"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."
A media-rich course that examines medieval monstrosities: depictions in art, language and literature of demons, giants, dwarfs, elves, fools, shape-shifters, witches, birth-defects, hybrids, foreigners, manuscript illuminations, gargoyles, spells, gibberish, and other (perceived) deformities of the body and mind in mostly British Isles texts. The term “monster” derives from the Latin monstrare, to “show”: a “portent” that points not only to the vulnerabilities of the body, but the moral mishaps of soul and society. Monsters occupy the margins (of the city, the manuscript page) and yet are central to any social definition or understanding of medieval theology, medicine, imagination. To what extent are they opposed or akin to visions of angels, martyrs, the torments of Christ? Selections from Old and Middle English, Celtic, and some continental texts.
This course will focus on plays representing each of Shakespeare's major dramatic forms—comedy, history, tragedy, and romance. We learn about the literary and theatrical conventions that would have been second nature to Shakespeare and his audience 400 years ago; consider how Shakespeare's writing responded to his audience's cultural, literary, political, and religious concerns; and ask how Renaissance stage practices might help us to better understand his plays and better appreciate why Renaissance audiences found them so compelling. Classes will center around careful study of individual plays. We also will become familiar with sixteenth- and 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 effects of their productions. Fulfills the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.
This course introduces students to some of the major British novelists during the nineteenth century such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy. The course will situate these novelists within the aesthetic and historical concerns of the period and cover an array of topics (e.g. the rise of the novel, the marriage plot as a narrative device, capitalism, gender, sexuality, race, and empire).
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.
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.
The history and theory of the novel form in the U.S. from the Revolution to the Civil War. We will read a broad range of the novel's different modes (the epistolary novel, the novel of seduction, the gothic, the historical romance, the sentimental-domestic novel). Along the way we'll trace the development of the form from its emergence after the Revolution, through its dominance at mid-century, up to the emergence of the African-American novel in the years leading up to the Civil War. Readings will likely include: Rowson, Foster, C.B. Brown, Cooper, Sedgwick, Stowe, Hawthorne, Melville, Webb.
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.
How does literature portray, thematize, and direct the act of reading? From cautionary tales about the dangers of reading the "wrong way" to anti-censorship tracts, literature has long been concerned with what it means to read and what reading “ought” to be or do. A book might warn us about becoming too invested in an author’s personal life; another might warn us about applying fictional narratives too directly to our own lives. Certain works might address a changing literary marketplace; but others might be less interested in reading’s history and more concerned with reading as an immediate experience, or with its more universal possibilities. Of course, as we make our way through these texts “about” reading, we will also explore how each text asks us to read it—and how each text might be said to "read itself." Authors will include (but not be limited to) Cervantes, Milton, Goethe, Flaubert, James, Nabokov, Borges, and Calvino; texts will draw from over five centuries and more than seven national literatures.
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.
What is steampunk? Steam-powered trains and nineteenth-century dirigibles; the ornately constricting fashions and equally constraining values of the Victorian era; revolutionary movements and class politics such as Communism and Anarchism; the lawless frontier of the American West. All of these come together in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century culture of steampunk, a culture that has its origins in a literary tradition that extends back to the nineteenth century. The purpose of this class is to grapple with the relationship of that still-living tradition to the thriving culture of steampunk today, exploring how obsolescence and anachronism become aesthetic "technologies" for imagining alternative modernities in novels and films such as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine, Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, Katsuhiro Otomo's Steamboy, Barry Sonnenfeld's The Wild Wild West, China Miéville's Iron Council, and Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day. In reading and viewing these novels and films, we will consider a variety of issues: just what the "punk" in steampunk means; how this genre relates to its nineteenth-century genealogy (the Victorian novel, the Western, Marxist aesthetics, science fiction), not to mention more contemporary modes such as cyberpunk, postmodernism, and neo-Victorianism; historical fantasy and commodity fetishism; the politics of race, gender, sexuality, and class; the poetics of narration and figuration as they relate to the political aesthetics of steampunk; the status of technology and media; how the past comes to take the place of the future in steampunk; and finally how that temporal dislocation is intrinsically linked to the much larger problem of living within the vortex of modernity that defines our present.
This course focuses on the role of literature in representing—and sometimes participating in—processes of inclusion and exclusion. How communities are constructed, around what signs and sets of practices, and the role that exclusion plays in defining a community are topics that we will explore. The course asks, “What does it mean to belong, to be excluded, and just how stable are these categories?” Literature from a variety of traditions, historical periods, and genres will provide examples, case histories, and a critical vocabulary with which such social phenomena can be discussed. Texts include Beowulf, John Gardner’s Grendel, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Peter Shaffer’s Equus, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Richard Wright’s Black Boy, and more.
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.
This 4-credit intersession course will be conducted in London and Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, from December 29, 2011, through January 14, 2012. 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 $2,700, which includes tuition, tickets to all plays you see, 17 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.
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 twelfth to the twenty-first 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 fourteenth century, then examines the culmination and decline of that ideology toward the end of the fifteenth century (Malory), the reinvigoration of the myth in new directions in the Renaissance (Spenser), and concludes with readings and art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Tennyson, the PreRaphaelites, Twain, T.S. Eliot, E.A. Robinson, T.H. White). We will also study six movies.
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. 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 the course of the semester. Students will be expected to take a midterm exam and write one paper. Enrollment limited to 20.
The course will consider that large, unusual, and varied group of motion pictures known, for reasons of style and content, as film noir—dark films—which includes horror, gangster, detective, and crime movies. We will examine some of the history of the term and the kinds of movies it refers to, study some relevant primary and secondary sources, and of course, screen, analyze, and discuss a dozen or more motion pictures. Possible titles to study include Murder, My Sweet, Touch of Evil, Gilda, The Third Man, Double Indemnity, Night and the City. Aside from the films and the reading assignments, the course will require approximately three papers and a final examination. Although no particular expertise in film is necessary, students should be capable of writing clear, forceful, coherent analyses of narrative.
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; the relationship between television as a medium and the horizons of social and aesthetic experience that television opens up; and how those experiences are inflected by the history of television from the time before its invention to the post-network era in the digital age. 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 theory. Readings will draw on Aristotle, Todorov, Lukács, Mittell, and Bordwell in addition to Uricchio, Jenkins, Adorno, Williams, Feuer, Spigel, and McCarthy.
Restricted to “Selznick” students.
Restricted to “Selznick” students.
Restricted to “Selznick” students.
This is a workshop for students who have completed ENG 117 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 at least three original stories or three sections of a longer work of fiction. Permission of instructor required.
Poetic Forms is a creative writing workshop dedicated to the practice and exploration of writing in form. Previous experience in writing in form and meter is not required, but previous coursework in creative writing is suggested. Open by instructor permission only and limited to fifteen students. Email instructor with a poetry sample of 3-5 pages.
This course examines major critical issues surrounding the horror genre, through close study of Classical Hollywood, post-Classical, and international horror films, and readings in critical theory. Issues to be explored include boundary transgression and bodily abjection in the construction of the horror monster; gender, pregnancy, and the "monstrous feminine"; social Otherness (race, class, sexuality) as monstrosity; the figure of the serial killer and the shift from classic to modern horror; the grotesque and the blending of comedy and horror in the zombie film; international horror (especially Japan) and cross-cultural influences with Hollywood. As a research seminar, the course will involve the development of a substantial research project.
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. 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.
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 address medieval and early modern accounts of cultural encounter and the contact zone; readings will include histories and romances of Alexander the Great, the Travels of Marco Polo, Mandeville’s Travels, the earliest accounts of African and Asian sea routes by Portuguese and German writers, and descriptions of America from Columbus and Vespucci to the end of the sixteenth century. The recurrent focus for research and discussions will be a series of binaries and mediations, including: the medieval / modern dichotomy in literary and historical studies; global and hemispheric divisions of East and West; the relation of text and image; manuscript and mass production; and the growth of local, national, and supranational language communities. We will pay continuous attention to the material conditions in which media are commissioned, produced, circulated, and consumed.
The seminar might be called "Shakespearean enigmas." We'll be looking at a small group of plays, both comedies and tragedies, with an eye to enigmas and unresolvable questions, thinking about what is most mysterious, contradictory, paradoxical, and opaque in Shakespeare's representations of human character, in his pictures of human experience and knowledge, in his treatments of dramatic language, in his ideas of intention and authorship. Readings will include Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, King Lear, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra.
This course reads examples of the Early English Novel while interrogating what that definition entails. Literary history tells us that the novel "rose," along with domesticity, bourgeois morality, and widespread literacy. Meanwhile, drama allegedly "declined," and with it the values of social identity, public honor, and performativity. We will read such accounts alongside newer ones, while of course adding our own to the mix: how does the novel, as opposed to other genres, approach reality and representation? It is often called a "print-genre" par excellence; how much of its worldview does the novel owe to print and its tendencies toward privacy, descriptive detail, and psychological immersion? How "historically determined" is it as a form? Syllabus includes works by Behn, Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Austen; and by Watt, Hunter, McKeon, Bender, Bakhtin, Gallagher, and others.
Beginning in the 1780s, 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.
This seminar will concentrate on one modernist poet (Wallace Stevens), one transitional figure (Elizabeth Bishop), and one postmodernist poet (John Ashbery). We will read just about all of their work, both poetry and prose, with one eye fixed firmly on the work as such and one eye gazing farther afield to issues in literary and cultural history—the vexed relationship of modernism and postmodernism; the equally vexed relationship of poetic language to historical event; the interminably vexed relationship of poetic form (especially experimental form) and political ideology.
Since Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault proclaimed "the death of the author" in the late 1960s, the subject of authorship has been hotly debated in literary and cultural studies. Rather than being quietly buried, however, "the author" has been given new life and a precise historical dimension in a range of scholarly work in both literature and other disciplines. Looking at such issues as the gendering of authorship, the history of publishing and the literary marketplace, readership and reception history, the institutionalization of authorship in author societies and university curricula, and the effects of the new electronic technologies on the way we think about the processes of artistic creation, this course will explore the rich body of critical work that has recently emerged on the subject of authorship. We will consider both the impact of this work on the reinterpretation of canonical writers and the tools it provides for reading and revaluing forms of authorship that have not readily fit traditionally accepted categories. Course readings will combine critical and theoretical discussions of authorship with attention to particular literary texts (from a wide range of historical periods) that highlight and focus particular issues and problems in conceiving and reconceiving what we once called "the author." Students will be encouraged to design research projects around authors and works of their own choosing.
Special application required and/or instructor's permission required.