Spring 2014 Graduate Course Descriptions
All of the following courses, except for ENG 5018 (Literary Criticism I) and LIN 6107 (History of the English Language), can count as courses outside area of specialization in the MA areas of concentration.
AML 6934: "Stowe-a-ways": Apprehending the Cultural Legacy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The aim of this course is to unpack the politics of the life and writings of, in the apocryphal words of Abraham Lincoln, “the little lady who started the big war.” Seminar members will assess the ways in which the rhetoric and sentiment of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s most famous novel continue to infuse cultural mythologies in the present. To evaluate the contemporary hold of the 1852 text, the collective will uncover precisely how and why Stowe’s narrative has always already been a contested one, consider the effects of modern film and art practice which borrow from Stowe’s fiction, and interrogate the implications of Stowe’s invisibilization of the diverse sites from which she, in fact, borrowed. Primary questions orienting the seminar may include, but are not limited to: 1) How do nineteenth-century women writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe mobilize discourses of morality, maternity, and Christianity as modes of empathic appeal within the context of antebellum abolition movements? What is the productivity and what are the limits of such forms of affective appeal, then and now? 2) How do such figures as Miss Ophelia, St. Clare, and Mrs. Bird signify—in Stowe’s contemporary moment and our own—in relation to institutions of gender, domesticity, and liberalism? How do figures such as Eliza, Topsy, and Cassy at once reinforce and undercut dominant notions of the fragility of the tragic “mulatta” and of blackness as excess in relation to embodiment, dialect, etc.? 3) In what ways do modern satire, criticism, and performance revise Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s disappearing of Josiah Henson? How does literature function as a political instrument?
[This course counts within the area of specialization pre-1900 in the American Literature area of concentration.]
AML 6938.: US Latino/a Performance
Performance is the place where the written word intersects with the visual. In staging a performance, US Latino/a artists verbally transcribe their cultural experiences and physically embody Latinidad. Performing subjectivity combines movement, images, corporeality and abstraction. This graduate seminar focuses on US Latino/a performance within various genres, including poetry, drama and film. We will be moving from improvisational forms such as performance poetry and art to more institution-centered spaces like theatre and film. By bringing US Latino/a studies criticism into conversation on the subject of US Latino/a performance, we will address issues of genre as well as questions of authenticity, sexuality, language, history, politics and the marketplace. Students should imagine themselves as emerging scholars who can bring new insight to reading US Latino/a performance texts. In order to encourage students to begin formulating their own unique critical interpretations of the course readings, the assignments integrate drafting stages that will also help students hone their writing skills.
[This course counts within the area of specialization of the Multicultural and World Literature and (post-1900) American literature areas of concentration.]
ENC 6930: Cyborg Rhetoric
The ubiquity of technology in our lives encourages us to think beyond the boundaries of self/other, gender/sex, nature/culture,material/virtual, and others. In this course, we will employ the notion of the cyborg as a metaphor through which to explore the implications of postmodern, posthuman, and feminist theories on our evolving understandings of identity,subjectivity, epistemology, embodiment, ethics, and agency.
According to Donna Haraway, the cyborg is “a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” It is neither natural nor cultural, but rather, a hybrid of the two. As such, the cyborg is both an example of and a means through which we might understand reality beyond the binary oppositions characteristic of dominant, hierarchical ideologies.
While the figure of the cyborg will provide a unifying theme for our inquiries,we will explore a variety of theoretical and disciplinary approaches from a number of scholars. We will also explore work in a number of genres, including film, hypertext, podcasts, and new media. Coursework will include reading responses, class discussions, informal presentations, and the preparation of a conference length scholarly essay.
[This course counts within the area of specialization in the Rhetoric and Composition and area of concentration.]
ENG 5018: Literary Criticism I
As stated in the catalog, this course surveys literary critical theory from Plato to the 18th century. We will study the origins of literary criticism in classical rhetoric and philosophy, the impact of biblical and vernacular culture on classical literary models, and the emergence of literary criticism as a self-sufficient intellectual pursuit in the modern world. Authors studied will include, from the ancient world, Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Longinus; from the medieval world, Augustine, Proclus, Averroes, Dante; from the Renaissance and after, Sidney, Daniel, Pope, Johnson. The chief assignment will be an annotated bibliography of scholarly articles in the field, to be developed over the duration of the semester.
ENL 6455: 17th-Century Literature
The speculative and inward eye of seventeenth-century writers, combined with the explosive growth of the English language during this period, resulted in a rich variety of literary texts. The personal essay was born with the writing of Michel de Montaigne and Francis Bacon; the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes reads like literature (and is). Seventeenth century England produced magnificent works of drama by Shakespeare and his contemporaries; the Metaphysical poets wrote some of the most tender and speculative love poetry ever written, as well as religious poetry that is no less spectacular. We will read dramas by Jonson, Middleton, Milton, and Webster; poetry by Donne, Jonson, Herbert, and Marvell (to name a few); and prose by Montaigne, Bacon, and Hobbes.
[This course counts within the area of specialization, pre-1800, in the British Literature area of concentration.]
LIN 6107: History of the English Language
This is a course in historical linguistics which charts the internal and external history of English. In mastering the internal history of English, you will learn how language works and changes in ways that we are mostly unaware of, involving the basic categories of phonology, morphology, and syntax. In mastering its external history, you will learn how language changes with the movements of and contacts between peoples, principally affecting lexis (or vocabulary) and semantics, in ways that the language community is more consciously aware of. Attention will be paid to the insights that a historical awareness of English can give to the reading of older literary texts.
LIT 6934, Gay and Lesbian 20th Century Literature
In this course we will be reading the work of seven British and American gay and lesbian 20th century writers: Elizabeth Bishop, Willa Cather, Somerset Maugham, James Merrill, James Purdy, Gertrude Stein, and Virginia Woolf. We will pay particular attention in the course to the relationship in these authors’ life and work between sexual identity and genre conventions, innovations, and violations. We also will examine the manner in which these authors variously attempt to distinguish between individualist ethics and aesthetics and societal morality and convention.
[This course counts within the area of specialization in the American Literature and the British Literature areas of concentration.]
LIT 6932: Utopia/Dystopia
Description: Fredric Jameson's Archaeology of the Future: the Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (2007) articulates the central concern of this graduate seminar: "In an age of globalization characterized by the dizzying technologies of the First World, and the social disintegration of the Third, is the concept of utopia still meaningful?" The short answer to this question is "yes." The longer one will require us to take an unconventional critical approach to the form. While recent scholarship about dys/u/eu/topoi has tended to focus on the manner in which utopian literature forms a response to the political events of its time—e.g., Plato's commentary upon the Athenian polis in the Republic, Thomas More's response to the Reformation in Utopia, Jonathan Swift's commentary upon the contentious political climate in post-Civil War England in Gulliver's Travels, Ernst Bloch's visions within the context of early Marxism and Fredric Jameson's in the context of advanced capitalism—in this graduate seminar we will consider of equal importance the expression of place. The words "utopia" and "dystopia," after all, are directly traceable to the Greek term topos, or "place"—a skewed place in the case of the dystopia, and a non-existent (but good) one in the case of the utopia. Our particular emphasis will be upon the remarkable fact that utopian works create places and spaces within fictional worlds that help open up new frontiers in our own. By examining the adjacency between fictive and real-world spaces and places, we shall be able to assess the continued relevance of this important literary form.
Readings: We will follow a rough chronology of the form. Each week we will consider one utopian/dystopian work-space in light of its critical, historical, and cultural contexts. Early readings will include the following or excerpts from them: Plato's Republic; Lucian's True History and Icaromenippus; the book of Revelation; Christine de Pizan's the Book of the City of the Ladies; Francis Bacon's New Atlantis; Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World; and Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race. Contemporary readings (i.e., 20th and 21st century) will be determined collectively.
Requirements: Active participation, weekly responses, presentations, and a 20-page seminar paper, to be completed in stages and in consultation with the professor.
[This course counts within the area of specialization in the Science Fiction and Fantasy area of concentration.]