What is it about Beowulf that lends itself to so much retelling? Why is it so hard to receive it? What has the curriculum done wrong in presenting it? Why must everyone give Beowulf a sex life? Why did Woody Allen hate it? How did Seamus Heaney transform it? How does it lurk on the edges of popular culture, but can't seem to make it in the ranks of high literature without toil, and groan, and much apology? And, what is the nature of translation—not just of words, but a whole ethos? This multimedia class will examine older and newer translations of Beowulf, read Scandinavian literature relevant to Beowulf (Hrolfskraki Saga etc.), look at comic books based on Beowulf, watch the three major movies made about Beowulf in the past ten years, listen to Benjamin Bagby's performance of Beowulf, and read articles about translation theory. Minimal instruction in Old English vocabulary and the problems of translating some of the harder passages in Beowulf. Just look at what Wright does to Hrothgar and Beowulf's farewell scene, rescuing it from all suggestions of impropriety.
This course focuses on drama written by Shakespeare's contemporaries. Classes center around careful study of individual plays. We consider, among other topics, the playwrights' emphases on their characters' psychological interiority, their staging of death, their use of props, their fascination with sensational and often violent events, their interest in memory, and their insistent references to contemporary performance practices (including the Renaissance tradition of boy actors playing women's roles). We also become familiar with descriptions of sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century theatrical spaces—their geographical location and physical properties, the composition of their audiences, the training and performance practices of their actors, and the aesthetic, economic and political contexts of their productions. And we sort through the plays' depiction of the proper relations between ruler and subject, husband and wife, parents and children, and European and non-European characters. Readings include plays by Beaumont and Fletcher, Cary, Dekker, Ford, Jonson, Kyd, Marlowe, Middleton, Shakespeare, and Webster.
This course will study the full range of Shakespeare's plays, including his comedies, tragedies, histories, and romances. We will pay attention to both dramatic language and historical context in order to read and analyze the plays with as much comprehension and pleasure as possible.
This course will study the lyrics of Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, Vaughan, Traherne, and Marvell, the seventeenth-century authors of so-called "metaphysical poetry." "In perusing the works of this race of authors, "Samuel Johnson wrote, "the mind is exercised either by recollection or inquiry; either something already learned is to be retrieved, or something new is to be examined." We will exercise our minds in this class both by retrieving the historical material out of which these poets fashioned their ideas and by examining the formal strategies with which they enacted their ideas in their poems. I expect the majority of our class time will be spent on close reading.
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.
As both literary and visual art, plays often provide the most potent themes and content in all of the arts. This course explores the history of playwriting and dramatic performance as creative outlets for artists of African descent. The course surveys the tradition of black theater, paying particular attention to the formal aspects of drama and covering a range of historical and thematic contexts, including slavery, social protest, interracial relations, intra-racial differences (including class, gender, and sexuality), and the attitudes of today's African Americans toward black history. Special attention will be paid to ritual as a thematic and structural principle in this tradition. Featured playwrights include James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Charles Fuller, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Suzan-Lori Parks, Ntozake Shange, Anna Deavere Smith, August Wilson, George C. Wolfe, and more.
This course introduces students to the many different schools of literary analysis developed in the twentieth century: from New Criticism to Formalism to Structuralism to Deconstruction to New Historicism to feminist and postcolonial theory, various movements have sought to address how meaning is made in a text, what kinds of meaning, how to find those meanings, and what to do with them. Beneath each movement lies a different approach to fundamental questions about the nature of reality and representation, signification and interpretation. Earlier theories of literature will also be covered, from the ancient Greeks through Renaissance "Defences of Poetry" through eighteenth- and nineteenth-century theories of criticism and aesthetics.
More broadly, a study of the gray zone between short story and novel, containing many ambiguous labels (long short story, novella, short novel). The course will interrogate various boundaries—When does a short story become a novella? When does a novella become a novel?—and locate answers not merely in word count, but in reader experience and expectation. Because of the (relative) brevity of these in-between texts, the course will cover much stylistic and geographic ground. Author list may include: Franz Kafka, Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, Carson McCullers, Nathanael West, Saul Bellow, Gabriel García Márquez, Henry James, George Saunders, Ethan Canin, Aleksandar Hemon, William Gass, Flannery O'Connor, Cynthia Ozick, Peter Taylor, and Jane Smiley.
As contemporary readers continue to search for new and exciting types of writing, and as "cyberculture" becomes increasingly mainstream, science fiction becomes increasingly important to scholars of American literature and culture. This course covers a range of science fiction texts and issues, including the genre's European literary antecedents, its "roots" in American periodical fiction, the emergence of the science fiction novel, the genre's treatment of issues of difference, cyberpunk, and beyond. Featured writers include Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Hugo Gernsback, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, William Gibson, and more.
We focus on cinematic texts—short, documentary, and feature—and literary genres of Asian Pacific Islander American (APA) works from the twentieth and twenty-first century—drama, fiction, poetry, and memoir. Our APA literature includes works by Chinese American, Filipina American, Indian American, Korean American, Japanese American, and Vietnamese American authors, among others. We will analyze APA theories too, interrogating the construction of "America," myths, and "foundational fictions." Students will lead discussion, write essays, and write short response papers.
This course provides a basic introduction to some of the major works and themes in American literature, focusing primarily on the development of the novel and short story, with limited attention to poetry and drama. We will begin in the nineteenth century and work our way through such contemporary writers as Toni Morrison and Tony Kushner. Our focus will be on the creation of a national identity and how issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality intersect in the formation of an American literary tradition. Students will trace a number of important themes such as the relationship between politics and art, the impact of slavery and the Civil War, immigration, the American dream, and the development of a national mythology and ideology. In our study of various movements in the American literary tradition, we will also pay close attention to the intellectual debates concerning audience, language, and the purpose of art that have shaped key texts and historical time periods. Lectures will provide social and cultural background to the literary works discussed in class.
Theater in England will be conducted in London from
Wednesday, December 29, 2010, through Saturday, January 8, 2011. Students should
arrive in London no later than the evening of Tuesday, December 28. They may
return on Sunday, January 9.
We will see approximately 16 plays. We do not yet know what the full schedule of plays will be, but you can be certain that we will see the best of what's available in the world's theater Mecca. Last year we saw, among others, such distinguished productions as Nick Stafford's brilliant production of War Horse, Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad, Tom Stoppard and Andre Previn's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, John Guarre's Six Degrees of Separation, Ferdinand Bruckner's Pains of Youth, and Lee Hall's The Pitmen Painters, which we paired with Hall's most famous play, Billy Elliot, the Musical; the world premieres of Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art, Michael Wynne's The Priory, and John Logan's Red; and, at the Globe Theatre, the Footsbarn's hilarious Christmas Cracker with its Lord of Misrule, three-headed Shakespeare, musical acrobats, and charming lady maggot (who was eager to meet us all). The historical spread of the plays was terrific, from the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Twelfth Night (1600) and Thomas Middleton's Yorkshire Tragedy (1605) to Frank McGuinness's London premiere of Greta Garbo Came to Donegal (2009). Only in London is such a range of theater possible.
We stay at the Harlingford Hotel, 61-63 Cartwright Gardens, a couple of blocks from the British Museum and the new British Library. The course is restricted to 23 students and carries four credits. The $2550.00 fee includes tickets to all plays and housing. Students must obtain passports and make their own travel arrangements to and from London. If you wish to see what students have seen on previous years go to the Web site for the course (http://www.rochester.edu/College/ENG/england/) where you can investigate various aspects of the seminar—syllabuses from 1992 to the present, student journals, information about the Harlingford Hotel, in Bloomsbury, where we always stay, the London theater scene in general. You may obtain the application form from the English Department or Professor Peck. You need permission of the instructor to register. See Professor Russell Peck <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Introduction to the history, technology, and cultural significance of motion pictures of the "pre-sound" era, with screenings of 35mm prints accompanied by live music in the Dryden Theatre. Special attention will be paid to the major pioneers, Dickson, Porter, Lumière, Méliès, and Griffith, but the course will include a variety of internationally produced films selected from the world-famous archival film collection of the George Eastman House. Discussion sessions will cover the origins and development of the motion picture industry and its leading genres up to the general introduction of movies with pre-recorded music, sound, and dialog, beginning 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. Relevant connections to preserving the world's film heritage will be highlighted, and the film restoration facilities of the Motion Picture Department will be visited in this course.
This course will attempt to cover the history, literature, and above all, the cinema of vampirism from the silent era through the present day. We will study a number of important examples of the form, read a couple of significant literary works about the vampire, especially Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, and also employ one or two texts that deal with the vampire in cinema.
This course will engage Second Life and other Virtual Worlds to examine not just 3D artistic environments, but "machinima," film-clips using "avatars" as actors, with an emphasis on New Media narrative, participatory culture, and potential educational uses. Given our technical equipment, students will participate in making a film and/or art project.
(Restricted to Selznick students)
(Restricted to Selznick students)
(Restricted to Selznick students)
This is a workshop for students who have experience writing fiction on their own and are ready to concentrate on more ambitious projects. We'll read short stories by contemporary writers along with fiction by the students in the workshop, and we'll discuss ways writers can sharpen the conversation between text and reader. We'll also consider editing and reviewing techniques. Students will be expected to write and revise at least three original stories or three sections of a longer work of fiction. Permission of instructor required.
This course is for students who have completed a 100-level creative writing course or have similar experience in the writing of poems. After reading a wide variety of poems in different forms, students will write metered poems, rhymed poems, free-verse poems, and several more elaborately patterned poems (sestinas, villanelles, pantoums). They will also be asked to revise these poems substantially. The goal of the course is simply to become a better writer by recognizing that the beauty and power of all linguistic utterance is driven by its form.
From The New Yorker to the blogosphere, successful feature writers bridge the gap between news and commentary, shedding light on people, places, and perplexing issues. We'll study their methods and put them into practice as we write our own articles, both long and short. Among the feature forms we'll explore: profiles, trend pieces, investigations, science and travel stories, and color pieces. Among our topics: finding and developing ideas; researching; interviewing and quoting effectively and ethically; achieving the right structure and tone; fact checking; revising and pruning; and getting published. Applicable English Cluster: Media, Culture, and Communication.
This course will introduce students to the theoretical backgrounds, practical challenges, and creative activity of literary translation. We will survey appropriate theories of language and communication including semiotics, post-structuralism, pragmatics, discourse analysis, and cognitive linguistics. We will consider varied and conflicting descriptions by translators of what it is they believe they are doing and what they hope to accomplish by doing it; and we will study specific translations into English from a variety of sources in order to investigate the strategies and choices translators make and the implication of those choices for our developing sense of what kinds of texts translations actually are. Finally, students will, in consultation with the instructor or with another qualified faculty member, undertake exercises in translation of their own. By the end of this class each student should have a working knowledge of both the critical backgrounds and the artistic potentials of translation.
(Restricted to Selznick students)
Introduction to Graduate Studies in English is a semester-long introduction to doctoral study in English.
Of all literary genres, romance comes closest to the core of
human desires and expectations. Strongly motivated by plot and episode, romance
explores social and personal compulsions that take the reader someplace—into
the exotic realm of myth and social definition; or into the psyche as it yearns
for self-composure, stimulation, and personal credit; or toward understanding
of natural law and the moral insecurity that perpetually haunts the quest.
Romance lurks throughout the inner recesses of popular culture. It is
insistently plot driven and audience oriented. Its design is to seduce an indifferent
listener into some sympathetic—or even empathetic—participation in its
frustrated crisis management. The romance journey always includes some veiled
social agenda that may be conservative, but at the same time, disruptive,
perhaps even criminal. Its mode of expression may range from fairy tale or
magical plots with cartoon-like characters in a landscape of conventions to
social realism with characters whose responses are undefined, undefinable, and
imaginatively complex. But of greatest interest will be the ways in which the
romance hero, whether male or female, copes with bizarre circumstances of life
that are most likely self-generated. The meaning may be hidden, but it will
always be latent—capable of agitating the audience and hero's need to reflect
upon what happens and their inability to let go.
The seminar ranges widely in its selection of texts. Our critical approaches will be eclectic—political, mythological, psychological, structuralist, or genre oriented. We will be concerned with thematic issues (friendship, loyalty, exile, desire, etc.) and the cultural agencies that orient them (gender, the underdog, oppression, forces of nature, chance, or fate, etc.). We will draw on the writings of Aristotle, Propp, Greimas, Bal, and Frye for consideration of narratology and aesthetics, with support from Ruskin, Bourdieu, Adorno, Jameson, Benjamin, Butler, and Pirandello to establish theoretical outposts for observation. We will be concerned with historical issues surrounding the production and performance of romances within the culture that fed upon them. But the primary focus will be on the texts themselves along with the tactics of practical criticism. The readings include ancient literature such as Plato's Symposium, Aristotle's Poetics, Apuleius's The Golden Ass; medieval Breton lays, courtly romances, bourgeois and sentimental romances, along with selections from Gower and Chaucer; Renaissance excursions into romance through More, Spenser, and Shakespeare (we will try to include a couple of trips to the Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Stratford, Canada); and we will conclude with descendants of the medieval discoveries by looking into Victorian and modern fiction (Joyce, Angela Carter), drama, the musical, and, especially, cinema. The geography of the course will include a field full of middle earth's folk, with their descents into hell and tortuous ascents up purgatorial mountains. The spirit of the course dwells between "I wish" and "I must," with a menagerie of dreamers and dream-driven doers and tellers of their visions and impulses.
This survey of English Renaissance drama will focus on plays written by Shakespeare and his male and female contemporaries (including Beaumont, Cary, Fletcher, Jonson, Kyd, Lumley, Marlowe, Marston, Middleton, Sidney, Webster, Wroth). Our readings and discussions will be organized into multi-week units focusing on interpretive questions raised by large structuring categories (comedy, tragedy), subgenres with formal and thematic requirements (“revenge,” “tragicomedy,” “history”), and methods of production (boy’s companies, adult companies, closet drama, household and school productions, productions in the large public and smaller “private” theaters).
We will work closely with both the plays and the literary critical traditions that continue to help us sort through the relations among the formal, historical, and political properties of Renaissance drama.
Students will write either one long seminar paper (approximately 20 pages in length) or two shorter papers (each approximately 10 pages in length). Those who opt to write the long paper will submit a mid-semester research proposal (abstract, annotated bibliography, approximately 10 pages of preliminary writing, plan for remaining research and writing) and the final paper at the end of the semester. Those who opt to write the two shorter papers will submit the first paper at mid-semester and the second at the end of the semester.
Students in this seminar will gain familiarity with central texts of nineteenth-century American literature and with contemporary theories of cosmopolitanism and identity in literary studies. We will assess recent critiques of national identities generally and U.S. national identity specifically and consider their contribution to our understanding of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature. We will investigate how, in U.S. culture, especially literary culture, national identity has always contended, sometimes violently, with the irreducible heterogeneity of American populations and the conflicted inclusiveness of the American imaginary. We will also consider the difference that making questions other than national identity central to literary inquiry and cultural studies makes.
This seminar studies the developments in literary theory over
the past eighty years. Early in the twentieth century, criticism and theory
followed the success of science, trying to bring order and method to the
subject. Different styles of rigor were sought in Europe and America by such
figures as I. A. Richards, Roman Ingarden, the Russian Formalists, Northrop
Frye, and the New Criticism. In this phase written texts were treated as holy
texts had been treated for centuries, as having a higher, "holier" status than
other, "vernacular" language genres. Criticism and theory followed the standard
set by both scientific and religious ideology. In so doing, it followed the
androcentric tradition of the academy.
In the middle of the twentieth century, figures such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Mikhail Bakhtin presented a point of view that held no language genres to be holy or otherwise elevated from others. They described a language philosophy that viewed symbolic genres as "texts" to be understood in relation to their roles in society and not as "holy writ." The work of these figures, as well as successors such as J. L. Austin (speech act theory), Jacques Derrida and Barbara Johnson (deconstruction), Julia Kristeva (language materialism), Tzvetan Todorov, feminist critics, and genre critics, added up to a movement of desacralization. Canons were deauthorized. Authors' authority was diminished. Texts could be "played with." The Bible was re-understood as a human text. Writers and genres of many stripes were admitted to academic study. Popular culture became important. Criticism and theory tried and sometimes helped to open the study of language and literature to all people. People tried to give "globalization" a humanist feel. The academy began to be populated by women and members of non-dominant groups.
The seminar tries to outline the foregoing lines of development, aiming, perhaps, to consider how criticism and theory, like literature, have always been practiced as academic and social enterprises, and how they are now enlarging their purview on a significant scale.