Department of English M.A. Course Descriptions—FALL 2014

ENG 601 (A): Oscar Wilde (Professor Melissa Jenkins)

This seminar presents the varied oeuvre of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), the self-proclaimed “Professor of Aesthetics” and, arguably, the first modern literary celebrity. The reading list will balance a reconsideration of his most famous works (The Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray, De Profundis) with exposure to challenging, lesser-known works such as Salomé, the fairy tales, and the Poems in Prose. We will also attend to Wilde’s most important influences (Pater and Ruskin), to the controversial censorship of his “filthy” writings and the policing of his personal life (which culminated in his imprisonment for then-illegal homosexual activity), and, finally, the varied approaches to adapting his works in the years after his death. The class will be of particular interest to students interested in studying gender and sexuality. Wilde, briefly the editor of Woman’s World (he changed the title from Lady’s World) was a thoughtful critic on a number of social issues, including those related to non-normative performances of gender identity. This course is writing-intensive. Students will write four “position papers” (1 page thought pieces), as well as three formal essays of increasing length and sophistication. In our analysis of Wilde’s writing and our work with each other’s writing, we will focus on process. Each assignment is meant to build upon the previous assignment, allowing you to see an extended project to fruition in planned stages. This is a workshop-based discussion class rather than a lecture course; thus, participation in course discussion is essential.  

ENG 601 (B): Jane Austen (Professor Jessica Richard)

The academic study of Jane Austen was foundational to the development of English literature as a professional discipline in the early twentieth century, from the formal textual criticism of F. R. Leavis to the textual scholarship of R. W. Chapman’s Oxford edition of Austen’s novels.  In this course we will study both the work of Jane Austen and the history of Jane Austen criticism and scholarship.  We will read Austen’s novels, her juvenilia, a selection of her letters, a biography, and a broad historical selection of criticism from formalist assessments to feminist and Marxist critiques to cultural studies of film adaptations and Jane Austen clubs.  Students will thus learn to read critically an author they may once have loved uncritically while at the same time learning about the history of criticism itself.  

ENG 610: The Medieval in the Modern World (Professor Gillian Overing)

What do medieval texts contribute to our understanding of a post-modern world? How might the pre-modern become a resource for elucidating or rethinking contemporary issues? Some of the areas we will investigate will be: concepts of individuality and community, heroism, the dynamics of religious conversion, nationalisms, emotions and affect, gender identities, and the aesthetics of place. This course offers the challenges and rewards of reading a wide variety of texts from the early medieval period,, and will also look also at modern versions of these themes and our current preoccupation with the medieval period. Texts include secular and ecclesiastical histories and laws, readings from Gildas, Bede, Alfred the “Great”; literary texts will include Anglo-Saxon poetry, Beowulf, The Mabinogion, Grettir’s Saga.,  We will also look at later and contemporary renditions of these texts and themes in poetry (Heaney, Levertov, Borges, Morgan), prose (John Gardner’s Grendel, Peter Tremayne’s Absolution by Murder,), and a selection of films (including Monty Python and the Holy Grail, King Arthur, Beowulf, Beowulf and Grendel, The Outlaw).

Class presentations, informal response papers, two research papers (5-7 pages), final exam and/or team presentation.  

ENG 611: Legend of Arthur (Professor Gale Sigal)

The Legend of Arthur is a broad river into which myth, history and art flow and commingle.  Its source is pre-historic but its shape and substance continue to be drawn and redrawn even to our own time.  The course will seek out the origins of the legendary leader, delve into the mythic past of the British Isles, scan and study medieval historical records and along the way assess the relevance of historical, social, political, artistic and religious movements.  All of this will be done by reading major literary texts, primarily (but not exclusively) medieval.

ENG 623: Shakespeare (Professor Olga Valbuena)

We will read plays and poems from Shakespeare’s career as chief dramatist for The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and, later, The King’s Men. Our class discussions will involve close analysis of Shakespeare’s language, his culture, and the various moral, political, and aesthetic issues raised in the plays and poetry. We will favor a thematic over chronological order of reading so that we can build on our progressive examination of love, gender, and friendship; reciprocal obligation, and king and kinship. In relation to these issues, we’ll examine domestic and political tyranny—and of course, revenge and moral redemption. Required Text: The Necessary Shakespeare, 3rd New Kittredge editions of plays such as Richard II, 1 Henry IV, Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, As You Like It, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. Writing Requirement: two essays, a midterm or final and occasional response papers plus group or individual presentations.

ENG 625: Sixteenth-century British Literature (Professor Sarah Hogan)

When the sixteenth century began, and Henry VII—that first Tudor monarch—sat on the throne, England was a resolutely Catholic state, and an island with relatively little power or cultural prestige on the world stage. But by the end of the century, Protestantism had become the state-sanctioned religion, a female monarch had held the crown for four decades, London had nearly quadrupled in size, English vessels were already venturing to the newly discovered lands of the Americas, and republican sentiments were on the rise. In the interim, British literature had undergone a revival, or a Renaissance, occasioned in part by a continent-wide spirit of humanist inquiry and an explosion in print culture. This course will explore how writers of the period gave expression to—and found meaning in—the experiences of early modernity by reinventing older literary forms and employing new ones altogether. In particular, our close examinations of Renaissance poetry, prose, and drama will consider the ways in which British writers participated in the construction of a particularly national cultural identity.

While secondary readings of criticism and theory—especially of a new historicist and cultural materialist variety—will guide us in our reading, the bulk of this course will be devoted to an examination of the major and minor works of Tudor England, including Thomas More’s Utopia; sonnets by Wyatt, Howard, Sidney, Daniel, Drayton, and Shakespeare; poetry by women writers like Isabella Whitney and Mary Sidney Herbert; sixteenth-century aesthetic theory like A Defense of Poesy; Christopher Marlowe’s queer mythological poem Hero and Leander; lengthy excerpts from Spenser’s amazing “Cult of Elizabeth” romance epic, The Faerie Queene; “popular culture” like pamphlets, ballads, and broadsides; and two important plays on dissent and disorder in the absolutist state, Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy and Shakespeare’s Richard II. Assessment will likely include two major essays, reading responses and quizzes, student participation, and an independently researched, student-generated course Wiki on sixteenth-century British writers

ENG 636: Restoration and Eighteenth Century British Drama (Professor Claudia Kairoff)

After a long period of enforced inactivity during the Puritan regime, London theatres reopened in 1660 with the return of King Charles II from exile.  The ensuing Restoration period witnessed some of the most sparkling comedies ever produced by English writers.  In addition, scathing satires and idealistic tragedies reveal the extent of both bitter cynicism and hopes for renewal typical of the era.  These trends evolved in the eighteenth century, with softer humor and tragedies that explored the potential heroism of middle class individuals.


We will read a selection of plays representing the variety of Restoration and eighteenth-century British drama.  The course requirements will include several short essays, willingness to read aloud and act in class-staged scenes, and to prepare for the final examination a substantial scene from among the plays on our syllabus. Examples of plays we may read include The Man of Mode (Etherege), The Rover (Behn), All for Love (Dryden), The Country Wife (Wycherley), The Way of the World (Congreve), A Bold Stroke for a Wife (Centlivre), The Beaux’ Strategem (Farquhar), Cato (Addison), The Beggar’s Opera (Gay), The London Merchant (Lillo), The Belle’s Stratagem (Cowley), She Stoops to Conquer (Goldsmith), The School for Scandal (Sheridan).

ENG 641. Literature and the Environment (Professor Judith Madera)

This course looks at the ways literature illuminates environment. It introduces students to significant works of American, Caribbean and African literature, and it poses questions about the connections between nature and culture (how ideas and meanings are made.) Students in this class will explore the dynamic links between ecology and world literature. Readings will be enhanced by an examination of current ecological and environmental theory.

Authors may include: Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Jewett, Faulkner,
Kerouac, Carson, Leopold, Lopez, Rhys, Merwin, Head, Walcott, Coetzee,
Kingsolver, Erdrich, Danticat, and Theroux.

ENG 650: British Romantic Poets (Professor Eric Wilson)

We’ll study the poetry and related prose of Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats.  Here are some of the texts we’ll read. lake:                The Book of Thel

                Visions of the Daughter of Albion

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Songs of Innocence and Experience


Wordsworth:        “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”

“Preface to Lyrical Ballads

“Ode: Intimations on Immortality”

The Prelude (selections)

The Recluse (selections)

“Resolution and Independence”

“Elegiac Stanzas”

Coleridge:        “This Limetree Bower My Prison”

                “The Nightingale”

 “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

“Kubla Khan”


“Dejection: An Ode”

Biographia Literaria (selections)

Byron:                “Prometheus”


Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (selections)

Don Juan (selections)


Shelley:                “Mont Blanc”

“Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”

 “Ode to the West Wind”

Prometheus Unbound

“On Life”

“On Love”

“Defense of Poetry”

Keats:                “The Eve of St. Agnes”

Fall of Hyperion: A Dream 

Hyperion:         “Bright Star”

“Ode on a Grecian Urn”

“Ode to Melancholy”

“Ode to a Nightingale”

“Ode to Psyche”

 “To Autumn”

665: Twentieth Century British Fiction (Professor Scott Klein)

In this course we will be reading a range of English and Irish novels, from the early 20th century through the 1930s. We will concentrate on the stylistic experimentation of Modernism, and the era’s late and multiple pulls toward satire, realism, and the avant-garde. We’ll also focus on the nature of the individual within British and European society, and authors' differing treatments of sexual, cultural, historical, and religious difference. Two papers, midterm, final exam.

Texts: Conrad, Heart of Darkness(Penguin)
Forster, Howards End (Penguin)
Ford, The Good Soldier (Penguin)
Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Penguin)
Lewis, Tarr (Oxford)
Lawrence, Women in Love (Penguin)
West, The Return of the Soldier (Penguin)
Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (HBJ)

ENG 672: American Romanticism- The Individual and Society, Nature and Civilization in 19th-Century American Literature and Art (Professor William Moss)

We will consider these topics and conflicts inherent in them in selected writings of Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman, with attention to parallel developments in the art of the period, including paintings by Edward Hicks, Thomas Cole, Asher Brown Durand, Frederick Edwin Church, William Sidney Mount, George Caleb Bingham, and Thomas Eakins. The course will include a visit to Reynolda House Museum of American Art.

Requirements include group presentations, brief individual reports, and a major paper.

ENG 675. American Drama (Professor Brook Davis, WFU Dept. of Theatre)

No description available

ENG 681: American Slavery in the Modern Literary Imagination (Professor Rian Bowie)

From films and documentaries to graphic non-fictions to literature, reanimated histories about American slavery have provided contemporary audiences with an array of materials through which to engage with experiences often neglected or forgotten within the historical record. In this course, we will examine a variety of contemporary texts that directly or indirectly signify upon eighteenth and nineteenth century bodies of knowledge about slavery and freedom.  In particular, discussions will focus on some of the ways that modern artists have both reaffirmed and re-imagined these histories in both form and content.  Each work, to a degree, reinterprets subject matter by challenging the seemingly stable assumptions about race, geography, and identity.  Throughout the semester, we will interrogate these materials and the nuanced ways that they move their respective audiences towards contemporary questions about racial nationalisms in slavery and in freedom.

Texts may include:                                                           Films (tentative):

Octavia Butler’s Kindred                                                   Twelve Years a Slave

Maryse Conde’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem      Sankofa

James McBride’s Good Lord Bird                                     Django Unchained

Ishmael Reed, Flight to Canada

Kyle Barker’s Nat Turner

M. NourbeSe Phillip’s Zong  

ENG 685: 20th Century American Poetry (Professor Philip Kuberski)

Consciousness is the most mysterious fact in the natural world.  Modern science and philosophy may attempt to account for consciousness according to their disciplinary methods, but poetry has from the beginning of recorded history represented consciousness.  For the purposes of this course, we will consider how poetry dramatizes what one can call the adventures of the subject, self, or I.  We will see, as Alva Noe has recently argued, that consciousness is not an interior event, per se.  It is, as Gregory Bateson has argued, a kind of ecology that includes the natural world, the human body, and an array cultural and linguistic practices. We will begin by establishing the foundations of modern American poetry in the 19th Century (Emerson, Whitman and Dickinson) and then turn to four 20th Century poets: Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, and Gary Snyder.  Beyond assessing the meanings and contexts of consciousness as a worldly activity, we will deal with associated themes: cosmos, chaos, ecology, supreme fictions, and Mahayana Buddhism.  Three papers (7-8 pages) and seminar reports.


Emerson, Essays and Poems

Whitman, Leaves of Grass 

Dickinson, Final Harvest

Frost, Frost Reader

Stevens, Selected Poems

Bishop, Complete Poems

Snyder, Mountains and Rivers without End.

ENG 689: African-American Poetry- The Poets Speak of History (Professor Erica Still)

African American poetry stands as a rich tradition of attention to language, form, music, innovation, and literary vision. From Phyllis Wheatley’s poem in praise of George Washington to Elizabeth Alexander’s recitation at President Obama’s inauguration, African American poets have been witnesses to and participants in the unfolding story of the United States. This course will focus on that poetic tradition as it traces the country’s history. Our investigations will focus on understanding both the difference and the relationship between “history” and “poetry”: what can poetry tell us that history cannot? A particular interest in history (or poetry, for that matter) is certainly welcome but not required for success in this course. Readings will include works by Natasha Tretheway, Robert Hayden, Lucille Clifton, and Langston Hughes, among others. We may also spend time with the library’s special collection of African American Poetry Manuscripts. Course work will include various written assignments and an oral presentation.

[Meets Group III: Culture; American Requirement]

ENG 690: The Structure of English (Professor Laura Aull)

Most native speakers use English without thinking consciously about the intricacies of words, phrases, and other structures that dictate its use. But in fact, the English language is a complex, rule-governed system, from how sounds are strung together to how we take turns in conversation, from where new words come from to why Americans speak different dialects. In this course, we will systematically uncover the many levels of structure working in language as well as the ways speakers learn and change language over time. We will also discuss social and educational issues tied up in language, including attitudes toward dialects, the teaching of Standard English, and language and gender. Coursework will consist of regular short assignments, two short papers, a midterm, and a final.

Required Texts

Curzan, Anne, and Michael Adams. 2012. How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction. 3rd ed. New York: Pearson Longman. (Be sure to get the 3rd edition.)

Course packet (available at the University bookstore)

ENG 691: Studies in Postmodernism (Professor James Hans)

This class will investigate the relations between Modernism and Postmodernism by exploring their links in both literary and philosophical texts. The exemplars of Modernism will be works by Nietzsche, Wallace Stevens, and Virginia Woolf. Postmodernism will be represented by writings from Heidegger, Derrida, Thomas Bernhard, Anne Carson, Lydia Davis, Harryette Mullen, and Lance Olsen.

Creative Writing Courses

ENG  683. Theory and Practice of Poetry Writing (Professor Amy Catanzano)

This course is an advanced poetry workshop that builds on methods explored in the beginning poetry workshop. It offers students the opportunity to combine the writing of poetry with literary and aesthetic inquiries about poetics—the frames and theories informing the practice of poetry writing—that will bring further complexity and intention to their own work. We start from the notion that every poem has an implied or overt poetics and that writing poetry is an investigative process. Our goal is to create a collaborative space where, in addition to writing poems, students reflect on the personal, philosophical, cultural, and political implications of working with language as an artistic practice. Students critique the writing of their peers and receive critiques in the workshop portion of the course. Students read contemporary poetry, experiment with a range of approaches to writing poetry, and respond to current conversations about poetry and poetics. Students also attend two literary readings outside of class time and become familiar with print and online literary journals. For the course’s capstone project, students bind copies of their revised poetry (20 to 25 pages) in an edition to share with family, friends, and others in a chapbook-making session with a visiting book artist. A celebratory reading of student work takes place at the end of the semester. Pre-req: CRW 285 or POI.

ENG 684. Playwriting (Professor Andrews)

Description not available

ENG 698. Advanced Fiction Writing (Professor Joanna Ruocco)

This class is designed to generate new writing and to help students expand and revise existing work with the benefit of informed peer feedback. In addition, we will read books of fiction published by early career writers since 2000. As members of the classroom and program community, we will resist instinctively inscribing our own affinities into workshop pieces and instead attempt to pose questions that take into consideration the goals and interests of each individual writer. Some general questions we will consider when responding to both course readings and to our own work: What is the relation between the author and text? What is the relation between the text and the outside world? What processes and procedures are used in the writing? How are various subjectivities/identities marked, performed, complicated, or otherwise considered? How does this text situate itself in terms of genre? How explicitly does the author respond to the immediate writerly community and readerly audience? What is this author’s conception of “the book”? How does technology affect the creation and reception of narratives? What lineages is the writer/book claiming (and perhaps rejecting)? What theoretical or political concerns inform the writing? As a class, we will come up with additional questions. The course texts are by no means an aesthetic demarcation or ideal for the class, but they do suggest a number of directions in contemporary fiction. Students are encouraged to experiment with various narrative modes over the course of the semester. (Prerequisite for this course is ENG 286 or CRW 286.)


ENG 720.
"Theaters of War: Militarism in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries." (Professor Susan Harlan)

This seminar takes as its point of departure the assumption that war was part of “the practice of everyday life” in early modern England (to borrow a term from Michel de Certeau). We will ask: what defines the militant subject in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and how is this subject staged in the public playhouses and private court theaters? How are England’s present and past wars performed, and is there a language of war in the Renaissance? We will think of war as an ars, a system, a set of violent practices and objects, a cognitive space, a geography, a performance, a mythology. We will examine staged ‘battles’ and single combat, battlefield narratives and reports, silences about war, dissenting voices and marginal characters, and comedic violence – or “brawl ridiculous.” Other topics will include anxieties regarding foreignness and invasion, civil war and usurpation, the declining system of chivalry and knighthood, moribund models of the heroic warrior, returned soldiers and masterless men, wounded bodies, military weaponry and dress, and gendered spaces of homefront and battlefront. These elements will allow us to ask how militarism enables – or disables – constructions of nationalism, masculinity and homosociality, history, and memory. We will also ask how military violence operates as a means for the early modern English subject to negotiate his relationship to the past, both the violent political struggles of the fifteenth century and the (perceived) glorious Roman past. Finally, we will examine how military language and iconography become increasingly divorced from the military sphere and made available as a symbolic system that governs the extra-military realm. Requirements include a class presentation, an annotated bibliography, a final paper of 20-25 pages, and active class participation.

Texts may include:

Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great, Parts 1 and 2 and Edward II

William Shakespeare, Henry V, Othello, Macbeth, Richard II, Titus Andronicus, Troilus and Cressida, and Pericles (TBD)

Thomas Heywood, The Iron Age

Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, The Roaring Girl

Other primary materials may include Renaissance drill books, swordplay and fencing manuals, catalogues of arms and armor, royal and aristocratic portraits, excerpts from Philip Henslowe’s Diary, Holinshed’s Chronicles, Montaigne’s Essays, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, Machiavelli’s The Art of War and The Prince, and the writings of Queen Elizabeth I, as well as excerpts from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Cicero’s De Oratore, Herodotus’ The Histories, Plutarch’s Lives, and Thucidides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.

Secondary materials may include excerpts from Carl von Clausewitz’s On War and Principles of War, C.G. Cruikshank’s Elizabeth’s Army, Gwynne Dyer’s War, David Eltis’ The Military Revolution in Sixteenth-Century Europe, Cyril Falls’ Elizabeth’s Irish Wars, Paul E.J. Hammer’s Elizabeth’s Wars, Sir Charles Oman’s A History of the Art of War in the Seventeenth Century, and Henry J. Webb’s Elizabethan Military Science.

ENG 758. Seamus Heaney and Contemporary Irish Poetry (Professor Jefferson Holdridge)

“Without needing to be theoretically instructed, consciousness quickly realizes that it is the site of variously contending discourses.”

Seamus Heaney

Reading the poetry and prose of Seamus Heaney will help us map the sites of contending discourses in the consciousness of this Nobel-Prize winning poet from Northern Ireland. It will also provide an avenue for discussion of the work of other poets from Ireland, North and South, whose work will be considered at strategic moments for comparison with Heaney’s. Heaney’s life and career, in short, will provide a center of continuity for a larger understanding of contemporary Irish poetry. Heaney’s early volumes consist of sensuous memories of nature and childhood on the family farm. Through them, the poet evokes the Irish countryside and comments on the care and skill with which ancestors farmed the land, while contemplating how such a life must stand the cruel tests of nature. Here pastoral meets anti-pastoral. The middle poetry often addresses the history of social unrest in Northern Ireland and considers the relevance of poetry in the face of violent political upheaval. This period is an intersection of myth and history, of aesthetics and politics. Later work includes parables of Irish family life or meditates on spirituality in the face of a menacing political history. In the last twenty years, Heaney diverged somewhat from themes of political and civic responsibility, returning to childhood experience and Irish communal rituals. Many critics have cited the stylistic and technical virtuosity of this late period as well as the imaginative qualities and the focus on visionary transcendence experienced through the quotidian. The practical emphasis will be on close reading as a pathway to the contexts of Irish cultural life in the postwar period.