FALL 2018 300-level Elective Course Descriptions
ENG 301W, Thu 6:40pm-9:30pm, John Weir
ENG 303W, T/Th 3:10pm-4:25pm, Jason Tougaw
Special Topic: Writing about Popular Music
I know that on one level, music is abstract — like a thought, as you say. But it's also like a feeling, a real sensual and emotional pull. Music can make you feel like a room without a roof. When that's happening, all the categories we build as thinkers recede, and whatever sound made it happen is glorious.
--Ann Powers, “Why We Fight About Pop Music”
Why do we fight about popular music? Why do we write about it? Music critic Ann Powers argues that music can “move us in new directions”—emotionally, bodily, personally, intellectually, socially, and politically. In this course, we’ll write about popular music in a variety of nonfiction genres, including reviews, liner notes, memoirs, infographics, annotated playlists, listicles, tweets, and manifestos. Students will also produce podcasts, radio shows, or video essays. All of these genres require practice in the craft of creative nonfiction writing: voice, description, scene, storytelling, translation, argument, dialogue. As we read the work of other writers in these genres, we’ll pay close attention to how they experiment with elements of craft. But we’ll also seek to balance our examinations of popular music’s meanings with the ineffable experience it makes possible. In Powers’s words, “Music can make you feel like a room without a roof. When that's happening, all the categories we build as thinkers recede, and whatever sound made it happen is glorious.”
We’ll read about artists like Missy Elliott, The Beach Boys, The Cure, Kendrick Lamar, Joni Mitchell, Mashrou Leila, The Beatles, Beyoncé, The Sex Pistols, Frank Ocean, Eminem, The Talking Heads, George Clinton, Yoko Ono, Die Antwoord, Duran Duran, Chicano Batman, George Michael, The Jam, One Direction, Prince, Nirvana, Selena, TuneYards, Michael Jackson, and Celine Dion, by writers like Ann Powers, Lester Bangs, Tracey Thorn, John Caramanica, Questlove, Jody Rosen, Carl Wilson, Greil Marcus, Colson Whitehead, Lori Majewski, and Jonathan Lethem. We’ll explore genres from the U.S. and other parts of the globe, including k-pop, South African hip hop, ye-ye music, Afrobeat, Manilla sound, ska (both British and Caribbean), Nigerian funk, European synth pop, Venezuelan disco; transnational phenomena like video game soundtracks & EDM; and any other traditions students want to introduce. We’ll listen to plenty of music, both in and out of class.
ENG 304, M/W 1:40pm-2:55pm, Roger Sedarat
This workshop requires the poet to take a series of creative risks within the context of both form and free verse. Students are thrust into radical low-stakes exercises to write themselves out of their comfort zones. While considerable attention is given to imitation of master works of poetry, poets are encouraged to experiment with such current trends as documentary poetics, interdisciplinary performance, and spoken word. There is also a small unit on literary translation (fluency in another language not required). Poets write and revise several poems and complete a final project of their own verse with an accompanying craft essay. Prerequisite ENG 210
ENG 306, M/W 3:10pm-4:25pm, Kimiko Hahn
Studies in Poetry
A Species of Magic
What is poetry? Strangely enough, you will not find an answer in many textbooks on the subject. Among poets themselves, there are any number of so-called definitions. Emily Dickinson famously wrote in a letter: If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. Before her, Williams Wordsworth wrote: Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility. Even in a contemporary dictionary of literary terms, the entry is peculiar: what makes a poem different from any other kind of composition is a species of magic, the secret to which lies in the way the words lean upon each other, are linked and interlocked in sense and rhythm…
This semester, we will explore how poets conjure up poems. Readings will range from John Donne to Claudia Rankine.
ENG 313, Thu 6:40pm-9:30pm, Michael Sargent
The Arthurian Tradition
The Growth of the Tradition. The collection of legends surrounding King Arthur form one of the most persistent literary traditions in the western world, constantly retold to embody the values of different times and peoples. This course will explore the foundational texts of the Arthurian tradition, from medieval Welsh verse through Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain––in its Latin, French and English versions––and onward to Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, the definitive form of the stories in English. But Malory’s work is no simple English monument: it is itself a synoptic version of the French prose collection, the Vulgate Cycle. And even at that, Malory draws on both the French and the English traditions of the culminating story of the death of Arthur itself. Why was he out of the kingdom when Mordred rose in rebellion against him: was he chasing after Lancelot (with Guinevere Mordred’s unwilling captive), or was he defeating the Emperor of Rome (with Guinevere and Mordred allied against him)? And why is there no Lancelot in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? This course will explore the medieval versions of the Arthurian legend, looking at how they changed from language to language and from age to age.
ENG 315, M/W 1:40pm-2:55pm, Kevin Ferguson
Digital Literary Studies
This is a new course offering for the department, responding to the growing inclusion of digital humanities (DH) methods in undergraduate programs. While DH encompasses a wide range of disciplines, this course will focus on applying DH methods to literary studies. Students will be introduced to central debates in the digital humanities that inform literary study and see how DH disrupts traditional literary scholarship and practices like close reading and the canon. Students will also gain experience practicing some of the basic tools of digital literary analysis, such as n-gram analysis, topic modeling, text mining, LDA, and data visualization. No particular experience or special knowledge of computer programs is required; students can expect to learn about digital literary studies though practice projects which will be useful to their other English courses. Class will be held in our new digital writing studio.
ENG 325, M/W 4:40pm-5:55pm, Hugh English
Gender and Sexualties
ENG 332, M/W 10:45am-12:00pm, Rich McCoy
An introduction to Shakespeare’s life and times in the Elizabethan era, covering selected plays from the first half of his career and focusing on three early comedies (Taming of the Shrew, Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It), two history plays (1 Henry IV, and Henry V), and two tragedies, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet while exploring the cultural and historical context of his plays.
ENG 334, M/W 1:40pm-2:55pm, Andrea Walkden
Reading and Unreading Paradise Lost
This course will focus on Paradise Lost, the remarkable attempt by the seventeenth-century poet John Milton to rewrite the first chapters of Genesis in the form of a classical epic. Milton’s contemporaries hailed him as a prodigy, the greatest English writer after Chaucer and Shakespeare, but they also attacked him as a libertine, heretic, and regicide whose blindness they took to be a punishment from God. Together we’ll enter imaginatively into the controversies that made Milton infamous in his own lifetime, while exploring the continuing notoriety of his epic up to the present day. The first half of the course will be dedicated to reading Paradise Lost. Here, we’ll examine Milton’s bold, sometimes shocking, engagement with ideologies of gender and sexuality, theologies of predestination and free will, and political questions of tyranny, slavery, and natural community. In the second half of the course, we’ll turn to the work of later writers who reshaped or radically repurposed Milton’s epic, at once exploiting and protesting its preeminent status within the English literary tradition. Such later works include: Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789), Eliza Weaver Bradburn’s The Story of Paradise Lost for Children (1830), Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929), and His Dark Materials (1995-2000), a trilogy of fantasy novels by the YA author Philip Pullman.
English 334 satisfies the pre-1800 British literature elective requirement for English majors.
ENG 344, Mon 6:40pm-9:30pm, Ala Alryyes
The English Novel I
The eighteenth century, the age of Enlightenment, saw the development of the discourse of individual as well as human rights. It also witnessed the rise of the English novel, a new type of literary production that influenced and was influenced by the language of rights. We will study a set of excellent and influential eighteenth-century novels and reflect on their importance in their time and their afterlives in ours. Our course will emphasize the importance of close reading and historical context. Topics of the course include: the rise of the novel and the culture of experience; realism and allegory; the portrayal of selfhood; the novel's orchestration of time and space; the novel's stylistic “lawlessness” and its vexed relation to its generic predecessors—to pre-novelistic (such as the epic and the romance) and extra-literary discourses (such as newspapers and conduct books) that the novel adapted or parodied; the novel’s connections with popular culture; its political, often revolutionary, representations of gender, privacy, and the body; the novel’s influence on the public sphere; the Gothic; the novel's universalism and its relation to the Enlightenment; the novel’s representation of slavery and the colonial experience.
ENG 346, M/W 5:00pm-6:15pm, Clifford Mak
Early-Twentieth-Century British Fiction
At the heart of the many unprecedented, rapid changes ushered in by the twentieth century was the relation of individuals—their minds and bodies—to the world. The fall of liberalism and empire, the rise of fascism, the spread of feminist, anti-racist, and anti-colonial movements, and the invention of new technologies and artistic media and genres—all these involved re-thinking the ways in which an individual might navigate and, even, effect change in an increasingly complex world. In this course, we will read British fiction spanning roughly the first half of the twentieth century, looking at how the exuberant literary experimentation of the modernists in particular drew into sharper focus the new, fraught status of the individual in the modern era. These writers will include Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Henry James, H. G. Wells, Jean Rhys, C. L. R. James, and Sam Selvon, among others.
At the same time, we will also pay close attention to the wider cultural context of modernism, situating its experimentation in relation to the massively popular and groundbreaking genres of slapstick comedy, horror films, science fiction, and satirical fiction, which themselves reflected evolving conceptions of the individual’s place in a newly technologized society. Along these lines, for example, we will watch the seminal 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis, along with some of the essential comedies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
ENG 348, M/W 4:40pm-5:55pm, Miles Grier
Conceiving the Early Black Atlantic
Countee Cullen, a descendant of the writers we will study, famously wrote, “Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: / To make a poet black and bid him sing.” This course will cover texts written between 1600 and 1820, a time when not all African persons in the Atlantic rim would have called themselves black. And, indeed, not all of what we read will be poetry. Therefore, in this course, we will try to reconstruct what it took to establish a racial community, to prosper in the literary marketplace, and to advocate for liberation. We will examine the ways that African descendants operating under specific constraints shrewdly assessed their world and used literacy, imposture, religious conversion, self-sale, and name changes to seize liberties not meant for them. Throughout the course, we will ask when, how, and why Afro-Atlantic writers identify themselves with an African ethnic group, a modern nation-state, an African diaspora, or a religious faith. How did these identifications affect their analysis of their present, the boundaries of their community, and their vision of the future?
This course can satisfy either British Literature before 1800 or American Literature before 1900 upon petition.
ENG 351, M/W 3:10pm-4:25pm, Roger Sedarat
Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature
This course examines the figurative origins of U.S. literature in the nineteenth century, studying how American authors unconventionally use a variety of interdisciplinary models as well as foreign literary and philosophical influences to produce original writing. Light readings from theory, criticism, and historical sources help inform as well as contextualize the figural reinvention of poetry and fiction that emerges through encounters with industry and communication (commerce, telegraph, rail road construction) religion (Biblical scripture, sermons, and hymns), traumatic politics (slavery and the Civil War), and other art forms (opera, dance, and painting). The course pays particular attention to transnational literary sources beyond the usual western models from Europe, looking instead to the influences of literary traditions from India, China, and Iran. After sustained practice of a critical methodology developed over the first half of the term, students are encouraged to develop their own projects that track a particular influence upon an author of their choosing.
ENG 351, Tu 6:40pm-9:30pm, Wendy Tronrud
Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature
In the nineteenth century, what did people look at? What did they listen to? Where did they live or want to live? How did this influence what they imagined? This course will examine how writers of the primarily antebellum and Civil War periods responded to and reinterpreted material culture and recently developing phenomena such as photography, architecture, communication technology (telegraph and trains) and environmental occurrences and interests (aurora borealis, meteors, swamps, etc). We will read an array of writers from the period working in a variety of genres and we will do some looking and listening ourselves at early photography, housing ideas, landscape painting, and popular songs of the period. From newspaper articles to detective stories, from photography to slave narratives, from songs to poems, from houses to novels, we will inquire into how these various cultural forms interacted and ultimately influenced and became reimagined by much of the literary production of the time.
ENG 353, M/W 9:15am-10:30am, John Tytell
Mid-Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century U.S. Literature
This section will focus on the Beat tradition, a projection of our most idealistic aspirations as well as an angry, nightmarish view of our mutual failure to meet such expectations. Many of the profound cultural antagonisms that so debilitate us now began after the Second World War, and the Beats were like kindling for the fires that ensued.
We will study major works of poetry and fiction by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs while situating their work within a broader antecedent tradition of writing and thought that includes Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound and Henry Miller. Course discussion will emphasize historical and political factors leading to the Beat tradition.
ENG 354, M/W 5:00pm-6:15pm, Wayne Moreland
African American Literature I
The focus of this class is twofold: one is the examination of African American literature as it developed in the periods before and right after the Civil War, during slavery and during Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction, right at the turn of the 20th century. Central to this development are several aesthetic and social questions revolving around the perceived audience for this work, the type of language used in the work, the stance the work should take in regard to the central question of African American life-- racism and its social manifestations--, and the search for usable models of aesthetic creation. The other focus of the class is the examination of the works of white American canonical writers—Twain and Melville —that use as their foundation some construction around the idea of race. The questions that attend to them —language and audience—are similar in type but different in execution.
ENG 364, T/Th 3:10pm-4:25pm, Maaza Mengiste
African Literature and Culture
For a long time, artists from the continent of Africa have been finding ways to develop, then complicate, their own notions of what it means to be African and create African literature. Through their work, they examine fundamental questions of identity, autonomy, freedom, relationships and the consequences of love, loyalty, jealousy, betrayal, and all those other emotions that impact every human interaction. This class is designed to challenge preconceptions of what it means to write as an African, and we will have the opportunity to compare and contrast representations of the continent through a wide variety of media and by a diverse spectrum of writers. The readings will be intense and challenging. We will ask difficult questions and look for complicated answers. The regular writing assignments will make you accountable to your own thinking as you read. You will be asked to articulate what new questions emerge from your investigations of the books we read.This class will be dependent on your close reading of the assigned texts, and your participation in discussion. The books assigned are meant to open the conversation and allow you to see new, surprising ways to approach the reading, writing and understanding of literature.
ENG 367, M/W 10:45am-12:00pm, Jeff Cassvan
Modern Irish Literature
This course will provide an introduction to the work of modern Irish writers in the context of Irish history and culture. In addition to our concentration on important works by W.B. Yeats, J.M. Synge, James Joyce, Seamus Heaney, Nuala ni Dhomhnaill, Paul Muldoon, Eavan Boland and Medbh McGuckian, we will spend some time focusing on the ways a number of trends in literary theory and criticism have been applied to the interpretation of this diverse material.
ENG 369, T/Th 1:40pm-2:55pm, Seo-Young Chu
Asian American Literature
This course has two main goals: to offer a lively introduction to “Asian American Literature” and to interrogate the notion of “Asian American Literature.” Thus, in addition to studying works from the Asian American canon, we will ask the following kinds of questions. What do we mean by “Asian”? What do we mean by “American”? What do we mean by “Asian American”? What do we mean by “literature”? Where are the spatial coordinates of “Asian America” located on our globe? To what extent has the meaning of “Asian American” varied from one generation to the next? Can “Asian American” be understood as a feeling, a sensibility? Is Asian American subjectivity determined by individual acts of choice and active identification? How have Asian American literary texts and responses to Asian American literary texts changed over the years? Are Asian American authors drawn to particular genres – and, if so, why? What does the future of Asian American Studies look like today? Additional topics of discussion: family, trauma, war, postmemory, diaspora, gender, class, racism, immigration, aesthetics, bilingualism, education, intersectionality, techno-orientalism, and the politics of form. Genres and forms represented on the syllabus will encompass poetry, memoir, novels, short stories, anthologies, science fiction, essays, visual art, drama, tarot cards, and digital slipstream. Possible authors include Sui Sin Far/Edith Maud Eaton, Carlos Bulosan, John Okada, Maxine Hong Kingston, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, David Henry Hwang, Chang-rae Lee, Jhumpa Lahiri, Li-Young Lee, Justin Chin, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Christine Hyung-Oak Lee, Celeste Ng, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Ted Chiang, Timothy Yu, Karen Tei Yamashita, Mimi Khúc, and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries.
ENG 378, T/Th 1:40pm-2:55pm, Natalie Leger
All too often the Caribbean conjures thoughts of paradise, isles of hedonistic pleasure and islands of uncomplicated tropical bliss. But for writers of the Caribbean, the region's warmth and beauty overwhelmingly conceals the violence of the Caribbean's modern origin. In this course, we will closely examine how Caribbean writers have dealt with the history of violence that was the conquest, slavery and colonialism. We will closely consider how Caribbean writers of the twentieth and twenty-first century explore the residual effects of this history, specifically, its influence on social, political and interpersonal relations among races, classes, and cultures as well as its impact on persons struggling to love themselves and others. In reading various Caribbean novels, poems and plays, we will ultimately explore how the weight of the past shapes for Caribbean writers the possibilities of the present. We will explore how these writers have sought to reinterpret a history of violence in ways that both demand and call attention to the pressing need for an improved regional future free from the racial, cultural and gender divisions of the past.
ENG 391W, T/Th 1:40pm-2:55pm, William Orchard
SUPERHEROES: History, Theory and Practice.
In this class, we will examine the superhero as a character, as a genre, and as an industry. As we do this, we will consider the ways in the superhero has been responsive to shifting attitudes about U.S. national identity, especially as it relates to race, gender, and sexuality. Looking at the superhero across the twentieth century and across various media, we will read history and theory about genre, mass media, and concepts, like trauma, that equip us to interpret these narratives in productive ways. Likely primary texts will include: Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen, Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Morrison, Quitely, and Rich’s All-Star Superman, Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’s Marvels, Gene-Luen Yang and Sonny Liew’s The Shadow Hero, Jaime Hernandez’s Gods and Science, Ms. Marvel, and Black Panther: The World of Wakanda. In this writing-intensive class, students will blog frequently and write five one-page response papers (one of which will be revised, twice), a researched biography of a superhero, and a short essay about a superhero that they create.
ENG 391W, Tue 6:40pm-9:30pm, Veronica Schanoes
Looking Back: Adult Literary Responses to Children's Literature
Our favorite children's books often continue to shape the way we think and imagine long after childhood, and this is doubly true for writers. In this class, we'll explore the ways writers have returned to the texts that captivated them as children and written responses as adults. We'll begin by reading four or five classic children's novels, including Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Then we'll read responses to these texts, such as Wicked and After Alice by Gregory Maguire, Was by Geoff Ryman, The Lost Girls by Laurie Fox, Automated Alice by Jeff Noon, Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin, and the graphic novel The Child Thief by Brom. We'll look at who revisits these tales, what they preserve, and what they change, and we'll think about how ideas of childhood and gender change, what innocence means, who gets to have it, and who is forced to have it. Note: in this class we'll be looking at literary responses directed at adults rather than at teenagers or children, but you are free to write about a YA or children's text in your papers.
ENG 391W, M/W 10:45am-12:00pm, Andrea Walkden
Britain: From Brutus to Brexit
In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson argues that nations are “imagined” as bounded, sovereign, and communal. Our seminar will situate these three elements of a national imaginary in a centuries-long perspective, looking backward from Britain’s present-day Brexit crisis (following the referendum vote to leave the European Union in June 2016) to the historical creation of Britain, through empire and warfare, from a cluster of small islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Together we’ll consider the desires and fantasies that animate national narratives, beginning with the twelfth-century historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, who mythologized the figure of Brutus of Troy (the ancestor of Aeneas, believed to have founded, and named, Britain), and including the seventeenth-century polymath John Aubrey, whose archaeological and anthropological investigations led him to speculate on the ancient peoples who must have built the great stone circle at Stonehenge. Our aim will be to use these and other, earlier works of literature to inform our understanding of the contemporary political geography of the British Isles, a geography unsettled by the global flow of capital and people, the anticipated rebordering of Northern Ireland, and the movement toward Scottish independence. Likely readings include: Shakespeare, Henry V (1599), Edmund Spenser, A View of the Present State of Ireland (1596), Ben Jonson, Masque of Blackness (1605), John Milton, Lycidas (1637), Thomas Browne, Urn Burial (1658), John Aubrey, Templa Druidum (c. 1663), Henry Cornelius and Ealing Studios, Passport to Pimlico (1949), Bill Buford, Among the Thugs (1992), Amit Chaudhuri, Odysseus Abroad (2015), Zadie Smith, Feel Free (2018), and Ali Smith, Autumn (2017), heralded in the New York Times as “the first great Brexit novel.”
A series of informal writing assignments will prepare toward a final research project, written in a genre and on a topic chosen by the student but related to the seminar’s central ideas and themes.
ENG 391W, TBA, New Drama Hire