Click on a title for a description box to show, or view listing of all courses for the Spring 2018/Fall 2018. 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 23, 2017.
Spring 2018 Seminars
ENGL 6420-01 (class#11535) AMERICAN LITERARY MOVEMENTS: THE CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN NOVEL: (Knapp): Literary critics agree that we have moved beyond postmodernism and into a new aesthetic mode, but precisely what that mode is has proven harder to pin down. A variety of periodizing concepts and frameworks have emerged, whether post-postmodernism, late capitalism, neoliberalism, the post-civil rights era, the post-human, or the Anthropocene, in order to define what has been called, as if by default, the Contemporary. Sixteen years into the new century, amidst rapid technological advances and globalization, this course takes up the challenge of defining the current moment by examining a literary form that some have argued is obsolete: the American novel. And yet, American literary production over the past couple of decades has abounded, with some of our most prominent writers exuberantly experimenting with genre fiction—the detective novel, sci-fi, comic books, melodrama– once relegated to the mass market to create new forms entirely. By engaging these works in the context of current economic, political and social circumstances, we will consider the ways in which the novel, as a literary form, has been adapted to respond to conditions particular to the 21st Century: ground-shifting events like 9/11 and the worldwide economic crisis, certainly, but also interminable war and terror around the globe, grand-scale environmental disasters, new communication networks that have simultaneously erased geographic boundaries and divided us into increasingly vitriolic, isolated tribes, and a planet itself hanging in the balance. In order to understand what is truly new about the current literary landscape, we will consider how the contemporary American novel both emerges and diverges from earlier literary periods and trends—not just postmodernism, but also modernism and realism as well as metafiction, minimalism, multiculturalism, and what David Foster Wallace called the “New Sincerity.” We will also read current literary, cultural, and theoretical scholarship to determine how these recent novels imagine or perhaps reimagine and reshape readers’ understanding of being and belonging in a world whose problems demand their response.
Each student will give a 7-10 page comparative presentation on one of the novels in order to situate it alongside an earlier model, as well as write an 18-20-page seminar paper that may or may not expand on this presentation, but will also engage the critical conversation as it is evolving in relatively new platforms such as the Post-45 Collective, the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present, and V21, as well as established venues such as Contemporary Literature, TCL, Modern Fiction Studies, and American Literary History, among others.
6500-01 (class# 11536) SEMINAR IN LITERARY THEORY: THE WAKE OF ROMANTICISM: (Mahoney): [This is not a seminar concerned with Romanticism per se, but with post-structuralism, and the ways in which (what came to be denominated) Romanticism made possible certain inflections of post-structuralist thought. As Terry Eagleton has put it, “we are ourselves post-Romantics, in the sense of being products of that epoch rather than confidently posterior to it.”]Romanticism poses a problem. At the same time as it occupies a pivotal position in literary history (simultaneously the ending of a narrative “from Classic to Romantic” and the beginning of a narrative “from Romantic to Modern”), it calls into question the very legitimacy of such concepts as literary periodization, historical narrative, the “concepts” of criticism, and even discipline and disciplinarity. In doing so, Romanticism also names a particular moment when literature (according to Maurice Blanchot) first begins to think (about) itself as such. To that end, Romanticism marks a seminal moment in the formulation and institutionalization of what we now call literary theory – that is to say, both the theory of the literary and (as Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy formulate it) the understanding of theory itself as literature. Partially because of these and other critical cruxes, Romanticism invariably seems equally to compel and to resist interpretation. Consequently, this seminar takes as one of its central premises that (as Paul de Man put it) “the interpretation of romanticism remains for us the most difficult and at the same time the most necessary of tasks.” Integral to this difficulty is that (again citing de Man), “we have experienced [Romanticism] in its passing away” – that is to say, we continue to read and write, to act and interpret, in the wake of Romanticism.
Writers to be considered include A. W. and F. Schlegel, Fichte, Kleist, Schelling, Hegel, Coleridge, Benjamin, Blanchot, Hartman, Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, and de Man, as well as numerous recent and contemporary critics, e.g., Giorgio Agamben, Ian Balfour, Cathy Caruth, Jonathan Culler, Rodolphe Gasche, Carol Jacobs, and Marc Redfield. (All assigned readings will be in English.) Likely requirements include weekly response papers (500 words), one oral seminar presentation, midterm conference paper (10 pp), and seminar paper (7500-8000 words).
Fall 2017 Seminars
ENGL 5200-01 (class #11998) CHILDREN’S LITERATURE: (Capshaw): This survey of Children’s Literature focuses on field formation and introduces students to its major critical methodologies. In terms of field formation, we consider the following questions: What makes a children’s book? Is children’s literature different thematically or stylistically from “adult” literature? How does children’s literature cross boundaries of audience and genre? Do canonical children’s texts share certain qualities? How are children’s texts historically and contextually situated? What is the role of didacticism to children’s literature? What is the role of the adult mediator to the endurance of children’s texts? How do children’s texts construct the child reader?In order to address these key questions, we examine the formal qualities, reception history, and critical lineage of canonical children’s texts, starting with fairy tales, moving through the “golden age” of children’s literature, and into the mid-twentieth century. In the last third of the course, we examine questions of field formation by considering texts that break boundaries formally and that include representations of various iterations of childhood, including texts from particular ethnic communities and those engaging the impossibility of insular childhood for characters in poverty.The course invests deeply in three major critical sites for the study of children’s literature: archival work, debates around child agency, and word/image study. We read critics on each of those subjects; in the past I’ve included readings by Karen Sanchez-Eppler, Kenneth Kidd, Maria Tatar, Beverly Lyon Clark, Roderick McGillis, Jacqueline Rose, David Rudd, Kimberly Reynolds, Claudia Nelson, Marah Gubar, Robin Bernstein, Perry Nodelman, Philip Nel, and others. I have also included an archival project; students have the option to visit collections at the American Antiquarian Society, the Beinecke at Yale, the Houghton Library at Harvard, the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection at UConn, and the John Hay Library at Brown. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by Austin 136 with any questions. Students from all fields are welcome to join the course.
My critical approach to the material emphasizes historical and cultural context with some emphasis on literary techniques and close reading. For example, to begin the course with its first five works, we will consider the ways the Progressive Era and World War I and its aftermath led to the questioning of war, marriage, the role of women, immigration, labor, etc. We will next study four works of southern modernism and so will look at ways the history and culture of the South are distinctive and thus affect southern versions of modernism, such as religion; economic structures like the plantation, class systems, race; and the relative lack of urban centers. When we address ethnic literature, we begin by stressing the importance of mid to late twentieth century movements such as those for civil rights, women’s rights, and ethnic pride. I want students to recognize the unique subject position of each author and the inherent fluidity or instability of such positions as well as the varying lenses with which we view such positions as readers. I emphasize literary techniques because recognition of such techniques is crucial to the consideration of meanings and graduate students will be expected to teach their students about literary techniques. For each week’s reading, I will assign a scholarly article that illustrates a particular approach to the material, so that students will see a range of critical methods applied to these texts. In addition, I challenge students in class discussion to think about how they would construct their own survey courses and how they would present texts to undergraduates. In short, especially since this is a survey course, I emphasize that the graduate students are both scholars and teachers.
The required texts are: Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time; T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land;
Wallace Stevens’ “Sunday Morning,” “Anecdote of the Jar,” “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and “Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself”; Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury; Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire; Ernest Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying; Valerie Martin’s Property; Tina DeRosa’s Paper Fish; Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine; and Louise Erdrich’s The Round House.
Grades: Participation (30%: in addition to class discussion, this includes the oral report on the research paper and responses to the oral reports of others); two short (500 words) response papers (20%); and a fifteen-to-twenty page research paper (50%: due in stages: topic, annotated bibliography, thesis statement and outline, complete draft with sources, final version.). I encourage students to meet with me to discuss any aspect of the course and their work.
Writing: Students will produce seven pieces of writing throughout the semester (between 800-1250+ words each). Each work will focus on that week’s assigned topic. Each student will email his or her finished piece to all the other members of the seminar, including the instructor, by FRIDAY AT NOON. Detailed comments on each essay written for that week will then be submitted to the other members of the seminar, including the instructor, by the following MONDAY AT NOON. Late work— “late” being defined by more than fifteen minutes— will be not accepted under any circumstances; this goes for the deadlines on both Fridays and Mondays. If your work is late, it won’t be read. Period. As a final project, each student will submit four carefully edited and revised essays to the instructor for grading, out of which two will be submitted for publication. Please understand that it is a requirement of the course that two pieces ARE SUBMITTED for publication before or during the final class. Reading and commentary: Students are responsible for reading and commenting in detail on their colleagues’ work; I’ll provide a list of questions. Half your grade for the course will be earned by the thoughtful, judicious and specific commentary you offer your colleagues. We will also read and discuss, in detail, the assigned texts by Atwood, King and Lerner. In addition to deadlines being non-negotiable, attendance at every class is assumed. .
ENGL 6750-01 (class#12009) SEMINAR IN SPECIAL TOPICS IN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE: ENTRAPMENT AND ESCAPE IN RECENT BRITISH AND IRISH WOMEN’S FICTION: (Lynch): We will undertake a sustained interrogation of the ways in which female protagonists in recent British and Irish fiction succeed or fail in their attempts to break free from a variety of constraints and achieve individuation and autonomy. The novels throughout the course will be twinned (see reading list below) with each success story being accompanied by a comparable text in which the protagonist fails to disengage from her constraints. My first pairing includes our only pre-1900 text, Jane Eyre, since it is a foundational novel in the context of our interrogation, and offers rich material for study in the colonial context when paired with Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea. We will examine the texts through feminist and cultural theoretical lenses; for example, Gilbert’s feminist reading of Jane Eyre analyzes Jane’s unlikely “pilgrimage towards selfhood” in the context of patriarchist repression, whereas a cultural critic like Elsie Michie attends to “the troubling problem of colonial dominance.” The pairing of Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, and the application of critics like Michie and Spivak to both texts, will allow the students to investigate Jane’s position as one of privilege when compared to the demonization of the colonized Bertha. The students will also be asked to build annotated bibliographies inclusive of a variety of seminal and recent approaches to each individual text. Our investigation will attend to the forces determining each woman’s trajectory, in an effort to understand its causes. Our paired texts will focus on cultural and historical context (our Bowen and Johnston pairing, for example, interrogates the very different outcomes for two young women coming of age during the Irish War of Independence), love and marriage, sexual expression, the limits of the heterosexual “family cell,” and other appropriate concerns. We will throughout, analyze the ways in which these outcomes are dependent upon nationality and chronology. What changes do we note as we move from England to Ireland and as we travel through linear time, and why?
Each pairing will be accompanied by secondary reading specifically chosen for its relevance to the texts under consideration. Requirements include a 10-page paper suitable for presentation at a conference, to be delivered in class so that peer review can be offered. Students will also prepare an annotated bibliography on one of our authors and write a 20+ page paper, ideally one that they can revise for submission to a scholarly journal.
Primary Texts: Pairings will include:
Bronte, Jane Eyre, and Rhys, The Wide Sargasso Sea.
Drabble, The Millstone, and Weldon, The Cloning of Joanna May.
O’Brien, The Country Girls Trilogy (here we have a triad rather than a pairing, set in Ireland and England).
Bowen, The Last September, and Johnston, The Old Jest.
Winterson, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit and Donoghue, Hood.
Boylan, Holy Pictures, and Enright, The Forgotten Waltz.
We will engage with an appropriate selection of appropriate theoretical and critical sources, following the guidelines stated above. Readings will range from the seminal (Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic) to more recent studies by Homi Babha, Gayatri Spivak (“Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism”) Jenny Sharpe (“The Rise of Women in an Age of Progress”), and Kathryn Conrad (Locked in the Family Cell: Gender, Sexuality, and Political Agency in Irish National Discourse).