Fall 2017 Graduate Literature Course Descriptions

ENGL/AIS/MAS 524-001: Studies in Southwest Literatures:  Space, Place and Identity

Jennifer Jenkins
Th   4:00pm – 6:30pm

We will explore the greater US Southwest/Borderlands as image, motif, and location in oral narrative and texts, in still and moving images, and in material culture from 1000 BCE to the present. We will examine how understandings of place shape identity through depictions of the land; social and cultural deserts and borders; boom/bust cycles; the mirage of the “land of enchantment;” and representations of indigenous and insurgent cultures. The class will take advantage of the rich array of primary sources available in local archaeological and historical sites, archives, and repositories, and explore literary geography as both concept and digital expression. Literary texts may include works by Silko, Sekaquaptewa, Azuela, Fontes, Castillo, Nichols, McCarthy, Sherwood, Traven, Abbey, Bird, Austin, and others.  Films will be drawn from across genres and periods, including Westerns, Noir, documentary, and cross-cultural U.S-Mexico adaptations. Students will choose a research topic for the semester in consultation with me. Writing requirements: abstract; research bibliography; lit review; all leading to a conference presentation or journal article draft.

ENGL 531-001: Shakespeare’s Career

Frederick Kiefer
Th   6:30pm – 9:00pm

Ann Jennalie Cook, former head of the Shakespeare Association of America, has written that the most significant development over the past fifty years has been the study of Shakespeare in performance. She said: “Three distinct areas of interest have emerged: theatrical conditions during Shakespeare’s lifetime, the history of Shakespearean performance to the present day, and critical interaction with contemporary professionals in the theater.” A stroll across the mall to our library will reveal shelves and shelves of books on these topics, which have intersected scholarship that deals with the editing of Shakespeare’s plays. A generation ago editors sought to reproduce the scripts as they left Shakespeare’s desk. No one aspires to do that today. Instead, editors seek to produce new editions that capture the plays when they were being performed in Shakespeare’s theater. This change acknowledges the fact that a text based on performance is infinitely superior to one based on a theoretical reconstruction of Shakespeare’s draft. This change also acknowledges that play production is a collective activity, involving directors, actors, costumers, and designers of special effects. Writing plays was an essentially social process. And keep in mind that Shakespeare was himself an actor in a repertory company.

English 531 will seek to keep in mind the trends that are sweeping our profession, especially the attention to staging, something that academics used to ignore. Consider: some years ago I was having lunch with my mentor. He asked me what I was working on. I replied that I was writing a stage history of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. With the greatest skepticism, he asked: “Why would you want to do that?” His disdain reflected the views that had infiltrated the profession for decades. I made no apology for my work. I knew that times had changed and that it would be foolish to ignore the most exciting new emphases in academe.

Our course will survey plays throughout Shakespeare’s career, from the earliest comedies, to the history plays, to the tragedies, to the late romances. Students will be asked to write three papers, one of which will deal with the staging of a play.

ENGL/AIS 549A: Folklore, The Story of Cultural Diversity in The U.S.

Franci Washburn
W   6:30pm – 9:00pm

The stories that a culture creates and tells about itself can inform outsiders of what that culture values. Now more than ever, we citizens of the United States should examine those values of cultures others than our own to create cross-cultural tolerance and understanding.  While the broad definition of folklore includes not only stories, but also sayings, dances, art forms, and other objects of material culture, this class will primarily examine the stories, while touching lightly on sayings, such as colloquial expressions, and jokes or other forms of humor from three broad cultures:  Middle Eastern (Jewish and Arabic); Latino, and Native American.  Then, we will discuss how the stories of these cultures are different or similar to those of Main Stream U.S. culture, if such a thing as a predominantly “mainstream” U.S. culture truly exists.  I am primarily interested in sparking vigorous classroom discussion and engagement together, rather than projects completed separately.  Each student will be required to do one oral storytelling presentation to the class (no written notes, no printed handouts, no power points or other computer assisted information) and to write one paper of conference length.  Reading list has not been compiled yet, but will likely consist of at least one book from each of three general cultures listed above, as well as individual essays or chapter from books delivered via D2L or other means.

ENGL 566-001: The Great War and Its Impact Upon Modernism

Charles Scruggs
M   3:30pm – 6:00pm

The Great War (1914-1918) was a seminal event in world history and for modern literature.  The war triggered both the Russian Revolution (1917) and the Irish Rebellion (1916), and ended by toppling monarchies and destroying empires.  But perhaps the “Shock of the New” that came as the biggest surprise was the horror of modern warfare: machine guns, mustard gas, tanks, airplanes and guns so monstrous that they blew people to bits. The phrase “missing in action” first appeared in that war, a theme that would not go unnoticed by contemporary writers.  The individual as cannon fodder (insignificant, inconsequential) haunts the literature of the period, as well as the phrase “No Man’s Land” which, in its multiple meanings, will find a place in T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.

T.S. Eliot’s poem and Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front (1928) are probably the most famous post-war texts, but these are only two of many brilliant works, fiction and poems, that the war produced.  English poets like Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves reshaped the way we not only perceived war but poetry itself. Although the United States did not enter the war until late (1917) and its military forces were “over there” for only eighteen months, American society underwent a monumental transformation. That change is reflected in one of the best novels of the Twentieth Century, John Dos Passos’s USA, his modernist trilogy that, only other things, documents the first thirty years of the American Century (as Walter Lippman called it). At home, the war created the “Security State” (surveillance, suppression of dissent, censorship of the press, and the creation of the Bureau of Investigation–the future FBI).  The failure of Wilson’s “Fourteenth Points” at the Treaty of Versailles (1919), the death of Progressivism, and the rise of organized crime (due in part to Prohibition) led to a new kind of literature, ranging from pulp fiction to radical experimentations with form and language.  This occurred on both sides of the Atlantic and profoundly affected what we today call Modernism.

ENGL 595A-001: 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-003: 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-001: 19TH Century English Novel: Time/Being

Lynda Zwinger
Th   12:30pm – 3:00pm

We will read important English novels (all of which either appear on the MA Exam Reading List or can substitute for a text by the same author on the list).  Our particular lines of inquiry will be more or less anchored to questions of time in/and the genre (which will inevitably merge with last semester’s anchor, “subjectivity”); our tentative answers will be absolutely anchored in the texts. There will be two options for student work in this seminar: a term paper crafted as a draft article written for a specific peer-reviewed academic journal; the other, which will require a longer reading list, is to elect to take the seminar as a "reading course" in order to prepare more broadly for, say, the MA exam, Comps, a dissertation, or conceptualizing an article for a journal.  The latter option will require a reading journal.  Students choosing either option will be expected to make formal presentations to the seminar at least once during the semester. Theoretical readings as needed (e.g., Freud, Lacan, Dogen, Miller, Cameron) and tba, usually via D2L. We will probably have occasion to discuss some films (adaptations of the novels and/or exemplifications of games with time). 

Required novels (students on both plans will read):

  • Fanny Burney, Evelina (1778)
  • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (1847) or Villette (1853). tbd
  • Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1861)
  • George Eliot, Middlemarch (1872)
  • Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1881 and 1908)  
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
  • Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (1898)

ENGL 596F-001: Travel Narratives, Travel Fictions

Daniel Cooper Alarcon
W   1:00pm – 3:30pm

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, 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 fiction to indicate the ways in which 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.

The reading list for the course is still taking shape, but will probably include travel narratives written by Cabeza de Vaca, John L. Stephens, Jack London, and Jamaica Kincaid, as well as the novels The Sheltering Sky (Paul Bowles), Jasmine (Bharati Mukherjee), Volkswagen Blues (Jacques Poulin), and Motion Sickness (Lynn Tillman).  Theoretical works will include Pratt’s Imperial Eyes, MacCannell’s The Tourist, and Kaplan’s Questions of Travel, as well as shorter works by Paul Fussell, R. Tripp Evans, Heidi MacPherson and Jonathan Culler.

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 596G-001: Into The Heart of Darkness: A Faustian Voyage

Johanna Skibsrud
M   12:30pm – 3:00pm

In this course we will plunge into the Heart of Darkness, beginning with the texts and contexts that influenced Conrad, including the travel journals of John Franklin and Goethe’s Faust. We will also look at the texts influenced by Conrad’s famous work: from T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and Emmanuel Dongala’s The Fire of Origins. By investigating the historical context of adventurism, colonialism, and race central to Conrad’s famous novel alongside a consideration of the enduring Faustian paradox, we will gain not only a richer sense of the complexities of the Modernist era, but also of our own.  Further critical and creative readings may include excerpts from Nancy Rose Hunt’s A Nervous State: Violence, Remedies and Reverie in Colonial Congo, Mark Twain’s King Leopold’s Soliloquy, Hans Christoph Binswanger’s Money and Magic: A Critique of the Modern Economy in the Light of Goethe’s Faust, Albert Memmi’s The Colonizer and the Colonized, Franz Fanon’s Black Skins, White Masks, Peter Sellars’ Doctor Atomic, Eleanor Coppola’s Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse, Mary Louise Pratt’s Imperial Eyes, Jacques Pauw’s Into the Heart of Darkness: Confessions of Apartheid’s Assassins, Alain Mabanckou’s Broken Glass, Fred Moten’s “Blackness and Nothingness,” Michelle M. Wright’s The Physics of Blackness, and poetry by Charles Baudelaire, Joseph Brodsky, and Carol Anne Duffy. Questions we will ask: What is the contemporary inheritance of the binaries and blindnesses within Heart of Darkness? How does that inheritance continue to influence our notion of the modern (or postmodern) subject? What are the limits and possibilities of rethinking the history of colonialism, and the ongoing struggle between good and evil, darkness and light? The class will be discussion based. Students will be asked to submit short weekly response papers, deliver one twenty-minute in-class presentation, and complete a final 15-20-page research paper. Students are also encouraged to have read or re-read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness before the first day of class.

ENGL 596G-002: Stanley Kubrick

Susan White
W   3:30pm – 6:00pm

This is a course on the films of Stanley Kubrick.  We will also consider several sources for the films’ adaptations.  By means of close reading and in the context of film theory, we will cover most of Kubricks’s films.  We will also read Nabokov’s Lolita, Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, and Clarke’s “The Sentinel.” You can expect an intensive study of Kubrick’s films.  One major goal of the class is to learn to translate complex visual images to the written word via the specific terminology of cinema studies. Students will write midterm and final papers and present at least once to the class on readings and/or their work. 

ENGL 596K-001: Knowledge Work

Scott Selisker
Tu   3:30pm – 6:00pm

“When this circuit learns your job, what are you going to do?” Marshall McLuhan asked this question in 1967, and we’ll plan to look at the questions beneath it and their implications for literary studies now. What do we value as human in an information economy in which many of the key players are algorithms? This seminar in contemporary fiction and digital humanities will take up a cluster of questions related to work, creativity, and the knowledge economy. We’ll consider what kinds of work and leisure both novelists and critics depict and perform, and we’ll use these questions to reflect on recent methodological debates, the place of scholarship in the contemporary media ecology, and other current questions in the field. We’ll be sure to read a few works on the MA reading list and some foundational works of theory and criticism, in addition to getting a foothold in both contemporary literary studies and in digital humanities conversations. We’ll narrow down the reading list of 5 or 6 novels following our first class meeting, but likely primary authors include: Vladimir Nabokov (we’ll definitely start with Pale Fire), Joan Didion, Ralph Ellison, Amiri Baraka, Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Chang-Rae Lee, Karen Tei Yamashita, Jennifer Egan, Maggie Nelson, Ben Lerner. We’ll pair the novels with criticism, sociology, and critical theory, and a substantial unit will survey major books and questions in digital literary studies. (Across our secondary readings, we’re likely to encounter Karl Marx, Georg Lukács, Theodor Adorno, Marshall McLuhan, Fredric Jameson, Susan Sontag, Richard Florida, Boltanski and Chiapello, Alan Liu, Mark McGurl, Amy Hungerford, Franco Moretti, Debates in the Digital Humanities, and others). Requirements include occasional brief reading responses, a small-scale digital experiment (working at your level), and a seminar paper.