Of all literary genres, romance comes closest to the core of human experience and expectation. Originating in the social and political matrices of its culture, a romance commonly engages its audience by moving beyond familiar definitions of good behavior to explore uncertainties and contradictions within the society's ethical values. This course focuses on popular English literature of the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries, when England was moving from a manorial society with its feudal Christian values toward more urban, mercantile structures where discrepancies between theory and practice loom large. We will be dealing primarily with a rapidly developing vernacular literature that draws on folklore, local mythology, and a vague sense of English selfhood as the protagonists find themselves trapped in difficult situations that drive them into unfamiliar terrain (wildernesses, monstrosity, treachery, weird animals, and deviant behavior), where cunning enemies would supplant their integrity, forcing the heroes (male and female) to redefine their rightful domain as they struggle to reclaim their former societies on new terms. The stories are lively, inventive, highly entertaining, usually quite short, and utterly amazing in their range of traumatic circumstances.
Chaucer's reputation as "Father of English Literature," though deserved, sometimes obscures the fact that he is perhaps the funniest (lol) writer in our language. He is also among the most intellectually curious, most book-learned, and most experimental of authors. Writing at a moment when there was virtually no "serious" poetic tradition in English (hence the paternity claim), Chaucer more or less invented vernacular writing (and style) as a category. He did this in part by placing the writer "Geffrey" - a version of himself - at the heart of many of his fictions, and this entirely likeable but totally elusive sense of Chaucerian personality contributes greatly to the pleasure and challenge of reading. Chaucer's language (Middle English) is old, and initially requires conscious effort for understanding; it is also one of the most distinctive and direct versions of English that we have, melodious, abrupt, and plangent by turns, memorable in itself and in the ways it forces us to pay attention to the language we now speak. We will read Troilus and Criseyde (one of the two or three greatest poems in English), a selection from The Canterbury Tales, and a selection of shorter narrative poems. Students will have a chance to read and recite medieval English, and will write two short papers or reports (2-3 pages each), and a longer final paper; there will be a final exam. Fulfills the pre-1800 requirement for the English major. Applicable English Clusters: Medieval Studies; Great Books, Great Authors.
"'Speke, sweete bryd, I noot nat where thou art!' This Nicholas anon leet fle a fart...' From "The Miller's Tale," Chaucer. Here are two men speaking to each other literally through their asses, one of them thinking that he's speaking to a woman, the other one thinking that he's got the "upper hand." This course examines discursive relationships in medieval European literature with an emphasis on the carnal. But what is the carnal? Is it always the lower bodily order, or can it have a spiritual dimension? How does the body "speak," what does it speak about, what was its problematic status then, how did Christ transfigure it, and what do the various fabliaux, romances, allegories, homilies, theological treatises, passion plays and medical texts tell us about medieval society and this fragile flesh? We will read three tales by Chaucer (Miller's, Wife's Prologue and Tale, Pardoner's), but also Pearl, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Lanval, Sir Degarre, Sir Gowther, selections from Langland, several Old French fabliaux, some selections from medieval women writers including Hildegard of Bingen, and some pretty heady middle Welsh poetry. The Secrets of Women, written by two ignorant clerks, is a real hoot. Fulfills the pre-1800 requirement and the cluster in Medieval Literature.
This course will study the full range of Shakespeare's plays, including his comedies, tragedies, histories, and romances. We will pay attention to both dramatic language and historical context in order to read and analyze the plays with as much comprehension and pleasure as possible.
The reading list will include A Midsummer Nights Dream, Twelfth Night, Richard III, Henry IV parts one and two, Hamlet, Othello, Anthony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, The Tempest, and perhaps the Sonnets. Course requirements: two exams made up of identifications and two papers.
Applicable English Clusters: Great Books, Great Authors; Plays, Playwrights, and Theater.
In the eighteenth century the Novel was a new genre, its conventions far from stabilized. These fictions experimented with modes of portraying consciousness and the external world, and tested out various narrative techniques; they thus beg the question of what a novel is. How does it go about its task of representation similarly to, or differently from, other genres? What is the experience it should create for the reader? (Do we read novels to learn about our world or to escape from it? Can novels improve us? Can they be dangerous?) Reading novels by Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne, Ann Radcliffe, and Jane Austen as well as some of the contemporary reactions to them we will consider who, and what, made, and makes, the novel the novel. May be counted towared the pre-1800 requirement for the English major. Applicable English Cluster: Novels.
"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.
Many areas of knowledge that we now typically associate with the social and natural sciences emerged and gained momentum during the nineteenth century. In this course we will examine the ways in which nineteenth-century British novelists, in particular, were influenced by and responded to the arguments of various "sciences" that were emerging during their time period such as political economy, evolutionary biology, and anthropology. The aim of this course is to situate canonical Victorian novelists like George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, and Anthony Trollope within contemporary intellectual conversations and the gradual emergence of new fields of knowledge. How did Victorian novelists integrate these new forms of knowledge into their narratives as they addressed such questions as human motives, social interdependence, shifting forms of property and finance, race, kinship, marriage, and sexuality? While the primary focus will be Victorian novels, the course will supplement readings of novels with selections from canonical figures in political economy, anthropology, and sociology such as Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and E.B. Tylor. In addition to providing necessary intellectual background, the course will use these supplementary readings to examine how different forms of writing (e.g. the novel, economic and anthropological texts) shape the way similar questions and problems are addressed, often leading to rather varied conclusions.
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.Applicable English Cluster: American and African American Studies.
Although race-based chattel slavery in America officially ended well over a century ago, our nation continues to grapple with the legacies of "the peculiar institution." Slavery has haunted, in particular, the literary imaginations of African-American writers of the last century. This course surveys a range of African-American novels, from the end of the 19th century to our present era, in order to analyze the ways in which these texts both portray and represent slavery's lasting effects on American culture, society, and politics. Readings: Steven Barnes, Lion's Blood; Arna Bontemps, Black Thunder; Octavia Butler, Kindred; Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces; Charles Johnson, Middle Passage; Edward P. Jones, The Known World; Gayl Jones, Corregidora; Toni Morrison, Beloved, Song of Solomon; Margaret Walker, Jubilee. Students will be evaluated on class participation, an in-class presentation, weekly reading responses, and two formal papers. Applicable English Cluster: American and African American Studies; may be applied to the cluster on Modern and Contemporary Literature on an exceptional basis.
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. Applicable English Clusters: Novels; Modern and Contemporary Literature.
We will read and discuss a rich sampling of the works of Ernest Hemingway, including the short stories, several novels, and some journalism and memoirs. We will also examine the author's life, his relationship to modernism, and his impact on American and world literature. English majors working under the revised major requirements may use this course to fulfill the research seminar requirement, with permission of the instructor. Applicable English clusters: American and African American Studies; Great Books, Great Authors; Novels.
Blending clear-eyed social commentary with a faith in romantic love, festooning mordant satire with enchantedly happy endings, Jane Austens 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.
The last decades of the 20th century and the first of the 21st have seen a virtual explosion of writing by women, with novels by women constituting some of the most widely read and critically admired work being produced today. Among the distinctive features of this literary resurgence is the global reach of both its authors and audiences, making contemporary women’s writing a truly international phenomenon. This course will explore the implications of this internationalization of women’s writing, asking what novels from a range of national and cultural locations (and a range of languages of origin) have to say to each other. It will also ask how well our reading practices and cultural assumptions (including well-established feminist premises) equip us for reading works produced in other cultures, especially non-Western ones. The course will be loosely organized around the theme of translation: translation understood in its broadest sense as a move between languages, cultures, and conventions. We will look at both novels written in English and novels in translation, and we will consider what it means for particular authors to write, or not write, in English. We will also consider how these novels stage the problem of what can and cannot be translated: in terms of language and in terms of experience. As one form of translation, we will explore the way contemporary women writers have adapted or translated the novel for their own ends, experimenting with new voices and narrative forms that often blur the traditional borders of the genre. At the same time, we will also look at the way much contemporary writing by women has deliberately turned to the past for its inspiration and self-consciously appropriated, or rewritten, earlier texts and historical moments. This course fulfills the Studies in International Literature requirement for the Certificate in Literary Translation Studies. Applicable English cluster: Gender and Writing. May also be applied on an exceptional basis to the clusters in Modern and Contemporary Literature, and the Novel.
This course considers the founding of Hollywood by the sons of East European Jewish immigrants in the early part of this century. Readings include some histories of Hollywood, such as Neal Gabler's An Empire of Their Own. Some attention is to how film-making grew from earlier popular art forms and, under the influence of the several major Jewish studio heads, took on forms and values of Yiddish theater melodrama, which blended with indigenous American values and styles. The course will try to relate generic features of Hollywood films and related popular literature--such as the happy ending, the relation of women to men, the treatment of love and violence, the use of spectacle, the western, gangster, family, and glamor motifs--to Jewish and American values, their differences and their combinations. If there is interest, film music can also be part of the course. No exams; written commentary on films and readings for collective study.
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).
The course would examine these two genres of film that both purport to have a direct effect upon the spectator's body - provoking laughter, screams, or, often, a combination of both. It would explore each genre's history and defining characteristics, while also emphasizing moments of intersect6ion between the two, as in the increasingly campy slasher films of the 80s and 90s, or horror film parodies.
The course examines diasporic Chinese cinemas from the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC), Hong Kong (HK), the U.S. and Canada. 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. 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.
We will study the career of a highly regarded contemporary American director whose work, most of it of the more or less violent genres of horror, crime, and suspense, displays both a highly self conscious experimentalism and an acknowledgment of film tradition. In the course we will attempt to discover those particular attributes that define a De Palma film. We will also discuss those directors who most influence his work, especially Alfred Hitchcock, and touch on some of the individual motion pictures that lie behind certain of De Palma's films. In the course we will screen a large selection of the director's films, in roughly chronological order, concentrating especially on the best known and most successful titles, including Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, and Body Double. The syllabus will include some of the literary texts that provide the sources for some of his films and at least one critical study of the De Palma canon. Assignments will include critical papers and a final examination.
Major museums around the world are now collecting motion pictures and other types of moving image and audio-visual art with a level of commitment equal to their traditional interests in paintings, sculptures and other established art forms. These creative works exist in unique formats that bring special challenges to curators and archivists responsible for their conservation and proper exhibition. Taking full advantage of the George Eastman House's rich archival film collection and screening facilities, this course offers instruction in curatorial and preservation standards for motion picture, video, digital and audio materials with a contextual focus on museum, library and archive institutions. Class instruction emphasizes basic concepts of preservation, research, programming, cataloging, digital technologies and preservation; management and interpretation of collections; museum and institutional collections development policies; museum architecture relating to audio-visual media; fund raising and education. Students will be assisted in selecting a topical area of interest in film and media studies, relating to their broader academic pursuits, from which they will develop a special research project. 35mm archival film and other media screenings presented on class night in the Dryden Theatre at 8:00pm are considered part of the class. Enrollment is limited to 20 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 chapters of a novel-in-progress). Applicable English Cluster: Creative Writing.
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. Prerequisites: Eng 122 or equivalent work. Permission of instructor required. Applicable English Cluster: Creative Writing.
This course will concentrate on working through and workshopping two one act or a single full-length play, through class readings and critiques, as well as in a staged reading in front of an invited audience.
RESEARCH SEMINAR. This course focuses on English Renaissance utopian writing, including work contemporary readers might consider "fantasy" or "science fiction." This writing tends to generate excitement in Renaissance courses because of its narrative properties its outlandish stories, its eye for unexpected details, and its stylistic quirks. We move slowly and carefully through each of these works, considering, among other topics, why Renaissance writers and readers might have been attracted to these particular kinds of utopian fantasies; what utopian writing might tell us more generally about the conventions of Renaissance fiction-making; and how we might best describe the links among Renaissance political, religious, and scientific models for imagining a better world. Readings emphasize sixteenth- and seventeenth-century narrative fiction and drama (including work by Bacon, Cavendish, Milton, More, and Shakespeare) and related writing by travelers, professional and amateur scientists, and members of various religious and political groups (including the Diggers, Levellers, Quakers, and Ranters). Students will design and complete a series of shorter and longer research assignments throughout the semester. This course fulfills the Pre-1800 and the Research Seminar requirements for the English major. Open only to Junior and Senior English majors.
This year the Romantics seminar will focus on the radical shift in ideas about literature associated with the Romantic period (c. 1775-1825) of British literature-an era of enormous cultural, political, and artistic innovation and transformation accompanied by equally enormous stresses and strains. That unique combination of factors motivated the writers of the era to reexamine the foundations of their artistic lives and to ask profound questions about the status of literature and its relation to the larger world of love, work, politics, and history. How, these writers wondered, could they justify their very existence as producers of literature? Might poets be, as Shelley wrote with a characteristic display of optimism undercut by doubt, "the unacknowledged legislators of the world"? Was the life of imagination, as Blake supposed, the source of a cultural transformation that could transform the world as we know it? Inspired in part by the radical sociopolitical ideas of the American and French revolutions, the Romantic writers developed the core critical and artistic theories that have become indispensable in our own thinking-originality, imagination, self-expression, nature with a capital N, art with a capital A. Such ideas provide a near-perfect 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.
Toni Morrison has emerged as one of the most influential writers and critics in contemporary American culture. Although this class will emphasize rigorous study of her literary work, we will also pay special attention to her role in public life and her forays into politics 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, 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, especially with regard to the heated debates surrounding Beloved. Students will also consider a number of her essays including Unspeakable Things Unspoken, her Nobel Prize lecture, her infamous appraisal of Bill Clinton in The New Yorker as well as her book of literary criticism, Playing in the Dark. We will discuss how Morrison has reconfigured the relationship between creative author and academic critic, and assess her influence on the study of American literature. The course will conclude with a discussion of Morrison's role in the popular media, including her relationship to Oprahs Book Club and the publicity surrounding the movie version of Beloved.
A study of the experimental impulse in 20th-century American poetry, beginning with the modernists (Pound, Stein, Moore), moving through the Objectivists (Oppen, Niedecker), and concluding with selected contemporaries. We will examine the ways in which these poets disrupt formal conventions, the ways in which such disruptions may—or may not—bear cultural weight, and the ways in which such disruptions may themselves become conventional. To prevent ourselves from taking such issues for granted, we will also glance at poets not traditionally thought of as experimental (Frost, Bishop).
This course will study the major discourses of contemporary literary theory, including Marxism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, gender and race studies, queer theory, new historicism, post-colonial criticism, and cultural studies. The goal will be not only to become conversant in these discourses, but also to explore at least one of them in great depth. Course requirements: one in-class presentation and a 30-35 page seminar paper.
Recently the large-scale dissemination of erotic and pornographic literature and film has begun to affect the majority of the population in the West. There are two main issues in the course: (1) the history of the changing genres of erotica and the changes taking place in contemporary society in consequence of its wide dissemination; and (2) the proposition that if societies were different little harm and much good would come from the inclusion of erotica in people's reading and viewing habits: erotic materials, by removing sex from the realm of the forbidden and viewing it as a species of everyday life, can contribute to the education of both sexes and people of all sexual tastes and preferences.
The history of erotica is similar to the history of literacy in the following sense: both are entities to which only the privileged members of society have had extended access and which have recently become available to majorities. Readings in the course will concentrate on classical, early modern, enlightenment, and contemporary erotica, with attention to the contemporary debates about pornography begun by the activism of MacKinnon and Dworkin. Of particular interest in this critique is the claim that erotic materials encourage the practice of violence against women and children, and help to promote a culture dependent on the use of force and violence.
The course reviews the current debate on pornography and sexually explicit language as a context for viewing the history of the more familiar erotic materials from classical times, through the Renaissance and eighteenth century, to D. H. Lawrence, "adult videos" and the internet. The seminar moves back and forth between the study of the literature (and some sculpture and painting) and the study of its critical and historical treatments.
For final seminar essays, seminar members may consider erotica from their preferred historical or general subject matters in language and literature. Furthermore, studies of visual, verbal, and combined visual/verbal genres are encouraged.