All Courses

208019_2007249985459_2295494_nA 100-level course is required for admission to most upper-level English courses, except in the case of students who have placed out of the introductory courses by receiving a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement examination in English Literature or of 6 or 7 on the International Baccalaureate.

If you are such a student, the English Department encourages you to select a Gateway course in either the fall or spring semester of your first year. You are also encouraged to look at other 200 and even some of our 300 level offerings for courses that interest you.

Students who receive advanced placement may still register for our 100 level offerings, but be aware that you will be given a lower priority for those courses and you may be dropped if the course becomes over-enrolled. Pat Malanga, the department Academic Assistant, can advise you on which 100 level courses that many advanced placement students take.

If you are a first-year student or have questions about getting into a 100 level course, please see our Information for First-year Students.

If you are having trouble finding a suitable English Course, do not hesitate to contact Pat Malanga at [email protected]. For more information on the way courses are numbered, please see The English Major for information.

ENGL 105(F)American Girlhoods

The image of the girl has captivated North American writers, commentators, artists, and creators of popular culture for at least the last two centuries. What metaphors, styles of writing, ideas of "manners and morals" does literature about girls explore? What larger cultural and aesthetic concerns are girls made to represent? And how is girlhood articulated alongside and/or intertwined with other identities and identifications, such as race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality? These are some of the issues we will explore in this course. [ more ]

ENGL 107Temptation

Last offered Fall 2017

We want most those things we can't--or shouldn't--have. Or, to put it another way, it is when limitations are placed on our actions by law, religion, or the facts of our own biology that we experience desire most acutely. In this course, we will examine fictional narratives, lyric poems, and philosophical meditations in which people are tempted to act against their better judgement. Free will, ambition, temperance, suspense, despair, and repression will be our conceptual preoccupations. We will get to know such writers and artists as Homer, Euripides, Ovid, Augustine, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Laclos, Mozart, Freud, Frost, and Scorsese. [ more ]

ENGL 108Everyday Stories

Last offered Fall 2017

We--human beings--consume stories every day, and we currently have a dazzling, even astonishing wealth of choices, every day. Most of these stories are Action Packed: this Thing blows up, this Heart throbs with passion, that Organization carries out some evil plot, this Person figures it out. We will examine the world of everyday storytelling across many mediums, from poetry to comic books to television, and across time, from the mid-19th century to the present. [ more ]

ENGL 111(F)Poetry and Politics

"Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world" wrote Shelley in his 1821 "Defence of Poetry," countering the widely held view of poetry's airy irrelevance to the material progress of humanity. His claims are echoed a century and a half later in Audre Lorde's "Poetry is Not a Luxury,"; in which she argues that poetry is a vital and essential part of her own political struggle as a Black lesbian feminist. But when W.B. Yeats--himself a very politically involved poet--writes in 1917 that "from the quarrel with others comes rhetoric; from the quarrel with ourselves comes poetry," he implies that poetry would suffer from too much involvement with the "quarrel with others" that is politics, becoming, perhaps, something more like advertising jingles for political dogma. And when W. H. Auden writes in 1939 that "poetry makes nothing happen" he appears to locate poetry's value precisely in its irrelevance to politics as such. This course will focus on the vexed relationship between poetry and political struggle, reading predominantly poetry and poetics (writings about poetry) of the last two centuries in an effort to answer the questions: what can poetry do for politics? what does politics do for (or to) poetry? Is poetry essential to political struggle, or do poetry and politics mix only to the detriment of both, producing, on the one hand, bad poetry, and on the other, mere distractions from the "real" work of politics? The primary goal of the course is to make students better readers of poetry, and better readers and writers of argumentative prose. [ more ]

ENGL 112Introduction to Literary Criticism

Last offered Fall 2017

What determines meaning? How we interpret is inevitably inflected by our own priorities and preoccupations, by the contexts in which we read, by the literary and other conventions influencing a work, and by the historical and personal circumstances of its composition, as well as deriving from the particular words of a text and from the mutable life of language itself. So how to go about the task of reading literature well, and reading critically? This course will focus on key introductory methods and critical approaches, and is intended to develop your skills in reading, writing about, discussing and interpreting literary texts. Our readings--mainly short fiction and poetry, along with selected introductory work in critical theory--will invite increased self-consciousness about literary form, the functions of criticism, and the process of reading and interpretation. In the last weeks of the course, we will read longer texts, including at least one play and one novel. [ more ]

ENGL 113(F)The Feminist Poetry Movement

Feminist poetry and feminist politics were so integrated in the 1960s and 1970s in America that critical essays on poets, such as Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde, appeared in the same handbook that listed such resources for women as rape crisis centers and health clinics. This course will map the crucial alliance between feminist politics (and its major cultural and political gains) and the feminist poetry movement that became a major "tool" for building, organizing, and theorizing second-wave feminism. In order to track this political and poetic revolution, we will take an interdisciplinary approach that brings together historical, critical, and literary documents (including archival ones) and visual products (through the Object Lab of the Williams College Art Museum) that recreate the rich context of the period and help us consider the important social nature of aesthetic production. At the center of the course will be writings of major poets of the period, as well as anthologies and feminist periodicals that published their work and created a significant forum and shared space for women to articulate the politics and poetics of change. These periodicals and anthologies will also help us track the diversity of the feminist poetry movement and its intersection with issues of race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality. Ultimately, we will want to consider how poetry serves as an important tool for thinking through questions of power and injustice and what role it plays in creating necessary imaginative space in the world for expression, critique, and change. [ more ]

Taught by: Bethany Hicok

Catalog details

ENGL 115(F)Rumble in the Jungle: Major Postcolonial Writers and Movements

The antagonism between the West and the rest has been a defining feature of contemporary thought, especially during the struggles of the colonies to establish themselves as independent nations at the turn of the twentieth century. While armies and politicians stayed busy using blunt tools of violence, class and caste warfare, and fanning the flames of religious and ethnic tension, many artists, writers, and theorists challenged simple binaries that made cultures out to be at odds with one another by giving voice to complex identities and histories. Our works will take us around the world, and stretch us across multiple histories of colonialism and its aftermaths. In addition to encountering a postcolonial serial killer, a pterodactyl in present-day India, and a famed boxing match sponsored by an African dictator, we will watch narrative and documentary cinema, look at visual art, and read poetry, fiction, essays, and philosophy, and consider how these media and genres work as forms of thoughtful resistance as well as creative expression. Key authors will include Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, V.S. Naipaul, Albert Memmi, Edward Said, Salman Rushdie, and Mahasweta Devi. [ more ]

ENGL 117(F)Introduction to Cultural Theory

This course has a clear purpose. If you had signed up for a course in biology, you would know that you were about to embark on the systematic study of living organisms. If you were registered for a course on the American Civil War, you would know that there had been an armed conflict between the northern and southern states in the 1860s. But if you decide you want to study "culture," what exactly is it that you are studying? The aim of this course is not to come up with handy and reassuring definitions for this word, but to show you why it is so hard to come up with such definitions. People fight about what the word "culture" means, and our main business will be to get an overview of that conceptual brawl. We will pay special attention to the conflict between those thinkers who see culture as a realm of freedom or equality or independence or critical thought and those thinkers who see culture as a special form of bondage, a prison without walls. The course will be organized around short theoretical readings by authors ranging from Matthew Arnold to Constance Penley, but we will also, in order to put our new ideas to the test, watch several films (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Silence of the Lambs, The Lord of the Rings) and listen to a lot of rock & roll. Why do you think culture matters? Once you stop to pose that question, there's no turning back. [ more ]

ENGL 119(S)Missed Encounters

Although we all entertain the dream of reaching directly across boundaries of personal and cultural difference, such exchanges remain inseparable from fantasies of otherness. Those fantasies can be as reductive as a stereotype, but they can also be enormously nuanced and self-revealing--as rich as literature itself. We will study the missed encounter--the encounter in which the element of presupposition and fantasy is vividly apparent--in cultural contexts from the first English accounts of the inhabitants of Virginia to race relations in contemporary African fiction; we will consider such encounters in other contexts as well, including sexual relations, the relations between young and old, even the relation between past and present. But in every case, we will keep our gaze trained on what such events tell us about the nature of fantasy and the place of fiction. The course will consider novels, drama, film, opera, and non-fiction, works such as: Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians; Harriot, "Report of the New Found Land of Virginia"; Conrad, Heart of Darkness; Stephen Crane, "The Blue Hotel"; Nadine Gordimer, The Pick Up; Herzog, "Aguirre"; Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice; Puccini, Madame Butterfly; Huang, M. Butterfly; Austen, Pride and Prejudice; Gyasi, Homegoing; and theoretical writing, including texts by the psychoanalytic critic, Jacques Lacan. [ more ]

ENGL 120The Nature of Narrative

Last offered Fall 2017

This course focuses on the nature and function of narrative using a wide range of texts from different periods, traditions and genres. We will analyze the ways in which works of fiction communicate their concerns; in other words: how do they say what they say? And why does "how" matter as much as, if not more than, "what?" We will also look at film, articles, and other relevant texts, accompanying the readings with a few pertinent theoretical texts. The authors we will study may include Homer, Cervantes, Kleist, Kafka, Zweig, Garcia Marquez, Rankine, and Farhadi. All readings in English, although those with foreign language competency are invited to make comparisons with the original where possible. [ more ]

ENGL 120(F)Nature of Narrative

This course examines the nature and workings of narrative through a wide range of texts from different traditions, genres, and periods. We will explore the ways in which stories are told, how they convey meaning, and how they are shaped by generic conventions. Readings may include the Odyssey, the Chinese Classic of Poetry (Shijing), the Tale of Genji, the lais of Marie de France, Flaubert, Feng Menglong, and others (all readings will be in English). We will also read a few short theoretical works. [ more ]

ENGL 120(S)The Nature of Narrative

This course examines the nature and workings of narrative using texts drawn from a wide range of literary traditions, media, and genres. Readings will include Western and Asian classics (Homer, Sei Sho'nagon), 19th century French, German, and Russian fiction (Zola, Kleist, Lermontov), Latin American magic realism (Marquez), and visual literature from stage drama to film and graphic memoir (Oscar Wilde, Sam Mendes, Tezuka Osamu, Alison Bechdel). We will also read some short works of literary theory from around the world to help us broaden our idea of what literature can be and do. All readings in English. [ more ]

ENGL 123(F, S)The Short Story

The reading for this course will consist entirely of short stories by such writers as Poe, Hawthorne, James, Doyle, Hemingway, Faulkner, Gilman, Chopin, Cather, Toomer, McCullers, O'Connor, Borges, Nabokov, Kincaid, Saunders, Diaz, and Shepard. We will read one or two per class meeting; at the end of the course, we'll be reading one collection, probably by Raymond Carver. Reading short stories will allow us to pay close attention to the form of our texts, and to paragraphs, sentences, and words. The premise of the essays you will write is that short stories and short essays are both arts based on controlling the release of information and meaning, and that studying the two genres together will have reciprocal benefits for reading and writing. [ more ]

ENGL 125(F)Theater and Politics

This seminar traces the surprisingly close and controversial relationship between theater and politics from ancient Greek tragedy to modern literature, contemporary film and philosophy. When Plato kicked off political philosophy by outlining his ideal city-state, one of his first moves was to ban theatrical performance on the grounds that play-acting would make men poor governors of themselves. In more recent times, however, the work of artists and playwrights as diverse as Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud have provocatively suggested that theater itself could remedy the ills that Plato thought it caused. In today's age of global spectatorship, writers, artists, and activists continue to ask: who are the real actors and spectators of today's digital world-stage, when governments and other powerful institutions have increasingly sophisticated tools for gathering information about and controlling the on-looking masses, but revolutions are nevertheless organized via social media or triggered by cell phone images? May include works by Plato, Euripides, Melville, Woolf, Ranciere, and Claire Denis. [ more ]

ENGL 126(F, S)Black Literature Matters

Black literature remains central to struggles for freedom and equality across the African diaspora. In this course, we will examine why black literature matters: What are its aesthetic and political imperatives? How have black writers used certain literary forms in their constructions of identity, freedom, and citizenship? Through our exploration of these questions, we will discover the significant matters of African American literature from the Harlem Renaissance moment to the Black Lives Matter movement. By reading a broad range of texts---essays, novels, drama, music, and poetry---by such authors as Alain Locke, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Audre Lorde, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Jesmyn Ward, and Kendrick Lamar, we will develop a critical vocabulary for evaluating and engaging with this body of literature. This course contributes to the DIfference, Power, and Equity requirement by centering on the relationship between black literature and black political movements from the 1920s to the present. [ more ]

ENGL 128Reading Asian American Literature

Last offered Spring 2017

Though the category and term "Asian American" came about as a result of political struggle in the 1960s, what we now call Asian American writing in English began in the nineteenth century and has played a significant role in every American literary "movement" from Modernism, realism, protest literature to various avant-gardes, the graphic novel, and digital poetries. This writing-intensive course closely reads a sampling of texts in a variety of genres and styles-produced by writers from various Asian American ethnic groups-from the late nineteenth century to the present and contextualizes them historically, both domestically and globally. We will examine the material, cultural, political, and psychic intersections of larger structural forces with individual writers and texts. Along the way, we will interrogate the notion of "Asian American"--its contradictions, heterogeneous nature, and our assumptions--and its relation to the idea of "American." Some questions we will ask: "Why have Asian Americans and Asian American writers and writing so often been viewed as 'foreign' or 'alien' to the American body politic and the English-language literary tradition?" "How might Asian American writing be linked to other English-language texts in the Asian diaspora?" [ more ]

ENGL 129(F)Twentieth-Century Black Poets

From Langston Hughes to contemporary poets such as Angela Jackson and Claudia Rankine, African American poets have been preoccupied with the relations of poetry to other traditions. Vernacular speech, English poetry, jazz and other musical forms, folk humor, and African mythology have all been seen as essential sources for black poetry. This course will survey major poets such as Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Countee Cullen, Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Jackson, and Yusef Komunyakaa, reading their poems and their essays and interviews about poetic craft. We will ask how black poetry has been defined and whether there is a single black poetic tradition or several. [ more ]

ENGL 130(F)Dream Work

Like art, dreams both require and resist interpretation. In this class, we will consider a wide range of texts, including ancient oneirocritica, medieval dream visions, and psychoanalytic and anthropological case studies, before moving on to modern and contemporary attempts to capture the "underside of consciousness" that dream represents through examples drawn from fiction, drama, poetry and film. Along the way, we'll uncover competing understandings of dream, trace the function of dream as a literary device, and ask what different media uncover and conceal about the dream's form of thinking. This course is designed to immerse you in the strategies of textual interpretation while fostering an openness between creativity and analysis. [ more ]

ENGL 132(F)Black Writing To, From, and About Prison

This introductory course considers the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans as it is represented on the page. Keywords for meditation and analysis include blackness, gender, prison, justice, freedom, and abolition. Each reading and class discussion will aid students in developing rigorous and nuanced understandings of these terms. Course texts will include letters from Angela Davis's edited collection If They Come in the Morning, autobiographies like that by Malcolm X, poetry by Ericka Huggins and Huey Newton, as well as critical interventions by scholars like Nikki Jones, WEB Du Bois, and selections from Eric Stanley and Nat Smith's edited collection Captive Genders. We will also look at contemporary groups organizing around the question of prisons and justice including Critical Resistance, BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100), and TGIJP (Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project). [ more ]

ENGL 133(F)Shakespeare's Uncertain Ends

We've come to expect that the heroes of Shakespeare's tragedies learn something. Othello, Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, and all the others, are supposed to achieve some kind of clarifying self-knowledge as a reward for their terrible suffering. After all, the heroes' flaws are revealed and their delusions are exposed so that they can eventually understand what has happened to them and why. They are meant to learn from their suffering. Or so we'd like to think. But the plays don't always cooperate with our desire for some compensating enlightenment. We don't always come away with a clear sense that Shakespeare's tragic heroes have arrived at a true self-recognition; in other words, they don't always fully grasp how their fate is implicated in their character. Nor are we granted an obvious, edifying moral to compensate for the misery we witness. What, then, do we discover at the end of a Shakespeare tragedy? [ more ]

ENGL 134(F)What Is Comedy?

There may be few things more foolish than trying to explain a joke, but this course aims at something dangerously similar: exploring some basic problems of literary analysis by thinking and writing about stories meant to make us laugh. "Comedy" is the name we usually give to such stories, but historically comedy has been defined in other ways as well: as leading to a happy ending, often to marriage or some other kind of social harmony; or as being concerned with everyday life, with characters we recognize as amusingly or disturbingly like ourselves. In this course we'll examine how and why these different features have gone together in texts from the Greeks to Groundhog Day. We?ll also consider the ways in which comedy's power might arise from the tensions between them. Comic laughter can show our potential for solidarity, reconciliation, and forgiveness, and also for indifference, aggression, and exclusion. We'll explore comedy's insights into both possibilities, and the fine line between them, in texts by Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Austen, and Wilde, and films from the Marx Brothers to the present. [ more ]

Taught by: Andrew Sisson

Catalog details

ENGL 135Vengeance

Last offered Fall 2017

For almost three thousand years revenge has been a central preoccupation of European literature. Revenge is inviting to literary and dramatic treatment partly because of its impulse towards structure: it traces a simple arc of injury and retaliation. A injures B, and B retaliates against A. But retaliation is never easy or equivalent, and there is always a volatile emotive mixture of loss and grievance that stirs up ethical ambiguities that are seldom resolved. Vengeance also fascinates because it is so paradoxical. The avenger, though isolated and vulnerable, can nevertheless achieve heroic grandeur by coming to personify nemesis. And yet the hero is always contaminated by trying to make a right out of two wrongs--and he usually has to die for it. Driven by past events, cut off from the present, and wrapped up in stratagems for future reprisals, the avenger's actions are almost always compromised by impotence or excess. At best, revenge is "a kinde of Wilde Justice"--a justice that kills its heroes as well as its villains. We will look at as many stories of vengeance, across as wide a range of cultures and media, as possible. Readings will include Sophocles' Electra, Dante's Inferno, Shakespeare's Hamlet and The Tempest, Chalderon de Laclos' Dangerous Liaisons, and Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, as well as several short stories and films. [ more ]

ENGL 136Slavery and the Making of a Literary Tradition

Last offered Spring 2018

How has the subject and iconography of slavery continued to preoccupy the American literary and cultural imagination? In this course, we will examine the transatlantic circulation of ideas regarding race, nation, citizenship, self-mastery, agency, and freedom in colonial and antebellum America and consider how these debates have continued to the present. We will read such authors as Phyllis Wheatley, Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, and Toni Morrison. Forms will include poetry, slave narratives, novels, advertisements, broadsides, pamphlets, and other ephemera. We will also view cinematic representations of slavery, such as WGN's Underground, the adaptation of Solomon Northrop's 12 Years a Slave, and Issa Rae's parody "Due North" in Insecure. [ more ]

ENGL 138(F)What is a Self? Investigations in Literature, Philosophy, and Psychology

The experience of having a self (or a subjective point of view) informs and colors literally everything we think, see, and feel. And yet what, exactly, is a self? Is it the unchanging essence of who we are as individuals (like what Christians call the soul)? Or is it the historically contingent product of ever-changing cultural and political forces (like the media, gender norms, and ideologies about race, to name just a few)? Or, perhaps, is the belief that we have a self just one big illusion, as the Buddha suggested millennia ago and as modern philosophers and neuroscientists have argued in their own different idioms more recently? In this class, we'll explore the deep mystery of human existence that we call "the self" or "subjectivity," looking at various attempts to capture, represent, and explain it. Our investigations will be wide-ranging, looking at examples from literature, philosophy, religion, and science. Works we may study include: Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, Toni Morrison's Beloved, Romantic poetry, and classic philosophical writings on the self by Descartes, Locke, Hume, and Sartre, among others. We'll also study scientific findings about the relationship between the mind and the brain that have come from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, perhaps in conjunction with one of a wave of recently published "neuro-novels" (like Richard Powers' The Echo Maker) that portray the self in terms borrowed from the brain sciences. Students who genuinely find the experience of the self puzzling and fascinating will get the most out of this class. Bring an open mind about what it is to have a mind in the first place. [ more ]

ENGL 140(S)Introduction to Creative Writing

This is a multi-genre introduction to Creative Writing in which the emphasis will be generative and exploratory. We will consider poetry, fiction, and nonfiction through a combination of approaches: seminar style discussion of published work, as well as mini-lectures and craft essays that will guide your creative writing in each genre. You will also write short, analytical pieces about published work. In order to foster experimentation, the writing assignments will be short; several of the creative pieces might be combined for a longer piece at the end of the semester. The instructor will be the primary respondent to your work, although you will also become comfortable reading and critiquing one another's work. There will be one workshop-format class per genre. [ more ]

ENGL 146Campus Life: The University and the Novel

Last offered Spring 2018

What is college for? To a significant number of writers from roughly 1945 onward, one answer seemed to be: college is the perfect setting for a novel! The Campus Novel, as it is known, mines the rich, frequently zany dramatic terrain that emerges when large groups of young people try to live and learn together in a closed environment. Filled with the absurdities of academic and collegiate life, the scholarly and sexual intrigues of the college campus, Campus Novels also are microsociologies of college: not just reflections of, but reflections upon, the institutional contexts of the American university. This course will introduce students to the Campus Novel (and its cousin, the Campus Movie), as a way to explore the history and meaning of liberal arts education in the American University from roughly the post-World War II emergence of mass higher education through co-education, multiculturalism, and the rise of the corporate university. Fictional lab reports upon experiments in living, works dedicated to figuring out what and whom a liberal arts education is for, these novels will be our own guides to an exploration of these questions. Likely texts: Amis, Lucky Jim, McCarthy, The Groves of Academe, Delillo, White Noise, Donna Tartt, The Secret History, Zadie Smith, On Beauty, Dave Eggers, The Circle, and films such as Breaking Away, School Daze, and The Social Network. [ more ]

ENGL 149First-Hand America

Last offered Fall 2016

Gonzo journalism, the nonfiction novel, literary journalism, the "new new journalism": the study of American culture has thrived in the able hands of writers, reformers and amateur anthropologists. This course is an introduction to American writing and culture through the eyes of extraordinary witnesses who work as public intellectuals, addressing a readership that reaches beyond the university. Through essays, films and music we will track the documentary impulse from coast to coast: from Ferguson, Baltimore, Miami, Watts, Denver, Harlem, Chicago, Compton and Sing-Sing prison to the wilds of Alaska and rural Georgia; from mass demonstrations to the most intimate, bedside revelations. How have writers and artists given their audiences tools for understanding power, privilege, and difference in America? [ more ]

ENGL 150(S)Expository Writing

This course is designed to improve your essay-writing skills. We will try to figure out how to write effective college essays in an assortment of disciplines, and get away from the one-size-fits-all template you remember from high school. We will learn how to write introductions that grab you, exposition that thrills you, climaxes that fill you with suspense, and conclusions that feel both surprising and inevitable. We will also read short stories in this class, both as source material for analysis and interpretation, and for story-telling techniques that we can steal. There will be weekly writing assignments, leading up to a twelve- to twenty-page final project. [ more ]

ENGL 150Expository Writing

Last offered Spring 2018

Writing clearly is the most important skill you can learn in college. Do you suffer from writer's block? Do you receive consistent criticism of your writing without also learning strategies for how to improve? This course is for students who want to learn how to write a well-argued, intelligible essay based on close, critical analysis of texts. We will derive our method for mastering the complex art of writing from Atul Gawande's bestselling book, The Checklist Manifesto. In addition to sharpening your skills in reading, note-taking and literary analysis, this class will give you tools for generating drafts, peer editing, revising, and polishing your writing. The majority of the readings for this course will be literary essays, mostly contemporary, mostly American. (This course and English 152 focus more directly on basic expository writing skills than the other 100-level classes in the English department.) [ more ]

ENGL 152Direct Action & Other Political Acts in Black Cultural Texts

Last offered Spring 2018

In this expository writing course we will write our way toward positions on the following questions while also developing stronger college essay skills. What sorts of actions become politicized differently when performed by black bodies? How do we map the dimensions of black direct action when mere eye contact, for example, once constituted an act of defiance against the racial order, punishable by death? How have the methods and aims of black direct action shifted over time? Where is the line between violence and nonviolence; when does it shift or blur? Together we will explore how various literary forms give shape and insight into the legacies of black political gestures and demands for freedom. Forms of cultural production to be examined in this course include slave narratives, memoir, speeches, zines, poetry, op-eds, manifestos, short stories, novels, film, visual art, and criticism. [ more ]

ENGL 153(S)Androids, Cyborgs, Selves

In this expository writing course, we will analyze and argue about how near-human or partly human bodies and intelligences are imagined in fiction and film. When do these bodies, these intelligences, improve the worlds in which they appear, and when do they threaten them? How are they gendered, how are they raced, and why? And what do they want? As we will see, authors in different cultural and technological contexts have imagined not-quite-human selves for different ends and in radically different ways. This course focuses on articulating these differences and developing significant claims about them in clear, argumentative prose. We will spend half or more of our class time discussing and practicing writing skills. Texts may include R.U.R., "The Bicentennial Man," Blade Runner, Metropolis (Suite 1: The Chase), and Her. [ more ]

ENGL 154(F)Imagination and Authority

A course on the subject of who gets to write about what when it comes to fiction. Among the questions we'll be taking up: What are the outer boundaries of those imaginative acts that should be attempted? The central goal of this course is to teach you how to write a well-argued and interesting analytical paper. We will spend most of our class time actively engaged in a variety of techniques to improve your critical reasoning and analytical skills, both written and oral. Though the skills you learn will be applicable to other disciplines, this is also a literature class, designed as well to prepare you for upper level courses in the English Department. [ more ]

ENGL 162(S)Robots, Puppets, and Dolls

Is Pinocchio alive? How about Furby, or the Terminator? This course explores the persistent interest in human simulacra (robots, puppets, and dolls; but also automata, replicants, cyborgs) and what this suggests about our ideas of identity, independence, and free will. We'll look at a wide range of such simulacra as they appear in literature, film, and, increasingly, in the actual world ("reborn" dolls, therapy robots). We will frame our explorations with readings in artificial intelligence, neurology, and psychoanalysis (Freud on the uncanny; Winnicott on transitional objects). Throughout, we will wonder: why this fascination with the almost living? How is it that we often care more for Wall-E or the Velveteen Rabbit than we do for many real people? [ more ]

ENGL 201Shakespeare

Last offered Spring 2018

One of Shakespeare's most original recent readers has claimed, "Nothing without, perhaps nothing within, Shakespeare's words could discover the power to withstand the power Shakespeare's words release." To put it another way, this was a writer who created something so new, so unfathomable, that neither life nor language could easily contain it. In this course, we will become acquainted with Shakespeare's major works, but we will also remain alert to their capacity to confound. Serious attention will be given to genre, form, the historical conditions of the Renaissance theater and book trade, modes of literary transmission, and the shape of Shakespeare's career. Plays will include A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV, Part I, Hamlet, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, and The Tempest. We will also read the Sonnets. The course is designed to offer a first encounter with Shakespeare, but more advanced students are welcome too. [ more ]

ENGL 202(S)Modern Drama

An introduction to major plays and key movements in European and American theatre since the late nineteenth century. Our focus will be on close reading, with attention also to questions of performance and production. Plays to be discussed will likely include: Ibsen, Hedda Gabler; Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest; Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard; Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author; Brecht, Mother Courage; Miller, Death of a Salesman; Beckett, Waiting for Godot; Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun; Pinter, Betrayal; Churchill, Cloud Nine; Stoppard, Arcadia. [ more ]

ENGL 204Hollywood Film

Last offered Fall 2017

For almost a century, Hollywood films have been the world's most influential art form, shaping how we dress and talk, how we think about sex, race, and power, and what it means to be American. We'll examine both the characteristic pleasures provided by Hollywood's dominant genres--including action films, horror films, thrillers and romantic comedies--and the complex, sometimes unsavory fantasies they mobilize. We will do this by looking carefully at a dozen or so iconic films, probably including Psycho; Casablanca; The Godfather; Schindler's List; Bridesmaids; Groundhog Day, and 12 Years a Slave. In addition to the assigned reading, students will be required to attend free screenings of course films on Sunday evenings at Images Cinema. [ more ]

ENGL 205(S)The Art of Poetry: The History and Theory of Lyric

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?" This excerpt from a letter by Emily Dickinson indicates both the particular pleasures of reading poetry, and also the persistent difficulty of defining poetry as a genre. In this course, we will train our focus on lyric poetry in particular, tracing its long history as well as trends in the theory of lyric. We'll begin by uncovering the roots of lyric in both the Greek tradition and in Anglo-Saxon riddles and spells, and will then consider several key moments in the development of lyric poetry in English, from the Renaissance to the present. We'll read closely the work of such poets as Wyatt, Donne, Blake, Keats, Hopkins, Dickinson, Yeats, Stevens, Hughes, Bishop, Ashbery, and Plath before turning to the contemporary scene. Along the way, we'll examine the trends in criticism responsible for the conflation of lyric and poetry in our time, and will get a strong sense of the current state of lyric theory. [ more ]

ENGL 206(S)We Aren't The World: "Global" Literature in the 20th Century

An eighteenth-century diplomat once referred to the British colonies as a "vast empire on which the sun never set," and at the time, he was right: the British controlled an enormous portion of the globe for nearly three centuries, from the Caribbean to South Asia, from Oceania to Africa. One outcome of this vast empire was the creation of a rich and diverse literary tradition in the English language--now called Anglophone literature--from far-flung places around the globe. This course will introduce students to select works of global Anglophone literature in the twentieth century, and consider the ways in which writers from around the world have used a variety of literary forms, such as the bildungsroman, national allegory, and testimony, to participate in and reshape conversations about culture, globalization, aesthetics, and politics. Readings will include novels, poetry, short stories, and film by writers including Kipling, Kincaid, Achebe, Rushdie, Conrad, Coetzee, and Roy, among others. The course will expose students to a variety of global English idioms, as well as literary traditions from, or in conversation with, non-Western countries. [ more ]

ENGL 209Theories of Language and Literature

Last offered Spring 2018

This course is made up of questions: What is literature and why would anyone want to study it? What can you figure out by examining language that you can't figure out by studying history or psychology? Do students of literature have distinctive ways of asking questions about the world? Why do we call some language literary? Can any language be literary if it appears in the right kind of book? Is there a difference between verbal forms of art and visual or auditory ones? Can novels do things that plays and poetry cannot? Why does anyone read poetry anyway? [ more ]

ENGL 211English Literature from 1000 to1600

Last offered Spring 2018

One of the oldest surviving works in English, Beowulf tells the story of a monster and his mom. In this class we will read key texts from the medieval and early modern periods, starting with Beowulf and ending with Shakespeare's equally bloody Titus Andronicus. Other readings will include selections from The Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, sonnets by Sidney and Donne, and Marlowe's The Jew of Malta. We will discuss the conflicting, often self-contradictory claims that writers in these periods made for the importance of literature and the anxieties that these new types of fiction generate--about sex, about God, about money. We will ask what it meant to read--and misread--before books were commonplace. [ more ]

ENGL 212Milton Through the Romantics

Last offered Spring 2018

Taking advantage of a relatively quick movement through many representative texts, this survey course will follow the development of English literature and culture from around 1660 to 1830. We'll focus on Making Connections and Telling the Story; we'll look at poetry, prose, magazines, paintings, buildings and some other objects. We will watch things happen like the invention of the individual, and gender, and democracy, and other important features of our world. Authors to be studied may include Donne, Milton, Pope, Defoe, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley and Keats. [ more ]

ENGL 213(S)Making Radio

This course has two aims. The first is to teach the necessary skills (including interview technique, field recording, editing, and scoring) to make broadcast-worthy audio nonfiction. The second is to use this process to investigate fundamental aspects of narrative. How does a story build a contract with listeners? What's the role of the narrator? How can one appropriately speak for (and sometimes against) another person? This is not a course in journalism, but rather an experiment in documentary cinema for the ear. We'll do some reading in radio history and technique, and will listen to exemplary works (including episodes of This American Life, RadioLab, Love & Radio, and Serial), but most of our time--and this is a time-consuming course--will be spent making and critiquing each other's pieces. Students will produce five or six pieces total, at least two of which must develop out of interviews with strangers. [ more ]

ENGL 214Playwriting

Last offered Spring 2017

A studio course designed for those interested in writing and creating works for the theatre. The course will include a study of playwriting in various styles and genres, a series of set exercises involving structure and the use of dialogue, as well as individual projects. We will read and we will write, beginning with small exercises and working toward a longer final project. Students will be expected to share in and respond to each other's work on a weekly basis, and to present their own work regularly. At the end of the term, we will share our collaborative work with the community as part of an open studio experience. [ more ]

ENGL 216(S)Introduction to the Novel

In this team-taught lecture course, we will explore the development of the novel as a literary form by reading seven classic novels from the English and American traditions: Henry Fielding's Tom Jones; Jane Austen's Emma; Charles Dickens' Great Expectations; James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury; Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita; and Toni Morrison's Beloved. Most of these novels are about the familiar but urgent story of young men and women coming into maturity, searching for their identities and place in the world. That search often reveals the growing tensions between the inner desires of the individual and the expectations of society. There will be optional discussion sections held every week, during which interested students can take part in seminar-like discussions about the readings. [ more ]

ENGL 217Experimental Asian American Writing

Last offered Spring 2015

Asian American literature did not begin in the 1980s with Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. Nor has the writing primarily been confined to autobiographical accounts of generational conflict, divided identities, and glimpses of Chinatown families. Asian American literature in English began with poetry in the late nineteenth century, and has encompassed a variety of aesthetic styles across the last century--from Modernism to New York School poetry to protest poetry to digital poetics. This course will explore Asian American writings that have pushed formal (and political) boundaries in the past 100+ years, with a particular focus on avant-garde writers working today. We will look at such authors as Jose Garcia Villa, Chuang Hua, Wong May, Theresa H., Cha, John Yau, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Tan Lin, Prageeta Sharma, Bhanu Kapil, and Tao Lin. [ more ]

ENGL 218(S)Gender and Sexuality in the Neo-slave Narrative

Hortense Spillers has noted that ex-slave Harriet Jacobs, "between the lines of her narrative, demarcates a sexuality that is neuterbound" and we live with the aftermath of her observation. "Ungendering," one of the transformations undergone by bodies subjected to the Middle Passage, is one of the keywords that forms the foundation for a conversation about slavery, gender, and sexuality. Throughout this course we will wrestle with the questions: How does the designation "slave" rupture, reify, or expand our understandings of sexuality and gender? What conditions have necessitated the neo-slave narrative form? Texts include slave narratives such as those by Mary Prince and Frederick Douglass and neo-slave narratives such as Octavia E. Butler's Kindred, Jewelle Gomez's Gilda Stories, and Jordan Peele's Get Out. [ more ]

ENGL 220(S)Introduction to African American Literature

What does it mean, socially, culturally, historically, personally, and spiritually, to be African American? No single, simple answer suffices, but African American literature as a genre is defined by its ongoing engagement with this complex question. This course will examine a series of texts that in various ways epitomize the fraught literary grappling with the entailments of American blackness. Readings will include texts by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, and Ishmael Reed. [ more ]

ENGL 221(F)A Science Fiction and Fantasy-Writing Seminar

As you might have guessed, this is a creative-writing workshop, specializing in Fantasy and Science Fiction. We are going to write a lot, and not really read so much, though from time to time we might look at the odd piece of professional work, by way of example or inspiration, or as a source for stolen goods. Mostly, though, we will be discussing (anonymously, except for the final projects) our own stuff---- original stories or sketches for stories, or various plot, character, or setting exercises. We'll write maybe five or six stories, which is a fair amount of work, although to save time I'm hoping we can keep any analysis or interpretation to a strict minimum. [ more ]

ENGL 222Lyric Poetry

Last offered Spring 2015

The goal of this writing-intensive gateway course is to advance our abilities as rigorous, subtle, and imaginative interpreters of poetry. Our focus will be on lyrics--relatively short poems in which a single speaker describes (often in intense language) his or her emotions, attitudes, or state of mind. Our readings will be drawn from a range of historical periods from the seventeenth century forward, with particular emphasis on poems written since the mid-nineteenth century. Among the poets likely to be studied are: Jonson, Gray, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Dickinson, Hardy, Owen, Yeats, Auden, Frost, and Heaney. We will also discuss works by two poets at Williams: Lawrence Raab and Jessica Fisher. [ more ]

ENGL 223Thirteen Ways of Looking at Jazz

Last offered Fall 2015

Taking its title from the Wallace Stevens poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," which interprets the blackbird in different ways, this course similarly explores a more complex, multi-layered perspective on jazz, from jazz and American democracy to jazz in visual art. Accordingly, the course introduces students to several genres, including historical documents, cultural criticism, music, literature, film, photography and art. The course does not draw on a musicological method but rather a socio-cultural analysis of the concept, music and its effect--so students are not required to have any prior musical knowledge or ability. In this writing intensive course, students will write and revise short close analyses of multiple types of media, ultimately honing their writing skills on one form of media for a polished, original analysis that weds their increased critical thinking skills. [ more ]

ENGL 224 TAmerican Drama: Hidden Knowledge

Last offered Spring 2018

The Buddha is said to have identified three things that cannot stay hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. What's the secret? Who is lying? Who is breaking the rules? American drama abounds with hidden knowledge and false representations. (This is not surprising: theatre is always on some level a deceptive practice, a place where one person pretends to be another, and where what is spoken is always open to skeptical scrutiny. We might say theatre is always lying as much as lying is always theatre.) This tutorial course will examine what lies hidden in American plays from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first. Beginning with excerpted critical and historical writings on secrecy and lying (The Adventures of Pinocchio, Machiavelli's The Prince, Thomas Carlson's Lying and Deception: Theory and Practice, among others), we will proceed to a set of American plays from across a wide spectrum of playwrights, including Eugene O'Neill, Edward Albee, Sarah Ruhl, Arthur Miller, Amy Herzog, Susan Glaspell, Sophie Treadwell, Annie Baker, and others. Student papers will explore how hidden knowledge structures dramatic action, how different characters create and respond to untruths, and what can we learn in particular from American drama about a national relationship to honesty and its opposites. [ more ]

ENGL 226(S)The Irish Literary Revival

This course will focus on the Irish Literary Revival of c.1885-1920, during which Irish literature in the English language became firmly established as a canon clearly separate from the English tradition, and writers such as W.B. Yeats and James Joyce achieved international renown. Readings will include drama, poetry, fiction and non-fiction prose by Yeats, J.M. Synge, Joyce, George Moore, George Bernard Shaw, Lady Gregory, Douglas Hyde, Sean O'Casey and others. We will foreground key fault-lines of the period: competing visions of what constituted "authentic" Irish identity; debate over the propriety of writing in English, drawing on British literary traditions, or seeking a non-Irish audience; the work of "self-exiles" such as Shaw and Joyce, versus that of writers who stayed in Ireland; and the long-entrenched political tensions between Catholics and Protestants, and Unionists and Nationalists. Throughout, we will consider the functions and efficacy of literature in promoting cultural or political change. The course will conclude by considering the extraordinary vitality of post-independence and contemporary Irish literary culture, with readings of work by Seamus Heaney, Colm Toibin, Anne Enright and Martin McDonagh, and discussion of recent Irish film. Key considerations here will be the ways traditional notions of Irish Nationalism and national identity have been revised or abandoned under the impact of independence, economic prosperity and globalization, contemporary sexual politics and other forms of change. [ more ]

ENGL 227 T(F)Elegies

This tutorial--intended primarily for sophomores--explores elegies as a literary genre. In their most familiar form, elegies honor and memorialize the dead. More broadly conceived, the genre includes works lamenting other kinds of loss as well: the loss of a lover, place, country, or cherished version of one's past. We'll consider the special challenges and opportunities of the elegiac voice: how it manages to give public expression to private grief; negotiates problems of tone and perspective; worries about and celebrates the capacity of language to generate hope and consolation; and seeks a kind of solace in the literary effort to evoke, preserve, or rewrite a lost life or an absent past. This course focuses primarily on poetry, English and American, across a broad historical range. We'll first read poems from 1600-1900--including works by Jonson, Milton, Donne, Dryden, Gray, Shelley, Tennyson, and Whitman, and then turn to some of the twentieth-century's great poetic elegists--Owen, Yeats, Auden, Lowell, and Heaney. Finally, we'll consider how the elegiac voice works in fiction, especially in stories by Joyce ("The Dead") and Nabokov ("Spring in Fialta"). [ more ]

ENGL 228The Renaissance in England and the European Continent: Self and World

Last offered Spring 2018

At the same time as the individual human being in possession of a distinctive personality was taking on enormous importance in politics, philosophy, literature, and the visual arts, early modern Europeans were encountering unprecedented levels of cultural diversity. In this interdisciplinary course, we will consider these two developments both separately and together. As Renaissance humanists were acquiring a sophisticated understanding of the distance between the present and various European pasts (the recent medieval past and the remote history of antiquity), they were also coming into contact with non-European cultures in Africa, the Americas, and Asia via trade and economic development, imperial expansion, and religious conversion. Always at stake in these encounters was the question of who counted as an individual; the self was not considered to be intrinsic to human nature but rather the product of historical and cultural developments. Themes will include religious pluralism, the sacred and the secular, vernacularity, exploration and empire, the relationship between mind and body, slavery, trade, wealth, gender, self-fashioning, and style. We will consider such English writers as the Pearl poet, More, Marlowe, Spenser, Shakespeare, Browne, and Milton; such continental intellectuals as Descartes, Erasmus, Las Casas, and Castiglione; and such continental artists as Michelangelo, Velazquez, Bruegel, and Rembrandt. [ more ]

ENGL 229(S)Contemporary American Fiction

In this course we will read and analyze a selection of fiction written between 1945 and the present, with an emphasis on proving (in the sense of testing) the three terms in the course title. Could John Cheever's "The Enormous Radio" really be contemporary? Is James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room American in the same way as Alice Munro's Dear Life? And is Michelle Tea's Black Wave fiction or something else? Along the way, we'll also ask: What forms and themes define contemporary American fiction? And why should we invest in defining the "contemporary" period at all? Other authors we will study may include: Raymond Carver, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, Renata Adler, Margaret Atwood, Lydia Davis, Chang Rae Lee, Jennifer Egan, and Colson Whitehead. [ more ]

ENGL 230(F)Introduction to Literary Theory

This course introduces students to some of the most significant and compelling trends in modern criticism--such as gender and postcolonial theory, deconstruction, sociological analysis, and psychoanalytic criticism--in an applied, hands-on way. The course will engage a range of primary texts from Shakespeare to Hitchcock by way of varied theoretical approaches. Can Othello be read as a feminist text? A site of class struggle? A staging of the relationship between language and the unconscious? The course aims both to make familiar some of the critical methods students are likely to encounter in the field of literary studies these days, and to show how such methods can transform our understanding of a text, opening surprising possibilities even in familiar works. In the process, the course will also raise broader questions about the imperatives and usefulness of literary theory in relation to texts and worlds. [ more ]

ENGL 231(F, S)Literature of the Sea

Taking advantage of our maritime museum, coastal setting, and three field seminars, we study canonical and lesser-known novelists, short-story writers, dramatists, and poets who set their works in the watery world, often in the exact places where we travel as a class. We read, for example--depending on fall or spring semester--Ernest Hemingway when sailing on the Straits of Florida, John Steinbeck when exploring Cannery Row on Monterey Bay, and Mark Twain on a steamboat on the Mississippi. We read Kate Chopin on the sands of the Gulf of Mexico, Rudyard Kipling out on Georges Bank, and Herman Melville's masterpiece Moby-Dick aboard Mystic Seaport's historic whaleship, the Charles W. Morgan, a vessel nearly identical to the vessel he climbed aboard at age twenty-one. In the classroom we examine these works through a mixture of lecture, small-group discussion, and writing. To further appreciation and analysis, this interdisciplinary course uses students' emerging knowledge of maritime history and marine science. [ more ]

Taught by: Mary Bercaw Edwards

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ENGL 232We the People in the Stacks: Democracy and Literatures of Archives

Last offered Spring 2018

"Archives have never been neutral they are the creation of human beings, who have politics in their nature. Centering the goals of liberation is at the heart of the issue." --Jarrett Drake, former digital archivist at Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University This literature and writing course will examine the concept of archives through the lens of democratic ideals. A primary focus will be on how works of literature engage archives--their creation and deletions, their contents and omissions, their revelations and concealments. We will also look at the lives of archivists like Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. Readings include: "The Library of Babel" by Jorge Luis Borges; Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton; and All the Names by Jose Saramago. Drawing from the values explored in class, students will have opportunities to contribute to existing archives and to curate their own. [ more ]

ENGL 233Great Big Books

Last offered Fall 2017

Some of the greatest novels are really, really long--so long that they are too seldom read and taught. This course takes time to enjoy the special pleasures of novels of epic scope: the opportunity to immerse oneself in a wide and teeming fictional world; to focus sustained attention on the changeable fortunes of characters and societies over a long span of time; to appreciate the detailed grounding of lives in their social environment and historical moment; to experience the leisurely and urgent rhythms, with their elaborate patterning of build-ups and climaxes, that are possible in such works. We will read but two novels, both preoccupied with the disruption and evolution of lives and loves at moments of historic upheaval: War and Peace (1869), Leo Tolstoy's epic of the Napoleonic Wars, and Parade's End (1924-28), Ford Madox Ford's modernist masterpiece about World War I and its traumatic impact on English social life. Set a century apart, the novels are distinguished by vivid and scrupulous representation of their respective wars, by their shrewd accounts of political and social pressures informing the crises, and by their insight into the struggles of those whose lives are engulfed in global crisis. Tolstoy's and Ford's approaches to fictional representation, however, provide intriguing contrasts: one favors the lucidity of classic realism, the other the challenges of modernist innovation; one deploys a single multiplot novel, the other a tetralogy of shorter novels developing a single plot. We will discuss the differing strategies and effects of these two approaches, as well as the more general difficulties of reading and interpreting long fiction. [ more ]

ENGL 236Fields of Barley, Streets of Gold: Utopia in Fiction

Last offered Spring 2017

Each of the gates was a single pearl: And the street of the city was pure gold, As it were transparent glass. Revelations 21:21 It makes us happy to imagine the future in apocalyptic terms, partly because we love to say I told you so. You didn't listen, and now look. Fort Lee is on fire, and zombies are smashing down your parents' door. Catastrophe satisfies us on many levels; by contrast, the utopian vision provides a more delicate thrill. For a writer, the task is to provide a fiction that will not feel like a moral lesson or the illustration of some theory about how we should behave. This course will consider different utopian stories in turn, moving from Plato's Republic through the invented worlds of Thomas More, Margaret Cavendish, Edward Bellamy, and H.G. Wells, and then into the more contemporary science fiction of Kim Stanley Robinson, Ursula LeGuin, John Crowley, and others. Implicit in any kind of alternate reality is its creators' rejection of the place they live, and their corresponding longing for something new, which in all cases is as interesting as the way a story might work as a model for social improvement. In addition to the occasional critical essay, students will invent a personal utopian fiction of about twenty to twenty-five pages, to be read and discussed by the class. [ more ]

ENGL 237(S)Making Things Visible: Adventures in Documentary Work

Photography, like ethnography, is an art of looking carefully and taking notice. This course will explore the overlaps and resonances between documentary photography and field methods of social science, concentrating particularly on the genre in which the two intersect: the photo essay. The students will try their hand at methods of visual narrative and storytelling, using techniques of interviewing, still photography, and video. Concurrently, we will explore a number of classical and recent examples of investigative work that blend word and image. We will ask questions about the changing practices and expectations associated with the documentarian's role, and the evolving platforms on which such work can be presented, both off- and on-line. Lastly, we will pose and debate ethical questions that haunt documentary work, including issues of responsibility and politics of representation, as well as the perennial question of whether "objective representation" is even possible or desirable. In addition to readings, students should be prepared to spend a significant time out of the classroom doing fieldwork. Experience in photography and/or video, although not required, will be helpful. [ more ]

ENGL 240(F)What is a Novel?

What is a novel? Where did it come from? Why would anyone invent such a thing in the first place? This course is an introduction to the ways literary critics have attempted to give a genre as hard-to-pin down as the novel a theoretical framework. For a long time, nobody thought the novel needed a theory--too popular, too loose and baggy to be thought of as one thing. Today, novel theory is legion. To only name a few, one can find theories of the novel that identify themselves as formalist, psychoanalytic, post-structuralist, Marxist, historical, and post-colonial, as well as accounts that emphasize sexuality and gender, for example, or the novel's trans-national development. We will move back and forth from the theory of the novel to its practice in order to see how the novel and its understanding have changed over the past 200 or so years. Novelists will come from the 19th and 20th centuries, likely Austen, Dickens, and Mieville. Theorists are likely to include Henry James, Benjamin, Lukacs, Barthes, Watt, McKeon, Jameson, Eve Sedgwick, Edward Said, Leo Bersani, and Franco Moretti. [ more ]

ENGL 241Introduction to Comparative Literature

Last offered Fall 2016

Comparative literature involves reading and analyzing literature drawn from different times, movements, cultures, and media. In this class, we will study English translations of texts from eras spanning the ancient to the contemporary; literary movements including romanticism, realism, and postmodernism; national traditions arising in Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America; and media including prose fiction, graphic memoir, and film. Throughout the course, we will consider what it means to think about all these different works as literary texts. To help with this, we will also read selections of literary theory that define literature and its goal in abstract or philosophical terms. Assignments will focus on close, creative reading of relatively short texts by authors like Homer, Sei Shonagon, Kleist, Lermontov, Zola, Borges, Wilde, Mamet, Bechdel, and others. All readings will be in English. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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ENGL 243(F)Chemical Intimacies

This is a research seminar that understands human-chemical entanglement in relationship to environment, sexuality, geography, ecology, and capacity. It doubles as a research class in which students choose a project of chemical intimacy to investigate as their own through the course of the semester. In the first half, we will together read and discuss forms of human-chemical entanglement, whether a matter of industrial pollution, pharmaceutical use, habitual intoxication, gendered self-care or enhancement, or built environment; the goal is to achieve a broad sensibility for the concept as well as a familiarity with thinking biochemically and biopolitically about living bodies, while consistently registering questions of race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, and more. In the second half, each participant will choose and research a historically and geopolitically specific scenario of chemical entanglement, while 1) considering the political, legal, cultural, and labor contexts of the case; 2) exploring relationships between "actual" and "represented" (protest slogans or visual productions in the case of environmental justice activism, for example); 3) examining other research questions germane to their site of interest and their chosen discipline of study. We will take one field trip to a local site. [ more ]

Taught by: Mel Chen

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ENGL 246(S)The Love of Literature

If love "makes the world go 'round," then literature, love's chronicler, may contain the key for understanding this world-formative passion. In this seminar, we will explore representations of love in works of poetry, drama, prose fiction, and philosophy from antiquity to the present. From the philosophical love extolled in Plato's dramatic dialogue The Symposium to the Christian love of Paul's epistles; the Romantic love of Goethe's Elective Affinities to the modern love of Woolf's To the Lighthouse and beyond, we will see how love, like literature, at once reflects and produces historically significant changes in the ways that human beings relate to one another, to themselves, and to the world in which they live. In addition to the authors already mentioned, readings may include literary works by Virgil, Mary Shelley, Wordsworth, Baldwin, and theoretical works by Freud, Foucault, and Luhmann. [ more ]

ENGL 248Black Women in African American Literature and Culture

Last offered Fall 2017

This course surveys constructions of black womanhood from the nineteenth century to the present through readings of texts by and about black women. In this course, students will trace how black womanhood became central to uplift ideology and the making and sustaining of black communities in the post-Reconstruction, Harlem Renaissance, and Black Power eras. We will read works across a broad historical spectrum to identify the ways different writers wrestle with race and gender using literary tropes, such as the "tragic mulatto," in different social contexts. We will also engage a range of forms, including an essay (Patricia Hill Collins's "Mammies, Matriarchs, and Other Controlling Images"), a choreopoem (Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf), and socio-political propaganda (the "Black is Beautiful" movement). This course will end with a consideration of the way writer and producer Issa Rae engages with contemporary ideologies of black womanhood in the HBO series Insecure. [ more ]

ENGL 249(F)Staging Race and Gender

This course will examine the role of theatre in staging understandings of race in the United States, particularly where ideologies of race converge with ideologies of gender. We will begin with the minstrel show, the most popular form of live entertainment in the 19th century, and end with Marcus Gardley's Black Odyssey, a 21st century production of a black man's coming into consciousness amid violence and war as well as divine protection. We will consider the role of live visual media in producing, reifying, and challenging discourses of race and gender across various historical periods. Through our pairing of drama in text and film, we will interrogate how meaning around racialized bodies has been made through performance practices on the stage that inform everyday life. Dramatists will include Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, Langston Hughes, Ntozake Shange, Amiri Baraka, and Suzan-Lori Parks. In our attempt to locate and extend our notions of theatre in the contemporary era, we will explore episodes from such popular television series as Queen Sugar, This Is Us, Atlanta, and The Chi. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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ENGL 250(S)Americans Abroad

This course will explore some of the many incarnations of American experiences abroad between the end of the 19th century and the present day. Materials will be drawn from novels, short stories, films, and nonfiction about Americans in Europe in times of war and peace. We will compare and contrast the experiences of novelists, soldiers, students, war correspondents, jazz musicians, and adventurers. What has drawn so many Americans to Europe? What is the difference between a tourist, an expat, and an emigre? What are the profound, and often comic, gaps between the traveler's expectations and the reality of living in, say, Paris or a rural village in Spain? What are the misadventures and unexpected rewards of living, working, writing, or even falling in love in translation? Authors may include: Edith Wharton, Henry James, Langston Hughes, Martha Gellhorn, Ernest Hemingway, Elaine Dundy, Richard Wright, and Ben Lerner. Additional reading will be drawn from historical and critical works. All readings will be in English. This comparative course is designed to highlight the challenges and benefits of cultural immersion abroad. It will focus on the linguistic, emotional, intellectual, and social adaptation skills that are required to understand others, and oneself, in new contexts. Many of the authors chose, or were forced to, leave oppressive situations in the United States where their futures were limited due to factors related to politics, gender, race or class (and combinations thereof). We will study their dislocation, and freedom, and struggles to reshape their concept of "home" into something that reflected their individual identity, and not one imposed by any national culture--American or foreign. [ more ]

ENGL 251Introduction to Latina/o Literatures

Last offered Fall 2015

This discussion course serves as an introduction; the reading list is not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive, but will rather provide a sampling or range of texts for students to engage. We will explore a number of readings across different genres (the novel, play, poem, short story, graphic novel). Students will endeavor to understand how each author defines Latinidad. What characterizes Latina/os for each of these writers and how do their works articulate the historical conditions out of which they emerge? How is Latina/o literature marked by notions of language, nationality, gender, sexuality, class, race, politics, form, and genre? The readings will provide both a survey of general ideas in the study of Latina/o literatures as well as specific case studies and historical examples from which we will extrapolate about the larger field. Readings include works by Tomas Rivera, Cristina Garcia, Cristy C. Road, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Junot Diaz, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, and more. [ more ]

ENGL 252(F, S)Ficciones: A Writing Workshop

This course is focused on the art and practice of writing fiction. Sessions are divided into workshop and seminar. Workshop: Students will present short fiction or novel excerpts for peer critique and the editorial advice of the instructor. Seminar: We will study published fiction by Latina/o, Latin American, Afro-Diasporic, and other writers, paying close attention to how each author employs narrative elements--characterization, plotting, structure, dialogue mechanics, setting, tone, theme--as well as the values and visions expressed. Regular assignments and in-class exercises will help students further strengthen their narrative skills. [ more ]

ENGL 253 TGender, Sexuality and Modern Performance

Last offered Fall 2016

This interdisciplinary tutorial explores aspects of gender, sexuality, performativity, race, class, and representations of the body in modern theatre and performance in America. While attention will be given to the still understudied role of women in the arts, we will focus primarily on the transsecionalities of social identities under interrelated systems of oppression. Close analysis of works by dramatists--such as Adrienne Kennedy, Caryl Churchill, Wendy Wasserstein, Ntozake Shange, Tony Kushner, Naomi Iizuka, Paula Vogel, Suzan-Lori Parks, David Henry Hwang, Tarell McCraney, Gina Gionfriddo, and Taylor Mac--will occur alongside consideration of works by artists such as Karen Finley, Ron Athey, Tim Miller, E. Patrick Johnson, and Young Jean Lee. Our approach to this varied material will be comparative and will be enriched by readings of critical works by writers such as: Judith Butler, bell hooks, Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, Eve K. Sedgwick, Jill Dolan, Jose Esteban Mu?oz, David Roman, and Donna Haraway. [ more ]

ENGL 254 T(S)'As If Her Mouth Were a Weapon': Jamaica Kincaid

This course explores the work of the internationally renowned author Jamaica Kincaid. We will wrestle with her commentary on concepts and conditions such as death; the afterlife of slavery and colonialism; family relations; love, romance, their absence and their entanglement with hatred; and illness. We will pay particular attention to character and author navigation of negative affects and the blurred boundaries between fiction and autobiography. Course texts include Annie John (1985), Lucy (1990), The Autobiography of My Mother (1996), My Brother (1997), Mr. Potter (2002), and See Now Then (2013). They will be examined through the lenses of race, gender, sexuality, class and citizenship and aided by supplemental readings. This course will explore the power that structures and determines or constrains labor and citizenship status; abortion, reproduction and mothering; memory, literacy and archival production; and more. [ more ]

ENGL 258(S)Poetry and the City

In this course we will consider poems generated out of the experiences of urban life. The city provides for poets a vivid mental and imaginative landscape in which to consider the relation of vice and squalor to glamour; the nature of anonymity and distinction; and the pressure of myriad bodies on individual and mass consciousness. We will explore ways in which the poet's role in the body politic emerges in representations of the city as a site both of civilized values and/or struggles for power marked by guile and betrayal. Taking into account the ways in which cities have been transformed over time by changing social and economic conditions, we will consider such issues as what the New York of the 1950s has to do with the London of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and why poetry as a genre might be particularly suited to representing the shifting aspects and populations of urban life. Poets will include Dante, Pope, Swift, Blake, Wordsworth, Whitman, Baudelaire, Yeats, Crane, Moore, Hughes, Brooks, Lorca, Bishop, Ginsberg, Baraka, Ashbery, Yau, Bitsui and Rankine. We will also draw on essays by Simmel, Benjamin, Williams, and Canetti, photographs by Hines, Weegee, Abbott, and Nishino; the blues, as sung by Holliday and Vaughan; and films such as Man with a Movie Camera, Rear Window, and Breathless. [ more ]

ENGL 259Ethics of Jewish American Fiction

Last offered Fall 2015

After the Second World War, Jewish American writers who wrote about Jewish characters and Jewish themes were increasingly celebrated as central figures in American fiction. Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, Cynthia Ozick and Philip Roth are among those who gained prominence in this period. These writers were literary innovators and often addressed broad humanistic themes. But they also struggled with profound questions that arose in the postwar period about Jewishness, the legacy of the Holocaust, and what it means to be an American. In this course we will read the above authors and others. We will focus, in particular, on the distinctive ethical and political ideas, emotions, and aspirations that animate their work. The course will begin with a study of theoretical approaches that will provide the basis for our ethical criticism: we will read, for instance, Lionel Trilling, Wayne Booth, Martha Nussbaum, and Noel Carroll. Then we will delve into the fiction, following a trail that begins in the postwar period and continues in fictions by Erica Jong, Rebecca Goldstein, Michael Chabon, Gary Shteyngart, and others. Can we find a distinctive Jewish American ethics in Jewish American fiction? [ more ]

ENGL 261 TAdultery in the Nineteenth-Century Novel

Last offered Spring 2017

In this tutorial, we will read four novels written between 1850 and 1900, all of which focus on the figure of the adulteress: Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1856), Lev Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (1873-77), Leopoldo Alas y Ure?a's La Regenta (1884-85), and Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest (1894). For each week of class, students will read one of these primary texts, as well as a selection of secondary literature that will allow us to understand, over the course of the semester, how and why the adulteress played a key role in the cultural imagination of Europe during this time. All works will be read in English translation. [ more ]

ENGL 262(F)European Cinema and Film Theory

This seminar explores the foundations of contemporary European cinema by studying a range of films from 1920-1985, and offers a grounding in film theory and aesthetics by pairing such films with theoretical essays by philosophers and aestheticians from the silent era through the 1970s. We will establish a kind of map of cinematic styles and movements, ranging from German expressionism and Soviet montage in silent films of the 1920s, through French realism of the prewar and Italian neorealism of the early postwar era, to the insurrectionary films of the French New Wave and the stylistic innovations of the German New Wave and of Swedish cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. We will study films by such directors as Wiene, Murnau, Lang, Eisenstein, Vertov, Dreyer, Renoir, Riefenstahl, Rossellini, Fellini, Truffaut, Godard, Varda, Herzog, Bergman, Tarkovsky, and Almodovar. [ more ]

ENGL 263(S)Novel Worlds

Reading a novel can feel like falling into another world, an immersion in an encompassing fictional reality saturated with detail--each novel its own trip down the rabbit hole. From Jane Austen's "3 or 4 families in a country village" to Roberto Bolano's teeming modern day Mexico City of millions, the novel's distinctive power is in making both the few and the many feel like a complete world. But what are worlds, anyway? Are they spaces, like a container? Or are they not a thing at all, but social systems--ways of belonging that are constantly being made and remade? This course is about the specific world--imagining powers of the novel, tracing out various techniques and strategies by which literary texts create worlds. Our hunch: the modern notion of "world" finds its origin in the novel, and the novel constitutes one of the most sophisticated sites of reflection upon the notion of world. We'll read a number of novels, ranging from 19th century authors like Austen and Dickens, to contemporary genre writing--science fiction and the detective novel--as well as from a range of national traditions to see how novels, and ideas of world, shift over time and space. To get at our central questions, we'll read some philosophical and critical texts that are preoccupied by world-ness, with attention to current debates about the idea of World Literature. Novel texts likely to include: Jane Austen's Emma, Charles Dickens's Bleak House, Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, and Roberto Bolano's Savage Detectives. [ more ]

ENGL 266 TPostmodernism

Last offered Fall 2017

In one definition, postmodernism in art and literature is what you get when you combine modernism's radical experimentation with pop culture's easy appeal. This term has been used to describe works from Andy Warhol's paintings of Campbell's soup cans and Jean Baudrillard's critical essays on Disneyland to Murakami Haruki's euphoric conspiracy novels. Theorists of the postmodern have argued that it represents not only a radical change in aesthetic sensibilities, but a fundamentally new relationship between art, language, and society. In this tutorial, we will read some of the most important theoretical essays defining the postmodern (essays which themselves often embrace this playful and sometimes ironic style), and we will pair them with artistic texts that are said to illustrate the features of postmodernism. The latter will be mainly novels and short stories from around the world, but one feature of this theory is a flattening of the distinction between high and low culture as well as between the written and the visual, so we will also examine examples from architecture, visual art, and/or broader pop culture. Texts will include essays by Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and others; novels and short stories by writers like Don DeLillo, Italo Calvino, and Murakami Haruki; painting and sculpture associated with Pop Art and Superflat; the architecture of Williamstown-area museums; etc. Writing assignments will focus on reading the theoretical texts closely and applying their ideas to the artistic texts in creative and interesting ways. Open to sophomores as well as advanced students. [ more ]

ENGL 267(S)Powers of the Strange & Particular (Poetry Workshop)

How can reading or writing a poem be an act of resuscitation? An awakening of one's "sight," one's mind and questions? How do writers cultivate encounter, observation, and imagination to tip and trouble language into experience? In this course we will explore texts that inspire wonder and exemplify the powers of imaginative practice(s). Studying work that is original, strange, wondering, we will consider the gifts of mystery and strangeness in poems (and here I am hearing Paul Celan in "The Meridian" translated by Pierre Joris: "The poem estranges. It estranges by its existence, by the mode of its existence, it stands opposite and against one, voiceful and voiceless simultaneously, as language, as language setting itself free?"). Together we will work to understand some of the ways that the texts are working while also engaging in studies that awaken our own idiosyncratic ways of saying and seeing. As a way of learning with assigned materials, participants will be expected to write poems in response to experiments, present on assigned craft topics, and provide peers with thoughtfully considered feedback/observations of their work. The course will be reading and writing intensive. It will also be a kind of laboratory for trying and making. [ more ]

Taught by: Aracelis Girmay

Catalog details

ENGL 270Shakespeare on Page, Stage and Screen: Text to Performance

Last offered Fall 2016

Four centuries on, Shakespeare still challenges us. How should we weigh the respective claims of our own era's concerns--with matters of gender, sexuality, race, class, or materiality, for instance-against historicist attention to the cultural, political and theatrical circumstances in which his plays were actually written? And when it comes to realizing the text in dramatic performance, such challenges--and opportunities--multiply further. Critical fidelity to Shakespeare's times, language and theatrical milieu prioritizes a historical authenticity that can be constraining or even sterilizing, while, at the other extreme, staging the plays with the primary aim of making them "speak to our times" risks revisionary absorption in our own interests. We will focus on six Shakespeare plays, from different genres and periods of his career: Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Proceeding with each from close reading of the text, we will attend to the demands and opportunities of performance, and assess a range of recent film and stage productions. [ more ]

ENGL 272(F)American Postmodern Fiction

American fiction took a turn at World War II; the simplest way to name the turn is from modernism to postmodernism. The most obvious mark of postmodern narration is its self-consciousness: postmodern books tend to be about themselves, even when they are most historical or realistic. Already a paradox emerges: why would World War II make narratives more self-reflexive? The first book in the course, and the best for approaching this paradox, is Heller's Catch-22. It also serves as a good introduction to the unlikely merging in American fiction of high European post-structuralist postmodernism and low American punk postmodernism. Subsequent books in the course will probably include Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Morrison's Beloved, DeLillo's White Noise, Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,, Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao, and Whitehead's The Underground Railroad. [ more ]

ENGL 273Murder 101

Last offered Fall 2017

Why is detective fiction so popular? What explains the continuing multiplication of mystery novels despite the seemingly finite number of available plots? This course will explore the worldwide fascination with this genre beginning with European writers before turning to more distant detective stories from around the world. The international scope of our readings will highlight how authors in different countries have developed their own national detective typologies while simultaneously responding to the international influence of the Anglo-American model. At the same time the readings will trace the evolution of the genre from the classical Sherlock Holmes model through later iterations, including golden age, hard-boiled, police procedural, female detective types, and more. Alongside fictional narratives, essays on the genre will provide the theoretical ground for our investigation. Our international journey will begin in England and the United States (G.K. Chesterton, Robert Knox and Edgar Allan Poe) and continue through Japan (Edogawa Rampo), France (Georges Simenon), Italy (Andrea Camilleri), Argentina (Jorge Luis Borges), and beyond. As we journey around the world, we will look at the possibility of reading detective fiction through the categories of gender, postcolonial, and race studies. Film adaptations of the novels we read, TV shows and films noir will also be included in the course material. All readings will be in English. [ more ]

ENGL 274Film and Media Studies: An Introduction

Last offered Fall 2016

This team-taught interdisciplinary course introduces students to concepts and skills central to the study of moving images. After familiarizing ourselves with the basic elements--visual, narrative and auditory--necessary for formal analysis, we will develop critical tools for understanding film and media in their historical and social contexts. We will discuss influential ideas, theories, and methods in the discipline of film and media studies. Students will learn to respond to works drawn from a wide range of forms: fiction and nonfiction film, animation, television, video games, and emerging forms of virtual reality. Throughout, our emphasis will be on the diverse ways in which moving pictures create meaning. How can we best think about the reciprocal relations between film, new media, and contemporary life? This course will be presented through a mixture of lectures, discussions, and exercises. [ more ]

ENGL 280Writing for Performance

Last offered Spring 2018

This studio/seminar course is designed for students with some experience in creative writing and/or performance interested in a deep dive into the art of playwriting. What is a play? What distinguishes writing for performance from writing that is meant to be read? How do we craft a blueprint for a live event? In our rapidly evolving digital world, what sorts of stories and phenomena still ask to be experienced live? How are contemporary theater and performance makers pushing the boundaries of what "writing" means and what constitutes "liveness"? We will read works by Sharon Bridgforth, Sarah Ruhl, Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Tony Kushner, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Sarah DeLappe, Suzan-Lori Parks, Edward Albee, August Wilson, Chuck Mee, Maria Irene Fornes, Young Jean Lee, Stew, and Lightning Rod Special, who have deepened and widened the possibilities of the form. We will also write, beginning with exercises in character, dialogue, action, and world-building, and working toward a longer final project. Students will be expected to present their own work and respond to each other's work regularly. At the end of the term, we will present excerpts of our one-act length works as part of an open studio experience. [ more ]

ENGL 281(F)Introductory Workshop in Poetry

This workshop will include weekly readings and writing assignments, frequent improvisations and collaborations, and the attendance of several arts events. [ more ]

ENGL 281Introductory Workshop in Poetry

Last offered Fall 2017

A workshop in the writing of poetry. Weekly assignments will be given and regular conferences with the instructor will be scheduled. Students will discuss each other's poems in the class meetings. No previous experience writing poetry is necessary. [ more ]

ENGL 283(F)Introductory Workshop in Fiction

An introduction to the basics of writing short fiction. Exercises, short assignments, and discussion of published fiction will be combined with workshops of student stories and individual conferences with the instructor. [ more ]

ENGL 283(S)Introductory Workshop in Fiction

An introduction to the basics of writing short fiction. Exercises, short assignments, and discussion of published fiction will be combined with workshops of student stories; individual conferences with the instructor will be available. [ more ]

ENGL 284Arab and Anglophone: Narratives Beyond Nation and Diaspora

Last offered Spring 2015

This course takes a close look at contemporary Anglophone Arab writings. The objective is to familiarize students with major Arab writers, and/or writers of Arab descent who live in the Anglo-Saxon diaspora, especially the UK, North America and Australia. We will investigate the work of these writers with special attention to the history of Arab migration to these geographies, and the emergence of hyphenated Arab identities and literatures. At the heart of this course is a desire to not only shed light on what it means to be an Arab or an immigrant producing English literature, but also to understand the multiple ways in which we conceptualize and seek to define what transnational literature means. Texts for this course may include novels by the following writers: Rabih Alameddine (Lebanon/USA), Mohja Kahf (Syria/USA), Leila Aboulela (Sudan/UK), Hisham Matar (Libya/UK), and Randa Abdel-Fattah (Palestine-Egypt/Australia). There will also be a course reader that includes critical essays, poems, as well as a number of films and selections of music that shed light on the different articulations of being Arab and Anglophone. [ more ]

ENGL 285Introductory Workshop in Prose

Last offered Fall 2017

An introduction to the basics of writing creative prose, both fiction and memoir, with a focus on more self-consciously exploring the question of who gets to write about what. From what sources does a work's imaginative authority derive? What role should imagination play in the composition of fiction? What are the outer boundaries of those imaginative acts that should be attempted? Are there any limits on what authors should write about in memoir? Class sessions will be devoted to both published and student work. Students will receive written critiques from other students as well as the instructor. Individual meetings with the instructor will be available. [ more ]

ENGL 286(F)Black Queer Looks: Race, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary African-American Film

In this course we will foreground questions around visibility and memory. We will explore representations of Black queer bodies in experimental, documentary and narrative film. This course will engage foundational texts from Black Queer Studies. We will pair texts with film in order to examine the various relationships between art and scholarship. You will also be asked to think about yourself as a filmmaker. We will screen films such as Looking for Langston (Isaac Julien, 1989), The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996), U People (Olive Demetrius and Hanifah Walidah, 2009), Tongues Untied (Marlon Riggs, 1989) and Litany for Survival (Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson, 1995). Throughout the course we will evaluate the different ways filmmakers represent Black queerness on screen. The goal is to think about the possibilities and limitations of representation and visibility. Each of you will be asked to facilitate a class discussion. You also will be required to do weekly critical response papers. In lieu of a final paper you will create a detailed proposal for a short film that "represents" some segment of Black queer living. [ more ]

ENGL 287Bloody Vampires: From Fiction to Film and Fashion

Last offered Spring 2017

This course explores the figure of the vampire and seeks to explain the popular appeal such a fictive creature has been enjoying for over two centuries. What kind of fears and fantasies does it crystallize? And what kind of discourse about sexuality, death, and disease does it validate? What does its mere existence reveal about gender and ethnicity? We will examine the emergence of the vampire in gothic literature of the late 18th and 19th centuries, its omnipresence in cinema in the 20th century and investigate its resurgence in 21st-century pop culture. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the figure of the vampire, we will read poems by August Burger and Goethe, the first vampire story by John Polidori, novels by Sheridan LeFanu and Bram Stoker, and contemporary vampire fiction by Anne Rice and Stephenie Meyer. We will watch the films Nosferatu by Murnau and Herzog, Dracula by Browning and Coppola, the Dance of Vampires by Polanski, The Hunger by Scott, Blade by Norrington, Twilight by Hardwicke, and Daybreakers by Spierig, as well as episodes of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries. We will also discuss music video clips by Lady Gaga and Marilyn Manson, and fashion shows by Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood. [ more ]

ENGL 289Graphic Storytelling

Last offered Spring 2018

In the 1890s an author/artist put words and pictures together in boxes, ordered the boxes along a (short) narrative arc featuring a continuing character, published it in a newspaper, and graphic storytelling as we know it was born. 15 years later (in the form of comic strips) it had already become one of the most important storytelling modes in American culture. In this course we will follow the development of this quirky and important American contribution to world culture from comic strips through comic books to the "graphic novel." Along the way we will consider all kinds of interesting general subjects: for instance, the relationship between commerce and creativity, the difference between good and bad culture, and the pervasive human need to tell and experience stories. [ more ]

ENGL 300(F)Tell Even Us: Writing Memory, Trauma, Self

In this course, we will read a diverse selection of personal memoirs dealing with the traumas, transgressions, and transformations of what we understand to be "modern life." We will meditate on how categories of identity and experience, memory and history are being constructed and deconstructed, reimagined and remade anew. We will pay special attention to how these writers/artists narrate the overlapping cycles of loss, pain, grief, survival, resilience, and resistance in the face of (structural, institutional, interpersonal, and intimate) violence, and consider the possibilities for (individual and collective) healing that can exist in and beyond the world as we know it. What, after all, does it even mean to have or to not have, to find, to lose, to have stolen, to dissolve, and/or to recover a self in a besieged America? Books we will cover may include: Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (Gloria Anzaldua), Dictee (Theresa Hak Kyung Cha), How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (Alexander Chee), When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele), Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (Deborah Miranda), This is for the mostless (Jason Magabo Perez), Redefining Realness (Janet Mock), like a solid to a shadow (Janice Lobo Sapigao), Men We Reaped(Jesmyn Ward), 7 Miles A Second (David Wojnarowicz). [ more ]

ENGL 301Sublime Confusion: A Survey of Literary and Critical Theory

Last offered Spring 2018

Which is more appealing, a roller coaster or a rose? For much of its history, art and literary theory has conceived itself as a science devoted to explaining and defining "beauty." But running alongside this is an edgier countercurrent that worships something else: an experience of excitement, fear, suspense, or thrilling confusion often described as "the sublime." The sublime interested early critics, from classical rhetoricians to the German Idealists, as a way to make aesthetics more scientific paradoxically by identifying the doorway through which art and literature escaped the realm of reason. More recently the notion of literature's exciting confusion has played a key role in modern critical theory from Russian formalism to new criticism, deconstruction, postmodernism, and posthumanism. (In fact, poststructuralist criticism itself has a thrillingly confusing quality that we will not ignore.) We will take up a cross section of critical theory from classical times to the present, focusing on careful reading of relatively short texts by Plato, Aristotle, Addison, Burke, Schiller, Nietzsche, Shklovsky, I.A. Richards, Barthes, Derrida, Lyotard, Fredric Jameson, Haraway, and others. Case studies ranging from opera to Xbox will enlighten, thrill, and confound you. Written assignments will encourage you to parse these theories carefully and apply them to the literary texts that most interest you: prose, poetry, or drama from any time and place; film, visual art, or architecture; music, new media, or digital media, and beyond. [ more ]

ENGL 302Landscape and Language

Last offered Spring 2017

Colloquially, the word "landscape" refers to pictures or scenes of the land, from farms to forest to wilderness. But more broadly, landscape evokes the complex, dynamic, and ever-shifting relationship between "nature" and our experience of it. Landscape and Language is a seminar that considers the tools we use to represent and narrate our relationship to the natural world. Together, we will investigate how such cultural conventions as travel, perspective, nature, and ecology influence the ways we see and understand place. Drawing from discourses of literature, architecture, art history, contemporary art, and ecocriticism, our goal is to develop a deeper critical understanding of and engagement with landscape (as a collective of readers and as individual investigators). Texts for this course will include an art historical exploration of the relationship between landscape, power, and imperialism by W.J.T. Mitchell, an ethnographic investigation of nearly obsolete place names by Robert MacFarlane, poems by historical and contemporary poets like Jean Toomer, Terrance Hayes, and Lucille Clifton, and contemporary visual art by Helen Mirra and Xaviera Simmons, among others. [ more ]

ENGL 303(S)Cervantes' "Don Quixote" in English Translation

A close study of one of the most influential and early European novels. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616 C.E) was a hit in its day in the seventeenth century, and has not ceased to influence artists and thinkers since. Moving between humorous and serious tones, Cervantes takes on several issues in the Quixote: the point of fiction in real life, the complications of relationships between men and women, the meaning of madness, the experience of religious co-existence, the shapes of friendship, and the task of literary criticism, just to name a few. We will read the book in a fine modern English-language translation, and set it in several relevant contexts to better understand its original intellectual horizon--seventeenth-century Spain--as well as the reasons for its continuing relevance. [ more ]

ENGL 304Dante

Last offered Spring 2018

In the spring of 1300, Dante Alighieri entered Hell. The Divine Comedy is the record of the journey that followed. It is organized around a series of encounters with figures from the poet's past--for example, a former teacher damned for violating nature--as well as historical and literary characters: Ulysses, Thomas Aquinas, Plato, Virgil, Adam. Though the Comedy is probably now best known for its savagery--the bodies split open, the Popes turned upside down and lit on fire--it is also, as Dante claims, a love story and a work of high imaginative daring. Among its final images is a vision of paradise rendered through the precise if also mind-bending language of non-Euclidean geometry. In this course we will read the three books of the Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso), the Vita Nuova, and a few brief selections from Dante's other works. All readings will be in translation. [ more ]

ENGL 305Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

Last offered Fall 2017

Composed in the last decades of the fourteenth century, The Canterbury Tales, is a brilliant pastiche of competing forms. Saints' lives, dirty stories, tales of revenge, sermons, fart jokes--they are all in the mix. We will read the Tales in the original Middle English, which is easier (and more fun) than it looks; no prior exposure to the language is necessary. [ more ]

ENGL 309(F)Thinking Diaspora: The Black Atlantic and Beyond

Water imagery has been central to black diasporic culture since its beginnings in the Middle Passage---suggesting imprisonment, isolation, escape, ancestral communion, and death, for example. This course wrestles with the significance of water in diasporic literature--how it endures, how it has diminished, how it slips away from us. Black diaspora theory was revolutionized by Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic, which urged us to consider more deeply the role of the ship, the routes, and the roots entailed in the formation of diasporic consciousness. This course aims to expand students' theoretical skills as we discuss cornerstone and cutting edge texts of diaspora theory, with an emphasis on theories that work with the relationship to water, such as those by Jacqueline Nassy Brown, Omise'eke Tinsley. and Vanessa Agard-Jones. Primary texts will include The Big Sea by Langston Hughes, Sugar and Slate by Charlotte Williams, Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, and more. [ more ]

ENGL 310(F)Rebels, Revelers, and Reactionaries: The Poets of the Seventeenth Century

The decades following the death of Elizabeth I were period of scandal, schism, dissent and decadence, culminating in a bloody civil war and the beheading of a king. It was, in other words, a 'world turned upside down' by every kind of upheaval: in civics, philosophy, politics, religion, and science. It also produced writers of some of England's finest lyric and satiric poetry, and its greatest epic poet. How the century's poets successfully dramatized the critical events and feelings in this time of turmoil will be the focus of the course. While primarily a course in close reading, we will nevertheless try to reconstruct the lives and contexts of the writers, and examine some of the critical and theoretical issues involved in contextualizing the poems. Authors will include Donne, Jonson, Lanyer, Herbert, Herrick, the Cavalier Poets, Milton, Marvell, Cavendish, Dryden, and Rochester. [ more ]

ENGL 311Theorizing Shakespeare

Last offered Spring 2018

For complex reasons, Shakespeare has always revealed as much about those who speculate on him as the speculators have revealed about him. In this course, we will engage a few plays in considerable depth: The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra. But we will also use these works as a means to engage some of the most compelling trends in recent critical thought, including cultural theory and post-Marxist analysis, political theology, deconstruction and rhetorical theory, psychoanalytic thought and theories of gender and sexuality. In some instances, we will look at applied criticism, in others we will simply place a theoretical work alongside a play and see what they have to say to each other, for instance, what would a Shakespearean reading of Jacques Lacan look like? [ more ]

ENGL 312(F, S)Zen and the Art of American Literature

In 1844, the Transcendentalist magazine, The Dial, published an excerpt from the Lotus Sutra, translated into English by a young writer named Henry David Thoreau. It was the first English-language version of any Buddhist text to be published in the United States. At the time, very few Americans knew the first thing about what Buddhism was, but now, a little over a century and a half later, Buddhist ideas and practices seem ubiquitous (available even in the form of apps like Headspace and Calm). In this class, we'll explore how Buddhism came to be the profoundly important cultural force in American life that it is today, looking particularly at the influence of Zen on American literature. We'll read an array of Buddhist-influenced literary texts, from the Beat poetry of the 1950s to novels like Middle Passage, A Tale for the Time Being, and Lincoln in the Bardo. But we'll also range far beyond the world of literature into a variety of other cultural domains in which Buddhism has had a deep impact, like environmentalism and deep ecology, Western psychotherapy, and Western attitudes towards death and dying. We'll also explore the role that Buddhism is playing in the fight against racism and racial injustice (from bell hooks to Black Lives Matter). And we'll engage in an experiential investigation of the benefits of incorporating contemplative practices like meditation into the classroom: students in the course will learn a variety of meditation techniques, and we'll spend 20-30 minutes each week practicing and reflecting upon those practices during class hours. Students will be expected to meditate outside of class as well (2-3 times per week) and keep a meditation journal. No prior experience with meditation is necessary. Just an open mind. [ more ]

ENGL 313(F)George Eliot and Henry James

George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans) and Henry James trace dramas of consciousness that ramify in the context of 19th century social transformations. Eliot records the frictions of provincial and cosmopolitan lives; James writes about what it meant for American and European societies around the turn of the 20th century to be mutually exposed to and by one another. Their work explores gender and class fluidity, and the relations of ethical, economic, and aesthetic value. Both evoke fraught political contexts--for Eliot, the failed mid-century European revolutions and pressures of British imperialism, and for James, post-Civil War American consciousness and the struggle between American and European imperialisms. By placing texts in relation to one another--for instance, James' Portrait of a Lady with Eliot's Daniel Deronda, What Maisie Knew with The Mill on the Floss, The Turn of the Screw and The Beast in the Jungle with The Lifted Veil--we'll consider how and to what ends these writers link such issues as law, sacrifice, gambling, gender, and the supernatural. In tracing the relation of their work to one another, we will mark the shift from crucial preoccupations of the 19th century to the modern novel, and the innovations of prose style that accompany them. [ more ]

ENGL 314Groovin' the Written Word: The Role of Music in African American Literature

Last offered Fall 2016

In an interview with Paul Gilroy, Toni Morrison once said, "Music provides a key to the whole medley of Afro-American artistic practices." Morrison is not the only one who believes that music speaks to numerous aspects of the African American experience. From Sterling Brown and Zora Neale Hurston to John Edgar Wideman and Suzan Lori-Parks, many African American authors have drawn on music to take political stands, shape creative aesthetics, and articulate black identity. In this course, students will explore the work of these authors and more, investigating music's ability to represent and critique African American culture in their literature. Texts will cover a range of literary forms including poetry, plays, short stories and novels alongside theoretical and critical essays. Students will discuss such key issues as assimilation into mainstream culture, authenticity claims on black music, and music used as a tool for protest. Additionally, class assignments will include musical examples in spirituals/gospel, blues, jazz, and rock/rhythm and blues. While this class requires students to practice in-depth literary and performance analysis skills, students are not required to have technical musical knowledge. [ more ]

ENGL 315(S)Milton

John Milton is an odd case. Paradise Lost is more central to the English literary tradition than any other single work in the canon; to be a poet at all, you had to contend with that scarily formidable thing. And yet, Milton is also an outlier in the mainstream--a political radical whose conceptions of categories such as gender, liberty, what it means to have a voice at all placed him athwart received conceptions of what literature should be. Taken together, such contradictions suggest the possibility of something alien and perhaps seismic at the very core of our literary tradition. We'll focus on Paradise Lost, though gathering around that poem a few other of Milton's works ("Lycidas," "Areopagitica"). But we also bring to bear a range of recent critical and theoretical writing both to illuminate the poem and to discern how the poet remains a durable and telltale symptom of the discipline of literary studies today. [ more ]

ENGL 316Blackness, Theater, Theatricality

Last offered Spring 2017

Representations of African American life have pervaded the various genres and tiers of American culture, embodying a carnival of competing attitudes and perspectives. Many oddities and ironies result from this curious history. For example, African Americans as theatrical figures enter American consciousness via the minstrel stage, where white entertainers wearing burnt cork lampooned Negroes to amuse white audiences. Eventually, black performers created their own versions of minstrelsy, black playwrights created dramas more sympathetic to black life, and representations of black life proliferated in every noteworthy medium. This course will consider how attitudes about blackness have informed or deformed theatrical representations of African American life. It will examine major texts by African American writers, considering both their social importance and their aesthetic experiments and innovations. It will range from politically oriented works of social realism such as Theodore Ward's Big White Fog and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun to expressionistic protest works like Amiri Baraka's Dutchman and Slave Ship and Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls to August Wilson's earnest histories and the post-modern satires of Adrienne Kennedy and Suzan-Lori Parks. Alongside these, we will also consider a variety of comic traditions, ranging from minstrelsy to Spike Lee's film Bamboozled and characters created by comedians such as Jackie "Moms" Mabley and Richard Pryor. And how should we assess Porgy, a play by the white writer Dubose Heyward, which evolved into America's greatest opera, Porgy and Bess? This course will be an ongoing inquiry into the riotous theatricality of American blackness. [ more ]

ENGL 317Black Migrations: African American Performance at Home and Abroad

Last offered Fall 2017

In this course, students will investigate, critique and define the concepts migration and diaspora with primary attention to the experiences of African Americans in the United States and Europe. Drawing on a broad definition of performance, students will explore everything from writing and painting to sports and dance to inquire how performance reflects, critiques and negotiates migratory experiences in the African diaspora. For example, how did musician Sidney Bechet's migration from New Orleans to Chicago to London influence the early jazz era? How did Katherine Dunham's dance performances in Germany help her shape a new black dance aesthetic? Why did writer James Baldwin go all the way to Switzerland to write his first novel on black, religious culture in Harlem? What drew actor/singer Paul Robeson to Russia, and why did the U.S. revoke his passport in response to his speeches abroad? These questions will lead students to investigate multiple migrations in the African diasporic experience and aid our exploration of the reasons for migration throughout history and geography. In addition to critical discussions and written analysis, students will explore these topics through their own individual and group performances in class. No prior performance experience is necessary. [ more ]

ENGL 318(F)Literary Taste and After Taste

Why are some literary works acclaimed or neglected when they first appear, and why do their critical assessments change--sometimes drastically--over time? What does it mean to think of a work as 'before its time? What is the relation between critical trends and their affinity for particular literary styles? In thinking about these issues, we will consider a few crucial instances: modernist poets and New Critics' celebration of Donne and Marvell over Milton in the early 20th century; 18th and 19th century writers' fascination with medievalism and the Gothic; deconstructionist critics' absorption with Romantic poetry; Marxist and neo-Marxist critics' qualified embrace of realism and critique of postmodernism; and recent and contemporary debates about the relation of aesthetic forms to representations of race, ethnicity, and gender. [ more ]

ENGL 319The Literary Afterlife

Last offered Fall 2017

What do writers mean when they say that they will live on after death through their books? In this course, we will explore the long history of thinking about literature as a way to compensate for mortality, and we will compare the literary afterlife to religious and philosophical versions of eternity. Many of the writers on our syllabus were anxious about the compatibility of the pursuit of worldly fame with the desire for Christian salvation. We will study how their sense of a conflict between the two afterlives changed over time: from the recovery of pagan antiquity during the Renaissance, across the theological transformations of the Reformation, to the consequences of print. The course deals with some of literature's greatest ambitions--to cheat death, to make a lasting contribution to human culture--but we will often find ourselves caught in an undertow of skepticism. Is writing any less susceptible to decay than human bodies are? If so, is literary accomplishment worth the risk of one's soul? Authors and texts will include Sappho, Ovid, Lucretius, Ecclesiastes, Augustine, Petrarch, Julian of Norwich, Montaigne, Shakespeare's Hamlet and Richard II, Jonson, Donne, and Milton. [ more ]

ENGL 320 TTwo American Poets: Wallace Stevens and John Ashbery

Last offered Spring 2016

This tutorial focuses on the work of two major American poets who are known for their "difficult" poetry. In some respects, Stevens (1879-1955) and Ashbery (b. 1927) book-end twentieth-century poetry: Stevens is a major Modernist poet, perhaps the most philosophically oriented American poet of the twentieth century, and Ashbery is considered by most critics to be the most important American poet alive. Students will do close readings of their poems (and one play, "Three Travelers Watch a Sunrise", by Stevens), as well as read their writing on poetry and art. We will discuss the overlaps between Stevens' and Ashbery's work and lives--their having grown up in the Northeast and attended Harvard, what some see as the abstractness of their writing, their mastery of tone, among others--but also the differences: Ashbery's sexuality, his having lived in France, the supposedly more "avant-garde" nature of Ashbery's work, and so on. Along the way, we will ask questions about the nature of poetic difficulty, of abstraction, of the (lyric) poetic speaker in their works, of poetic tone, of the link between the poem and the world (e.g., in description), of the thinking and philosophizing that poems do. We will also ask about their links to major poetry "movements" (Modernism, the New York School) and pose questions that are rarely asked about their poetry, such as "What are the politics, implicit and explicit, in their poems?" "What are their views about the United States and American society and culture?" "What assumptions about race, gender and class are embedded in their poetry?" And, always, we will be paying close attention to the question of form and language in Stevens' and Ashbery's poetry. [ more ]

ENGL 321(S)Samuel Johnson and the Literary Tradition

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) has been exceptionally influential not only because he was a distinguished writer of poems, essays, criticism, and biographies, but also because he was the first true historian of English literature, the first who sought to define its "tradition." We will read Johnson's own works and Boswell's Life of Johnson to discover Johnson's talents, tastes, and standards as an artist, as a moral and literary critic, and as a man. We next will use Johnson's Preface to Shakespeare and Lives of the Poets to examine how this great intelligence assessed writers from the Renaissance through the eighteenth century. While reading his commentary on Shakespeare and his critical biographies of Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, and Gray, we will analyze selected works by these writers so as to evaluate Johnson's views and sharpen our understanding of the relationship between his standards and values, and the ones we hold today--both individually and collectively. [ more ]

ENGL 322(F, S)Political Romanticism

What is Romanticism, and how does it relate to the world-changing political upheavals that emerge along with it? Romantic literature emerged around the time of the French and Haitian Revolutions, and many Romantic authors were deeply sympathetic to the democratic principles of freedom and equality that inspired such political uprisings. Yet many also questioned revolutionaries' attempts to realize such ideas by forcibly seizing control of governments. These authors became interested in art and literature as alternative means of bringing about social and political change. In so doing, they invented ideas about the political power of art that are still very much with us today. This seminar examines these ideas through readings of works of Romantic literature, philosophy, and art that brought them into the world, while also considering how arguments subsequently developed for and against political Romanticism inform today's heated debates about the relationship between art and politics. May include works by Kant, Wordsworth & Colderige, C. Smith, P.B. Shelley, Gericault, Delacroix, Turner, Hazlitt, Hegel, Marx, C.L.R James, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, and Jacques Ranciere. [ more ]

ENGL 323(F, S)Romantic Moods

Romanticism is often associated with the celebration of emotion over reason, passion over cold calculation. In fact, for the Romantics, the opposition between reason and emotion made little sense, since they were interested in how moods conditioned all human capabilities, including reasoning, from the ground up. In today's age of mood-altering medications and technologies, like the smartphone and social media, we still have much to learn from Romanticism's appreciation of the importance of mood. This seminar will examine the social, political, historical, and ecological implications of mood through readings of key works of literature, art, and philosophy from the Romantic period together with some 20th and 21st century works that extend the Romantic preoccupation with mood to the present day. Authors may include Burton, Kant, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Blake, Keats, de Quincy, Schopenhauer, Freud, Arendt, Benjamin, Heidegger, Derrida, and Ngai. [ more ]

ENGL 325Joyce, Woolf, and Proust

Last offered Fall 2017

This seminar focuses on novels by three of the most important writers of modernist fiction: Marcel Proust (Swann's Way, the first novel of his sequence In Search of Lost Time); Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse); and James Joyce (Ulysses, read in slightly abridged form). By juxtaposing these pathbreaking texts, we will examine the distinctive yet related ways in which they explore crucial preoccupations of modernism: the threat and the exhilaration of cultural loss in face of social and political transformations in the early twentieth century; the turn to memory, to art, and to objects as stays against de-stabilized subjectivity and as means of re-thinking value; the emergence of new forms of political and sexual identity; the heightening of consciousness to the verge of transport or disintegration; and the roots and perversities of desire. Students who have studied Ulysses in a previous course are welcome. [ more ]

ENGL 326Race and Abstraction

Last offered Spring 2015

Minority artists--writers and visual artists mainly and, to a lesser degree, musicians--face a difficult "double bind" when creating works of art: the expectation is that they, like their racially marked bodies, will exhibit their difference by means of concrete signifiers (details, tropes, narratives, themes) of racial difference. Thus, the work is judged primarily in terms of its embodied sociological content (material, empirical) and not by "abstract" standards of aesthetic subtlety, philosophical sophistication, and so on. At the same time, in the popular and academic imaginary, minority subjects and artists poets occupy a single abstract signifying category--homogeneous, undifferentiated, "other," marginalized, non-universal--while racially "unmarked" (white) artists occupy the position of being universal and individual at once. The irony, of course, is that, say, an African American poet's being read as an abstract signifier does not mean that the black subject or writer is seen as capable of engaging in abstract ideas. This course will ask questions about the problem of race and abstraction by looking at the work of various African American and Asian American writers, visual artists and musicians--including Will Alexander, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, David Hammons, Yayoi Kusama, Tan Lin, Nathaniel Mackey, and Cecil Taylor--as well as critics. We will pay particular attention to formally experimental works. This course will ask questions about the problem of race and abstraction by looking at the work of various African American and Asian American writers, visual artists and musicians--including Will Alexander, John Keene, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, John Yau, Cecil Taylor, David Hammons, and Yoko Ono--as well as critics. We will pay particular attention to formally experimental works. [ more ]

ENGL 327Experimental African American Poetry

Last offered Fall 2015

Contemporary African American poets in various cities and towns across the nation--from New York City to Los Angeles, from Berkeley to Durham, N.C.--are currently producing a vibrant and thriving body of formally experimental work, yet this poetry is largely unknown to readers both within and outside the academy. This formally innovative poetry defamiliarizes what we normally expect of "black writing" and pushes us to question our assumptions and presumptions about black identity, "identity politics," the avant-garde (for example, is it implicitly raced?), formalism, socially "relevant" writing, the (false) dichotomy of form versus content, the black "community," digital poetics, and other issues of race and aesthetics. We will examine the writings of living poets, who range widely in age, and those of their avant-garde predecessors in the twentieth century. We will also be making links between this poetry and African American music and visual art. [ more ]

ENGL 328Austen and Eliot

Last offered Fall 2017

Austen and Eliot profoundly influenced the course of the novel by making internal consciousness crucial to narrative form. In this course we will explore Austen's innovative aesthetic strategies and the ways in which Eliot assimilated and transformed them. By placing each writer's work in its political and philosophical context--in Austen's case, reactions to the aftermath of the French Revolution, in Eliot's, to the failed mid-century European revolutions and the pressures of British imperialism--we will consider how each writer conceives social and historical exigencies to shape comedies and dramas of consciousness. Readings will include Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion; Eliot's The Mill on the Floss, The Lifted Veil; and Daniel Deronda; selected letters and prose; and critical essays. [ more ]

ENGL 329Sexuality and US Literatures of the 19th Century

Last offered Spring 2017

If homosexuality and heterosexuality, as it is commonly argued, only came into being as legible identities at the end of the nineteenth century, what constituted "sexualities" before that? This course will explore how sexualities were expressed, regulated, denied and embraced "before identity" through reading closely some of the most central literary and cultural works of the period alongside a set of methodologically and theoretically diverse critical works that engage this query. Some questions we may explore include: What counts as sex and why would that be important to understanding a work of literature? What effect does race, ethnicity, gender, class and other differences make on sexual expression and regulation? How does literature itself represent, theorize, and respond to discourses of desire? Authors whose works we may explore include Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass,Harriet Jacobs, Henry James, Herman Melville, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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ENGL 331Romantic Culture

Last offered Fall 2017

The Romantic period--1780 to 1830, roughly--is one of the great watershed moments in western culture. Romantic writers obsessed over the same things we do: the profit and power resident in human interactions with the natural world, for instance, or the spiritual significance of our inner lives, or the terrors and exhilaration of political and social activism. Romantic writing is durably relevant and, frequently, durably and interestingly weird. We will read a lot of poetry, and paintings and other examples of Romantic expressive culture will comprise a significant part of the course materials. [ more ]

ENGL 332(F)Writing in the Margins: Race, Performance, Playgiarism

There is no such thing as an original play. So says playwright Chuck Mee. Someone else, certainly, said it before him. What does it mean to own a story? This seminar/studio course proceeds from a historical understanding that writing and performance are, and have always been, practices of plagiarism. We begin by looking at how bodies, thoughts, and words come to be understood as ownable property in the modern era, and how that process of commodification is inextricably tied to colonialism and the production of race. How do performance and bodily practices trouble our ideas about individual ownership? We look to writers and other artists of color who have plundered "classic" texts and radically reclaimed the colonial canon. We will read intertextual works by Suzan-Lori Parks, Young Jean Lee, Salman Rushdie, Cherrie Moraga, and others. Taking these artists as inspiration, students will choose a text as source material and write in the margins of that text to create new, re-visioned work. [ more ]

ENGL 333The Nineteenth-Century British Novel

Last offered Spring 2018

In nineteenth-century Britain, the novel took on the world. Shaking off its early disrepute, and taking advantage of growing literacy and innovations in production and distribution, it achieved in this period an unrivalled synthesis of mass appeal and aesthetic ambition. Its representational aspirations were breathtaking: attempting to comprehend in its pages the dizzying complexity of new social, political, and economic structures, as well as to delineate in finest detail the texture of individual lives and minds. In an age obsessed with the social, it engaged directly with the most compelling social issues of the day, including industrialization and the gap between rich and poor, the role of women, nationalism and imperialism, and more broadly, the very nature of historical change itself. But it did so, for the most part, by telling fine-grained stories of ordinary men and women, people trying to make a living, worrying about their families and their neighbors, facing illness and death, and falling in--and sometimes out of--love. Since so many of these stories of everyday life are familiar as, we will work hard to focus on what is strange and specific about the fiction of the nineteenth century, while also recognizing the roots of much that is modern in our own culture. We will also take seriously their social ambitions, looking especially at the ways they formulate, promote, and contest their readers' understanding of themselves as subjects and agents of an ongoing social history. [ more ]

ENGL 334The Orientalist Sublime and the Politics of Horror

Last offered Spring 2018

Islamophobia is on the rise once again, but its history is long and storied. This course will look at how we got here by asking simple questions: how do we name those things that are beyond the grasp of reason, outside the realm of intelligibility? How do we attempt to domesticate that which is foreign or other? What, to Western Europeans, was the deep mysterious Orient but a new instance of the sublime? What is the Arab world to Americans now? In this seminar, we will take up the inheritance of the eighteenth-century fad in Europe for all things Oriental that followed the translation of The Arabian Nights into French in 1707. We will read the Nights alongside Edmund Burke's and Immanuel Kant's theories of the sublime and writings on the French Revolution in order to investigate the relationship between the real politics of Empire and the politics of imperial representation. Raced and gendered imaginaries will play a crucial role in our study. In aiming to understand how literature and art deal with the magisterial, the infinite, the unmapped, the horror, and the mystery of the sublime East, we will touch on important writers and artists in the long history and aftermath of European Orientalism from the eighteenth century to the present. Authors and artist include Daniel Defoe, Mary Wortley Montague, Eliza Fay, J.A.D. Ingres, Eugene Delacroix, Mary Shelley, William Beckford, Comte de Lautreamont, Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, Richard Marsh, E.M. Forster, Jorge Luis Borges, and Salman Rushdie. [ more ]

ENGL 335(F)The Great Debates

This course foregrounds the central debates, key questions, and methods that have been vital to the field of African American literature. We will ground our readings of fiction within African American literary theory and criticism from the 1920s through the present. This course is organized around four moments: (1) articulations of an emergent black critical aesthetic in the 1920s, (2) assertions of black nationalism and black feminisms as critical imperatives in the 1970s and beyond, (3) considerations of the value of structuralism to black narratives in the 1980s, and (4) investments in queer theory, Afro-pessimism, and the turn to affect in our current moment. We will engage such questions as: What is the role of the critic and of criticism and theory? How do we account for multiple interpretations of texts? Texts will be paired with criticism from various moments, which will allow us to interrogate the questions of language, signification, politics, embodiment, and nationalism that maintain this robust field of inquiry. [ more ]

ENGL 336(S)Escape, Escapism, Escapology, and the Contemporary American Novel

One prestigious set of contemporary American novels seems to confuse escape (evasion of real danger, such as Nazism or slavery), escapology (evasion of invented dangers, e.g. Houdini's art), and escapism (failure to confront real dangers). Some of these books have hyperbolic titles (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), as if to suggest escapist or escapological fantasies about political or existential dangers that require real escaping. What's going on? We'll discuss the conceptual difficulties of escaping in a globalized world; and in particular, we'll discuss the resistance of contemporary American novelists to contemporary forms of messianism (or a place of return) and utopianism (or a place of departure). Besides the hyperbolically named texts, we will probably read Emma Donoghue's Room and Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad. Film paradigms will probably include The Sound of Music and Life is Beautiful. [ more ]

ENGL 337The Social Life of Renaissance Poetry

Last offered Spring 2017

What is the relationship between interior life and the public sphere? Many of the accomplishments of Renaissance poetry are inward-facing: psychological intensity, religious devotion, eroticism, the discovery of nature as a space of retreat. This writing was not produced by solitary geniuses, however, but rather by men and women whose texts were embedded in social networks. We will consider social spaces of poetic production, including court, country house, city, and coterie, as well as transnational spaces created by literary influence, cultural exchange, and travel. Authorship, style, commerce, patronage, privacy, sexuality, marriage, censorship, and the history of the book will be our conceptual preoccupations. Poets will include Petrarch, Wyatt, Elizabeth I, Sidney, Spenser, Donne, Shakespeare, Jonson, Marvell, and Milton. [ more ]

ENGL 338(F)The American Renaissance

"The American Renaissance" is the name given to US literature from 1830-1860. The explosive cultural energy of this period resulted from a multitude of ideas, practices and formations: the unprecedented spread of empire under the banner of "manifest destiny"; the formation of the white middle class; the consolidation of pro- and anti-slavery political factions; religious and spiritual experimentation; new, contested definitions of self, work, race, class and gender; and the looming Civil War. In short, a historical moment not unlike our own. If you want to understand contemporary American culture, the mid-19th century provides an uncanny key. We will read works by Emerson, Thoreau, Douglass, Jacobs, Whitman, Poe, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Melville, and a host of lesser known writers. We will also make constant reference to contemporary American literature, music, and art. [ more ]

ENGL 339(S)Black Counterpublic Sphere in Early America

This course examines the emergence of black writing and chronicles the major movements of African American print culture from the early American republic to the antebellum era. We will investigate what Joanna Brooks identifies as a distinct tradition of black publication, or a black print "counterpublic" sphere, and determine how this counterpublic emerges around questions of agency, humanity, and the law. We also will consider its role in setting and sustaining communal and intellectual agendas for black people through our engagement with such questions as: how did print culture become central to liberation efforts in early America? And how did black people participate through print in the making of the early republic and the transatlantic exchange of ideas? We will discuss such authors as Briton Hammon, Phillis Wheatley, and Olaudah Equiano. Collaborating with Williams College Special Collections, we will analyze a broad range of literary forms and documents (e.g. pamphlets, orations, epistles, and sermons) and study the institutions that made early black print publication possible. [ more ]

ENGL 340(S)Elizabeth Bishop in the Americas

Elizabeth Bishop has emerged as one of the most important poets of the 20th century. She is admired not only for her dazzling mastery of the craft but also her adventurous life as a world traveler. Her more than two decades living in Brazil and translating the culture and literature of that country for a North American audience, for instance, make her life and work a rich focal point for cross-cultural study. At the center of the course will be Bishop's stunning meditations on childhood, memory, travel, lesbian sexuality, gender identity, ecology, and race and class in the U.S. and Brazil. We will look at how Bishop intertwines personal and global historical encounters in order to raise serious ethical questions about our shared history of conquest and sense of place in the Americas from the 16th century to the Cold War period of the twentieth. What is ultimately at stake in our claiming of a "home"? We also read a number of the writers in North and South America who were closely connected to Bishop, from Robert Lowell and Ernest Hemingway in North America, to Pablo Neruda and Clarice Lispector in South America. Ultimately, we study how craft, poetic process, and an ethical eye on the world can open up the study of poetry and poetics in the 21st century. [ more ]

Taught by: Bethany Hicok

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ENGL 341American Genders, American Sexualites

Last offered Spring 2017

This course investigates how sexual identities, desires, and acts are represented and reproduced in American literary and popular culture. Focusing on two culturally rich periods--roughly 1880-1940 (when the terms "homosexual" and "heterosexual" came to connote discrete sexual identities), and the contemporary context of the "postmodern" 21-century--we will explore what it means to read and theorize "queerly." Among the questions we will ask: What counts as "sex" or "sexual identity" in a text? Are there definably lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or transgender writing styles or cultural practices? What does sexuality have to do with gender? How are sexual subjectivities intertwined with race, ethnicity, class, and other identities and identifications? Why has "queerness" proven to be such a powerful and sometimes powerfully contested concept? We will also explore what impact particular historical events, such as the rise of sexology, the Harlem Renaissance, and the emergence of a transgender movement have had on queer cultural production. Readings may include works by the following authors: Butler, Cather, Diaz, Ferguson, Fitzgerald, Foucault, Freud, Hammonds, Hughes, James, Larsen, Lorde, Mu?oz, Rich, Rodriguez, Sedgwick, and Stein, and as well as screenings of contemporary videos and films. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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ENGL 342Race and Feeling in Twentieth Century Literature

Last offered Spring 2018

Although we now take for granted that race is socially constructed, the terrain of racial feeling is less certain. In this course, we recognize that states of feeling are also socially constructed; they are marked and shaped by race and other categories. Questions concerning the circulation of feeling between individuals and their generative possibilities have preoccupied sociologists, psychologists, and literary theorists since the mid-1990s, and we will take up where they left off. In this course, we will study the ways in which literary representations of shame in African American literature offer insight into the interior lives of individuals who have been stigmatized by histories of disempowerment, trauma, and the real or imagined racialized gaze. We will analyze the influence of shame in works by such authors as James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Sherley Anne Williams, Phyllis J. Perry, Toni Morrison, and E. Lynn Harris, and we will engage the ways in which shame, and its correlative feelings --- guilt, pride, humiliation, and love --- emerge in texts through various formal and aesthetic choices. We will also engage such theorists as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Sara Ahmed, Sianne Ngai, Heather Love, Darieck Scott, Erving Goffman, and Melissa Harris-Perry to assist us in our inquiry into the intersections of race, feeling, and literature. [ more ]

ENGL 343 T(S)Whitman and Dickinson in Context

In this tutorial, we will read closely the works of two of the most influential and fascinating poets in the U.S., Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. In addition to studying in depth their poems and other writings--in Whitman's case, his essays, in Dickinson's, her letters--we will delve into some of the major critical debates surrounding their work, both individually and when compared to one another. For example, Whitman is often viewed as perhaps the most public nineteenth-century American poet, whereas Dickinson is regarded as perhaps the most "private." We will interrogate this assumption, exploring how each poet represents publicity and privacy in their work, as well as their efforts to "perform" and/or reform the American self. We will also examine how each poet engages questions of gender and sexuality, as well as contemporary debates surrounding such issues as abolition/slavery, women's suffrage, temperance, and territorial expansion. Finally, we will explore Whitman and Dickinson's relation to significant literary and philosophical movements of the period, including transcendentalism and the culture of sentiment. Throughout the course, emphasis will be on analyzing and generating interpretations of Whitman and Dickinson's works, constructing critical arguments in dialogue with other critics, formulating cogent written critiques, and carrying on an oral debate about a variety of interpretations. Students will meet with the instructor in pairs for an hour each week. They will alternate between writing 5- to 7-page papers and commentaries on their partner's papers. [ more ]

ENGL 344Aestheticism & Decadence

Last offered Spring 2018

"Fin de Siecle": Despair over a seemingly perilous decline in moral standards, scandalous forms of art and writing, anxieties brought on by Britain's uneasy relation to its colonies, and the emergence of new dissident sexual and social identities, led some to fear (and others to celebrate) that the ways of Victorian Britain were not long for this world at end of the 19th century. This course will consider two loosely affiliated artistic movements, aestheticism and decadence, as responses both scandalized and scandalizing to this exhilarating period. The terms themselves are elusive; so, much of our work will entail tracing out the multiple and often contradictory uses of them. Do they designate a distinct cultural and historical moment, a loose set of writers and artists, a set of thematic preoccupations? Or, might we better understand aestheticism and decadence as a style of writing, or even of the self--one we are as likely to find in 21st-century New York as 19th-century London? We'll read writers such as Oscar Wilde, who reveled in amoral manifestos like "art for art's sake" by elevating artifice and shallowness to first principles of life; as well as Sherlock Holmes, who pursued something like "detection for detection's sake". Our reading will range across novels, plays, poetry, essays, and works that seem to exceed or fall short of those genres, all in the period that gave us both science fiction and the detective story. We'll be especially interested in attempts to rethink traditional social bonds in works that value solitude over sociality, the transient encounter over the enduring relationship, new forms of affective communities, and to think about how literary form might relate to those efforts. Along with fiction, essays, and drama, we'll explore their interrelation with the broad and compelling range of visual art produced in this period. Likely authors include: Huysmans, Wilde, H.G. Wells, Darwin, Conan Doyle, RL Stevenson, Kipling, Edith Wharton. [ more ]

ENGL 345 TShakespeare's Women

Last offered Spring 2017

Shakespeare's plays portray a remarkably wide range of female characters from serving women to queens, from innocent, subservient young women to powerful authoritative adults. His plays explore female friendships, parents and children, love affairs and marriages, male actors playing female roles and female characters playing male roles. Looking closely at five plays--Twelfth Night, Much Ado Nothing, Hamlet, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra--we will examine the ways in which attitudes toward female stereotypes, sexuality, gender, subjectivity, social norms and performance evolve as Shakespeare's poetic style and dramatic technique mature, and the genre shifts from comedy to tragedy. [ more ]

ENGL 346Negative Affects in African American Literature

Last offered Spring 2018

"My pessimism was stronger than my longing," wrote Saidiya Hartman in her genre-breaking Lose Your Mother in her search for the afterlife of kinship in the remains of a Ghanaian slave fort. In this course we will discuss a mixture of contradictory "bad" feelings burdening the individual and the collective; for example, how hope and desire compete in Hartman's statement with habituated disappointment and exhaustion. How do black subjects creatively overcome the racial foreclosure to write and recite violence, rage, refusal, anxiety, depression, idleness, grief, silence, etc.? And, further, how do we make sense of the sorts of affects that become negative when practiced by black subjects, such as love, empathy, and desire? Together, we will explore interventions by critical theorists of blackness, gender, and sexuality including Saidiya Hartman, Darieck Scott, Abdul JanMohamed, Christina Sharpe, Frantz Fanon, Ann Cvetkovich, Heather Love, and Lauren Berlant to assist us in confronting the sometimes perilous terrain of negative expression for black subjects. Primary texts will include work by Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Kara Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, and Richard Wright. This course will be driven by student discussion and collaboration. [ more ]

ENGL 347(F)Big Game: Adventure, Empire, Ecology

"Big Game: Adventure, Empire, Ecology" asks how the era of imperial expansion and the study of "natural history" leads into our contemporary ecological crisis. We will begin with readings of influential colonial travel and adventure narratives like Robinson Crusoe, the captivity narrative of Mary Rowlandson, sections of Darwin, and Captain Cook's travel journals, and in-class work with archival materials like the Indian Botanical Survey and the Elphinstone Family Book. In the first weeks, we will consider how the aesthetics of adventure circulated throughout the British Empire in both the East Indies and India, and ramifies elsewhere in the Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Belgian holdings. We will conclude with a suite of readings through which we will attempt to locate a productive intersection between ecocriticism and postcolonial studies, drawing together sensationalist disaster journalism with environmental activism emerging from the Global South. This course will be especially of interest to students in English, Comparative Literature, and Environmental Studies. [ more ]

ENGL 348(S)Women, Men and Other Animals

In this seminar, we will together learn to be "animal critics." We will explore ways in which human groups and interests, particularly in the United States, have both attached and divorced themselves from other animals, considering such axes as gender, race, ability, and sexuality as key definitional foils for human engagements with animality. What are the "uses" of "animals" for "us," and precisely who is this "us"? How and when are some willing to see themselves as animal--indeed, under what political conditions do they embrace it? What is the history of unique, often asymmetric, interdependencies between human animals and nonhuman animals? How do actual lives of humans and non-human animals merge and clash with the rhetorics and visualities of human animality? We will examine both "everyday" animality and the forms of animality that stand out only today in retrospect, in their exceptionality, or upon reflecting on structures of privilege. We will build a critical animal studies vocabulary from a range of readings in science, philosophy, art, feminism, indigenous studies, critical race, geography, fiction, film, rhetoric, history, activist movements, disability studies, postcolonial studies, and examine both visual and narrative cultural production. [ more ]

Taught by: Mel Chen

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ENGL 349(S)Contemporary Theatre and Performance

As Gertrude Stein once remarked, "The hardest thing is to know one's present moment." What is going on in the world of theatre and performance today? What are the hot topics in our current artistic landscape? Who are the writers, performers, and directors of the past two decades? This seminar will consider both experimental and mainstream drama and performance from the twenty-first century, focusing on topics such as: post-dramatic theatre, devised performance, social practice, participatory and immersive theatre, hyper-naturalism, post-identity performance, and weird theatre. Artists and collectives to be considered may include: Suzan-Lori Parks, Will Eno, Richard Maxwell and the NYC Players, Young Jean Lee, Annie Baker, Lucas Hnath, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Quiara Alegria Hudes, Anne Washburn, Taylor Mac, Lynn Nottage, Stephen Adly Guirgus, Miguel Gutierrez, Elevator Repair Service, The Wooster Group, and Nature Theatre of Oklahoma. As a final project, students will work individually or in small groups to create a script or short performance that addresses the question: "What is the most important story to be telling through performance right now?" Students may be required to attend theatre, dance, and other performances at the '62 Center and beyond. [ more ]

ENGL 350(F)Modern Poetry

A study of British and American poetry between 1890 and 1945, centering on the radical aesthetic, formal and political shifts which took place during the Modernist era. We will consider the changing authorial and public perceptions of the place and function of poetry during the period, the cross-pollinations and strains between the British and American literary traditions, and the writers' individual relationships with the culture of their times. Readings will focus primarily on the poetry of W.B. Yeats, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens and W.H. Auden. [ more ]

ENGL 351After Nature: Writing About Science and The Environment

Last offered Spring 2018

Over the last few decades, the nature of nature has changed and so, by necessity, has nature writing. In this course we will read some of the classic works of nature writing as well as essays and articles by contemporary authors. The emphasis will be on producing our own work. The class will include workshop sessions and group discussions. There will be frequent short exercises and a long final project. [ more ]

ENGL 352Anticolonial Avant Gardes: Literature, Film, Theory

Last offered Fall 2017

Chic, sophisticated, experimental, bohemian, radical: the words we think of when we think of the "avant garde" call to mind the great cities of Europe and America in the early decades of the twentieth century. The usual suspects hail from Paris, London, Moscow, Rome, and New York, but many of them claimed to be mining the "naive arts" and primitive energies of the "uncivilized societies" in Africa, Asia, and beyond. Can we recover these Others, these understudied but essential artists, as more than unconscious transmitters of unfamiliar cultures, and locate in their work a distinct set of aesthetic and political practices? Can we trace the global vectors of a representational strategy that is not Euro-American but is nevertheless politically and formally radical? Writers, artists, and filmmakers like Jean Toomer, G.V. Desani, Amos Tutuola, Emile Habiby, Jean Genet, Aime Cesaire, Haroun Farocki, Patrick Chamoiseau, Claire Denis, and Antjie Krog will help us locate and consider the explosive diversity of a broader avant garde's experiments with image, sound, and language, as well as how these texts have contributed to and put pressure on more traditionally Western modernisms. In posing a question about the geographical and cultural purview of the Avant Garde around the time of the world wars, this class encourages students to interrogate the transmissibility of aesthetic practice in an age of global upheaval. We will look to writers and artists working in a variety of traditions and, equally importantly, against those traditions, in order to examine how power and resistance inflected the avant grade strains of modernist expression. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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ENGL 353The Brontes

Last offered Fall 2016

Around 1845, three sisters in a remote town in Yorkshire effectively converted their father's humble parsonage into a family writers' colony. In 1846, each published her first novel--two of which would go on to become major classics. Within 8 years, all three sisters were dead, but by then they had produced seven of the most formally innovative, socially challenging, original and powerful works in English fiction. We will read them all, from Charlotte's best-selling love story, Jane Eyre, to the underrated Anne's brilliant and disturbing anatomy of an abusive marriage, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, to Emily's singular masterpiece Wuthering Heights, as well as their poetry and selections from the voluminous fantasy fiction they created together as children. We will also read Elizabeth Gaskell's acclaimed 1857 Life of Charlotte Bronte, "the first full-length biography of a woman novelist by a woman novelist", which began the process of making the Brontes the cult figures they remain today. Reading these works together in the bicentennial year of Charlotte's birth, we will consider how their shared efforts helped all three sisters to push through boundaries few other women writers had dared to challenge. In a similar spirit of collaboration, we will mix critical and creative writing in our responses to these works. [ more ]

ENGL 354 TAsian American Literature: Fiction and Creative Nonfiction

Last offered Fall 2017

This tutorial is for students who want an opportunity to explore some of the wonderful fiction and creative nonfiction written by Asian American writers over the past hundred years. This course will be perfect both for students who are already familiar with Asian American studies and literature and want to dive deeper into one strand of the rich Asian American literary tradition (its prose: novels, memoirs, and short stories), as well as for students who are new to Asian American literary studies and want an introduction to this exciting and important (but too-little taught) side of American literature. The tutorial format will make it easy to pair students based on their level of familiarity with Asian American history and literature. Likely readings include: Carlos Bulosan's America is in the Heart (1946); John Okada's No-No Boy (1957); Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior (1976); Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker (1995); le thi diem thuy, The Gangster We are All Looking For (2003); Rajesh Parameswaran, I Am An Executioner: Love Stories (2012); Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You (2014); Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer (2015); and The Celestials (2013) by Williams College's own Karen Shepard (an historical novel about the experience of Chinese laborers in 1870's North Adams). As we read, we will attend to the various ways in which the often difficult, and sometimes traumatic, historical experiences of Asian Americans have informed their acts of literary invention. And in order to better understand the broader, ever shifting, social contexts in and against which these literary works were created, we will supplement our primary readings with texts that discuss the experiences of Asian Americans from a historical and sociological perspective. Students who take this course should be prepared to read one book and two or three supplementary historical/theoretical essays each week. [ more ]

ENGL 355(F)Shakespeare's Political Thought: Sovereignty and History

Shakespeare is, among many other things, an exceptionally keen analyst of the political institutions of his time. Going beyond simply displaying instances of good and bad kingship, for instance, he thinks deeply about the foundations of monarchy as a political form: the nature of hereditary right, the relation between the ruler and the law, the tension between symbolic authority and practical power. He is also an acute observer of the way in which the high politics of sovereignty depends upon the activities of women, children, servants, and others who find themselves at once empowered and endangered by their proximity to the throne. This course considers from three distinct angles what it might mean to read Shakespeare as a theorist of politics. We'll discuss his insights into political systems with an eye to how these illuminate perennial and enduring questions about responsible government and legitimate authority. But we'll also examine how the historical conditions of Shakespeare's theater---including official censorship and dependence on royal patronage---complicate any attempt to find usable meanings in the plays. Finally, we'll look at some ways critics have sought to reconcile these two perspectives, reflecting on the uses as well as the limitations of historical evidence as a guide to interpretation. Shakespeare's cycles of plays on English political history will be at the center of our inquiry, but we'll also read in a variety of genres, possibly including Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Coriolanus, and The Winter?s Tale, along with classical and Renaissance thinkers such as Tacitus, Seneca, Erasmus, Machiavelli, and Montaigne. [ more ]

Taught by: Andrew Sisson

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ENGL 356Comic Lives: Graphic Novels & Dangerous Histories of the African Diaspora

Last offered Spring 2018

This course explores how the graphic novel has been an effective, provocative and at times controversial medium for representing racialized histories. Drawing on graphic novels such as Jeremy Love's Bayou and Ho Che Anderson's King: A Comic Biography, this course illustrates and critiques multiple ways the graphic novel commingles word and image to create more sensorial access into ethnic traumas, challenges and interventions in critical moments of resistance throughout history. Students will practice analyzing graphic novels and comic strips, with the help of critical essays, reviews and film; the chosen texts will center on Africana cultures, prompting students to consider how the graphic novel may act as a useful alternate history for marginalized peoples. During the course, students will keep a journal with images, themes and reflections and will use Comic Life software and ipads to create their own graphic short stories based on historical and/or autobiographical narratives. [ more ]

ENGL 357(S)Spirits of Rebellion: The L.A. Rebellion Filmmakers

When Beyonce unveiled the Lemonade visual album in 2016, her production captured the artistic spirit and gave new life to an earlier work: Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust (1991), a luminous film about three generations of the Gullah people and the first motion picture by a Black woman to obtain wide theatrical release in the United States. Many, however, are unaware of the decades-long cinematic movement to which Dash belongs. In this course, we will devote our critical inquiry to the creative output of the L.A. Rebellion, a group of Black cinematic artists trained at the UCLA Film and Television School between the 1960s and 1990s. Our visual journey will take us through a diverse set of filmmakers like Charles Burnett, Ben Caldwell, Barbara McCullough, Julie Dash, Zeinabu irene Davis, Haile Gerima, Alile Sharon Larkin, Billy Woodberry, among many, many others, and how they sought to not only redefine the Black image on-screen but also reimagine the infinite possibilities of Blackness. We will pay close attention to the heterogeneity of genres, styles, and techniques that they put into practice from narrative to neorealism to documentary to avant-garde/experimental to African and African American musical and storytelling traditions. We will explore the various social and political issues that were represented by their films including: racial and class oppression, woman of color feminisms, Black Power, Afrocentrism, anti-colonialism and decolonization, police brutality and mass incarceration, radical social movements and coalition building, and the importance of community-based art and film practices. Finally, we will touch upon some of the recent works that have been inspired by the L.A. Rebellion, including the aforementioned Lemonade and Barry Jenkins' Moonlight (2016). Our viewership will be supplemented with readings in Black social and cultural criticism. [ more ]

ENGL 358The Myth of Venice and its Modern Aftermath

Last offered Spring 2018

The Republic of Venice existed for over a millennium, during which time its historical image came to be enmeshed with mythical representations, such as the image of the city rising out of the waters of the lagoon, or the personification of the city itself as a Queen of the Adriatic. This course begins in the year 1797, at the end of the Republic, and the emergence of an extensive body of literature centered on Venice and its mythical facets. Readings will include Romantic views of Venice and the 20th century reshaping of the literary myth surrounding the city. A journey into this fascinating tradition will shed light on how the literary and visual representation of Venice, rather than the focus on a nostalgic evocation of the death of the Republic, became a premise of exploration for literary modernity. Toward the end of the course we will leave the lagoon to explore the postmodern recreations of Venice around the world (from Los Angeles and Las Vegas, to Macao, Yongin, and beyond) Readings will include excerpts from Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, John Ruskin's Stones of Venice, as well as full readings of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, Marinetti's Futurist manifestos, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, and more. We will also examine movies, such as Luchino Visconti's Senso and Death in Venice and Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now. This course is offered in English; all texts are provided in translation. [ more ]

ENGL 360(S)James Joyce's "Ulysses"

This course will explore in depth the demanding and exhilarating work widely regarded as the most important novel of the twentieth century, James Joyce's Ulysses, which both dismantled the traditional novel and revitalized the genre by opening up new possibilities for fiction. We will discuss the ways in which compelling issues of character and theme (e.g., questions of heroism and betrayal, sexuality and the politics of gender, civic engagement and artistic isolation, British imperialism and Irish nationalism) are placed in counterpoint with patterns drawn from myth, theology, philosophy, and other literature, and will consider the convergence of such themes in an unorthodox form of comedy. In assessing Ulysses as the outstanding paradigm of modernist fiction, we will be equally attentive to its radical and often funny innovations of structure, style, and narrative perspective. In addition to Joyce's novel, readings will include its epic precursor, Homer's Odyssey, as well as critical essays. Students unfamiliar with Joyce's short novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which introduces characters later followed in Ulysses, are urged to read it in advance of the course. [ more ]

ENGL 361(F)Nabokov and Pynchon

After a brief comparative study of their short stories, the course will focus on selected novels by each author. Texts include: Pnin, Lolita, and Pale Fire by Nabokov; and, by Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49, and Gravity's Rainbow (to which a substantial portion of the latter part of the course will be devoted). [ more ]

ENGL 362 TApproaches to W. B. Yeats

Last offered Spring 2017

We will read the poetry and selected prose and plays of William Butler Yeats. Widely regarded as one of the most influential English-language poets of the twentieth century, Yeats was also a novelist, playwright, critic, autobiographer, and a founder of the Irish national theater. We will consider how his writings were shaped by, and responded to, the literary and political contexts of his time; how he conceived of authorial selfhood, its construction in language, and the functions of literature; and his transactions with his contemporaries (from Wilde to Pound to Auden). Applying a range of critical and theoretical approaches to his writings, and giving particular attention to textual materialism, we will study closely Yeats's compositional process and his habits of repeated revision of published works, as well as his formal techniques. [ more ]

ENGL 363(S)Literature and Psychoanalysis

The British psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott once wrote: "It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found." This course will explore the many ways in which writing enacts this paradox, examining in the process several main strands of psychoanalytic thought in relation to literature that precedes, accompanies, and follows it in history. Approximately the first three-fourths of the course will involve close readings of theoretical and literary texts, which will be shared in a seminar format. In the latter portion of the course, students will work with each other and with the instructor on analyzing the processes of reading and writing as they produce original psychoanalytic readings of texts of their choice. All readings in English. [ more ]

ENGL 364(F)Boucicault to McDonagh: Irish Theatre, 1870 to the present

A survey of Irish drama since 1870, to include plays by Dion Boucicault, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, J.M. Synge, Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, Douglas Hyde, Sean O'Casey, Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, Brian Friel, Marina Carr, Frank McGuinness, Conor McPherson, and Martin McDonagh. [ more ]

ENGL 365Beckett, Pinter and Stoppard

Last offered Fall 2017

Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard have been amongst the most influential playwrights of the anglophone theatre over much of the last six decades. This course will explore their mutual concern with the capacities and dysfunctions of language, their questioning of Art's value and the scope for originality in the post-nuclear and postmodern era, and, above all, their collective focus on the extent to which selfhood may be realized in and through performance. Besides reading major plays, we will also give some consideration to the dramatic work crafted by these writers for radio, television and film, and to the political and social commitments animating and counterpointing their literary careers. Readings may include: Endgame, The Caretaker, Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Krapp's Last Tape, The Homecoming, No Man's Land, Betrayal, Waiting for Godot, Dogg's Hamlet, The Invention of Love, Arcadia, Rock 'n' Roll, Not I, Rockaby, A Kind of Alaska, Catastrophe, The Real Thing, Indian Ink, Artist Descending a Staircase and One for the Road. Throughout, we will give consideration to these works as both literary and theatrical texts. [ more ]

ENGL 366(F)Modern British Fiction

This course focuses on British novels from the early decades of the twentieth century. We will study the emergence of innovative stylistic and narrative forms characteristic of modernism, and consider the ways in which such innovations shape the works' exploration of questions of psychology and sexuality, moral integrity and betrayal, epistemology and aesthetics, race and empire. Readings will include such works as Ford's The Good Soldier, James's The Ambassadors, Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Forster's A Passage to India, and Woolf's To the Lighthouse. [ more ]

ENGL 367Documentary Fictions

Last offered Spring 2017

Documentary Fictions investigates the history of reality-based film and video. Using readings drawn from cultural studies, film history and literary theory, we will consider films ranging from Nanook of the North through Grizzly Man and Citizenfour. How do contemporary technologies of representation (medical imaging, FaceTime, video surveillance) inflect our sense of the world, and of ourselves? [ more ]

ENGL 368Ireland in Film

Last offered Spring 2018

In 1909, James Joyce was briefly the manager of one of Dublin's first cinemas. The medium of film has long attracted Irish writers: as a means to explore and represent the country's political and cultural history, to interrogate the very notion of "Irishness", and to promote their work to a wider audience. In turn, Ireland has long provided a rich subject for Hollywood fantasy, often being portrayed by non-Irish directors as either a mythic space for emerald-green romanticism, or, more darkly, as a place of political terror and enduring ideological rivalries. In this course we will view and discuss major films from the canon of Irish cinema, to assess the country's newly ascendant film movement. We will consider the impact of commercial considerations, and the powerful influence of British and American films (and especially those offering competing representations of Ireland), on Irish filmmakers. We will also read the literary texts on which some films were based, so as to weigh the strengths and limitations of the medium as a resource for writers who initially worked only in print. This course will introduce participants to the technical vocabulary of film art, as well as to major developments in modern Irish history and culture. Films to be viewed will likely include: Man of Aran, The Informer, The Quiet Man, Eat the Peach, In the Name of the Father, Butcher Boy, Intermission, Into the West, The Field, The Crying Game, December Bride, The Commitments, Michael Collins, Ondine, Six Shooter, In Bruges and The Guard; and we will also assess one or more short independent films such as Budawanny and Adam and Paul. Special attention will be given to the work of Neil Jordan, Jim Sheridan, Terry George, and Martin McDonagh. [ more ]

ENGL 369American Poetry

Last offered Spring 2018

This course is devoted to studying the work of key figures in American poetry, from Whitman and Dickinson to writers of our own moment, attentive to the social, historical, and aesthetic pressures that shape their work. We will read widely in the major poetic traditions, from Modernism, Objectivism, and the Harlem Renaissance through the mid-century work of the New York School, Beats, Black Arts, Confessional, and Language poets. We'll also keep a close eye on the contemporary scene, in part through interactions with visiting poets. We'll read a few writers deeply, tracing both their inheritances and also the ways they "make it new," in Pound's phrase, and asking what these innovations disclose about the formal, political, and experiential possibilities of poetry as a cultural form in the long "American century." [ more ]

ENGL 370(F)Literary and Critical Theory in the Twentieth Century

From the rise of modern literary criticism around 1900 to the explosion of high theory in the 1980s and 1990s, the twentieth century witnessed an international flowering of new ideas about how to interpret art and literature: Russian Formalism, American New Criticism, French Structuralism and Deconstruction, new varieties of hermeneutic criticism, and a welter of post- prefixed concepts that claim to transcend national boundaries: the poststructural, the postmodern, the postcolonial, the posthuman. What are the ideas associated with these different movements, and how are they connected? Does each represent a radical break with previous ways of reading, or do they actually build on one another and evolve in a systematic way? The course will focus on a very careful reading of essays representing major 20th-century critical schools (and a couple of their earlier precursors), by critics like Plato, Schiller, Shklovsky, Richards, Barthes, Derrida, de Man, Beauvoir, Butler, and Said. Written assignments will encourage you to parse these theories carefully and apply them to the literary texts that most interest you: prose or poetry from any time and place; film, visual art, or architecture; music, new media, or digital media, etc. [ more ]

ENGL 371 T(S)The Brothers Karamazov

Widely hailed as one of the greatest novels ever written, Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov contains a series of enigmas, not the least of which is precisely who murdered the Karamazov father. In addition to exploring the shared guilt of all four of the brothers Karamazov in the crime of patricide, Dostoevsky poses the most probing questions of his day: Are families tied together merely by blood or by deeper spiritual bonds? Is religious faith possible in an age of reason, science, and technology? Can man's earthly laws ever carry out divine justice? Is humanity prepared to bear the burden of responsibility that comes with freedom? This tutorial will spend an entire semester exploring Dostoevsky's masterwork, and we will read a variety of secondary sources alongside The Brothers Karamazov, including history, philosophy, and literary theory. Our goal will be to understand Dostoevsky's answers to these so-called "accursed questions" through the unique artistic form of The Brothers Karamazov. [ more ]

ENGL 373Troubled Spirits

Last offered Spring 2018

"Trouble" and "spirit" are both words with various and contrasting meanings and surprising overlaps. To be troubled is one thing, to be in trouble can mean several quite different things. Spirit began as breath, yet it transcended breathing. Hoping to soothe and grasp the troubled spirits of their own moment, writers and shamans often seek to conjure up spirits from the past. Some wish to exorcise those spirits, others to be haunted by them. This course will examine the manifestations of troubled spirits in works by American writers, especially African and Native Americans and white Southerners. The authors will include Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko, N. Scott Momaday, H. P. Lovecraft, Joy Harjo, Alice Walker, Toni Cade Bambara, and Randall Keenan. [ more ]

ENGL 375New Asian American, African American, Native American, and Latina/o Writing

Last offered Spring 2013

Critics reading minority writing often focus on its thematic--i.e., sociological--content. Such literature is usually presumed to be inseparable from the "identity"/body of the writer and read as autobiographical, ethnographic, representational, exotic. At the other end of the spectrum, avant-garde writing is seen to concern itself "purely" with formal questions, divorced from the socio-historical (and certainly not sullied by the taint of race). In the critical realm we currently inhabit, in which "race" is opposed to the "avant-garde," an experimental minority writer can indeed seem an oxymoron. In this class we will closely read recent work by Asian American, African American, Native American and Latino/a writers which challenges preconceptions about ethnic literature, avant-garde writing, genre categorization, among other things. The writing done by these mostly young, mostly urban, poets and fiction writers is some of the most exciting being written in the United States today; their texts push the boundaries of aesthetic form while simultaneously engaging questions of culture, politics, and history. Reading them forces us to re-think our received notions about literature. Authors to be read include Will Alexander, Sherwin Bitsui, Monica de la Torre, Sesshu Foster, Renee Gladman, Bhanu Kapil, Tan Lin, Tao Lin, Ed Roberson, James Thomas Stevens, Roberto Tejada, and Edwin Torres. [ more ]

ENGL 377Advanced Memoir Workshop

Last offered Spring 2017

An advanced workshop designed to further explore the problems and possibilities that arise in the composition of memoir. Workshop sessions will be devoted to both published and student work. Individual conferences will supplement the workshop sessions, and considerable emphasis will be placed on the process of revision. Students will receive written critiques from other students as well as the instructor. [ more ]

ENGL 378Nature/Writing

Last offered Fall 2017

What do we mean by "nature"? How do we understand the relationships between "nature" and "culture"? In this course we will examine how various American writers have attempted to render conceptions of "nature" in literary form. We will compare treatments of various kinds of natural environments and trace the philosophical and stylistic traditions within the nature writing genre. The authors to be considered include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Faulkner, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez, Ursula LeGuin, and Wendell Berry. [ more ]

ENGL 379Mobility and Confinement in Black Women's Personal Narratives

Last offered Fall 2017

Black women have used personal narratives to negotiate mobility and confinement in different ways from Harriet Jacobs's "escape" into her grandmother's garret in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to Maya Angelou's refusal to speak in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This course will introduce students to personal narratives by black women in the form of slave narratives, autobiographies, and prison narratives. Prison narratives are an understudied genre of literature by authors such as the activist and former Black Panther Assata Shakur. Focusing on mobility and confinement, we will discover how black women challenge notions of freedom, power, and empowerment through their interrogations of space, voice, and social position. We will examine not only the similarities among the concerns of these writers as women, activists, and artists, but also the differences that separate them due to time, culture, and geography. To assist us in our inquiry, we will engage key works of the anti-slavery, black feminist, and prison abolition movements. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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ENGL 380 TMotherhood and Horror: The Movie

Last offered Spring 2018

Horror might be the most durable of film genres as well as the genre that's done the most work in terms of transforming the medium as a whole, and its transgressive nature has insured it attention, giving its most famous texts enormous cultural reach when it comes to ongoing conversations as to what defines evil, what constitutes normality, or what comprises the taboo. A look at the particular anxieties the genre has--especially recently--mobilized through its portraits of mothers and motherhood. The course will also touch on other genres that suggest an unspeakable invisible beneath the maternal quotidian. Films to be studied will include Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, Jee-Woo Kim's A Tale of Two Sisters, Juan Antonio Bayona's The Orphanage, Jennifer Kent's The Babadook, James Cameron's Aliens, Michael Curtiz's Mildred Pierce, Mike Nichols' Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's 28 Weeks Later, and Veronika Franz's and Severin Fiala's Goodnight Mommy. [ more ]

ENGL 381(F)Freedom Dreams, Afro-Futures & Visionary Fictions

In this course we will examine the various ways Black scholars, artists, & writers use science fiction and visionary fiction to imagine freedom and new world orders. We will focus on the role of history, particularly slavery, in the Black radical imagination. "Freedom" is the keyword throughout the course. We will grapple with the various and sometimes conflicting meanings and uses of freedom as it relates to blackness, gender, sexuality, class and ability. We will explore multiple forms of scholarship and cultural productions, including film, music, novels, short-stories, art, poetry, and other academic texts. All students will be asked to discover and develop their writerly voices through various critical, creative, experimental and performative assignments. [ more ]

ENGL 382(S)Advanced Workshop in Poetry

This workshop will include weekly readings and in modern and contemporary poetry, weekly writing assignments, frequent improvisations and collaborations, and the attendance of several arts events. [ more ]

ENGL 383Representing History

Last offered Spring 2018

Moments of political turmoil expose the highly charged ways in which a culture structures itself around a narrative past. In this course, we will read literary and cinematic works that invoke such moments of upheaval--the French and Russian Revolutions as well as those of 1848, the rise of fascism and the Great Depression of the 1930s, the battle for Algerian independence, the AIDS crisis, among others--in order to explore those fraught narratives of the past. We will consider such issues as the rise of the historical novel, the aesthetics of fascism and of democracy under pressure, fantasies of decolonization, representational clashes of culture, forms of affective and sexual disorientation, and the uses of melancholy in representing historical loss. Readings will be drawn from literary works by Gay, Edgeworth, Scott, Shelley, Balzac, Eliot, Conrad, Kafka, Babel, Mann, Borges, Stoppard, Kushner, Morrison, Pamuk, Bolano, and Philip, and theoretical essays by Kant, Burke, Carlyle, Marx, Benjamin, Adorno, Foucault, de Certeau, Jameson, Lefort and Ahmed. Films will include such works as Eisenstein's October, Reifenstahl's The Blue Light, Wellman's Nothing Sacred and Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers. [ more ]

ENGL 384Advanced Fiction Workshop

Last offered Spring 2018

A further consideration of the complexities and possibilities involved in the writing of short fiction. Exercises, short assignments, and discussion of published fiction will be combined with workshops of student stories and individual conferences with the instructor. [ more ]

ENGL 385(S)Advanced Fiction Workshop: Form and Technique

A course for students with experience writing fiction and an understanding of the basics of plot, character, setting, and scene. Through close study of stories in both traditional and unusual forms, we'll examine how a story's significant elements are chosen, ordered, and arranged; how the story is shaped; how, by whom, and to what purpose it's told. Students will write new stories, employing the forms and techniques studied, and discuss them in workshop. [ more ]

ENGL 386Fiction of Beckett and Sebald

Last offered Spring 2018

This seminar explores the work of two of the most original and influential fiction-writers of the last half of the 20th century, Samuel Beckett and W. G. Sebald. The work of both writers was profoundly influenced by World War II and the Holocaust, and their fiction centers on issues of loss and memory, of decay (of bodies, things, cultures, traditions), of reason and imagination as fragile means of enduring privation. Yet material so sobering and often bleak has rarely been rendered so absorbingly, or with such unorthodox forms of beauty. Their methods for reinventing fiction differ. Beckett increasingly strips his fiction of details of time, place, and even event, and ultimately struggles to free his speaking voice from the burdens of narration itself, the better to focus attention on the simple but logically rigorous, brilliant, often comic effects of his spare language. Sebald, who sometimes called his novels "documentary fiction," fashions a blend of recollection, fiction, geo-cultural history, and dream-like meditation, focused on the decline of European civilizations; his more chromatic prose, marked by obliquity, melancholy, and dry wit, is filled with curious facts and haunting anecdotes. We will read some of Beckett's short fiction and his great trilogy, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable; Sebald's major works of fiction, Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, and Austerlitz; and a few short stories and novellas by precursors or successors such as Kafka, Borges, and Thomas Bernhard. [ more ]

ENGL 387(F)Catastrophe/Apocalypse: The Movie

The film industry has always appreciated the visual and dramatic possibilities of catastrophe, and over the last few decades the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic sensibility appears everywhere in our mass culture, such that being plugged into the zeitgeist might necessarily entail a familiarity with the emerging tropes and assumptions of this subgenre. This course will consider the ways in which such films model for us those moments when our expectations and/or actions collide with the devastating and unforeseeable realities of our physical world and political situation. How do we measure loss when loss occurs at the upper end of the human scale? How do we consider collectively, in either secular or metaphysical terms, the issue of our own complicity in--if not responsibility for--disaster? Films to be studied will likely include W.S. Van Dyke's San Francisco, Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, Roman Polanski's The Pianist, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead, Michael Heneke's Time of the Wolf, Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men, Bruce McDonald's Pontypool, Yoshiro Nakamura's Fish Story, Jordan Peele's Get Out, and Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing. [ more ]

ENGL 388Asian American Writing and the Visual Arts

Last offered Spring 2016

This course examines the intersection of Asian American writing and the visual arts in a range of works: graphic novels, art criticism, collaborative projects between poets and visual artists, works that combine textual and visual elements, ekphrastic poetry, poetry "inspired by" paintings, video work, digital poetry, among others. Writers and artists to be discussed include Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Theresa Cha, Patty Chang, Mel Chin, Bhanu Kapil, Janice Lee, Tan Lin, Yoko Ono, Adrian Tomine, and John Yau. [ more ]

ENGL 389(F)Fiction of Virginia Woolf

"Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness. Let us not take it for granted that life exists more fully in what is commonly thought big than in what is commonly thought small" ("Modern Fiction"). Virginia Woolf's fiction represents a self-conscious and highly experimental challenge to the conventions of Victorian and Edwardian fiction, in an effort to re-center the novel on lived experience. This course will explore the evolution of the innovative fictional forms by which she tried to bridge the gap between the experience of consciousness and its representation in language. We will also consider the links between Woolf's concern with in the fluidity of consciousness and her interest in gender fluidity and androgyny. We will read most of the major novels, probably including The Voyage Out, Jacob's Room, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, The Waves, and Between the Acts, together with selected short fiction and critical essays. [ more ]

ENGL 392Wonder

Last offered Fall 2017

We tend to imagine "wonder" as a naive, wide-eyed response, something quite distinct from the cold and sophisticated act of critical analysis. In this discussion class, we will consider wonder as an eminently analyzable concept, but one that raises provocative questions about the nature and limits of our own, distinctly modern forms of critical engagement. The course examines three historical incarnations of "wonder," each involving complex relations among the aesthetic, philosophical, and social domains: the Renaissance tradition on wonder and the marvelous; the eighteenth-century analysis of the sublime; and twentieth-century accounts of the culture of spectacle. We will consider writers such as Shakespeare, Sir Thomas Browne, Wordsworth, Borges, and W.G. Sebald (all wonderful); painters such as Leonardo and Vermeer, the photography of Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth; films including Lang's Metropolis and Scott's Blade Runner; and critical or philosophical writers, including Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, and Walter Benjamin. [ more ]

ENGL 395Signs of History

Last offered Fall 2017

What is an historical event, and how do such events differ from other occurrences? How are historical changes reflected in or produced by literature, art and other cultural forms? Who or what makes history and what is the nature of historical agency? Is history always "written by the victors," as one says, or are there ways of challenging dominant accounts of the past? This seminar will attempt to answer these questions through readings of works of philosophy, poetry, history, prose fiction, film, photography, and cultural criticism that reflect upon the nature of history. Though answers will be multiple, course reading and discussion will in general strive to determine the consequences of understanding history as a site in which reading and writing, experience and narration, and action and interpretation interpenetrate. May include works by Kant, Burke, Hegel, Charlotte Smith, Marx & Engels, Woolf, Kafka, Arendt, Benjamin, Mahmood Darwish, Thomas Demand, and Eyal Sivan. [ more ]

ENGL 397(F)Independent Study: English

English independent study. Kathryn Kent, as chair, is the official "Instructor," but an independent study can be advised and graded by any willing member of the department. [ more ]

ENGL 398(S)Independent Study: English

English independent study. Kathryn Kent, as chair, is the official "Instructor," but an independent study can be advised and graded by any willing member of the department. [ more ]

ENGL 402(S)The Historical Novel

Setting a novel in a prior time period risks estranging a reader, yet the genre has roused deep-rooted interest, intense critical debate, and aesthetic daring. In this course, we will explore the complex and layered uses of a historical past in literary works of the seventeenth through twenty-first centuries, by way of novels by Madame de Lafayette, Scott, M. Shelley, Dickens, Eliot, Ford, Woolf, Morrison, Sebald, and Roy. Exploring the uses of gothic and sensational effects, dystopian and utopian possibilities, and fractured time, we will consider the aesthetic and political experiments historical novels have spawned. We will do so in context of the sustained critical engagement with the genre by such thinkers as Lukacs, Benjamin, Adorno, Jameson, McKeon and Moretti. [ more ]

ENGL 407Literature, Justice and Community

Last offered Spring 2018

Can we imagine possibilities of justice not dictated by already determined norms? What would a community founded on such a conception of justice look like? Can we imagine a version of community not founded on exclusion? What would the members of such a community look like-what version of subjectivity would that community imply? And might literature in particular have something to say about the possibilities for such versions of community, selfhood, and justice? This course will look at recent, theoretically-oriented writing on justice and community, with an emphasis on the work of Hannah Arendt, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy and Giorgio Agamben. We will place this challenging and exciting philosophical work in relation to fiction from Euripides to Kafka, Farah and Kushner, films (Almodovar, Farhadi), photography (Silva, Badlands) and worldly examples of competing claims to justice. The course pursues the aims of the EDI initiative by engaging works in which cultural differences reveal the limits of universalizing accounts of law and justice, works such as Euripides' Bacchae, Nuruddin Farah's Maps, Louise Erdrich's poetry, and Farhadi's A Separation. But the course will equally suggest that such contingency is inherent in the concept of justice as such, insofar as the problem of justice is bound up with forms of constituting indebtedness that define humans as communal beings. In that sense, contingency and difference mark justice even in its most familiar instances-intimately and close to home, as it were. [ more ]

ENGL 410Black Literary and Cultural Theories

Last offered Fall 2016

This course will examine the writings of black twentieth- and twenty-first-century Anglophone and Francophone literary and cultural theorists in the African diaspora. We will begin with Sojourner Truth and W.E.B. Du Bois and end with current debates between the "Afro-Pessimists" and "Afro-Optimists." We will be reading writers from the United States, Britain, Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe, moving through the writings of the Harlem Renaissance, Negritude, Pan-Africanism, the Black Arts movement and Black Panthers, the Black Atlantic, and black feminism and queer studies. We will come to see that there is no easy separation between questions of politics (e.g., anti-colonialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist) and those of aesthetics and poetics. [ more ]

ENGL 412An Infinity of Traces: Haunting, Historical Violence, and Alternative Futures

Last offered Fall 2017

In Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci writes that history has "deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory." In this senior seminar, we will adopt a comparative, interdisciplinary, and mixed media approach to inventory some of these uncanny traces as they manifest in the form of social hauntings through narratives of repressed or suspended historical violence. Animated by a whole host of names like "ghost," "spirit," "specter," "zombie," "things that go bump in the night," "the unborn," or "the undead," we will ask what other stories/other knowledges these halting and haunted figures might seek to tell us. How do they dis-order our experience of a modern world whose space/time is shaped by ongoing processes of chattel slavery, settler colonialism, capitalism, mass incarceration, immigration, imperialism, militarism, and war? How do they unsettle, arrest, disrupt, and even seek vengeance for a "common sense" that is structured in human dispossession, exploitation, repression, and death? Finally, how do they leave us with a radical urgency to unlearn and reorient our ways of knowing, being, living, and imagining toward alternative futures where such systems of power and domination can be dismantled for good? Texts to be considered may include: All They Will Call You by Tim Z. Hernandez, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and short stories by Sherman Alexie, Lose Your Mother by Saidiya Hartman, Burning Vision by Marie Clements, The Gangster We Are All Looking For by le thi diem thuy, Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash, and The Watermelon Woman by Cheryl Dunye. [ more ]

ENGL 415(S)Theorizing Aesthetic Outrage

Outrage has become an increasingly charged and prominent feature of public life in our current political climate. Yet it is surprisingly difficult to analyze and understand, particularly when we confront public forms of outrage, in which collective behavior may shape, complicate, and change its nature. Why are accounts of the reasons for one's outrage so often inadequate to its vehemence? How are we to understand the strange, unconscious mimicry into which the antagonists in public outrage are so often drawn? What are the sources of the pleasure that shadows outrage? In this seminar we will attempt to theorize public outrage, drawing on a range of theoretical models from several disciplines: aesthetics, cultural and political theory, psychoanalysis, gender and sexuality studies, anthropology and sociology. We will be particularly concerned with aesthetic outrage--riots, censorship, and trials in response to literary and cinematic works, particularly where such outrage has been well documented--and will explore the possibility that such outrage is discernibly different from more straightforward instances of political outrage, such as bread riots or Black Lives Matter activism. We will also analyze the basic nature of outrage in the context of affect studies. Theoretical work by such writers as Sedgwick, Berlant, Foucault, Freud, Weber, Levi-Strauss, Girard, Arendt, Bakhtin, Butler, Douglas, and Zizek; literary and cinematic works by such authors as Sade, Synge, O'Casey, Jarry, and Eisenstein. [ more ]

ENGL 416(S)Postcolonial Theory and the World Literature Debates

When publishers, scholars, reviewers, and critics talk about the massive, beautiful, prismatic literary and cultural traditions outside of Western culture, they sometimes refer to them by their geographical provenance--African literature, say, or Sumerian art--or perhaps by their historical moment--Ottoman architecture, or postcolonial Indonesian poetry--but more and more, the catch-all category of World Literature has begun to hold sway in influential places, and is changing the shape of how we think, learn, and write about non-Western aesthetics, as well as how we participate in our "own" cultures in all their complexity. If we can imagine a kind of literature that truly goes under the headings of "World Literature," or "Global Literature," what can we possibly exclude? Doesn't all literature belong to the world? What might we gain by using this term, and what might we lose? What histories are attached to the various names and classifications we assign to culture and how does cultural "othering" uphold or resist forms of economic, political, and military dominance? In this advanced seminar, we will work carefully through the history and influential writings of postcolonialism as a particular challenge to hegemonic forms of representation, cultural production, and naming, starting with a close consideration of the writings of the movement's founders and key commentators, including Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, Robert J.C. Young, Gauri Viswanathan, Partha Chatterjee, and Homi Bhabha, and consider their influence on later postcolonial writers and critics around the world. In the second half of the semester, we will turn our attention to the historical underpinnings and current firestorm of debates about World Literature, beginning with Goethe, Marx, Adorno, Frederic Jameson, Franco Moretti, and Pascale Casanova and shifting finally to critics of the ideas of World and Global Literature. [ more ]

ENGL 420(S)Senior Seminar: The Drag of Black Masculinity

In this seminar, we will study the evolution of Black masculinities through cultural, social, and political movements from 19th century to the present. This course engages Black feminist thought, Black masculinities studies, queer theory, and performance studies. We will examine the relationship and constitutive nature of masculinity and femininity. How is blackness always already gendered? How is gender always already racialized? What are the effects of these gendering and racializing practices on Black bodies, spaces, and places? We will trouble the relationship between manhood and masculinity by examining the ways in which masculinity can move across various kinds of bodies. By examining representations and presentations of Black masculinities, we will pursue questions such as: How has dominant society attempted to define Black masculinity? In what ways have Black people undermined these narratives and redefined themselves? How do racial stereotypes about Black men's sexuality inform representations of Black masculinities? Can we/should we be moving beyond heteropatriarchy and gender binaries? What is the future of Black Gender? By reading critical and creative texts, viewing films and engaging other kinds of media, students will hone their critical theorization skills. [ more ]

ENGL 421Fanaticism

Last offered Fall 2017

Eighteenth and nineteenth-century writers of literature and political philosophy repudiate fanaticism, whether as a religious, political or amorous posture. But what is fanaticism, and why should it be considered such a threat, particularly during a period that embraced an enlightened secular rationalism? In this course, we will examine these questions by considering literary texts that dramatize fanaticism in light of accounts by philosophers and historians. Readings will include novels by M. Shelley, Hogg, Dickens, Eliot, Conrad, and political philosophy and historical writings by Voltaire, Kant, Diderot, Burke, Hume, Carlyle, Adorno, and a range of recent critics. We will also watch films by Riefenstahl, Hitchcock and Pontecorvo, and look at paintings, drawings and sculpture by Fragonard, Goya, and Shibonare. Since fanaticism has recently had considerable political currency, we will also examine contemporary accounts that reanimate the debates and concerns of the course. [ more ]

ENGL 440Wittgenstein and Literary Studies

Last offered Spring 2018

Wittgenstein is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in twentieth-century philosophy, yet his groundbreaking writings remain perplexingly under-appreciated in the world of literary studies. In this course we will address this shortcoming in two ways. First, we will familiarize ourselves with some of Wittgenstein's key works (and the works of thinkers deeply influenced by him, like Stanley Cavell and Cora Diamond) and try to see what is so radical about them. Second, we'll explore the still untapped potential of Wittgenstein's writings for those of us whose primary home is in the field of literary studies. Topics and concepts we may cover include: meaning, intention, and interpretation (Derrida, de Man); ethical alterity and the concept of the Other (Levinas); sex, gender, and the body (Butler, Foucault, Moi); emotion, affect, and expression (Deleuze, Terada, Adorno); authenticity, voice, and style (Fried, Taylor); modernism and modernity (Pippin); experimental writing (Perloff, Bruns); and the relationship between humans and animals (Wolfe). Some prior experience with philosophy and/or literary theory will obviously be helpful but is not necessary. This course will have much to offer students who are majoring in English, Comparative Literature, or Philosophy. If you have questions about this course and its suitability for you and your intellectual interests, feel free to contact me at [email protected] [ more ]

ENGL 445(F)World's End: Literary Ecologies of the Limit

Consciousness of the world's finitude in a time of environmental degradation and headlong global capitalism prompts restraint, a harboring of resources. But beyond the economic logic of conservation and expenditure, might imagining the world from the vantage point of its limit provoke a more profound rethinking of ourselves and the things of the world? Does it change what it means to possess, or even what an experience of the world is? Does it change human relationship? This course explores these questions in part by reaching back to the early modern period, when the boundedness of nations and worlds first comes to view in a meaningful way. But the course will have a long arc, from Shakespeare to Sinha's Animal's People. Primary works will include: Shakespeare, As You Like It; Marvell, "Upon Appleton House"; Ovid, Metamorphosis; Browne, Urn Burial; Titian, Wordsworth, McCarthy, The Road; Alice Oswald; photography (Struth, Hutte), video installations (Pipilotti Rist). Theoretical texts include: Nixon, Slow Violence; Agamben, The Time that Remains; Heidegger, "Question Concerning Technology"; Latour, "An Inquiry into Modes of Existence"; Nancy, After Fukushima; Derrida, The animal that therefore I am and Beast and the Sovereign. [ more ]

ENGL 450(S)Melville, Mark Twain, & Ellison

As an epigraph to his novel, Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison selects a quotation from Herman Melville's story, "Benito Cereno." In the prologue to Invisible Man, Ellison invokes a sermon that appears briefly in the opening chapter of Moby-Dick. In his essays on comedy and American culture, Ellison comments trenchantly on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Melville and Mark Twain were, in many obvious ways, as different as two writers can be. Nonetheless, they also have many surprising similarities, and it is not difficult to understand why both are so important to Ellison. This course will examine the novels, stories, and essays of these three writers, with particular attention to the themes that they have in common and to the traits that make each of them distinctive. Race, slavery, epistemology, and the nature of American democracy are among those themes. [ more ]

ENGL 456(F)Topics in Critical Theory: Hegel and the Dialectic

This course is for students of any major who wish to continue studying critical, cultural, or literary theory. Students will give close attention to a single theorist or philosophical school or perhaps to a single question as taken up by several theorists. Prior coursework in critical theory or continental philosophy, no matter the department, is strongly recommended. The subject of this semester's seminar is the dialectic. "Dialectical" is one of those collegiate words, the kind of word that some people use a lot without knowing for sure what it means. That said, there are a couple of different ways of making sense of dialectics. The word's nearest synonym is "dialogue." Broadly, then, "dialectics" is a name for any philosophy that incorporates into itself the back-and-forth of conversation. Modern dialectics, meanwhile, sets out from two ideas: first, that it is impossible to think about anything in isolation, that we understand all things via relation and contradistinction, that we couldn't call any person "female" if we weren't also compelled to call some people "male"; and second, that all such conceptual pairs (male/female, black/white, east/west) are less settled than they look. You can't not divide the world into oppositions, and all such oppositions will collapse. This is an idea that, systematically pursued, can change the way we think about language, ethics, politics, literature, and art. We will read key texts from major dialectical thinkers: Hegel, Marx, Adorno, but mostly Hegel. [ more ]

ENGL 493(F)Honors Colloquium: English

A colloquium for students pursuing critical theses and critical specializations. Students will present and critique their work in progress, and discuss issues particular to researching and structuring a long analytical thesis. We will also discuss the work of a variety of recent critics representing a range of methods of literary study. Satisfactory completion of the course will be required for students to continue on in the honors program. [ more ]

ENGL 494(S)Honors Thesis: English

English honors thesis. Required of all senior English majors pursuing critical theses and critical specialization. [ more ]

ENGL 497(F)Honors Independent Study: English

English honors thesis. Required of all senior English majors pursuing departmental honors in creative writing. [ more ]