Literature Courses

Spring 2024 Courses

001 In Person
Th | 5:00PM - 7:30PM
Instructor: Fredrick Kiefer

Although Shakespeare and his contemporaries wrote plays for performance by all-male troupes, playwrights created a fascinating gallery of female characters. As early as the late 1580s, in plays like Arden of Faversham, dramatists highlighted women dealing with conflicting desires. Shakespeare was, of course, just one of many rivals and collaborators who focused on women and their social roles. Shakespeare’s comedies, including Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It, bring vibrant women to the stage. And the titles of plays by contemporaries underscore a shift toward the topic of women in love, especially as the Elizabethan era gave way to the Jacobean: A Woman Killed with Kindness, The Roaring Girl, The Duchess of Malfi, and ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore

Whatever the play, we shall be mindful that dramatists wrote for the stage not the study. (Shakespeare was, of course, himself an accomplished actor.)  By taking into account the specifically theatrical aspects of the drama, we shall enhance our understanding of the plays and write better criticism. Here’s an example. One summer while in London I found that the Royal Shakespeare Company was performing All’s Well That Ends Well. I knew that the theatrical history of the play was mediocre at best; Helena, the central character, often proved a mystery to directors and readers alike. But I took a chance and bought a ticket. What I discovered was the single finest production of a Shakespeare play I’ve ever seen, which allowed me to write about the play with new insight.

We shall combine an examination of selected Shakespeare plays with those of his fellow dramatists.

001 In Person
M | 3:00PM - 5:30PM
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 models for doctoral-level research questions and methods. We’ll place some emphasis on the twentieth-century traditions of creative nonfiction as they bear on fiction, but the course will also provide a firm foundation in major movements, periods, and topics in the field. Students will deliver a short presentation, write an academic book review, and write either two 8-10-page papers or a 18-25-page seminar paper depending on preference and your stage in graduate coursework. 

Likely authors include Theodore Dreiser, W.E.B. Du Bois, Nella Larsen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Maxine Hong Kingston, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gloria Anzaldúa, Toni Morrison, Chang-rae Lee, and one or two 21st-century selections we’ll decide upon as a class group. The list includes a few longer novels, and the reading list will be finalized and posted on D2L before winter break in case anyone would prefer to start reading early. 

001 In Person
T | 5:00PM - 7:30PM
Instructor: John Melillo

In this class, we will examine the ways in which the field of sound studies can help us answer questions about the work of sound in literature. Sound studies is an interdisciplinary formation that traces the theory and practice of listening. The field combines literature, poetics, music, performance, film studies, linguistics, acoustics, environmental studies, recording arts, history, philosophy, and more in order to show how listening is not only a cultural artifact—a product of contextual practices, technologies, and rituals—but also a form of inquiry. For this course, then, we will ask: How do the close and distant ways of listening opened up to us through sound studies help us to rethink literary texts and their aesthetics of sound? And, conversely, how does sound studies help us uncover the literary and rhetorical effects embedded within organizations of sound—from city soundscapes to pop song recordings? Answering these questions will necessitate a sonic reckoning with the concepts at the heart of contemporary critical study: aesthetics and politics, race and personhood, voice and community, the environment and materiality, knowledge-production and post-humanism.

In a contemporary world in which sonic information and surveillance are proliferating for pleasure and profit, listening has become an ever more refined tool for objectifying cultural practices. This class will emphasize how writing is implicated within this process while also opening up new forms for defamiliarizing sound and tracing its otherness. We will read, listen to, and think with a wide array of sound writing: lyric poetry, sound poetry, essays, notebooks, experimental audio, elocution manuals, concrete music, songs, ballads, sound descriptions, performance art, extended and improvised musical forms, sound walks, soundscape studies, poetry readings, and more. Specific texts will range from Sappho to Susan Howe, Alexander Pope to Public Enemy.

001 In Person 
F 10:00-11:50 AM 
Instructor: John Melillo

“How to graduate-student.” This colloquium meets every other week, and it is a requirement for first year students. Our meetings will include information about the program, an introduction to the profession, and tips on navigating graduate student life.

002 In Person 
F 10:00-10:50 PM 
Instructor: John Melillo

This workshop meets every other week. We will discuss career paths and goals, prepare application materials, and learn about different approaches to the process of going “on the market.”

005 In Person
W, Time TBD
Instructor: John Melillo

This writing workshop is for students who are ABD and who are at any stage of their dissertation writing. Whether you are working on your initial proposal or your final chapter, we will meet once a week to discuss writing strategies, workshop chapters or sections, and create accountability for your writing goals.