About the experience of reading poetry, poet Jorie Graham writes, "Doing what I am asked to do is deeply different from interpreting what the poet means." In this class, we'll engage poems by doing what they ask us to do, by encountering and experiencing them, their meaning and their music, with our whole selves: mind and body and voice. Class participants will perform a wide array of poems, from dramatic monologues to sound experiments, from prophetic blasts to subtle praise-songs, and reflect on their preparation and performances in short essays. As this class will focus on the performance of contemporary poetry, class participants should be adventurous and willing to experiment, or, at least, intrigued by the opportunity to try to be so. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
We will examine the notion that story is the essence of all literature, even as we question what is essential for a text to be a story. In examining such ideas, we will study short stories from a variety of places to see what they suggest about the genre. We'll distinguish story (with beginning, middle, and end) from plot (which admits the uncertainty of beginnings and endings and everything in between), and we'll examine different styles of literary imagination as they engage us. In considering the traditional elements of fiction—plot, character, setting, point of view, thematic concerns—we will look at how those elements can propose and/or subvert meaning. We will consider, too, the limits of the short story: what it can and cannot accomplish. We will consider the kinds of fictions we offer ourselves and one another and try to discover what that says about us all. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
The Latinx literary renaissance, beginning in the 1980’s and continuing to this day, has produced some of the most important recent and contemporary writing in the U.S., including that by Pulitzer Prize winners like Oscar Hijuelos and Junot Díaz, and the U.S. Poet Laureate 2015 – 2017, Juan Felipe Herrera. Readings will include fiction by such writers as Hijuelos and Díaz, Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, Cristina Henríquez, Richard Rodríguez, Gloria Anzaldúa, Jaime Manrique, Ana Castillo, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, Cristina García, and Ernesto Quiñonez. We will study styles and structures of literary texts and the ways in which they function in the service of narratives of American life, with diverse cultural elements that contribute to the experience of Latinidad. Those elements may include the construction of identity in terms of race, class, gender, and sexuality; bilingualism and code-switching; the experiences of the exile, the immigrant, and the refugee; sense of place and displacement; the idea of home; the marketing of the Latinx identity; power, borders, community, and the family. Note: All of the texts are written in English, though some may include occasional phrases and passages in Spanish.Prerequisites: None.
Science fiction has long suffered from a reputation as escapist fare unworthy of consideration as serious literature. One reason for this may be that, by definition, science fiction represents that which does not (or does not yet) exist. In this course, we will consider how science fiction uses “that which does not exist”—imagined futures, alternate histories, alien cultures, utopias and dystopias, etc.—to grapple with genuine historical, social, and philosophical concerns.
In this course we will explore narratives of discovery, ranging in time from Homer's Odyssey to John Krakauer's Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster. Our purpose will be to discover what the purposes of travel—personal, political, social, imaginative—have been and how they change over time and from culture to culture. Possible readings: The Birthday Boys, Invisible Cities, The Inferno, Lieutenant Nun: Memoirs of a Basque Transvestite in the New World, The Odyssey, Into Thin Air, A River Sutra, Gulliver's Travels, along with selections from the work of Annie Dillard and Michel de Montaigne. Possible films: Apocalypse Now, Everest: The Death Zone, The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
A study of the contemporary mystery novel, whose preoccupations may be classic—the application and misapplication of justice, for example—but which highlights how the specifics like cultures, history, and place determine the way we define and prosecute crime as well as administer justice. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
Taking as our starting point Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, our course examines select twentieth- and twenty-first century American and British women writers, with an emphasis on cultural diversity. We will read novels, auto-biographies, graphic novels, plays, short stories, and poems, as well as view films. Among the questions we will ask are: What do we mean by women's literature? How has it been influenced by changing societal norms? How might gender and feminist theories be used as categories of textual analysis? And how have women used different textual genres to express their subjectivity? Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
One English 17th century writer thought he had this worked out: Women should be seen outside the home only three times in her life: when she's baptized, when she's married, and when she's buried. The contest over woman's place in the landscape of literature is the subject of this course. We will be reading novels, poems, plays, and films and looking at ways in which feminine spaces and places in mostly English and American literature become sites of resistance and accommodation. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
This course counts for the English minor and major (literature track) and for the Women’s Studies minor and major; it also receives credit for general education in literature.What makes a girl good? What makes a good girl go bad? Can a bad girl make good? We’ll read (mostly) contemporary literature that challenges conventions and remakes conventional stories to accommodate the unconventional desires and aspirations of bad girls. Work for the course will include an essay exam, two close reading papers, two projects (with accompanying narratives), a recitation (memorizing lines from one of the two plays), reading quizzes, and occasional informal writing.
This course explores significant developments in the war novel, as well as changing social attitudes and psychological responses to war. Students will read and view a variety of material, from flag-waving heroism to "M*A*S*H"-like attempts to survive. The course will also introduce students to basic literary criticism. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
In this course, we will examine the techniques that writers and filmmakers use to explore the emotional and ethical complexities of illness and recovery. This course asks: how do writers use such literary concepts as genre, shifts in time and perspective, subtext, and imagery to negotiate philosophical, ethical, and political questions about the body? What does the study of illness and recovery in these texts tell us about the culture in which they were produced? We will examine literature and film in a range of styles and genres. Our reading and viewing list may include works by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Anton Chekhov, William Carlos Williams, Franz Kafka, Eugene O'Neill, Lucille Clifton, Marilyn Hacker, Sharon Olds, and Akhil Sharma. Students will write two papers, take a midterm and final exam, and participate in regular in-class discussions of the assigned texts. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
In this course, we will investigate how writers and filmmakers use the specific techniques of their genre—including shifts in time and perspective, dialogue, and powerful imagery in writing, and mise en scene, flashbacks, quick cuts, and voiceovers in film—to negotiate ethical and political questions about allegedly criminal acts. Why are writers so interested in evidence, testimony, and justice, and what does this preoccupation reveal to us about the culture in which these works were produced?
We will examine literature and film in a wide range of styles and genres. Our reading list may include works by Euripides, William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Susan Glaspell, Franz Kafka, Truman Capote, Arthur Miller, and Martín Espada, among others. Students will write two papers, take a midterm and final exam, and participate in regular in-class discussions of the assigned texts. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
A comparative examination of texts that present the search for self-knowledge and enlightenment. Our focus will be on the tension and anxiety inherent in the process of self-discovery, on the dialogues between self and other that incite clashes between self-perception and customary reality.
Possible readings: The Awakening; The Dharma Bums; Frankenstein; Grendel; Heart of Darkness; Inferno; Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart; The Metamorphosis; The Road; Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
“Freaks,” or human oddities were commonly placed on display for the ‘amusement’ and ‘education’ of paying customers in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century United States. At freakshows, spectators could survey individuals with tattoos or extremely long hair, women in pants, midgets, fat ladies, and “wild men” (people of color dressed up as “primitive savages”). What should be clear from this list is that what marks someone as a “freak” changes depending on the historical moment and setting. Freaks serve to define the politics of the normal. In this course, we will explore the representation of physical, mental, and social freakishness in fiction and film, thinking about how freaks define and challenge the boundaries between normalcy and deviance. We will focus on such issues as belonging and alienation, race, gender, and the performance of identity.
Critical reading and interpretation of literary texts. Encourages close reading as well as oral and written work in articulating understanding. May be repeated for credit if subject matter is not duplicated. A number of 170 courses are offered each semester. Current and past titles include:
The poet Emily Dickinson provides perhaps the best definition of the Gothic: "Tis so appalling—it exhilarates." As a genre, Gothic literature is usually defined by the effect it produces in the reader, namely fear—fear that is often thrilling and revelatory. In this course, we will study the fiction, poetry, and drama that comprise the American Gothic, a literature of mysterious events, shadowy figures, and outright horror that spans the Puritan witchcraft trials to modern slasher films. Paying close attention to formal elements, we will explore Gothic literature's psychological and historical dimensions, asking what such literature can tell us about Americans' deepest anxieties and desires. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
The central character in plays, novels, or short stories who displays attributes opposing those of traditional heroes is often called the anti-hero. While intriguing and engaging, anti-heroes always relate a search for identity and self-justification that ends in a new vision of their societies. Tracing this literary being through plays and fiction affords an introduction to one of the most popular kinds of characters, to some classic pieces of literature, and to important historic and formal elements of literature. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
Church lady's question is funny but provocative, in part because it exposes our literary conceptions of such a thing as evil. How does literature give to this airy nothing a face and a name? By examining a number of texts from different historical periods, we will attempt to understand the ways in which literary representations of evil shape our very conceptualizations of this abstract idea.
The course will be organized around such topics as the faces of the Satanic, evil and the inexplicable, women and the demonic, visions of hell, the horrors of doppelgangers, twins and doubles. The reading list will include drama, poetry, novels and film, chosen from among the following: selections from Dante's Divine Comedy, Milton's Paradise Lost, Shakespeare's Othello, Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Ingmar Bergman's The Devils' Eye, and The Fallen Angel (the novel from which the film, Angel Heart derives). Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
WARNING: Some of the reading and viewing requirements for this course include offensive language, graphic description of sexual activity, and violence. Not for the faint-hearted or easily offended.
Classic fairytales, such as Cinderella, are woven into the fabric of Western culture. These tales become analogies, archetypes, and metaphors for understanding our world. The word "fairytale" suggests something pleasant for children, but such tales appear to have arisen from the darker impulses in human nature. In this course, we will explore the "shadow" in the fairytale motif and selected fantasy literature. Texts and films will include works such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the 1956 film Forbidden Planet, various versions of selected fairytales, as well as modern literary fairytales. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
This course offers an interdisciplinary reading of Jane Austen’s novels by examining the financial behavior of her characters and associating them with modern day economic theories and concepts. The course studies how Austen’s early nineteenth-century understanding of happiness and prudence matches present-day economist understanding of contentment and rationality. Prerequisites: None
Many writers straddle two or more worlds. Some do this by choice, others by force. This displacement from one's culture or way of life impacts fundamental notions of belonging and home. During this course we will examine literature created during displacement, and in the process explore issues such as guilt, censorship, multiculturalism and home. Readings will include work by writers who have fled their countries under the threat of death or imprisonment and those who have made the choice to live outside their homeland. We will also look at writing that has come out of other forms of displacement, including incarceration and physical paralysis, and examine how these newfound limitations—of place, freedom, physicality—bring another dynamic to the literature. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
In Middle Age Crazy: Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, and John Updike, students will read select stories and novels from these highly regarded American authors in the context of larger issues that include gender issues, mid-life crises, substance use, infidelity, and the whole idea of what it means to be an adult in a complicated world. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
Comedy isn't all laughs. In fact, it is often a corrective or even subversive medium for the assertion or reclaiming of power. This is how we will understand what is meant by politics, which is the use of power to accomplish some end. We will be looking primarily at plays, but we may also venture briefly into other forms of comedy. We will differentiate between theories of humor, laughter, and comedy. Although these seem to refer to the same thing, they do not—and we'll find out why. This is a course about gaining insight into literature as a force in society. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
In 1963, the last year the United States conducted atmospheric tests of the atom bomb, the poet Hayden Carruth declared that "the supreme political fact of our lives is the atomic bomb." In this course we'll consider American writers' responses to the development of the atom bomb and to bomb testing, to nuclear accidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and to the twin threats of nuclear contamination and annihilation. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
The road has long functioned as an iconic image of transformation, freedom, and conquest in American culture. In this course, we will study road books, asking how travel illuminates and complicates American identity. In class, we will trace the legacy of captivity and slave narratives in the road book and discuss such issues as nationalism, tourism, and globalization. Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
The 1960s have taken hold of the national consciousness as few decades have. In this course, we will examine the literature of the 60s, especially the literature which arose out of the main protest movements of the time (the Civil Rights movement, 1960s feminism, anti-war protests, and the counterculture), as well as some of the reactions of "mainstream" America to those movements. Authors discussed may include LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Gwendolyn Brooks Prerequisites: None. Offered occasionally.
Calling all murderinos! From the podcast My Favorite Murder to the Netflix documentary Making of a Murderer, we’re obsessed with true crime. Even as violent crime statistics have continued to decline in the United States over the past twenty years, our consumption of crime stories has only increased. This class will explore the true crime genre through literature, film, podcasts and music to uncover what our obsession with crime says about our cultural fears and anxieties. Is it ethical to treat real crimes as entertainment? How do artists transform the facts of violence into art? What can looking at true crime tell us about our justice system? How do issues of race, gender, geography, class, and sexual orientation factor in? In addition to textual analysis and class discussions, this class will also give students the opportunity to create their own true crime podcast.
Examines how issues of representation, genre, and historical context cooperate in a “reading” of British, American, or other English language texts.May be repeated for credit if the subject matter is not duplicated. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium. Not all 220 sections receive general education credit in Literature. See current Program of Classes to determine if general education requirements are fulfilled. A number of 220 courses are offered each semester. Current and past titles include:
Beginning with World War I, this class will examine some of the ways in which poets have confronted the social, political, and aesthetic crises of the twentieth century. With selections from David Jones's "In Parenthesis" and poems by Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Isaac Rosenberg, for example, we will study poetic responses to war in the trenches and on the home front. Jones and T.S. Eliot will provide an introduction to Modernism, which takes as one of its important points of departure the Cubist exhibit at the Grafton Gallery in London in 1910 and the challenge that the exhibit posed to all artistic expression. The course will then proceed in accordance with the following categories: The Thirties: poetry and politics in the generation of W. H. Auden (who himself volunteered in the Spanish Civil War); Neo-Romanticism and alternative models after 1945: Dylan Thomas, poets of "The Movement," Geoffrey Hill; Women's Voices of Resistance: U. A. Fanthorpe, Fleur Adcock, Frieda Downie, Elma Mitchell, Eavan Boland, Eiléan Ní Chuilléanáin; Nationalism and the Irish past: W.B. Yeats, John Montague, Seamus Heaney. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
The course idea starts with a question: "What's a 'classic' anyway?" Or better: "What plays a role in determining one? Popularity? A tidy plot? Endurance?" In pursuing this attempt at definition or clarification, we'll have to become familiar with how fiction works, learn to frame conceptual questions about texts regarding representation, genre, or historic content, see basic patterns in fiction, and understand that texts don't just convey messages and that readers have different viewpoints. Most important, we will read really famous novels and stories, a treat in itself. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
In "What Is the Contemporary?" philosopher Giorgio Agamben writes, "All eras, for those who experience contemporariness, are obscure. The contemporary is precisely the person who knows how to see this obscurity, who knows how to write by dipping his [sic] pen in the obscurity of present." In this course, we will examine a wide array of contemporary poets and kinds of poetry—from the Metamodernist to Slam, from the Deep Image to the Gurlesque—to learn more about the ways American poets try to clarify and/or convey the strangeness, the confounding beauty and devastation, of contemporary life. When possible, featured poets will be a part of class discussion—either in person or via Skype. Responses to reading will be critical and creative. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
Arguably one of the most important utterances in James Joyce's Ulysses is Stephen Dedalus's pronouncement, "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." Whether we regard that history as individual, familial, linguistic, religious, political, social, or any of the other myriad possibilities, the fact is that for the Irish, history matters. We'll be reading Irish literature after Joyce to see what happens as writers come to terms with their literary history and as the characters they create come to terms with the other histories that engage and resist them. Texts by Roddy Doyle, Edna O'Brien, Bernard MacLaverty, Frances Molloy, Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Brian Friel, Ann Devlin, and others. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
Continuity and Change in British Poetry is a self-conscious survey of the poetry of three periods of British literature: 18th Century, Romantic and Victorian. As a survey, the course will introduce you to many of the major British poets of these eras. As a self-conscious survey, the course will raise questions about the nature and content of these literary historical categories. For example, we might ask, how is Romantic poetry different from late 18th Century poetry, and what were the causes of the change? What do we do with a poet like Blake, whose poetry has both 18th Century and Romantic characteristics? Would this way of dividing literary history still hold if we were to focus on women's poetry as a distinct literary tradition? Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
The American 1850s constituted perhaps the most crucial decade the U. S. had faced since its founding as a nation. The slavery was being agitated as never before, and the political system strained to keep the Union whole: legislatively, the Compromise of 1850 (including the Fugitive Slave Act) and the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), which effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820; judicially, the Dred Scott decision in the Supreme Court (1857), which denied the any legal rights to slaves; and, politically, the foundation of the Republican Party (1854). But at the same time that the country was futilely struggling to avoid civil war, American writers produced some of the finest poetry, essays and fiction the U. S. has ever known. This course will examine major texts by authors like Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Stowe, Emerson and Thoreau, with the goal in mind of how this literature both influenced and was influenced by the socio-political 'crescendo' of the 1850s. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
Possibly the most famous stage direction in literary history is in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, when the script requires a character to “exit, pursued by a bear.” This simple stage direction accomplishes quite a lot: it disposes of a character who knows more than the plot later requires, marks an important moment of narrative transition, and effectively clears the stage for a change in setting and mood—from court to countryside, from dark irrationality to purity and love. On its own, “exit, pursued by a bear” does not appear to have the stuff of great literature, yet such nuts and bolts are important in combining the practical issues of performance with the literary necessity of an audience’s experience of meaningfulness. Perhaps the most thorough way to understand drama as a genre is to write it. In this course, we will read significant plays and brief works on playwriting and production practicalities while writing original dramatic scenes, character studies, plot descriptions, and reflections on process and product. We will do this in a relaxed workshop format with some lecture and a great deal of discussion. Does not count toward English-Writing major.
This is a writing intensive course. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
Vladimir Nabokov, a novelist and lepidopterist, discovered the same intrigue in the natural world that he also found in art: “Both were a form of magic, both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception.” Scientific inquiry and discovery are human endeavors that are filled with mystery, wonder, and astonishment. In this class, students will focus on literature that finds its impulse in science and uses it as a lens thorough which to explore the human condition. Students will investigate areas of inquiry that arise as a result of the literature and write both critically and creatively at the intersection of fact and emotion. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
This class uses a line out of Shakespeare's Hamlet to define two of its organizing structures; in Hamlet, "The play's the thing/ Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." Hamlet finds a group of players and has them perform a mini-play before his uncle in order to watch his uncle's reaction and see whether he is guilty of killing his brother. This class will look at plays that (1) have reflexive elements and/or (2) are concerned with issues of conscience. Many plays have reflexive elements that ask us to be more self-conscious about the fact that we are watching/reading a play: they may have a character acts as a director like Kate in She Stoops to Conquer; they may have mini-productions within them that cause viewers to become more aware of the standards of the play's author as in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream; they may toy with conventions of dramatic illusion (as in Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author and Right You Are, If You Think You Are); they may have language that draws attention to itself and conflicts in some way with the dramatic assumptions as in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
The second assumption in this course is that many of the authors have definite aims in relation to their audiences. These aims may not be ones we first think of in relation to conscience; in fact, they may challenge some of our moral assumptions (for instance, about sexuality and gender in Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw). But in offering these challenges, they attempt to convert us, to broaden our perspectives, or to make us think. We will also read Ibsen's A Doll's House, Shaw's Arms and the Man, Aristophanes' Lysistrata, and Moliere's The Bourgeois Gentleman, and we will also use one of the spring productions by the School of Theatre Arts, Churchill's Fen and Shaw's Misalliance, to consider adaptation and production issues. Reading quizzes, two papers, two exams. Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium
Focusing on prominent contemporary writers and artists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, this course offers an introduction to South Asian literature, art, and culture. In addition to poetry and prose, the course also examines other prominent artforms emerging from these regions, such as paintings, music, and theater. Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium.
From Aldo Leopold's attempt to think "like a mountain" to Gary Snyder's challenge to bring "the wild" into our lives no matter where we live, writers and poets have played an important part in the forging of a contemporary environmental consciousness. Readings will include the classic and the contemporary, the pragmatic and the visionary. Although the course is writing based and writing intensive, assignments will also take you outside of the classroom to engage more directly the natural world. Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium
The Web of American Poetry is founded on a central working assumption: poems take much of their meaning from the many contexts into which they can be placed. Poems allude to or borrow styles, techniques or ideas from previous works; they rebel against earlier poetic traditions; they aspire to emulate other arts, such as painting or music; they converse with history, politics and religion. Learning to interpret American poetry, then, is in large part a matter of recognizing the strands of meaning that connect particular poems in a web of meanings, and of seeing a particular poem against the backdrop of American poetry as a whole and its social and historical contexts. In this course, we will trace some of these strands of meaning in American poetry from the Puritan era to the second half of the 20th C. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
In Samuel Beckett's Endgame, one of the characters laments, "Ah, the old questions, the old answers, there's nothing like them!" In Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Rosencrantz says, "I remember when there were no questions." Guildenstern responds, "There were always questions. To exchange one set for another is no great matter." While Beckett's character seems to take comfort in his nostalgic recollections, privileging the past, Stoppard's characters find little if any solace in the notion of one set of questions as opposed to any other.
This class will examine a variety of texts to see what the "old questions" are that literary texts have posed and to see if there are "new questions" that now replace or augment them. We'll consider the implications of our findings: are there only the old questions, posed, perhaps, in new ways, or are there genuinely new questions with which literary texts now confront their readers? We will read texts from a variety of genres and periods. Several papers and exams. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
Shakespeare is often celebrated for creating "modern" women in his plays, but as Virginia Woolf pointed out, Shakespeare's sisters wouldn't actually have had many opportunities to exercise their "modernity." This course will examine how early modern literature represents the categories that limit women during Shakespeare's period. We will also examine how 20th and 21st century riffs on Shakespeare's works deal with this issue. This course is writing-intensive and includes informal and formal writing assignments. We will also be working on developing research questions and research strategies.
This course counts for gen. ed. in literature, the writing-intensive flag, English major and minor, Women's Studies major and minor. Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium
A study of the emergence of drama as a literary and a cultural forming Shakespeare's era. Offered in alternate years. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium
Post-World War II realities will provide the point of departure for this course, with the absurdists, represented by Samuel Beckett, and “kitchen-sink realists” such as John Osborne setting the issues in a theatrical context. We will proceed with the works of playwrights such as Joe Orton, Peter Shaffer, Pam Gems, Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Michael Frayn, Brian Friel, and Anne Devlin—quite independent voices in the staging of social and political concerns of the last fifty years in Great Britain. Set in dramatic forms that at times defy easy apprehension, this body of work provides a strong foundation for understanding the staging of private and public issues in the contemporary theatrical world. Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium
A study of American drama of the past sixty to seventy years, with special focus on theatrical innovation and the staging of social issues. Offered in alternate years. Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium
Examines the rise and development of the feudal system and attendant cultural tensions in medieval texts— chronicles, biographies, epics, lyrics, romances, and their modern analogues. Offered in alternate years. Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium
This course offers an introduction to early modern English Poetry, including sonnet sequences, epics, and devotional lyrics. Close readings of poems will yield an understanding of the preoccupations of the period—including women’s chastity, homoerotic desire, scientific knowledge, and the nature of sin and despair. Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium.
Focus on comedy of manners and novel of manners, which often challenge a highly sophisticated society, and on the genre's evolution from its beginnings in the 17th century to the present. Offered in alternate years. Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium
This course examines the representation of slavery in American literature and film from the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries, illuminating the ways that this institution was and continues to be foundational to American experience and identity. Pre-requisite: Gateway Colloquium. Offered occasionally.
Introduces basic questions and issues facing post-colonial writers: audience, relationship between culture and politics, adaptation of western literary forms, intervention in the historical record, and place of "orality" in "literature." Readings in English. Offered in alternate years. Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium
The Web of American Poetry is founded on a central working assumption: poems take much of their meaning from the many contexts into which they can be placed. Poems allude to or borrow styles, techniques or ideas from previous works; they rebel against earlier poetic traditions; they aspire to emulate other arts, such as painting or music; they converse with history, politics and religion. Learning to interpret American poetry, then, is in large part a matter of recognizing the strands of meaning that connect particular poems in a web of meanings, and of seeing a particular poem against the backdrop of American poetry as a whole and its social and historical contexts. In this course, we will trace some of these strands of meaning in American poetry from the Puritan era to the second half of the 20th C. Prerequisite(s): Gateway Colloquium 100.
This course examines hip-hop, a set of cultural practices that includes rap, dance, and graffiti art. Studying hip-hop as literature, students analyze the poetics of rap, consider the sociopolitical significance of rap’s racial and gendered performances, and explore the influence of hip-hop on contemporary literary fiction. Prerequisite(s): Gateway Colloquium 100.
Between 1917 and 1970, more than six million African-Americans departed the rural U.S. South seeking asylum, economic opportunity, and equality in the urban North. This "Great Migration," as scholars call this collective movement, reconfigured the demographics, politics, and culture of both regions. This course will explore the Great Migration through two disciplinary lenses - cultural history and literature - in order to reimagine the twentieth century United States from an African-American perspective that decenters and denaturalizes whiteness as an unspoken condition in this historical construction of American identity.
Prerequisite(s): Gateway Colloquium 100.
Examines fiction, poetry, drama, essays on culture and literature, and autobiography by women of African descent. Offered annually. Prerequisites: Gateway Colloquium
Emphasis on texts in overseas or domestic contexts in which they were created or upon which they focus. All or most of May term will be spent off campus. May be repeated for credit if the topic is not duplicated. See current Program of Classes to determine if general education requirements are fulfilled. Offered in May Term.
Practice in interpretation of texts through discussion and written work; attention to strategies of writing about literature, to critical vocabulary, and to critical approaches in current use. Restricted to English majors and minors only. Offered each semester. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium.
Design and completion of library or archive research project in language, literature, or culture under faculty tutelage. Research may serve as first step toward larger, independent research project, investigate an issue raised in student's previous study, or complete a limited project using library or archive holdings or acquisitions. Prerequisite: consent of instructor and English department chair before enrollment. Credit/No Credit. Offered each semester and occasionally in May Term.
Design and completion of advanced-level library or archive research project in language, literature, or culture under faculty tutelage. Research can build on previous coursework or study in 285x. Ideally, this research serves as a foundation for a project in English 485 or English research honors. Prerequisite: consent of instructor and English department chair before enrollment and a GPA in the major of at least 3.25.May be repeated with prior approval of instructor and chair. Offered each semester and occasionally in May Term.
Readings of English and Continental texts from the 9th-15th centuries with selected readings in Middle English and in modern translation from Latin, Old French, Provencal, Welsh, and other traditions. May include Arthurian romance, the literature of courtly love, drama, lyric poetry, or writings of medieval mystics. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered in alternate years.
Investigates issues of representation of gender and sexuality, representations of the court, the place of the stage, versions of early modern selfhood, and moral theory in the Renaissance period, 1520-1660. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered as needed.
Focus on British authors between 1660-1789 who consider issues of aristocratic decadence, wit as a moral touchstone, emergence of the middle class, and gender through the use of satire, romance, the novel (epistolary, picaresque, comic), comedy of manners, sentimental and laughing comedy, neoclassical tragedy, and mock forms Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 170 or 220-259, plus 280. Offered in alternate years.
Examines the great literature—much of it poetry— of the period 1789-1830. Addresses themes and issues characteristic of this time of unrest and redefinition. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered in alternate years.
In this course, we will investigate how Renaissance literature helped to shape our twenty-first century ideas about race, ethnicity, colonization, and religious difference. Students will read a variety of plays, poems, and essays that foreground European encounters with the Mediterranean, the New World, Africa, and Asia in the period between 1400- 1650. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium and one of the following: ENGL 280, HIST 121, HIST 123, HIST 224, or HIST 323. Offered in alternate years.
Focus on British novelists, poets, playwrights, and essayists between 1830-1900 who are drawn to themes of the divided self, middle class decorum, the fight for women's suffrage and education, organization of the working class, responses to poverty, expansion of the British empire, and religious conversion and doubt. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered in alternate years.
Examines literature of England, Ireland, and Scotland since 1930 with emphasis on aspects of experimentation in form resulting from the modernist movement and the backlash against it. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered occasionally.
One of the dominant myths of US nationalism is “Manifest Destiny,” the idea that the United States’ continental expansion and development into a world power was inevitable.
In actuality, there was nothing inevitable about an unstable post-colonial state with no national language and little shared history coming to dominate a continent and its residents. Americans’ move west was characterized by anxiety, conflict, and conquest. This course explores the narratives of community and nation that competed during this time of national uncertainty. Specifically, we’ll explore notions of American character from the vantage of those who were often excluded from national belonging: African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and white women, and we will examine the ways that gender and sexuality shaped and were shaped by national narratives. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered in alternate years.
Focus on aspect(s) of American literature since the Civil War to form a coherent view of American experience. Draws upon several literary and non-literary genres. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered in alternate years.
Focus on literary, historical, and cultural contexts and movements through faculty selected topics, e.g.., War and Literature, Black American Literature, The Modern Experiment and the Arts, Native American Literature, or Postmodernism. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered occasionally.
Emphasis and scope varies on American, British, or world modernism. Topics may include development of modernism, modernist views of language and art, the social contexts of literary modernism, for example. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered occasionally.
Focus on 1) Anglophone literature of Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean, or 2) national literature in translation, or 3) comparative treatments of issues, authors or literary genres. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered in alternate years.
In this course we will study experimental fiction in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with particular emphasis on concerns of style and structure. We will read texts that call into question the limits of representation and of genre, even as they make representational gestures within what seem to be standard genres (the short story and the novel). We will examine whether these fictional experiments represent an escape from the world or involve a different and perhaps more engaged response to post-World War II realities. We will study texts by writers who are American (Maso, Danielewski), Italian (Calvino), Irish (Beckett), Mexican (Fuentes), Argentinean (Cortázar), and Czech (Kundera). Other writers may be substituted, depending on availability of texts. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. English 280 can be waived with the permission of the instructor.
Examines this genre as a testing ground for the nature of literary form, art, and human agency, and especially as a site for investigating the role of memory, truth vs. fiction, and the self as a narrating subject. Topics include journey stories, culture and self, subversion of form, women’s auto-gynography, and popular/ journalistic contours of the form. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered occasionally.
Focus on “the romance” form to develop a provisional definition based upon: formal conventions, generic evolution, transfigurations, deconstruction and instances of self-parody. Consideration of romance authors as revisionists or voices of social change. Readings from biblical romances to contemporary novels. Includes films. Because the bulk of the course is pre-1830, it satisfies the pre-1830 requirement. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered occasionally.
Special Topics in Literature
Courses with related objectives but varying content. May treat a genre (fiction, poetry, drama) or broad theme with extensive rather than specialized focus. May be repeated if subject matter is not duplicated. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. See current Program of Classes to determine if general education requirements are fulfilled. Offered occasionally.
"The Empire writes back to the Centre," wrote Salman Rushdie approvingly in 1982, but these days it can be difficult even to locate that "centre." We'll read contemporary works that consider what it is to be colonial, post-colonial, British, and even post-9/11 and 7/7. Readings will likely include Zadie Smith's White Teeth, Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Hanif Kureishi's adaptation for the stage of his novel The Black Album. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280.
As the novel rose to prominence in the Age of Enlightenment, so did the global slave trade. This paradox is no where more apparent than in U.S. literature, which celebrates the quintessentially American values of liberty and individualism even as it explores the quintessentially American experience of slavery. Reading novels from the late eighteenth through late twentieth centuries, we will explore social and historical themes surrounding the institution of slavery, including abolitionism, the women’s movement, emancipation, imperialism, and civil rights. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280.
How and why do minds read and write literature? The cognitive science revolution of the past two decades has revealed that the mind is fundamentally literary: literary staples such as narrative and metaphor turn out to be central to the way that minds interact with their environments. How the mind works, however, is a central theme in literature that long predates the rise of cognitive science. In this class, we will apply recent work in cognitive approaches to literature to various literary texts to try to understand what the mind is doing in reading and writing literature, and we will examine a number of literary representations of the mind to see how authors have tested or anticipated recent theories of cognition. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered in alternate years.
This course introduces students to queer theory, a critical framework used to analyze gender and sexuality, and it immerses students in the interpretation of literature by gay, lesbian, queer, and trans-identified individuals as well as literature and films that take as their subject queer genders and sexualities. Pre-requisite: Gateway Colloquium and one of the following: ENGL 280, HEALTH 330, PHIL 230, SOC 222, SOC 311, or WGS 101.
Offered in alternate years.
A study of Chaucer's works in their cultural and biographical contexts. Emphasis on The Canterbury Tales, although other Chaucerian texts may be included. Readings in Middle English. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered in alternate years.
This course investigates the ways our culture is informed by Shakespeare's works and the ways in which we construct meaning from them. While focusing on the dramatic form we may occasionally include the sonnets and verse romances. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium and one of the following; ENGL 280, THEA 241, HIST 290, 321, or 323.
Both courses investigate the ways our culture is informed by Shakespeare's works and the ways in which we construct meaning from them. While both focus on the dramatic form, they may occasionally include the sonnets and verse romances. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium and one of the following; ENGL 280, THEA 241, HIST 290, 321, or 323.
Examines James Joyce's major works in cultural and historical contexts; emphasis on Ulysses. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium; 1 course from 109-170 or 220–259, plus 280. Offered occasionally.
Intensive study of a particular topic, author, or genre. Enrollment limited. Prerequisite: Majors and minors with junior or senior standing and prior completion of at least two 300- or 400-level courses in literature. Offered each semester.
Prerequisite: Majors and minors with junior or senior standing and prior completion of at least two 300- or 400-level courses in literature.
Writing Intensive Flag
So-called "magic realism"—which began in Germany in the 1950s and has summarily been used to describe the fiction of such Latin American writers such as Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Isabel Allende—hasn't exactly taken shape as a full-fledged literary movement in the U.S. Yet, a number of American writers have imbued their fictional "realities" with elements of the magical—levitation, flight, telepathy, telekenesis, phantasms—described "real" and fantastic events with the same matter-of-fact fictional detail and tone.
In this seminar, we will examine the works of selected American Magical Realists and draw comparisons with their Latin American predecessors. Class members will be responsible for "adopting" a magic realist and presenting that writer to the class, as well as completing two papers. Texts may include such books as W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, Toni Morrisson's Song of Solomon, Louise Erdrich's Tracks, Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciatto, Peter Matthiessen's Far Torguga, Cristina García's Dreaming in Cuban, John Updike's The Witches of Eastwick, and/or Bob Shacochis' short stories.
Prerequisite: Majors and minors with junior or senior standing and prior completion of at least two 300- or 400-level courses in literature.
Writing Intensive Flag
“Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.” Infinite Jest
This section of senior seminar really will be different from everyone else’s—ever! To begin with, we will read only one book. OK, sure: it’s one big book, but it’s one of the most hilarious texts written in the past 2 decades and also one of the most important. David Foster Wallace has been described as the foremost spokesperson of a new generation of American writers, an assessment that has only intensified since his death in 2008. Infinite Jest represents his pinnacle achievement, and we’ll be in a uniquely privileged position to see why, considering it was written almost entirely in Bloomington, IL, and will resonate for us in ways that few among Wallace’s readers will know as well as we already do. We’ll read the text together for the first half of the semester and will talk about the resources on line and just emerging in scholarly work on the novel to see what we think of it. Class presentation and two papers, approximately 10 pages each.
Prerequisite: Majors and minors with junior or senior standing and prior completion of at least two 300- or 400-level courses in literature.
Writing Intensive Flag
Jean-François Lyotard characterizes postmodernism as a state of “incredulity towards metanarratives.” In this view, our overarching explanations of the world—scientific, religious, historical, political, etc.—no longer function. It is perhaps ironic, then, that incredulity towards metanarratives has led to postmodern novels of such immense size and scope as to be called encyclopedic. In this course, we will study two such novels, Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, to see why a writer might be skeptical of metanarratives and how narratives of any kind can be constructed when narrative itself is open to question.
Independent study in English. May not duplicate the content of regularly offered courses. Enrollment limited to English majors. Prerequisite: consent of the instructor and the chair of the department. Student must submit a plan of study prior to enrollment. Offered each semester and occasionally in May Term.
Examines theory and practice of writing creatively. Reading combined with practice in the basic processes of and strategies for writing fiction, poetry, or drama. Offered annually.
Workshop in reading and writing fiction while focusing on principles and techniques used by writers and on key elements of the story form. Students will complete stories and develop a portfolio. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium. Offered annually.
Workshop in reading and writing poetry while focusing on primary techniques and fundamental elements used in writing poetry, both formal and free verse. Students will complete a series of poems and develop a portfolio. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium. Offered annually.
Workshop in reading and writing creative non-fiction while focusing on fundamentals, including situating experience, finding the right form, and developing a personal voice. Students will compete essays and develop a portfolio. Prerequisite: Gateway Colloquium. Offered in alternate years.
Workshop in a single genre or topic focusing on specific issues related to specific schools, styles or subjects in writing. May be repeated for credit if subject matter not duplicated. Prerequisite: 201 (if fiction), 202 (if poetry), 206 (if nonfiction), or consent of instructor. These prerequisites may be waived by the instructor based on evaluation of student's portfolio. Priority enrollment given to writing concentration majors when necessary. A number of 301 courses are offered each semester. Current and past titles include:
Write What You (Don't) Know
Ernest Hemingway said, "The hardest thing to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings. First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write." This course will focus on the convergence of craft and the different ways writers can "know" a subject. We will consider the fiction writer as explorer and anthropologist, seeking out those details and mysteries of the human experience that ignite our individual imaginations. We will consider how these findings can interact with narrative structure and how to integrate the necessary contexts that create vivid and believable characters, plots, settings, and voices. Writers will challenge their own boundaries in fiction, generate a significant amount of new material, and consider its effectiveness in discussion and revision.
In this course, students will consider the environmental underpinnings of fiction, exploring the way place works in concert with character and action to create evocative fiction. Students will engage in experiential learning to cultivate their observation skills, understand dimensions of place, and translate their observations into well-crafted fiction that has urgency. Prerequisite: ENGL 201. Offered occasionally.
In this course, students will examine and write concise literary essays, from the micromemoir to the brief personal essay. Writing with brevity, students will experiment with structure, concise imagery, and compressed language. While the form is short, it is not slight. As author Judith Kitchen writes, "the effect is a little sting." Prerequisite: ENGL 201 or ENGL 206. Offered occasionally.
While exploring techniques in narrative structure, character development, plotting, scenic construction, dialogue, description, and narrative voice, students will be encouraged to create a full-length novel. Previous classes focused on the mystery or literary novel, but topics may vary. Prerequisite: ENGL 201. Offered occasionally.
In this course, we will examine story sequences and novels-instories-structures that use carefully connected short stories to create compelling narrative progression. Students will engage in a sustained, on-line role play exercise, and use that experience to collaboratively create a collection of very short stories, which will become our text to better understand the dynamic nature of interrelation. Students will then plan, draft, and revise their own collection of interrelated stories. Prerequisite: ENGL 201. Offered occasionally.
Following an intense personal preoccupation is often the engine of a fiction. In this class, students will discuss the nature of these preoccupations and how they interact with the creative and writing processes. Students will generate a significant amount of new material and consider its effectiveness in discussion and revision. Prerequisite: ENGL 201. Offered occasionally
Even before they had paper and pen, ancient poets were drawn to formal structures, and contemporary poets continue to write formal verse. In this workshop, students write poems in a variety of forms and more experimental modes, including the blues poem, the sonnet, the ghazal, the sestina, the villanelle, erasure poetry, and Oulipian constraints. Prerequisite: ENGL 202. Offered occasionally.
In this course, students will read and write poems that engage with the world-politically, historically, and personally. We will ask: what makes a poem feel consequential? What are the ethical risks that poets must take in order to respond to the world? By the end of the semester, students will have written and revised a series of poems that feel urgent and essential. Prerequisite: ENGL 202. Offered occasionally.
Ekphrastic poetry is poetry that employs the visual arts as its subject matter and/ or inspiration. In this class, we will use the visual arts to make vital, new discoveries in the verbal art of poetry. Prerequisite: ENGL 202. Offered occasionally.
This course will introduce students to the art and practice of standup poetry, poetry that is humorous, performable, and clear, and that contains flights of fancy, emerges from a strong individual voice, and packs emotional punch. We will learn comedic techniques, and apply them to writing bold, new, risky, and rambunctious poems. Prerequisite: ENGL 202. Offered occasionally.
Poet William Blake writes, "I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man's." This course explores how systems - processes, projects, theoretical frameworks - assist the production of poetry, inspiring and informing it. By semester's end, each participant devises a poetic system and crafts a collection of related poems. Prerequisite: ENGL 202. Offered occasionally.
Capstone experience for English-Writing majors requires thoughtful study of portfolio work and completion of an extensive, ambitious individual project that's both a logical extension of the student's work and a new challenge. The course will be multi-genre, with an emphasis on feedback and support. Prerequisite: at least one 300-level writing course and senior standing. Offered annually.
Fundamentals of newswriting, with emphasis on style and structure; methods of news reporting. Offered annually.
English 212 is designed to give all students—would-be journalists or not—practice and perspective in Ed-Op writing, from the most basic form (letters to the editor) to more expanded and sophisticated versions (editorials and various types of columns), including logic, research, and persuasion techniques. In addition, the course will hopefully sensitize students the amount of Ed-Op material that passes for news on television and in print, help them evaluate the quality of opinions and arguments, and enable them to construct better arguments themselves. Prerequisite: JOUR 211 or consent of instructor.
Americans are becoming increasingly dependent upon social media for the news. This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of social/new media for journalists, including (but not limited to) research techniques, profession responsibilities, best practices, and storytelling across multiple platforms. Offered in alternate years.
Concentrated study in a specialized area of journalism. Topics will vary, but may include seminars in public relations, public affairs reporting, science and environmental writing, and travel writing. Prerequisite: 211 or 212 or consent of instructor. Offered occasionally.
Feature writing and investigative reporting for print journalism. Field trip(s) and real-world assignments, with an emphasis on publication. Prerequisite: 211 or 212 or consent of instructor. Offered in alternate years.
An internship taken with an off-campus business or organization for which writing is the intern’s primary responsibility. On-campus internship credit is also possible if all-campus general requirements for an internship are met. Approval of the English faculty internship supervisor is required. Offered each semester, May Term, and summers. Offered each semester and May Term.
This internship provides students with an opportunity to gain work experience in positions that emphasize editing, design, marketing, and other aspects of publishing and public relations. Section editors and assistant section editors for The Argus can also apply for this internship if the editor-in-chief is willing to serve as on-site supervisor. Approval of the English faculty internship supervisor is required. Offered each semester, May Term, and summers.