Graduate Seminars

Click on a title for a description box to show, or view listing of all courses for the Fall2021/Spring 22.  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 22, 2021.

If you have finished coursework and hold a GA, please register for GRAD 6950-06, class number 4323 for Fall 2021 (1218) term.

Fall 2021 Seminars

ENGL 5100-001/002 (class# 11929/8981) THEORY AND TEACHING OF WRITING:  (Blansett and Gatten):   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 5182 (class#) PRACTICUM IN THE TEACHING OF WRITING:  (Blansett and Gatten): 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 (class#10340) ADVANCED RESEARCH METHODS: WHAT GRADUATE WORK CAN DO: (Smith):  This one-credit seminar provides incoming graduate students a structured opportunity to get to know the faculty and resources at UConn, both within and outside the English Department, and to begin engaging with the many ways graduate study in English can make meaning in scholarly, pedagogical, and other professional contexts. Students are required to develop a set of learning goals and writing tasks at the start of the semester and, with those goals in mind, self-select and attend ten meetings or events. Those events may include (but are not limited to) talks and presentations, undergraduate courses, panel discussions, professionalization workshops, and informational interviews. The seminar is required for entering MA and MA/PhD students and open to PhD students with instructor permission.

ENGL 6500-001 (class# 13126) SEMINAR IN RHETORIC AND COMPOSITION: CLASSICAL RHETORIC AND THE INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY:  (Winter):  This course traces connections among classical rhetoric, political theory, and human rights by focusing on the history of the institution of slavery from antiquity through the nineteenth century. Rhetoric is linked to slavery in Plato’s Gorgias: the sophist tells Socrates that the rhetor has the power to make other men his slaves by persuading the multitude. But rhetoric also becomes a tool for the enslaved to use against their oppressors in classical tragedy and historiography and in late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British and American abolitionism, arguably one of the first modern political movements explicitly to articulate a modern definition of universal human rights as a basis for social, political, and legal activism. The vulnerable or powerful body and speech of the rhetor/slave—including female rhetors/slaves—as well as the history of political theories of slavery/mastery and the rhetorical antithesis of slavery/freedom in the history of political thought will be key areas of focus throughout the term. The course serves as a graduate level introduction to classical rhetoric, and it will also provide an opportunity to consider the various roles of political rhetoric in the history of democratic societies and under imperial rule. Finally, students will have a chance to learn about new antiracist historical, critical, and teaching approaches across the fields of Classics, rhetoric, and the history and literature of slavery/abolition. The course readings can provide students with a basis for teaching general education courses including Classical Greek and Roman texts and genres, and could also enable research on Medieval rhetorical traditions for students in Medieval Studies. Comparative research projects on transatlantic slavery are also possible. Pre-1800 credit in English can be fulfilled with approval of DGS; approved for credit toward Grad Certificate in Human Rights.We will read important works of political philosophy dealing with slavery and human rights, and end with a set of case studies on American and British abolitionist rhetoric, with particular attention to anti-slavery writings by Thomas Clarkson, Ottobah Cugoano, and William Lloyd Garrison, and slave narratives by Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs. Readings in classical rhetoric, philosophy, and literature in translation include works by: Euripides, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, Longinus, and Augustine; political philosophy by Locke and Hegel; secondary critical readings on the history of abolitionism and human rights, and critical theories of plantation slavery, capitalism, human rights, and ant-racism. Texts read in English translation or in original languages

Two oral presentations, one of which may be focused on teaching; a weekly 2-3 page short analysis paper focused on the class readings for the week; literature review essay on a topic of your choice relevant to your final paper; final seminar paper, 20-25 pages, or two short papers, 10-12 pages each.

ENGL 6600-01 (class# 11681) SEMINAR IN CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP: WRITING INTO THE FEMINIST ARCHIVES: (Dennigan): A feminist world is one we have to create, and this seminar is an invitation to creation of world and form. The writer’s humility as they read becomes gratitude as they write becomes forward motion–and perhaps, someday, a fertility that promotes human rights. This course is for anyone who wants to experience / digest these texts in visceral, imaginative, emotive, and contrary modes: Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography; Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life; Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha; Andrea Long Chu, Females; Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera; Alexis Pauline Gumbs, ed., Revolutionary Mothering; Cindy Milstein, ed., Rebellious Mourning; Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider; Saidiya Hartmann, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments; Toni Cade Bambera, ed.The Black Woman, An Anthology; Caryl Churchill, Cloud Nine; Myung Mi Kim, “Discussion of Procedure” (a lecture), and other selected texts.  Mixing genres and moods and experimenting with formal constraints, your writings will respond to the readings with the aim of melding two languages: intuitive and academic. How can responses to and interrogations of feminist texts be challenging and rigorous– and also lively, inventive, strange? How can attending to these writers help us write a bearable world into existence?  Expect to write weekly in and out of class, in received and in invented forms, and to make one extended hybrid piece by semester’s end.
ENGL 6650-001 (class# 13128) SEMINAR IN DIGITIAL HUMANITIES: READING AND WRITING THE AGE OF DIGITAL DISTRACTION: (Booten):  Do digital media harm our minds—attenuating our attention spans, leaving us depressed and anxious, and (despite their “social” aspects) alienating us?  Do these media threaten print-based literacy and, with it, certain forms of “deep” thinking and feeling that we would be wise to protect?  Or are the pundits who make such dire suggestions unable to see the positive, even liberatory affordances of digital media?  This course is an opportunity to consider these questions in light of the ways that digital media have changed the nature of literary production, reception, and imagination. On the one hand, it will focus on key examples of computer-generated poetry, hypertext fiction, Twitter bots, and other self-consciously experimental genres that are sometimes together called “electronic literature,” “digital literature,” or “littérature numérique.” At the same time, the course will also attend to the ways that more quotidian examples of computational media (e.g. digital word processing, search engines, social networks) have changed what it means to write and read poems, novels, and other literary texts that are not obviously or self-consciously computational. Readings from media theory and philosophy (Bernard Stiegler, Katherine Hayles, Yuk Hui, and others) will help us to think beyond commonplace arguments about the ways that digital media are or are not harmful to our minds. Requirements for the class will include weekly reading responses, a final paper, and several practical introductions to creating “electronic literature” using various software machines.
ENGL 6750-001 (class# 11533) SEMINAR IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: MEMORY, LITERATURE, AND CULTURE (Tribble): Memory is a field divided by a common vocabulary; there is often little overlap between memory studies as conceived in the social sciences and humanities and memory as it is studies in the psychological sciences. This seminar will seek to bridge that divide by bringing together recent memory studies research alongside influential work in the cognitive sciences that sees memory as fundamentally embodied and distributed and includes domains such as affect, emotion, skill, and movement within an ecological model of memory.  We will trace the genealogy of memory from its classical antecedents to the early modern period, concluding with an examination of modernist and post-modernist reconceptions of memory. Throughout we will examine the memory-work of literary texts alongside influential theories and practical applications of the memory and the mnemonic arts.  Assessments;
  • A commonplace book
  • A speech composed and delivered using the classical theater-of-memory techniques studied in class
  • A narrated walking-tour of a place of memory
  • A semester-long project on memory in text chosen by the student (students seeking pre-1800 credit must do a final project/essay on a pre-modern or early modern text)

ENGL 6750-002 (class# 13652) SEMINAR IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: LABOR, UTTERANCE, AND MEANING IN THE MARITIME WORLD: (Bercaw-Edwards): For as long as history has been recorded, sailors have stepped on shore with a tale to tell. Until the laying of telegraph cables across oceans finally outpaced sailing ships in carrying messages in the 1850s, the sight of a sail on the horizon might be the first herald of news of many kinds: political, cultural, financial, or personal. The figure of the sailor as a storyteller stretches back beyond the earliest written records. The gulf of ocean between the sailor and the port and the events or circumstances that sailor described lent a paradoxical mix of authority and doubt regarding stories sailors told. The writers we will consider in this course inherited willingly or unwillingly the long heritage of these sailor storytellers. This course will examine the chronological development of a literature wherein the sea functions as physical, psychological, and philosophical setting. The course will begin by investigating early uses of the sea in literature and ways in which early works influenced later writings. It will continue with the use of the sea in contemporary literature and literature by writers of color. Through the use of literary theory and maritime history, the course will establish the context in which these works were produced as well as closely examining the works themselves. The requirements for the course will include presentations, several short papers, and a longer final essay.

ENGL 6850-01 (class#  13130/   /), AMST 6850 /HIST 6850 AMERICAN STUDIES:  CULTURES OF POLITICAL REACTION: (VIALS): 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.


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.