Summer 2014, Session I (May 24-July 7)

English Department Courses

ENG 150A:  Literature Interprets the World: (Professor Franco)

This course studies how ideas of belief and belonging are pursued, advanced, represented, and reformed in literature.  Our texts, including novels, poems, and a play, think through the constitutive elements of belief and belonging:  individuality, community, otherness, the neighbor; interiority, immanence, politics, ethics, and the miracle.  These elements are both the “material,” or subject of the literature, and the literature’s object—the thought that the literature produces.  To put it another way, though we are familiar with the conventional definition of any of these elements, literature probes, develops, defamiliarizes, and recasts them in order to make them strange (and perhaps wonderful) to those of us who take the time to read.

This course’s general title is “Literature Interprets the World,” and our course aim is to develop reading and writing strategies that help us understand how literature does just that—interprets the world. Interpretation is not the same as relativization or subjectivization. Rather, interpretation means “to make out the meaning of” (OED), though there’s more.  Interpretation also involves translation, and its root includes the idea of “spreading” (OED).  Interpretation, thus, instantiates something new in the world, or re-conceptualizes some aspect of the world.  Our goal is thus two-fold:  to understand how literature interprets its subject, and to become good interpreters of literature.

Assigned reading
•       Walt Whitman,
Leaves of Grass (1855 edition)
•       Herman Melville,
“Bartleby the Scrivener”
•       Tomás Rivera, “. . .
And the Earth Did Not Devour Him . . .”
•       Leslie Marmon Silko,
•       Tony Kushner,
Angels in America (parts one and two)
•       Toni Morrison,
Song of Solomon
•       Helena Maria Viramontes,
Their Dogs Came With Them

A course reader with required literary and critical selections is
available at the bookstore

ENG 150D: Literature Interprets the World: Perversion, Decadence, and Excess (Professor Hena) 

From Sade and Masoch to Fifty Shades of Grey, writers have long questioned the powers—and constraints—of sexuality and desire. This class explores the history of perversion, decadence, and excess across world literature. Throughout, we’ll ask on the one hand, how literature has been shaped by heterosexual gender divisions, and on the other, how writers emphasize “the perverse” and “the decadent” to give shape to more fluid understandings of human sexuality. Because, let’s face it, summer is all about excess.

Requirements will entail four essays and a mini-presentation.

Readings will likely include:

Marquis de Sade, Philosophy in the Boudoir (1795)

Lord Byron, selected poetry

Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs (1870)

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928)

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1936)

Anaïs Nin, Delta of Venus (1940s)

Shyam Selvadurai, Funny Boy (1994)

Shani Mootoo, Cereus Blooms at Night (1996)

E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey  (2011)

ENG 165: Studies in British Literature (Professor Holdridge)

This course will introduce you to various British and Irish writers from different periods and genres.  We will listen to the specific voices of these artists and consider their literary identity as well as the relevant issues of the times in which they lived.  We will also focus on the formal questions of literary endeavor. The basic concept that appears (in many different aspects) throughout all the texts we will study together is the relationship between rhetoric and morality, that is, truth versus eloquence, language as diviner or cloak of meaning, the link between beauty and goodness. The class will be run mostly as discussion rather than lecture, and for discussion attendance in class is absolutely crucial.   Among the authors on this course are William Shakespeare, John Milton, Jonathan Swift, Jane Austen, W.B. Yeats, and Virginia Woolf.

ENG 175A: Studies in American Literature (Professor Maine)

 “It is in vain to dream of a wildness distant from ourselves.  There is none such.  It is the bog in our brain and bowels, the primitive vigor of Nature in us that inspires that dream.” Henry David Thoreau, Journal, August 30, 1856.

Required Texts:

Hawthorne   The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories

Thoreau    Walden

Douglass  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Melville   Bartleby and Benito Cereno

Dickinson Final Harvest 

James Washington Square

Faulkner  As I Lay Dying

Morrison  Beloved

Requirements:  attendance and participation in class discussion (10%); two critical essays (50%); a midterm (20%); and a final exam (20%).

ENG 175B: Studies in American Literature (Professor Rapaport)

The course surveys short samples of American literature from all of its historical periods in order to build a picture of the complexities of American culture and life. Assignments include 4 short papers and weekly in class exercises.

302c. Ideas in Literature: Psychology and Literature (Professor Rapaport)

The course establishes a psychological approach to reading literature. Emphasis falls upon reader response and psychoanalytical theories drawn from a wide number of perspectives. Literary examples are drawn from major works of world literature. Assignments include 2 papers, plus a reading journal.

351. Studies in Romanticisim: Gender and the Global Gothic  (Professor Way)


In a review of Matthew “Monk” Lewis’s sensation novel The Monk, Samuel Taylor Coleridge cautions: “[I]f a parent saw [The Monk] in the hands of a son or daughter, he might reasonably turn pale.” Thus was the reception of many a Gothic story around the globe in the Romantic Period. Coleridge specifically warns of the dangers to both male and female readers in his review, suggesting the corruptibility of both men and women from such a dodgy pastime. Our central question for this course is: what role did gender play in a Gothic movement so cosmopolitan in its reach and apparently so corrupting? From vampires to zombies to femme fatales, monstrosities in works from Britain, Germany, France, Russia, the Caribbean, and America all address gender matters in light of the political, scientific, religious, socio-economic, and racial debates of their time. We will read a selection of novels, poems, short stories, and one short autobiography. Get ready to enjoy our “art of darkness” world tour! Students will complete two formal essays (5 typed pages each), three informal response papers (3 typed pages each), and actively participate in class daily. NO FINAL EXAM. Graduate students will complete an additional research assignment. Note: This course earns Division II credit; credit towards the WGS Major or Minor; English Major credit: Group II & 300-Level elective; and English Minor elective. Undergrad prerequisite: WRI 111 or exemption credit.

Possible Texts:

Matthew Lewis, The Monk 

Ann Radcliffe, The Italian

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and “Christabel”

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818 edition)

John Polidori: The Vampyre: A Tale

John Keats, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” “Lamia,” Isabella; or, the Pot of Basil, “The Eve of St. Agnes”

E. T. A. Hoffmann, “The Sandman” and “The Doubles”

Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince

Alexander Pushkin, “The Coffin-Maker” and “The Queen of Spades”

Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Masque of the Red Death”

371. American Ethnic Literature (Professor Franco)

 Description not available

English 382: Modern American Fiction (Professor Maine)  

We will examine what experiments in narrative form reveal about human identity in 20th Century American fiction, theorize about what it means (or meant) to be “modern,” and investigate as well some relationships between form and meaning in the visual arts of the same period.

 Texts:  Ernest Hemingway          The Sun Also Rises

            F. Scott Fitzgerald           The Great Gatsby

            William Faulkner            The Sound and the Fury 

             James Baldwin               Go Tell It on the Mountain

            Flannery O’Connor         Wise Blood

            Truman Capote                In Cold Blood

            Don DeLillo                    White Noise

Requirements: short assignments, one of which will involve a trip to Reynolda House Museum of American Art; two 8-10 page papers; final exam.  (Meets American Literature Requirement)

Summer 2014, Session II (July 8--August 9)

English Department Courses

ENG 150-B: Literature Interprets the World: The Gothic Experience (Professor Wilson)

If we’re honest, we have to admit that we often feel most alive not when we are happy, but rather when we feel anxious, scared, obsessive, or sad.  This feeling of the vitality of darkness is Gothic, and the subject of this class (which will be a refreshingly gloomy counter to the glare of summer).  We will study several great works of Gothic literature, art, and film, hoping to understand the powers and pains of melancholy, love, trauma, obsession, possession, the uncanny, terror, anxiety, hallucination, and nightmare.  Our list of works will include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, E.T.A.’s Hoffman’s “The Sand-Man,” the stories of Poe, Goya’s paintings, the poetry of Emily Dickinson, selected essays of Freud, Munch’s paintings, Plath’s poetry, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Kubrick’s The Shining, Scott’s Blade Runner, and Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

ENG 150-C: Literature Interprets the World: “Recommended Reading” (Professor Still)

 “You should really read this book!” Ever heard these words? Maybe you’ve even said them yourself. Whether you read everything you can get your hands on or as little as possible while still earning a degree, you probably could name at least 10 books you feel you really ought to read sometime. In this course, we’ll explore that feeling of “ought to” when it comes to reading: what power do stories exert over us? Why do we feel compelled to read and share them? How do they help us make sense of the world? In this course, we’ll explore such questions as we read a variety of texts, all with an eye toward better understanding the way literature works and why it matters to us at all. Required reading will likely include the following texts:

Walter Mosley                Devil In A Blue Dress                

Edwidge Danticat         Krik? Krak!                                     
Tim O’Brien                
The Things They Carried                

Margaret Edson                Wit: A Play                        

Natasha Trethewey         Native Guard          

ENG 175C: Studies in American Literature (Professor Madera)

This course will survey a selection literature by American authors. In our readings we will be attentive to representations of spirit, nature, and quest across different genres and periods. As we think about these broad themes, we will also consider the ways writers responded to different events that shaped place. How do the writers we study negotiate ideals of human possibility with forms of necessity and social acceptance? How do they account for experiences of human suffering and the massively destructive potential of individual self-interest? We will assess the ways various authors gave shape to the American self through their writings.

Texts Include:
Course packet with selections
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Nella Larsen, Passing
William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

323.  Shakespeare (Professor Hogan) 

This six-week course will survey Shakespeare’s sprawling, daunting, and delightful body of work, both his plays and poetry. Our readings will sample seven plays from Shakespeare’s major dramatic genres: the comedy, tragedy, English history, Roman history, romance, and “problem play.” But with Shakespeare, we’ll also see how genre classifications blur, as he borrows conventions, layers meaning through an ingenious use of language, and threads concerns across genres or forms—themes like deceit and disguise, loss and retribution, and eroticism and liberation. We will frequently practice close reading yet the course will also introduce Shakespeare’s plays in their context by reconstructing the institution of the early modern stage and setting the scene in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.  Students should expect, then, to discuss how Shakespeare’s plays raise historically-specific questions about power, class, gender, sexuality, race, and religion.  At various points in the course, we will also interpret the Shakespeare that endures through performance and film; specifically, we will watch and discuss Julie Taymor’s Titus (1999) and Joss Wheedon’s Much Ado About Nothing (2012).


Assignments will include weekly reading quizzes and short essays, a film or performance review, and a final interpretive paper.  Course texts: a Norton edition of Shakespeare’s work and The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare (Russ Mcdonald, ed.), along with some supplemental criticism in the form of pdfs. Please feel free to email me ( if you have any questions.

341g. Literature and the Environment (Professor 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.

(Major Elective and Environmental Studies Minor credit)

387. African American Literature: A Family Affair

From sibling rivalries and overbearing parents to blended families and best friends, families are complex social arrangements that bring both joy and heartache. In this course, we will explore the various family dynamics represented in African American literature. We will consider what makes a family and how families make individuals. Through a careful reading of a range of texts and genres, we will uncover the ways in which African American literature reflects various familial configurations and experiences. At the heart of our investigation will be an effort to better understand how literature both represents and shapes lived experience. Careful reading and regular participation in class discussion will be critical to success in this class.  Required reading in the course is likely to include the following texts:

Lorraine Hansberry        A Raisin in the Sun

James Baldwin        Go Tell it on the Mountain

John Edgar Wideman        Brothers and Keepers

Cheryl West                Before it Hits Home

Jesmyn Ward                Salvage the Bones