Graduate Seminars

Click on a title for a description box to show, or view listing of all courses for the Spring/Fall 2019/2020.  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, March 25.

Fall 2019 Seminars

ENGL 5100-0 (class#9261) 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 (5189) 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 5182-01/02/03 (class#9375/9376/9377) 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 5150-01 (class #13644) RESEARCH METHODS: (Smith): One-credit course. Monday, 9:30-11 am, AUST 246: 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 6315-01 (class#13645) SEMINAR IN MEDIEVAL LITERATURE: CRUSADES LITERATURE: MEDIEVAL AND MODERN: (V.P.L.K. Norako):  This class meets twice per week for the month of September.  This graduate seminar will focus on the representation of the crusades in medieval and contemporary literature and culture. Our central goal will be to examine both medieval and post 9/11 reimaginings of the historical crusades as a way of gauging how cultures, at times of perceived precarity, tend to produce fictional works that meditate upon and fuel particular sets of aspirations, nostalgias, anxieties, and xenophobias. We will spend ample time examining crusading literature written in late Medieval England (c. 1300-1450), and these texts will include shorter vernacular romances (like Sir Isumbras and Sir Gowther) but also longer works such as the romance Richard Coer de Lyon and The Siege of Jerusalem. Students will also be introduced to accounts of the historical crusades, crusades sermons, recovery treatises, and travel literature in order to get a clear sense of how these romances reflect their cultural surroundings. The modern works we will examine will include the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven, but also the film and graphic novel 300, Frank Miller’s Holy Terror, and the film American Sniper (in addition to a wide array of shorter contemporary works that evoke the concept of crusading). Students will be evaluated on the basis of their preparedness and in-class participation, and will also be asked to lead discussion during one of our class meetings and write a seminar paper (due in early December) on a topic and text of their choosing. Professor Norako can be contacted with questions at
ENGL 6345-01 (class# 13288) SEMINAR IN VICTORIAN LITERATURE:  GROWING UP VICTORIAN: (Smith): This seminar explores Victorian literature and culture through the child, real and imagined. From Dickens’s Little Nell and Oliver Twist to Henry Mayhew’s match girl and James Sully’s evolutionary child specimen, children and representations of them bring to the fore nineteenth-century discourses of subjecthood and human development, progress, class, nation, empire, science, gender, and sexuality. After an initial review of cornerstone texts, primary and critical, we will read literature (for children and adults) and explore artifacts (textual and visual) of Victorian childhood and youth in four overlapping settings: in the classroom, on the streets, in the colonies, and in the laboratory. While one seminar cannot provide an exhaustive exploration of all elements of nineteenth-century childhood, these focal points offer a representative survey of the many uses to which childhood was put—and, occasionally, how children and adults acknowledged, revised, or challenged those cultural scripts. Moreover, two methodological concerns will underpin the semester. First, because the seminar focuses on childhood within a particular cultural moment—and because the structure of the course assumes that a historical understanding of childhood illuminates the literature we read—we will explore methods of conducting historical research, ways of crafting historicist arguments, and the practical challenges of organizing a scholarly argument that relies on close readings, theoretical positioning, and sometimes multiple layers of context. Second, because we will be reading well-known texts alongside lesser-known works, we will confront questions of canonicity and examine the nature and methods of recuperative scholarship. How do we determine the stakes of lesser-known texts? If we determine that such a text is worthy of close study, how do we communicate its relevance? What questions do we ask of texts that are ephemeral, unexamined, or undertheorized? Course assignments will provide students the opportunity to experiment with these questions in their own scholarship.
ENGL 6400-01 (class#13411) AMERICAN ETHNIC LITERATURE: (Burke):  By 1790, one half of the 400,000 US residents who were commonly labelled “Irish” descended from Ulster stock, and the majority of those were Presbyterians of Scottish descent. However, the differentiating coinage “Scotch-Irish” gradually gained currency in response to issues such as anti-immigrant feeling in the early republic, the Second Great Awakening, and the creation of a post-Civil War unified Southern white Protestant identity in opposition to the active citizenship of ex-slaves (Hale; Mitchell). Thus, the influx of poor Irish immigrants after the 1845 Famine merely cemented what had already become a growing chasm between “old” (predominantly Ulster Presbyterian, skilled or eastern seaboard Irish) and “new” (predominantly western seaboard, unskilled and Catholic) Irish-Americans (Miller). In the ensuing ethnic hierarchy of the United States, the older, “whiter” Irishness outranked the more recent, and inter-Irish tensions erupted sporadically in northeastern urban areas where a large population identified as Scots-Irish (Gangs of New York). For the most part, however, Ulster immigrants were subsumed by Anglo-American identity, and into the twentieth century and particularly after the Kennedy era, Irishness became almost exclusively understood as Catholic, urban, and Famine-era in origin. Thus, writers such as Steinbeck and James − whose work engages with Ireland and their Scots-Irish ancestry − are rarely examined in the context of the Irish-American canon. In considering better-recognized twentieth-century depictions of Irish America (Fitzgerald; O’Neill; Smith), we will depart from simply auditing the negative stereotypes that unarguably clung to the post-Famine Irish to discuss how Irishnesss evolved into both the antithesis and the very definition of “American,” paying particular attention to the role that race, class, and religion played in such debates. Thus, we will read Frank Yerby, whose Scots-Irish and African-American parentage will allow us to consider his very post-Gone with the Wind best-seller about an Irish immigrant protagonist, Foxes of Harrow (1946), as an important point of collision for many of the questions considered. Similarly, queer theory will allow us to complicate standard readings of the 1920s dramas of the “lace curtain” Philadelphia Irish of Pulitzer Prize-winning George Kelly. A surprising number of texts pivotal to the seminar are created or set in the immediate postwar period. The 1950s saw a sharp rise in emigration out of Ireland (Brooklyn) even as processes of liberalization, urbanization, and secularization gained a foothold in that country. It was also a period in which Irish tourism and trade agencies began to target what was perceived in Ireland to be a wealthy, assimilated Irish-American cohort (Zuelow). The post-war boom that fueled the midcentury Irish-American fantasy of “return” to bucolic Ireland (The Quiet Man) is the context for narratives of “troubled homecoming” (Lavin’s “Tom”; Donleavy; The Field); despite dizzying seesaws between signifiers of “tradition” and “modernity” in images of Ireland that circulated in postwar America, the reality was that Ireland was neither fully “traditional” in the way promised to tourists nor evenly modernized. Evolving racial stereotypes regarding immigrants are pertinent to the cultural and political invisibility of illegal Irish immigrants of the 1980s (In America), a further period of increased emigration out of Ireland. Such invisibility is implied by an overemphasis in depictions of the contemporary Irish in America as privileged, dual-passport-holding cosmopolites (Kilroy; McCann). This aligns with what Diane Negra calls the recent rise of Irishness as “white ethnicity of choice” in the American identity marketplace.
The seminar will, ideally, encompass a talk by UConn English Ph.D., Chris Dowd (a current UNH professor), whose 2011 study, The Construction of Irish Identity in American Literature, will be an important volume for our course.

ENGL 6450-01 (class#13289) SEMINAR IN AMERICAN LITERATURE: THE CONTEMPORARY LITERARY GENRE NOVEL: (Knapp): Scholars of contemporary literature contend with the challenge of defining a moment that is, by definition, in flux. The present certainly does not lend itself to the discipline of historical analysis, but the process itself is enlightening: what are the politics involved in imagining a present moment somehow different from the past? What does and doesn’t belong and why? Genre fiction offers a particularly fruitful avenue toward understanding the contemporary moment, since it invites us to consider the present in both historical and aesthetic terms: contemporary genres carry the past with them, after all, inviting us not only to historicize these stories, but to use these retooled instruments for uncovering how we historicize within the confines of the present. Indeed, once considered formulaic, dull, and fully complicit with what Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer labeled “the culture industry,” genre has since been embraced by the literary establishment, its conventions and predictability in stark contrast to postmodern fiction’s experimentation and radical uncertainty. We will examine the work of esteemed and emerging literary authors who have turned to a variety of genres—among them, the detective story, espionage, fantasy, the roman a clef, the road novel, the graphic novel, the generational saga, domestic, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and zombie fiction—to determine how they comment upon our era’s most vexing challenges, such as intransigent racial and economic inequality; interminable war, terror, and slow violence around the globe; grand-scale environmental disasters; and new communication networks that have simultaneously erased geographic boundaries and divided us into an increasingly vitriolic and divided nation. We will read novels in the context of current cultural and theoretical criticism not only to arrive at a provisional sense of what Theodore Martin calls “the problem of the present,” but to assess the state of the field itself, since the turn to genre has also encouraged some scholars (most prominently Franco Moretti) to abandon the practice of close reading and canonization in favor of distance reading and tracing literary trends.Possible texts include Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (2005); Jennifer Egan, Manhattan Beach (2017); Percival Everett, Erasure (2001); Lisa Halliday, Asymmetry (2018); Mohsin Homad; Exit West (2017); Lydia Keisling, Golden State (2018); Tommy Orange, There There (2018); Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere (2017); Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer (2015); Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story (2010); Laura Van Den Berg, Find Me (2015); Whitehead, Colson Whitehead, Zone One (2011); and Ben Winters, Underground Airlines (2016).

Assignments include a class presentation that identifies and historicizes a given novel’s indebtedness to a genre or genres; an annotated bibliography; and 18-20-page seminar paper.

6500-01 (class# 10058) SEMINAR IN LITERARY THEORY: EMPATHY ETHICS AND NARRATIVES: (Hogan):  This course will begin by introducing some common cognitive and philosophical ideas about emotion, empathy, and narrative in relation to ethics. We will then discuss a familiar work—perhaps, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl—in terms of those broad concerns. Starting in the third week, I would take part of the class to introduce relevant research in more detail—for example, on the nature of emotion. The rest of the class would be a discussion of the reading (e.g., Matravers), often guided by two of the students. I would also ask students to be prepared to relate the reading to a literary work or film (such as Jacobs). The following classes would follow the same general format, as outlined below. Requirements would include one conference-presentation-type essay (roughly seven pages) and one journal-type essay (roughly eighteen pages). A very, very tentative outline (just to give an idea of how the course will proceed):
Week 1. What is emotion? What is empathy? What is narrative? What is ethical evaluation?
2. Same questions. Jacobs
3.Emotion. Matravers. Jacobs.
4. Emotion. Keen. Jacobs.
5. Empathy. Keen. Satrapi.
6. Empathy and Ethics. Decety. Satrapi.
7. Empathy and Ethics. Decety. Satrapi.
8. Blocking Empathy: Disgust. Shakespeare. (First paper due.)
9. Blocking Empathy: Anger. Shakespeare.
10. Against Empathy. Bloom. Godard.
11. Narrative and Emotion. Haidt. Godard.
12. Narrative and Emotion. Haidt. Mizoguchi.
13. Narrative and Ethics. Mizoguchi.
14. Students on their research projects.
Bloom, Paul. Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion. New York: Harper-Collins, 2016.
Decety, Jean, ed. Empathy: From Bench to Bedside. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2012.
Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Pantheon, 2012.
Keen, Suzanne. Empathy and the Novel. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Matravers, Derek. Empathy. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017.Literature and Film (the sorts of works I will choose, but maybe not the exact works): Godard, Jean-Luc, dir. Les Carabiniers. Paris: Cocinor, 1963.
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. 1861.
Mizoguchi, Kenji, dir. Ugetsu Monogatari. Tokyo: Daiei Studios, 1953.
ENGL 6500-02 (class#13184) SEMINAR IN LITERARY THEORY: MARXIST THEORY AND MARXIST CULTURAL STUDIES: (Vials): Scholars of literature, cultural studies, and American Studies employ a whole critical vocabulary with origins in Marxism, and an examination of these origins is crucial not only to an informed lexicon but also to a comprehensive analysis of social structures. The course aims to provide a historicized, materialist understanding of social class formations and a richer understanding of frequently used terms such as capitalism, class, hegemony, consumption, ideology, reification, globalization, neoliberalism, enclosure, finance, and commodity fetishism. In so doing, it will familiarize students with major works of Marxist theory and cultural studies, tracing the historical trajectory of this discourse as well as selected methodological applications to twentieth and twenty-first century culture and history. We will pay special attention to the intersections of Marxism with critical ethnic studies, feminism, empire studies, and queer theory.
ENGL 6750-02 (class# 10428) SEMINAR IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: NOTHING IN NO-PLACE: UTOPIA IN LITERATURE AND THEORY (Somerset): This topic-based multi-period survey course is designed for students in all fields and periods of literary study, and aims to address our need for instruction in upper-level pedagogy. We will read a range of utopian writing from medieval dream vision through to contemporary science fiction, as well as theorists who critique or embrace utopianism. Premodern texts will be available in translation. Utopian literary texts will include some or all of Mandeville’s Travels, Piers Plowman, Christine de Pizan’s Book of the City of Ladies, The Tempest (including the film version starring Helen Mirren as Prospero), As You Like It, Gulliver’s Travels, excerpted readings from the Faber Book of Utopias ed. John Carey, N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, William Gibson’s The Peripheral and Agency, and Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer. Theory will include Karma Lochrie’s Nowhere in the Middle Ages, Sara Ahmed’s Willful Subjects, parts of Fred Moten’s consent not to be a single being, and José Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia.
ENGL 6750-02 (class# 13620) SEMINAR IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: MATERIAL TEXTS: (Tribble):  “Material texts” examines some case studies of the material instantiations of literature from the early modern period to the present. We begin with Hamlet, in response to James McLaverty’s famous question, “If the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre, where are Hamlet and Lycidas? What effect does the material of a text have upon writers and readers? How does technology shape readers? In what way can books be seen as cognitive artifacts? How do editors mediate texts to the readers?Among the texts and topics we will discuss: debates around literary, orality, and cognition; Hamlet in its various manifestations (as cue-script, plot, and playhouse manuscript (reconstructed); the ‘bad quarto’; the Folio; later editions); Renaissance poetry, including the question of scribal publication; Northanger Abbey as a case study on circulating libraries, women readers, and the novel; Charles Dickens, Hard Times (issues read and discussed weekly via the Household Words facsimile on the Dickens journal online project (; Material poetry: case studies on William Blake’s and Emily Dickinson’s poems, the digital archive, and debates about materiality and edition; George Gissing,s New Grub Street; seriality and short fiction (selections of Sherlock Holmes stories as published in The Strand Magazine); artists’ books (including a visit to special collections); reading in a digital age: a collection of sources.
We will also read theories and methods of material writing, literacy, reading and cognition, including the work of Johanna Drucker, Kate Hayles, Peter Stallybrass, Jerome McGann, Susan Howe, Christopher Collins, Marian Wolf and others.Requirements; A commonplace book (including reflections and analysis of the process, as well as a pedagogical element (adapting the commonplace book to the undergraduate classroom). Students will be asked to experiment with different kinds of writing practices over the course of the semester (hand writing, letter writing, typewriting, digital writing).Students will choose a literary text from a period that interests them and research its material forms over time. In addition to a final essay, students will present research over the course of the semester, including a brief extract from a proposed edition of the text, a discussion of digitization projects related to their text, and an oral presentation.Students who choose to research a text from before 1800 may receive pre-1800 credit for this course.

Spring 2019 Seminars

ENGL 5160-0 (class#11319) PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: (Ford Smith):  This seminar provides the space and opportunity to discuss the contours and direction of your intellectual career at UConn and beyond. Our work will balance theoretical and practical approaches to academia and their intersections. Throughout the semester, we will discuss larger issues and questions about the profession, such as the myriad cultures of academia, the politics of diversity and difference in university settings, the role of humanities in the corporate university, and the changing nature of the job market for English PhDs, including opportunities in alt-ac employment. We also will develop concrete strategies to navigate the professional expectations that underpin a career in literary studies: writing and publishing in scholarly journals, responding to revise-and-resubmit reports (which will include some vital talk about failing in academia), locating and working in archives, presenting and networking at conferences, thinking strategically about your research and teaching agenda, applying for grants and fellowships, composing instrumental documents such as CVs and research statements, reviewing articles and books, writing letters of recommendation, and designing effective and relevant upper-level syllabi. Participants will be expected to engage in class discussion and complete a series of writing assignments and workshops, most geared toward producing a publishable scholarly article.
ENGL 5650-01 (class#17316) INTRO TO DIGITAL HUMANITIES:  (Igarashi):  This introduction to the “digital humanities” (“DH” for short) focuses on DH in the context of literary study as a discipline, DH’s contributions to our understanding of literary history, and the theoretical questions occasioned by this new field. An introduction to selected DH tools and methods will supplement our weekly readings on the above topics. There are no prerequisites for this course, and seminar requirements will include shorter written assignments and a presentation, leading up to a seminar paper or final project. This seminar counts toward the “Digital Humanities and Media Studies” graduate certificate.
ENGL 6290-01 (class # ) NON-FICTION PROSE: (Brueggemann): Narrative and Documentary in Disability, Disease, and Illness” takes as its intersected major methods and squared theoretical foundations the following:
• Critical Disability studies and theory;
• The new(er) field of “narrative medicine”;
• Trauma (as it intersects with the experience of disability, disease, illness) and its literary representations, particularly in non-fiction forms;
• Literature and human rights.This course will engage narrative and documentary that is not necessarily limited to (but definitely still including) the U.S. (as well as the “the Western hemisphere”). The texts of this course will, in sum, be global. Course texts will include:
(1) NARRATIVE (memoir, personal essay, letters, blogposts, graphic fiction/non-fiction, interviews, and Op-Ed series like the New York Times “disability” series now with over 50 entries:;
(2) DOCUMENTARY FILMS (of many varying lengths); and
(3) CRITICAL/THEORETICAL (secondary) texts that might help frame the narratives and documentaries. The intent here is not to freeze-frame certain texts with certain theories or ways of reading but to offer a persistently toggled and braided account of possible primary texts with critical approaches and secondary texts.Interdependence and collaboration marks and makes the landscape of disability, disease, illness.
As such, for course activities and assignments, participants would be asked to:Compose approximately 5 brief (250-300 word) responses (could done as a blog, etc.)
–OR a 10-15 page conference paper presentation
–OR a 5-10 min. documentary/video production or podcast
–OR other multimodal and multimedia forms are invited
–Choices will depend on what each student most wants to gain from the class experience in relation to their own professional plans.
Carry out one collaborative class leadership session
Complete one collaborative piece of writing with classmates
Final Highlights Reel of work in the course (5-8 mins)For further information about likely texts and course activities, please contact:
ENGL 6325-01 (class#17319) SEMINAR IN RENAISSANCE: THE EARLY MODERN SCIENTIFIC IMAGINATION:  (Sarkar): This course will (a) introduce graduate students to epistemological traditions that flourished across “scientific” and “literary” forms of writing around the time of the so-called “Scientific Revolution” and (b) expose them to key theoretical and conceptual issues in the dynamic trans-historical scholarly field of “Literature and Science.” We will look closely at evolving theories and practices in natural philosophy, experimentation, mathematics, “secrets” or occult knowledge, and medicine, and we will ask how poets and dramatists imaginatively engaged with notions of a changing cosmos. The class will historicize early modern forms – poetry, drama, and prose – through ideas explicated in key texts of the period instead of applying modern disciplinary divisions. We will engage with questions of literary form, intellectual history, history of science, critical theory, history of institutions, media studies, and the history of rhetoric. While our primary readings will be drawn from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the course will tackle issues that range beyond the literary-historical period. Drawing on writings from literary scholars, historians of science and technology, and philosophers of science as our methodological guides, we will examine the implications of early modern paradigms for modern problems: How do theories of rhetoric and philosophies of language shape scientific practice? How do “literary” and “scientific” forms of writing deviate from each other? How does the institutionalization of science change across time? What is the relationship between scientific expertise and politics? How can theories of the environment, eco- criticism, and the post-human enhance traditional paradigms of science studies? How does the focus on pre-modern science help us see convergences, and not only separations, between the “two cultures” of the humanities and the sciences? Our broader methodological concerns will also necessarily traverse literary-historical periods, as we chart how intellectual categories inherited from the classical and medieval periods were adapted to new social, political, and institutional conditions during the “Scientific Revolution,” or as we trace how emergent ideas of scientific probability and objectivity were institutionalized during the Enlightenment.  Students do not need any previous experience in early modern literature and culture to take the course. Requirements: One oral presentation, one 6-8 page paper and a 20-25 page research paper.
ENGL 6540-01 (class #17320) SEMINAR IN LITERATURE AND HUMAN RIGHTS: HUMAN DIGNITY (Coundouriotis): Human dignity is a core concept of human rights and perhaps the one that has generated the most vigorous interdisciplinary debate. Affirmed in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), dignity is taken as an a priori, or ground zero for the architecture of the ideas, principles and laws that make up the international regime of human rights. Although presumed to be beyond critique as a principle, it has been troubled by problems of definition: what dignity means is at once the ground for broad agreement and spirited debate. How does such a universal principle gain traction and when does it fail us? What do such failures reveal? This course will lay out the philosophical, legal and historical parameters of these questions and then focus on an in-depth exploration of the role of literature, and narrative especially, in affirming and complicating the idea of human dignity. Indeed, it is to this concept that human rights scholars and practitioners have turned to most frequently when wanting to assess the contribution of literature to the interdisciplinary discussion in the field. Works of literature focusing on human suffering and oppression have long sought to establish the human dignity of the downtrodden, the marginalized and victimized. Literary works have also challenged us to humanize perpetrators or oppressors and draw them into a more capacious understanding of the human experience. Yet whereas one contribution of literary works might be to make legible what we often can’t quite define in the term dignity, artistic explorations have just as frequently challenged us to rethink the concept and even to question its premise on inclusion and universality. The course will be divided in three sequences. The first will explore definitional questions through theoretical and philosophical texts. The second will take the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a case study of the mobilization of dignity as a political concept, and most especially the TRC’s claim that in the reconciliation process we might arrive at different types of truth, one of which is narrative truth (distinct from forensic and social truths) whose articulation and recognition dignifies the victim and helps the recuperation from trauma. The third section of the course will examine the critiques of the concept via comparative readings that will range from nineteenth century naturalism to postcolonial fiction.
ENGL 6600-01 (class#11972) CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP: FICTION: (Litman): In this seminar we will attempt to create cohesive narrative structures using a combination of genres (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, dramatic writing, literary translations, art and photography, and more). Together we will consider what constitutes a hybrid or genre-bending narrative, and we might use as our guides such authors and artists as Anne Carson (and her novel-in-verse Autobiography of Red), Sophie Calle (True Stories), George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo), Claudia Rankin (Citizen), Maggie Nelson (Bluets or Argonauts), Bhanu Kapil, W.G. Sebald, and probably a few others. The students might begin in a genre of their choice, but will be encouraged to experiment with other genres. We will start with a series of building-block exercises to get us going, but eventually everyone will develop his or her own narrative project, portions of which we will workshop in class.
The past is not dead,” Faulkner once said, “In fact, it is not even past.” Mindful of the confederate ghosts currently stalking national news and the polemicization of highly redacted visions of American history, this course turns to two writers who built their towering careers in no small measure out of deliberate and extensive repurposings of the past. The overarching question is how each writer renders history palpable in fiction and to what ends. Morrison and Faulkner have constructed two of US literature’s most influential (and often troubling) frameworks for thinking about racial formation, and so we will also consider the relationship of race to history.
Faulkner and Morrison are also related to each other in ways that seem almost intimate. Morrison has made provocative yet ambiguous comments about Faulkner, her fellow Nobel laureate (and the subject, along with Virginia Woolf, of her Cornell MA thesis). For instance: “He could infuriate you in such wonderful ways. It wasn’t just complete delight–there was also that other quality that is just as important as devotion: outrage. The point is that with Faulkner one was never indifferent.” (And few words are more characteristically Faulknerian than “outrage.”) She describes Faulkner as “the only writer who took black people seriously”–but then goes on to add, “which is not to say he was, or was not, a bigot.” But curiously, in Playing in the Dark, Morrison’s often-cited study of canonical white American writers’ response to what she calls the “Africanist presence,” she mentions Faulkner only in passing. In addition, Morrison insists her work is “not like Faulkner,” and she’s right: for one thing, she is every bit as original. So if the relationship between Morrison and Faulkner cannot be reduced to one-way influence, how might we conceptualize it? (Notably, the monographs and articles looking at Faulkner and Morrison in tandem are almost uniformly disappointing.) This course also invites reflection on the implications of old canons and new. Has Morrison’s cultural capital impacted Faulkner’s?
Reading list: Morrison: Beloved, Song of Solomon, Jazz, Paradise, Home and selections from Playing in the Dark
Faulkner: Go Down, Moses, The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, Light in August, Sanctuary
Assignments: one short conference length paper, one long paper, two class sessions of “co-teaching,” in which student signs up to help lead discussion on the day’s reading, in final session of class, annotated bibliography and presentation to class of final paper-in-progress.

ENGL 6800-01 (class#16430)/AMST 6000 (class #14054) /HIST 6000(class# 17325) AMERICAN STUDIES: METHODS AND MAJOR TEXTS: (Vials): 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, postcolonial studies, comparative ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, Marxism, indigenous studies, and cultural studies.

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.
Course requirements will include an oral presentation, a review essay, and one seminar paper (15-22 pages).