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"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 as a guide only. 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: King Alfred, The Chronicles, Aelfric's "Preface to Genesis," "The Wanderer," The Seafarer," "The Wife's Lament," "Wulf and Eadwacer," "Gnomes," "Enigmas," "The Battle of Maldon."
The course approaches The Divine Comedy both as a poetic masterpiece and as an encyclopedia of medieval culture. Through a close textual analysis of selected cantos from Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, students learn how to approach poetry as a vehicle for thought, an instrument of self-discovery, and a way to understand and affect the world. They also gain a perspective on the biblical, Christian, and classical traditions as they intersect with the multiple levels of Dante's concern ranging from literature to history, from politics to government, from philosophy to theology. Lectures and class discussion will be complemented by a weekly recitation session. Intensive class participation is encouraged. No prerequisites.
Carolyn Dinshaw writes that Marjorie Kempe "Answers Back." This course examines the value of "speaking out" in medieval English literature with an emphasis on gender, body and society. But what is "carnal speaking" and can it overlap with "spiritual speaking"? What do fabliaux, romances, allegories, homilies, theological treatises, passion plays, and medical texts tell us about medieval English society and this fragile flesh? We will read Lyrics, the anonymous Pearl, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Piers Plowman, Lanval, Degarre, Gowther, Julian of Norwich, The Book of Marjorie Kempe, Old French fabliaux, and pay homage to the grave of Richard III. ;)
This class will delve into the work of the so-called "metaphysical poets," a group of poets writing toward the end of the English Renaissance, noted for their intense style of intellectual play, wildness of metaphor, density of argument, and dramatic force of language. These are poems that range from the secular to the sacred, from bluntly erotic encounters to cosmological speculations and poems of spiritual trial. We'll be looking especially at work by John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, Thomas Traherne, and Andrew Marvell, with excursions also into poems by William Shakespeare and John Milton, and the prose works by Donne and Sir Thomas Browne. The metaphysicals have been a continual provocation to modern poets, from T. S. Eliot to Elizabeth Bishop and John Ashbery, and we'll be looking at some of these responses as well.
The nineteenth-century novel is usually associated with Victorian values: happy marriage; wholesome homes; moral propriety; properly channeled emotions and ambitions. Many of the most popular novels, however, paint a very different picture: with madwomen locked in attics and asylums; monsters, real and imagined, lurking behind the facade of propriety; genteel homes harboring opium addicts; fallen women walking the streets; and sexual transgression and degeneracy popping up everywhere. Indeed, for novels centrally structured around marriage and society, madness and monstrosity appear with alarming regularity. The intertwining of these tropes suggests some of the cultural anxieties unleashed by the new body of women writers and women readers. We will begin with Frankenstein and end with Dracula, two novels from opposite ends of the century. We will also consider such classic marriage plot novels as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre and some popular sensation fiction of the 1860s.
This course will cover a wide array of nineteenth-century British poets (e.g., William Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, Percy Shelley, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Thomas Hardy, and Gerard Manley Hopkins). We will locate these poets in their historical moment and consider, in particular, how they combined lyric, narrative, and dramatic modes in their poems. We will examine the variety of aesthetic strategies these poets deployed in their writings and explore the extent to which their work anticipated developments in modernist poetry (e.g., T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats).
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 with (probably) one short paper and one longish paper.
Autobiography is the foundational genre in the tradition of African-American literature. It is also the genre that both illustrates and represents the process of the construction of identity. Autobiography is not only writing about a life authored by oneself, but also the life of the self made manifest in the form of writing. This course surveys the tradition of autobiographical writings by African Americans, from slave narratives to recent bestsellers, in order to promote an understanding of autobiography as a narrative form shaped by its historical context and the purposes of the author. In addition, the course provides students with insights into various topics in African-American culture and history. Readings include texts by Maya Angelou, Frederick Douglass, Olaudah Equiano, Zora Neale Hurston, Harriet Jacobs, Audre Lorde, Barack Obama, Booker T. Washington, Richard Wright, Malcolm X, and more.
This class aims to explore—both in terms of depth and breadth—the fascinating terrain of twentieth-century American poetry, with a few forays into the UK as well. We'll be looking at representatives of some of the "movements" of contemporary poetry, including the so-called Confessional Poetry, the New York School, and the Beats, as well as concentrating on key individual figures and volumes of poetry that have appeared from roughly 1945 to the present. The class will include both aural and visual components (audio recordings, viewing of visual art) as well as close-reading of texts. It will also include options for creative assignments as well as critical essays.
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky once described Czeslaw Milosz as "an essential American poet—perhaps even the most important living American poet." When Milosz received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980, he had already been living in California for twenty years. Exiled from their native Poland, several major poets of the twentieth century, such as Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert, and most recently Adam Zagajewski, have spent long periods of time and written poetry in the United States and thereby have become an essential part of American poetry. This class will consider two aspects of this phenomenon: the ways in which contemporary American poets have read Polish poets and, conversely, the way the new generation of Polish poets have read American poetry (most notably New York School poets Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery). All readings will be in English or English translation.
Toni Morrison has emerged as one of the most influential writers and critics in contemporary American culture. This course will approach her work from a broad range of critical perspectives including black feminist thought, trauma theory, biblical exegesis, and critical race theory. Although this class will emphasize rigorous study of her literary works, we will also pay close attention to her contributions to literary criticism, her role in public life, as well as her forays into political and national debates. In our study of her novels, we will explore such issues as the importance of history and myth in the creation of personal identity, constructions of race and gender, the dynamic nature of love, the role of the community in social life, and the pressures related to the development of adolescent girls. We will also examine the changing nature of Morrison's reception by critics and academics, and consider how and why she has achieved such widespread acclaim and influence.
Why has memoir become one of the most popular literary genres of the past few decades? This class will examine the development of our "confessional culture" while also charting a historical trajectory of American memoirs from the mid-twentieth century to our current moment. Discussions will also highlight the relationship between the narrating "I" and the development of national mythologies that present American identity as defined by specific distinctions of race, class, gender and sexuality. Students will explore various modernist and postmodernist innovations apparent in contemporary memoirs as well as changing conceptions of the self. Authors to be studied include: Barack Obama, Malcolm X, Joan Didion, Richard Rodriguez, Alison Bechdel, and others.
Contemporary notions of global identities, national spirit, axes of evil, and cosmopolitanism spring directly from encounters and explorations on both sides of 1492. Universal kinship, ethnic cleansing, world unity, and genocide mark the stories of travelers and travel-liars, pilgrims and missionaries, merchants and adventurers. We will read accounts (and closely study images from manuscripts, broadsheets, printed texts, and paintings) of the Farthest East and the Celtic Fringe, of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the Mediterranean, and of "discoveries" of New Worlds in opposite hemispheres. Narratives register difference as cannibalism, bestiality, child sacrifice, and novel sexualities; as religious miracles and mysteries or demonized Others; as marvelous and monstrous bodies that mark species limits or new possibilities for the "human." We will begin with medieval authors' attempts to define "Europe" against its others. The travels and conquests of Alexander the Great in Afghanistan and India and Gerald of Wales' account of Ireland will set the initial extremities of East and West. The Spanish Jew Benjamin of Tudela, the Venetian Christian Marco Polo's Asia, and the African Muslim Ibn Battuta will provide fact checks for the most popular of all voyage accounts, Mandeville’s Travels. We will then examine the import and impact of the numerous printed travels, including those by Columbus and Vespucci to the West, and Vasco da Gama and others to the "East" Indies, with particular attention to the first book in English to name America. Finally we will look at both sober and celebratory accounts of globalization in Las Casas' Destruction of the Indies and Camoens' epic Lusiads, alongside other "first accounts" in English. Throughout the semester we will also study an extensive archive of images—manuscript illuminations, paintings, woodcuts, broad sheets, pamphlets, charts, and maps—that created and enforced a vivid presence for non-Europeans within European consciousness. In reading accounts of first encounters from all Abrahamic faiths—describing Jewish diaspora, Christian fantasies of world conquest, and the realities of Dar al-Islam—we will think through the ways in which writers and artists of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in these centuries imagined the "contact zone," that cultural ground on which Same and Other meet. Besides the extensive readings in primary sources, we will read some classic and influential theoretical and methodological studies; these will address topics including globalization, cosmopolitanism, trans-national identities, the contact zone, cultural conflict and exchange, pre-modern colonization and post-colonial responses, and the creation of the Other. Students will write a half dozen short response papers and a final essay.
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, Gabriel García Márquez, Henry James, George Saunders, Ethan Canin, Aleksandar Hemon, William Gass, Flannery O'Connor, Cynthia Ozick, and Peter Taylor.
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.
This 4-credit intersession course will be conducted in London, UK, from Thursday, January 2, to Monday, January 13, 2014. We will have a full range of theater experiences, from intimate theater-in-the-round to grand productions at the National Theatre, and from experimental performances in former warehouses to spectacular musicals in the West End. See the link on the English Department homepage to find the course's webpage, which describes the program in greater detail and contains syllabi from the past 20+ years. This year we will see the best of what is available (twenty or so plays). Each morning we will have a seminar discussion of the past day's productions, which you will then write about in detailed journal entries. The fee for the course is $2,750, which includes tuition, tickets to all of the plays, and 10 nights at the Harlingford Hotel. The fee does not include transportation to London and back from the US. Instructor’s permission required to register.
An 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 George Eastman House.
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.
Through close analysis of popular film, this course explores contemporary French culture as it reworks national identity. Focusing on changing definitions of "Frenchness" the course examines its articulations with shifting conceptions of tradition, of the popular, and of the nation. Readings include central cultural conflicts around identity and difference in the context of the emergent European economic community, as well as the specifically French context of "immigration" and "assimilation." Of particular interest is the comparative analysis of French and U.S. popular discourses on social issues involving sexuality and gender, race, ethnicity, and "multiculturalism." Films include works by Bertrand Blier, Luc Bresson, Andre Techine, Cyril Collard [Savage Nights], Mathieu Kassovitz, Claire Denis, François, Ahmed Bouchaala [Krim], and Karim Dridi [Bye-Bye], as well as recent works by such widely known auteurs as Claude Chabrol and Jean-Luc Godard.
This course introduces students to the poetics of television. We will explore the ways that television tells stories and how it constructs worlds; the significance of genre, style, and form to those stories and worlds; and the relationship between television and the horizons of social, historical, and aesthetic experience that television opens up as one of the most important culture industries of the last 100 years. Much of our class will be devoted to watching TV and discussing what we watch, from the sitcom, news, reality TV, domestic melodrama, soap operas, and crime procedurals to advertising, animation, mini-series, sci-fi and fantasy, the Western, "art television," and live drama. Students will also come to understand poetics as an approach useful to the study of any medium, especially when combined with the more speculative and conceptual projects of media and critical theory.
What does time look like? How can we use computers to visualize the experience of time produced by watching television, reading a novel, walking through a city, or listening to music? What kinds of interfaces and interpretations are possible once we visualize the rhythms of these cultural forms and processes? We will collaborate on answers to these questions through projects in which students gather "small data" on cultural time that they then visualize and interpret with the aim of understanding how digital technologies provide new mediums of analysis for grappling with the meanings of temporality. Organized as much around student concerns as ongoing research, this interdisciplinary course will introduce students to important work in the humanistic study of time; innovative scholarship in the digital humanities; and experiments in using digital technology to pursue qualitative research. No technical knowledge needed, only a desire to play with the possibilities of contemporary media for the study of culture.
Recently the large-scale dissemination of erotic and pornographic literature and film has begun to affect the majority of the population in the West. There are two main issues in the course: 1) the history of the changing genres of erotica and the social changes taking place because of its wide dissemination; and 2) the proposition that if societies were different little harm and much good would come from the inclusion of erotica in people's reading and viewing habits: erotic materials, by removing sex from the realm of the forbidden and viewing it as a species of everyday life, can contribute to the education of both sexes and people of all sexual tastes and preferences.
Restricted to "Selznick" students.
Restricted to "Selznick" students.
Restricted to "Selznick" students.
This workshop is for advanced fiction writers who have completed ENG 121 or have permission from the instructor. 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. Readings will be drawn from a wide variety of modern and contemporary writers. Students will be expected to write three original short stories as well as to revise extensively in order to explore the full range of the story's potential.
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.
This is an advanced workshop in playwriting for students who have completed a 100-level creative writing course, or the equivalent. Course work will include writing exercises and in-class performances, with a goal of completing a one-act play. As we explore the challenges of live theater, we will read and analyze modern and contemporary plays in conjunction with workshop critiques.
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.
Introduction to Graduate Studies in English is a semester-long introduction to doctoral study in English.
This course will focus on the sponsorship, production, circulation, and consumption of European media that create and share images of peoples outside Europe. It will consider a range of mainly English, but also French, German, Dutch, and Latin materials, assessing their make-up, status, and uses for a variety of audiences over time, using recent work in the history of the book, the sociology of texts, and the revolutionary (or not so much) impact of print. We will read a series of texts—Marco Polo, Mandeville’s Travels, accounts of the discoveries in the East and West, Utopia (Latin and English), travel writings—that span the conventional medieval-Renaissance divide, and look at recent challenges to schemes of periodization. A central and repeated focus will be the manuscripts, illuminations, printed texts (in various formats), and mass-produced images—in book illustrations and as stand-alone engravings—that bring these materials to audiences with varying literacies (visual and verbal) and in different language communities. The course will be linked to next year’s Ferrari Humanities Symposium topic of "Disruptive Technologies," and there's at least some chance of a Humanities Fund Workshop organized in concert with the seminar.
The aim of this course is to re-enter some of the basic and inexhaustible questions about Shakespeare's plays, such as their radical joining of different worlds (low and high, concrete and fantastic), the dense resonance and relentless ambiguity of their language, the emergence in them of characters whose thoughts and gestures seem to have a life of their own, the sense the plays give of a private and public reality constantly improvised and constantly at risk. Shakespeare's skepticism, his sense of play, is part of this. It is related to his business as a maker of artifacts for the stage, works that turn relentlessly on the contingencies of performance, the actor’s freedom and exposure, the conflicted appetites of audiences. It touches as well on more broadly philosophical concerns about the nature of our life in time and the powers of human thinking. We'll be looking a handful of plays in a number of different genres, comedy, tragedy, romance, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, King Lear, Anthony and Cleopatra, and The Winter's Tale.
We'll be using either the New Pelican Shakespeare or Arden Shakespeare texts of the plays—starting with the Pelican Midsummer Night's Dream. Students should also purchase and read during the first week or two of the semester Simon Palfrey's Doing Shakespeare, published by Methuen in 2011 (also available as an electronic edition through the UR library).
NOTE THAT BOOKS WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE AT THE CAMPUS BOOKSTORE (due to the fact that this seminar was only just added to the course schedule). Students should purchase ***specified editions*** (see above) online. Please contact Professor Gross with any questions about this matter.
This course focuses on the satire of the British eighteenth century (often referred to as The Golden Age of Satire), but branches backward and forward (and across the Channel) to think more generally about how we might define this multifaceted, multigeneric literary mode. As we make our way through the primary texts, we will explore larger theoretical questions about how satire operates; its relationship to parody, to comedy, and to tragedy; and the differing satiric forces of different aesthetic forms, whether verse, visual art, prose-narrative, drama, or film. Readings include works by Horace and Juvenal; Rochester, Wycherley, Pope, Swift, Fielding, Montagu, and Gay; Moliere, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Graffigny; Wilde and Brecht. Visual satire by Hogarth will also be considered, as will a handful of films (Capra, Sturges, Hal Ashby).
In the 1780s, Anglo-American writers suddenly began to claim that their writing embodied "American" qualities. The only problem was, before writers could offer a truly "American literature" to readers, they would have to figure out what on earth it was supposed to look like. At the moment the idea was born, no one had yet considered what it would mean to write "like an American," nor what sorts of literary characteristics Americanness was supposed to generate. Fast forward to 1855, when Walt Whitman first published Leaves of Grass. Now it seemed completely self-evident to writers, readers and critics that American writing possessed unique aesthetic qualities that could not possibly exist anywhere else in the literary universe. We will trace the history of this idea through the literary works that were said to embody it, from its first stirrings after the Revolution, through the burgeoning cultural nationalism of the 1820s, and culminating in the solidification of a national literature in the 1850s.
Until the twentieth century, the university and its structures, organization, governance, values, approaches to scholarship and understanding were products of an all-male culture. Only recently have scholars begun to re-understand the university in these terms. When language and literature entered the universities, they were conceived within an all-male intellectual tradition that dates back at least to Plato. This course examines how language was conceived, used, and studied in universities, and how written literature, always an elite enterprise, came to university attention as mass literacy grew. Today’s subjects of language and literature, now in the hands of ordinary people who have several genders and many languages, have nevertheless retained the values of the traditional male culture through which they entered the university. The course will test the foregoing premise by examining prevailing conceptions of language and of literature.
Students are welcome, but not required, to concentrate their attention on the historical period that may occupy their main professional attentions. For example, prospective medievalists can concentrate on the medieval universities, early modernists, on the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century schools, and so forth. Reading materials in this course will include reference to universities in particular periods. Attention will be on why curricula were so slow to change, why it took a long time for literary texts to be recognized, how the hegemony of Latin affected how people thought and read, and how vernaculars finally became the principal languages of universities. In the beginning of the fourteenth century, Dante was an advocate of the vernacular, as was Wyclif in the fifteenth, as was Vives in the sixteenth. Yet only in the eighteenth century did vernaculars enter the university.
This course considers how universities have been protected by Church and State since their inception, and how such protection affected what was studied and how students were certified. It considers how protection was part of a time-honored, male-coded political trope of political functioning that included a high degree of lawlessness and adversariality. We try to see how and why university subject matters and political orientation are not separable from one another.
Here is a list of texts likely to be used. Others may be added or some may be removed from this list. A few of them are short and should be read in their entirety. But most others should be read selectively, and students are invited to select topics, look over the texts, and propose that the seminar read specific parts or specific essays. Choices should be announced far enough in advance for seminar members to read and respond to essays individuals may wish to consider more closely. Alphabetically:
Peter Biller and Anne Hudson, eds. Heresy and Literacy, 1000-1530 (1994).
David Bleich, The Materiality of Language: Gender, Politics, and the University (2013).
Roger Langham Brown, Wilhelm von Humboldt’s Conception of Linguistic Relativity (1967).
Charles Homer Haskins, The Rise of Universities (1923).
Louis John Paetow, The Arts Course at Medieval Universities, with special reference to grammar and rhetoric (1910).
Julia Penn, Linguistic Relativity versus Innate Ideas: The Origins of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in German Thought (1972).
Robert Francis Seybolt, trans. The Manuale Scholarium: An Original Account of Life in the Mediaeval University [(1481), 1921].
Lynn Thorndike, University Records and Life in the Middle Ages (1944).
Selected other essays, to be distributed.
Special application required and/or instructor's permission required.