Graduate Seminars

Click on a title for a description box to show, or view listing of all courses for the Spring2021/Fall2021.  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 26, 2020.

If you have finished coursework and hold a GA, please register for GRAD 6950-06, class number 3941 for Spring 2021 (1213) term.

Spring 2021 Seminars


ENGL 5160-001 (class#8092) PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (Knapp):  Long before the pandemic arrived, a career path in the humanities has been complicated by factors with which we are by now overly familiar: the neoliberalization of the university and attendant adjunctification of the professoriate; the decline in undergraduate majors; and an ongoing, insufficient reckoning with the marginalization of BIPOC and LGBTQ faculty and students. It’s important we acknowledge these conditions. But these circumstances should not prevent graduate students from imagining themselves in jobs they find satisfying, whether within the academy or beyond.  Thus, the work of this course is two-fold: first, this seminar will provide the space to discuss the contours and direction of graduate students’ intellectual career at UConn and afterwards. Second, this course asks us to think critically about those contours: what can we do to make a career in the humanities–well–more humane? Throughout the semester, we will discuss larger issues shaping the profession, such as the cultures of academia, the politics of diversity and difference in university settings, and the changing nature of the job market for English PhDs, including opportunities in non-faculty employment. We also will develop concrete strategies to navigate the professional expectations that underpin a career in literary studies, from graduate school onwards ,such as taking exams, writing a prospectus and dissertation, publishing in scholarly journals, responding to revise-and-resubmit reports (which will include some vital talk about failing in academia), writing abstracts for conference panels, presenting and networking at conferences, thinking both strategically and philosophically about a research and teaching agenda, applying for grants and fellowships, composing instrumental documents such as teaching philosophies, reviewing articles and books, and designing effective, compelling upper-level syllabi.
ENGL 5650-001 (class# 14459) DIGITAL HUMANITIES: (Igarashi):  This seminar is an introduction to the digital humanities, “DH” for short. Topics include the roles of data and evidence and the ideal of objectivity in the humanities (then and now), problem- or solution-oriented approaches, current work in media studies on digital culture, and DH’s contributions to our understanding of literary history. An introduction to selected DH tools and methods supplements our weekly readings. Seminar requirements include shorter written assignments, a presentation, and a final project or paper. This course counts toward the “Digital Humanities and Media Studies” graduate certificate. There are no prerequisites.
6450 (class# 14108) SEMINAR IN AMERICAN LITERATURE: METAPHORS OF CHILDHOOD: DISABILITY, SLAVERY, FUTURITY: (Duane): Distance Learning.  It’s a critical commonplace that children are deployed as symbols of something else. Beginning with the premise that metaphors are a reciprocal process in which abstraction shapes reality (and vice versa), this course will explore the theoretical, archival and ethical problems posed by confronting the cultural work of childhood in history and literature. Beginning with colonial American sources, and moving to the twenty-first century, this course will have overlapping concentrations on archival childhood, on racial metaphors of childhood, on disability and childhood, and on gender and childhood. In each case, we will explore both the meanings that are imposed on particular children in the service of power, and how children have inhabited, resisted, and changed those meanings.  This course will involve both synchronous and asynchronous discussions, and will involve at least one 20 minute presentation with a written corollary (that may have either a pedagogical or research-based focus, depending on the student’s preference).

6500-01 (class# 14250) SEMINAR IN LITERARY THEORY: THEORY OF IRONY: (Mahoney): Distance Learning.  Since at least Quintilian (who defined irony as “saying something other than is understood”), irony has been “understood” both philosophically, as a mode of life or a general(ly skeptical) relation to knowledge and understanding, and rhetorically, as a figure of speech, a trope (for many, from Schlegel to de Man and beyond, the master trope, or “trope of tropes,” another name for the highest poetic power). This seminar takes as one of its central concerns the question (to paraphrase Kevin Newmark) of what it is about irony – as both an object of serious philosophical reflection and as a literary technique and trope – that makes it a seemingly inevitable topic for seemingly endless critical debate (beginning with Plato, and never ending…). The seminar will not approach irony as a “concept” (Kierkegaard’s highly ironic title, The Concept of Irony), because of course irony is not a concept. Nor will it presume to outline “the theory” of irony, since irony (certainly for Schlegel) precludes such a definitive theoretical statement (hence the fragmentary imperative of Jena Romanticism). Nor will it propose an historical or thematic study of irony: since irony initiates a deflection of meaning which it does not presume to control, it necessarily marks a divergence from thematic and historical modes of understanding. Instead, this seminar proposes an examination of the trope, and tropological power, of irony that may be of interest to students of rhetoric, of literature, of literary theory, and of the human condition (not least in the second decade of the twenty-first century). It takes seriously the enigmatic tropological power of irony and seeks to address both as fully and as insufficiently as possible Schlegel’s haunting question: “What gods will be able to save us from all of these ironies?”With readings in English and American literature and criticism, as well as French and German literature and criticism, principally from the seventeenth century through the twenty-first century, and organized in terms of a critical trope and methodology, this seminar will not be confined by any traditional period boundaries and may be of interest to students of rhetoric, British literature, American literature and criticism, French literature and criticism, and German literature and criticism. As a course in literary theory – specifically here “theory of irony” – the content of the course is the method (consequently, the distinction between “primary” and “secondary” texts is unusually porous). The (likely) readings listed below are principally “critical” (but not necessarily “secondary” sources), many of which can provide jumping-off points for our consideration of more traditionally “literary” sources (e.g., de Man’s readings of E. T. A. Hoffman and Charles Baudelaire; Newmark’s analysis of J. M. Coetzee; Kontantinou’s engagements with the work of Ralph Ellison, Kathy Acker, and David Foster Wallace). Additional “literary” readings will be determined according to the interests of the students enrolled in the seminar (i.e., the syllabus will be constructed in part to reflect these interests).

Likely requirements: attendance and participation; weekly writing (500+ words, thesis-driven); mid-term “conference paper” (10pp); oral presentation on critical texts to the seminar; teaching presentation (how would you teach a certain text in an undergraduate seminar?); final project (seminar paper, 7-8000 words, or DH project or … ?).

Technical writing. Business writing.  Workplace writing. Copy writing. Grant writing. Editing and publishing.These are some of the primary subgenres under the larger umbrella of professional writing that we will engage in the triangulated theory, practice, and pedagogy of this course.This course will introduce and engage participants in two braided strands:

  • the theories and practices of doing professional writing and
  • the theories and practices of teaching thoughtful approaches to professional writing

Seminar participants will learn about how the world of professional writing “works” (both historical and current) AND they will also learn how to teach professional writing courses to undergraduates.  Upon completion of the course, participants will be ready to teach an undergraduate course in professional, technical, or business writing and they should also have some important skills that would make them viable candidates for positions in professional writing positions.

In-Class Activities and Engagements: We will complete many weekly small activities “in class” –either synchronously or asynchronously. Class members are expected to engage and complete all/most of these weekly small exercises/activities.

Teaching a Professional Writing Genre: In this collaborative assignment, class members will work in pairs/threes to review teaching materials and current research on the teaching of a specific professional writing genre. Class members will collaboratively design and deliver a teaching module on that genre, and develop a resource page that collocates resources for teaching that genre.

Doing a Professional Writing Genre: Again, in a collaborative assignment, class members will work in pairs/threes to review practical guides, relevant materials and current research on the actual doing of writing within a selected subgenre of professional writing.

ENGL 6700-001 (class# 14252) Seminar in Major Authors: JANE AUSTEN AND THE BRÖNTES:(Marsden): Distance Learning. This course is designed to offer an indepth study of some of the most important novelists of the ninetheenth century: Jane Austen and the Brönte sisters.  The bulk of the reading will consist of the major novels (Austen’s entire published corpus, Charlotte Brönte’s major novels, one of Anne Brönte’s works, and Emily Brönte’s only novel), supplemented by selected scholarly work and historical context.  As all four writers explored issues specifically related to female experience, particular attention will be paid to issues related to the status of women in the nineteenth century. Likely readings:  Austen:

Love and Friendship, Lady Susan, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, PersuasionSanditon

Anne Brönte:  Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Charlotte Brönte: Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette

Emily Brönte: Wuthering Heights

Requirements:  Two presentations, one examining the critical history of a novel by either Austen or one of the Bröntes. and the other exploring a culturally or socially relevant topic (e.g., inheritance law, employment opportunities for women, etc.).

A short paper based on one of the presentations (student’s choice)

Weekly response papers (no response is due on the day a student gives a presentation)

Final research project.   As a fourteen-week semester is insufficient for students to complete the research and writing necessary for such a project, the assignment will consist of an overview of the topic and the argument of the project, an explanation of its significance, and a description of primary and secondary works that the student would consult if they had time/resources. The goal of this assignment is to give students the opportunity to pursue a complex subject and create a blueprint for a publishable piece that they can return to after the class is over.

6750-001 (class# 10359) Seminar in Language and Literature: Edges of Personhood: (Somerset): Distance Learning. This course aims to engage with the interests of students in rhet/comp as well as a range of historical and contemporary fields by inviting them to critique Western post-Enlightenment understandings of the self. In conversation with queer theory, critical race studies, and ecocriticism, we will read literary works that interrogate the limits post-Enlightenment Western culture has placed on personhood in order to deny it to (for example) women, slaves and the underclass, people of color, non-Christians, and animals. We will consider, for example, how personification, prosopopoeia, anthropomorphism, and similar literary devices are literary and cultural means of demarcating and troubling the limits of personhood.We will begin with Erin Lynn’s extraordinary poem Grendel’s Mother to the Spear Danes, and go on to read other poetry, music, and a limited selection of longer works (because reading loads should be manageable in this difficult year). Readings will largely be selected by students. Any premodern texts will be read in translation. If you choose to write about a pre-1800 text, this course will count for that requirement. You will write a course blog where you comment informally on readings week by week, a short paper draft, then a longer revised draft of your paper. Writing time will be incorporated into classwork.

6750-002 (class# 10451) SEMINAR IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: THE TEMPORALITY OF TEXTS:(Tonry):  Media studies and book history have recently been dominated by questions about material texts – about how we grapple with the word as a held thing, how meaning is shaped through the designed arrangement of a text on a page or screen,  how we apprehend digitized representations of archived objects, how we access texts stored within hardrives and power-hungry data centers, and even how we negotiate the ontological nature of ‘things’ and ‘objects’ themselves. Yet a growing critique of the field notes that these questions tend to foreclose more sustained engagement with categories of race, class, and gender, or the dynamics of power and oppression. The study of the material text can leave a lot on the margins.

This course takes up an emergent stream of media scholarship on temporality represented by the work of Sarah Sharma, who has noted that media forms are generative of temporalities “experienced as a form of social difference (margins) and a type of privilege (centers).” Temporality in this sense is not merely history, or a transcendent sense of time, but rather the lived experience produced by power relations and media technologies, a “specific experience of time that is structured in specific political and economic contexts.” In short, a focus on temporality reminds us of the initial Marxian formulations around time/technology/labor, and insists that media forms produce a lived experience that is also always a power relation.  At the center of the course is this: What can an attention to temporality open up in our archives?

This course is theory-heavy but also accessible,  and will be framed as a way to situate or refine the research interests of students. We will begin with premodern British texts as an experimental testing ground that is also the period of my own expertise, but the course will (eagerly) include work from the fields of those who enroll, including Americanists and Rhetoric and Composition/Writing Studies students.

ENGL 6800-001/AMST 6000: (class#13952/13951 ) AMERICAN STUDIES: METHODS AND MAJOR TEXTS: (Vials): Distance Learning. This course serves as a survey and overview of American Studies as a discipline and a methodology, which we will approach through major texts in the field, past and present.  We will explore what it means to examine culture through this particular interdisciplinary lens.  First institutionalized in the 1950s and 1960s, American Studies was initially organized around the question, “what is an American?” and often sought to answer this question by tracing the ways in which American writers imagined “the Frontier” as myth and symbol.  It has since expanded its scope to the study of the United States in a global context, examining the ways in which the nation has been transformed – and how it has shaped other nations and territories – through the transnational flow of cultures, peoples, and institutional power across its boundaries.  As our readings will illustrate, contemporary American Studies has drawn insights not just from a range of disciplines, but from a range of other interdisciplines as well, including empire studies, critical race theory, gender and sexuality studies, Marxism, Foucauldian critique, queer theory, indigenous studies, and cultural studies.  We will discuss all of these methods in class.

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.  We will read monographs by Lisa Lowe, Christina Klein, Judith Halberstam, Jodi Melamed, Rod Ferguson, David Harvey, and others.


Fall 2020 Seminars

ENGL 5100-01/02 (class#8081/13760) THEORY AND TEACHING OF WRITING (Brueggemann/Blansett): This course brings together theory and practice in the college-level writing classroom.  We will contextualize the histories, theories, and principles of teaching writing in a post secondary context. Our work will take place in a highly interactive, collaborative, multi-modal learning environment. The course and its co-requisite practicum (5182) offer a space to support new instructors as they develop their theories of teaching and writing while collaboratively composing a repertoire of effective course materials.

ENGL 5150 (class#9853)RESEARCH METHODS (Smith): One-credit course. Monday, 10-11:30 am. This course introduces students to the rudiments of literary critical practice by exploring current research methodologies in English studies.  To that end, a broad sampling of the English graduate faculty will come to our class and introduce students to the ways they approach literary and cultural criticism.  We will discuss the ever-shifting terrain of graduate study, examining how our research methods persistently re-define what constitutes the objects of literary-critical analysis.
ENGL 5182-01/02/03/04 (class#TBD) PRACTICUM IN THE  TEACHING OF WRITING: (Blansett): One- credit course. Required of all incoming graduate-student FYW instructors.  Practicum in the Teaching of Writing: Guided development of teaching in the University of Connecticut First-Year Writing Program.  We will be implementing theories of teaching and writing; meeting program goals and objectives; selecting texts; drafting writing assignment prompts; developing classroom work; guiding peer feedback; reading, responding to and evaluating student work.  Supervision includes one-on-one, group, and peer.
ENGL 5530-01 (class#13107) WORLD LITERATURE (Coundouriotis):   This course is an opportunity for students to get a good handle on key texts in the postcolonial field. The course gains coherence from its focus on the novel and the syllabus’s historical organization. Each week, we will place a key text in a “topic” central to the postcolonial field, hence broadening out to concerns beyond the given novel. We will pay attention to theoretical statements that have defined the field and examine the careers of postcolonial writers (including their own statements about the novel as form) to understand the impact of colonial education on the cultural project of the postcolonial novel. This is a good course not only for students who want to anchor their research on world literature but also for students more broadly interested in the novel as form. We will read African, Caribbean and South Asian Anglophone writers such as Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Buchi Emecheta, Tsitsi Dangarembga, V.S. Naipaul, Margaret Cezair-Thompson, Arundhati Roy, and Amitav Ghosh. Assignments include oral presentations, a book review, and research paper. An alternative to the research paper will be offered in the form of a take-home essay exam.
ENGL 6320-01 (class#13767) SEMINAR IN SHAKESPEARE’S CULTURAL LEGACY:  (Semenza): Just a few years beyond the quatercentenary year—the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death—this seminar will focus on Shakespeare’s cultural legacy. Looking critically and theoretically at engagements of Shakespeare in scholarship, corporate business practices, educational curricula, music, television, and film, we will ask the question “Why Shakespeare?” That is, how and why has the “cultural capital” of Shakespeare been evoked since at least the publication of the First Folio in 1623?  More specifically, how has Shakespeare been presented to the masses in terms of sexuality, gender, race, violence, and nationalism? What happens when Shakespeare is transplanted into a non-British or non-western context? What happens when Shakespeare’s name is evoked in lowbrow entertainment or appropriated in popular culture forms? What can the serious study of reception, adaptation, appropriation, and other such engagements teach us about Shakespeare and his considerable influence?
From Shakespeare’s day to our own, certain specific binary oppositions have impacted our ability to answer such questions as these.  Thus, our seminar will foreground five specific, interrelated binaries central to the reception and theorization of Shakespeare: 1) eternal (transhistorical) and temporal (historical); 2) highbrow (high culture) and lowbrow (popular/mass culture); 3) radical and conservative; 4) subversive and recuperative (i.e., “subversion and containment”); and 5) global and local.
How are these binate structures connected to each other?  To what extent might they be said to originate in Shakespeare’s own authorial style?  To what degree did the First Folio’s publication contribute to their development and proliferation?  Finally, how do they continue to limit—as well as inform—our current understanding of both Shakespeare’s work and his cultural legacy?
ENGL 6550-01 (class#8606) SEMINAR IN LITERARY THEORY: AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERARY CRITICISM AND THEORY (Salvant): African American Literary Criticism and Theory guides students through the development of African American literary criticism and theory from (roughly) the 1920s to today. The course introduces students to the periods, methods, and major texts of African American literary criticism and theory. Course learning objectives include identifying the most influential scholars in the field and their contributions.  Students will become conversant with key concepts in the field and participate in past an ongoing debates within the field.  With a fuller understanding of previous conversations and controversies, students will understand how this previous scholarship informs current work in the field, and they will then produce their own essays applying knowledge learned in the course to engage in current scholarly conversations about African American literature and theory.  Readings in the course will focus on 2-3 particular movements within the critical tradition such as the vernacular theory, the blues aesthetic, black feminist criticism, spatial studies, etc.  Before the course begins, students will be encouraged to read as many texts as possible from a prerequisite reading list of primary texts. Course readings and content are designed to demonstrate the trajectory and influence of foundational concepts by analyzing their manifestation or transformation in more recent texts by current scholars.  Regular participation; regular written responses to the readings; short 3-5 page paper; 20-25 page final seminar paper.
ENGL 6600-01 (class#13296) CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP: FICTION (Litman): In this seminar we will be exploring and creating hybrid narratives. Rather than dedicate ourselves to one genre, we are going to look at texts and projects that refuse to be confined to a single category. They combine poetry, fiction, autobiography, dramatic writing, criticism, photography, painting, digital media, collage, and more. Some are deeply personal. Some engage in unexpected conversations with historical/cultural figures or writers of the past. Some appear as a cohesive narrative. Others are built out of fragments. In the end, though, they all manage to tell a story. We will use a diverse list of authors and artists that may include Anne Carson (Autobiography of Red), Sophie Calle (True Stories), Bhanu Kapil (The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers), Tyehimba Jess (Olio), Maggie Nelson (Argonauts), and others. Over the first half of the semester the students will work on a series of exercises designed to (1) encourage them to mix genres (Experiments) and (2) help them discover the story they would like to tell (Building Blocks). Gradually they will develop their own narrative projects, portions of which we will workshop over the second part of the semester.
Please feel free to contact Ellen Litman ( with any questions about this course.

6750-01 (class#13110) SEMINAR IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE:  REPRESENTATION OF SOCIAL CLASS IN BRITISH, IRISH, AND U.S. FICTION SINCE 1800: (Lynch):Recent events and popular cultural productions (for example Downton Abbey, the College admissions scandal) underline the continuing importance and relevance of social class divisions on both sides of the Atlantic. We will not erase or avoid the inevitable and indeed necessary intersectionalities of race, gender, and sexuality; however, the primary focus here will be on class structures. The novels listed below, drawn from three countries and two+ centuries, all share an interest in unpicking the threads of the social fabric of their place and time. They interrogate the privileges of the protected classes, the factors facilitating class slippage and redefinition, and the viability of working class empowerment.

Comprehensive coverage of such a topic is of course impossible.  Therefore I have selected ten primary texts, each of which offers insights into a particularly relevant place and time. For example, Brideshead Revisited shines a spotlight on the huge shift in established social hierarchies that took place in England at the end of World War II.  I have deliberately chosen some lesser-known novels. Students will be asked to plan an individual research project for the final paper, and can pursue one of two directions.  They can choose a text and then delve deep into its particular time and/or place, choosing other texts for comparison. Elements of Style could be examined in the context of other tales of New York privilege.  Multimedia projects are encouraged, so an interrogation of Brideshead Revisited could incorporate television series focusing on the same period, like Upstairs Downstairs and the first season of The Crown. Alternatively students can choose to place two or more texts from different times and places in transnational conversation.

Foundation text: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848)

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (1944)

Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent (1800)

Roddy Doyle, The Commitments (1987)

Claire Kilroy, The Devil I Know (2012)

William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1884)

Edith Wharton, House of Mirth (1905)

Wendy Wasserstein,  Elements of Style (2007)

Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2014)

The major requirement will be an original research paper, based on the two approaches I list above, and written with the possibility of publication in mind.  Preparation for this project will include a proposal indicating the student’s planned approach and choice of primary and secondary sources.  Additionally, each student will prepare and deliver a conference-length paper based on a text other than that chosen as the diving board for the research project.