Courses and Seminars

Below is a list of English graduate courses for current academic year. All students must receive permission from the instructor and/or the English Graduate Program in order to enroll.

Fall 2023/Spring 2024 Seminars

Fall 2023

5100-01 Theory and Teaching of Writing


5150-01 Advanced Research Methods: What Graduate Study Can Do


5182-01 Practicum in the Teaching of Writing


6270-01 Contemporary Anglophone Poetries


6325-01 Literatures of Environmental & Racial Justice, 1500-1800


6400-01 No Country for Black People: Black Revolution and Racial Dystopias in US Literature


6750-01 Disability Studies in the Humanities


6750-02 Once and Future: Adaptation, Mediation, and Popular Culture


Spring 2024

ENGL 5160–01 Professional Development


ENGL 6400–01 Racism, Colonialism, and the Big House/Plantation Novel


ENGL 6450–01 The Contemporary US Bildungsroman in Context


ENGL 6500–01 Theory of Irony


ENGL 6530–01 African Life Writing


ENGL 6540–01 Antislavery Literature and Human Rights in the Atlantic World, 1760–1870


ENGL 6550–01 Researching and Teaching Second Language Reading and Writing


ENGL 6600–01 Hybrid Narratives


ENGL 6800–01 American Studies: Methods and Major Texts


Fall 2023 Calendar

Fall 2023 Calendar

9:30 – 12:00 ENGL 5150-01


Advanced Research Methods

ENGL 5182-01


Practicum in the Teaching of Writing


ENGL 6325-01


Literatures of Environmental and Racial Justice, 1500–1800

1:00 – 3:30 ENGL 5100-01


Theory and Teaching of Writing

ENGL 6400-01


No Country for Black People: Black Revolution and Racial Dystopias in US Literature

ENGL 6750-02


Once and Future: Adaptation, Mediation, and Popular Culture

5:00 – 7:30   ENGL 6750-01


Doing Disability Studies in the Humanities

ENGL 6270-01


Contemporary Anglophone Poetries

Spring 2024 Calendar

Spring 2024 Calendar

9:30 – 12:00 ENGL 6600-01


Hybrid Narratives


ENGL 6500-01


Theory of Irony

ENGL 6540-01


Antislavery Literature and Human Rights in the Atlantic World

ENGL 6550-01


Research & Teaching Second Language Reading

1:00 – 3:30 ENGL 5160-01


Professional Development

ENGL 6450-01


The Contemporary US Bildungsroman in Context

ENGL 6400-01


Race, Colonialism, and the Big House/Plantation Novel

5:00 – 7:30   ENGL 6530-01


African Life Writing

5:30 – 8:00   ENGL/AMST 6800-01


Introduction to American Studies

Course Descriptions

Fall 2023 Courses

ENGL 5100-01: Theory and Teaching of Writing

(Blansett): [3 credits] Scholarship in the fields of writing studies, composition, and rhetoric often raises questions about how texts are made and the roles we play in teaching others to create texts. In response, compositionists have formulated a variety of theories for the assumptions, methods, and practices we rely on in the classroom. In ENGL 5100, we will engage with the theories, histories, research, and practices that inform our own First-Year Writing Program at UConn. Specifically, we will explore theories related to our writing program's approach to reading and writing, cognition and creativity, teaching and learning, language and meaning-making. We will build a greater understanding of the contexts that shape and are affected by our practices of teaching writing.
In addition to being introduced to the theoretical approaches to writing and teaching writing, you will also be introduced to current methodologies used by composition researchers to undertake a research project on teaching, learning, and writing (Scholarship of Teaching & Learning [SoTL]). Your classroom-based research will culminate in a project that contributes to our understanding of how undergraduate students learn to write and compose. You will share what you have learned in the classroom in a brief teaching presentation. The research will also provide the groundwork upon which you develop a course inquiry and assignment architecture in preparation for teaching your own version of UConn's FYW course. Work includes weekly written engagements with assigned readings, a teaching-focused research project, and a description of the course inquiry and assignment architecture.

ENGL 5150-01: Advanced Research Methods: What Graduate Study 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 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 six meetings or events. Those events may include (but are not limited to) talks and presentations, undergraduate courses, panel discussions, professionalization workshops, and informational interviews. We will meet frequently (although not every week) to discuss with one another and with guests your progress toward those goals alongside readings in professionalization, graduate study and academia, and other topics based on participants’ interests. The seminar is required for entering MA and MA/PhD students and open to PhD students with instructor permission.

ENGL 5182-01: Practicum in the Teaching of Writing

(Blansett): [1 Credit] Guided development of teaching in the University of Connecticut First-Year Writing Program. As part of a Practicum, new graduate student instructors who are teaching FYW at UConn meet with the Directors to implement the theories of teaching and writing introduced in ENGL 5100, which includes developing active-learning teaching strategies, instructional materials, and classroom activities that help their students meet program goals and learning objectives. Enrolled instructors workshop weekly classroom activity plans and write several reflections on teaching. An annotated portfolio of the materials and activities generated during the semester takes shape as you contribute to the weekly work in the Practicum.

ENGL 6270-01: Seminar in Modern Poetry; Contemporary Anglophone Poetries

(Pelizzon): In this course, we’ll plunge into a sea of fabulous recent poetries from the US, the UK, and Canada. How do contemporary poets address subjects including romantic and familial love, race, gender, economic class, disability, environmental risk, and national identity? What range of verse possibilities—from traditional meter and rhyme to experimental hybrid forms—are poets using to engage 21st-century experience? We’ll do a lot of close listening, reading aloud and discussing how these poems are working as poems at the sonic level as well as on the lyrical and narrative planes. How do sound texture, wordplay, and white space communicate? Our class will be a welcoming space for those who enjoy poetry but may noy yet be confident in talking about how contemporary poetry thinks and feels via its myriad forms.

Likely authors on our reading list include Franny Choi, Natalie Diaz, Ilya Kaminsky, Douglas Kearney, Maureen McLane, Ange Mlinko, Paul Muldoon, Alice Notley, Alice Oswald, Danez Smith, Karen Solie, and A.E. Stallings. Participants should expect to take turns leading the discussion each week. Class writing will include weekly responses to the reading and a public-facing project such as a book review or blog post. Participants will also create and present on a final project tailored to their interests. Options might include a scholarly research paper/proto-article on some aspect of contemporary poetry, a pedagogical portfolio including a syllabus and projects for an undergraduate poetry course, a lyric essay connecting your work to that of one or more of the poets we’re reading, or a digital project engaged with contemporary poetics.

ENGL 6325-01: Seminar in Renaissance Literature; Literatures of Environmental and Racial Justice, 1500–1800,

(Sarkar): This course is designed to (a) introduce graduate students to questions about the environment in pre-1800 British literature (b) enable them to inquire how imaginative writing about “nature” and ecology intersected with discourses on race, slavery, and colonialism (c) expose them to key theoretical and conceptual issues in the trans-historical scholarly fields of ecocriticism, premodern critical race studies, and postcolonial theory.

How might imaginative writing bring into conversation discourses of environmental, racial, and social justice? This seminar approaches this question by turning to pre-1800 British literature that both reflects and shapes ideas about the environment—and that reveals how ideas of ecology are inextricable from understandings of racial and cultural difference. Our governing questions will include: how do writers envision the relation of humans to their nonhuman environments? How does evolving knowledge about the natural world intersect with ethical, social, and political issues? How were discourses about natural disaster, weather, and climate mobilized to create hierarchies among different groups of people?

We will attempt to answer these questions by examining the ways in which discourses about one’s responsibility to the environment circulated in literary-historical periods that had no explicit theorization or definition of concepts like “environmentalism,” “racial justice,” or “environmental justice.” Our primary readings, drawn from 16th- to 18th-century literature, will range across a variety of genres (including drama, epic, lyric poetry, essays, utopian writing, early realist fiction) and our broader methodological concerns will necessarily traverse literary-historical periods. By drawing on works of literary scholars, ecocritics, postcolonial and decolonial theorists, and scholars on race and slavery, we will thereby examine the implications and value of pre-1800 paradigms for modern problems.

Requirements will include: one oral presentation and annotated bibliography; a 5-6 paper; and a final project chosen from one of the three options: (a) research paper (b) public-facing essay (c) pedagogical project.

ENGL 6400–01: American Ethnic Literature No Country for Black People: Black Revolution and Racial Dystopias in US Literature

(Pierrot): In Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson infamously suggested that free African Americans should be sent out of the union to “be colonized to such place as the circumstances of the time should render most proper”: deportation was the only way to eschew what he saw as the unavoidable outcome of racial cohabitation in the aftermath of slavery: “the extermination of one or the other race.”
Jefferson’s was but one of the many visions of a racially homogenized America developed by thinkers, writers, activists and politicians throughout the early modern era and to this day. Separate and at times antagonistic attempts at removing African Americans from the United States resonate with many strands of popular culture: throughout the antebellum era, debates over emigration, resettlement and nation-making were central to African American politics. If followers of Marcus Garvey in the early 20th century saw a “return” to Africa as the solution, many also felt that African Americans were owed a territory within the United States which they might have to take by force.
Extermination, exodus, nation-making: studying fictions by Sutton Griggs, George Schuyler, Ray Bradbury, John A. Williams, Melvin Kelley, Sam Greenlee and others in the light of the political discourse of their time, this course proposes to follow how authors approached the topic of Black revolution and Black nation-making in US literature from the 19th to the 21st century, from anticipation to Afrofuturism.

ENGL 6750-01: Seminar in Language and Literature; Doing Disability Studies in the Humanities

(Brueggemann): An interdisciplinary mapping and excavation of disability studies in the humanities, engaging a triangulated focus in 3 primary areas:
• literature (and film) studies, including children’s/YA literature;
• writing studies (including creative non-fiction/memoir along with the teaching of writing); and
• identity studies in literature and writing, and its crossings with disability identity & experience (both American & global)
Additional fields and areas in the humanities will also be engaged and intersected with these primary 3, depending on the interests of seminar participants. These “additions” would not just be chunked-in but interwoven with the material from the 3 primary areas. Such interweaving would come from who the seminar participants are and their own areas of interest, study, possibilities. Some of those likely interweavings might be: anthropology, digital humanities, history, human rights, medical humanities, political science, philosophy, WGSS, etc.
The course would traverse both primary (literary) texts and secondary critical work, “classic” literature alongside lesser-known texts, engage a variety of literary genres, explore numerous identity overlaps with disability, and work through a handful of methodologies primarily used in “doing disability studies in the humanities.”

Tentative reading/screening list of potential texts:
Key background/resource texts:
o Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. Eds. Snyder, Brueggemann, Garland-Thomson (MLA, 2002; reissued, 2022)
o Disability Theory. Tobin Siebers (U Michigan P, 2008)
o Keywords for Disability Studies. Eds. Adams, Reiss, Serlin. (NYU Press, 2015)
o Disability, Key Issues & Future Directions: Arts & Humanities. Brueggemann. (Sage, 2012)

Literature, potential texts under consideration:
o Shakespeare, Richard III
o Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
o Selections from Emily Dickinson’s poetry
o Ilya Kaminsky, Deaf Republic
o Selections from Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability
o Eli Clare, Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure
o William & Ellen Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom
o Octavia Butler, Kindred
o Riva Lehrer, Golem Girl: A Memoir
o Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
o Judy & Paul Karasik, The Ride Together: A Brother and Sister’s Memoir of Autism in the Family
o Selections from About Us: The Disability Experience (New York Times series)
Children’s/YA Literature:
o Selections from Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens
o Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
o Cece Bell, El Deafo
o Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
o Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck
o Ann Clare LeZotte, Show Me A Sign

Films possible:
o The Hunchback of Notre Dame (many versions)
o CODA (Sian Heder; 3 Oscar nominations, 2021)
o Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (Michelle & Barack Obama, Exec. Producers; 2020 Oscar nominee, documentary)
o Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien (Jessica Yu; 1997 Oscar for short documentary)
o Music by Prudence (Roger Ross Williams; 2009 Oscar for short documentary)
o Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell & the Butterfly) (Julian Schnabel, 4 Oscar nominations, 2007)

Critical excerpts, secondary texts will also be made available from at least the following:
o Tobin Siebers, Disability Aesthetics
o Robert McRuer, Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability
Rebecca Sanchez, Deafening Modernism: Embodied Language and Visual Poetics in American Literature

ENGL 6750–02: Seminar in Language and Literature; Once and Future: Adaptation, Mediation, and Popular Culture

(Somerset): This course will serve as an introduction to theories of adaptation, of media, and of popular culture, centered on the example of the Arthurian legend. (Three current grads have specifically requested an Arthur course, hence the focus, but students may choose another focus and final project topic if they wish). Stories of Arthur and his court have been extraordinarily generative in a wide variety of media and cultural forms, including children’s and young adult literature, graphic novels, internet comics, video and tabletop games, LARP, Ren Faire narratives, film, TV, and more. This recent proliferation builds on centuries of reworking the Arthur legend in a wide variety of literary and historical genres, across Europe and beyond: each retelling foregrounds different elements, or adds new episodes, as its author repurposes the narrative to make claims about nation and identity past and future, or to develop or interrogate norms for gendered behaviour, personal virtue, and communal obligation. After reading a small selection of Arthur stories that have been highly influential on recent adaptations and some core theoretical works in the early weeks, each student will choose a recent adaptation as their project focus, and we will select further readings (e.g. on gaming, gender theory, mass culture, fanfiction, book history, media studies, film, etc.) with their developing projects in mind. Student projects might follow one of three tracks: a pedagogy track, where they focus on teaching through adaptation and produce teaching materials; a public humanities track, where they focus on the creation of digital materials; or a criticism and theory track, where they produce a conference-length paper then revise it into a longer research paper.


Core readings: theory

Robert Stam, “Beyond Fidelity: The Dialogics of Adaptation” and “Revisionist Adaptation”

Linda Hutcheon and Siobhan O’Flynn, A Theory of Adaptation

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media

Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media.

Julie Sanders, Adaptation and Appropriation

Kamilla Elliot, Theorizing Adaptation


Core readings: Arthurian narratives (all in modern translation) (optional for students who develop another focus)

Geoffrey of Monmouth: History of the Kings of Britain (1-55111-639-1) Broadview

Armitage: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (0-393-33415-5) Norton

Armitage: The Death of King Arthur: A New Verse Translation (0-393-34353-7) Norton

Malory: Le Morte Darthur (0-19-953734-8) Oxford

  1. H. White, The Once and Future King (Putnam, 1958: available on Kindle)

Spring 2024 Courses

ENGL 5160-01: Professional Development

(King'oo): [3 credits] Prerequisite: Open to graduate students in English and Medieval Studies, others with consent. Includes critical reflection on the academy, as well as practical instruction in writing application
materials for conferences, grants, and academic employment, and in revising a seminar paper for publication.

ENGL 6400-01: American Ethnic Literature; Race, Colonialism, and the Big House/Plantation Novel

(Burke): The paradigm-shifting thesis that the seventeenth-century reconquest of Ireland served as a model for the colonization of the “New World” explicates how the plantation complex associated with the antebellum South was first created by Tudor domination in Ireland. In Clukey’s formulation, Irish “landed estates and big houses” equate to “plantations; landlords replace planters; and the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy supplants the North American plantocracy,” and the difference in Irish and American terminology for similar phenomena obscures commonalities. “Big House” is an Irish usage for the manor houses of the Anglo-Protestant elite and is also the name of the Irish literary genre centered on such dwellings. The Irish model of settler-colonialism exported to the New World also spawned a range of social institutions and cultural artifacts. As such, the Southern plantation novel and Ireland’s Big House narrative emerge as related genres. The seminar’s core will be three plantation novels that depict – in different registers – Southern planters of Irish association: Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (both 1936), and The Foxes of Harrow (1946), a bestselling novel by Frank Yerby, an African American author of Irish ancestry. In all three, male protagonists transform initial subjugation by uncritically replicating in America the very socio-political “Old World” structures that they or theirs have fled. Bowen and Edgeworth, authors of seminal Big House novels, were themselves of settler-colonial origin. In self-consciously postcolonial, late modernist, Gothic, or contemporary iterations by Poe, Randall, Green, Faulkner, James, and Banville, the Big/Plantation House narrative is subverted, enervated, or relocated in order to grapple with or evade its problematic roots in the earlier romanticization of colonial and slave-holding cultures. The Southern US was only the northernmost outpost of a plantation system that encompassed Caribbean colonies. Thus, Haiti’s haunting of the action in Mitchell and Faulkner as well as the manner in which Walrond’s Caribbean Great House narrative speaks to allied genres in Ireland and America will be encompassed. 

ENGL 6450-01: Seminar in American Literature; The Contemporary US Bildungsroman in Context

(Knapp): The bildungsroman; the novel of development; the coming-of-age story. Whatever we call it, its focus on a youthful individual who faces obstacles but still manages to navigate the tide of progress makes it particularly well-suited for instantiating the imperatives of American exceptionalism. Scholars such as Joseph Slaughter and Long Le-Khac, for instance, have noted that in the post-Civil Rights era, the multicultural bildungsroman has served the prerogatives of a neoliberal politics well by promoting individual mobility and development while simultaneously obscuring structural inequalities.  We will read recent U.S. bildungsromans in the context of the genre’s literary and cultural history and alongside various theoretical perspectives in order to understand its shifting role and the stakes involved in negotiating the difficult terrain of the current moment, shaped as it has been by events such as the 9/11 attacks, the Forever Wars (and their messy ends), cataclysmic weather events brought on by climate change, a worldwide financial meltdown, a global pandemic, nationwide protests over racial injustice, and a democracy toying with fascism.  

Because of its focus on literary history and and the imperatives of genre, this course will be of interest to Americanists across all time periods, and indeed might appeal to scholars of British and World literature who can opt to take a comparative approach in their writing. There will be an interim assignment and a final project that will consider one of the primary texts on the syllabus in historical and/or cultural context. These assignments will vary depending on the students’ interest according to three tracks: pedagogical, scholarly, or public-facing. (For instance, possible interim assignments might be a syllabus and course rationale; a conference paper; or a review essay targeted for a venue such as LitHub, respectively). Final projects should be the equivalent of an 18-20-page seminar paper, but again can take different forms, whether a longform public-facing essay, a fully produced podcast, or a teaching portfolio including syllabi, rationale, and assignments.  

Possible Primary Texts

Garth Greenwell, What Belongs to You 

Brandon Hobson, Where the Dead Sit Talking 

Kiese Laymon, Long Division 

Raven Leilani, Luster 

Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station

Ling Ma, Severance. 

Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

Lydia Millet, A Children’s Bible 

Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds 

Christine Smallwood, Life of the Mind 

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones 

Laura Van den Berg, Find Me 

Ocean Vuoung, On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous

ENGL 6500-01: Seminar in Literary Theory; Theory of Irony

(Mahoney): 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 (in translation), 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).

Organized (more-or-less) historically, the “critical” readings are likely to include selections from the following writers and texts:

Plato: Phaedrus, Republic (Book I), Symposium

Fichte: from Science of Knowledge

  1. W. and A. W. Schlegel: from Philosophical Fragments, “On Incomprehensibility”

Novalis: from Fichte Studies

Kleist: “On the Marionette Theater”

Coleridge: from Lectures on Shakespeare

Keats: selected letters

Baudelaire: “On the Essence of Laughter”

Kierkegaard: The Concept of Irony, “The Ancient Tragic Reflected in the Modern Tragic”

Nietzsche: from The Gay Science, “On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense”

Benjamin: The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism

Blanchot: from The Infinite Conversation, “Literature and the Right to Death”

Paulhan: from The Flowers of Tarbes


Criticism after 1960 (selective bibliography):

Szondi: “Friedrich Schlegel and Romantic Irony”

Starobinski: “Ironie et mélancholie” (1967)

Brooks: The Well-Wrought Urn (1947), “Irony as a Principle of Structure” (1971)

Booth: A Rhetoric of Irony (1974)

De Man: “Allegory and Irony in Baudelaire” (1967), “The Rhetoric of Temporality” (1969), “The Concept of Irony” (1977), “Aesthetic Formalization” (1984)

Derrida: “Plato’s Pharmacy” (1981), from Parages (1986)

Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy: The Literary Absolute (1978)

Rorty: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989)

Behler: Irony and the Discourse of Modernity (1990)

Lacoue-Labarthe: The Subject of Philosophy (1993)

Albert: “Understanding Irony” (1993)

Newmark: Irony on Occasion (2012)

Konstantinou: Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction (2016)

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 … ?).

ENGL 6530-01: Seminar in World Literature; African Life Writing

(Coundouriotis): Memoir and autobiography, along with forms of testimonial writing, have been crucial to African struggles for political and cultural decolonization. Whereas scholars have turned frequently to autobiographical novels to discuss the centrality of the Bildungsroman to African literature, they have been less systematic in their approach to literary nonfiction. Life writing has tended to fall under other categories like prison memoir, child soldier autobiography, coming out story, and what we might call “the portrait of an artist,” as many African writers have written their own autobiographies often reprising the fictional accounts they provided in the past. African writers have also been prolific essayists writing on the arts but also on politics, identity, travel, the environment and other compelling topics.

In this course, we will read widely starting with The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano  leading up to the work of trans author Akwaeke Emezi. We will look at works by Wole Soyinka, Buchi Emecheta, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Nadine Gordimer, Bloke Modisane, Binyavanga Wainaina, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ishmael Beah, and J.M. Coetzee among others. Students will also explore the type of life narrative they are interested in independently and the final assessment for the course to define a subgenre of life writing. To lead up to this project, the course will also cover some postcolonial theory and genre theory. The project can be an essay or it can take a different form that will be equivalent in scope. Some alternative assignments might include a reading journal that takes on the first person voice, a digital project, or a book proposal for future work. Students will present their ongoing work towards the project to the class.

Learning objectives for the course include: a deeper understanding of the stakes in becoming a writer in Africa and how this relates to us in the classroom in Storrs, CT; developing a methodology for reading between history and literature; tackling the ways in which life writing is crucial to identity; grappling with genre theory.   This course should appeal to students interested in world literature, historical and political approaches to literature, biography/autobiography/memoir, and the connections between this material and current issues such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too.

ENGL 6540-01: Seminar in Literature and Human Rights; Antislavery Literature, Empire, and Human Rights in the Atlantic World, 1760-1870

(Winter): This course provides an introduction to critical methods in law and literature studies and in the emerging field of literature and human rights, by studying the legal and political history of slavery and antislavery, including resistance by enslaved people, in the British Empire. We will study primary texts such as law reports, political tracts, and literary texts. In interrogating the history of liberalism, empire, and human rights, we will take our bearings from historian Caroline Elkins’s recent account of British practices of “legalized lawlessness,” including both justifications of imperialism as a “civilizing” project and the widespread use of force and even torture to suppress nationalist movements. Geographically, the course will focus primarily on Britain and the British West Indies but will also include a unit on Sojourner Truth’s 1828 legal suit to recover her unlawfully enslaved son, an 1836 American antislavery case of an enslaved child brought to Massachusetts, and a recently discovered text of nineteenth-century prison literature by a young African American inmate of the New York state prison, Austin Reed. Key to our studies will be the concepts of personhood and property as defined in the English common law. We will begin by reading sections of Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-69) to uncover the connections between personhood as a status at law and the white male ownership of land and chattels, with particular attention to laws governing real property (land) and inheritance; relations between masters and servants or apprentices, husbands and wives, parents and children, and colonial laws governing relations between masters and the people they enslaved. We will also study the founding of colonial plantations and corporations, as well as a series of famous eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century cases concerning the legal status of fugitive slaves in England, including the notorious 1783 case of the massacre on the slave ship Zong. We will develop these inquiries through readings of novels that explore the problem of legal personhood as a field for both individual subjective and collective political struggle over both political rights and “human rights,” including rebellions of enslaved people in the West Indies. In the process, we will consider the legal dimensions of such common liberal ideas as liberty versus enslavement; free labor; married women’s legal disability and female emancipation; individual conscience and the duties of citizenship; the abolition of slavery; and individual personal rights versus property rights. Students interested in archival research methods would find instruction and opportunities in this course. It is also designed to provide students with historical and critical resources for antiracist and decolonial teaching and research. 

Likely readings: We will read several new historical studies on the evolution of colonial slave laws that consider abolitionism, spurred by Black radical activism, as an early human rights movement. We will also pay attention to the interaction of these questions with novelistic generic experimentation in satire, colonial romance, and realism. In addition to novels by authors including Edgeworth, Earle, and Wollstonecraft, we will read slave narratives by Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince, and Austin Reed’s Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict (1856). Other readings may include selections from eighteenth-and nineteenth-century antislavery poetry; eighteenth-century antislavery political tracts by Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano; an autobiography by a British-Jamaican nurse during the Crimean war, Mary Seacole; and historical and critical articles on slavery, resistance, and empire, including work by Ian Baucom, Vincent Brown, Colin Dayan, Yogita Goyal, C. L. R. James, Saidiya V. Hartman, Edward B. Rugemer, Hortense Spillers, Christopher Taylor, and Alexander G. Weheliye. Contemporary works responding to atrocities of slavery and the afterlife in Britain of British abolition will include the poetry cycle Zong! by Trinidadian/Canadian lawyer and poet/griot M. NourbeSe Philip and the recent novel The Fraud by Zadie Smith.

Students seeking pre-1800 credit, including Americanists and those in Francophone studies, may develop projects focused on literature by colonial-era or early US writers, or on the Haitian revolution. Research projects on early West Indian literature are also possible. The course has been approved for credit toward the Graduate Certificate in Human Rights.

Course Requirements include: a 20-25 page seminar paper or two shorter papers consisting of a critical analysis paper of approx. 10 pages and a research/conference style paper of 12-15 pages; a scholarly literature review paper or an annotated bibliography; two class presentations, one of which may focus on teaching; complete all readings and regular discussion participation; weekly 2-3 page short analysis paper on the class readings.

ENGL 6550-01: Seminar in Rhetoric and Composition Theory; Researching and Teaching Second Language Reading and Writing


The field of Second Language (L2) writing aims at exploring the nature of multilingual students’ (students who use English as an additional language) engagement with writing and reading practices in school and out-of-school contexts. With the increasing number of multilingual students in U.S. higher education, UConn is not exceptional given that many international undergraduate and graduate students join diverse programs every academic year. With that trend, Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) also released statement on Second Language Writing and Multilingual Writers, and one of the statements explicitly emphasizes the importance of offering “teacher preparation based on evidence-based scholarship and best practices for multilingual writers in the forms of graduate courses, faculty workshops, relevant conference travel, and when possible, require such coursework or other similar preparation for instructors working with writers in a higher-education context” (CCCC Statement on Second Language Writing and Multilingual Writers). This proposed course intends to heed the statement in line with the instructor’s expertise in L2 writing.

In this course, we’ll be discussing many topics related to L2 writing and, to a lesser extent (due mainly to time constraints), L2 reading. The focus on L2 reading will, to some degree, take place in relationship to writing, that is, reading-writing connections, as it is commonly believed that the two skills overlap a great deal in terms of the core sub-skills they draw upon. In the final analysis, both are acts of meaning making, and in academic contexts, which is the primary lens operating in this course, they work closely together. That is, students often write based on reading (reading-to-write) and sometimes use writing to enhance reading (writing-to-read). This course will focus on research and teaching, as the two go hand in hand in the L2 context. That is, L2 writing research (and reading research) is generally conducted with an eye toward implications for instruction and takes place in instructional settings. In addition, there are few opportunities, in terms of courses (the current graduate program’s course offerings in English department are spare in this area despite graduate teaching associates’ requests on more coursework in L2 writing and increasing number of international students taking FYW courses), to talk about how to teach writing (and reading), and yet it is very possible that this is something many of you will eventually do (or perhaps are doing now). So, while we’ll discuss ways of researching writing (and reading) and what researchers have found, we’ll also look at teaching-related issues. With these various purposes in mind, our Ferris & Hedgcock book will take us deeply into the pedagogical side of writing (and to a lesser extent reading), and the Leki book (which reports and analyzes several longitudinal studies of L2 writing) will enable us to take a close look at writing research in action. This will lead to valuable discussions of issues related to researching L2 writing as well as to presenting writing research. Thus, at the end of this course, students will be able to achieve the following learning objectives:

(a)   Students will be able to obtain in-depth expertise in L2 reading and writing instruction that they can use in their own teaching contexts.

(b)   Students will be able to exit this course with future research topics that they can develop further for their dissertation or their own research.

(c)   Students will be able to design qualitative research in a systematic way.

Required and Additional Texts

  1. Teaching L2 Composition: Purpose, Process, and Practice. 2014 (3rd edition). Dana Ferris & John Hedgcock. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
  2. Undergraduates in a Second Language: Challenges and Complexities of Academic Literacy Development. 2007. Ilona Leki. Lawrence Erlbaum.
  3. We’ll also read many articles, and most of them will be from journals (e.g., Journal of Second Language Writing, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, TESOL Journal etc.) and some book chapters.

ENGL 6600-01: Creative Writing Workshop; Hybrid Narratives

(Litman): In this seminar we will study and create 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. Our goal is to understand how these hybrid narratives work and to find inspiration for our own projects. Ideally, the assigned texts and projects will open up new possibilities for us, give us new ideas, and above all else, embolden us to experiment and take risks in our own work.

Over the first six weeks of the semester students will work on a series of exercises designed to (1) encourage them to play with genres (Experiment exercises) and (2) help them discover a larger narrative they might want to develop further (Building Block exercises). Students who already have a project in mind might choose to pursue it, or if not, they might let the exercises guide them and see what narratives/projects might emerge.

The reading list will include titles that combine poetry and visual arts (such as Intimate by Paisley Rekdal or Silent Anatomies by Monica Ong), or photography and prose (like True Stories by Sophie Calle); critical monographs in a form of graphic novel (such as Unflattening by Nick Sousanis); books the blur the line between criticism and fiction (such as Artful by Ali Smith), or criticism and memoir (such as The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson); and many other combinations.

ENGL 6800-01: American Studies: Methods and Major Texts

(Anson): This course provides a survey of the major texts, interdisciplinary methods, and critical questions of American Studies. American studies is an inquiry into structures of power, global economies of empire, shifting notions of territorial belonging and national identity, and the scope and force of cultural production. Beginning with the institutionalization of American Studies in the 1950s and 1960s, we will trace first how the “Myth and Symbol school” explored “what is an American?” through symbols like “the Frontier.” We will then follow the transformation of American Studies by ethnic studies and cultural studies in the 1980s through the “transnational turn” of the late 1990s, asking what role the emergence of climate science and the new field of ecocriticism played in pushing the field both across borders and against the economies and ideologies of empire. We will devote the second half of the term to contemporary directions in the field, learning how Indigenous studies, Black studies, Asian American studies, Latinx studies, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial studies, Marxism, and geography have troubled the question “What is an American?” Throughout, we will pay special attention to the long-standing, and arguably field-defining, links between American Studies and the environmental humanities, attending to land/s as a vital and enduring analytic.   

*This course description adapted in part from Dr. Chris Vials