Click on a title for a description box to show, or view all courses and descriptions in the Fall2017. All students must receive permission from the instructor and/or the Graduate English Office in order to enroll. To officially register for the course, please use the PeopleSoft Class Number (PSC#) in parenthesis. Registration through PeopleSoft starts on Monday, October 20, 2017.
Fall 2017 Seminars
ENGL 5500-01 (class #11998) CHILDREN’S LITERATURE: (Capshaw): This survey of Children’s Literature focuses on field formation and introduces students to its major critical methodologies. In terms of field formation, we consider the following questions: What makes a children’s book? Is children’s literature different thematically or stylistically from “adult” literature? How does children’s literature cross boundaries of audience and genre? Do canonical children’s texts share certain qualities? How are children’s texts historically and contextually situated? What is the role of didacticism to children’s literature? What is the role of the adult mediator to the endurance of children’s texts? How do children’s texts construct the child reader?In order to address these key questions, we examine the formal qualities, reception history, and critical lineage of canonical children’s texts, starting with fairy tales, moving through the “golden age” of children’s literature, and into the mid-twentieth century. In the last third of the course, we examine questions of field formation by considering texts that break boundaries formally and that include representations of various iterations of childhood, including texts from particular ethnic communities and those engaging the impossibility of insular childhood for characters in poverty.
The course invests deeply in three major critical sites for the study of children’s literature: archival work, debates around child agency, and word/image study. We read critics on each of those subjects; in the past I’ve included readings by Karen Sanchez-Eppler, Kenneth Kidd, Maria Tatar, Beverly Lyon Clark, Roderick McGillis, Jacqueline Rose, David Rudd, Kimberly Reynolds, Claudia Nelson, Marah Gubar, Robin Bernstein, Perry Nodelman, Philip Nel, and others. I have also included an archival project; students have the option to visit collections at the American Antiquarian Society, the Beinecke at Yale, the Houghton Library at Harvard, the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection at UConn, and the John Hay Library at Brown. Please email me at email@example.com or stop by Austin 136 with any questions. Students from all fields are welcome to join the course.
My critical approach to the material emphasizes historical and cultural context with some emphasis on literary techniques and close reading. For example, to begin the course with its first five works, we will consider the ways the Progressive Era and World War I and its aftermath led to the questioning of war, marriage, the role of women, immigration, labor, etc. We will next study four works of southern modernism and so will look at ways the history and culture of the South are distinctive and thus affect southern versions of modernism, such as religion; economic structures like the plantation, class systems, race; and the relative lack of urban centers. When we address ethnic literature, we begin by stressing the importance of mid to late twentieth century movements such as those for civil rights, women’s rights, and ethnic pride. I want students to recognize the unique subject position of each author and the inherent fluidity or instability of such positions as well as the varying lenses with which we view such positions as readers. I emphasize literary techniques because recognition of such techniques is crucial to the consideration of meanings and graduate students will be expected to teach their students about literary techniques. For each week’s reading, I will assign a scholarly article that illustrates a particular approach to the material, so that students will see a range of critical methods applied to these texts. In addition, I challenge students in class discussion to think about how they would construct their own survey courses and how they would present texts to undergraduates. In short, especially since this is a survey course, I emphasize that the graduate students are both scholars and teachers.
The required texts are: Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time; T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land;
Wallace Stevens’ “Sunday Morning,” “Anecdote of the Jar,” “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and “Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself”; Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury; Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire; Ernest Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying; Valerie Martin’s Property; Tina DeRosa’s Paper Fish; Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine; and Louise Erdrich’s The Round House.
Grades: Participation (30%: in addition to class discussion, this includes the oral report on the research paper and responses to the oral reports of others); two short (500 words) response papers (20%); and a fifteen-to-twenty page research paper (50%: due in stages: topic, annotated bibliography, thesis statement and outline, complete draft with sources, final version.). I encourage students to meet with me to discuss any aspect of the course and their work.
Another difficulty with picking up theory from the professional atmosphere is that the study of theory in that context tends to be ancillary to some other project, rather than one’s main focus. The second half of the course will explore three or four texts in literary theory. The purpose of this is twofold. First, we will learn in greater detail about the particular theories we are studying. Second, and perhaps more important, we will develop our skills at critically reading and interpreting theoretical texts. In this section, we will primarily take up works treating topics not addressed extensively in the first half of the semester. Thus we might consider works in gender theory (e.g., Judith Butler), evaluative criticism (e.g., Noel Carroll), narratology and stylistics, or emotion study.
Students will write brief responses to the readings, do one or two class presentations, and write a term paper that either addresses a theoretical topic or applies a theory to a literary text.
ENGL 6750-01 (class#12009) SEMINAR IN SPECIAL TOPICS IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: ENTRAPMENT AND ESCAPE IN RECENT BRITISH AND IRISH WOMEN’S FICTION: (Lynch): We will undertake a sustained interrogation of the ways in which female protagonists in recent British and Irish fiction succeed or fail in their attempts to break free from a variety of constraints and achieve individuation and autonomy. The novels throughout the course will be twinned (see reading list below) with each success story being accompanied by a comparable text in which the protagonist fails to disengage from her constraints. My first pairing includes our only pre-1900 text, Jane Eyre, since it is a foundational novel in the context of our interrogation, and offers rich material for study in the colonial context when paired with Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea. We will examine the texts through feminist and cultural theoretical lenses; for example, Gilbert’s feminist reading of Jane Eyre analyzes Jane’s unlikely “pilgrimage towards selfhood” in the context of patriarchist repression, whereas a cultural critic like Elsie Michie attends to “the troubling problem of colonial dominance.” The pairing of Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, and the application of critics like Michie and Spivak to both texts, will allow the students to investigate Jane’s position as one of privilege when compared to the demonization of the colonized Bertha. The students will also be asked to build annotated bibliographies inclusive of a variety of seminal and recent approaches to each individual text. Our investigation will attend to the forces determining each woman’s trajectory, in an effort to understand its causes. Our paired texts will focus on cultural and historical context (our Bowen and Johnston pairing, for example, interrogates the very different outcomes for two young women coming of age during the Irish War of Independence), love and marriage, sexual expression, the limits of the heterosexual “family cell,” and other appropriate concerns. We will throughout, analyze the ways in which these outcomes are dependent upon nationality and chronology. What changes do we note as we move from England to Ireland and as we travel through linear time, and why?
Each pairing will be accompanied by secondary reading specifically chosen for its relevance to the texts under consideration. Requirements include a 10-page paper suitable for presentation at a conference, to be delivered in class so that peer review can be offered. Students will also prepare an annotated bibliography on one of our authors and write a 20+ page paper, ideally one that they can revise for submission to a scholarly journal.
Primary Texts: Pairings will include:
Bronte, Jane Eyre, and Rhys, The Wide Sargasso Sea.
Drabble, The Millstone, and Weldon, The Cloning of Joanna May.
O’Brien, The Country Girls Trilogy (here we have a triad rather than a pairing, set in Ireland and England).
Bowen, The Last September, and Johnston, The Old Jest.
Winterson, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit and Donoghue, Hood.
Boylan, Holy Pictures, and Enright, The Forgotten Waltz.
We will engage with an appropriate selection of appropriate theoretical and critical sources, following the guidelines stated above. Readings will range from the seminal (Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic) to more recent studies by Homi Babha, Gayatri Spivak (“Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism”) Jenny Sharpe (“The Rise of Women in an Age of Progress”), and Kathryn Conrad (Locked in the Family Cell: Gender, Sexuality, and Political Agency in Irish National Discourse).
Spring 2017 Seminars
Texts will include: Charles Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman; Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson; W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks (excerpts); Henry James, Daisy Miller; Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie; Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “Spoken To”; Kate Chopin, The Awakening, “La Belle Zorãide,” and “Désirée’s Baby”; Short stories and memoirs by Mary Wilkins Freeman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Ambrose Bierce, María Christina Mena, Zitkala Sa, Alice Dunbar Nelson; Willa Cather, My Antonía; Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance and other Stories; María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, The Squatter and the Don; Stephen Crane, “The Open Boat” and “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky”; Jack London, Call of the Wild; Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden”; Charles Eastman, excerpts from The Soul of an Indian or from From the Deep Woods to Civilization; Poetry by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Miriam Tane, Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt, and others; Jane Adams, Twenty Years at Hull House; Meridel Le Sueur, “Women on the Breadlines” James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man; Nella Larsen, Passing or Quicksand; Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time; T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Caroline Levander, Where is American Literature?
Requirements: Short paper; long paper; oral presentation.
The course will begin with a brisk, friendly tour of the ‘material’ as a category in contemporary literary studies. With the aim of creating a map of materialisms, we will cover a selection of theoretical readings ranging from cultural materialists like Raymond Williams to ‘new materialists’ such as Jussi Parikka. (No prior theoretical expertise is required; part of the goal of this course is to introduce a critical conversation.) The second third of the course will test and challenge these theoretical frameworks by putting them into conversation with material texts in both manuscript and early print. We will consider selections from canonical authors (Chaucer, Lydgate, Skelton, Shakespeare, or as determined by the interests of participants), as well as sample some less familiar texts and genres. The last third of the course will focus on specific case texts selected by seminar participants in conversation with me.
Requirements include short response papers; a proposal for a material text case study; and a seminar paper.
ENGL 6750-01 (class#18173) SPECIAL TOPICS IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: DISUNITED KINGDOM: 20TH C. BRITISH DRAMA AND THE STATE: (Burke): This seminar will examine 20th-and 21st-century British Drama. We will begin with the radical drama of the early 20th-century, give the bulk of our attention to the post-war and progressively post-Empire period, and conclude with the current multicultural and devolutionist movement. We will trace a tradition of subversion emanating from the geographical and ideological peripheries of Britain that encompasses Wilde, Shaw, Osborne, Orton, Arden, Murphy, Pinter, Stoppard, Brenton, Churchill, Duffy, McGuinness, Kay, McDonagh and Williams, among others. Our readings will emphasize how such voices successively challenged mainstream British identity and values, and will highlight the successive historical, political, and cultural contexts of the drama. Contexts will include the querying of Empire in Victorian and Edwardian drama, the post-war/post-Empire Welfare State and its relationship to the emergence of working-class, black, and geographically “marginal” voices in a variety of arts from the 1950s onward, the links between the decriminalization of homosexuality and the abolition of theatre censorship in the 1960s, the rise of Thatcherism, the interrogation of the patriarchal/nuclear family, and the emergency of feminist and queer drama into the 190s, the rise of “Irish theatre” as a deterritorialized brand on the London stage in the recent “Celtic Tiger” period (1990s) within the context of post-war emigration to Britain from the former colonies, and -in light of issues such as the Northern Irish “Troubles” and the 2014 Scottish independence referendum–the ongoing staging of a Disunited Kingdom.
We will briefly begin with the “Myth and Symbol school” of the 1950s and 1960s then shift our attention to the 1980s, when American Studies was transformed by ethnic studies and cultural studies. However, we will devote most of our time to discussing contemporary directions in the field as established by its major texts published over the last 20 years. These take as their starting point the “transnational turn” of the late 1990s, wherein the discipline increasingly called into question the sanctity of borders and the ideology of empire. We will also devote special attention to how American Studies has provided frames for understanding cultural memory and memorialization, a persistent theme in the field. Readings will consist mainly of scholarly monographs.