Spring 2019 Graduate Literature Course Descriptions

ENGL 527-001: Chaucer

Roger Dahood
M/W   10:00am – 11:15am

This course has two main goals: one, to introduce students who have had some experience with reading 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 on it. 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.

Near the beginning of the semester students will write a ten-page report on a basic reference or interpretive work I will assign and towards the end of the semester in consultation with me a conference-length paper timed for twenty minutes’ oral delivery.

ENGL 533-001: Milton

Meg Lota Brown
Tu/Th   2:00pm – 3:15pm & Th   3:30pm – 4:30pm

Note: this class has combined with ENGL 444

Now a titan of the canon, John Milton was one of early modern England’s most reviled and controversial writers. We will study his poetry and prose within the context of the many revolutions in which he was a major figure: revolutions in politics, theology, poetics, and philosophy.  One of our goals will be to examine how Milton – and the culture in which he was embedded – constructed meaning; another goal will be to consider why such an examination is important. How does reading Milton’s works enable us to understand more fully our own constructed selves? How do his representations of gender, truth, power, and nature figure in the epistemic violence with which he was engaged? And how do those representations continue to inform 21st-century expressions of desire and oppression?

Our class will examine works from many of the different genres in which Milton wrote: sonnets, epic, masque, polemical prose tracts, pastoral elegy. We will consider the richly generative tensions that complicate the author’s oeuvre and his character. For example, Milton was a devout Christian who, according to William Blake, “was of the devil’s party and didn’t know it.” He was variously allied with the Puritans, and yet he created some of the most voluptuous verse in the English language. He was a politician who supported regicide and violent rebellion but who figured heaven as a monarchy and Satan as an armed insurrectionist. In the most extravagant and aristocratic genre of his era—the masque, which was predicated on conspicuous consumption and upper class entitlement—he embedded a proto-socialistic argument for equitable distribution of resources and consumer moderation. In one of the most celebrated epics ever written, Milton repeatedly derides classical epic values and conventional epic heroism. Close textual analysis, social history, cultural anthropology, and critical theory will inform our discussions.

ENGL 543-001: Chicano/Chicana Literature

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

Note: Co-convened with ENGL 443

This graduate seminar will approach the Mexican American literary tradition from several perspectives.  The course will be structured as a historical survey of important works in the tradition, to give you both a familiarity with key texts (from a variety of genres) and a clear sense  of how the tradition has evolved.  We will also consider how social movements and historical events like the Mexican-American War, the Mexican Revolution, the Chicano Movement and Chicana feminism have shaped Mexican American literary production.  And, of course, we will explore the issues raised by the texts themselves and by corresponding scholarly critiques, as well as different methods of interpreting the texts.

Primary texts will include works by Américo Paredes, Maria Ruíz de Burton, Maria Cristina Mena, Mario Suárez, José Antonio Villarreal, Corky Gonzales, Luis Valdez, Gloria Anzaldúa, Cecile Pineda, and Ana Castillo (and perhaps one or two others).  Some highlights: Ruíz de Burton’s Who Would Have Thought It?, a scathing satire of post-Civil War U.S. society that rivals the best of Mark Twain; Tucson native Mario Suárez’s wry depiction of working class Chicanos grappling with the social upheaval brought about by World War II; Luis Valdez’s engaging and inventive play “Zoot Suit”; and Cecile Pineda’s powerful, unforgettable novel, Face, which explores whether or not it is possible to retain one’s sense of self in a world that denies one’s humanity.

Course requirements: each week, we will read and discuss one primary text and one or two related, critical essays.  In addition, students will write a series of short (4-page) critical essays, responding to specific readings, as well as a longer, end of term paper.  Each student will also be asked to make one 20-minute presentation, introducing one week’s readings to the seminar.

ENGL 555A-001: Studies In Nineteenth-Century British Literature

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

Note: Co-convened with ENGL 460

I won’t cram into a semester all the fine works which fall within the Romantic era from early Gothicism to the Reform Bill; rather, in those texts that consistently have generated a classic richness and diversity of interpretation we will examine, through the Romantic lens of the symbolic and diabolic, models of identity and community (pantisocratic or horrific, as the case may be). Students will prepare informal reports on specific works for in-class presentations (demonstrating interpretive techniques and critical methodologies), one of which may be expanded and polished to become your research paper for the end of term. We will move from Blake through Keats with reports invited on several women poets; also Lamb and/or DeQuincey are included as imaginative prose writers and Horace Walpole and Mary Shelley, among others, will be the early fictional component. If I can schedule the time, we may be able to take a look at some unusual fiction of neo-Romanticism later in the Victorian period.

ENGL 565-001: Reading And Writing 19th Century American  Literatures

Jennifer Jenkins
Tu   3:30pm – 6:00pm

How was U.S. national literature constructed, by whom and for whom? We will study 19th century American literatures as defined by its contemporary readers and subsequent taste-makers, examining along the way questions of authorship, genre, narratives of nationhood, and the form of the book as it evolved across the century; technologies of book production; spaces of reading, literacies, and types of readers; and the impact of the Civil War and Westward expansion on the literary marketplace and reading communities. The place of the book in American culture was (and is) inevitably shaped by issues of class, gender, race, and ethnicity. In addition to now-canonical works of American Romanticism, Realism, and Naturalism, we will read best-sellers of the day, and engage with both physical and digital archives and artifacts of C19 book culture. Substantive reading and writing required.

ENGL 595A-001: First Year Colloquium (alternate with Job Workshop)

Lynda Zwinger
W   12:00pm – 1:00pm

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 Workshop (alternate with First Year Colloquium)

Lynda Zwinger
W   12:00pm – 1:00pm

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: Conrad And Modernism

Suresh Raval
Th   5:00pm – 7:30pm

This seminar will focus on Conrad’s major fiction, especially Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and Under Western Eyes with a view to exploring their significance for modernism. The course will discuss, among other things, several essays by Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, and Virginia Woolf dealing with the emergence of various innovations that herald the era of modernism in early twentieth century fiction. Careful attention will be given to discussions of modernism by recent art historians as well as literary critics. Although the seminar will be oriented towards close readings of his works from the perspective of modernism, there will be occasional fuller discussions of the historical, social, and political implications that continue to make Conrad a formidable presence today. Almost unique among his contemporaries, Conrad provokes reflection on transnational, post-national, and international issues, and so this seminar will inevitably deal with these aspects of his fiction. Students signing up for this seminar will find it useful to have read Nostromo, arguably his most difficult and powerful novel, before the semester begins. Knowledge of some works by Ford, Joyce, and Virginia Woolf will be helpful in capturing the importance of Conrad as a modernist. Assignments will include in-class presentations, a term-paper, and an omnibus summary account of some recent scholarly studies.

ENGL 596L-001: The Anglophone And Its Critics

Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan
W   1:00pm – 3:30pm

This English graduate seminar pursues the problem of English as a literary and cultural system. How has the spread of global Anglophonism complicated the way we understand and undertake the study of contemporary English literature? When Aamir Mufti urges us to Forget English! (2016), which Englishes are to be forgotten and by whom? When Minae Mizumura conjures a dystopic Fall of Language in the Age of English (2015), how is the Anglophonist to carry on?

In order to pursue these questions, we will examine 20th and 21st century Anglophone postcolonial literature and criticism, primarily but not exclusively routed through the South Asian subcontinent and its diasporas. In the South Asian context, English is both psychically alienating, on the one hand, and socioeconomically enabling, on the other. We will consider first how the critique of colonial Anglophonism attempted to reconcile the epistemic violences of English with its evident relations to political power and class mobility. Then, we will pursue the self-critiques and disavowals that have followed the postcolonial and ethnic metabolism of the imperial language—how, for example, the embrace of the vernacular has served as a rhetorical foil for the Anglophonist, and how the critique of English has ironically served to shore up the language’s dominance in the South Asian world of letters and the Asian American ethnic canon.

While South Asian literatures will serve as our primary case study, these issues are relevant to all scholars who consider themselves Anglophonists, all creative writers who traffic in accented voices, and all those who have picked up the phone and heard an inscrutable global English. We will develop strategies for the study of plural, vernacular, and demotic Englishes as well as a framework for comparative literary study, while engaging critically with the problems and possibilities of translation and mistranslation. Finally, this course will provide students with a lens for responsibly engaging literatures outside Western European and Anglo-American traditions.

ENGL 596L-002: Close Reading: Poetry

Tenney Nathanson
W   4:00pm – 6:30pm

“The longer you look the more you see”

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

In this seminar we’ll also try to pretend: not to know 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; not to care too much when our own particular ignorance of the writer or school 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 have important virtues as an exercise.

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 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 as well.

There’s no escape from theory, of course.  And as we proceed through the semester, we may increasingly find a place for “theory of the lyric.”  We’ll try to refine our sense of how to deploy old new critical categories such as speaker, situation, and trope, and we’ll bring such more recently prized (or revived) notions as speech act, performative utterance, apostrophe, prosopopoeia, and kosmos to bear on our readings of individual texts and supplement the older formal vocabulary of “enjambment” and “caesura” with such more recently fashionable rhetorical notions as “metalepsis” and “catachresis.”  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 that spent reading.  Seminar participants will read a few (strategically selected) poems each week (and occasionally some theoretical texts of the kind mentioned above) and will write frequent, perhaps weekly, close readings of individual poems, explicating the whole but making particular use of the problem and “tool” currently under discussion. 

The early 3-D comics, from the fifties, used to have a little box-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 (obsessively) over difficult or puzzling moments in a text are rarely bad things. 

SCCT 510-001: Cultures and spaces of Finance and Debt: A Long View of the Big Short

Marcia Klotz & Mark Kear
Tu   3:30pm – 6:00pm

Note: Please check with Literature Director to make sure this class can count towards your plan of study.

It has been ten years since the global financial crisis, but its effects remain all around us. Yet long before it first appeared on the horizon, Gilles Deleuze argued that the United States and other advanced capitalist states had become “societ[ies] of control,” where social order was produced not only through disciplinary institutions (prisons, factories, schools), but increasingly through relations of debt; in short, “encircled man [sic] has become indebted man.” The consequences of this shift have been profound, altering human spaces and architectures as well as our daily lives, our sense of the future, intimate relationships and subjectivities.

To analyze the origins and consequences of the neoliberal “financialization” of the economy, society and culture, this seminar adopts interdisciplinary methodologies drawn from geography, history, literary analysis and critical theory to track the changing role of debt, finance and money in shaping the human experience from the scale of the body to the scale of the globe. To help us along the way, we will explore the work of Giovanni Arrighi, David Harvey, Annie McClanahan, David Graeber, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Wendy Brown, Mary Poovey, Fred Moten, Maurizio Lazzarato, Randy Martin, Arjun Appadurai, and Greta Krippner, among others. 

Students enrolled in this course will have the unique opportunity to present their work at the international Futures of Finance and Society conference to be held in Tucson in Fall of 2019, and meet eminent scholars from across the US and around the world.