Fall 2014 Graduate Course Descriptions
AML 6938: Postwar American Poetry
In this course we will examine in some detail and in some depth the careers of a limited number of American poets who came to prominence after the end of the Second World War. Our focus will be upon that tradition of American poetry which was initially—and for some decades thereafter—viewed as “insurgent” or “marginal” by the literary establishment, but which has increasingly come to be recognized as central to twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literary achievement. Poets studied will include Ronald Johnson, Jack Spicer, Susan Howe, Harryette Mullen, and others.
[This course counts within the area of specialization, post-1900, in the American Literature area of concentration.]
ENG 5019: Literary Criticism 2
What goes into the act of writing criticism? What does it mean to analyze “the text itself,” or to look at its “context”? What meanings (whose meanings) are being recovered through these procedures? Is criticism “interpretation,” “description,” “analysis,” or something else? What are aesthetic experiences, and what is their relationship to written criticism? This course will trace the genealogies of ideas underlying some of the most important current engagements with these questions. We will begin with revolutionary ideas about language, truth, culture, and social life from the nineteenth century as a way of introducing major approaches of the twentieth and twenty-first century. Our survey will include Romantic criticism; critical aesthetics; Victorian theorizations of culture and economics; “The New Criticism” and other formalisms; philosophical hermeneutics and the question of the past; approaches from linguistics, psychology, cultural anthropology, sociology, and cognitive science; feminist criticism; New Historicism; and cultural studies. The goals of this survey, and of the course’s writing assignments, are to come to some self-awareness about what we do as literary or cultural critics and to develop thoughtful research practices.
ENG 6009: Principles and Problems of Literary Study
ENG 6049: Critical Mixed Race Studies
ENG 6049: Critical Mixed Race Studies
In the Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History, Naomi Zack offers a definition of critical mixed race studies that addresses how it “overlaps with African-American studies in its concern with matters of race, racism, culture, and identity, but it is distinct in its focus on racial mixing—that is, on the fact that people from different racial backgrounds have interacted and reproduced throughout history, whether by choice, coercion, or force.” This course will examine the emerging field of Critical Mixed Race Studies by analyzing fiction, popular culture, film, and memoirs that explore the various cultural and political meanings surrounding biraciality and blackness. Drawing on mixed race theory, we will examine the historical and cultural contexts and ideological debates about racial mixedness and analyze texts from artists/writers who define themselves as mixed race and/or who write about (primarily black/white) mixed race experiences. Some sample primary texts include Danzy Senna’s Symptomatic, Heidi Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Michael Thomas’ Man Gone Down, Lawrence Hill’s Any Known Blood, Rebecca Walker’s Black, White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, Aisha Sabatini Sloan’s The Fluency of Light: Coming of Age in a Theatre of Black and White, and Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance .
[This course counts within the area of specialization of the Multicultural and World Literature area of concentration.]
ENL 6305: Shakespeare
In order to rescue Shakespeare¹s plays from the isolation in which they are so often studied, we will read selected works alongside relevant plays by his contemporaries. Assigned readings will represent a variety of critical approaches and will provide some cultural context. Most class sessions will consist of text-based discussions of the plays, interspersed with short student presentations and viewing of video clips. Discussions of the secondary readings will begin by way of student presentations.
[This course counts within the area of specialization, pre-1800, in the British Literature area of concentration.]
LIN 6107: History of the English Language
LIT 6932: Superheroes: History, Theory, Fiction, Comics, Film
Conventional wisdom dates the birth of the superhero to 1938, with the publication of Action Comics #1, and the introduction of the character of Superman. In fact, the archetype of the superhero predates Superman in a variety of iterations. One can turn to mythic figures like Heracles and/or Gilgamesh, to historical figures like Napoleon Bonaporte, to the Byronic Hero in drama or fiction, to the early science-fiction heroes of Wells and Verne, or to characters with dual identities like Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. Most predictive of superheroes, perhaps, were “masked men” like Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, Johnson McCulley’sZorro, and the less well-remembered folkloric Spring-Heeled Jack. Heroes of Penny-Dreadfuls, Dime novels, and pulp magazines all contained heroes that we might retrospectively call superheroes (The Shadow, Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, Doc Savage, etc.). The idea of the “superman” even arises in serious philosophical and political discourse in the work of Friedrick Wilhelm Nietzsche and George Bernard Shaw (among others). Nevertheless, the appearance of Superman spawned an explosion of imitators, particularly in comics, but later in television, film, and prose, of characters with super powers, dual identities, and the strange propensity to wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes. Recently, superheroes have all but taken over the summer blockbusters released by the Hollywood movie-machine. This course will cover this history and explore a variety of related questions? What is the mass attraction of superheroes? Why are they so popular, particularly in America, and why have they had such staying power? How are they, inexorably, “queer”? What kinds of ideological problems do they present? What are their gender and racial politics? What do they tell us about ourselves and our society? In what ways are they a symptom of modernity? These issues and more will direct our discussion and our reading over the course of the semester. Though a class in superheroes should, by definition, be fun, it will also be rigorous, and include substantial reading of history and theory, in addition to primary “texts” (comics, films, television clips, and prose fiction).
Readings will include many, though probably not all, of the below: Baroness Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Johnson McCulley, “The Curse of Capistrano,” Siegel and Shuster, Superman, Bob Kane, Batman, William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman, Will Eisner, The Spirit, Jack Cole, Plastic Man, Greg Sadowski’s Supermen! collection of Golden Age comic strips,Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Fantastic Four, Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen, Kurt Busiek, Astro City, Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams Batwoman, Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, Richard Donner, Superman (film), Tim Burton, Batman (film), Sam Raimi Spider-Man (film), Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight (film, maybe), Pixar, The Incredibles (film, maybe), Jon Favreau’s Iron Man (film, maybe), Harvey Kurtzman and Wallace Wood, “Superduperman,” Grant Morrison, Chas Truog, et. al., Animal Man, clips from a variety of superhero TV-shows, and theoretical essays by Nietzsche, Fredric Wertham, Umberto Eco, Trina Robbins, Scott Bukatman, Geoff Klock, Charles Hatfield, Ben Saunders, Alex Buchet, Richard Reynolds, and Gloria Steinem.
[This course counts within the area of specialization in the Science Fiction and Fantasy area of concentration. ]