Fall 2015 Graduate Literature Course Descriptions

ENGL 526: Middle English Literature

Roger Dahood
Tu/Th   9:30am – 10:45am

English 526, Middle English Literature (excluding Chaucer), includes readings from major works composed in or translated into Middle English between ca. 1200 and ca. 1500. Readings draw on dominant genres of prose and poetry—lyric and narrative poetry, allegory, Arthurian romance, and drama. The assigned readings include—among other works young faculty seeking academic employment ought to be familiar with—selections from Ancrene Riwle (Ancrene Wisse), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, selections from Piers Plowman, selections from Malory, and plays. All readings are in the original language of the Middle English manuscripts.

ENGL 565: 19th-Century American Literature in the Nonhuman Turn

Paul Hurh
M  12:30pm – 3:00pm

This graduate course will explore how several recent strands of thought, roughly categorized as the “nonhuman turn” (i.e. posthumanism, new materialism, speculative realism, animal studies, etc.) might illuminate, or be illuminated by, readings of 19th-century American literature.  What might Whitman’s Leaves of Grass reveal about Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the rhizome?  Could Foucault’s theory of biopolitics help us to understand the portrayals of wide-scale epidemic in the work of Charles Brockden Brown?   How might recent debates over scale (Dimock and McGurl) correspond to Dickinson’s telescoping lyrics?  And how might Poe’s aesthetic cosmology anticipate Meillassoux’s speculative materialism?  Through a selective reading list, we will seek to discover new directions in the study of 19th-century American literature informed by the recent turn to thinking the nonhuman.

Although the reading list is not yet finalized, theorists we may read include: Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Gilles Deleuze, Katherine Hayles, Bruno Latour, Cary Wolfe, Jane Bennett, Giorgio Agamben, Timothy Morton, Mark McGurl, Wai Chee Dimock, Franco Moretti and Eugene Thacker among others.  Primary materials will be drawn from Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Montgomery Bird, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau.  We will also consider recent 19th-century American literary scholarship sympathetic with the aims of the class, including recent work by Sharon Cameron, Branka Arsić, and Matthew Taylor.

ENGL 595A-1: First Year Colloquium (alternating with the Job Search Workshop)

Tenney Nathanson
W  12:00pm – 12:50pm

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-3: Job Search Workshop (alternating with the First Year Colloquium)

Tenney Nathanson
W   12:00pm – 12:50pm

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 596A-1: The High Romance Of Empire:  Fiction Of Exploration, Travel, And Adventure In Africa

Gerald Monsman
Tu/Th   11:00am – 12:15pm

Queen Victoria’s “Age of Empire”: the phrase conjures up the optimism and progress of an empire on which “the sun never set.” This seminar will focus primarily on works deriving from Britain’s imperial presence in Central and South Africa written by such figures as H. Rider Haggard, Sol Plaatje, Bertram Mitford, Joseph Conrad, Olive Schreiner, H. G. Wells, Ernest Glanville, John Buchan, Richard Burton and so forth. Discussions will encompass the definition and description of frontiers and the imperialist’s self-presentation–such as what awareness the participants have that classing peoples or cultures as intrinsically superior or inferior based on divergent customs or technology may be problematically ethnocentric. We will ask: what moral ambiguities exist in the imperial enterprise–is there a “good” imperialism? What differentiates indigenous and colonial concepts of justice? What constituted the representation and treatment of women marginalized (as an “internal colony”) in a native or colonial patriarchy? What moral awarenesses came into play when tribal land was pitted over against economic development, property, wealth? What were the powers of magic and ritual as avenues to a primordial spirit of place? What does the decolonizing of history, patriarchy, and art imply for the colonizer and colonized? What does it mean to grow up speaking one language but to write in another? And finally, is it possible to separate sentimental fantasy from unvarnished reality? Your assignments will consist of readings, several oral presentations, participation in discussions, and an end-of-term paper.

ENGL 596A-2: British Literature – Studies in the 19th Century Novel

Lynda Zwinger
M   6:30pm – 9:00pm

By way of a close reading of a group of canonical examples, enabled by the work of influential theorists of the novel, we will study its history and the process of its institutionalization. We’ll focus on novel as institution, as form, as genre—as a self-defining literary object that challenges critical and theoretical parameters and pieties.  We will use classics of criticism and theory to frame our discussions and approaches. Ian Watt's Rise of the Novel, Homer Brown's The Institution of the English Novel, and Dorothy Hale's collection The Novel: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory 1900-2000 will serve as foundational in our discussions of the genre, its place in histories, and its cultural, theoretical, and literary work.  Students will write short papers throughout the semester, contribute to class discussions via presentations and active participation in our discussions, and work throughout the semester to produce a master reading list on the genre and on our particular texts.  Texts will include (subject to instructor whimsy): Jane Austen, Emma; Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights; Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers; William Thackeray, Vanity Fair; Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit; George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, and current critical work, tbd.

ENGL 596F-1: American Poetry: “Meditations in an Emergency”

Tenney Nathanson
Th   12:30pm – 3:00pm

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. One recurrent focus of the course will be the senses of embodiment evoked by these texts--more particularly, the phantasmatic body space arising in moments of kinetic identification and other boundary blurring phenomena conjured up in the poems. As time allows, we may explore the relation of such moments to the unconscious, compromise formations, dreams, meditation, koans, and kensho or awakening.

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; 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, maybe Eliot; O’Hara, Ashbery; Philip Whalen, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Norman Fischer, Leslie Scalapino, Ron Silliman, Norman Fischer, Lisa Jarnot, Heriberto Yépez, Julie Carr. (We’ll end up with a list of roughly 7-10 poets.) We’ll also spend a little time with William James’s crucial book Pragmatism, which was influenced by American poetry and influenced it in turn, and perhaps a couple of Emerson’s germinal essays. I hope there’s also enough time to look briefly at the intertwining of poetry and painting, particularly the “action painting” of the abstract expressionists.

The seminar will also have a secondary focus (though you need not engage it in your own work in the course): the frequent intertwining of this poetic tradition with a range of awareness fostered by meditation, and with American embodiments of meditative traditions, especially American Zen. We’ll probably read one or two contemporary Zen texts, and consider some Zen koans, on the side as it were, letting this secondary aspect of the course run parallel to our explicit focus on the poetry for most of the semester. Toward the end of the term, as we turn to the work of poets explicitly immersed in or influenced by Buddhism, we’ll be more explicit in considering the possible convergences of the two traditions.

Optional option: in line with the “Contemplative Pedagogy” initiative pioneered on the UA campus over the last couple of years, we may build in an optional meditation component to the course (if a majority of the seminar would like to do this): the first ten minutes of each seminar would be devoted to an optional meditation activity (if you didn’t want to participate, you’d just come ten minutes late to class), and we’d find time, perhaps on D2L, to explore the possible resonance of this activity with our principal work in the course.

(“Meditations in an Emergency”: Frank O’Hara brought his friend and fellow poet Kenneth Koch a manuscript titled “Meditations on an Emergency”; Kenneth crossed out “on” and wrote “in”—a paradigmatic change. And O’Hara talked about his “I do this I do that poems,” and Ashbery jokes about “Frank’s French Zen period” in his intro to O’Hara’s collected poems.)

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 nathanso@email.arizona.edu or set up an appointment to come in and chat.

ENGL 596F-2: Travel Narratives, Travel Fictions

Daniel Cooper Alarcon
W   3:00pm – 5:30pm

This seminar will provide an opportunity to read, consider, and discuss a diverse array of texts we might broadly categorize as travel literature.  I’m particularly interested in the relationship between travel narratives and what I call travel fictions (novels and short stories that deal with different types of travel), and the ways in which these fictional accounts have often anticipated ideas central to critical studies of travel, tourism, and migration.  I also use the term travel fictions to indicate the ways in which travel narratives (so-called factual accounts of travel) often fabricate useful mythologies of people and places.  Thus, another focal point of the course will be the different kinds of cultural work that travel literature performs at different historical moments.  For example, travel narratives often played a key role in sustaining and promoting colonial and imperial enterprises.  More recently, travel narratives and travel fictions have played an important role in creating both an itinerary for travel to particular destinations and a set of criteria by which to evaluate a site’s authenticity.  Simply put, travel literature helps to shape the ways in which travelers perceive and respond to the places they visit, and the people and cultures they interact with.  As we take up travel literature since World War II, we will consider tourism as a discourse deeply implicated in the formation of cultural identities and vital to the economies of many developing nations, as well as tourism’s mirror image: the migration from Third World to First, driven usually by economic necessity.

To sum up, this course will be helpful to anyone with interests in post-colonial studies, the long relationship of travel writing and empire, attempts at cross-cultural representation, issues of diaspora and migration, and the impact of migration and travel upon cultural identities.

ENGL 596F-3: The Post-Postmodern Condition: Visual Culture and Global Urbanism in Literature of the Twenty-First Century

Lauren Mason
M   3:30pm – 6:00pm

The late twentieth and early twenty-first century are marked by two driving forces: urbanization and visual technology.  As Mike Davis reminds us in Planet of the Slums, nearly ninety percent of the world’s population are city dwellers and, in many cases, inhabit “megacities” or large-scale slums such as Lagos, Manila, Mumbai, and Southside Chicago.  At the same time, however, movies like Slumdog Millionaire and City of God remind us that widespread urbanism is itself marked and mediated by visual media and technology.  That is, characters see themselves and articulate their identities through visual narratives (film and television) of urban spaces.  While once the written narrative was the primary means of articulating culture and identity and the urban space in the literary texts was static, we now find texts that are invested in making the written narrative itself move like the bustling urban slum and flow like a film narrative.  To this end, we have an emerging literary post-postmodernism that pushes the boundaries of the written text, incorporates urban life into its narrative frame, and relies heavily on references to visual culture.  In this course, we will explore texts (written and visual) and critical theory that are on the bleeding edge of this still undefined post-postmodernist movement.

ENGL 596L-1: Introduction to Critical Theory: Lyric Theory

John Melillo
Tu   3:30pm – 6:00pm

In this course, we will examine contemporary critical and theoretical debates through the lens of lyric theory. The operative question will be: What makes a poem a “lyric”? Or, stated another way: What is the genre we call the lyric? A variety of work by critics, philosophers, poets, and musicians will help us imagine the limits and possibilities within that question. What different theories of self, society, and reading create the space to imagine lyric’s difference from other kinds of speaking, writing, and communicating? What are the powers of a genre that seemingly unites writers as diverse in time, place, and style as Sappho, A.C. Swinburne, and Susan Howe? How does the lyric (or every definition of the lyric) act as a node that combines new conceptions of form, history, and language? The question of the lyric has become particularly important in contemporary criticism, and critics like Jonathan Culler, Virginia Jackson, Yopie Prins, Charles Bernstein, Marjorie Perloff, Sianne Ngai, and Gillian White have renewed debates about the problematic relationships between subjects and objects, concepts and affects, words and things, sound and form, music and language that the lyric activates. Our classroom debates will be particularly focused on the singular vocalic power of the lyric, but the course will interest all graduate students curious about the vocabulary of critical theory. We will read key texts by Jakobson, Bakhtin, Frye, Genette, de Man, Derrida, Kristeva, Todorov, Riffaterre, and more. This course will have a heavy reading load. Students should be prepared for a deep engagement with each poetic, philosophical, and theoretical text for our in-class discussions.