Spring 2012 Graduate Course Descriptions

All of the following courses, except for ENG 5018 Literary Criticism I, LIN 6107 History of the English Language, and ENG 6924 Research Colloquium, can count as courses outside area of specialization in the MA concentrations.

AML 6934: Haiti and the American Imagination
Professor Dalleo

Haiti has long functioned as a place onto which writers from throughout the Americas have projected their desires and fears. Is Haiti a beacon of freedom after the world's only successful slave revolution or a land of tyranny and oppression? A devoutly religious island or a site of devilish practices? Does its status as the second independent nation in the hemisphere give it special lessons to teach about postcolonialism or is its main lesson one of failure?

From the perspective of the United States,Haiti made possible the Louisiana Purchase, was considered as a possible territory for annexation throughout the nineteenth century, and was occupied by the U.S. for two decades in the twentieth century. Haiti fascinated political leaders like Thomas Jefferson as well as creative writers from William Faulkner and Eugene O'Neill to Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Derek Walcott, Aimé Césaire, and C.L.R. James have all written major works about the island, and the Haitian Revolution inspired many of the region's decolonization movements of the 1950s and 1960s. In this graduate course, we will look at the many ways Haiti has been represented by outsiders as well as the ways Haitians represent themselves to think about the past, present, and future of the island's place in the imagination of the Americas.

[This course counts within the area of specialization in the American Literature and the Multicultural and World Literature concentrations.]

AML 6938: Poe, Dickinson, and Whitman
Professor Bradford

Egotist, Recluse, Degenerate?  This course will investigate the writings of three nineteenth-century American authors, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allan Poe.  While Whitman's apparent narcissism, Dickinson's possible agoraphobia, and Poe's reported debauchery may interest us at times, we will for the most part forgo mining their texts for symptoms of possible psychopathology in favor of investigating how their work was conditioned in its creation and reception by prevailing social ideas relevant to writing, circulating, and reading literary texts.  We will investigate, for example, how Poe's otherwise "morbid" poetry is nuanced when examined within the periodicals (and periodical culture) for which it was written and in which it circulated, how Whitman's radical "celebration" of "self" in Leaves of Grass tropes upon contemporary mourning practices that sought to similarly "celebrate" absent selves, and how the aural reading practices of the period would have shaped Dickinson's enigmatic lines and folios in ways that more modern readers would likely miss.  In conducting such investigations, we will essentially be adopting a "History of the Book" approach to examining literature, one which borrows from a variety of methodologies and disciplines (such as new historicism, material culture studies, cultural anthropology, art history, etc.).  Such an interdisciplinary approach to the interpretation of literary art will not only shed insight into the work of Whitman, Dickinson, and Poe, but will allow us to gain purchase on the larger economic, social, political, and technological environs in which writers wrote, readers read, and texts were produced and circulated in nineteenth-century America.

[This course counts within the area of specialization pre-1900 in the American Literature concentration.]

ENC 6930: Literacy Theory and Composition
Professor Galin

Reading the Past, Writing Your Future: Literacy in Social Context

Literacy is perhaps one of the most politicized terms in higher education, bridging the relationships among power, economics, identity, community, culture, and learning. You might recognize some of these relationships in the common ways that the term is used: functional literacy, technological literacy, cultural literacy, information literacy, reading literacy, critical literacy, workplace literacy, visual literacy, literacy test, literate practices, illiteracy, literacy project, community literacy etc. Who gets to define these terms, and in what contexts, determine how education, politics, and culture are defined. Unlike other markers of social status, literacy is perceived by most to be an unbiased record of competence in reading and writing across gender, race, class, nationality, and other social frameworks. All of us who are teachers have our own working definitions of the term that inform our assumptions of teaching and learning. More importantly, we all participate in discussions and social practices that demonstrate that literacy is by no means the innocent marker of competence that is often portrayed.

This class will examine literacy, broadly speaking, across a wide range of contexts, including (but not limited to) past literacy movements, literacy artifacts, contemporary literacy contexts, and the relationships among power, economics, identity, community, culture, and learning. There will be several reader responses, studies of literacy artifacts, and a term-long project that involves: 1) studying a given literacy within its social context; OR 2) a research project concerning literacy within your areas of interest (literacies represented in literature, political debates, schooling, and/or community-based literacy projects). The course is designed to serve all MA, MFA, and MAT tracks as a theory course. It will be particularly useful to those who plan to teach at any level and/or are interested in shaping their own futures.

[This course counts fulfills part of the Pedagogy requirements in the MAT and counts within the area of specialization in the Rhetoric and Composition concentration.]

ENG 5018: Literary Criticism 1
Professor Swanstrom

This seminar will consider the origins and development of literary criticism and aesthetics, from antiquity through the 18th century. Readings will include work by Plato, Aristotle, Longinus, Rabelais, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Mary Wollstonecraft, among others.

The objective of this course is to enrich students' cultural literacy and inform their own critical research projects. Because it would be impossible to cover two thousand years of critical tradition in a single semester, we will focus upon ideas that continue to shape literary studies today.  For example, we will consider Bakhtin's discussion of the grotesque and the carnivelesque in relation to Rabelais, as well as Jacques Derrida's analysis of the "pharmakon" in Plato's Phaedrus. Additionally, we will consider the mediation of the written word—as it manifests in a variety of glorious and diverse forms—throughout literature's early history.

Requirements include the following:

  1. Either a twenty-page term-paper (produced in stages) or two 10-page papers.
  2. A 15 minute presentation on one of the texts that we will read for the class.
  3. Weekly one-page response papers.
  4. Thoughtful, active participation in class discussions.
  5. Steady attendance.

ENG 6049: Ethnic Theory and Criticism
Professor Youngberg

Race and ethnicity are constructs that permeate our social lives and are entrenched in the institutions that form and guide our practices as literary critics.  In this seminar we will be thinking critically about race and ethnicity and their place in literary discussions.  In this way, our course is an addendum to the major principles of literary theory that focuses on race and ethnicity as conceptual frameworks from which to read literature.  Specifically, this will be a survey of principal figures in literary theory who emphasize race and ethnicity as theoretical problems in cultural criticism.

We will countenance the question, with guidance from key figures in Critical Race Theory, of how race and ethnicity shape American social life and how that influence manifests itself both in literature and in our critical thinking about literature.  We will be reading theoretical traditions that emerge from racially and ethnically diverse scholars and are often posited as alternatives to the "mainstream" of literary criticism.

In reading such theorists as Gerald Vizenor, bell hooks, Homi Bhaba, or Edward Said, our goals are to learn to distinguish between critical/theoretical methodologies and to practice the application of race/ethnicity-based theoretical models to literary texts as well as texts from popular culture.

[This course counts within the area of specialization in the American Literature and Multicultural and World Literature concentrations.]

ENG 6924: Research Colloquium
Professor Berlatsky

The Research Colloquium is, for the most part, designed for graduate students in English who are done with their coursework and are working on their Thesis or Thesis Proposal. Though some of the class will be devoted to learning research methods and discussing the pursuit of sources, the presumption is that most students have already done much of this kind of work in P & P.  As such, most of the course will be dedicated to encouraging and workshopping students' independent projects.  Depending on what stage of work upon which students are engaged, we may compile bibliographies (perhaps annotated), bring in thesis proposals, and/or bring in chapter drafts of theses for workshopping by classmates (and feedback from the instructor).

We may also workshop and discuss writing samples for Ph. D. programs and/or related documents.  The Colloquium is designed to help students with their own research (usually related to their Thesis), give them feedback, and move them toward thesis completion.  The members of the Colloquium, in consultation with the instructor, will decide when and where we will meet.

ENL 6305: Chaucer
Professor Murtaugh

The course will include readings of a generous selection of The Canterbury Tales, the "minor poems" ( The Book of the Duchess, The Parlement of Foules, and The House of Fame), the lyric poetry, and Troilus and Criseyde. Each students will prepare and discuss a critical bibliography on a special topic and a ten-page conference paper, with notes and bibliography. There will be several in-class translation exercises to assure mastery of Chaucer's language and to provide the basis for the discussion of some of its features.

[This course counts within the area of specialization, pre-1800, in the British Literature concentration.]

LIN 6107: History of the English Language
Professor Jasin

In LIN 6107, we will examine the causal relationship between historical events in England and key developments in the grammar and vocabulary of English in its early stages.  We will also identify the ways in which English later became standardized with the establishment of dictionaries, rules of grammar, and the like.  Following the transition of English from synthetic to analytic language will strengthen our understanding of the historical and grammatical basis for the language we use today.

LIT 5009: Mythology and Fantasy Literature
Professor Martin

[Description to follow]

[This course counts within the area of specialization of the Science Fiction and Fantasy concentration.]

LIT 6934: Modernism
Professor Adams

In this course we will be reading major British and American figures in the early 20th century Modernist literature movement, along with some of their vital mid-20th-century heirs. The writers and texts we will be reading are listed below in alphabetical order.

  • Elizabeth Bishop, Poems
  • Jane Bowles, My Sister's Hand in Mine
  • Willa Cather, The Professor's House
  • Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness
  • E. M. Forster, Howard's End
  • Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems
  • Henry Green, Concluding
  • Robinson Jeffers, Selected Poems
  • D. H. Lawrence, St. Mawr
  • Marianne Moore, Complete Poems
  • Dylan Thomas, The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas
  • William Carlos Williams, Selected Poems
  • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

[This course counts within the area of specialization of the American and British Literature concentrations.]

LIT 6934: Contemporary Drama: The Body Onstage
Professor Low

In this course we will read dramas from the late 1950s to the present. Authors will include such great Absurdist playwrights as Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter, and Edward Albee as well as relatively young playwrights, including Tony Kushner, Djanet Sears, and Sarah Ruhl. We will look at a variety of innovative works with a view to examining the avant-garde movements of recent decades. We will see how our playwrights address drama's age-old concern with mimesis and how they represent the role of history, memory and the uses of the past in their construction of a postmodern world. We will discuss the techniques of literary pastiche and bricolage, and examine how the playwrights imagine and present their versions of apocalypse.

[This course counts within the area of specialization of the American and British Literature concentrations.]