- Studies in Nonfiction Prose
- Studies in Drama
- Studies in Fiction
- Studies in British Culture
- Studies in American Literature
- Studies in Medieval Literature
- Studies in Early Modern Literature
- Studies in Shakespeare
- Studies in Poetry
- Studies in Cultural Contacts
- Literary Theory
- Other Classes
English 201 - Introduction to Narrative
Full course for one semester. This course examines twentieth- and twenty-first-century autobiographies and memoirs, with a focus on the way the self is developed and narrated in those life writings; the problems of memory, truth, and distortion; the ways autobiographers give symbolic form and meaning to their diverse experience; and such crucial determinants as race, ethnicity, and gender as they shape identity and the representation of the “I.” Some of the works will be by immigrants, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Jewish Americans, with an eye to those writers’ self-consciousness as American subjects. In addition to autobiography theory, we’ll read texts by Nabokov, Maxine Hong Kingston, James Baldwin, Philip Roth, and Gertrude Stein and a graphic memoir by Art Spiegelman. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
The 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 2018–19.
Full course for one semester. Stories about King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table have exhibited an unusual hold on the imaginations of readers from the Middle Ages into the twenty-first century: Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot, and others have seemingly taken up long-term residence in the English literary imagination. In this course, we will take a diachronic approach to a wide range of Arthurian texts, from romances and pseudohistories to poetry and more modern novels. The course will begin by examining the origins of Arthurian material in early medieval Wales before focusing on the international popularity of tales of King Arthur and his companions beginning in the twelfth century. A significant portion of the course will also be devoted to the study of Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, a text that straddles the medieval and modern worlds. During the final weeks of the class we will read a sampling of more modern understandings of Arthurian legend. In addition to the Morte d’Arthur, texts under consideration may include the Welsh Culhwch and Olwen, Nennius’s History of the Britons, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, early Merlinic prophecies, high medieval courtly romances by Chrétien de Troyes and others (including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing, or consent of the instructor. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
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. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
Plot and Plantation: Resistance, Flight, and Narrative Form
Full course for one semester. What are the connections between plot (in a novel) and plantation? By considering the historical, economic, and social contexts for the Caribbean plantation system, this course is an inquiry into how to think about and theorize around plot. We will begin with the notion that the Caribbean plantation was not only a system of violence, but also a modern site connected to the development of literary cultures (particularly the rise of the novel). Plots and plantations structure acts and actions, and we’ll ask ourselves how representations of slaves, resistance, and marronage (acts of truancy or flight from slavery) played into narrative themes about power, pleasure, and property. In the first portion of this course, we will engage with colonial anxieties around slave revolts and study how these revolts were represented (plotted) in works that overlapped with the rise of the novel. The second portion examines how Caribbean writers used themes of power, pleasure, and property as they adapted narrative plots associated with earlier Anglophone literature. As we shift into the third portion of the course, we’ll track the ways Caribbean works of literature remember and aestheticize histories of opposition and resistance carried out by the enslaved. Bringing together literary theory and history, we will read works by Jane Austen, Aphra Behn, Vincent Brown, Michelle Cliff, William Earle, Édouard Glissant, Geoffrey Hartman, Jamaica Kincaid, Claude McKay, Katherine McKittrick, Elizabeth Nunez, Caryl Phillips, Jean Rhys, Edward Said, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, and Sylvia Wynter. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
Short Story Cycles
Full course for one semester. In the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries, North America has seen remarkable development in the short story cycle, a form of narrative also found in many other periods, cultures, and languages (The Thousand and One Nights, The Decameron, Dubliners). This narrative form 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). In this class, we will explore the constructions of gender, ethnicity, and the ethics of reading in short story cycles from authors such as Anderson, Anzaldúa, Barth, Hemingway, Garcia, Erdrich, Kingston, Jewett, Munro, Naylor, O’Brien, Salinger, and Stein. Readings will also include critical and theoretical essays on narrative. Students will write and revise short essays analyzing narrative techniques, aesthetics, ethics, and the social functions of prose fiction. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
U.S. Novels of Formation from the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties
Full course for one semester. In 1902, the English journalist William Thomas Stead announced “The Americanisation of the World”: “The advent of the United States of America as the greatest of world-Powers is the greatest political, social, and commercial phenomenon of our times.” The Young Republic had finally come of age. Novels of formation, adapting the conventions of the European bildungsroman, allegorized the nation’s rapid growth through their protagonists’ development from youth to maturity. Yet between the 1880s and the 1920s, the conventional goals of bourgeois adulthood—education, marriage, career, artistic achievement—were in turmoil. Novels of education became central to debates on racial uplift and integration; increasing economic inequality and the disillusionment of the immigrant experience permeated traditional plots of self-making. The New Woman and the flapper revolutionized the Victorian courtship plot and World War I ended millions of young lives. Indeed, the future of the novel itself seemed uncertain in the face of modernist experimentation. Authors may include Henry James, Frederick Douglass, Charles Chesnutt, Zitkála-Šá, Edith Wharton, Sui Sin Far, Willa Cather, Anita Loos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Raphaelson, William Faulkner, and Nella Larsen. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
English 203 - Introduction to Theory
History and Problems of Literary Theory
Full course for one semester. This course begins with a brief survey of the history of literary criticism and theory. It will then take up a series of distinct problems: What is the nature and function of mimesis? What is the role of intention in the production and reception of literary works? How does figurative language operate in literary contexts? How can we define “fiction,” and how best understand its relationship to what we take to be the “real” world? What are the constraints on what counts as a plausible reading of a literary text? Throughout the semester we will make recurrent reference to a small set of literary texts, including Hamlet and Frankenstein. Theorists to be considered range from Aristotle through Judith Butler and Dan Sperber. Prerequisite: Humanities 110. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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 2018–19.
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 2018–19.
The American Short Story
Full course for one semester. This course introduces students to the techniques of analyzing narrative fiction with a focus on the American short story as it has developed from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. We will analyze traditional and innovative narrative techniques in the short story, including point of view and focalization, time and space, plot compression, the relation of narrative structure and temporality, diction, and figurative language. Additionally, we will consider the short story as shaping and responding to American history and the diversity of American experience. We initiate questions about an American literary history of the short story by beginning with a recent volume of Best American Short Stories. We study works exemplifying major literary movements (e.g. romance, realism, allegory, impressionism, experimentalism), and end with the Canadian writer Alice Munro to question the boundaries of the “American” short story. Readings may include works by Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, James, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Flannery O’Connor, Anzia Yezierska, Philip Roth, James Baldwin, Grace Paley, Raymond Carver, Bharati Mukherjee, Sherman Alexie, Sandra Tsing Loh, Helena María Viramontes, Jennifer Egan, and others. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
British Women Writers since 1900
Full course for one semester. Using Virginia Woolf’s classic feminist literary polemic A Room of One’s Own as its point of departure, this course studies British women fiction writers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries through their concerns with establishing communities, whether in literary, familial, social, political, ethnic, or gender-based terms. Paying attention to various subgenres of fiction (such as the gothic romance, the bildungsroman, the novel of courtship, the modernist novel, and the postmodern novel), we will study writings by figures who may include Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Jean Rhys, Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark, Angela Carter, Helen Oyeyemi, and Ali Smith. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.
The Marriage Plot from the American Renaissance to the New Woman
Full course for one semester. “No story of love was surely ever less of a ‘love story,’” Henry James wrote of The Scarlet Letter. “To [Nathaniel] Hawthorne’s imagination the fact that these two persons had loved each other too well was of an interest comparatively vulgar; what appealed to him was the idea of their moral situation in the long years that were to follow.” Hawthorne’s historical novel of adultery and sin in Puritan New England was hardly exceptional in the nineteenth-century U.S. literary canon. Most accounts of early nineteenth-century American fiction denounced the marriage plot central to the development of the novel in Britain and Europe as maudlin sentimentalism at odds with the highbrow aesthetics and morals of the American Renaissance. In recent decades, however, feminist literary critics have worked to recover these antebellum texts. This course investigates the cultural history of the novel and the marriage plot in the nineteenth-century United States. Which British novelistic conventions could be imported, and which required reimagining? Why are women absent from so many “classic” American novels? How does the representation of women change in the early twentieth century? Authors may include Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, E.D.E.N. Southworth, Herman Melville, Elizabeth Stoddard, Hannah Crafts, Henry James, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, and Edith Wharton. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference.
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, Rebecca West, Willa Cather, Jean Rhys, Christopher Isherwood, Graham Greene, James Baldwin, and Vladimir Nabokov. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or above. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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 2018–19.
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. Not offered 2018–19.
The Nineteenth-Century Novel: The Bildungsroman
Full course for one semester. This course examines one of the most important forms of the nineteenth-century novel, the bildungsroman, or novel of formation, focused on the ways in which the protagonist reacts to a changing society and forges identity within it. We will read works drawn from the following authors: Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Honoré de Balzac, the Brontës, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot. In addition to works of fiction we will read a number of critical texts by major scholars of narrative on topics including narrators and narrative structure, the function of novelistic character, the concept of realism, and the nature and history of literary genres. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Lecture-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 toward the pre-1900 requirement. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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 212 - British Poetry
Full course for one semester. An introduction to literature in Britain from c. 1790 to 1830 with an emphasis on the poetry of Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats. Readings will also include selections from the most influential prose writers of the period, including Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and Hannah More, and recent critical studies of the history, political context, and aesthetic debates of this revolutionary era. Prerequisites: sophomore standing or permission of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
Early Modern Woman
Full course for one semester. Queen Elizabeth I was both an exception and an ideal in early modern England: a woman, ruling a patriarchal nation, about whom countless poems were written. She was also a poet in her own right, serving as both literary subject and object, and the same was true of women at all levels of society. This course introduces students to the range of poetry written by and about women in early modern England. In particular, it examines the ways in which sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poets represented the relationship of English womanhood to the world that produced and surrounded it, at home and abroad. What can we learn from both idealized and realistic portrayals of early modern women? To what extent do changes in literature reflect shifts in English history and culture, including the intersections of religion, politics, science, and class and gender relations? In considering these questions, students will develop a formal analytical vocabulary and skills central to the reading and studying of poetry. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. 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 2018–19.
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. Not offered 2018–19.
English 242 - Introduction to Drama
Full course for one semester. As with its nine 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 will be covering the late 1970s and early 1980s. Probable authors will include Heiner Müller, Caryl Churchill, and Brian Friel. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference.
Introduction to Shakespeare
Full course for one semester. In this course we will read major plays from several genres: comedy, history, tragedy, and romance, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Othello, and The Tempest. 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. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. 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. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Lecture and conference.
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 2018–19.
English 251 - Introduction to Anglophone and Postcolonial Literature
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 18th and 19th centuries, the course devotes the bulk of its time to the literature of the Irish Renaissance 1890–1940, including the work of W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Synge, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, and Flann O'Brien. We conclude with readings from recent Irish literature and the Troubles, including work by Seamus Heaney and Eavan Boland. There will be additional readings on social and literary history exploring nationalism and national character, colonialism and the relationship between Ireland and England, romanticism, the Anglo-Irish and the Protestant Ascendancy, and the Troubles, 1968–98. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Lecture-conference.
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 course in American history. Conference.
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 2018–19.
Studies in Drama
English 320 - Studies in Drama
History Plays: Shakespearean and Contemporary
Full course for one semester. From Henry V to Hamilton, dramatizations of history raise questions about what’s at stake when we tell stories of the national past. How do we use representations of the past to understand, critique, and shape the present? What are the claims of historical fidelity against imaginative license? What does it even mean to tell a “national” story? This course explores these questions by looking at two moments in the history of the history play: the Shakespearean and the contemporary. We will begin by considering some of Shakespeare’s most searching examinations of power, politics, social obligations, and what it means to be a nation. Using Shakespeare’s history plays to define the genre, we will then consider comparable works by contemporary British and American playwrights: these may include Suzan-Lori Parks, David Hare, Moira Buffini, Mike Bartlett, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Prerequisites: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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 2018–19.
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 brief selections from his last and most difficult work, Finnegans Wake. We will focus particular attention on the entirety of Ulysses. We will also pay attention to critical, biographical, and historical contexts for Joyce’s work. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
Place, Space, and Memory in Modern Fiction
Full course for one semester. This course focuses on place and space in the rhetoric and ethics of modern fiction, and on the related themes of identity, history, and memory. Drawing on urban, feminist, and literary theory (Gaston Bachelard, Michel de Certeau, Henri LeFebvre, Yi-Fu Tuan, Barbara Mann, and others), students will explore relations between fiction and place/space. Readings for the class foreground a paradigmatic case of varying narratives of place and space in modern fiction by focusing on works by Israeli, Palestinian, and American authors, in which memory and history construct the disparate places of homeland in the same space, in conversation with identities of galut and diaspora. We will also analyze selected visual and poetic texts, and supplement our study with historical and sociological readings. Readings may be drawn from works by the following writers: Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Orly Castel-Bloom, Ghassan Kanafani, Khulud Khamis, Yehuda Amichai, Mahmud Darwish, Joan Leegant, Philip Roth, Sayed Kashua, and Etgar Keret. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference.
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. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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 2018–19.
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. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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 Vygotsky, Merleau-Ponty, William James, Freud, Lacan, Nussbaum, Damazio. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference.
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. Not offered 2018–19.
Studies in British Culture
English 337 - Studies in British Culture
The Age of Oscar Wilde
Full course for one semester. The Victorian fin de siècle, or end of the century, was intellectually and culturally dominated by the figure of Oscar Wilde. Not only did his fictions, plays, and essays cause a sensation in British society, but the aftershocks of the scandal of his trial for “gross indecency” changed the way the late Victorians viewed sexual and gender roles. This course will look at this period primarily through Wilde’s writings, his influences, and his lingering effect on British culture. We will also look at works by Wilde’s contemporaries, who may include Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, Walter Pater, Robert Louis Stevenson, Vernon Lee, Richard Marsh, and H.G. Wells. There will also be substantial critical and theoretical readings. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
Romanticism and Emotion
Full course for one semester. The romantic era was marked by a particular fascination with and exploration of intensity in aesthetic and emotional response. From the tear-stained pages of its sentimental novels to the various explorations of joy, dejection, fear, and terror that dominate the era’s poetry and gothic fiction, it is evident that the precise nature of certain strong emotions, especially those of the writer/creator, were a major focus of intellectual interest. Drawing on a number of recent studies of the history of emotion, we will read authors including Laurence Sterne, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Matthew Lewis, Jane Austen, and Percy Shelley. Topics to be addressed in the course of these readings include which emotions are most frequently invoked or explored by romantic writers; characteristic forms and techniques; the nature of the cultural constraints, or spurs, to the expression of various emotions, and how attitudes towards such expression change over time, especially after 1789. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. 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. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Lecture-conference. Not offered 2018–19.
American Pastoral: Literature and Environment
Full course for one semester. Who owns the land and whose labor shapes it? This course explores the relationship between idyllic fictions and concrete experience through two transformative centuries of U.S. 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 as a path to racial equality; the alternation of classical allusion and concrete locodescription in Charles Chesnutt and Willa Cather; and Upton Sinclair’s muckraking expose of industrial agriculture. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, American studies background, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
English 356 - Studies in African American Literature
August Wilson's Twentieth-Century Cycle
Full course for one semester. Between 1982 and 2005, African American playwright August Wilson wrote 10 plays, one for each decade of the twentieth century, in which he offered an alternative view of American history as seen through the perspective of black characters. Those formally marginalized now took center stage, and the cycle celebrates their struggles to establish community and maintain a sense of history. We will read the entire cycle chronologically by decade depicted, starting with Gem of the Ocean (1900s) (2003) and concluding with Radio Golf (1990s) (2005). This is thus a course in both African American history and literature. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference.
The Black Panthers
Full course for one semester. In October 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in Oakland by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. Fifty years later, it is time to assess this movement through a study of its literature. We will read the major works of Newton, Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson, Angela Davis, Elaine Brown, Kathleen Cleaver, Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and others, concluding with a look at the Panthers’ work in Portland. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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 2018–19.
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. Not offered 2018–19.
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. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
English 358 - Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Language and Literature
Full course for one semester. Anglo-Saxon (or Old English) represents the earliest historical form of the English language. In the centuries before the Norman Conquest in 1066, Anglo-Saxon was the chief vernacular of lowland Britain, and texts written in the language constitute a rich and varied literary tradition. In this course, we will begin with an intensive study the grammar and vocabulary of the Anglo-Saxon language, with an eye toward acquiring the ability to read the relevant texts in the original; students should be able to read Anglo-Saxon with relative ease by the end of the term. As the semester progresses, much conference time will be spent translating key passages of Anglo-Saxon prose and poetry together. Our time will be punctuated by ongoing discussions of readings in the history and literature of the period. Texts under consideration may include Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English Church and People, Asser’s Life of Alfred, Judith, the poetry of Cynewulf and Aldhelm, and other anonymous poetry from the Exeter Book. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or higher. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference.
English 359 - Intermediate Readings in Anglo-Saxon
Full course for one semester. This course is designed for students who wish to continue their study of the technical aspects of the Anglo-Saxon language, to hone their skills at translation, and to read more deeply in the literature and history of the period. Texts under consideration may include Beowulf, the Christ poems, Alfred’s translation of The Consolation of Philosophy, and Wulfstan’s Sermo Lupi ad Anglos. Prerequisite: English 358. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference.
Studies in Early Modern Literature
English 362 - Studies in Early Modern Literature
Early Modern Drama
Full course for one semester. A study of the origins (theatrical and literary) and the generic breadth of English drama in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. In addition to some works by Shakespeare, we will read plays by a variety of early modern playwrights, including Thomas Kyd, John Lyly, Elizabeth Cary, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Thomas Heywood, John Marston, and John Webster. Considerable attention will be paid to the larger institutional context (theatrical, social, and political) within which these works originally appeared. Where possible and appropriate, we will also consider modern stage and cinematic adaptations of these works. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 and sophomore standing, or consent of instructor. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference.
Full course for one semester. Obsessed with death, love, piety, loss, science, and the power of the written word, John Donne lived and worked on very private and public levels throughout his career. This course will consider the writer who noted that “no man is an island” and pondered “for whom the bell tolls,” reading the prose works in which these words first appeared together with his poetry and letters. We will also consider adaptations of Donne’s poetry and concerns by other writers in other genres in the seventeenth century; the film Wit (2001; based on the 1999 play), which revolves around his famous “Death be not proud” sonnet; and critical receptions of his work since his death. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
Full course for one semester. If the poets and playwrights of Renaissance England saw themselves as part of a “rebirth” of classical literature, no genre posed a more formidable challenge than the epic. In this course, we will explore how early modern writers translated, reimagined, and critiqued the classical epic to create their own stories of heroism and collective identity in poetry and drama. We will spend most of our time with two masterpieces of the genre: Edmund Spenser’s allegorical Arthurian romance The Faerie Queene and John Milton’s sublime biblical epic Paradise Lost. We will also look at early English translations of Homer and Virgil along with dramatic adaptations by William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. The course will assume familiarity with Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference.
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. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. 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, sentiment, and the senses 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. Prerequisite: sophomore standing and two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. 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. This course fulfills the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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 United States shared this excitement, but also faced unique cultural circumstances. We will do close readings of poems written over the first three decades or so of the twentieth century. The poets on whom the class will focus may include William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Melvin Tolson, Wallace Stevens, and Langston Hughes; we will look at how these writers responded to and helped 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.
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 United States in the period. Prerequisite: English 211, and either one upper-division English course or one twentieth-century American History class, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
Studies in Cultural Contacts
English 370 - Studies in Cultural Contacts
Full course for one semester. This course frames Anglophone literature as a means for thinking about “global intimacies” produced through imperial expansion, colonialism, and slavery. While violence and exploitation undergirded imperial enterprises, the administrative and imaginative writings of empire also produced a lexicon for creative resistance. From ships to plantations to city ports, we will ask ourselves how sites of economic transactions and imperial administration can illuminate the dynamic processes of multiethnic, diasporic exchanges. We’ll also examine how the histories of colonialism and postcoloniality structure routes for reading with and against the idea of “the global.” How useful is this scale of reading? What are its assumptions and limits? Throughout the semester we’ll engage in and reflect on the disciplinary practice of close reading, a critical exercise in getting intimate with the written word and “the worlds” that it gestures toward. Building from Lisa Lowe’s 2015 work The Intimacies of Four Continents, we will develop together an idea of “global intimacies” along these definitions offered by Lowe: (1) proximity in terms of geography, (2) privacy in connection to conjugal, familial, and domestic relations, and (3) the zones of contact between Asian and African diasporic cultures. While we play with the multiple meanings and relationships associated with the word intimacy, we will develop ways of calibrating the temporal and spatial scales of reading texts that appear (historically and geographically) distant to us. Alongside Lowe’s study, we will read works by Joan Anim-Addo, Gaiutra Bahadur, Aimé Césaire, Maryse Condé, David Dabydeen, Édouard Glissant, Stuart Hall, Saidiya Hartman, Jamaica Kincaid, Andrea Levy, Elizabeth Nunez, Caryl Phillips, Patricia Powell, Sam Selvon, and Monique Truong. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2018–19.
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. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) 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 and winning Harriet Beecher Stowe international renown. Charles Dickens enjoyed similar acclaim in the United States; when he died in 1870, it was said that he was mourned more than anyone else of his generation except President Lincoln. Great Expectations (1860–61), Dickens’s penultimate novel, solidified his reputation with near-universal acclaim. Reading the original serials of both novels, we will 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: sentimentalism, realism, and the gothic; the slave narrative and black Anglophilia; the social problem novel and documentary nonfiction; and the origins of crime literature. In addition to recent work in transatlantic studies and history of the book, readings may include Washington Irving, Frederick Douglass, Henry James, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, and Jacob Riis. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 and two 200-level English courses or consent of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference.
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 2018–19.
English 400 - Introduction to Literary Theory
See Literature 400 for description.
English 355 - Twentieth-Century Jewish Literature
See German 355 for description. Not offered 2018–19.
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.