Archived Spring 2021 Courses

English 527: Chaucer
TTh 9:30-10:45
Professor Roger Dahood
English 527 has two main goals: one, to introduce students to the most admired (and sometimes problematic) parts of The Canterbury Tales and, two, to give students opportunity to familiarize themselves in depth with one or more of the assigned parts and its attendant scholarship. The class will be interdisciplinary in spirit, relying on a range of scholarly/critical tools, including close reading and historical, linguistic, and art historical resources. At the end of the semester in consultation with me students will turn in a conference-length paper timed for twenty minutes’ oral delivery. I will give a final examination at the time scheduled by the registrar.
English 533: Studies in the Renaissance: Early Modern Constructions of the Body
Professor Kyle DiRoberto
Monday, 6-8:30 live online
This course will examine constructions of the body in early modern texts. Our consideration of bodies will not be limited to what Kantorowicz terms “the body natural.” We will examine constructions of the body politic and of early modern bodies of knowledge. We’ll ask how epistemological anxieties about dislocations of those bodies became displaced onto a gendered and racialized corpus. For example, cultural disruptions and fear of the unknown were frequently acted out on the female body; she was treated as the site of incommensurateness between interior and exterior (the damned soul in the beguiling body), treated as the sign of mis-interpretability (an embodiment of all the deceiving confusion of the period), and therefore as the threat that must be controlled, silenced, destroyed, or married.
What was the relation of the body to the early modern state? To God, desire, political economy, and subjectivity? What was the relation of the body to representation and language? To the order of things?
Your work in the course will include participation in class discussions, a 20-minute presentation to the class, and either biweekly short papers (3 pp maximum), or 2 conference-length papers (~ 8pp), or a conference-length paper and an article-length paper (17-25 pages). For those choosing conference or article-length papers, we will work together to identify appropriate publication venues.
English 595a: Writing Practicum
001 W 1:30-3:00
Professor Lynda Zwinger
Transitional Office Building
Post-Comps writing group
002 S 12-5:00
Professor Lynda Zwinger
Transitional Office Building
Open to all; post-Comps may register for credit on arrangement
English 595a: First Year Colloquium
Required for first year students; meets every other week. “How to graduate-student.”
English 595: Job Workshop
Meets every other week; preparation of application materials, approaches to the process, all career paths. 
English 596A:Conrad and Modernism
Th 2-4:30
Professor Suresh Raval
This seminar will focus on Conrad’s major fiction, especially Heart of DarknessLord Jim, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and Under Western Eyes with a view to exploring their significance for modernism. The course will discuss, among other things, several essays by Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, and Virginia Woolf dealing with the emergence of various innovations that herald the era of modernism in early twentieth century fiction. Careful attention will be given to discussions of modernism by recent art historians as well as literary critics. Although the seminar will be oriented towards close readings of his works from the perspective of modernism, there will be occasional fuller discussions of the historical, social, and political implications that continue to make Conrad a formidable presence today. Almost unique among his contemporaries, Conrad provokes reflection on transnational, post-national, and international issues, and so this seminar will inevitably deal with these aspects of his fiction. Students signing up for this seminar will find it useful to have read Nostromo, arguably his most difficult and powerful novel, before the semester begins. Knowledge of some works by Ford, Joyce, and Virginia Woolf will be helpful in capturing the importance of Conrad as a modernist. Assignments will include in-class presentations, a term-paper, and an omnibus summary account of some recent scholarly studies.
English 596B:Reading Beckett at the Border
W 9-11:30
Professor Johanna Skisbsrud
This course will consider a wide range of works by Samuel Beckett in light of both his own postcolonial political engagements and contemporary social, cultural and critical theory. Analysis of Beckett's dark humor, theatrical modernism, and postmodern critique of the object will support a deep inquiry into the nature of the geographical, political, and conceptual borders we define and are defined by. Readings will include a wide selection of Beckett’s fiction, non-fiction, poems and plays, as well as plays by writers, such as Tom Stoppard and Suzan-Lori Parks, who acknowledge Beckett as a key influence. Major critics and contexts we’ll be exploring alongside Beckett’s work will include Susan Sontag (“Godot comes to Sarajevo”), Fred Moten (From Stolen Life), Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers (from Order out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature), Martin Esslin (from Absurd Drama) and John Calder (from The Philosophy of Samuel Beckett).  
Framing our discussion will be a consideration of the contemporary production, Beckett is a Woman, which premiered at London’s Pleasance Theatre on November 11, 2020. Not wanting to wait any longer -- until 2059 when (70 years after Beckett’s death) it will become legal to cast a woman in a production of Waiting for Godot -- the clown theatre company, Silent Faces, has created their own production that explores the implicit and explicit boundaries of gender, selfhood, and creative expression. The new production draws attention to the literary, political, and ontological implications of the race and gender restrictions imposed by the Beckett estate in an effort to remain faithful to author’s wishes and the original text. It offers a direct challenge to the idea that, as director Jack Wakely puts it, “the only person who can be an everyman character has to be a man. That if you put somebody else in that role, the play becomes about the fact that they’re not a man, as opposed to the fact that it’s about existence.”   
Wakely’s comments will provide a touchstone for this course as we ask, what does it means to read, write, and think “about existence” today? How we might best take up, expand, and adapt the call to self-reflexive thought and action Beckett expresses—so poignantly and so ironically—in Waiting for Godot? “But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!” 
Students should expect to write weekly response papers, engage actively in class discussion, present a 15-20 minute seminar paper and submit a final research paper (which may emerge and/or be developed from the seminar presentation).  
English 596L:Theories of Criticism: Close Reading: Poetry
W 3:30-6:00
Professor Tenney Nathanson
 “The longer you look the more you see”
Back in the heyday of the (old) new criticism, the apocryphal story goes, a graduate student in Cleanth Brooks’ seminar at Yale who could endure no more lurched up out of his seat and huffed toward the door.  “Where are you going?” the professor asked.  “Away to read everything you’ve read, so I can come back here and pretend like you I haven’t read it.”
In this seminar we’ll also try to pretend: not to know what we know about the historical period or style to which the particular poem we are engaged with belongs; not to believe that there is no such thing as a purely “intrinsic” reading of a text; not to care too much when our own particular ignorance of the writer or school in question is leading us down one or another slippery slope as we propose a reading.
The course will try to bracket such questions in order to focus on the crucial skill of close reading.  Close analysis of single poems, detached from their multiple contexts, may have its drawbacks as a critical practice (or may in fact be strictly impossible to perform); but it may have important virtues as an exercise.
The wager of the course, that is, is that several of us could use (and might enjoy) a seminar in which we focus on the skills involved in close reading, temporarily blocking out, as best we can, all the Weighty Issues on which graduate seminars typically focus.  And also: that a semester spent on developing (or reviving) such skill and tact in our engagement with individual facets of individual texts will have a positive, nuancing effect on our individual critical practice, whatever critical school we set up shop in. While the course will focus exclusively on poetry, a few tools from the bag of tricks, several skills, and more broadly a habit of attention should all be transferable to work with prose as well.
There’s no escape from theory, of course.  And as we proceed through the semester, we may increasingly find a place for “theory of the lyric.”  We’ll try to refine our sense of how to deploy old new critical categories such as speaker, situation, and trope, and we’ll bring such more recently prized (or revived) notions as speech act, performative utterance, apostrophe, prosopopoeia, and kosmos to bear on our readings of individual texts and supplement the older formal vocabulary of “enjambment” and “caesura” with such more recently fashionable rhetorical notions as “metalepsis” and “catachresis.”  But while we’ll tackle some brief texts in theory of the lyric to accompany our reading of primary texts, we’ll treat them as useful tools, asking how they can help us to open up individual poems.
Since this is a methods course, students won’t write lengthy papers, or read an awful lot; reading will be intensive rather than extensive, and time spent writing will probably outweigh that spent reading.  Seminar participants will read a few (strategically selected) poems each week (and occasionally some theoretical texts of the kind mentioned above) and will write frequent, perhaps weekly, close readings of individual poems, explicating the whole but making particular use of the problem and “tool” currently under discussion. 
The early 3-D comics, from the fifties, used to have a little box-logo on the cover, reprinted as epigraph above.  While it may remind some older readers unhappily of the days in which professors used to remark, with only apparently self-deprecating irony, that they could explicate (at length) a shopping list (if pressed), it may also suggest that, in theoretically driven as well as so called “practical” criticism, a more nuanced habit of attention and a willingness to hover (obsessively) over difficult or puzzling moments in a text are rarely bad things. 
English 596G:Asian/American Literature
T 2-4:30
Professor Ragini Srinivasan
This graduate seminar in Asian/American literature offers students an institutional history and a survey of canonical texts, grounded in key debates that motor contemporary scholarship within the field. We will read central works of 20th and 21st century Asian/American literature, including fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry, along with relevant social theory, literary criticism, cultural studies, and visual media. In the first half of the 20th century, Asian/American literary writers like Carlos Bulosan, Jade Snow Wong, and Dhan Gopal Mukerji saw themselves as, in Elaine Kim’s terms, “ambassadors of goodwill to the West.” Their task was to translate Asia for audiences in the United States, which they did through the writing of autobiographical texts and memoirs. Fictions by mid-century Asian/American writers including Maxine Hong Kingston and Bharati Mukherjee complicated the relationship between the functions of ambassadorship, translation, and representation in the Asian/American literary text. In exploring both Asian/American nonfictions and fictions, we will ask the following questions: In what ways might the field of Asian/American literature be constructed as or through a necessary fiction? What if we learned to read Asian/American literary texts with the expectation that they specifically do not or cannot do the work of representing Asian/American subjects? We will read Asian/American literary mediations of immigration and narratives of ethnic assimilation, along with contemporary diasporic and ethnic texts that grapple with the changing geopolitical contexts of American decline and Asia’s rise.