Literature Courses

Fall 2022 Courses

150 Fully Online
Instructor: Lynda Zwinger

We will focus primarily on Romantic Literature (mostly poetry) of 1780-1835 (roughly). What literary and cultural work did it do for contemporary readers and writers? How are we to read and account for its power and legacies? Some ongoing attention may also be paid to romanticism's continuing presence in later literary texts as well. Time allowing, we will also consider predecessor texts. Expect to read current critical and theoretical (re)assessments of what we call Romantic Literature as well as to closely read and scrutinize the texts themselves. This course integrates a unit on "teaching the Romantics"; this course description is preliminary and will be updated. Contact Professor Zwinger with any questions.

001 Live Online
M 3:00-5:30 PM
Instructor: Lauren Camille Mason

Introduction to semiotics, survey of major figures and trends. Saussure and structuralism, Jakobson and functionalism/poetics, Pierce and pragmaticism. Focus on what these trends tell us about language. Students’ written work will represent students’ specific interests.


Partial reading list:

Berger, Asa. Applied Discourse Analysis

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies

Barthes, Roland. Elements of Semiology

Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things

Hall, Stuart. Representation

Mitchell, W.J.T. Picture Theory

Searle, John. The Construction of Social Reality

Nolan, Chris. Inception

Nabokov, Vladimir. Palefire

Holt, Tom. Doughnut

Gaiman, Neil, and Terry Pratchett. Good Omens

001 Live Online
Th 12:00-2:30PM
Instructor: Tenney Nathanson

“The longer you look the more you see”

Back in the heyday of the (old) new criticism, the apocryphal story goes, a student in a graduate seminar 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 that I haven’t read it.”

In this seminar we’ll also try to pretend: not to know (or at least not to worry too much about) 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, divorced from its multiple contexts; not to care too much when our own ignorance of the particular writer 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 play a crucial role as an exercise, helping us develop the skills in close textual analysis that will be an invaluable resource down the road in future courses, where we can integrate such close reading skills into larger, more elaborate critical projects.

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 pretty 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.

There’s no escape from theory, of course.  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 time spent reading.  Seminar participants will read a few (strategically selected) poems each week (and occasionally some theoretical texts of the kind mentioned above) and write frequent, perhaps weekly, short papers--close readings of individual poems, explicating the whole but making particular use of the analytic approach currently under discussion.  Since many of these analytic tools will probably be new to many of you, we’ll try to establish a communal seminar atmosphere rather than a competitive one, finding ways to benefit from one another’s insights.

The early 3-D comics, from the 1950s, used to have a little 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 over difficult or puzzling moments in a text are rarely bad things.

001 In Person 
W 2:00-2:50 PM 
Instructor: John Melillo

Required for first year students; meets every other week. “How to graduate-student.” 

002 In Person 
W 2:00-2:50 PM 
Instructor: John Melillo

Meets every other week; preparation of application materials, approaches to the process, all career paths.