The history of the English language is a history of upheavals and invasions. Brought to the British Isles by the Angles and the Saxons in the fifth century, "English" and the people who spoke it rapidly ousted the Brythonic (or p-Celtic) people and established the Old English "heptarchy": the seven realms of Anglo-Saxon England. These nations, in turn, were beset by Viking raids and the intrusions of Scandinavians; and after King Alfred had made a treaty with the so-called Danes, and had set the stage for a flowering of English culture and learning that left us the Old English literature we study today, William of Normandy conquered English in 1066, changing forever the direction England would take, and the nature of its language. We will study texts from the Old, Middle, and Modern English periods, and chart the ways in which our language grew from a relatively simple Germanic tongue to the powerful, ductile, and eclectic language it is today, with one of the largest vocabularies in the world. Borrowings from French, Latin, and Greek greatly enriched our lexicon in the Old, Middle, and early Modern Periods, and as the English settled colonies in America, which in turn became a melting pot of different nationalities, increasing its vocabulary. We will read texts about the English language by King Alfred the Great, Aelfric (10th C.), Robert of Gloucester, Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet, Caxton, Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Mulcaster, Locke, Hume, Defoe, Swift, and Samuel Johnson; Thomas Jefferson, Noah Webster and the start of American dictionaries; and trace writings about 19th and 20th century concerns of language. We will end with discussions of Black Dialect, Ebonics, "uptalk," "Valley Speak," and language issues of concern to women.
Through our reading of romances, saints lives, and dream visions, we will garner some sense of the stories, sounds, and interests distinctive to (mainly) English writing in the later Middle Ages. We will pay special attention to versions of manhood and masculinity, as these are expressed from clerical, knightly, popular, visionary, and ordinary perspectives. We will begin with Abelard’s spiritual / sexual autobiography, and Heloise’s explicit fantasies about her castrated former lover. We will then read a series of chivalric romances including the unsurpassed Gawain and the Green Knight, the great stories of Arthur’s death, violent narratives both popular and elite, tales of love and friendship concentrating on knightly ideals and particularly on the tastes of the more ordinary women and men who sponsored and devoured these books. We will then read lives of several holy women and men, addressing the ways in which saints stories moved and reshaped the consciousness of readers and listeners. Finally we will look at Pearl, which makes private grief into an out-of-body experience, and then spend the last weeks on Piers Plowman, the autobiographical vision of a frenzied layman seeking Truth on the still-recognizable streets of London.
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 will discuss, among other topics, Shakespeare's method of constructing his characters' psychological interiority, his staging of funeral pageants and madness, his use of anachronism, his interest in memory, his insistent references to contemporary performance practices (including the Renaissance tradition of boy actors playing women's roles), and his depiction of proper relations between ruler and subject, husband and wife, parents and children, and European and non-European characters. We also will become familiar with 16th and 17th 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, one of the most radical and challenging of English poets. 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, such as his biblical tragedy, Samson Agonistes. Readings will also include selections from Milton's prose writings, in particular those that address questions about the freedom of writing and belief. One central theme of the course will be the quality of Milton's poetic inventiveness, his combination of tradition and revolution. We'll be thinking about Milton's extravagant poetic language; his ways of the re-appropriating stories and visions of the Bible; his complex pictures of divinity, of heaven and hell, God and Devil; his dynamic and seductive depictions of the created world; and his stark dramas of human moral choice. During the semester we'll also 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 a an idea of Milton's crucial influence on later English writers, we'll be ending the semester by reading selections from the poetry of William Blake, especially The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
This course will study the 17th-century lyric poetry that combines the carnal and the transcendent in a manner sometimes called "metaphysical." We will discuss the historical and intellectual contexts of these poems as well as their formal and figural properties; the majority of class time will be spent on close reading. Poets will include Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, Vaughn, Traherne, and Marvell.
"Romanticism" is associated with the thrills and chills of literature in extremis. In an era of tremendous cultural and political change--and corresponding violence and stress--British Romantic writers of astounding talent conducted radical literary experiments. They explored the extremes of imagination hoping to find new and better ways of expressing the ultimate pleasure and pain, the deepest fear and grief, the greatest perversion and depravation. In many cases this determination to break out of old restrictions and pursue human experience to its outer limits brought them to the dangerous edge where dreams meet reality in "visions" and hallucinations, sometimes with tragic consequences. In other cases they experimented with new ways of representing the ordinary features of ordinary lives in hopes of achieving unprecedented literary depth and intensity. We shall sample authors, modes, and genres across the breadth and scope of British Romantic writing, such as William Blake's apocalyptic fusion of texts and designs The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Wordsworth’s groundbreaking autobiographical poem The Prelude, Coleridge's aborted opium dream Kubla Khan, Mary Shelley's philosophical gothic novel Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft's radical feminist manifesto A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and Byron's outrageous comic-erotic satire Don Juan. Our strategy will be governed by four concepts that are fundamental to the art of reading: sound, sight, metaphor, narrative. As we sample Romantic writing, we'll work simultaneously to develop reading skills in these four areas.
We will investigate the peculiar quality of romanticism and the particular achievement of romantic writers in the United States during the period before the Civil War. Three capacious topics will organize discussions: nature and art, society and history, and individuals and communities. We will read works by Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, Melville, Poe, Douglass, Hawthorne, Jacobs, Stowe, Whitman, and Dickinson. Of particular interest throughout the term will be the hopes that American romantic artists invested in literature and the imagination as crucial parts of the nation's life and as indispensable resources for America's people.
When the now-classic novels of writers like Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and D.H. Lawrence were published in the first part of the 20th century, readers were shocked by both their style and content. In the face of revolutionary upheavals in social and political life and in the understanding of human psychology and personal relationships (including the devastating effects of WWI), modernist writers proclaimed the end of fiction as we know it, calling into question the very notion of "reality". Looking back at this fiction from our vantage point at the beginning of the 21st century, we will reconsider what made these works both "modern" and shocking". We will pay particular attention to the challenges they posed to received understandings of gender, sexuality, history, and personal identity, and to the ways they explored the limits and possibilities of language and representation. Pairing earlier twentieth-century novels with novels from the second half of the century, we will also look at the way later writers revised the idea of modern consciousness and the fiction appropriate to it and at the ways they responded to the post WWII remapping of the British Empire and to the construction of postmodern and postcolonial identities.
The course in Postmodern Fiction will explore, challenge and trouble ideas of postmodernity in the American novel in order to address a few basic questions: what do we mean by "postmodernist" fiction? Is there a discernible shift between Modernist fiction and postmodern fiction? By examining the postmodern novel's formal features (for instance, its fragmented structure, inter/intra textuality, regressive levels of narration, language games, superficiality, mix of pop-culture with the high concept terrain of modernism), we'll explore its history and development in relation to Modernist fiction, and more generally in relation to the cultural ideas and movements which characterize the postmodern world. Authors will include Thomas Pynchon, William Burroughs, Katherine Dunn, Ishmael Reed, Paul Auster and Kathy Acker.
The term confessional first appeared in literary criticism in M.L. Rosenthal’s 1959 review of Robert Lowell’s Life Studies. Confessional has since stood to describe poetry that announces aspects of the poets personal life that would ordinarily remain concealed. Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Sylvia Plath are three important forerunners and with their poetry our study will begin. Although the term confessional will select the poetry for this course, certainly the semester will proceed mostly as an explication of contemporary lyric poetry how the I sees and sings. We will consider how it may be useful to think about the confessional in poetry written today, as well as the ways in which poets may now reject ideals of the confessional. How do contemporary lyric speakers sound most honest? Personal? Convincing? Our study will likely include contemporary poetry by John Ashbery, Louise Gluck, Frank Bidart, Jorie Graham, and Ann Carson, as well as some of the newest voices in poetry today.
What is an author? This course begins with the premise that the answer to this question is anything but self-evident. How does the literary ideal of the author as solitary genius as sole creator of a unique, original work of art correspond to the actual practices of ordinary writers? And, for that matter, how does it correspond to the actual practice of even the great authors (Shakespeare, for example) it purportedly describes? Was such an ideal ever anything but a myth? What role do editors play in the practice of authorship? When does an editor count as a co-author? How do market factors and modes of publication affect what and how an author writes? How has our understanding of authorship changed in a world of virtual authors and virtual texts? How do we make sense of the journalistic scandals (involving authors, editors, and sources) that seem to have become so prevalent today? What happens when readers become authors, as in zines? For some time now, debates have raged, in both the academy and the popular media, about the nature and practice of authorship. Looking at examples drawn from both literature and journalism, this class will examine a number of sites of these debates: collaborative authorship; ghost writing; editorial theory and practice; forgeries and hoaxes; plagiarism; cult or celebrity authorship; pulp fiction, best-sellerdom, and popular authorship; authorial practices in media other than print (film, electronic and digital media, etc.); vanity presses and on-demand publishing; copyright law; readership and reception. Students will have the opportunity to do original research and pursue case studies of their own choosing.
This course will explore the construction of Native American identity by reading and discussing the work of a variety of white and Indian writers. In the earliest texts European explorers and settlers present different versions of the Indians as either fallen or noble savages, as pastoral representatives of a green world, or as fatal partners in violent fantasies of ethnic and racial identity. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the Native Americans are writing back with their own accounts of themselves and of white others. We will read novels, personal narratives, and poems by a variety of writers including Mary Rowlandson, Cooper, Mary Jemison, Silko, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and others.
This course will explore the developments in world cinema - industrial, technological, social and political - in the second half of the sound period (1959 to the present). What brought about the collapse of the Hollywood studio system? What's new about the French New Wave? What do we mean by "Third Cinema"? How do different national cinemas influence each other? Requirements: mandatory weekly screenings, participation in class discussions, weekly film journals, and three take-home exams.
Outside of longstanding anxieties about its undue "influence" and in spite of its pivotal role in post-WWII American culture, television has rarely received the serious attention it deserves. This course seeks to counter such neglect by closely examining the complex history, technology, and forms of television in the U.S. Emphasizing the social element of the televisual medium, the course also involves an analysis of television's diverse audiences and an interrogation of the various ways in which American culture both shapes and is shaped by TV. In addition to a survey of the medium's history, we will explore the distinctive elements of the televisual form (flow, liveness, seriality, advertising), TV's key genres (soap, sitcom, drama, news, reality), modes of TV reception (fandom, distraction, surfing), and television's construction and conception of social difference in America (representation and narrowcasting strategies). Additional topics may include: quality television and cultural hierarchies, HBO and the cable/satellite shift, teen TV, representing "reality," the gendering of television, disaster and televisual immediacy, rerun TV and cultural memory, and American television in the global sphere.
The course will deal with a selection of films directed (and some also written) by the highly regarded contemporary director, Martin Scorsese. We will proceed in roughly chronological order, examining the growth and development of his career, his characteristic manner and matter, his successes and failures. We will also discuss the concept of the auteur as it applies to his work.
In spite of their perceived marginality, queer images, artists, and audiences have long played a crucial role in the history of cinema. Tending to this rich, complex, and often erased, history, this course explores the diversity of queer cinemas in both American and international contexts. We will first examine the primary codes (and effects) of queer representation in Hollywood cinema, paying attention to queerly coded genres (musicals, melodramas, horror films) and the various ways in which queer audiences have negotiated "the celluloid closet" through complex reception strategies (camp, gossip, fantasy, protest/resistance). The course will then survey the many possibilities and parameters of queer cinema through an analysis of the work of a wide range of queer international filmmakers in both the narrative and experimental modes. We will also engage with the politics of documentary and activist video in the era of AIDS as well as investigate the New Queer Cinema of the early 1990s. Various readings from the field of queer theory will help us frame the film screenings, complicate the notion of sexual identity, and interrogate the mainstreaming impulse in contemporary lesbian and gay culture. While our focus will be on queer/non-normative forms of cinematic sexual expression, the overall course is more generally meant to foreground the productive and disruptive potential of screening sexuality.
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 peoples emotional lives. Study of the films combined 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 courses attention is on the personal and collective machineries of repression, the resulting rage in many individuals, 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 (1993), Fargo (1996), Fried Green Tomatoes (1992), Heavenly Creatures (1994), In the Bedroom (2001), Ju Dou (1991), Mildred Pierce (1945), Monster (2002), Monsters Ball (2001), Ordinary People (1980), Piano Teacher (2003), Unfaithful (2002).
Museums are no longer mere repositories of fine art treasures - they are complex, multipurpose organizations that exhibit a growing variety of artifacts and cater to an increasing diverse public. Taking full advantage of George Eastman House's rich cultural heritage and screening facility, this course combines a training in motion picture, video, and photography archiving, with classes in the following: preservation; research; programming; cataloging; digital technologies; management and interpretation of collections; museum politics and policies; philosophies of collecting; museum architecture; fundraising; and education. Students have the opportunity to pursue specific projects and are encouraged to maintain an active involvement in an area of study relevant to their academic interests and professional talents. Film screenings will be organized on a weekly basis at the end of each class. Bus transportation to the George Eastman House is provided. Enrollment is limited to 20 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. Permission of instructor required.
Advanced creative writing workshop in poetry. Work by various contemporary poets will provide the framework for explorations into technique and poetic narrative. Students' poems will be discussed weekly. Students will be expected to do extensive reading and research on their own and to keep a poetic journal. Assignments will be given, but there is a lot of latitude for students who wish to design a poetic project or work on a series.
It helps to know first what Media ABC is not. It is not a traditional media studies course; it does not focus on modern mass media or the politics of media. Instead, Media ABC is an introduction to the very idea of medium and media--as in, for example, the medium of photography" and "contemporary media." The goal is to come to a basic understanding of that concept. The perspective of the course is broadly historical and comparative. The guiding assumptions are four: that media of communication are not peculiar to the modern world; that the form of communication -- the human voice, the engraving, the telegram, the TV, the digital file--shapes its "content" - words, pictures, sounds, etc.; and that the unique characteristics of any one medium are made more visible by comparison with the characteristics of other media; media never stand alone; they participate in systems of communication. There have always been media, and there must be media, because life simply cannot be lived without them.
Of all literary genres, romance comes closest tot eh core of human desires and expectations. Strongly motivated by plot and episode, romance explores social and personal compulsions that combine to take the reader someplace - into the exotic realsm of myth and social definition, or the psyche in its yearning for self-composure, stimulation, and personal credit, or toward an understanding of natural law and themoral insecurity that perpetually haunts the quest. Romance lurks throughout the inner recesses of popular culture. It is insistently audience oriented. Its design is to seduce an indifferent listener into some sympathetic - or even empathetic - participation in its crisis management. The romance journey always includes some veiled spcoal agenda that may be conservative, but, at the same time, disruptive, perhaps even criminal. Its mode of expression may range from fairy tale or magical plots with cartoon-like characters whose responses are undefined, undefinable, and imaginiatively complex. But of greatest interest will be the ways the romance hero, whether male or femaile, copes with the bizarre circumstances of life that are usually self-generated. The meaning of those circumstances will usually be hidden; but it will also be latent - capable of agitating the audience and the hero's need to reflect upon what happens and their inability to let go.
The seminar ranges widely in its selection of literary texts, from ancient to modern, with strong emphasis on the Middle English period, where the genre comes into its own as a mode of cultural expression. Our critical approaches will be eclectic - political, mythological, psychological, structuralist, or genre oriented. we will be concerned with thematic issues (friendship, loyalty, need, exile, desire, etc.). We will draw on writings of Frye, Bourdieu, Adorno, Jameson, Crane, Chase, Modleski, and Radway to establish theoretical outposts for observation. And we will be concerned with historical issues surrounding the production of the romances within the culture that fed upon them. But the primary focus will be on the texts themselves along with the tactics of practical criticism. The readings will include some ancient literature (Plato's Symposium, Aristotle's Poetics, and Apuleius's The Golden Ass); medieval Breton lays, courtly romances, bourgeois and sentimental romances; selections from Chaucer, Gower, and Malory); and various looks into the medieval discovery in modern fiction, drama, the musical, and cinema. The geography of the course will include a field full of middle earth's folk, with their descent into hell and tortuous ascents up purgatorial mounts. This is a course in "I wish" and "I must," a menagerie of dreamers and dream-driven doers.
Our primary texts for the semester will be Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, and Antony and Cleopatra. Each play presents its own particular points of interest - historical, textual, critical - but certain broad questions will enter into our discussions of all of them. We'll be looking at the often wild linguistic inventiveness and self-reflexive theatricality of the plays; we'll examine their staging of psychological, social, and natural disorder, and their pictures of human violence, both physical and spiritual. Shakespeare's tragedies are marked by an acute historical self-consciousness, and a fascination with the creative and destructive workings of time. This goes along with an emergent skepticism about existing forms of knowledge and authority, both political and religious. And yet for all their doubt of human knowledge, the plays are marked by their power to creative persuasive pictures of human interiority and character - one reason for their importance in
English and European literary tradition. We'll also consider how these works reinvent existing generic styles of tragedy, such as Marlowe's heroic tragedy and Senecan revenge tragedy, in part through their increasingly complex mingling of tragic and comic modes. Some important test cases in the history of Shakespeare criticism will also be looked into. The approaches to the plays will, then, be eclectic, and students in the seminar will be encouraged to develop their own lines of research into these works. One broad aim of the course is to make what are some of Shakespeare's most familiar plays a little unfamiliar.
In this seminar we will read widely through the course of James's career, focusing on his fiction - short stories, novels, and novellas - and criticism. We will consdier James's innovations in narrative form and subject matterin the context of developments in the European and American traditions of novel writing, as well as hisplace in the history of literary criticism as a professional activity. Of particular interest will be James's development of "the international theme" and the light it sheds on contemporary debates about cosmopolitan culture and national identity.
Although we will also read works by W.B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, Wallace Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop, the centerpiece of this seminar will be a detailed reading of James Joyce's Ulysses. We will also read selections from the vast body of criticism and theory that has been brought to bear upon Joyce's novel; the need to account for Joyce's work has generated a good deal of modern and postmodern critical thought. Throughout the seminar we will also consider Joyce's position in Irish social history and in Anglo-Irish modernism; reading Yeats, Joyce's most important Irish precursor, will help with the former task, while Woolf's response to Joyce will help with the latter. Finally, our reading of Stevens and Bishop (along with several recent accounts of modernism) will focus our investigation of the aesthetic and political designs of modernism at large.
Though we might safely argue that the colonial era is over, imperialism continues under other guises—political, cultural, and economic. As might be expected, our course analyzes colonial discourse and imperialism, but adds 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. Our readings encompass multiple disciplines, such as literary authors Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o and filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha. 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. 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's The World is Flat 2005) and those that proceed more cautiously (Donna Haraway).
Required outside screenings include film works by Trinh T. Minh-ha, Wong Kar-Wai, Ann Hui, Hou Hsiao-hsien. Required texts will likely include Trinh's Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism (1989), Mohanty's Feminism Without Borders (2003), and two anthologies Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory (1994) and Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (2005).
Evaluation based on discussion leading presentation, short responses, written analysis of relevant scholarly journal (print or electronic), and longer research essay. Graduate students from all fields of study are welcome. Please contact instructor with any questions.