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After Chaucer died in 1400, he was imitated because of his immense popularity. After modern pronunciation settled in for good in the eighteenth century, he was considered funny, but a poor rhymester. After it was decided that even educated women were to be told nothing about sex, Chaucer was censored. In the twentieth century his longest work was banned. So what is it about The Canterbury Tales? What preconceptions and biases do we bring to the study of Chaucer's most ambitious text? What issues (about reading, about knowledge, about ethics, religion, class, gender, culture, language, political injustice, rioting among the lower classes and the Black Death) overlap with relevant issues today? Is there a way in which we can create a "reading" of Chaucer that makes him speak to us as brightly and as familiarly as he spoke to his own times?
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. Class format includes lectures and discussion. Intensive class participation is encouraged. No prerequisites.
This course focuses on drama written by Shakespeare's contemporaries. Classes center around careful analysis of individual plays. We will discuss the plays' tragic and comic inflections, depictions of psychological interiority, staging of death, use of props, fascination with sensational and often violent events, and insistent references to contemporary performance practices. We also become familiar with a range 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.
The course focuses on the writings of John Milton. Our work will center on Milton's epic poem of the creation and fall of man, Paradise Lost, along with shorter works of lyric and dramatic poetry. Readings also will include selections from Milton's prose writings, in particular those that address questions about censorship, the church, marriage, and monarchy. We'll be thinking about Milton's poetic inventiveness; his ways of re-appropriating utopian writing; his complex pictures of heaven and hell, God and Devil; and his seductive depictions of both pre- and post-lapsarian worlds. During the semester we also will be considering Milton's changing relation to the political and religious crises of his time, especially the English Revolution of 1642-1660. In order to get an idea of Milton's contribution to seventeenth-century literature and culture, we will be reading short selections from the poetry and prose of several of his contemporaries.
In the eighteenth century the Novel was a new genre, its conventions far from stabilized. As authors experimented with new modes of portraying consciousness and the external world, and explored new ideas about plot, character, and narrative voice, they questioned what the novel could do: how does the novel, as opposed to other genres, approach the relationship between reality and representation? Does it imply a new kind of reading experience? a new kind of reader? Does it owe its existence to certain historical, social, or cultural circumstances? Authors include Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne, and Jane Austen.
"Romanticism" (1780-1830) names both the thrills of literature in extremis and a new interest in ordinary people. In an era of radical change, writers of astounding talent probed the extremes of imagination and sought new ways of expressing pleasure and pain, fear and grief, perversion and depravation. Their drive to pursue experience to its limits brought them to the dangerous edge where dreams meet reality in "visions." In other cases they experimented with new ways of capturing everyday life with unprecedented depth and intensity. We shall sample the scope of British romantic writing, such as Blake's apocalyptic fusions of text and designs, Wordsworth's groundbreaking autobiography The Prelude, Coleridge's aborted opium dream "Kubla Khan," Mary Shelley's philosophical gothic novel Frankenstein, and Byron's outrageous comic-erotic satire Don Juan. Our strategy will be governed by four fundamental concepts: sound, sight, metaphor, narrative.
As literary and visual art, plays provide some of the most potent content in all of the arts, to which readers have nearly unmediated access. This course explores the history of playwriting and dramatic performance as creative outlets for artists of African descent. The course surveys the tradition of African-American theater, paying particular attention to the formal aspects of drama and covering a range of historical and thematic contexts, including slavery, social protest, inter-racial relations, intra-racial differences (of class, gender, and sexuality), and contemporary attitudes toward African-American history. Featured playwrights include James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Suzan-Lori Parks, Ntozake Shange, Anna Deavere Smith, August Wilson, George C. Wolfe, and others.
We trace the remarkable developments of the novel form in the U.S, from the decade after the Revolution (when Americans first begin to write long prose fictions), through the early nineteenth century (as the novel becomes obsessed with the topics of race and violence that threaten to destroy the young nation), to the decade before the Civil War (when the American novel claimed its ascent to literary Art). All along the way, we will be reading "novels," yes, but it will quickly become apparent how varied a form this noun actually names; we'll read a broad range of the novel's different modes (the epistolary novel, the novel of seduction, the gothic, the historical novel, sentimental-domestic fiction, the Romance). Readings will include works by: Hannah Webster Foster (The Coquette), Charles Brockden Brown (Edgar Huntly), James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans), Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom's Cabin), Martin Delany (Blake), Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter), and Herman Melville (Moby-Dick).
The first half of the twentieth century witnessed a rejuvenation of poetic language so startling and so lasting that we still, a hundred years later, refer to those poets as the Moderns. This course will concentrate on the most provocative of those poets (Eliot, Frost, H.D., Moore, Pound, Stevens, Williams), reading their often wildly experimental work within the context of the literary and cultural history of the period.
With its unprecedented death toll and new technologies of destruction, World War I shattered illusions and exploded the fabric of society as people then knew it. Despite subsequent world conflicts and traumatic occurrences, the Great War has remained for the British a haunting presence, becoming, in poet Ted Hughes's words, the "number one national ghost." As we approach the war's 100th anniversary, we will trace the history of this national obsession in the searing poetry of the trenches, the combatant's memoirs that exposed the war's horror and futility, and the modernist fiction that registered the war's impact in new ways of seeing. We will also explore returns to the war in late twentieth/early twenty-first-century film, theater, television, and popular fiction. For as War Horse and Downton Abbey have dramatically demonstrated, the memory of the war continues to fascinate, sustaining old myths and feeding new ones. This course will attempt to explain why the Great War has had such a remarkable hold on the modern imagination.
Blending clear-eyed social commentary with a faith in romantic love, festooning mordant satire with enchantedly happy endings, Jane Austen's novels subsist on contradiction and enjoy more popularity than ever. This course will place Austen in the context of her times while also analyzing her continued appeal. Readings include Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, as well as novels by such authors as Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Anne Radcliffe, and the Brontes.
This course examines some of the major novels by Charles Dickens. The course will immerse students in Dickens's writings, situating his novels in their biographical, aesthetic, and historical contexts. We will discuss Dickens's influence on other writers and thinkers during the nineteenth century, not only through the literary relationships he formed, but also through his work as an editor. In studying a broad array of Dickens's works, we will explore why Dickens remains so popular with readers and continues to capture our imagination.
An isolated country parsonage. A half mad father. A profligate brother addicted to drugs. Three uniquely gifted sisters who burned their hearts and brains out on the moors, but not before leaving us some of the most passionate and revolutionary literature of the nineteenth century. This is the stuff of the Brontë legend. This course will explore the continuing appeal of the Brontës and the peculiar fascination that they have exercised on the literary imagination. Looking intensively at some of the best-loved novels of all time, we will explore the roots and reaches of the Brontë myth. We will also consider the Brontës' legacy in some of the many adaptations (and continuations) of their work in print and on the screen. And we will look at our seemingly insatiable appetite for new tellings of the Brontës' life stories. The course, then, will consider not only the Brontës' literary productions, but also our culture's production and reproduction of "the Brontës" over the years.
Many readers, from Virgil's time to our own, have found Dido, the African Queen, the most compelling, memorable, and sympathetic character in the Aeneid, Europe's greatest epic. We will consider her many-sided appeal: regality and queenship, sexual allure and experience, madness and suicide, racial and exotic otherness. Beyond literature, we will take a radically multi-media approach, including opera (including performances by African-American divas), ballet, modern dance, experimental and political theater, satires (including the seventeenth-century "Dido and Dildo"), high art portrayals, and video games. We will cover Dido over two millennia, reading Homer, Euripides, Virgil, Ovid, Augustine, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Purcell, Berlioz, medieval romances set in Africa, and some recent novels; we will look at medieval lyrics, contemporary writing from North Africa addressing race and geopolitics, sentimental through soft porn images from manuscripts through masterworks to the internet, cartoons, and animés.
This course explores ways in which myth functions to create psychological and social identities within cultural frameworks. We will explore tales, graphics, musicals, opera, poetry, and cinema. The texts concentrate primarily on a constellation of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast adaptations, along with Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, and some of the Jack stories. Our concern will focus on action/adventure plots, paradigms of exile and return, the ideologies underlying the dynamics of oppression, pain fetishes, aspiration, and recovery. We will examine didactic issues of childhood, adolescence, midolescence, and the aged, as people use myth to address the requirements of life. We will be particularly interested in the implications of historical perspectives as societies revise and perpetually revitalize their visions of themselves through the rewriting of their own mythologies.
This 4-credit intersession course will be conducted in London and Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, from Saturday, December 29, 2012, through Saturday, January 12, 2013. We will have a full range of theater experiences in venues as diverse as theater-in-the-round at the Orange Tree to the multiple stages of the National Theatre, from intimate fringe productions and experimental theater to the extravaganzas of West End. See the Theater in England website for descriptions of the program and syllabuses from the past 20 years. This year we will see the best of what is available (twenty or so plays). We will have seminar discussions of the productions which you will then write about in your journals. The fee for the course is $2,750, which includes tuition, tickets to all plays you see, 15 nights housing at the Harlingford Hotel, and transportation to Stratford-upon-Avon and return. The fee does not include transportation to London and back from the U.S. Instructor's permission required to register.
This course provides a transnational survey of film history, examining the technical and formal aspects of the medium in its production and exhibition. As we explore the development of cinema during this period, we will address a number of aesthetic and technological issues. For example, how did the development of sound technology affect film form? How did it affect cross-cultural cinematic exchange? What is the significance of genre across various film traditions? What did the studio system contribute to Hollywood's success in the international market? How did immigrant and exiled film personnel shape the industries they joined? Weekly screenings and film journals required.
We will screen and study approximately 12 gangster and crime films from the rich genre of such movies. We will also read some related fiction and some critical studies of the form. We will look at films spanning the history of cinema from Little Caesar to The Godfather, examining the devices of the form, those elements that seem to define it, the relation of the subject to the culture, the meaning of the film, and so forth. The course will include lectures and discussion.
This course provides a detailed examination of the French filmmakers of the New Wave, from 1959 to 1967. We will examine the work of Jean-Pierre Melville, Claude Chabrol, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Agnes Varda, and Jacques Rivette. We will also explore the films' historical context and influence through some attention to their predecessors and successors. Knowledge of French helpful, but not necessary.
Understanding social psychology of modern and contemporary Western/American family experience, and especially its means of abetting the concealment, repression, and suppression of people's emotional lives. Study of the films combines with the readings to seek to develop critical understanding of the nuclear family and the conditions it may create for child-rape, racism, homophobia, murder, and self-destructive behavior such as substance abuse, self-mutilation, and suicide. Sometimes the violence is arbitrary, sometimes inevitable, sometimes incomprehensible. In each case the course's attention is on the personal and collective machineries of repression, resulting rage in many individuals, and frequent (now often familiar) violent results. Readings include: Nancy Chodorow, Alice Miller, Kristin Kelly, and Stephanie Coontz. Films are taken from: A Price Above Rubies, A Thousand Acres, All My Sons, American Beauty, American History X, Bastard out of Carolina, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Dolores Claiborne, and others.
This course combines a survey of major historical movements and styles in documentary film with an examination of more recent trends and challenges to the tradition. So, in addition to studying the expository political documentary, ethnographic film, and the direct cinema and cinéma vérité movements, we will explore forms including mock documentary, autobiographical film and video, and animated documentary.
Restricted to “Selznick” students.
Restricted to “Selznick” students.
Restricted to “Selznick” students.
This is a workshop for students who have completed ENG 121 or have some 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 three original stories.
An advanced creative writing workshop in poetry. Students' poems will be discussed weekly. Creative writing assignments will be combined with brief essay responses to a selection of contemporary poetry books. A special emphasis on translation will also be included.
An introduction to the three-act film structure. Students will read and view numerous screenplays and films, and develop their own film treatment into a full-length script.
We will examine the literary resources of a non-standard, multi-dialect native tongue in a multi-lingual, increasingly condensed insular society—late medieval England. The last generation of the fourteenth century created a remarkable concentration of "serious" writing—attempts to express and confront, for the first time in the mother tongue, the meaning of life, the fear of death, the nature of love, the encounter with Otherness—all of this addressed to undifferentiated, discontinuous readerships who (judging from manuscript evidence) couldn't get enough. At the heart of the course will be two ambitious, deeply challenging works: Langland's Piers Plowman and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde; we will spend more than a third of the semester exploring these rich experiments. We will also look at other works that, like Langland, connect vernacular language and style with the search for existential solace, including Julian of Norwich's Showings, Pearl, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and narratives that, like Troilus, invent encounters with value systems at variance with readers' assumptions, like Mandeville's Travels, Alexander and Dindimus, St. Erkenwald, and Patience. We will survey and critique recent scholarship on vernacular style, models for interpretive communities, culturally specific habits of reading, the material production and circulation of written texts, and the ways in which these foster visions of inclusion/exclusion through the mother tongue. In thinking about how and what people choose to read (or write), we will use contemporary polemical writings on religious belief and practice, the nature of the Christian (and heathen) community, the powers of literacy, and moral standards and behaviors; these will include Lollard commentaries and treatises, orthodox and heretical views of salvation for non-Christians, and para-literary works like Pierce the Plowman's Crede, Why I Can't Be a Nun, Jack Upland, and Friar Daw. Our purpose will be to recognize how literary meaning emerges and changes in a literary generation, developing models of criticism that impose coherence yet acknowledge instability.
The radical shift in ideas about literature in the British Romantic period (c. 1775-1825)—an era of enormous innovation, transformation, and stress—motivated writers to reexamine the foundations of their artistic lives and question the status of literature and its relation to the world. How, they wondered, could they justify their lives as producers of mere literature? Are poets "unacknowledged legislators of the world" (Shelley)? Can imagination transform the world (Blake)? Inspired by contemporary political revolutions, Romantic writers developed core artistic theories that are indispensable in our own thinking—originality, imagination, self-expression, nature (capital N), art (capital A). Such ideas provide a platform for considering other ideas that concern us: self, other, gender, race, etc. Unless we understand what the Romantic writers were up to, we shall not understand ourselves. The seminar will also consider practical matters—what it takes to be a practicing academic.
The seminar will explore ways of analyzing and describing the close, bright facts of lyric poetry, the work of what is often called "close reading." It’s about considering the poem as a made thing, and a form of making. Taking a small group of poets (older and more recent) as exemplars, we will look at the play of language in lyric poetry, its manipulations of word and syntax, its modes of compression and ambiguity, the dynamics of metaphor (both local and structural). We will think about the formal devices of lyric—meter, line, rhyme, stanza-form—and how these shape our listening, our auditory pleasure, the play of sound and sense. The simple question of how poems come to an end will concern us. Also crucial here will be finding a language to discuss more elusive questions of poetic tone and voice, poetic gesture, or what you might call the trails of the lyric "I." Part of our work will also be considering how poems remember other poems, matters of allusion and echo.
For all the closeness of focus, we'll keep our eye on broader questions, for instance, the nature of time and memory in poetry, how poetry engages with history, and how poems themselves reflect on their own processes of making, what truths or lies poems tell about their work (including the place of myths of poetic vocation, such as the stories of Orpheus or Philomel). Questions about the shaping force of poetic genre (in love poems and elegy) we will take up as well. I want to look at the silences of poems, and their use of obliqueness, concealment, and more broadly the different forms of difficulty and strangeness in lyric poems. Most crucial here will be to think about the ways that lyric poetry asks us to entertain radical forms of possibility, and how poems speak to what are often banished or unacknowledged forms of thought and knowledge—how poetry, in Seamus Heaney's words, helps to "fortify our inclination to credit promptings of our intuitive being." It's about how the made thing becomes a form of knowledge.
Our poetic reading will include Shakespeare's sonnets, the odes and sonnets of John Keats, the lyrics of Emily Dickinson, as well as poems by John Donne, Thomas Hardy, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, and a number of others. (In some cases we may only look at one or two poems by a given poet.) Along with these, we will also be studying the work of an exemplary group of critics—often critics who are poets themselves—whose essays illustrate with particular sharpness both different forms of close reading and the theoretical questions they raise. The reading list here will include work by William Empson, R. P. Blackmur, Christopher Ricks, Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Rosalie Colie, John Hollander, Susan Stewart, Kenneth Burke, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Joel Fineman, Sharon Cameron, Stephen Booth, and Helen Vendler.
No single method of reading is at stake here, nor any singular tradition of criticism. Rather, we'll be taking up, and testing, many different ways of looking at poetic artifacts, both naïve (or apparently naïve) and sophisticated. Our work of close reading in the seminar will indeed often focus on critical essays as well as poems. One aim of our work will be to allow students to discover and develop their own skills at reading poems, and to see what might be most significant for them in this process. To that end, I want to work closely with individual students on writing and analytic skills in the course of the semester. There will be a number of shorter writing assignments, along with a longer final essay, to be focused around a poem or group of poems of each student's own choosing. The shared conversation we have about individual poems in class will also be important here—the reading of poems can be a collective as well as an intensely private activity. It calls on the attention of many different ears. To that degree, there should be lessons about teaching poetry as well.
Media theory arguably began with Critical Theory, especially the debates between Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin in the early part of the twentieth century. We will explore how these two theoretical traditions intertwine in works that address the modernity thesis and mass culture; race, postcolonialism, and humanity; affect, neoliberalism, and labor; debt, bodies, and film; moving-image temporalities; publics and counterpublics; sensory experience and visual culture. Readings will be drawn from Adorno, Benjamin, Fredric Jameson, Stuart Hall, Marshall McLuhan, Hannah Arendt, Paul Gilroy, Lisa Nakamura, Brian Massumi, Ruth Leys, Lauren Berlant, Kathi Weeks, Sianne Ngai, Annie McClanahan, Mary Ann Doane, Miriam Hansen, Michael Warner, Whitney Davis, and others. Specific objects—films, photographs, television series, paintings, performances, books, websites, visualizations—will ground the class so that we can gain a deeper sense of how to do theoretical work that yields supple accounts of media aesthetics.
This seminar examines major works of film theory, with a focus on 1970s Screen theory through the present. We will discuss theoretical approaches including semiotics, apparatus theory, psychoanalysis, Marxism, genre studies, feminism, and phenomenology. Beginning with Christian Metz's consideration of "cinematographic language," the course traces the development of contemporary film theory through multiple and often competing approaches. Readings will include selections from Metz, Jean-Louis Baudry, Stephen Heath, Kaja Silverman, Laura Mulvey, Mary Ann Doane, Tom Gunning, Miriam Hansen, Vivian Sobchack, Fredric Jameson, Slavoj Zizek, and others. We will also screen and discuss pertinent examples of Hollywood, avant-garde, and world cinema.
Special application required and/or instructor's permission required.