English Department


English 201 - Introduction to Narrative

British Jewish Experience
One-unit semester course. Expelled in 1290, Jews officially returned to England in 1656, and then only because their entrance was interpreted by the Puritan government as a harbinger of the Messiah’s own return. Despite this promise, it would take nearly 200 more years for British Jews to achieve full rights as citizens. The British Jewish Experience covers Jews’ presence as both authors and figures in British literature between 1840 and the present, during which Jews grappled with belonging and negotiated their contribution to English society. This course serves as an introduction to narrative and covers a range of genres such as fiction, diaries, autobiography, biography, television, and drama. Authors include Grace Aguilar, Benjamin Disraeli, Lady Montefiore, George Eliot, Amy Levy, Israel Zangwill, Daniel Abse, Andrea Levy, Charlotte Mendelsohn, and Naomi Alderman. Conference. 

Medieval Celtic Literatures
One-unit semester course. 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 TáinThe Voyage of BranThe Wooing of EtaínThe 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 applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

Medieval Women Writers
One-unit semester course. Although the secular and religious cultures of medieval Europe were often flagrantly patriarchal, medieval women nonetheless produced a host of some of the richest and most interesting narratives of the period. In this course we will practice the basic tools of literary analysis by exploring writings such as the Carolingian noblewoman Dhuoda’s book of advice to her son; the closet dramas of the Saxon nun Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim; the enigmatic account of the canny and saintly Englishwoman Christina of Markyate; the impassioned love letters of Heloise of Argenteuil to her castrated husband; the mystical visions of the German abbess Hildegard of Bingen and of the English anchoress Julian of Norwich; the illustrated encyclopedia of Herrad of Landsberg; the erotic and often tragic Breton lais of Marie de France; the spiritual adventures and misadventures of Margery Kempe; and the protofeminist manifestos of Christine de Pisan. The course will begin with a review of the most relevant early Christian contexts for medieval women’s writing, including excerpts from the book of Genesis and the Psalms, the Gospel according to Luke, and the account of the martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas. We will also study aspects of the material culture these women and their colleagues used and produced: manuscript illumination, psalters, books of hours, textiles. This course fulfills the English department’s pre-1700 requirement. Conference.

Monsters and Marvels in the Middle Ages
One-unit semester course. 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 BeowulfThe Travels of Sir John Mandeville, the Lais of Marie de France, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, Gerald of Wales’s Journey Through Wales, Chrétien de Troyes’s Arthurian romances, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Middle Welsh Mabinogion, as well as shorter excerpts from Isidore of Seville, Walter Map, Gervase of Tilbury, and others. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

English 205 - Introduction to Fiction

The American Short Story
One-unit semester course. This course introduces students to the techniques of analyzing narrative fiction with a focus on the American short story as it has developed over the last two centuries. By beginning with the contemporary short stories in a recent Best American Short Stories volume, we initiate questions about the trajectories of an American literary history of the short story; by ending with a focus on the Canadian writer Alice Munro, we question the boundaries of the “American” short story. We will analyze traditional and innovative narrative techniques in the short story, including point of view and focalization, literary economy, space, plot compression, the relation of narrative structure and temporality, and the range of styles manifested in the American short story (e.g., realism, naturalism, allegory, impressionism, experimentalism). Additionally, we will consider the diversity of American experience, and of American literary movements. Readings will be drawn from works by classic writers such as Melville and Sarah Orne Jewett, and contemporary writers such as Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Díaz. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

Decolonization and the Novel in Africa
One-unit semester course. Taking root during late colonialism, the novel emerged as a prominent genre in the shaping of postcolonial societies in Africa. In the wake of decolonization, African writers turned to the novel, reinventing the genre to imagine new individual and collective identities and assess the legacies left behind by the colonial past. This course will examine various novelistic responses to the sociopolitical changes in different parts of Africa during the late twentieth and the twenty-first century. In what ways did the novel become a catalyst for cultural transformation in postcolonial Africa? How did the novel become the privileged genre of decolonization? Starting with the critiques of colonialism in the early decolonial period, we will explore topics including narratives of modernity and tradition, the failures of the nation-state, critique of patriarchy and gender, migration, displacement, neocolonial formations, and the promises and pitfalls of globalization. Readings may include novels by Tayeb Salih, Chinua Achebe, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Ama Ata Aidoo, Bessie Head, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Chimamanda Adichie, and Helon Habila. Theoretical readings may include writings of Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí, and Achille Mbembe, among others. Conference.

Detective Stories and Crime Fiction
One-unit semester course. Often derided as a “lower” form of storytelling, crime fiction has been for decades one of the most popular genres of literature on both sides of the Atlantic. Engaged with central questions of what constitutes illicit actions in civilized societies, and how they might be detected and policed, the form also crucially concerns itself with matters both epistemological and ontological (especially concerning hidden identities). This course examines the development of classic crime and detective fiction, starting in the nineteenth century with Edgar Allen Poe’s pathfinding C. Auguste Dupin stories, Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (often called the first popular detective novel in English), and Arthur Conan Doyle’s wildly popular Sherlock Holmes stories. The course will then proceed through the so-called golden age of detective fiction in the United Kingdom and the rise of hard-boiled detective fiction in the United States (both of which coincided with the era of literary modernism). We will finish by looking at how in recent decades the genre’s codes have been rewritten, particularly in light of questions about identity politics with regards to established social orders. Primary texts will also include works by Dorothy L. Sayers, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Patricia Highsmith, P. D. James, and China Miéville. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

Memory, Desire, and the Modern Novel
One-unit semester course. T.S. Eliot begins his 1922 poem The Waste Land evoking 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 Rebecca West, Willa Cather, Nella Larsen, Jean Rhys, Graham Greene, and James Baldwin. There will be brief critical readings by Stephen Kern, Anne Carson, Sigmund Freud, René Girard, and Michel Foucault, among others. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

The Nineteenth-Century Novel: The Bildungsroman
One-unit semester course. Young man from the provinces moves to the big city; young woman takes a new job. The youthful protagonists of the nineteenth-century Bildungsroman, or novel of formation, set out on journeys to seek their fortune and find their place in a society where, for the first time, social identity was not assumed to be identical with social rank and simply established at birth. The major novelists of the period depict a society fascinated with the idea of upward mobility, and return almost obsessively to narratives tracking the ways in which their protagonists react to a hierarchical but dynamic social structure and how they forge their identities within it. We will examine the multiple variations on this theme in works drawn from among the following: Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Thomas Hardy. In addition to works of fiction we will read a number of critical texts on linked 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. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

South Asian Women Writers
One-unit semester course. This course will introduce students to South Asian women writers from the twentieth and twenty-first century who offer fierce challenges to the foundations of patriarchy, class, and caste structures in South Asian contexts. We will examine their works placing them in specific historical and cultural contexts including colonialism, the Partition, nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and the caste system. We will pay particular attention to how these writers articulate the female experience in South Asian societies from the intersections of caste, class, gender, and sexuality and how these perspectives challenge, redefine, and queer the category of “woman.” Readings may include short stories by Mahasweta Devi, Ismat Chughtai, and Urmila Pawar; non-fiction by Sara Suleri, Bama, and Living Smile Vidya; novels by Bapsi Sidhwa, Arundhati Roy, Tahmima Anam, and Meena Kandasamy; and films by Mira Nair, Sabiha Sumar, and Deepa Mehta. Works not originally in English will be read in translation. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

Tolkien and Lewis
One-unit semester course. The imaginative writings of the Oxford scholars J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis constitute some of the most widely read, most beloved, and most pervasively influential fiction of the twentieth century. The two friends shared drafts of their work and presided together over a group of like-minded writers and thinkers. Across all their varied writings—and especially in their construction of fictive worlds—Tolkien and Lewis both thought of themselves as effecting a resistance to the prevailing literary and cultural pieties of modernity. And yet the two men were also temperamentally quite different and often aesthetically in deep tension with one another. In this course, we will compare the ways Lewis and Tolkien deploy genre, character, diction, narrative voice, imagery, and other literary techniques in the construction of their various fantastic worlds. We will consider too, the ways in which both writers articulated their commitment to a Christian worldview (and their opposition to “the machine”) and how they both came to understand the power and purpose of mythology. We will also have occasion to think through together how Tolkien and Lewis reproduced certain problematic aspects of the racism and sexism of their culture and how these might affect our evaluation of their works. To all these ends, we will read a generous selection from their most important writings, including J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (in its entirety), and Smith of Wootton Major, his essay “On Fairy Stories,” and excerpts from his Silmarillion; as well as C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, his science-fiction novels Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, two volumes of his Chronicles of Narnia, and his late, possibly brilliant novel Till We Have Faces. We will preface our analysis of their fictions by reading important works that influenced them by George MacDonald and William Morris. Conference.

The Victorian Gothic
One-unit semester course. The Victorians prided themselves on their commitments to reason, taxonomy, order, and rectitude. The novel, however, which was their dominant cultural form, often concerned itself with the dark underside to their world, where concomitant fascinations with superstition, chaos, crime, and vice instead held sway. These gothic Victorian fictions—dominated particularly by the related forms of the sensation novel, the detective novel, and the imperial romance—will be the object of study for this course, which will examine major works by such potential authors as Emily and Anne Brontë, Charles Dickens, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Wilkie Collins, H. Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker as a means of understanding not simply Victorian culture but more generally the form of the novel. We will also read short critical and theoretical works in the study of narrative to accompany our readings in gothic fiction. This course applies to the English department’s pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23. 

The Victorian Novel of Family Life
One-unit semester course. During the Victorian period (1837–1901), the United Kingdom often turned to the idealized household as its model for social community, seeking in its nominal stability of roles (for husband and wife, parents and children, and employers and servants) organizing principles for the larger national culture. This paradigm turned out to be neither as stable nor as uniform as often proposed, however, and the exploration of family life by means of the novel—the most popular cultural form of the era—showed the fault lines in the model structure of the “happy home,” which echoed wider Victorian social problems regarding gender, class, sexuality, labor, inclusivity, and authority. This course looks at the Victorian novel through its characteristic focus on family life and its discontents, surveying works by famous practitioners who may include Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, and/or Thomas Hardy. We will end the semester by reading Virginia Woolf’s 1927 To the Lighthouse, a modernist look backwards at the Victorian family. There will be short critical readings, primarily about the contexts and functions of the novel as a literary genre. Conference.

English 211 - Introduction to Poetry and Poetics

One-unit semester course. 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. Conference. May not be repeated for credit. 

Not offered 2022–23.

English 212 - British Poetry

British Romantic Poetry
One-unit semester course. 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. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Early Modern Woman
One-unit semester course. 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

One-unit semester course. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the complexity and pleasure of poetry. We will be learning about the aesthetics of ethnic American poetry by reading it in the context of Western and non-Western poetic traditions. We will use the historical circumstances and theories of ethnicity to help us understand both the political and the aesthetic choices behind poetic allusions, language, genre, diction, rhythm, and figurative language. The poems we read are chosen from a variety of genres, authors, and historical periods. Our aim will be to understand how the various techniques and genres open to poets enable them to produce works of art which speak to us and push us to think. The course emphasizes close reading of the texts, and there will be frequent writing assignments. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

English 220 - British Romanticism (Studies in British Culture)

One-unit semester course. The period 1789-1832 was one of dramatic political, social, and industrial upheaval in Europe. In response British writers and artists produced some of the most powerful representations in English literary history of hopes for liberty and progress, and of pure transcendent joy, as well as some of its sharpest attacks on oppression and convention. This class will discuss poetry and prose from the period, showing the impact of the French Revolution on British intellectual and public life in the 1790s, as well as the agitation for political reform in the first decades of the 19th century. We will examine the formal and stylistic innovations of these writers and the relation of their works to the profound social changes they document, investigating their philosophical, aesthetic, and expanding colonial contexts. The goal is to construct an effective working definition of the term "Romanticism" that comes to grips with the achievement and diversity of this group of writers/artists, and to engage with the impact of their works on cultural life and critical debates over the last century. Primary texts will be drawn from William Blake, Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Charlotte Smith, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Robinson, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats. Class readings will also include recent critical studies of the history, political context, and aesthetic debates of this revolutionary era. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. 

English 242 - Introduction to Drama

American Theatre Post–Angels in America
One-unit semester course. In a 2018 article, “The Great Work Continues,” the New York Times asked how American theatre had changed since the first production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America in 1993, and named the best 25 American plays written since then. The list included plays by Suzan-Lori Parks, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Annie Baker, Anne Washburn, Bruce Norris, Lynn Nottage, Paula Vogel, August Wilson, Anna Deveare Smith, Wallace Shawn, Edward Albee, Eve Ensler, and others. This course begins with a study of Kushner, laying the groundwork for further study of the current state of American theater. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

American Theatre Post–Angels in America II
One-unit semester course. In a 2018 article, “The Great Work Continues,” the New York Times asked how American theatre had changed since the first production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America in 1993, and named the best 25 American plays written since then. This course begins with a study of Kushner, laying the groundwork for further study of the current state of American theater. This semester covers plays produced between 2000 and 2007, and includes plays from the Times’s list as well as Pulitzer Prize winners. Writers will include Suzan-Lori Parks, Wallace Shawn, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Sarah Ruhl, Nilo Cruz, David Auburn, and others. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Black British Playwrights
One-unit semester course. What does it mean to be Black and British in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries? This course will attempt to answer this question by reading a selection of plays written by Black British playwrights between 1998 and 2018. The course will look at how experiments with form, subject matter, and genre explore the experiences of Black people in local, national, and international contexts. Conference.

Introduction to Shakespeare
One-unit semester course. This course serves as a general introduction to Shakespeare’s drama and poetry. We will read major plays in the principal genres of comedy, history, and tragedy, charting the development of Shakespeare’s craft over the course of his nearly 30-year career by contrasting early and late examples of his work. We will consider plays within the performance context of the early modern theater, developing a working knowledge of the theatrical conventions and cultural understandings that inform them. Reading Shakespeare’s narrative poems and sonnets in tandem with this writing for the stage, we will explore the complexities of Shakespeare’s language, including his use of poetic forms and devices. Given the breadth and variety of Shakespeare’s artistic production, we will ask ourselves what shared themes and characteristics allow us to identify a work as “Shakespearean.” Assigned texts will include, among others, Romeo and JulietOthelloHenry VTwelfth Night, and The Tempest, as well as performances recorded at Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Irish Drama and the Politics of Place
One-unit semester course. The twentieth-century rise of Irish theater and Irish nationalism both coalesced around an ideal of rural life independent from British colonial rule. Depopulated by waves of famine and unrelenting emigration, the green world of peasant plays and Gaelic legends envisioned alternative forms of modernity grounded in a rural past, even as theatrical audiences became increasingly urban and global. This course explores the problem of pastoral representation in the history of the Irish stage and in the staging of Irish history. From the rose gardens and leisured English lovers of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) to the faerie stories and folklore of the Celtic Twilight, we trace a legacy adapted from British literary genres and motifs, but revived and reinvented for a national tradition rooted in pre-colonial myth. Pastoral drama was not merely a retreat from partisan violence, but a site of conflict in the turbulent decades leading up to Irish independence, as we find in the cultural nationalist projects of W. B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory, and in the audience riots sparked by J. M. Synge and Sean O’Casey unflinchingly unromantic portrayals of poverty and pain. Connecting historical developments to the politics of place, we analyze how Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Marina Carr, and Martin McDonagh engage and resist the legacy of rural Ireland on the stage; topics include exile and diaspora; sectarian violence in relation to gender, class, race, and ethnicity; postcolonial theory and global Englishes; and the history of the Troubles. Although at times this bloody history seemed, as the Northern Irish poet Seamus Heaney put it, "about as instructive as an abattoir," the art it yielded still has the capacity "to hold in a single thought reality and justice," one of his favorite Yeats quotations. From the Celtic Revival to the Celtic Tiger, we examine the struggle between reality and justice in Irish drama, and the power of theater to create the country as it was, and as it could be. Conference.

Shakespeare on Screen
One-unit semester course. Although Shakespeare’s plays were written for live performance “in the flesh,” we increasingly engage with his works through screens—in recorded performances, films, television shows, digital archives, and even video games. In this course we will use concepts from the fields of media and performance studies to analyze the implications of these shifts from live performance to screen-based engagement. How does the medium in which we encounter an early modern play influence our understanding of its language? What opportunities for interpretation and creative adaptation are opened or foreclosed by the different media in which a play appears? Conference.

Shakespeare, Text, and Performance
One-unit semester course. 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. Plays to be examined include Hamlet, King LearOthelloThe Tempest, Henry V, and Much Ado about Nothing. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Shakespeare’s Comedies
One-unit semester course. We will read six of Shakespeare’s comedies, from the following groups: “romantic comedies”: As You Like It and Twelfth Night; “problem comedies”: The Merchant of Venice and Measure for Measure; and “mixed-genre plays”: Henry IV Part One (history/comedy) and The Winter’s Tale (tragicomedy). Shakespearean comedy works to release constraints on festivity and freely chosen love, deflates pomposity, and allows its characters to undermine authoritarian-imposed limits, solemn conventions, and rigid logic; but Shakespearean comedy also tests the limits of self-indulgence. It often comes close to tragedy and even death before pulling back to a rebirth into social harmony, however questionable it may be. We will analyze the role of gender relations (especially the function of heroines’ cross-dressing), the difficulty of establishing definitive moral norms, the power of erotic desire and the role imagination plays in its fulfillment, and the nature of individual identity, especially as it is tested when characters are immersed in unfamiliar worlds. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Shakespeare’s Tragedies
One-unit semester course. In this course we will explore the astonishing breadth of Shakespeare’s tragedies by reading his major masterpieces in the genre (such as Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear) alongside plays that complicate and expand our understanding of the tragic (such as Richard II, Troilus and Cressida, and The Winter’s Tale). We will consider Shakespeare’s tragedies in relation to classical and medieval precedents as well as theoretical accounts of the genre from antiquity to the twentieth century. Engaging with criticism, performances, and films, we will approach the plays both as literary texts and as embodied theatrical events. We will give special attention to Shakespeare’s poetic language, dramaturgy, and complex treatments of power, politics, community, family, sex, and the self. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

English 261 - Introduction to Film

Film Noir
One-unit semester course. This course will focus on film noir in American cinema in the 1940s and 1950s, examining its plotlines and narrative methods as well as its distinctive visual style. Students will be introduced to the language of film analysis and trace the genre’s sources in “hard-boiled” detective fiction, German expressionism, and the cultural climate of the United States in the decades in which the films were produced. Questions about visual framing, narrative structure, and genre will inform readings and discussions, as will the films’ representations of tensions in postwar social roles. The course will conclude with a consideration of one or two more recent examples of “neo-noir.” Required readings on film and narrative theory; directors will include Billy Wilder, Orson Welles, Jacques Tourneur, Fritz Lang, Howard Hawks, and Michael Curtiz. Conference-screenings. 

The Western
One-unit semester course. Film studies scholar Robert Ray once wrote that “many of Classic Hollywood’s genre movies, like many of the most important American novels, were thinly camouflaged westerns.” This course seeks to investigate that claim by examining film form, genre, and history through the lens of the cinematic Western, with all of the idealism and ugliness the subject entails. While the beginning of the course will focus primarily on the Western as imagined in classical Hollywood, our analysis will eventually track the genre’s development into the modern day. We will watch and analyze films by directors including John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens, Sergio Leone, Richard Altman, Katherine Bigelow, Mario van Peebles, Ang Lee, and Quentin Tarantino. In addition to illuminating the concept of genre study and the history of US film, this course will view the Western as a barometer of both of American social anxieties and ideologies as the genre (and the nation) continually reinvents itself over time. Conference-screenings. 

English 301 - Junior Seminar in English Literary History

One-unit semester course. 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. May not be repeated for credit. 

English 303 - American Studies Seminar

Jews across the Americas
One-unit semester course. This course examines the diversity of the American Jewish experiences in South America, North America, and the Caribbean. Moving from the early colonial era to the present, we will examine Jewish life through a variety of literary genres ranging from poetry to fiction to graphic novels. This course offers an introduction to the methods of American studies and digital humanities, and focuses on how to read literature in the context of primary historical sources and material culture. Prerequisites: at least two 200-level English classes or Introduction to Judaism (Religion 151) OR any other course in Jewish literature or history. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Cross-listed as Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 333 and Religion 259.

Studies in Drama

English 320 - Studies in Drama

Renaissance Revenge Tragedies
One-unit semester course. Elizabethan statesman Francis Bacon called revenge “a kind of wild justice” that good government and rule of law should prevent. No wonder, then, that an immense body of drama turned to revenge plots to explore contradictions and failings in the legal, political, and moral codes meant to govern individuals’ relationships with each other and public institutions. In this class, we will explore how the theme of revenge interacted with and spurred the development of drama in Renaissance England. From early translations of the Roman philosopher Seneca’s tragedies through to the decadent plays of the Jacobean stage, tales of clandestine affairs and “murder most foul” spurred innovation in stagecraft while simultaneously providing a means to contemplate power and its abuses. Placing famous examples of the genre, such as William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in conversation with lesser-known works, such as Elizabeth Cary’s Tragedy of Mariam and John Webster’s The White Devil, we will concern ourselves with three major topics: 1) how the representation of crimes and their discovery on stage influenced plays’ structure and rhetorical style; 2) how allusion and citation among plays produced recognizable character types, including the Machiavel, revenger, and stoic; and 3) how stage conventions regarding the representation of madness and violence interacted with social norms concerning gender and emerging concepts of race. Carrying our discussion of these topics through to contemporary theatrical productions such as Gregory Doran’s Hamlet, starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, we will consider the cultural work revenge tragedies and their theatrical legacy continue to perform today. Prerequisites: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. 

Not offered 2022–23.

Studies in Fiction

English 333 - Studies in Fiction

American Feminist Fiction, Post-1945
One-unit semester course. Full course for one semester. While some feminist literary history simply traces a teleology—from “prefeminist” to fully feminist to “postfeminist” works—this course asks instead: How is feminist fiction in dialogue with feminist theory? Rather than ask of a work, “Is it feminist?” we will ask (with Rita Felski) “Feminist—for whom?” and “How is it feminist?” We will consider the poetics and politics of (white) women’s liberation novels and fiction that explores women’s identity as intersectional, including race, ethnicity, sexuality, class, age, and [dis]ability. In addition to fictional narratives, readings will include feminist theory. Writers whose works may be studied include Octavia Butler, Louise Erdrich, Joanne Greenberg, Gayl Jones, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ursula Le Guin, Paule Marshall, Gloria Naylor, Joyce Carol Oates, Grace Paley, Marge Piercy, Alice Walker, Rita Felski, Shulamith Firestone, Gilbert and Gubar, Gayle Greene, bell hooks, Teresa de Lauretis, Janice Radway, Adrienne Rich, Sonia Saldívar-Hull, Bonnie Zimmerman. Prerequisites: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Description and Narration
One-unit semester course. 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 2022–23.

James Joyce
One-unit semester course. In 2022, the hundredth-anniversary year of the publication of Ulysses, 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 configurations 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 tracks 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 pay attention as well to critical, biographical, and historical contexts for Joyce’s work. Conference.

The Literary Imagination and the Working Hand - Website
One-unit semester course. American authors have conceived of the writer’s work in ambivalent terms: sometimes as drudgery for pay, sometimes as artisanal craft, and sometimes as a sign of the intellect’s accession to a realm of freedom and truth. In nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, this ambivalence about the writer’s place in society is manifest in the literary text as a range of attitudes that moves from empathy with the working classes to alienation from their condition. The project of this course is to compare the material and social labor performed by the characters to the imaginative, rhetorical work done by its 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 character’s work echoed in the narrative’s style (i.e., the redundant nature of the character’s work is represented by verbal repetition in the text)? 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 include Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter: A Romance (Broadview 2004), Melville’s Billy Budd and The Piazza Tales (Barnes and Noble 2006), Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn (Modern Library 2001), Willa Cather’s My Antonia (Penguin 1994), Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (Modern Library 2001), Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics 1990). Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

The Novel and Romanticism
One-unit semester course. 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 timeReadings drawn from among the following authors: Rousseau, Goethe, Wollstonecraft, Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Austen, Sir Walter Scott, Emily Brontë. There will also be substantial readings from important critical accounts of romanticism, including Frye, de Man, Butler, and Chandler. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Postbellum, Pre-Harlem: The Literature of Reconstruction
One-unit semester course. Born too late for the slave narrative and too early for the Harlem Renaissance—“Post-Bellum–Pre-Harlem,” as he puts it—Charles W. Chesnutt missed two major African American literary movements. Chesnutt’s life (1858–1932) spanned crucial moments in American history—the Civil War, Reconstruction, the rise of post-Reconstruction violence, the establishment of schools for Black children led by Black teachers, the emergence of the convict labor system, and the beginnings of the civil rights movement. This course examines Chesnutt’s fiction as the core of the literature of Reconstruction and its aftermath, from the pernicious myths of the plantation school to the protest fiction of the NAACP’s magazine, The Crisis. Methodologically, we will draw on recent work in African American archival recovery and periodical culture, examining the cultural politics of publication history. Genres will include realism, regionalism, and sentimentalism; the slave narrative and the social problem novel; journalism, legal writing, and essays. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 and two 200-level English courses or consent of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. 

Postcolonial Hauntings 
One-unit semester course. Haunting is central to postcolonial thought and literature. This course will examine the aesthetics of haunting in postcolonial novels from the latter half of the twentieth century. These novels invite us to radically rethink the relations between the past and the present in terms of their contemporaneity and interdependence instead of a linear progression from the colonial past to a postcolonial liberated present. We will reflect on alternative temporalities opened up by literary evocations of ghosts, phantoms, and specters, and explore the themes of memory, loss, and trauma in various historical and cultural contexts. How might the language of haunting help us understand the unresolved histories of colonial, racial, nationalist, sexist, and ethnic oppression? How do these texts register the experience of loss in the past sustained through violence in the present? In what ways does the novel imagine the possibility of justice by opening up a space for reinterpreting the past in the present? Putting literary texts in conversation with various postcolonial and poststructuralist theories, psychoanalysis, and Afro-pessimist thought, we will consider how particular writers respond to the failures of decolonization, the contradictions of the postcolonial nation, the possibilities of resistance and revolution, and the afterlives of empire and slavery. Readings may include works of fiction by Tayeb Salih, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Leslie Marmon Silko, Erna Brodber, and Fred D’Aguiar, and theoretical writings of Frantz Fanon, Achille Mbembe, Jacques Derrida, Sigmund Freud, Gayatri Spivak, Saidiya Hartman, and Christina Sharpe. Prerequisite: sophomore standing and two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Queer Modernist Fictions
The advent of literary modernism in the Anglophone world, with its emphasis on new forms for cultural expression, coincided with the re-conception of same-sex desire in the very late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when a new array of sexual identities became articulated and substantiated in different forms of medical, legal, and political discourse. This course studies the ways in which fictional works in primarily the United Kingdom and the United States in the modernist period (roughly 1900-1960) negotiate expressions of different forms of queerness before the time of the Stonewall riots. We will study fictional works by authors such as E. M. Forster, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, Virginia Woolf, Robert Scully, Djuna Barnes, Christopher Isherwood, Patricia Highsmith, and James Baldwin. Although alongside these works we will also read some critical and theoretical work (by figures who might include Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Jack Halberstam, Michael Warner, and Heather Love), the emphasis of the course will be very much on the fictions themselves, and on understanding them within their early and mid- twentieth-century historical framework. Prerequisites: sophomore standing, and two English or literature courses at the 200-level or above. Conference.

Short Story Cycles
One-unit semester course. 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). How does the development of this genre inflect the history of the novel? 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 and on the history of the novel. In addition to brief response essays, students will write a research paper. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Virginia Woolf’s Modernist Networks
One-unit semester course. 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 2022–23.

Studies in British Culture

English 337 - Studies in British Culture

The Home Front: British Literature of World War II
One-unit semester course. World War II, the deadliest international conflict in world history, destroyed the United Kingdom’s role as one of the great world empires, and also forever transformed the underpinnings of its class system and its system of government. Nevertheless, the British people to this day view their shattering wartime experience as one of the great unifying and refining experiences in their culture and their history. This course will look at literary works brought forth from the wartime experience of primarily British civilians from the period from 1939 to 1945 and its aftermath, paying particular attention to its expression through late literary modernism, and looking at how values of Britain during the time (particularly regarding class, gender, national identity, and national loyalties) were tested and reshaped. In addition to brief critical and historical readings, we will look at fictions by writers who lived through the war, who may include Elizabeth Bowen, Henry Green, Graham Greene, Penelope Lively, W.G. Sebald, Muriel Spark, and Evelyn Waugh. We will also see British films from the era by directors such as Alberto Cavalcanti, Humphrey Jennings, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, and Carol Reed. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Not offered 2022–23.

Studies in American Literature

English 341 - Studies in American Literature

American Pastoral: Literature and Environment
One-unit semester course. This course explores the relationship between idyllic fictions and concrete experience through two transformative centuries of American environmental history. Examining literature’s role as both the product and producer of “nature’s nation,” we trace the changing values attached to wilderness, farming, and the nonhuman environment, from early modern fantasies of the exploration and settlement to present day prophesies of environmental doom. We will examine the many ideological functions of pastoral imagination across literary genres, including enlightenment travel writing, romantic poetry, transcendentalist essays, regionalist fiction, and the naturalist movement. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, American studies or environmental studies background, or consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Nature Writing, Ecocriticism, and the Problem of Social Justice
One-unit semester course. This course explores the relationship between idyllic fictions and concrete experience through two transformative centuries of American nature writing, from travel writing and Transcendentalism, to Cherokee protest poetry and regionalist short stories. We will use the paradigms we explore in the classroom—from evolving concepts of nature and wilderness to longstanding myths of agricultural improvement and property rights—to frame humanistic questions at stake in environmental and social justice initiatives. Fostering a more capacious understanding of social justice through the ecological imagination, this course acknowledges the role of storytelling in activism and advocacy, moving from models of individual rights to collective understandings of what is right for those who share a place. What can we learn about the origins of the Black Freedom Struggle from Charles Chesnutt’s fiction, which represents not only New Negro uplift in Northern cities, but also the leadership of disenfranchised storytellers in the rural South, who advocate for their communities by subverting the conventions of plantation pastoral and exposing the ecological and humanitarian costs of extractive capitalism? How might we deepen our understanding of US cultural history by analyzing the linkage of environmental and social disruption in dystopian discourses, or by recovering the stories and perspectives of those excluded from citizenship and still largely overlooked by current models of social justice and environmental advocacy? How does writing, past and present, imagine alternatives to ecological crisis? An upper-level course, we will reckon with the legacy of nature writing in American history and culture through ecocritical theory and criticism, current work on environmental justice and land rights, and in-depth analysis of primary sources in a range of genres. Some requirements for this course will involve community partnerships and field trips. As such, the course requires the willingness to spend some time off campus and outdoors, and to remain flexible and understanding if plans need to be adjusted. Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, demonstrated interest in American Studies or Environmental Studies, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

English 356 - Studies in African American Literature

African American Women Playwrights 
One-unit semester course. In this course we will study several twentieth-century African American women playwrights. We will look at them both as artists and as writers responding to specific historical circumstances. Writers will include Lorraine Hansberry, Ntozake Shange, Suzan-Lori Parks, Dominique Morisseau, and Adrienne Kennedy. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

The Black Radical Tradition V: The Black Arts Movement
One-unit semester course. The Black Arts Movement is often referred to as the artistic wing of the Black Power movement. The artists who participated in the BAM were “cultural nationalists,” as opposed to the “revolutionary nationalists,” who were best represented by the Black Panther Party. Members of the BAM believed in the need for racial pride among Black people, self-determination, and the need for cultural institutions. The official start of the Black Arts Movement is identified by the creation of one such cultural institution: the Black Arts Repertory Theatre and School (BARTS), founded by Amiri Baraka in Harlem in 1965. Amiri Baraka is widely known as the father of the Black Arts Movement. He set the tone for the type of politically conscious work that the Black artists at the time would create. In 1965, he wrote an essay for The Liberator called “The Revolutionary Theatre.” In it, he details many things that the Revolutionary Theatre must do. He claims it must “force change,” it must “be change,” and it must “EXPOSE!” Baraka thought the revolutionary theatre, the theatre of the Black Arts Movement, must be political, and antithetical to what he believed Western theatre was doing at the time. This course will examine some of the major works produced during this period by writers such as Baraka, Larry Neal, Sonia Sanchez, Ed Bullins, and others. Prerequisites: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

One-unit semester course. Most people are aware of the seemingly opposed positions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X during the 1960s about what course African Americans should take to achieve full freedom. This debate, however, goes back to the nineteenth century, with Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany taking opposing positions. Delany, despite having been admitted to Harvard Medical School in 1850 and kicked out after a month because white students protested, and having served as a major in the Civil War, believed, long before Marcus Garvey, that African Americans had no future in the United States and started a movement to emigrate to Africa. Douglass, in opposition, believed the only future was in the United States. We will read fiction and speeches by both men, including Delany’s novel Blake; or the Huts of America (1862), written in response to Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which he believed portrayed slaves as too passive. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Cross-listed as Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 336.

Studies in Medieval Literature

English 352 - Studies in Medieval Literature

One-unit semester course. 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 applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Dante’s Divine Comedy 
One-unit semester course. 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 applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. 

Studies in Early Modern Literature

English 362 - Studies in Early Modern Literature

Gender, Sex, and Sexuality in Early Modern Drama
One-unit semester course. This course explores early modern drama’s engagement with intersecting questions of gender, sex, and sexuality in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Readings will include an introduction to influential criticism in the history of sexuality and literary criticism employing feminist and queer approaches to the plays. Authors will include Elizabeth Cary, Margaret Cavendish, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Mary Sidney, and Ben Jonson. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference.

John Donne
One-unit semester course. 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; modern engagements with his work; and critical receptions from his death to the present. This course will assume familiarity with prosodic analysis. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above (English 211, 212, or 213 strongly recommended), or consent of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference.

John Milton
One-unit semester course. From imagining his presence at the birth of Christ, attacking censorship, defending divorce, and ultimately justifying the ways of God to man, John Milton’s literary, political, and religious interests were both wide-ranging and impassioned. This course immerses students in Milton’s major works with attention to generic range, reading his political prose, shorter poems, dramas, and the complete Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. This course will assume familiarity with and skills in prosodic analysis. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above (English 211, 212, or 213 strongly recommended), or consent of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Studies in Shakespeare

English 363 - Studies in Shakespeare

Protest and Petition in Shakespeare’s Drama
One-unit semester course. Across his career and experiments in different genres, Shakespeare returned again and again to the issue of rule, in particular exploring the language and tactics subordinated people used to make requests and issue demands to those in power. Analyzing the language of “petition” and “protest” in Shakespeare’s plays allows us to regard communication between rulers and the ruled, social superiors and inferiors, as a source not only of compelling plot lines and theatrical spectacles, but also of artful rhetoric and poetic expression. Placing Shakespeare’s plays in conversation with early modern prose works that discuss hierarchies constructed along intersecting lines of gender and social rank, we will assess the language and function of “speaking up” in Shakespeare’s works, as well as the ways in which his plays explore the consequences of such speech—or its absence. Assigned texts will include early modern prose and contemporary criticism. Plays will include Henry VCoriolanusKing LearMeasure for Measure, and The Winter’s Tale, among others. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Studies in Poetry

English 366 - Studies in Poetry

Beauty and the Poetic Text
One-unit semester course. 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: two English courses at the 200 level, one of which must be English 211, 212, or 213. This course applies toward the pre-1900 requirement. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Phenomenology of Early Modern Lyric
One-unit semester course. 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? Literary and linguistic theory interested in semiotics, phenomenology, reader response, and material culture will frame our approach to answering these questions, testing the boundaries between spoken and silently read word and song to better understand the ways lyric was and can be read and used. 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. Students will develop a working knowledge of ancient and early modern rhetoric; modern theoretical texts will include Bergson, Saussure, Jakobson, Agamben, Austin, Barthes, de Certeau, de Man, Derrida, Wright, Culler, and Johnson, among others. This course will assume familiarity with prosodic analysis. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above (English 211, 212, or 213 strongly recommended), or consent of the instructor. This course applies toward the pre-1700 requirement. Conference. 

English 384 - Poetry and History

American Modernism
One-unit semester course. 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 Gertrude Stein; in particular, we will look at how these writers responded to and helped shape attitudes toward and practices in the visual arts transnationally, looking at and reading pieces by artists who may include Alfred Stieglitz, Charles DeMuth, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and Wifredo Lam. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level, or English 211, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Contemporary American Poetry
One-unit semester course. 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, 212, or 213; and one upper-division English course, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Poetics of Resistance and Resilience
One-unit semester course. The purpose of this class is to examine the intersection of aesthetics, politics, and poetics in contemporary resistance poetry (1945–present). How do poets draw on traditions and update those traditions to meet new needs? Special attention will be paid to the influence of non-Western aesthetics and the role of sex and gender in the creation of poetic legacies. The course emphasizes close reading of the texts. Prerequisite: two 200-level English classes, or one CRES foundational course, or two regular CRES courses. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Studies in Cultural Contacts

English 370 - Studies in Cultural Contacts

Modern Irish Literature
One-unit semester course. Starting with the late nineteenth-century Celtic Revival and Irish Literary Renaissance and continuing up to the present, this course will explore the extraordinary achievement and impact of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Irish literature. A particular emphasis will be the complex relationship between literature and colonialism in Ireland. We will devote some time to the forces that led to the creation of two states, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, a century ago in 1922, and to the Troubles of the late 1960s to the late 1990s in Northern Ireland; and to the literary response to both events. We will focus on questions about the relationship between politics and language; the roles of myth, folklore, and religion; how Irish nationalism interacts with the discourses of gender, class, and race; and the complicated relationships of Irish exiles like James Joyce and Samuel Beckett with their homeland. Authors will include W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, J.M Synge, James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Modernity and Memory in the Indian Ocean
One-unit semester course. The Indian Ocean has been a site of cultural exchange across continents for several millennia, but it has often been marginalized from discussions of modernity based on Euro-American and trans-Atlantic models. What does it mean to be modern in the context of the Indian Ocean, a region crisscrossed by multiple empires, competing religions, and movements of migrants, merchants, slaves, pilgrims and soldiers? How have individuals and communities in the Indian Ocean been framed by larger transnational processes like colonization, decolonization, slavery, trade, migration, and displacement? Using literature as the primary mode of thinking, this course will consider the ways in which the unique history of circulation of people, objects, and ideas in the Indian Ocean shapes ideas of modernity distinct from those developed in the West. The aim is to explore the refashioning of modernity in literary and theoretical texts that return to archival sources to announce critical rewritings of the past. Paying close attention to narrative techniques and forms, the course will examine how the use of non-Western modes of representation and epistemologies provide modes for critiquing various theoretical positions on modernity. Prerequisite: two English or literature courses at the 200 level or above. Conference. Cross-listed as Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies 330. Not offered 2022–23.

Strindberg and O’Neill
One-unit semester course. This course will be an in-depth study of two giants of modern drama from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, August Strindberg (1849–1912) from Sweden and Eugene O’Neill (1888–1953) from the United States. Topics to be discussed will include naturalism, expressionism, surrealism, family, heredity, alcoholism, drugs, and pipe dreams. Strindberg plays will likely include The Father (1887), Miss Julie (1888), To Damascus (1898/1904), and The Dance of Death (1900). O’Neill texts will include Anna Christie (1920), The Emperor Jones (1920), Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), The Iceman Cometh (1939), and Long Day’s Journey into Night (1941). Prerequisites: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

Studies in Film

English 381 - Film and New Media Studies

Agency and Identity in New Media Narratives
One-unit semester course. From hypertexts to video games to livestreams, the storytelling affordances of digital media have captivated creators for nearly half a century. While new media narratives have expressed the liberatory potentials of interactivity and connectivity in their works, they have also raised deep questions about human agency, responsibility, and identity within our increasingly technological world. How are users interpellated within constructs of race, gender, sexuality, and ability as they create an avatar or act within digital spaces? How does the ability to interface with creators or transform narrative outcomes alter one’s relationship to any given story? What are the ethical dilemmas inherent in taking control of virtual bodies, especially those that differ from one’s own? This course aims to allow students to explore these questions for themselves by analyzing a variety of new media texts and putting them in conversation with theories of technology and identity. Potential texts to be analyzed include literary hypertexts such as Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, digital games such as the Fulbright Company’s Gone Home, and digital-native visual media such as Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above (preferably one in film and media studies), or consent of the instructor. Conference–screenings. 

The City in Film
One-unit semester course. Shots of the Manhattan skyline or its crowded streets and subways, car chases filmed on new freeways, views into apartments across the way: American cinema of the postwar period showed a particular fascination with the excitement, mobility, and alienation of urban life. These settings in turn shaped the narrative possibilities of film storytelling in the era. In this course we will focus on films from the 1940s and ’50s that set their action in cities and address the experience of urban life, especially in the contrasting examples of Los Angeles and New York. Film screenings will be accompanied by required readings on the language of film analysis, and on contemporary literature, art, and criticism focused on the modern and postmodern city. Directors will be drawn from among the following: Robert Aldrich, Samuel Fuller, Alfred Hitchcock, Phil Karlson, Fritz Lang, Joseph Lewis, Joseph Losey, Ida Lupino, Anthony Mann, Otto Preminger, Nicholas Ray, Edgar Ulmer, Fred Zinnemann. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference-screenings. Not offered 2022–23.

English 383 - Adaptation Across Media

One-unit semester course. We are currently (and perhaps have always been) in a culture inundated with adaptations; from films to webseries to board games, the modern media ecosystem consistently proves that textuality has never been more fluid. In this course, we will investigate adaptation as a product, process, and reception practice, drawing on theories and case studies that span literature, film, new media artifacts, and digital and analog games. Through discussion and analysis of literary adaptations of works by authors such as Shakespeare, Shelley, Austen, and more, we will seek to answer questions regarding fidelity to a “source” text, medium specificity, fan appropriation, and the limits of adaptation (among others). Note that this is a team-based learning course: in order to cover a wide range of adaptations, students will be divided into teams, each of which will be responsible for analyzing a particular film or new media work using theoretical course readings and integrating it into class discussion. Prerequisite: one 200-level English course. Previous experience with film and new media analysis is recommended. Conference.

Literary Theory

English 386 - Word and Image

One-unit semester course. “Written words have been combined with visual images in forms which range from the explanatory to the enigmatic, from the constructive to the contradictory, from the iconic to the irreverent,” writes Leslie Ross. This course will focus on text-image relations in paper and print media, including illuminated texts, illustrated texts, collage, texts with photographs, paintings with captions, graphic novels, and fine art books. Our study will be guided by the following questions: How do text-image compositions deploy their media to enrich meaning-making potential while also engaging their dissonance or dissociation? How do text and image differently engage the senses, the intellect, and the emotions? How do words and images each convey symbolic or metaphoric content or use syntax and argument? How do text and image illuminate, distort, or amplify aspects of individual consciousness or historical narrative? Primary texts may include Haida tradition in Raven Steals the Light, Plains Indian ledger narratives, Christine de Pizan’s Epistre D’Othéa, Gustave Doré’s and William Blake’s illustrations of Milton’s Paradise Lost, William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, Max Ernst’s The Hundred Headless Woman, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee. Theorists may include Bill Holm, Karl Kroeber, Michael Camille, W.J.T. Mitchell, Lisa Lowe, Marianne Hirsch, Scott McCloud, Hillary Chute, John Bateman, Neil Cohn. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

English 393 - Literary Theory

Meaning and Interpretation
One-unit semester course. In this course we address debates within philosophy of language, literary theory, and legal analysis 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; 3) the distinction among texts as conveyers of authorial meaning, texts as understandable according to publicly available meaning, and texts as socially interpretable objects; and 4) 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., Austin, Grice, and Kripke), from literary theory (e.g., de Man, Derrida, and Tamen), and from legal theory (e.g. Scalia). We also use a few short literary texts as test cases for some of our analyses. 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 2022–23.

The Novel and Narrative Theory
One-unit semester course. “Narrative is to be found wherever someone tells us about something,” according to Monika Fludernik; hence, almost everywhere. In this course we will explore some of the most important critical terms and categories for understanding the workings of fictional narrative. These include point of view and focalization; temporality and the conversion of raw “event” into plot structure; the nature of literary characters and reader investment in them; endings and closure; atmosphere and tone; fiction and metafiction. We will work by pairing critical concepts with example texts, mostly drawn from novels and short stories (including Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and works from Aphra Behn, Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Edgar Allan Poe, and James Joyce), but will conclude with one or two film texts in order to compare narrative methods. Theorists will include Barthes, Booth, Chatman, Culler, Foucault, Genette, Moretti, Ngai, Propp, and Shklovsky. Prerequisite: two English courses at the 200 level or above, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2022–23.

English 400 - Introduction to Literary Theory

See Literature 400 for description.

Literature 400 Description

Other Classes

English 470 - Thesis

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester.

English 481 - Independent Reading

Variable (one-half or one)-unit semester course. Prerequisite: approval of the instructor and the division.