthetic practice, medium specificity, and cinematic form. The scholarship of black film scholars such as Jane Gaines, Thomas Cripps, Manthia Diawara, and Jacqueline Stewart will help frame our discussions of films such as Within Our Gates (1920), Imitation of Life (1934), The Blood of Jesus (1941), and Pinky (1949). Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, including an introductory film course, or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2012–13.
The Borderlands as Imaginary Narrative Space
Full course for one semester. This course will introduce the discourse of “the border” through a range of literary, historical, and cinematic texts situated on or near the U.S./Mexico border. Our goal is to understand not only the vibrant, violent history of the region—and how that history is rendered aesthetically—but to understand how the border is “felt” as a political truth, a geographical fiction, and a psychic tension. This class is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from literary studies, cultural studies, film studies, and Chicano/Latino studies for its operating rubrics. Texts will include Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory, and Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, in addition to works by Ana Castillo, Tomás Rivera, and Sandra Cisneros. Films may include LoneStar, No Country for Old Men, The Searchers, and documentaries by Lourdes Portillo and Bill Brown. Prerequisites: two 200-level English courses. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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.
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.
Full course for one semester. As the U.S. moved in the 1940s from a wartime experience to a new, postwar context, works of popular culture expressed both the hopes and fears that came with that transition. For example, a series of postwar films such as the well-known It’s a Wonderful Life used magic figures who descended to earth to help lost and bedraggled protagonists find their way again in the confusions of the moment. But the way in which George Bailey’s American dream so quickly can become a nightmare suggests an underside to 1940s optimism. In this respect, film noir, a trend of films that started during the war but really exploded in the postwar moment, expresses a bleaker, more bitter and downbeat vision of the historical moment. Noir expresses tensions of urban life, of sexual roles and identity, of work and success, and so on. This course will examine noir both thematically and stylistically to pinpoint its expressive commentary on social trends and tensions. The course will also attend to the ongoing fascination with—and frequent revival of—noir style and subject matter to study how the social concerns of film noir continue to express complications in the success story of America as a nation. The course will include both films and novels adapted to film or with a distinctly noir aesthetic, including Thérèse Raquin, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Blank Wall, The Maltese Falcon, and The Big Sleep. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above. Previous coursework in film studies recommended. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Magic, the Supernatural and the Film Medium
Full course for one semester. In this course, we will explore the spiritual, magical, and supernatural possibilities of cinema as an offshoot of the Modern Spiritualist movement—a nineteenth century cultural phenomenon espousing the idea that humans can make contact with the dead through technological means. Working with examples from Hollywood and independent cinemas in both the U.S. and abroad, we will seek to understand cinema both as a text and medium engaged in a larger discourse about competing epistemologies and belief systems of the contemporary world. We will consider film’s relationship to theatrical magical traditions and explore how technological advancements from trick photography to digital special effects have shaped understandings of cinema as a magical medium. We will also pay particular attention to cinematic treatment of race, ethnicity and gender in representations of alternative spiritual traditions practiced by black and indigenous people throughout the Americas. Films to be considered include: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Rebecca (1940), The Shining, (1980), Ghost (1990). Prerequisites: one English course at the 200 level or above or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Full course for one semester. In honor of his 100th birthday, this course will be an in-depth study of the major plays of Tennessee Williams, arguably America’s greatest playwright. We will look at plays from Williams’s entire career. Texts will include The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Night of the Iguana, and others. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
English 356 - Studies in African American Literature
The Art of the African American Short Story
Full course for one semester. This course will survey African American short fiction from the late nineteenth century into the twentieth century. We will look at the work in its historical and political context. We will begin in the 1890s with the work of Charles Chesnutt that interrogates the time immediately after slavery and signals the beginning of African American modernism. We will also cover the periods of the Harlem Renaissance, African American naturalism, the civil rights movement, the Black Arts movement, and beyond. In addition to Chesnutt, authors will include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Paule Marshall, Ernest J. Gaines, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, Jamaica Kincaid, Amiri Baraka, Toni Cade Bambara, and Edward P. Jones. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
The Black Radical Tradition
Full course for one semester. Throughout the history of black people as a colonized people in the West, there has been an ongoing debate about the proper relationship or stance the colonized should have toward the colonizer. In the nineteenth century, Martin Delany’s radicalism was opposed by Frederick Douglass’s more accommodationist stance. Later, the conflict was manifested by the contrast between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, and then between Marcus Garvey and Du Bois. Later still, there were Malcolm X and Dr. King, and then Amiri Baraka and Ralph Ellison. With the possible exception of the DuBois-Washington conflict, the less radical position is the one that has received the most attention, both public and scholarly. This course will examine the work of three representative figures of the Black radical tradition in the twentieth century: W.E.B. Du Bois (U.S.A), C.L.R. James (Trinidad), and Richard Wright (U.S.A.). In particular, we will examine their relationship to Marxism as a means to the solution of the problem of the colonized. This course will be both interdisciplinary—we will read works of literature, history, and sociocultural criticism—and cross-cultural. Texts will include Black Reconstruction and The Souls of Black Folk (DuBois); The Black Jacobins and Beyond a Boundary (James); and Native Son and 12 Million Black Voices (Wright). Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
The Black Radical Tradition II
Full course for one semester. This course continues an examination of the radical solution to the problem of the colonized. This semester we will concentrate on the decades of the 1950s and 1960s. We will do an in-depth study of three writers rather than a more broad-based survey. The three writers are Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, and LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, although for the latter we will study him in the larger context of the Black Arts movement. This will necessitate some attention to other writers such as Larry Neal, Sonia Sanchez, and Harold Cruse. Prerequisite: two English courses or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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 2012–13.
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 2012–13.
Love, Lyric, and Loss
Full course for one semester. Focusing on Chaucer’s brilliant narrative poem Troilus and Criseyde, in this course we will explore the invention and long cultural afterlife of medieval constructions of love and loss. In the first part of the course, we will become familiar with Middle English and the continental lyric and narrative traditions Chaucer knew and drew upon in writing his lesser-known masterpiece, Troilus and Criseyde. We will read some of Chaucer’s lyrics and early dream visions (The Parlement of Foules, The Book of the Duchess). Other readings will be drawn from medieval and contemporary texts that represent and theorize love and loss (e.g., Boethius, troubadour poetry, Marie de France, Kristeva). Middle English texts will be read in the original, other medieval texts in translation. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Studies in Shakespeare
English 363 - Studies in Shakespeare
Hamlet and Lear: Text and Film
Full course for one semester. This course will focus on just two works: Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear. In the nineteenth century Hamlet was regarded as “the great” tragedy; in the twentieth century and continuing to this day King Lear is. We will examine both works in great detail, surrounding them with literary and theatrical criticism, as well as a modern dramatic version of each play and one or more filmic versions of each. This is a course in slow and intense reading of Shakespeare. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Shakespeare and the Disciplines of Culture
Full course for one semester. In early modern England a vigorous debate occurred about the effects of theatre on character, a debate that finds its echo in modern discussions of the political and ethical effects of Shakespeare and his place in the canon. This course will examine several of Shakespeare’s plays with particular attention to the way in which they implicitly shape a political subject and a moral self. Among the plays addressed will be Richard II, Henry V, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and The Tempest. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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 2012–13.
Studies in Poetry
English 366 - Studies in Poetry
Experimental Poetics of the Americas
Full course for one semester. The hybrid cultures of the Americas have given rise to equally hybrid artistic forms. This course focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century poetry, with a particular emphasis on works that explore encounters among multiple cultural and literary traditions in the Americas. Traditions may include modernism, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, Brazilian concrete poetry, the Caribbean neo-baroque, and bilingual U.S. Latina and Latino poetries. Writers may include Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Nicolás Guillén, Haroldo de Campos, Edouard Glissant, Kamau Brathwaite, Susana Chávez-Silverman, and Cecilia Vicuña. Most works will be in English, and all non-English works will be read in translation. Prerequisites: two literature courses at the 200 level or above, preferably including English 211, or consent of the instructor. English 211 is recommended. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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.
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.
The Poetics of Translation
Full course for one semester. This course will explore the theory and practice of literary translation, with particular attention to how texts cross cultural borders. In the process, we will also consider the role of translation in twentieth-century poetic innovation, with attention to major theorist-innovators such as Ezra Pound, Jorge Luis Borges, and Haroldo de Campos. We will read selectively in translation theory, and relate this theory to our own translation practice. Students will complete a portfolio of translated poems, short stories, or short dramatic works suitable for submission to a literary journal. Prerequisites: two literature courses at the 200 level or above, preferably including English 211, or consent of the instructor. Students should have a competency in a foreign language equivalent to at least one year of study at Reed, or be concurrently enrolled in the second year of a Reed language course. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Truth and Beauty in Modern Poetry
Full course for one semester. Since the early nineteenth century, so-called modern poets have continually debated whether the purpose of poetry is to give pleasure through its beauty or to provide knowledge through its presentation of truth. Is poetry primarily a vehicle of sensation or of reflection? This course will examine these and related questions, such as the nature of perception and its connection to the poetic image, and the role of form, especially how form conveys the feeling of an experience. Our pursuit will take place through close readings of poetry and criticism by poets for whom these questions are of central importance and whose investigations have been consequential for later poets. Writers may include Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson, Hallam, Rossetti, Pound, Eliot, Levertov, Heaney, Doty, and Carson. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or consent of the instructor; English 211 preferred. Conference.
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 2012–13.
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.
Politics and the Self in English Romanticism
Full course for one semester. A course on the relationship between the arguments and discourse arising from the American and French Revolutions (in what is called the revolution controversy) and the project and style of lyric poetry, especially in England. We will explore late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century claims about poetic and political revolution, along with shifting ideas of personal identity. Writers may include the Wordsworths (William and Dorothy), the Shelleys (Mary and Percy Bysshe), Burke, Thomas Paine, William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Robinson, Mary Hays, Helen Maria Williams, and Anna Barbauld. Prerequisites: English 211 or a history course in the period. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Studies in Cultural Contacts
English 370 - Studies in Cultural Contacts
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.
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.
English 393 - Literary Theory
A 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 the student to use them and critique various theories in his/her own strategies for close reading. The theoretical texts are taken from Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, Longinus, Erasmus, Thomas Wilson, St. Ignatius Loyola, Burke, Kant, Freud, and Lacan. The literary texts include Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, Shakespeare’s sonnets, and James Joyce’s Dubliners. Prerequisite: two 200-level English courses or consent of the instructor. This course satisfies the pre-seventeenth-century requirement. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
Problems in Contemporary Narrative Theory
Full course for one semester. This course introduces students to problems and debates in narrative theory. We will focus on three current areas of research: theories of character, the analysis of narration (e.g., represented thought), and the contextualist dimensions of literary style. Each week will pair one or more classic paper in narrative theory (e.g. Propp on the folktale, Genette on focalization, Bakhtin on heteroglossia) with a more recent approach to the problem it confronts. Readings may include Marxist, feminist, and postcolonial approaches to narrative; we will also consider what interdisciplinary studies, such as those drawing on cognitive science and the sociology of literature, offer for theories of the novel. To test these theories, we will employ a common set of novels, drawn from various periods and national traditions, which we will read concurrently throughout the semester: Lewis’s The Monk, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Machado de Assis’ The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, and selected chapters from Ulysses. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2012–13.
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.
English 400 - Introduction to Literary Theory
See Literature 400 for description.
English 327 - Documentary Film
Full course for one semester. The ability of the cinema to simulate reality has stimulated the creative energies of filmmakers for over one hundred years. From the simple “actuality” of the Lumière Brothers (Workers Leaving the Factory) to the theatrical “reality” of Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line), documentaries challenge audiences to re-envision the world. This course will introduce students to the theory, history, and ethics of the documentary film genre, noting its most important technological and cinematic innovations. More significantly, we will discuss the cultural contexts for the films and the theoretical questions they raise, including the blurry line between fiction and nonfiction, the fair treatment of subjects, and the problematic assumption of unbiased presentation—all issues that have confronted documentarians since the beginning of cinema. Among the filmmakers we will consider are Robert Flaherty, Leni Riefenstahl, Jean Rouch, Alain Resnais, Fred Wiseman, the Maysles brothers, Trinh Minh-Ha, and Errol Morris. Weekly film screenings are mandatory. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above. Previous coursework in film studies recommended. Conference.
Not offered 2012—13.
English 328 - Film Theory
Full course for one semester. This course develops an advanced understanding of film as a complex cultural medium through a survey of the principal theories of cinema from the silent era to the present. Some of the key theoretical approaches this course introduces include realist theory, genre criticism, auteur theory, structuralism, psychoanalytic film theory, feminist theory, and postcolonial film theory. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above. Previous coursework in film studies recommended. Conference.
Not offered 2012—13.
English 330 - Literature of Travel and Exploration
Full course for one semester. This course studies the literature of voyaging, exile, and homecoming, in a range of narrative genres, including epic, drama, fiction, scientific exploration, and travel writing per se. Many of these texts depict a traveler who, when crossing borders, explores the self as well as the unfamiliar place, discovering a freedom unavailable at home. We will look at the reasons for the voyage, literary representations of the wanderings and their effects on the traveler’s consciousness, the varied nature of storytelling about journeys, definitions of “the exotic,” ethnocentric assumptions in designating an “other” defined against the normalized self, and the relation of the new place to “home.” We will read Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, Flaubert’s Letters from Egypt, Henry James’ The American Scene, D.H. Lawrence’s Sea and Sardinia, Barthes’ Empire of Signs, Pamuk’s Istanbul, Sebald’s Vertigo, Blaise and Mukherjee’s Days and Nights in Calcutta, and Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines. Prerequisites: two English or literature courses. Conference.
Not offered 2012—13.
English 353 - Erected Wits, Infected Wills: Idea and Action in Late Elizabethan and Early Jacobean Literature
Full course for one semester. Beginning with an examination of the most important literary theoretical work of the English Renaissance, Sidney’s Defence of Poesy, this course focuses on questions of the relationship between idea and action in prose narrative, drama, and lyric published or written during the last decade of the reign of Elizabeth I and the first decade of the reign of James I. Associated topics will include ethical issues arising from the tropes and topoi of courtly love and political issues arising from representations of court, country, and city. Among the works to be read are Sidney’s Defence, Arcadia, and Astrophil and Stella; Shakespeare’s Sonnets (selections), As You Like It, and The Winter’s Tale; Jonson’s Volpone; and selected poems by Donne, Jonson, and other writers of the era. Prerequisite: two 200-level courses in English literature or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Not offered 2012—13.
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.