Old England's Beowulf, put in the recent limelight by award-winning poet Seamus Heaney and the recent film by Robert Zemeckis, has been the domain, invisible to the public, of academia, wherein we find voluminous discussion of folklore material, teratology (study of monsters!), orality and literacy, historicity, gender, narrative, poetic technique, translation theory, and the volatile debates about dating it. This course will read this famous eleventh- (or seventh??) century epic in various modern renderings. For the poem itself and its story we will look at Howell Chickering with facing page original text and the acclaimed Seamus Heaney translation, newly presented by John Niles with illustrations of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and artifacts. We will make some excursions into Anglo-Saxon language, noted passages in the original Anglo-Saxon, related texts from Old Norse literature (notably Grettis Saga, Hrolfskraki Saga, and others). We will read prominent critical materials written of it, and view and discuss the four films made of it. I hope to explore the enigmatic quality of this one and only version (collected in the Nowell Codex, available on CD-ROM at the Robbins Library). Why does it elude us? Is its written form a late production of an earlier oral poem? What is its beauty and appeal? Why the digressions? What does it reveal about the people who produced it and why must we rewrite it, almost always giving the celibate and slightly monstrous hero some kind of love-interest that will make us able to relate to him? This course will fulfill the medieval as well as the Great Books/Authors clusters. For English majors, it fulfills the pre-1800 requirement.
The literature for this course, written mostly in Middle Welsh and Old Irish of the ninth to fifteenth centuries, will be taught in translation. We shall focus on two powerful myths - that of the euhemerized "goddess" (Aranrhod, Cerridwen, Morgana, Medb, the Morrigan, Rigantona) and her encounters with the knight, the male magician/poet, and the "warrior" (Arthur, Cuchulain, Finn, Gwydion, Pwyll). We will be looking at the Welsh "Mabinogion" for its insights into male and female relationships; at "The Tain" and the legend of Cuchulain, whose martial "warp-spasm" could only be cooled by vats of water and the sight of naked women; at the "Fianna", which tells of Finn and his mannerbund of misbehaving warrior-boys; at selected poems in Old Irish and Middle Welsh. Applicable English clusters: Medieval Studies; Gender and Writing. It will fulfill the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.
This course will survey the non-dramatic poetry and prose of the English Renaissance. We will focus on Spenser, Donne, and Milton, but we will also pay attention to the non-dramatic writings of Marlowe and Shakespeare, as well as the work of less-familiar authors, such as Wyatt, Sidney, Lyly, Foxe, Jonson, Bacon, Herbert, and Marvell. Topics for discussion will include humanism, court politics, reformation theology, early modern gender, the new science, the English civil war, and colonialism. Course requirements: attendance, two papers, a midterm, and a non-cumulative final.
This course will survey the English Renaissance Lyric, from Wyatt to Marvell. Our authors will include Gascoigne, Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Jonson, Herrick, Lovelace, Herbert, Traherne, and Vaughan. Although the majority of our class time will be spent close-reading individual poems, we will also pay attention to literary convention and historical context in order to learn to read and analyze the poems with as much comprehension and pleasure as possible. Course requirements: attendance, two papers, a midterm, and a non-cumulative final.
In 1660, after an eighteen-year ban on theatre, the English playhouses reopened, and quickly proved their vitality. Women acted on stage for the first time, radically changing the dynamics of performance, as well as the way that plays were written. The period also saw the rise of the professional female playwright, as well as the emergence of the "Celebrity Actor." Comedy flourished in particular, relishing in bawdy repartee and the figure of the Rake, while exploring gender roles, the institutions of courtship and marriage, relations between children and parents, and the value of "Wit." By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the object of humor was often the theatre itself: playwrights pushed the limits of traditional genres such as the Heroic Tragedy, and introduced elements of farce, opera, and political satire, as well as reflections of "middle-class" life. This course will examine a variety of plays, while also considering issues of social context, genre and performance. Playwrights will include Behn, Centilivre, Congreve, Dryden, Etherege, Farquhar, Fielding, Gay, Goldsmith, Steele, and Sheridan.
This course examines the problem of possession, romantic and economic, in the nineteenth-century British novel. What is the connection between marriage and romance with other forms of possession such as land, money, or things, in the nineteenth-century British novel? In addressing this question, we will discuss how narrative devices and genres like the marriage- plot or national tale offer vehicles for novelists such as Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot to explore the linkages between romance, sexuality, property, and capitalism. Other key topics for the class will include (but not be limited to) nationalism, the woman question and the problem of separate spheres, changes in class structure, and British imperialism. Applicable English Cluster: Novels.
The 19th c. novel has often been associated with Victorian values: happy marriages; wholesome homes; moral propriety; moderated emotions; properly channeled ambitions. Many of the most popular 19th-century 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 more common than it would seem. Indeed, for novels so centrally structured around marriage and society, madness and monstrosity appear with alarming regularity. This is especially the case in novels written by women, and in novels (whether written by women or men) written for the significant and rapidly growing female portion of the novel-reading public. These novels' insistent intertwining of the tropes of madness, marriage, and monstrosity suggests some of the cultural anxieties unleashed by this new body of women readers. The course will begin with Frankenstein and end with Dracula, two novels from opposite ends of the century that stand as meditations on the course's central themes. In between, we will consider such classic marriage plot novels as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre; we will also look at some examples of the popular sensation fiction of the 1860s (The Woman in White and Lady Audley's Secret). Applicable clusters: Gender and Writing; Novels.
What does it mean for fiction to offer a realistic portrayal of the world? This course will consider American literature from 1865 to 1914 with a special emphasis on the concept of literary realism. Focusing on prose fiction (novels and short stories), we will explore how American writers understood and represented "reality" during a time of social and cultural upheaval at home and abroad. The class will touch on formal concerns, including literary techniques for depicting interiority and urban environments, and will also examine realism in the context of changing ideas of labor, race, gender, and democracy. Several questions will motivate us: is it possible to portray reality objectively in fiction? Why did nineteenth-century American writers value objectivity over other literary possibilities? What makes realist novels such compelling reading? Our texts will include novels by Howells, James, Jewett, Wharton, Twain, Chesnutt, Crane, Dreiser, and Du Bois.
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. Applicable English Clusters: American and African American Studies; Modern and Contemporary Literature.
Looking back over the twentieth-century, this course will concentrate on the innovative, often wildly experimental writing produced in the period we still call "modernist". We will concentrate on five writers, two of them American (T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound), two of them Irish (W.B. Yeats and James Joyce), and one of English (Virginia Woolf). We will read some of the most beautiful and ambitious works of the century (Eliot's "Waste Land", Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway"), but the centerpiece of the course will inevitably be our extended reading of Joyce's novel "Ulysses" - one of the most difficult, most rewarding books in our language. And while we will consider the individual achievements of all the writers, we will also consider their work in the context of the avant-garde aesthetic and social movements in which these writers participated. Applicable English cluster: Modern and Contemporary Literature.
This course focuses on a range of critical debates and literary practices associated with defining the "and" in Literature and Politics. We consider, among other topics, the consequences of style and form, conditions of production and reception, and shifting definitions of the literary critics' possible objects of analysis. We will read critics whose remarks about literature and politics are indebted to feminism, global studies, Marxism, post-Marxism, queer theory, studies of gender, and studies of race. We analyze the writing of both canonical and less canonical authors from Shakespeare to the present, organized into units such as "popular theater" and "life writing."
This course will be a study, more broadly, 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, Jane Smiley.
As contemporary readers continue to search for new and exciting types of writing, and as "cyberculture" rapidly becomes more mainstream, science fiction becomes increasingly important to scholars of American literature and culture as context in which to address genre and responses to changes in technology. 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. Reading include Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, Octavia Butler's Kindred, Samuel R. Delany's Nova, William Gibson's Neuromancer, Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang, and more. Requirements include weekly one-page response papers and two 5-7-page papers.
Starting with an introduction to critical race theory, this course will examine representations of race in 19th and 20 century American literature. We will focus on the relationship between racial constructions and the development of a national identity through a broad collection of works including novels, memoirs, scientific and legal documents and films. Students will explore the nature of racialized identity, the possibilities of passing and hybridity, definitions of citizenship, the relationship between class and race, and opposing constructions of whiteness and blackness. Authors to be studied include Herman Melville, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Richard Rodriguez and Junot Diaz among others.
Theater in England will be conducted in London from Saturday, December 29, 2008, through Saturday, January 10, 2009. Students should arrive in London no later than the evening of December 28. They may return on Sunday, January 11. We will see and have classes on approximately 20 plays. At the end of the course, students will submit a journal that discusses all the plays seen. The journal is due at the beginning of the third week of classes after we get back. I do not yet know what plays we will be seeing, but you can be certain that we will see the best of what is available in the world's theater Mecca. Last year we saw such productions as Ian McKellen in Shakespeare's King Lear, Simon Russell Beale and Zoe Wanemaker in a legendary production of Much Ado About Nothing, and Chiwetel Ejiofor's definitive performance in the title role of Othello. As an out of town break, we went to Stratford-upon-Avon to do homage to Shakespeare, and see David Warner's Falstaff in Henry IV, Parts I and II. The range of the offerings was terrific, from Nick Stafford's War Horse (with its amazing larger than life puppetry) and a fascinating adaptation of Euripides' Women of Troy to a brilliant example of in-yer-face theater in Anthony Nielson's God in Ruins. We saw big musicals like Billy Elliot and Mary Poppins and fringe productions like Fletcher's Custom of the Country and Neil Labute's Bash. For information about the course over the past sixteen years go to www.courses.rochester.edu/peck/theatre/ The course is restricted to 23 students and carries 4 credits. The fee is $2550.00, which includes tickets to all plays and housing. Students must obtain passports and make their own travel arrangements. You may obtain the application from the English Department or Professor Peck. You need permission of the instructor to register. Contact Professor Russell Peck (firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 275-0110 or 585-473-7354).
More than any other legends, apart from those of the Bible, the stories of King Arthur have provided Western Europe and North America with a vehicle for cultural propaganda, reassessment, and pleasure. From the 12th to the 21st centuries, artists in all genres and modes have recast Arthurian narratives and images to explore and redefine the moral and social concerns of their day. After a brief introduction to Arthurian backgrounds, the course focuses on Geoffrey of Monmouth and Arthurian literature of the High Middle Ages (Chretien de Troyes and Marie de France) and England in the 14th century, then examines the culmination and decline of that ideology toward the end of the 15th century (Malory), the reinvigoration of the myth in new directions in the Renaissance (Spenser), and then concludes with readings and art of the nineteenth century (Tennyson, the PreRaphaelites, Twain) and the twentieth century (T.S. Eliot, E.A. Robinson, T.H. White, and Marion Zimmer Bradley). We will study six movies: Lerner and Loewe's "Camelot," Disney's "Sword in the Stone," "The Fisher King," "The Mighty," "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," and Borman's "Excalibur." The readings for the course are extensive and richly rewarding, as are the viewings. Texts from the medieval English period will be studied in the original Middle English dialects. Readings from Latin and French will be in modern English translation. Applicable English Cluster: Medieval Studies; Literature and Cultural Identity.
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, Lumiere, Melies, 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 worlds film heritage will be highlighted and the film restoration facilities of the Motion Picture Department will be visited in the course of the semester. Students will be expected to take a mid-term exam and write one paper. Meets at George Eastman House. Applicable English Cluster: Media, Culture, and Communication.
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 effect 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.
The course examines diasporic Chinese cinemas from the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC), Hong Kong (HK), and perhaps even the U.S. and Canada, from the 1960s to the present. 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. The majority of our films are in Mandarin Chinese and all are subtitled in English. Some experience with film studies, especially world cinema, and Chinese history will be helpful but not required. Outside screenings of films are required. Applicable English cluster: Media, Culture, and Communication. Not open to students who took Eng 267, Topics in Media Studies: Chinese Cinemas, in fall 2004.
An examination of the career of Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980), emphasizing the close analysis of his most significant and influential works, from the 1926 British silent thriller The Lodger to such late-period American films as Vertigo, Psycho, and Frenzy. As we discuss the films, we will also consider questions of cinematic authorship, the development of a recognizable visual and narrative style, and the significance of genre (thriller, romantic melodrama, horror film, et al.). We will approach the films from a variety of critical perspectives including auteur theory and genre theory. Readings will include one critical study of the entire body of the director's work and a biography; other readings may also be required. Applicable English cluster: Great Books, Great Authors.
The course aims to understand the 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 seek to develop critical understanding of the nuclear family (and versions of it) 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 it is inevitable, sometimes it is incomprehensible. In each case the course's attention is on the personal and collective machineries of repression, the resulting rage in many individals, and the frequent (and now often familiar) violent results. Readings in the course include those by Erik Erikson, Nancy Chodorow, Alice Miller, and Stephanie Coontz. Films are to be taken from the following list: A Price Above Rubies (1998), A Thousand Acres (1994), All My Sons (1948), American Beauty (1999), American History X (1999), Bastard out of Carolina (1996), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Dolores Claiborne (1995), Falling Down (1933), Fargo (1996), Fried Green Tomatoes (1992), Heavenly Creatures (1994), In the Bedroom 2001), Ju Dou (1991), Mildred Pierce (1945), Monster (2002), Monster's Ball (2001), Ordinary People (1980), Piano Teacher (2003), Unfaithful (2002).
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. Applicable English Cluster: Creative Writing.
This course, part of the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Program, will address the popularity of the outlaw hero Robin Hood across six centuries and through a variety of media, including oral stories; popular and art songs; manuscripts, broadsheets and ballads; chapbooks and tabloid "lives"; comics, serials, and children's literature; woodcuts, engravings, chromolithographs, and high-end illustrations; silent and sound film, animation, TV series, and video. The course will require shared readings (including writings on media theory and history), but much of the work will entail individual research that will be available to other class members through live discussion and through the computer and website that will constitute the "research lab." Students will be asked to investigate the ways in which Robin Hood reached various in different time periods audiences by examining and/or preparing facsimiles (hard copy, microfilm, digital) of early printed material, tracing out the print and reading history of texts and authors popular in their own time, or by uncovering the production and reception history of commercial films and TV movies and series. These projects will grow partly from students individual interests, and aim to lead to genuine expertise. Each member of the class will be expected to produce several finished projects over the course of the semester. The research, editing, and technological work of the course will proceed in a hands-on and cooperative way; besides the continuing opportunities to share ones specialized knowledge in class, students will ultimately have the chance to make their discoveries available to a wider audience through Robin Hood: A Digital Archive. The development of this website will potentially engage students in website design, market research (ie, who will come if we build this website? with what constituencies in mind should we design it?), and issues of property rights in the private and public domains. This process of research and investigation, of assembling and editing materials, of preparing texts and images for non-academic audiences will form part of the entrepreneurial focus of the course. Ultimately, the course, like the site, will attempt to enable mixed audiences to have digital access to those material objects and practices that provide the basis for reconstructing our understanding of popular culture over the last 500 years, insofar as Robin Hood and outlawry provide a focus.
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 information, guidelines, and advice concerning Masters and doctoral study in English.
Topic to be announced.
Toni Morrison's essay "Unspeakable Things Unspoken" and her volume Playing in the Dark revolutionized the study of American literature. In revealing the "Africanist" presence in the works of white writers, Morrison deconstructed oppositional stances taken in debates about canonicity and offered new ways of reading old texts. Using Morrison's claims as a starting point, this course will analyze the fiction of white writers with a sensitivity for the representations of racial difference in their work. The course will seek to answer the following questions: Is the tradition of American literature a tradition of racial representation? How is blackness figuratively represented? What roles do such "Africanisms" play in the construction of "whiteness," American citizenship, and white masculinity and femininity in particular? Primary readings include Willa Cather's Sapphira and the Slave Girl, Charles Dixon's The Clansman, William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not, Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner, and more. The readings will be supplemented by criticism by Morrison, Anthony Appiah, Richard Dyer, Ralph Ellison, Frantz Fanon, Judith Jackson Fossett, George M. Frederickson, Walter Benn Michaels, George Lipsitz, David Roediger, and others. Requirements include class participation, a 10-15-minute in-class presentation, and a 12-15-page seminar paper.
Our course analyzes colonial discourse and imperialism, adding studies of feminism, technology, and globalization. Works range from earlier scholars including Frantz Fanon and Leopold Sedar Senghor to those who seemed to establish the field including Edward Said, Stuart Hall, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Homi Bhabha-to more recent works. Our readings may include literary authors Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Amitav Ghosh, J.M. Coetzee. We will analyze films directed by Trinh T. Minh-ha, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Ousmane Sembene and many others. In addition, we investigate the ways postcolonial theory has affected the fields of political science, anthropology, history, art, Asian studies, African studies, Latin American studies. This course also examines critiques of postcolonial theorists, the institutionalization of postcolonial studies through studies of scholarly journals, and the role and uses of science and technology from perspectives that champion Internet economy (Thomas Friedman) and those that proceed more skeptically (Donna Haraway, A. Aneesh). The readings will bring together theories of postcolonialism/imperialism with criticisms of globalization. Some experience with film studies will be helpful, but is not required.
Texts include monographs such as Trinh T. Minh-ha's Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism(1989), Chandra Talpade Mohanty's Feminism Without Borders (2003), Robert Young's Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (2001) and A. Aneesh's Virtual Migration: The Programming of Globalization (2005) and selections from Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat (2005). The anthology edited by Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman, Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory (1994) provides writings by earlier scholars. The collection edited by Ania Loomba et al., Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (2005) includes essays from a range of disciplines (including history, anthropology, and political science). Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader, edited by Reina Lewis and Sara Mills brings together a large assortment of canonical texts. We will also read a selection of short and long fiction drawnfrom authors such as Mahasweta Devi, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Tayeb Salih, Amitav Ghosh, J.M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie, and Jean Rhys. Required outside screenings may include the following: The Battle of Algiers (Italy 1965 dir. Gillo Pontecorvo), Memorias de subdesarrollo (Memories of Underdevelopment) (Cuba 1968 dir. Tomas Gutierrez Alea), Xala (Senegal 1974 dir. Ousmane Sembene), Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989 dir. Trinh T. Minh-ha), Song of the Exile (HK 1990 dir. Ann Hui), Hyenes Hyenas (Senegal 1992 dir. Djibril Diop Mambety), The Puppetmaster (ROC 1993 dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien), Happy Together (HK 1997 dir. Wong Kar-Wai), Earth (Canada/India 1998 dir. Deepa Mehta), Lagaan (India 2001 dir. Ashutosh Gowariker), Cidade de Deus (City of God) (Brazil 2002 dirs. Fernando Meirelles & Katia Lund), Rabbit Proof Fence (Australia 2002 dir. Philip Noyce).
There are weekly readings and film screenings (either as a group or on your own schedule). In addition to regular contributions in class meetings, seminar participants will research an academic journal in the field, share an annotated bibliography, lead part of a class discussion, write 2 or 3 short responses (2 pages each), and produce an extensive research essay. I encourage everyone to consider presenting this work at an appropriate conference.
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, are changing social practices.
What is Genre? examines the development of film genre theory from the late 1940s to the present. The course will examine genre theory's intersections with other critical approaches including auteurism, structuralism, semiology, and critical race and gender studies. It will seek to situate the effects of genre study upon the development of film studies as a discipline. Weekly screenings will consist primarily of classical Hollywood films representing a spectrum of genres, as well as some more recent work that challenges conventional genre demarcations.
The last decades of the 20th century and the first of the 21st have seen a virtual explosion of writing by women, with novels and memoirs 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, diaspora, globalization, and new immigrant literatures and identities.