"To men I shall speak wisdom where none speak a word on earth;
though sons of land-dwellers now eagerly seek after my tracks, I sometimes
hide my path from everyone." Riddle 94 of the Exeter Book. In following
the dark tracks of the Old English writers who left their almost unrecognizable
English words on tenth-century vellum, we will have to acquire skills
and tools. This course will ask you to learn the Old English language,
but translations will also be provided for most of the texts. With these
in hand, we will explore the dark world of Anglo-Saxon writing for its
illuminations, but our emphasis will be on loss, love, hardship, riddle,
wisdom, and the spiritual and magical powers of writing in a culture
that stood on the cusp of orality and literacy. Texts: The Wanderer,
The Seafarer, The Wife's Lament, Wulf and Eadwacer, Gnomes, Enigmas,
The Dialogues of Solomon and Saturn, Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy.
Chaucer is one of the wittiest, most congenial, and yet most intellectually
alert of all British poets. He is also a marvelous craftsman and social
commentator. As a brilliant protagonist within one of England's first
circle of poets he develops a rhetoric suited to philosophical poetry
that still amazes his readers with its range of empirical, speculative,
and observational psychology. English 204 provides intensive analysis
of most of Chaucer's writings dream visions (Book of the Duchess, Parliament
of Fowls, and House of Fame), poetics (the Prologue to The Legend of
Good Women), his great romance Troilus and Criseyde (arguably the greatest
poem in the English language), and the Canterbury Tales. All readings
from Chaucer will be in Middle English. As background material to Chaucer
we will read Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy and Guillaume de Lorris
and Jean de Meun's Romance of the Rose (both of which works Chaucer translated,
though we will read them in a modern English versions, with occasional
reference to Chaucer's translations). The readings are at times difficult,
but well worth the effort and rich rewards of studying his work in his
original dialect. The instructor makes a sustained effort to effect the
performative components of medieval literature in terms of its ideas,
rhetoric, and orality in an effort to investigate but also transcend
the ravages of time. Classes will consist primarily of lecture with some
discussion and occasional quizzes Students will write two papers and
take a final examination. Class attendance is required.
Over the last few decades, we have come to appreciate women’s
extensive contributions to Renaissance drama, verse, and fictional and
nonfictional prose (including household manuals, medical treatises, proposals
for educational reform, and religious prophecies). This course focuses
on the critical problems that inform our search for and analysis of English
women’s writing in the 16th and 17th centuries. We discuss how
16th- and 17th-century English women produced and distributed their writing,
and how their audiences received those works. We ask how literary, historical,
and feminist analysis might help us to sort through key questions of
style, genre, authorship, literacy, education, and audience. And we consider
how the study of Renaissance English women’s writing might help
us to better understand the aesthetic and social categories that inspired
contemporary readers, and those that continue to shape our enjoyment
and analysis of Renaissance writing more generally, and of women’s
writing in subsequent centuries. We organize our discussions around the
particular interpretive questions that arise from a careful reading of
Renaissance women’s writing. Additional readings include excerpts
from the writings of their contemporaries, and from articles by literary
critics and historians.
In 1840 Thomas Carlyle proclaimed that although in previous ages the priest, prophet, or king constituted the source of the community's values, in his own time the "Man-of-Letters Hero must be regarded as our most important modern person . . . What he teaches, the world will do and make." In this course we will examine how writers in the mid- to late-19th century responded to Carlyle's challenge: how they understood the responsibilities of the writer, and how they understood those responsibilities in relation to the changing economic, social, and political landscape of the Victorian period. Specifically, we will ask how a variety of different writers of prose, poetry, and novels, imagined their relationships to - and their readers' relationships to - English national identity, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, the private sphere, and public life. We will examine writers' differing understandings of psychology and interiority. We will discuss genre and literary form. And we will examine the idea of "culture" as a distinctly Victorian notion that continues to govern debates about education and society today. Writers for the class will include: C. Bronte, Dickens, G. Eliot, Hardy, Tennyson, the Brownings, the Rossettis, Ruskin, Mill, Carlyle, Arnold, Darwin, and Wilde.
Why do so many 19th-century British novels end with marriages? According to George Eliot, by "marriage," we should understand "all the wondrous combinations of the universe whose issue makes our good and evil." Such an account begins to suggest how marriage is able to represent not just a personal relationship in the nineteenth century, but also a social institution, the coming-together of two principles, or entities, and a central means by which the known world is reproduced. This course explores the nature, implications, and development of the marriage plot through novels by Austen, C. Bronte, Dickens, George Eliot, Wilde, Ford. Key topics for the class will include (but will not be limited to): the relation between realism and idealism; the "woman" question and the development of the private sphere; imperialism, nationalism, ethnicity and race; and changing notions of class.
The course covers the period roughly between World War I and World War II, dealing with the rich creativity we associate with Modernism. We will read and discuss such writers as Eliot, Faulkner, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Steinbeck, etc., studying not only the works but some of the major trends in art, culture, and knowledge that make the modern period so important and exciting. The method will be a combination of close reading, lecture, and discussion.
Asian American Literature is primarily a literature of the 20th and 21st centuries, with dramatic growth in the past half century or so. We will focus on the literary genres of APA works from the past century--drama, fiction, poetry, memoir--and we will also pay attention to cinematic texts. Our literature includes works by Chinese American, Filipina American, Indian American, Korean American, Japanese American, and Vietnamese American authors. Some prior knowledge of 20th century U.S. literature or Asian Pacific Islander American history will be helpful, but not necessary. (For those who have not taken history courses or who wish for a “refresher” see the books by Sucheng Chan or Ronald Takaki, listed under recommended texts.) In addition to the study of genres, we will analyze Asian/Pacific Islander/American texts by interrogating myths, "foundational fictions", fantasies and the fantastical. Edward Said usefully argues in Orientalism that Europe imagined the "Orient" since it "helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience" (1978). We will read works of Asian American literature that revise and incorporate Asian myths, and contrast these with the West's popular imagination of the "Orient".
Many recent American novels have been billed as fictional depictions of "true stories," narrative imaginings culled from memoirs, diaries, or historical records. In this course, we'll explore a range of fiction and imaginative non-fiction, which emphasize, critique, and consider their basis in real events. We'll read between and around modes and genres such as memoir, anti-memoir, journal, diary, autobiography, with the intention of examining contemporary representations of the "real" in order to draw conclusions about the nature of fiction's traditional domain, the imagination itself. If, as Maurice Blanchot writes, "The essence of fiction is to make present an unreal world, to make present to me that which makes it unreal," then the actual events portrayed in these novels appear radically displaced in their fictional context. Readings will include the fictional autobiography A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, a blend of fictional and non-fictional family history in The Family Orchard by Nomi Eve, crime reportage as literature in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, the memoir Henry & June by Anaïs Nin, a eulogy in the form of Peter Handke's A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, the historical fiction Tent of Orange Mist by Paul West, Erasure--a novel-as-cultural-critique-- by Percival Everett, and the biographical novel Haussmann, or The Distinction by Paul LaFarge.
What can the fiction of the 20th Century tell us about imagination? Who imagines what in the influential novels and stories of the past one hundred years? What can we learn from imaginative literature about the idiosyncratic workings of the mind? These are some of the questions we'll ask in this survey of modern and contemporary fiction. We'll read fiction in English, and in translation. Writers we'll study include Joseph Conrad, Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino, William Gass, and Rikki Ducornet. We will have a chance to discuss the process of writing with William Gass, who will visit the class.
This course focuses on the emergence of mystery and detective fiction in Britain in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Often grouped under the heading sensation fiction, these works aimed both to entertain a mass (especially urban) audience and to comment on contemporary institutions of criminal justice in particular the newly professionalized police and detective forces. Their representations of extreme, violent, and bizarre behavior also reflected contemporary fascination with the field of abnormal psychology. Readings to include works by William Godwin, Sheridan LeFanu, Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Baroness Orczy, R. Austin Freeman, Arthur Machen, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, and G. K. Chesterton.
The last decades of the 20th century and the first of the 21st have seen a virtual explosion of writing by women, with novels by women constituting some of the most widely read and critically admired work being produced today. Among the distinctive features of this writing has been its experimentation with new voices and narrative forms, often resulting in novels that blur the traditional borders of the genre. At the same time, much contemporary writing by women has deliberately turned to the past for its inspiration and self-consciously appropriated, or rewritten, earlier texts. Looking at a range of recent novels by British and American women (from a variety of race, class, regional, and ethnic positions) as well as writings by women whose homelands are in Africa, India, Pakistan, and the Caribbean, this course will explore the diverse shapes of contemporary woman's imagination and attempt to account for this new resurgence of women's writing.
In this course students will confront and analyze a wide assortment of influential representations of race, especially but not exclusively representations of African Americans, drawn from the long history of this nation's racialized struggles. We will draw examples not only from literature and film but also from history, sociology, and popular discourses. We will also consider the nature of representation itself, and the related questions of authenticity and identity. Of course, we will make no attempt at an exhaustive historical survey of such a complex and conflicted subject, but we will attempt to ground student understanding of contemporary discourses and polemics about race in a more sophisticated comprehension of modes of racial representation in America and their history. These include stereotypical popular portrayals of Africans and African Americans from the past and from the present in "serious" literature and in popular entertainment, in scientific considerations of difference including nineteenth- century American anthropology and in contemporary sociology and politics. We will consider the ways in which both black and white Americans have constructed representations of African and African-American identity in the U. S. public sphere and the ways in which those representations have reflected and helped shape the problems and the promises of race in America. We will also consider constructions of race in a global and comparative context.
English 252: Theater in England will be conducted in London & Stratford-upon-Avon from Sunday, January 1, 2006, through Saturday, January 14, 2006 (14 nights). We will see 18 plays. Classes are held in the Harlingford Hotel in London, where we reside. The schedule of plays is not yet available, but it will include a full range of genres, from tragedy, history, and comedy to pantomimes and musicals, We will see the best of what is on when we are there. If you wish to see what students have seen on previous years go the Website for the course where you can investigate various aspects of the seminar syllabuses from 1992 to the present, student journals, information about the Harlingford Hotel at 61-63 Cartwright Gardens, the London Theatre scene in general, our trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, the visit to Warwick Castle, a host of pictures of students doing things, and so on. The course is restricted to 23 students and carries four credits. The fee is $1950.00, which includes tickets to all plays and housing, but not transportation to and from London. A down payment of $700.00 is due at the English Office in Morey Hall on or before Monday, October 10. The remaining $1250.00 will be charged to your November term bill. Students must obtain passports and make their own travel arrangements to and from London. You will need to leave the United States on the evening of December 27, at the latest. Return flights may be scheduled for Sunday, January 15, or later. The UR second semester begins on Wednesday, January 18, 2006. The grade for the course is based primarily on the student journal. You may obtain the application form from the English Department or Professor Peck. You need permission of the instructor to register. See Professor Russell A. Peck, Rush Rhees 416 (Robbins Library), MW 12:00-1:30 or by appointment (phone 275-0110 or 473-7354). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
An introduction to the art, technology, and culture of silent film, with all screenings accompanied by live music. Special attention will be paid to the pioneers, Lumiére, Melies, and D.W. Griffith, but the course will include a variety of films from the United States, Germany, Russia, France, and Japan, all projected from pristine copies in the George Eastman House's world-famous collections. Discussion sections will cover the origin and development of film genres and technology from 1894 to the introduction of sound in 1927. Broad issues relating to the transformation of American and world popular entertainment forms and traditions, in relation to the established performing arts of the period, will also be covered. George Eastman House's film restoration facilities will be visited in the course of the semester. Meets at George Eastman House. Enrollment limited at 20.
The course will consider that large, unusual, and varied group of motion pictures known, for reasons of style and content, as film noir - dark films - which includes horror, gangster, detective, and crime movies. We will examine some of the history of the term and the kinds of movies it refers to, study some relevant primary and secondary sources, and of course, screen, analyze, and discuss a dozen or more motion pictures. Possible titles to study include Murder, My Sweet, Touch of Evil, Gilda, The Third Man, Double Indemnity, Night and the City.
The course examines diasporic Chinese cinemas from the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC), Hong Kong (HK), the U.S. and Canada. We will pay special attention to the migrations of individuals (actors, actresses, directors, cinematographers, and others) and to texts (the films and in some cases television programs). We will cover a wide variety of genres, including epic, martial arts, action, thriller, comedy, and drama. Some experience with film studies, especially world cinema, and Chinese history will be helpful but not required. Outside screenings of films are required.
This course traces the major developments in British cinema from the silent period to the 1990s. In addition to providing an historical overview of major filmmakers and movements, the course places special emphasis on the interplay between nostalgia and modernity in British culture. Films to include Hitchcock's Blackmail; Michael Powell's Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Peeping Tom; Carol Reed's The Third Man; David Lean's This Happy Breed and Oliver Twist; Robert Hamer's Kind Hearts and Coronets; Stephen Frears's My Beautiful Laundrette; Jack Clayton's Room at the Top; Terence Davies' Distant Voices, Still Lives; Ken Loach's Riff-Raff; and Lynne Ramsey's Ratcatcher.
This workshop is for advanced fiction writers. The course emphasizes the development of each student's individual style and imagination, as well as the practical and technical concerns of a fiction writer's craft. Students will not only be asked to locate a context for their fictions by situating their poetics among a community of other fiction writers, but also to envision how their stories might intersect with other fictional works. Each writer will be expected to conceive each story within the scope of a larger fiction project as well as to revise extensively in order to explore the full range of the story's narrative themes. Three short stories or novel chapters are required. Applicable English Cluster: Creative Writing.
Advanced creative writing workshop in poetry. Work by various contemporary poets will provide the framework for explorations into technique and poetic narrative. Students' poems will be discussed weekly. Students will be expected to do extensive reading and research on their own and to keep a poetic journal. Assignments will be given, but there is a lot of latitude for students who wish to design a poetic project or work on a series. Permission of instructor is required (submit 3-5 typed poems, preferably before the first class).
This course considers the issues raised in Walter Ong's 1982 study, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. His account related the growth of writing and print to the development of science and modern rational thought, exploring possible changes in collective consciousness as a result of the shift of media emphasis. We will examine some classical sources, including Plato's suspicion of the power of oral poetry, and consider the levels of literacy achieved in ancient society; we will also look at European medieval traditions. Central to these discussions will be the roles language and literature played in the lives of non-literate people as contrasted with literate. Study of the modern and contemporary periods focusses on such practices as conversation, becoming literate, collection of oral accounts and their uses, the uses of ethnographic writing, and the different approaches to speech, writing, and language in African American and white communities. A key aim of the course is to show the politics, mutual dependency, and reciprocity of oral and literate uses of language in literary and nonliterary contexts.
In his poetry, Chaucer repeatedly “impersonates” the mother tongue. As a writer aspiring to high art and “poesie,” he often reproduces the cadences of “ordinary” speech that had developed among oral communities over the previous three centuries or more; as an auctour (itself a new word in English) in a language never-taught and seldom written in books, he expressed constant anxiety about the hypothetical and real make-up of his audiences. This seminar will concentrate on the ways in which Chaucer insistently returns to and reshapes vernacular style and sexual identities (including his own cross-dressed impersonations of a feminized mother tongue) in the Book of the Duchess, the Parlement of Fowls, the House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women, Troilus and Criseyde, and a dozen or so of the Canterbury Tales. We will focus on real and represented scenes of reading, their placement within and outside architectural spaces and cityscapes, and their implications for habits and protocols of interpretation. Besides Chaucer’s poetry, we will look at contemporary materials, including religious and political controversies about literacy, imitations and reactions to Chaucer’s poems (including a bit of the “Chaucer apocrypha”), and secondary materials both historical and critical.
This seminar will examine early modern claims for the instrumental efficacy of literary texts, such as Spenser’s claim that the general end of The Faerie Queene was to fashion a gentleman or a noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline. We will begin with Kant and the New Critics in order to locates discourses that set out the terms for twentieth-century discussions about literary aesthetics, and we will look at Marxist and New Historicist critiques of those terms in order to articulate and question some of our present assumptions about Renaissance aesthetics in particular. We will then turn back to Plato and work our way forward into the early modern period, where we will read The Defense of Poesie, The Faerie Queene, and The Tempest. We will ask: what were Renaissance instrumental aesthetics? What were its historical determinants, and its intellectual and cultural premises? What role did its emergence play in its historical moment? How did it work in particular tests, and to what ends? As we address these questions, we will consider what critical methodologies we need to develop in order to study Renaissance instrumental aesthetics as a historical object of knowledge.
This seminar will examine and discuss major poetic texts by the three most important American poets before 1800: Edward Taylor, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson. We will look at this poetry in terms of thematic issues for each poet, as significant explorations of lyric form, and as implicated in evolving positions in poetic careers.
This seminar provides a background in the Marxist theory that has most influenced our understanding of literary studies. It is designed for students who are interested both in Marxist theory and in why literary scholars have found Marxist theory useful.
We begin by focusing our attention on the logic, rhetoric, and context of key arguments by Marx and Engels. The seminar then divides into three sections that focus on Aesthetics and Politics, Humanism and The Humanities, Intellectuals and Education. In each section, our readings and discussion emphasize a careful consideration of arguments and concepts (for instance, agency, contradiction, hegemony, ideology, mediation, mode of production) whose relevance to literary studies might not be immediately apparent, and an equally careful consideration of what those arguments and concepts might tell us about our discipline – how they influence the analytical practices of literary scholars (both Marxist scholars and scholars whose understanding of history, interdisciplinarity, or cultural studies is not explicitly Marxist), how they influence scholars who attempt to sort through the shifting definition of literary studies and its shifting role in university and non-university life, and how they might provide one theoretical framework for assessing the explanatory power of contemporary work in our discipline.
Our readings will include writing by Adorno, Althusser, Benjamin, Bourdieu, Brecht, Engels, Foucault, Gramsci, James, Hall, Lukacs, Marx, and Williams, as well as writing that focuses more explicitly on literary studies (including work by John Guillory, Richard Halpern, Frederic Jameson, Mary Poovey, and Gayatri Spivak).
The last decades of the 20th century and the first of the 21st have seen a virtual explosion of writing by women, with novels by women constituting some of the most widely read and critically admired work being produced today. Among the distinctive features of this writing has been its experimentation with new voices and narrative forms, often resulting in novels that blur the traditional borders of the genre. At the same time, much contemporary writing by women has deliberately turned to the past for its inspiration and self-consciously appropriated, or rewritten, earlier literary and cultural forms. Central to much of this work (and to its dual forward- and backward-looking impulses) has been an interrogation of the vexed question of “home,” particularly as it manifests itself in literature of possession, dispossession, exile, migration, and hybridized identity. Looking at the way ideas of home (as domestic space and as homeland or nation) have both enabled and inhibited women’s voices, this course invites students to explore what it means for women to claim home in their writing. We will read a number of fictional works by British and American women (from a variety of race, class, regional, and ethnic positions) as well as writings by women whose homelands are in Africa, south Asia, and the Caribbean. Readings will also include theoretical work on feminism, postcolonial studies, globalization, and new immigrant literatures and identities.
The seminar aims to familiarize master’s and doctoral candidates in English with the fields of rhetoric and composition. Concentrating on recent scholarly and professional trends, the seminar presents some of the history of this discipline, which has been present in universities in various forms for more than a century. The course aims to provide some preparation for those wishing to answer job announcements in both literature and rhetoric/composition.
Issues of interest are: composition theory and pedagogy, the history of rhetoric, and the history and practices of literacy. For each issue, attention is given to connections between literacy and deeper attitudes toward language in Western cultures. The seminar gives attention to the early history of writing pedagogy in the late nineteenth century, to the revival of classical rhetoric in the 1960’s, to the interest in group processes and collaboration in the 1980’s and 1990’s, to “argument” pedagogy, everything that has been tried in the last century, the debates about how to approach this subject (such as whether literature belongs in a composition course), as well as its changing status in colleges and universities. Some attention is given to how secondary education has treated literacy pedagogy, and what differences have emerged between secondary approaches to writing pedagogy and current post secondary approaches.
Writing: weekly commentaries; final project.