English MA Course Descriptions

2017 Summer Session I (4 weeks, June 5 to 28)


 ENGL 781: Special Seminar: Contemporary American Playwrights

Rhoda Sirlin

Class no. 3834; Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu 6:45–8:25pm


This special graduate seminar will focus on contemporary American Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights, exploring themes and techniques of modern dramatists, revealing American culture in the process. We will discuss the works of male and female playwrights, discovering any similarities and differences. We will explore the meaning of tragedy, comedy, and tragicomedy in contemporary plays. Some of the plays we will study are Harvey Fierstein’s On Tidy Endings, Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart, Marsha Norman’s ‘night, Mother, August Wilson’s Fences, Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, Rebecca Gilman’s The Glory of Living, John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole, Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room, Tracy Letts’s August: Osage County, Quiara Alegria Hudes’s Water by the Spoonful, and Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced.

English MA Course Descriptions

2016 Summer Session II (6 weeks, July 5 to August 15)


ENGL 721: Studies in Seventeenth-Century Literature: Milton’s Paradise Lost

Richard Marotta

Class no. 3904; Tue/Thu 6:00–8:05pm


This course will focus on Milton’s Paradise Lost as a major example of the visionary epic. We will examine the intellectual, theological, and mythical contexts of the poem and then move on to such issues as sexual politics, the rhetoric of the Divine voice, the rhetoric of the of Satanic voice, and the representations of Adam and Eve. Milton made a number of poetic choices that have endeared him to some readers and alienated him from others. We will look at these choices in the context of an epic poem that is very much the heir to non-Christian classical epic tradition and, at the same time, the recipient of a very specific Christian theological position. We will also examine Milton’s polyphonic narrative voice and how that voice reconstitutes the “theology” of the poem into a more de-contextualized imaginative vision. This tension among traditions and voices engenders some of the more problematical and successful elements in Paradise Lost. Active participation and one fifteen-page paper are required.



ENGL 781: Special Seminar: Law and the Twentieth-Century Novel

Alice Keane

Class no. 3905; Mon/Wed 6:00–8:05pm


In this course we will explore questions concerning literature, law, and social justice in the twentieth-century Anglophone novel. Reading law in literature (not law as literature), we will begin with three United States novels focusing on issues of race, citizenship, and social justice in the context of legal and sociopolitical change: Richard Wright’s Native Son, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. We will then consider two British novels with a focus on law, colonialism, and anti-imperialism: Leonard Woolf’s The Village in the Jungle and E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India. We will conclude with two novels by English language writers from India: Raja Rao’s Kanthapura, from the time of Gandhi’s movement for independence, and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, a contemporary postcolonial novel. Using close reading techniques, we will examine various modern and postmodern literary aspects of these texts, and we will also consider global questions about language, law, and culture, as we reflect on the changing social and historical contexts in which these works were written and received by their audiences.