Fall 2016 Graduate Literature Course Descriptions

ENGL 515: The History of Literary Criticism and Theory – Major Modern Movements

Jerrold Hogle
M   6:30pm – 9:00pm

After surveying the major premises and applications of “new criticism,” “old” historicism, and phenomenology as they had progressed to about the mid-point of the twentieth century, this class will focus in on the underlying assumptions and founding statements of the theoretical movements that became the most influential for literary interpretation since then:  psychoanalysis, feminism and gender studies, structuralism and post-structuralism (including deconstruction), Marxism, “new” historicism, and the many forms of Cultural Studies from post-colonialism and critical race theory to ecological environmentalism and more.   One learning objective will be understanding the most essential governing ideas in each approach, as these appear in major theoretical statements, and where each one comes from in related intellectual and social movements.  Another aim just as important, though, will be grasping how each frame of reference can or should be used for textual interpretation.  To that end, the class will keep returning to one literary text – Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights this time – to assess the advantages and disadvantages for reading that work of all the theoretical approaches that we discuss.  There will be three analytical papers, one in-class presentation by each student, and a comprehensive final examination.  

ENGL 527: Chaucer

Roger Dahood
Tu/Th   12:30pm – 1:45pm

This course has two main goals: one, to introduce students to the most widely studied 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 the 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. We will aim at informed understanding of all the assigned works.

Students will write two short papers (200 words) demonstrating close reading of assigned work and a longer conference-length paper timed for twenty minutes’ oral delivery.

ENGL 533: Shakespeare & Company

Frederick Kiefer
Th   6:30pm – 9:00pm

The golden age of English drama coincided with the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. Although major plays were written before this era and afterward, most early modern plays that are staged and studied today belong to Elizabethan and Jacobean England. This was a time of profound social, political, and religious change. Playwrights were alert to the shifting currents and registered the aspiration, frustration, and apprehension of their contemporaries. This was also a time that saw the construction of purpose-built theaters, the first in England since the days when London was a Roman colony. Shakespeare and his fellow dramatists did their thinking in those theaters. Their plays began life on the stage, as Gary Taylor remarks, and writing plays was an intrinsically social process. Once theaters began drawing large audiences, the arts of writing and acting advanced rapidly, especially from the late 1580s to around 1612, when Shakespeare was active. In the close-knit theatrical world, playwrights vied with one another for playgoers, money, and celebrity. They also learned from one another and stole from one another. It was this very convergence that allowed the drama to grow so quickly in sophistication. We shall be looking at the ways that Shakespeare’s contemporaries capitalized on their opportunities in London’s theatrical community; the playwrights we shall consider include Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Thomas Heywood, Elizabeth Cary, Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, and John Webster.

ENGL 566: Studies in 20c American Literature

Geta LeSeur-Brown
W   9:30am – 12:00pm

This course suggests a broad overview of the “Protest” tradition  which has been in all cultures (universally).  We will , however, begin by providing a working definition of  “protest” which will enable us to look at and examine the tradition from the 19c to the present.  Readings and conversations will be taken from the genres of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, music and song!  You will be encouraged to arrive at your understanding of the form and write you own definition of it.

Opportunities to have guests, do projects, original writing and performance, will add to this lively course!

ENGL 577/477: American Indian Literature  

Franci Washburn
M/W   4:30pm – 5:45pm

This course introduces students to works by some of the classic authors in the field, but also includes contemporary works.  Classic authors include novels and short stories by such authors as James Welch, Cogewea, N. Scott Momaday and Louis Owens, but also includes modern writing by authors such as best-selling writers Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie.  American Indian literature has moved well beyond the binarism of white versus Indian into more complex and nuanced work, and this class will explore some of these works as well, including the detective stories of Tom Holm, and the zombie stories of Stephen Graham Jones.  The class will not only explore the words on the page, but also the contexts:  What are the historical, political, and cultural situations that enabled this literature? What literary theories can best be used to elucidate meaning?  Both undergraduate and graduate students will read 7-10 books throughout the semester.  Undergraduates will sit for a midterm and final exam, and write two papers of 6-10 pages.  Graduates will not be required to take the exams, but will write two extensive research papers of 12-20 pages.

ENGL 595A: 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: 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 596B: The Production Of African Diaspora

Lauren Mason
M   3:30pm – 6:00pm

In this course, we will examine literature and film that emerges from what is termed the “African” or “Black Diaspora.” We will trace the evolution of the modern African Diaspora by examining the exchange of written and visual narratives among peoples of the Diaspora since African independence. While manifestations of an African Diaspora can be traced as far back as the European slave trade, it is in the 1960s with Africa’s emergence from colonial rule that we see the emergence of a deliberate, self-conscious strategy of “Black Diaspora” emerge among Black peoples across the globe. This idea of Black Diaspora took various forms in America, Britain, France, the Antilles, and South America. For instance, in America the notion of a Black Diaspora was inextricably tied to Black Nationalist movements and the ideological principles surrounding Pan-Africanism, while in France Black Diaspora unfolded through the negritude movement. For the Caribbean, Kamau Brathwaite’s move toward “interculturation” and the resurrection of “Creolism” expressed the Antilles’ approach to Black Diaspora. While these notions of Black Diaspora share many of the same ideological principles, they are bound by two fundamental features: (1) That Africa remains a real or spiritual “home” for Black peoples of the Diaspora, a “home” from which Black people were forcibly removed and to which they remain inextricably bound through cultural practices, shared memories, or a belief in an essential “Blackness,” and (2) That Black Diaspora is articulated, shaped, and negotiated—solidified—through the exchange of written narratives, art, and later, visual narratives among peoples of the Black Diaspora. In other words, the notion of Black Diaspora, as it emerged in the 1960s, relies heavily on a constant exchange and renegotiation of a “black aesthetic,” which functions as both an artistic and sociopolitical expression of global Black solidarity.

One of our goals in this course is to delve into the modern African Diaspora by delving into the narratives that have been exchanged among disparate Black communities over the last40 years. Our goal is to put these texts “in conversation” with one another as well as to discover the ways in which they “speak” to one another. It is this “conversation” among texts that constitutes what we now refer to as an African Diaspora. And it is our efforts to continually create new “conversations” in our readings and writings that keeps African Diaspora a viable and productive global solidarity. We will trace these conversations in literary and cinematic narrative strategies and practices, intertextual references, and common cultural references and symbols. We want to illuminate not only the ways in which the texts in conversation with one another uncover or assert common or shared cultural origins and practices but also the ways ENGL 596B: The Production of African Diaspora in which they articulate cultural differences among Blacks or unique local cultural practices and beliefs that have emerged within Black communities.

ENGL 596F-1 – Course Cancelled

Lee Medovoi
Tu   3:30pm – 6:00pm

Cancelled by instructor. See instructor for course description. 

ENGL 596F-2: Cultures Of Neoliberalism – Course Cancelled

Marcia Klotz
W   3:30pm – 6:00pm

This seminar focuses on American literature and film produced since the 2008 financial crisis, looking at how theoretical, literary and filmic texts make sense of the contemporary economic global order. We will be examining theorizations of neoliberalism (Harvey, Foucault, Brown), alongside arguments about how debt structures are redefining sovereignty – both individual and national – on a global scale (Maurizio Lazarrato, The Making of the Indebted Man and David Harvey, Debt, The First 5000 Years).  We will examine representations of the 2008 economic crisis itself, and what lessons (if any?) have been learned from it (Delillo, Cosmopolis, the films Margin Call and The Big Short).   And we will discuss how finance capital, under the aegis of neoliberalism, relates to issues of race and gender (Ta-Nehisi Coates, Claudia Rankine, and Fred Moten), the student debt crisis, and environmental concerns. We will examine the burgeoning field of apocalyptic literature (Cormac McCarthy, David Mitchell, Emily St. John Mandel, Peter Heller, the list goes on and on), and its possible relationship to economic precarity. Finally, we will discuss cultures of resistance, such as the Occupy movement and #BlackLivesMatter, and how cultural texts are imagining alternatives to the neoliberal order.

ENGL 596L-1: ’Pataphysics: An Imaginary History'

Johanna Skibsrud
Th   9:30am – 12:00pm

“’Pataphysics. La ‘Pataphysique. This is a word that tries to exclude itself from the dictionary, in the same way that Groucho Marx refused to belong to any club that would have him as a member.” (Hugill 1) "Invented" by the French Symbolist writer, Alfred Jarry, and originally defined as "the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments” (Jarry 22), ’pataphysics enacts a reversal of inside and outside, the particular and the general, the expected and the norm. In the words of poet, Christian Bök, Jarry can be understood to perform "humorously on behalf of literature what Nietzsche performs seriously on behalf of philosophy. Both thinkers in effect attempt to dream up a ‘gay science,’ whose joie de vivre thrives wherever the tyranny of truth has increased our esteem for the lie and wherever the tyranny of reason has increased our esteem for the mad.” (Bök 9) In this class we will read the development of this “imaginary science” both backward (uncovering Jarry’s influences and inspirations in the realm of science, literature, humor and the occult) and forward, by examining its continuance in Dada, Surrealism, Theater of the Absurd, political situationism, phenomenology, deconstruction, fluxus, conceptual poetry and ecopoetics. Readings will center around Jarry’s Ubu Roi and Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustrol, Pataphysician and extend to include excerpts from, or considerations of, Lucretius, André Breton, Antonin Artaud, Wasilly Kandinsky, Hannah Höch, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Bertolt Brecht, Unica Zürn, George Perec, Guy Debord, Raoul Vaneigem, Gilles Deleuze, Bertolt Brecht, Groucho Marx, Augusto Boal, William Kentridge, Robin Rhodes, BpNichol, Steve McCaffery, Christopher Dewdney, Donna Harraway, Christian Bök, Adam Dickinson, Angela Rawlings and others. Full participation in class discussion, an in-class conference style presentation, and a final15-20 page research paper will be required.

ENGL 596L-2: Media Archaeology

Jennifer Jenkins
Tu   9:30am – 12:00pm

This course explores the moving image as evidence across the disciplines, from Film Studies to History to Anthropology, the Social Sciences, and the Humanities. The course breaks the semester into three successive parts: 1) Background: a survey of historical and contemporary media theory, moving image narrative, and basic film theory; 2) Methodologies: methods, materials, and approaches to researching moving image documents, including identification and use of technologies, descriptive metadata, primary and archival source materials, and oral history techniques; 3) Applied Practice: students will identify, research, and document an assigned film or films from local archival collections that relates to their topic area, thereby building skills in and methodologies of defining and determining visual media as evidence. The semester’s work will culminate in an in-house Media Archaeology symposium.

AIS 504: Fundamentals of American Indian Studies

Franci Washburn
M/W   2:00pm – 3:15pm

Note: AIS 504, while it won’t count as a “regularly scheduled literature seminar,” can be taken as an “elective”

Every student who wishes to have a deep understanding and appreciation for American Indian literature needs to have basic knowledge of the sociological, political, and cultural situations that shaped the literature.  This class introduces students to the most important U.S. legal decisions that affect the political status of American Indian nations and individuals, as well as offering historical information about American Indian education, the role of Christianity in the colonization of American Indians, and the relationship of American Indians to the land.  Some topics addressed with be the decisions of the Marshall Court that enabled the dispossession of Eastern tribes (The Trail of Tears), the boarding school era in American Indian history, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.  This is a reading intensive course with materials drawn from court documents, journal articles, and book excerpts.  Students will write two 12-20 page research papers and do two in-class individual presentations during the semester.