Archived Spring 2020 Courses

ENGL 505/405: History of the English Language
W 6:30-9 PM
Instructor: Homer Pettey
This course surveys the English language from its origins to the present day.  Using literature and global media, this course traces the roots and structures of Anglo-Saxon with Beowulf, Middle English with Chaucer, early Modern English with Shakespeare, and contemporary English with literature, film, and television series from England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and Nigeria.  Additionally, we will explore the development of the book in English, the rise of print media, the first English dictionaries, and the growing field of lexicography.  Short papers assignments will constitute the majority of the work for this course.
Note: Graduate students who foresee teaching an English literature survey at the college level in their future employment need this course to demonstrate their competency.
ENGL 515: Marxism and the Critique of Modernity
Th 3:30-6 PM
Instructor: Lee Medovoi
Capitalism, we are told, is the only viable framework we have ever developed for modern human life. It has steadily enveloped more of the world and insinuated itself ever more deeply into our everyday existence from the sixteenth century onward. And yet, capitalism has always been accompanied by a palpable sense of impending social, political, economic and environmental crisis. On what basis can we critically examine the forms of life and the historical trajectories of sociality, culture and subjectivity that capitalism continuously creates and recreates? This class will work through the Marxist tradition for approaching these questions. As arguably the richest and more sophisticated tradition of critical thought we have for thinking about capitalist modernity, marxist insights and approaches have been engaged by critical scholars working in disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. What are the marxist tradition's key strengths and weaknesses? has marxism been thought and rethought as a means of investigating the predicaments of capitalist modernity?
We will begin with a detailed examination of Karl Marx’s own work, including his conceptions of historical materialism, the mode of production, capital and labor, the state and civil society, ideology, base and superstructure, the commodity-form, world history, alienation and expropriation. From there, we will skip ahead to various recent (i.e. late twentieth-century and early twenty-first century) revisions and challenges to his modes of analysis. Along the way we may explore marxism’s intersections with the study of race/racism, postcolonial theory, feminism, immaterial labor, art and culture, ideology/common sense, and nature/environment. Authors whose work we may read include Lous Althusser, Moishe Postone, Sylvia Federici, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Cedric Robinson, Etienne Balibar, Slavoj Zizek, Antonio Negri, Jason Moore, Frederic Jameson, Mark Fisher, and others.
ENGL 557B: Global English Literature
M 6:30-9 PM
Homer Pettey
This graduate course will be devoted to reading modern and contemporary works by Nobel Laureates of the English-speaking world from England, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Africa, and the Caribbean.  We will examine how these authors made major creative contributions to world literature and to the international reception of their nations’ literary arts.  This course will emphasize the relationship of global modernism to traditional arts and performance, as well as to the construction of cultural myths of place and identity.  We will observe how authors forge new theoretical reflections on gender, race, class, and post-colonialism.
Much of our close reading of these texts will involve the aesthetics of the authors’ craft and how they transformed their genres.  For poetry, we will examine innovations in style, sound, and voice by selected authors, among them: William Butler Yeats, Seamus Heaney, and Derek Walcott.  For drama, we will explore the theatrical experiments of George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Wole Soyinka, and Harold Pinter.  For short fiction and novels, we will analyze the construction of narrative, cultural themes, and the dynamics of the point-of-view in works by world-renowned authors, such as: Rudyard Kipling, Patrick White, William Golding, Nadine Gordimer, V. S. Naipaul, J. M. Coetzee, Doris Lessing, Alice Munro, and Kazuo Ishiguro.  A final paper will be the major requirement for this course.
Note: These authors appear on the M.A. examination list.
ENGL 566: 20th-Century American Prose
M 3:30-6 PM
Instructor: Scott Selisker
This course will introduce students to major texts and current critical methods in 20th-century U.S. literary studies, with a focus on the novel and prose nonfiction. We’ll cover texts and authors on the MA reading list while surveying recent scholarship that will provide good models for doctoral-level research questions and methods. We’ll place some emphasis on the relationships between new media technologies and literature across the century, but the course will also provide a firm foundation in major movements, periods, and topics in the field. Likely authors: Theodor Dreiser, W.E.B. Du Bois, William Faulkner, Nella Larsen, Patricia Highsmith, Ralph Ellison, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joan Didion, Leslie Marmon Silko, Toni Morrison, Chang Rae Lee, David Foster Wallace. Students will deliver a short presentation, write an academic book review, and write a seminar paper.
ENGL 595A-001: First Year Colloquium
W (alternating with the Job Search Workshop)  12:00-12:50 PM
Instructor: Lynda Zwinger
The colloquium provides an exchange of information about professional studies, the Graduate Literature Program, and the English Department.  In a small group setting, first-year students discuss strategies for academic success, opportunities for professional development, engagement with learning communities in and beyond the university, and balancing myriad roles while earning an advanced degree in English.  Attendance is required of all first-year students; other interested graduate students are welcome to join us for any of the classes.  Instruction will include presentation by faculty, returning students in the Program, and other members of the university community.
ENGL 595A-003: Job Search Workshop
W (alternating with the First Year Colloquium) 12:00-12:50 PM
Instructor: Lynda Zwinger
This workshop is open to any PhD student who has completed the comprehensive exams and is planning to enter the academic job market. Ideally, students will take the workshop one year in advance of applying for jobs so that they can prepare and revise all materials required for the search. Each class will focus on a different aspect of the application process. Students will critique drafts of C.V.s, cover letters, dissertation abstracts, and teaching philosophies. We will also discuss letters of recommendation, preparing a dossier, unpacking job ads, teaching portfolios, writing samples, MLA interviews, phone interviews, campus visits, and negotiating an offer. Students who plan to attend the MLA convention may choose to participate in a mock interview with English Department faculty at the end of the semester.
Members of the workshop and anyone who is applying for an academic position will be subscribed to the Department's placement listserv. Participants may post questions, discuss ideas, and read information pertaining to the job search.
ENGL 596B:Colonial and Post-Colonial Literature and Theory
T 2-4:30 PM
Instructor: Suresh Raval
This seminar will focus on major texts of postcolonial studies, with a view to exploring issues at stake in contemporary discussions of colonial and postcolonial cultures and politics. We will discuss Fanon, Said, Spivak, Bhabha, Hall, Appadurai, Mbembe, Cheah, Chakrabarty, among other theorists and critics. Although the seminar will attempt to cover an extensive terrain—orientalism, politics of location, subaltern studies, feminism and postcolonial studies, identity politics, nation and nationalism, diasporic cultures and nativism, ethnicity, and globalization—the goal will be to explore important concepts intensively. For illustrative analytical purposes we will draw upon the works of Kipling, Conrad, Foster, Naipaul, Achebe, Kincaid, Rushdie, Ngugi, and Hamid. For fuller discussions the class will focus on Heart of Darkness,  Lucy, Disgrace, and The White Tiger. Context permitting we will discuss relations of postcolonial theory with New Historicism, Marxism and Cultural Studies. Course requirements will include two short in-class presentations and a final seminar paper.
ENGL 596F-001: African-American Literature
M 12:45-3:15 PM
Instructor: Lauren Mason
This course is an advanced introduction to African-American literature. We will examine major works by African-American writers, intellectuals, and artists from early slave narratives to the twenty-first century. We will discuss rhetorical strategies and tropes associated with African-American literature, and we will examine the academic discourse surrounding African-American literature. Because African-American literature is deeply tied to cultural, sociopolitical, and historical issues that impact Black Americans, we will devote considerable time to mapping out the historical contexts surrounding African-American literature, art, and criticism.
This course is designed for students who are interested in learning more about African-American literature, no matter how extensive their background knowledge of African-American literature. In other words, this course is designed to accommodate students who are not familiar with African-American literature (or culture) as well as students who are familiar with African-American literature (or culture). It is advanced in that we will approach the work with maturity and intellectual rigor; it is introductory in that it is designed to move you through African-American literature and criticism slowly and carefully so you can learn and ask questions as we progress.
Some of the authors we will examine (complete reading list will be available later): Olaudah Equiano, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Mary Ovington, Franz Boas, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, John Edgar Wideman, Hortense Spillers, Toni Morrison.
ENGL 596F-002: American Poetry, American Pragmatism, Open Form: (sort of) A Survey of American Poetry
W 3:30-6 PM
Instructor: Tenney Nathanson
This seminar will attend to the recurrent fascination in American poetry with a poetics of improvisation or “process”: the poem as an unfolding exploration that pushes against (and often past) any single formulation or completed form, adjusting its provisional procedures and models as it makes room for the unexpected, encountered en route. We’ll put this tradition in American poetry into conversation with Jamesian pragmatism, a defining tradition in American philosophy shaped by American literature and shaping it in turn. We’ll also be reading some poets whose work seems skeptical of the arguably liberatory potential of “open form” (and American liberalism).
I’m hoping the course can serve at once as: a survey of major American poetry (with an eye toward MA and PhD exams); a “special topics” interrogation of a key element in American (and modern and postmodern) writing; and an MFA-program-friendly exploration of a body of poetry that ought to be immensely useful for poets today. (We’ll glance at notions of romanticism, modernism, and postmodernism, though wedging them apart won’t be a course goal.)
We’ll probably read several of the following (and maybe a couple of poets not on this list): Whitman, Dickinson; Pound, Williams, Moore, Stevens, Eliot; O’Hara, Ashbery, Whalen; Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Norman Fischer, Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman, Lisa Jarnot, Haryette Mullen, Erica Hunt, Julie Ezelle Patton, Magdalena Zurawski. (We’ll end up with a list of roughly 8-12 poets; for contemporary work, we may maximize the number of writers by trimming the number of poems per poet.) We’ll also spend some time with William James’s crucial book Pragmatism, a couple of Emerson’s germinal essays, and a bit of Kenneth Burke. Other writers or critical tendencies we’re fairly likely to bump into through short readings (as useful): Foucault, Baudrillard, Deleuze and Guattari, Jameson, Shunryo Suzuki, assemblage theory, object oriented ontology . . .
Course requirements:
 For Literature students: either several short papers or the typical conference-length/article-length sequence. (Some imitations, “experiments,” or original poems can also be worked in.)
For MFA students: a combination of short critical essays, imitations or “experiments,” and your own creative work (which we’ll place in dialogue with the poets we’re reading in the course), in roughly equal proportions.
For students from other programs: negotiable.
Questions: please email me at or set up an appointment to come in and chat.