Spring 2019 Elective and Senior Seminar Course Descriptions

ENG 301W. Fiction Workshop

Prof. John Weir

Thu 1:40pm-4:30pm (course code 1373)


ENGL 302. Playwriting Workshop

Prof. Hillary Miller

T/Th 3:10pm-4:25pm (course code 6255)

Tony Kushner describes playwriting as an art that proceeds from contradiction, not cause and effect; not “this happens and then this and then this,” but more, “This happened. Oh yeah? Who says so?” This semester, we will take a deep dive into the contradictions of writing for the stage. How do our characters speak and listen to each other? What do our characters want, and how do they communicate, achieve, and change? Can a focus on intention, action, conflict, and image create powerful and effective stage plays? When do theatricality and imagination enter into the writing process? How do we avoid the clichés of the stage and instead find inspiration in the contradictions of the theatre?

Your energies in this class will be directed toward cultivating and deepening your craft as playwrights. This will include the completion of dramatic writing prompts and “bake-offs”; scene and monologue writing; aesthetic experimentation; reading scripts aloud and in performance; collaborative group writing; peer feedback; revision; and research. We will learn the vocabulary necessary to thoughtfully critique our own writing as well as the writing of our peers. In our reading and viewing of sample plays, we will explore the dominant elements of dramatic structure and contemporary techniques of theatrical storytelling.


ENG 303W. Non-Fiction Workshop

Prof. Briallen Hopper

T/Th 3:10pm-4:25pm (course code 1375)

Family is where writers begin. It is a world, a language, a home, a cast of characters. People write about family to escape it, return to it, remember it, make sense of it, memorialize it. They write to spread the love, make an argument, revel in the absurdity. In Writing About Family, we will read a range of (mostly US, mostly 20th- and 21st-century, mostly non-fiction) family writing. The readings and writing exercises are all chosen to help you develop your own skills in researching and writing creative non-fiction.​ You will then write, workshop, and revise two essays.


English 304. Poetry Workshop

Prof. Nicole Cooley

M/W 3:10pm-4:25pm (course code 1323)
In this poetry writing workshop, we will focus in particular on how the poetic “I” is constructed. We will consider this through an examination of several first books of poems published  in the past few years as well as through a close investigation of both traditional and experimental forms, from the sonnet to the haibun to the erasure.

Class will often begin with a brief writing prompt to generate ideas and images before we turn to workshop.  There will also be discussion of the assigned texts, which both provide models for writing and will change your thinking about poetry and what a poem is.

Early in the semester, you will formulate a final project, which you will work on throughout the semester, according to an individual plan.  The project might be a long poem, a thematically or formally related collection of poems, a cross-genre work, or any idea of your own.

Possible texts for the course include Danez Smith,
[insert] boy; francie j harris, play dead; Layli Long Solider, Whereas; Molly McCully Brown, The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded; Eduardo Corral, Slow Lightning; Rajiv Mohabir, The Taxidermist’s Cut; Solmaz Sharif, Look; Natalie Diaz, When My Brother Was an Azetc


ENG 304: Poetry Workshop

Prof. Ryan Black

Mon 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 1319)

In response to a letter from a reader seeking advice on becoming a poet, Elizabeth Bishop writes, “Read a lot of poetry—all the time—and not 20th-century poetry. Read Campion, Herbert, Pope, Tennyson, Coleridge—anything at all almost that's any good, from the past–until you find out what you really like, by yourself. Even if you try to imitate it exactly­—it will come out quite different.” Bishop continues, “then [read] the great poets of our own century—Marianne Moore, Auden, Wallace Stevens—and not just 2 or 3 poems each, in anthologies—read ALL of somebody. Then his or her life, and letters, and so on. (And by all means read Keats’s Letters.) Then see what happens.” Bishop speaks from a position of experience and offers the simplest, most important advice any young writer needs: read. Read voraciously. Read for pleasure. Read whatever you can get your hands on. Then read more. The most successful young poets, as Larry Levis says, are the “most literary: what they demonstrate is a love for poetry rather than a love for themselves.”

This class will continue the work begun in English 210W: Introduction to Creative Writing. Thus, we will remember to treat the writing of poetry as a discipline. Students will rely on the making of images to do both the emotional and ideational work of the poem. And we will use our readings as models to imitate; to incite; to break, borrow, and steal. All student writing will be subject to “workshopping” by the entire class.


English 308: African American Drama

Prof. Miles Grier

M/W 3:10pm-4:25pm (course code 1335)

No course of such short duration could provide comprehensive coverage of all the theatrical and cultural complexities summoned by the three words that comprise the term African American Drama. However, students in this course will learn to think creatively about the historical interplay of racial hierarchy and performance culture in the Atlantic rim over several centuries. To that end, the course will include readings on African guests at London theatres, the pioneering African Grove Company in New York, and the long legacy of blackface performance from the Middle Ages to the present. Across and against these currents, students will read stylistically divergent playwrights, such as CLR James, Leroi Jones, Adrienne Kennedy, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, August Wilson, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Derek McPhatter. Students’ final papers or projects will consider the future of blackness and performance in light of the past and present.


ENGL 317 Adaptation Studies

Prof. Cliff Mak

M/W 10:45-12:00pm (course code 1346)

“Images are beautiful, we cannot do without images, but they are also a source of much anguish.” –Franz Kafka

What happens when a book is blown up for the big screen? Or when literature is adapted to other media? What can film or television or music do with a story that literature can’t? And vice versa: what can literature do that film or television or music can’t? Do certain texts lend themselves more easily to adaptation? Can the unique act of adaptation itself embody otherwise inexpressible themes? In this course, we will look at the history of cross-media adaptation in the twentieth century, spending time with texts across media (including fiction, poetry, film, television, music, musicals, and music videos) and exploring the intricacies, advantages, and difficulties of taking the ideas, issues, and stories of one medium and re-shaping them in another. We will read and watch widely across decades and genres and, along the way, grapple with key questions central not only to literary theory, film theory, and adaptation studies but also to historical and contemporary matters of gender, sexuality, and race as they are brought to the fore in the act of adaptation.

Genres will include: horror, comedy, romance, romantic comedy, musical comedy, Gothic, science fiction melodrama, hard-boiled crime, film noir, mystery, historical epic, coming-of-age narratives, and pop music.

Novels, short stories, and excerpts may include: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon; The Autobiography of Malcolm X; Franz Kafka, The Trial; Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca; Mario Puzo, The Godfather; Jane Austen, Emma; Stanislaw Lem, Solaris; Alice Walker, The Color Purple; Arthur C. Clarke, “The Sentinel”; and Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain.”

Films and television shows may include: Clueless, The X-Files, Fargo, Mulan, Young Frankenstein, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Malcolm X, Citizen Kane, The Trial, I Want to Live, Lawrence of Arabia, The Maltese Falcon, Rebecca, Vertigo, The Godfather, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, Show Boat, The Color Purple, Brokeback Mountain, Crash, and Adaptation.


English 320. Early Modern Literature

Prof. Rich McCoy

M/W 1:40pm-2:55pm (course code 41027)

The course will focus on the literature and culture of sixteenth-century England, ranging from Thomas More’s Utopia, through the sonnets of Wyatt, Surrey, Ralegh, Sidney, Shakespeare, and others. We will also examine some of the major documents of the English Reformation as well as important political texts of the Tudor regime. The erotic verse of Christopher Marlowe, religious and love lyrics of John Donne, and selections from Spenser’s Faerie Queene will also be included in our survey. Text: Norton Anthology of English Literature, volume B.

Please note: this course fulfills the pre-1800 British Literature area elective requirement for the English major.  


ENG 322 Restoration Literature

Prof. Ala Alryyes

Mon 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 40049)

A place is both an object in the world and a way of seeing, knowing, and understanding the world. Drawing on readings in the poetry, drama, and narrative of the Restoration and the long eighteenth century (1660-1812), our class will study the myriad ways in which writers of different stripes have created marked literary places by overlaying human meanings onto abstract space. Authors to include Dryden, Ben Jonson, Carew, Locke, Marvell, James Thomson, Swift, George Crabbe, Oliver Goldsmith, Jane Austen, and others.

Please note: this course fulfills the pre-1800 British Literature area elective requirement for the English major.  


ENG 328 Children’s Literature

Prof. Veronica Schanoes

Thu 6:30pm-9:20pm (course code 1363)

British Children's Fantasy Literature 1863-present

The Harry Potter books are a popular example of an important, much-loved genre, children’s fantasy.  In this course, we’ll trace the development of British children’s fantasy from the 1860s to the present day, studying the genre’s innovations, experiments, and influence.  Most importantly, we’ll consider children’s literature as children’s literature, and take it seriously on its own terms, paying special attention to the attraction fantasies of magical powers might hold for people who are so often without any power of their own.  What does it mean to be a child? How do we define the genre of fantasy?  Authors we read will include Lewis Carroll, J.M. Barrie, E. Nesbit, P.L. Travers, Diana Wynne Jones, J.K. Rowling, and Frances Hardinge.


ENG 331 Chaucer

Prof. Madeleine Saraceni

T/Th 4:40pm-5:50pm (course code 41205)

Few authors can claim a more significant role in English literary history than

Geoffrey Chaucer, hailed as the “fader” and “firste fyndere of oure faire language.” This course offers an intensive study of Chaucer’s works with consideration of their cultural and historical contexts. Readings include The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame and selections from The Canterbury Tales. Special topics include the politics and status of Middle English, Chaucer and women, and the legacy of Chaucer. No previous knowledge of Middle English is assumed.

Please note: this course fulfills the pre-1800 British Literature area elective requirement for the English major.  


English 333. Shakespeare II

Prof. Rich McCoy

M/W 10:45am-12:00pm (course code 1349)

A survey of Shakespeare’s plays written during the Jacobean era, covering selected plays from the second half of his career, as well as contemporary historical events. The course will focus on the so-called “problem” comedies (Measure for Measure) major tragedies, (Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear) and late romances (The Winter's Tale, The Tempest). Text: Norton Shakespeare, volume 2.

Please note: this course fulfills the pre-1800 British Literature area elective requirement for the English major.  


ENG 349 Colonial American Literature

Prof. Ryan Carr

T/Th 9:15am-10:30am (course code 43981)

Until quite recently, scholars used the term “Colonial American literature” to refer to texts written prior to the Revolutionary War in the region that was eventually to become the United States. In the literature of the Colonial period, it was thought, one could hope to discern the sources of the American self, the American constitution, and the American way of life. Today, scholars tend to agree that there is no such thing as a singular, unified American character, culture, or political experience. To study the literature of the North American and Atlantic colonies is to encounter a complex, multicultural, and highly conflicted world in which the fantasy of an independent American Republic preoccupied only a tiny minority. This class explores the literature of the English-speaking colonies prior to 1750 and the extraordinarily diverse and dynamic social world that that literature helped bring into being. We will consider novels about political revolutions, compendia of indigenous herbal traditions, execution sermons, anti-Christian screeds, works of natural history, autobiographies by statesmen (Benjamin Franklin) and former slaves (Ukawsaw Gronniosaw), narratives of abduction, love poems, plays, and newspaper satires. Our examination of these texts will focus on the question of how and why literary culture became so important both to the European colonial powers and to the people (especially indigenous Americans and the enslaved) whom those kingdoms sought to subjugate. We will also explore the emergence of the English language as a medium of cross-cultural communication, literary expression, and political power in the colonial American context.

Please note: this course fulfills the pre-1900 American Literature area elective requirement for the English major.  


ENG 350. Early American Literature

Prof. Siân Silyn Roberts

M/W 10:45am-12:00pm (course code 40056)


 Much of the narrative fiction written and read in the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries United States might be categorized as “adventure tales,” a highly popular style that traded in all manner of exciting goings-on: shipwrecks, robberies, kidnappings, ferocious beasts, threatening forests, lost and recovered fortunes, thwarted love, journeys into unknown lands, separation and reunion with loved ones, captivity, and escape.  These tales recycle elements of the European gothic romance, Barbary and Indian captivity narratives, and the sentimental novel – to name just a few generic sources – and put them to work in a New World context.  Paradoxically, then, the adventure tale was both exciting and redundant, new and unoriginal, indigenous and transplanted. These unruly works often defy modern standards of “realism,” relying more often on the kinds of conventions associated with the eighteenth-century “romance”: improbabilities (very unlikely things happen), temporal and spatial dislocations (time and places jump about), and digressions (plots get frequently sidetracked).


Our readings will therefore focus on a loose collection of adventure tales to consider why improbabilities, fantastic plots, and wide geographic dispersals spoke to early American interests. The primary goal of the course is to familiarize ourselves with the principle forms of writing (or “rhetorics”) that predominated in the early Atlantic world, particularly the gothic, the picaresque, historiographic writing, the slave narrative, and sentimentalism.  We will pay attention to how these rhetorics mobilize certain kinds of thinking, about everything from citizenship and personhood to eighteenth-century conceptions of emotion and thought.  We will consider how early American fiction has its roots in early non-fictional modes (historiography, or the writing of history; captivity narratives; the slave narrative, exploration, etc.). Finally, we will think about how “adventure” and all its declensions (chance, luck, risk, novelty, peril, experimentation, speculation, exploration, etc.) is encountered both as a theme (i.e. a recurring metaphor or plot element) and as a formal structure (i.e. “adventure” as a way of writing).

Please note: this course fulfills the pre-1900 American Literature area elective requirement for the English major.  


ENG 353 Mid-Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century U.S. Literature

Prof. Hugh English

M/W 1:40PM - 2:55PM (course code 1330)

              The world is wrong. You can’t put the past behind you. It’s buried

                in you; it’s turned your flesh into its own cupboard. Not everything

                remembered is useful but it all comes from the world to be stored in you.  

 --Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014)


Mid-20th- and 21st-Century US Literature spans an 8-decade period of immense change, both in a global context, and within the United States: a time when the national frame of US literature must expand to include many diverse humans from across our planet who have arrived and made the USAmerica we currently live in.  (This has always been the case certainly in this country of immigrants, but undeniably so in this period.) The world we live in seems unrecognizable from even 10 years ago.  Extensive changes have transpired and continue to arise in literary meaning-making and other artistic expression, technologies, science, new media and new genres, and fundamentally different understandings of what it means to be human, let alone to be USAmerican.  USAmerican cultures, economy, modes of living, ways of having identities, and modes and media of communication and expression manifest dramatic and rapid change in this period, including greater diversity, or at least awareness of greater diversity in multiple categories of identity such as ethnicity (and race), colors, classes, belief systems (e.g., religions and secularism), sex/gender, genders (transsexuality, transgender, cis-gender, non-binary gender, etc.), and sexualities (i.e., articulations/expressions of desire).  (Please note: the foregoing list is not an attempt to make an exhaustive list of changes in identities.)

                Through reading, talking about and writing about varied literary representations and a few popular cultural forms (e.g., television), we will explore: immigration; multiple diversities and intersectional identities; new technologies; neoliberal market economies; imperialism; globalization; new nationalisms; war, war and more war; shifts in understandings of class relations, work, embodiment, sex/gender, family, and desire.  We will focus on representations from 3 periods: the 1960s, the 1980s, and the 2000s.  Our reading will include some of the following writers/titles: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking-Bird (1960); Flannery O’Connor; James Baldwin; Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1966); Gwendolyn Brooks; Allen Ginsberg; Elizabeth Bishop; Audre Lorde; Pop Art (e.g., Andy Warhol); the Fluxus Movement (e.g., Yoko Ono); Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982); David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly (1988);  Marilyn Hacker; John Ashbery; Lucille Clifton; a television series episode (Miami Vice, on NBC, 1984-1989, or Cagney & Lacey, on CBS, 1982-1988); Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (1991); some post-2000 USAmerican graphic novels and memoirs such as Art Speigelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers (2004); Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006); Tony Medina’s Broke Baroque (2013); Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (2004); Junot Diaz’ The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao (2008); Eileen Myles; Morgan Parker; Layli Long Soldier; Solmaz Sharif; Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric (2014); Robin Coste Lewis’ Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems (2015); Carl Phillips’ Wild is the Wind: Poems (2018).


ENG 355 African American Literature II

Prof. Maaza Mengiste

TuTh 5:00PM - 6:15PM (course code 1350)

In this course, we will consider how African American writers from the 1930s to today have grappled with their place in America and in the world. We will consider the works of those who have defined a particularly African-American experience and those who have begun to negotiate the differences between “black” and “African-American”. Though we will inhabit the world of literature, you will be asked to consider past and current events and determine how fiction can inform what is happening around you. What kind of truth emerges through fiction that is absent in history or current discussions? What assumptions are challenged? What stereotypes are created?

Please note: this course fulfills the Global, Ethnic, or Post-Colonial Literature area elective requirement for the English major.  


ENG 360. Latinx Childhood

Prof. Bill Orchard

T/Th 10:45am-120m (course code 1358)

In the heart-wrenching stories of refugee families torn asunder at the US-Mexico border, the Latinx child has emerged a key figure in contemporary political discourse. Although we are often inclined to think of childhood as a universal experience or a time of innocence, childhood is affected by a host of historical, economic, social, political, and cultural factors. In this class, we will examine the experience of Latinx childhood in three ways. First, we will consider the ways in which Latinx coming of age narratives have to rework the conventions of the bildungsroman in order to account for the roles that the race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality play in a Latinx child’s growing understanding of their social roles. Second, we will read recent works in young adult and children’s literature to examine how Latinx childhood is being represented to young readers. Finally, we will consider the various ways in which childhood has been invoked and deployed in contemporary debates in the United States about immigration.  Likely texts will include: Tomás Rivera’s . . . and the earth did not devour him, Nicholasa Mohr’s Nilda, Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, Justin Torres’s We the Animals, Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Daniel Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper, Junot Díaz’s Islandborn, Celia Perez’s The First Rule of Punk, and Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends.

Please note: this course fulfills the Global, Ethnic, or Post-Colonial Literature area elective requirement for the English major.  


ENG 369 Asian American Literature

Prof. Seo-Young Chu

MoWe 5:00PM - 6:15PM (course code 40052)

Please note: this course fulfills the Global, Ethnic, or Post-Colonial Literature area elective requirement for the English major.  


ENG 371. Twentieth-and Twenty-First-Century Drama and Performance

Dr. Rhoda Sirlin

Wed 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 1366)

This course will focus on classics of the American theatre from 1945 to the present.   We will study early giants like Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller and then compare them to more recent recipients of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, such as Marsha Norman, Paula Vogel, August Wilson, John Patrick Shanley, Ayad Akhtar, Quiara Hudes, Lynn Nottage, Martyna Majok and others who were either finalists for the Prize or should have been considered for the prize, such as Lillian Hellman, Lorraine Hansberry and Rebecca Gilman.   In the process, we will explore such topics as realism, naturalism and expressionism as well as definitions of tragedy, comedy and tragicomedy as they play themselves out on the American stage.  The overriding aim is to reveal theatre’s central place in American culture, demonstrating the need to look at important social issues with which America continues to grapple without necessarily providing solutions.


ENG 374 Twentieth- and Twenty- First-Century Poetry

Prof. Wayne Moreland

Mon 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 1352)


          ...But, ah! Manhattan's sights and sounds, her smells,

Her crowds, her throbbing force, the thrill that comes

From being of her a part, her subtle spells,

Her shining towers, her avenues, her slums—

O God! the stark, unutterable pity,

To be dead, and never again behold my city!

James Weldon Johnson

This class will study, examine, and evaluate poetry produced in and engaging New York City during the 20th and 21st centuries. The poems will include those of visitors to New York, such as Federico Garcia Lorca and his famed book Poet in New York, and residents of the city such as Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, and John Ashberry. The class will include poetry produced in movements such as the Harlem Renaissance and the New York School, both of which included friends, rivals, and collaborators in creation, as well as singular poets like e.e.cummings and Edna St. Vincent Millay; the Objectivists; the Black Arts Movement; the Beats; immigrants like W.H. Auden and Claude McKay, Marie Ponsot and Sonia Sanchez, and others. Special attention will be given to poets who not only lived in or near the city (like William Carlos Williams) but also who engaged the city's many contradictions and beauties.

The class will likely include the poets Countee Cullen, Amiri Baraka, Frank O'Hara, Charles Reznikoff, Kenneth Koch, Barbra Guest, Fay Chiang, Pedro Pietri and the Nuyorican Movement; in addition, we will look at the varied critical movements that grew up around the rambunctious schools.


ENG 390, Comedy and Satire

Prof. Fred Gardaphe

T/Th 1:40pm-2:55pm (course code 1334)

Selected studies in comic fiction, drama, and satire. This course will investigate the origin and development of comedy and satire and their relation to ritual and social custom. It will consider dramatic modes, such as comedy of manners, farce, and theatre of the absurd as well as stock characters such as the trickster, the comic hero, and the clown. It will also consider the historic relationship between comedy and tragedy and the ways in which gender and cultural experience have shaped our perceptions of the comic. This course explores the use of comedy and satire in literature, drama, film, television and stand-up routines primarily throughout the history of the United States.   After exploring the evolution of theories about humor (from Classical to Contemporary), students will interpret roles that humor plays in artistic expression in relation to relevant theories.   Artists covered include Mark Twain, Fannie Fern, Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, The Marx Brothers, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Dorothy Parker, Sherman Alexie, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Chris Rock and others.  We will examine the role modes of expression such as irony and sarcasm play in the construction and reception of art.  We will also explore the interaction between oral and literary deliveries of humor, and the roles that historical, geographical, and social contexts of race, gender, ethnicity and lifestyle play in the production and reception of humor in the United States.


ENG 397. Seminar in Teaching Writing - The Role of Writing Centers in Writing Instruction

Prof. Marco Navarro

Tue 6:40PM-9:30PM (course code 1354)

This Seminar in Teaching Writing will primarily use writing center scholarship as a lens through which to explore the theories and techniques of college-level writing instruction. In addition to coursework, students will gain first-hand experience tutoring students in the Queens College Writing Center. This course will be useful to students interested in pursuing writing instruction, students interested in tutoring, students curious about writing center administration, and students who are considering graduate study in Composition and Rhetoric or Writing Center Studies. Upon successful completion of the course, and pending scheduling and budgetary constraints, students might have the option of working in the Writing Center as peer writing consultants in subsequent semesters.

Enrollment requirements: Permission of the department and junior or senior standing. Students who have completed English 110 and English 130 (or who are currently enrolled in English 130) and have a genuine interest or curiosity in the tutoring of writing are strongly encouraged to seek special permission to register for this class. Please contact Marco Navarro, marco.navarro@qc.cuny.edu for more information.


Senior Seminars

ENG 391W Digital Literary Studies

Prof. Kevin Ferguson

M/W 1:40pm-2:55pm (course code 40051)

This course focuses on applying digital humanities (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 around concepts such as close reading, literary history, and the canon. Students will also gain experience practicing some of the basic tools of digital literary analysis, such as ngram analysis, cluster analysis, topic modeling, text mining, stylometry, 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 “reading” hundreds or even thousands of novels at a time. For a final project, students will curate their own data set to analyze using a variety of appropriate digital approaches.


Eng 391W  Defining Life

Prof. Ala Alryyes

Wed 6:40pm-9:30pm (course code 1318)

It is perhaps easier to designate a living creature (a person, a tree) than to specify what life is. This senior seminar will undertake a study of the various boundaries between living beings and non-living objects, boundaries that may shed more light on the nature of “life.” I will organize the course around five major topics: 1) The nature of the “soul” and “self” 2) Vulnerability  3) The boundaries between persons and animals 4) Creation. 5) The boundaries between persons and things. We will also reflect on how various fields of knowledge (Literature, Philosophy, Science) construct their own disciplinary identities by, among other things, delimiting their own conceptions of life. Readings will include works by Plato, Descartes, Locke, Hans Jonas,  J. M. Coetzee, Darwin, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Judith Butler, Dalton Trumbo, Girogio Agamben, Raja Shehadeh.


ENG 391W Senior Seminar

Prof. Seo-Young Chu

MoWe 3:10PM - 4:25PM (course code 1322)


ENG 391W Senior Seminar

Prof. Natalie Leger

TuTh 10:45AM - 12:00PM (course code 1345)

Magical Realism in the Americas

At the heart of this course is the seemingly irreconcilable, that is, how the “magical” converges with the “real” in day-to-day existence. Focusing our attention on “magical realism”, a literary genre where narrative realism is conveyed and/or shaped by otherworldly and fantastic occurrences that are understood as fact, this class turns to fiction from the Americas to examine the play of difference, cultural and political, that shapes the genre’s rich nuances. Of import to this course is how the exploration of different cultures, worldviews, and perceptions in “magical realism” invites critical study of how we live our lives as a collective. The play of difference central to the genre will facilitate our class exploration of how people think their lives into existence, how they navigate and negotiate the struggles faced with racial, cultural and/or gender difference and how they live with others, divisively or in harmony. With the Americas as our literary focus, our exploration of the genre of “magical realism” in fiction from the New World will address the key issues of slavery, colonialism, post colonialism and empire that has shaped culture and existence in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean since the region’s “discovery”. We will do so not only to gain greater insight into the region in which we live, but to better appreciate how the fantastic or the magical can so often express what realism cannot: the simultaneous terror of a past as well as present of injustice and the ever present promise of a better future to come.


ENG 391W Senior Seminar

Prof. Madeleine Saraceni

Tu 6:40PM - 9:30PM (course code 23498)

Representing Woman in Medieval Literature

This course explores the diverse representations of woman in medieval literatures with the particular goal of discovering the complexity of gender in the Middle Ages. The course begins in late antiquity with the classic Roman model of feminine virtue, Lucretia, as depicted in Augustine’s City of God. Our journey into the Middle Ages then takes off with several female saints’ lives, including the Life of Christina of Markyate and the hugely popular lives of saints Margaret and Katherine, who were both models of chastity and learning to medieval men and women alike. The extraordinary Book of Margery Kempe will also be read in this unit, as an opportunity to see lived engagement with the conventions of medieval sainthood. We then proceed to discover the ideal aristocratic woman as presented in the courtly language of the romance tradition, such as in Marie de France’s Lais, as well as the lyrics found in the famed medieval manuscript Harley 2253. After setting the standards for the ideal woman, both religious and secular, we will then proceed to explore challenges to the ideal, such as the figures of Alison and the Wife of Bath in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The course will then turn to the subject of medieval misogyny as a literary genre. By combining readings from Jean de Meun’s Roman de la Rose with selections from the Epistres du Querelle des Femmes (the famous debate on the ‘question of woman’) we will explore both the literary tradition of medieval misogyny as well as contemporary reactions to it. Our course will end with Christine de Pizan’s historic literary defense of women, the Book of the City of Ladies.


ENG 399W, Honors Seminar

Prof. Gloria Fisk

Wed 6:00pm-8:50pm (course code 1332)

Tue 1:40pm-4:30pm (course code 1333)

Note: students must have taken the Fall 2018 section of ENG 399W to re enroll in the Spring section

This is the second semester in an honors seminar that lasts for a full year, open only to seniors who have done excellent work in the major. The seminar culminates the course work that precedes it by putting mature students in conversation with an intellectual community that extends across and beyond the university.  To engage with that community, students in this course work closely with a faculty member and each other to write an independent thesis and take an honors exam.

        The central question of this year’s honors seminar is: What good is literature? Students in this seminar will pore through literary history and theory to weigh the arguments for and against the time it takes to read literature— as a source of moral improvement, maybe, political insight, or intelligence that is useful on the job market.  We’ll ask:

·         Does literature make its readers better citizens of the nation and the world, perhaps, or better workers in an information economy on a global scale?

·         When we read novels, poems, and plays, do we gain a greater understanding of other people who are different from us, or greater ability to live in the non-fictional world we inhabit?

·         Under what conditions can reading literature bring these benefits—to whom?

·         What does literature have to gain and lose from the variety of answers we might give to these questions?

The seminar will be mindful, too, of the immediate relevance of such questions to students graduating from Queens College with a major in English in 2018. What benefits do we gain from reading all this literature—and how and why should we continue to read it?