Archived Course Descriptions
ETS 107-1 Living Writers
ETS 107-2 through 4 & 6 through 10 W 3:45-6:30
This class gives students the rare opportunity to hear visiting writers read and discuss their work. The class is centered on six readings and question-and-answer sessions. Students will be responsible for careful readings of the writers’ work. Critical writing and detailed class discussions are required to prepare for the question-and-answer sessions with the visiting writers. This class is open to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. The first class meets in the room assigned to ETS 107-1.
ETS 113-2 Survey of British Literature to 1789
Instructor: Amy Burnette
This course will introduce you to some of the greatest works written in the English language, ranging from the Arthurian romance of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to the fantastical and parodic adventures of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver. By reading a wide variety of texts of various genres, you will be introduced to literary history as a mode of inquiry as we seek to understand how a text engages with, shapes, produces, and reproduces the historical circumstances in which it was written. However, we will also investigate the ways in which a text makes meaning and produces emotional experience. What creates desire or makes us fall in love? What makes us smile or nod in approval? What makes a hero or heroine that we can admire or take seriously? These are some of the questions that will guide classroom discussion as we consider evolving ideas of British literature across centuries of unstable history and as we become acquainted with the deep roots of English as a language, an important resource for every writer.
ETS 114-4 British Literature since 1789
Instructor: Kevin Morrison
ETS 114-5 Discussion Section Th 3:30-4:25
ETS 114-6 Discussion Section Th 5:00-5:55
Britain is filled with contradictions. In the nineteenth century, it was a prosperous nation in which some of the worst slums of Europe could be found; an intellectually liberated society that continued to maintain a monarchy and an established church; and a stable representative democracy that simultaneously exploited its vast colonies and inflicted violence upon its non-British subjects. In the twentieth century, Britain became highly urbanized and culturally dynamic, with a rich mixture of races and faiths, while nevertheless continuing to perpetuate the belief that, in the words of H. J. Massingham, “[i]n our depths we are a country, not an urban, people.” From the poetry of Wordsworth to the lyrics of the Pet Shop Boys, from the novels of Jane Austen to the speeches of Margaret Thatcher, these paradoxes will be explored in this course by examining more than two hundred years of British cultural production, with special attention to major literary developments (Romantic, Victorian, modernist, and postcolonial) occurring within this time span.
ETS 115-1 Topics in British Literary History
Instructor: Karl Parker
ETS 121-1 Introduction to Shakespeare
Instructor: Dympna Callaghan
ETS 121-2 & 3Discussion Section F 10:35-11:30
ETS 121-4 & 5 Discussion Section F 11:40-12:35
SThis course offers an intensive introduction to the plays of arguably the world’s greatest writer, William Shakespeare. We will read a play from every major genre—poetry, comedy, tragedy, (Roman) history, and romance—in which Shakespeare wrote. We will also pay particular attention to the literary and historical elements of his writing. No previous familiarity with Shakespeare is required, but students must be committed to careful and sustained critical reading. You will be expected to come to lectures having completed the assigned readings and to attend discussion sections ready to engage with the material for that week. You are especially encouraged to raise those aspects of the reading that you find hard to understand. This class will emphasize understanding and engagement with Shakespeare’s language rather than simply its “translation” or the rehearsal of plotlines. Since Shakespeare’s language is what most distinguishes him from his rivals and collaborators—as well as what most embeds him in his own historical moment—this class will take language to be the very heart of Shakespeare’s literary achievement rather than an obstacle to be circumvented by the student. The primary objective in thus elaborating on Shakespeare’s language in this class is to foster rigorous critical engagement with the texts by having you develop your own critical writing skills.
There will be a midterm and a final exam in addition to other writing assignments.
ETS 145-6 Reading Popular Culture
Film Screening M 7:00-9:50
Instructor: Steven Doles
The vast majority of the texts and objects we experience in our everyday lives, from television to toothbrushes, are mass produced within a commercial context. Scholars have frequently been highly skeptical of these texts, seeing them as overly commodified and inferior to high art. However, within the past several decades a model of popular culture has become more prominent within cultural studies which examines the ways people make use of cultural products rather than how cultural products use and exploit their consumers. In this course, we will learn about both sides of this debate, but the emphasis will be on the latter approach. The course will take us from discussions about how to define popular culture and how to recognize the elements that can make a text available for popular appropriation, to examinations of actual instances of fandom, including fan fiction and videos. Specific case studies of popular culture appreciation might include phenomena such as comic book fandom and Star Trek conventions, but students are also be encouraged to bring their own experiences and knowledge into discussion and assignments. Assignments will include brief examinations of popular culture texts, short critical papers, and a midterm and final exam. The weekly screening scheduled for this course is required.
ETS 145-8 Reading Popular Culture
Film Screening M 7:00-9:50
Instructor: Thomas Witholt
There is no single popular culture and this course will examine the many ways in which the texts that make up “popular culture” can be read. Some scholars view mass culture as an unstoppable top-down force, while others argue that audiences instead “make do” with what is delivered and exploit the gaps in popular texts. This course begins with the understanding that popular culture results from mass production and individual consumption that is interactive and participatory. We will examine how people take mass culture and use it to create their own more relevant interpretations in the form of popular culture. In exploring what it means to read popular culture through its historical and social contexts, we will move from the fundamental elements of popular culture, through different models of reading popular texts, and into fandom, via fan communities and fan productions. Through the lens of cultural studies, this course will examine twentieth- and twenty-first-century US popular culture, including but not limited to comic books, television, and film, with special case studies of fairy tales, Star Wars, and the Harry Potter franchise. Discussion will be a critical component of this course, and assignments will include biweekly Blackboard responses, short critical papers, and midterm and final exams.The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required.
ETS 145-11 Reading Popular Culture
Film Screening M 7:00-9:50
Instructor: T.J. West III
Our lives today are inundated with the products of mass culture, from the magazines at the local grocery store to the most recent film showing at the multiplex. While many critics have expressed anxiety over this seemingly top-down cultural model, more recently cultural studies has taken up a different frame of analysis. This newer model reframes mass culture as popular culture, the culture of the people. According to this new analytical mode, audiences do not passively consume mass culture but instead make it relevant to their lives, thus resisting the dominant modes of meaning-making. Through this course, then, we will examine elements of popular culture in its various social and historical contexts, utilize different theoretical modes of analysis, and analyze various artifacts produced by fan cultures. Specific case studies may include the furry phenomenon, the fandom of Planet of the Apes, as well as other films, television shows, and graphic novels. Students are also encouraged to bring their own knowledge and interests into assignments and class discussions. In-class participation is a vital component of this course, as well as weekly Blackboard posts, short critical essays, and a midterm and final exam. The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required.
ETS 151-1 Interpretation of Poetry
Instructor: Sarah Harwell
This course will consist of discussion of poems from various traditions of poetry. As a class we will focus on what makes a poem memorable and moving, and how it is a vehicle for the emotions. We will also look at what provokes and challenges us, what gives the poem its power to seduce and trouble and soothe, and what gives it its music and voice as distinct from speech. Students will be asked to write six two-page papers in which they examine closely a single poem by a poet from the text. Students may opt to write more papers and receive extra consideration for them. In addition, students will be asked to choose a poet and present the work of the poet in class. The presentation will be the basis of a longer paper on that poet. Memorization of a single poem will also be required. Attendance at readings on campus is encouraged. Emphasis in discussions is on style and substance, music and image. Multiple ways of reading poems will help students expand the range of poetic possibilities.
ETS 152-2 Interpretation of Drama
Instructor: Jillian Sherwin
In this course, we will examine the history of western drama, by exploring its origins, development, and several modern genres. Treating drama as a unique medium requiring its own form of analysis, we will develop the skills required to interpret plays critically. For each play, we will examine its historical, political, and social milieu, and then explore the ways in which the technical construction works with this environment to create meaning for the audience. Beginning with a Greek drama, we will move forward historically and examine a play by Shakespeare, followed by a Restoration comedy. When we move into modern Western drama, we will analyze Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, and then explore a mix of British and American plays which may include Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Harold Pinter’s The Hothouse, Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and John Osbourne’s Look Back in Anger. Assignments will include a character analysis, French scene breakdown, action analysis, and a larger final project combining the various skills developed throughout the semester.
ETS 152-3 Interpretation of Drama
Ritual, pageant, mime, dance, vocal display: all have been instrumental in creating drama—a powerful mirror reflecting the lives, customs, and values of a people and of individuals presented live by actors on a stage. This course first examines this “mirror” as it has evolved in from Greek drama of ancient Athens and Aristotle's Poetics to the present. Then we will concentrate on Modern American Drama through our drama’s four greatest American plays and two powerful contemporary social dramas.
ETS 153-1 Interpretation of Fiction
Instructor: Jules Gibbs
The course will discuss the nature of narrative (story-telling and plot), fiction, and the novel. Having established these boundaries, we shall then study examples from different historical periods and cultural traditions, all of which have as an important element in their narrative the societal and cultural role of women.
ETS 153-2 Interpretation of Fiction
Instructor: Chris Forster
This course aims to improve how you understand fiction by looking at a variety of different narrative forms (short stories, novels, a graphic novel). We will examine how different works represent character, establish narrative perspective, and organize plot in order to explore how these choices change the way we understand a work. We will also remain sensitive to the ways in which these works respond to specific historical and political issues. The class will explore how these different layers of meaning come together when we “interpret” a narrative. Texts will likely include novels by Toni Morrison and Ford Madox Ford, short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and Jhumpa Lahiri, a graphic novel (to be decided), and Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Rear Window. Course assignments will include short, written weekly responses and two six-page essays.
ETS 153-3 Interpretation of Fiction
Instructor: C.J. Dosch
This course will introduce you to ways of closely reading and interpreting fiction and will help you sharpen your skills in reading, discussing, and writing about literary texts. Through study of the formal aspects of fiction such as plot, point of view, narrative structure, character, and figurative language, we will learn how textual details allow us to analyze and interpret a variety of stories. With formal elements as our exploratory tools, we will begin to consider how our readings engage with the historical and cultural contexts of both their production and our own historical moment. At its heart, fiction is about the human experience, so we will necessarily contemplate how the texts we read produce representations of humanity in ways that construct, critique, or subvert categories of difference like race, class, and gender. We will read a wide selection of short stories and novels that may include authors such as Henry James, William Faulkner, James Baldwin, Raymond Carver, Amy Tan, Ha Jin, Alice Munro, Sandra Cisneros, Jhumpa Lahiri, Octavia Butler, and Sherman Alexie.
ETS 153-4 Interpretation of Fiction
Instructor: Karl Parker
ETS 153-6 Interpretation of Fiction
Instructor: Lindsay Frank
This course introduces you to strategies of close reading and interpreting fiction, with the goal of helping you hone your ability to read, discuss, and write about literary texts. Throughout the semester, we will analyze textual details and formal elements of fiction such as point of view, plot, narrative structure, character, figurative language, and genre. We will also examine the relationship between these formal elements and the historical and cultural contexts of production for our course texts. The diverse selection of novels and short stories we read will be linked under the broad theme of monstrosity. Thus, we will explore the questions of how fiction represents monstrosity, what depictions of monstrosity can tell us about the cultural moments in which they were produced, and how ideas of monstrosity help shape cultural conceptions of self and Other, “us” and “them.” This approach will enable us to produce interpretations based in close reading, examining the relation between a text's use of language and its cultural and historical moment. Authors may include Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, J.M. Coetzee, Vladimir Nabokov, Jean Rhys, Angela Carter, and Terry Pratchett.
ETS154-1 Interpretation of Film
Film Screening M 7:00-9:50
Instructor: Roger Hallas
ETS 154-2 Discussion Th 3:30-4:25
ETS 154-4 & 5 Discussion F 9:30-10:25
ETS 154-6 & 7 Discussion F 10:35-11:30
ETS 154-9 Discussion Th 5:00-5:55
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the interpretation of film. Regarded as the quintessential medium of the last century, cinema has profoundly shaped the ways in which we see the world and understand our place within it. Focusing principally on classical and contemporary English-language cinema, we will investigate precisely how meaning is produced in film. The course integrates a close attention to the specific aesthetic and rhetorical aspects of film with a wide-ranging exploration of the social and cultural contexts that shape how we make sense of and take pleasure in films. We shall also devote attention to the question of history: How may one interpret a film in relation to its historical context? Film history incorporates not only the films that have been produced over the past one hundred years, but also an understanding of how the practice of moviegoing has transformed over time. No prior film experience is required. The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required.
ETS 181-2 Class and Literary Texts
Instructor: Auritro Majumder
This course will provide a systematic introduction to the social interactions between class and literary texts. We will consider how the problematic of class (and class struggle) is defined in diverse contexts by reading texts from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the US. Writers will include Arundhati Roy, Sylvia Wynter, Leslie Marmon Silko, and James Baldwin, among others. This global constellation of texts will illuminate key concepts related to the study of class and literature and their relevance in the present world order with regard to “exploitation,” “freedom,” “desire,” “the body,” and so on. Short selections from Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, and others will provide a framework for our analysis. This is a writing and discussion based class. Students are expected to participate and engage with each other. There will be a mid-term and at least three writing assignments of varying length (500–1500 words). Students are free to write on any topic of their choosing, after consultation with the instructor, but the essays will have to engage rigorously with the concepts discussed in class.
ETS 181-3 Class and Literary Texts
Instructor: Jackson Petsche
In this course, we will explore literary and cultural productions by situating various texts within the larger framework of class. How do class and the economic structure of society affect our relation to, or our understandings and perceptions of, literary and cultural texts? How are class and class struggle represented in various literary texts? We will also interrogate what constitutes a “literary” text. Therefore, while we will read “traditional” forms of literature such as fiction, drama, and poetry, we will also read lyrics of popular music, prison letters/writing, and memoirs of women workers. We will examine how class structures society, and how class struggle is the necessary outcome of such a structure, both in the US and on a global scale. Selected writings of Karl Marx and other theorists such as Che Guevara will provide the theoretical framework for the course. We will read texts by George Bernard Shaw, George Jackson, Charles Dickens, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, Joy Harjo, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Tillie Olsen, John Lennon, The Clash, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, and Public Enemy, among others.
ETS 184-1 Ethnicity and Literary Texts: Introduction to Arab American Literature and Culture
Instructor: Carol Fadda-Conrey
This course is designed to familiarize students with the burgeoning field of contemporary Arab-American literature, highlighting the ways in which this literature portrays and complicates Arab-American identities and cultures. Featuring a variety of Arab-American literary and cultural texts, including novels, short stories, poems, non-fiction essays, literary criticism, plays, stand-up comedy, and documentaries, this course aims to capture the range of the Arab-American experience. By underscoring specific themes and issues prevalent in Arab-American literature and culture, including the immigrant experience, the effects of 9/11 and its aftermath, Arab-American transnationalism, Islam and feminism, as well as stereotypes about Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans, this course will highlight various linguistic, religious, political, and historical factors that have shaped and continue to define Arab-America. Featured writers include Elmaz Abinader, Naomi Shihab Nye, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Suheir Hammad, Hayan Charara, Mohja Kahf, Rabih Alameddine, and Diana-Abu-Jaber, to name a few. Whether handling topics related to food, language, religion, culture, politics, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality, these authors exemplify the ways in which Arab-Americans negotiate a place for themselves in the US while grappling with issues of belonging, in-betweenness, and nostalgia that tie them to original Arab homelands.
ETS 184-4 Ethnicity and Literary Texts: Intro to Asian American Literature
Instructor: Manan Desai
In his incendiary introduction to Aiiieeeee!! (1974), the playwright and novelist Frank Chin described Asian American writers as those “Chinese and Japanese Americans, American-born and –raised, who got their China and Japan from the radio, […] from the pushers of white American culture.” Chin’s anthology for Asian American literature did far more than define an aesthetic literary tradition; he was imagining a racial and politicized community in the U.S., one defined in opposition to white America. This course takes Chin’s declaration and narrow definition as a point of departure, exploring the ways in which Asian American writers (including South and South East Asian Americans that Chin never mentions) have constantly interrogated the meanings of both Asian American and American identity. As the course progresses, we will ask key questions of our texts: How have Asian American writers engaged the shifting terrain of racial ideology in American history? In what ways has American empire shaped the discourse surrounding Asians in the U.S.? And finally, how have these writers responded to the intersections of gender and race in their writing? Readings may include work by Maxine Hong Kingston, Genny Lim, Julie Otsuka, Carlos Bulosan, Chang Rae-Lee. We will also draw from film, television, and other forms of popular culture.
ETS 192-2 Gender and Literary Texts: Gender and Marriage in Early Modern England
Instructor: Melissa Welshans
The Oxford English dictionary currently defines marriage as: “The condition of being a husband or wife; the relation between persons married to each other; matrimony.” However, as we continue to expand the definition of what it means to be “married” and form a “family,” terms like “husband” and “wife” become harder to define. Yet this is not a new debate. For centuries, the definition and purpose of marriage was being challenged, as were the concepts of man and woman, husband and wife. In this course, we will examine the relations between the sexes within and around the institution of marriage in Early Modern England so as to better understand current matrimonial debates in the western world. Texts will include Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” Thomas Dekker’s “The Roaring Girl,” John Milton’s “The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce,” Margaret Cavendish’s “The Blazing World,” as well as more contemporary texts like Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook, and ABC’s Modern Family. Assignments will include but are not limited to: weekly written reflections on the material, one 4-6 page paper, one 5-7 page paper, a midterm and a final exam.
ETS 192-3 Gender and Literary Texts
Instructor: Peter Katz
As a means of investigating where ideas of gender begin, and where they could go, this class will approach fantastic imaginations of gender “Beyond the Human.” Through the lens of various feminisms, we will examine poems, short stories, novels, and other media from the seventeenth century to the present for imaginations of beyond-human gender through animals, monsters, cyborgs, aliens, and beyond. By looking past the human, we will turn these experiments back around to ask: What are the ways in which gender manifests today in the all-too-human? Texts may include but are not limited to: Milton’s Paradise Lost , Cavendish’sThe Blazing World, Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stoker’s Dracula, a text by Virginia Woolf, Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment , Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, and the music videos of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. Theorists may include but are not limited to: Simone de Beauvoir, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Gilles Deleuze, Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, and Rosi Braidotti.
ETS 215-1 Introductory Poetry Workshop
Instructor: Brooks Haxton
This poetry workshop will require writing at least one new poem each week, a number of these in response to readings that illustrate particular poetic techinques, such as image, point of view, tone, diction, narrative construction, logic of argument, and so on. Handouts will describe the technique for that week’s reading and the requirements of the writing assignment. Final grades will measure the students’ success in focusing on the assigned challenges, attentiveness and insight in critical readings of each other’s poems, and the ability to use the response of readers to improve poems in revision. No prerequisites. Attendance required.
ETS217-3 Introductory Fiction Workshop
This class will introduce students to the fiction workshop. Students will work on writing and reading stories. In class we will discuss student work as well as work from outside the class. We will do in-class writing exercises, and each student will keep a writing notebook.
ETS 230-1 Malcolm X
Instructor: Greg Thomas
He was “the finest revolutionary theoretician and activist produced by America’s [B]lack working-class in [the twentieth] century,” according to the late, great historian John Henrik Clarke. Yet Malcolm X is for many more icon or memory, even an object of adulation (if not condemnation) as opposed to a monumental mind and body of Pan-African praxis. This course will engage his thought and his activism in addition to his legacy via his very own textuality, not to mention film and video focusing on his work, other thinkers who have published books and anthologies on his work, and a tradition of poetry for which his work has been an insistent revolutionary muse. In the end, students should acquire an expansive critical appreciation of this historic figure; discern the relationship between written or scribal and oral texts; develop a global as well as domestic, or national as well as international, understanding of such programmatic ideas; and analyze the connection between thinking, speaking, and acting or agitating on a world scale—a vital link writ large in the life work of Omowale / El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz / Malcolm X, without a doubt.
ETS 242-1 Reading and Interpretation&
Instructor: Patricia Roylance
Instructor: Jolynn Parker
ETS 242 introduces students to the discipline of English and Textual Studies, stressing not what is read but how we read it—and the difference that makes. Its goal, in other words, is not only to show how meanings are created through acts of critical reading but also to demonstrate the consequences of pursuing one mode or method of reading over another. This course is designed to enhance your ability to read and interpret contextually as well as closely, to help you to articulate your understanding effectively, and to draw connections through reading and writing. Through close, deep, and thoughtful reading of literary and non-literary texts as well as essays by critics and theorists, we will explore the ways texts mean and the ways readers produce meaning. Each section of ETS 242 takes up issues of central concern within contemporary literary and cultural studies. These include representation; author/ity, textuality, and reading; subjectivity; and culture and history.
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ETS 304-1 Reading and Writing Poetry
Instructor: Sarah Harwell
T. S. Eliot said that minor poets borrow while great poets steal. From classical antiquity to the present, poets have always learned their trade by imitating other poets. They have always pursued their individual talent by absorbing, assimilating, and in some cases subverting the lessons of the traditions they inherit. In this class, we will read and imitate poems from well-known poets. We’ll examine each poet closely, sympathetically, and predatorily. That is, we’ll read like aspiring writers, looking for what we can steal. We’ll deepen our understanding of a variety of poetic devices, such as diction, image, music, and metaphor. We’ll attend to each poet’s stylistic and formal idiosyncrasies, their techniques and habits, and then write poems that show who we’ve read and how well we’ve read them. You will be required to display an understanding of these issues by producing creative and analytical responses to the work studied.
ETS 305-2 Critical Analysis: Marxist Ideology Critique
Instructor: Donald Morton
An inquiry into Marxist social theory seems especially appropriate in light of the today’s global economic crisis, a crisis that has led to the recent publication of books with such titles as: A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of '08 and the Descent into Depression (Richard A. Posner); The Trouble With Capitalism: An Enquiry into the Causes of Global Economic Failure (Harry Shutt); The Failure of Risk Management: Why It's Broken and How to Fix It (Douglas W. Hubbard); and The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street (Justin Fox). Perhaps most dramatic is the title of Michael Lewitt’s recent book, The Death of Capital. Such writings show how historical events (the economic collapse of 2008) have led more thinkers to question the gospel of the free market capitalism. It is Marxism that provides the strongest possible critique of capitalism. The course opens with an investigation of ideology understood in a broad and general sense; the second section focuses specifically on Marxism and Marxist ideology critique; and the final section investigates the “new” understanding of ideology developed under the influence of post-structuralism and postmodernism.
ETS 305-3 Critical Analysis: Theories of the Novel
Starting from the premise that the novel is, in the words of Michael McKeon, "the quintessentially modern genre," this class will study some of the ways that twentieth-century scholars have thought about the novel and its relation to modernity as a historical epoch. Our study will take us from the origins of the English novel in the eighteenth century through its postcolonial forms in the late twentieth century. When and why did the novel originate? How is the novel distinct from other modes of fictional narrative? How has the genre, novel, changed with cultural-historical shifts? Alongside representative theorists of the novel we will read representative novels from the eighteenth through the twentieth century.
ETS 310-2 Literary Periods: US Modernism
Instructor: Susan Edmunds
This course offers an introduction to US modernist fiction. Critics have defined modernism as an international movement that arose in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that rejected earlier norms of literary and aesthetic representation. Some modernists write stories that are cut up, rearranged and hard to follow. Some make mental consciousness rather than external reality the focus of narrative investigation. Some reject the rules of grammar and syntax, and make sentences that don’t work like sentences.
We will examine why modernist writers in the US rejected earlier literary norms, and how they sought to identify new ways of representing the world that might also help them change it. We will read fiction from a variety of modernist movements in the context of debates of the period over increasing immigration, urbanization, and industrialization; growing class conflict; the rapid expansion of a consumer-oriented society; African Americans’ “great migration” to the North and new models of anti-racist activism; and contestations over women’s social place and the rise of the “New Woman.”
ETS 310-3 Literary Periods: Eighteenth-Century Worlds
Instructor: Erin Mackie
This course investigates some of the crucial cultural sites of the British eighteenth century: metropolis and colony; country and city; the nation; private and public; the imagination; and the market. Paying attention to formulations of class and status, taste and decorum, gender, nationality, and ethnicity, we will look at how modern notions of difference, cohesion, legitimacy, and cultural aesthetic value were formed. We will end the course looking at the contemporary reconstruction of an eighteenth-century world in Williamsburg, Virginia. Authors we will read include: John Dryden; John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester; Aphra Behn; George Etherege; Jonathan Swift; Daniel Defoe; Alexander Pope; Joseph Addison; Richard Steele; John Gay; and Samuel Johnson.
ETS 310-4 Literary Periods: The American Renaissance
Instructor: Patricia Roylance
By any measure, the early 1850s were tremendously fertile years for US literary production. This “American Renaissance” produced famous novels (like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin), short stories (like Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno”), orations (like addresses on the institution of slavery by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Henry David Thoreau) and long poems (like Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha). We will be analyzing these seminal texts, and also studying the social, political, and cultural events of this period and how they influence its literature. As academic trends have shifted, critical interest in this period has moved from “classic” literature by white men to, for example, popular bestsellers written by women authors and abolitionist texts by people of color. We will study the immense symbolic value of this period as a battleground on which these kinds of shifts in critical priorities are negotiated.
ETS 315-4 Ethnic Literatures and Cultures: The Holocaust in American Literature
Instructor: Harvey Teres
This course will explore the moral, religious, and artistic challenges faced by American writers who have represented the Holocaust and its aftermath in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Students will begin by reading a historical account of the Holocaust, and several perspectives on the effects of the Holocaust on American life, especially among American Jews. We will spend the rest of the semester reading literary representations of the Holocaust and its aftermath. Texts will likely include Philip Roth’s “Eli, the Fanatic” and The Ghost Writer; Bernard Malamud’s “The Last Mohican” and “Lady of the Lake”; Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird, Cynthia Ozick’s “The Pagan Rabbi,” “The Shawl,” and “Rosa”; Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated; Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem; Art Spiegelman’s Maus I and Maus II; Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution; Nathan Englander’s “The Tumblers”; and selected poetry by Jacob Glatstein, Charles Reznikoff, W.D. Snodgrass, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, Anthony Hecht, Elie Wiesel, and others.
ETS 315-6 Ethnic Literatures and Cultures: Yiddish Literature in Translation
Instructor: Sarah Barkin
This course will provide a survey of major works in modern Yiddish fiction and drama. Our readings focus on four areas: 1) the three classic Yiddish authors: S. Y. Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, and I. L. Peretz; 2) Yiddish drama by Gordin and Ansky; 3) modernist trends in Yiddish: Lamed Shapiro and David Bergelson; and 4) Yiddish women writers: Schtok, Schulner, Serdatsky, Dropkin, Lempel, and Raskin. While placing each author’s work in historical and biographical context, we will pay special attention to the role of satire, parody, narrative techniques, and figures of speech.
ETS 320-4 Authors: Philip Roth
Instructor: Harvey Teres
In this course we will read many of the major novels and short stories of Philip Roth, one of America’s most controversial yet highly decorated contemporary writers. On the one hand accused of being a “self-hating Jew” and an inveterate sexist, on the other a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature and lauded as a courageous truth-teller, Roth usually evokes a strong response from readers one way or another. This course will invite you to respond as you see fit as we consider Roth’s achievements as an artist and observer of post-WWII American life. A good number of the following texts will likely be included: Goodbye, Columbus; Portnoy’s Complaint; The Breast; Reading Myself and Others; The Facts; Zuckerman Bound (A Trilogy); Sabbath’s Theater; Operation Shylock; American Pastoral; The Human Stain; The Plot Against America; I Married a Communist; Indignation; Everyman; Exit Ghost; and Nemesis. Along the way we will read interpretations of Roth’s fiction by several scholars and critics, including portions of Ross Posnock’s Philip Roth’s Rude Truths.
ETS 320-6 Authors: James Joyce
Tu Th 12:30-1:50
Instructor: Chris Forster
The career of James Joyce captures many of the key developments of twentieth-century literature. In this class we will read three of Joyce’s four “major” works. We’ll begin with his collection of stories, Dubliners, and his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. At the heart of this course will be a slow, careful reading of Ulysses, a novel some have called the “greatest novel of the twentieth century.” We’ll end the semester by looking briefly at selections from Joyce’s final work, Finnegans Wake. Alongside Joyce’s novels we’ll also consider some of the most significant criticism of Joyce’s work, both from contemporaries (including writers like T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf) as well as more recent criticism. Class assignments will include regular short written responses, two major essays, and a presentation to the class.
ETS 325-2 Histories and Varieties of English
Instructor: Patrica Moody
This course aims to provide students with as much knowledge as possible, as interactively as possible, of the basic structures of the English language and representations of its history. Equally important, the course aims to develop critical awareness of contemporary language issues and the complex ways in which language embeds attitudes.
ETS 330-1 Theorizing Meaning and Interpretation: The Culture of Addiction
Instructor: Donald Morton
This course investigates a current trend in dominant cultural and literary theory which raises to a new level the oft-heard cliché: “we live in a sick society.” This trend rejects the notion that society is basically a rational space governed by shared (common) concepts (“liberty, equality, the pursuit of happiness”). According to this view, society is no longer even the more “neutral”-sounding space of discourse, representation, and signification. Instead, culture is now the much darker zone of inescapable pathology. The literary and cultural theorists who promote this view are following, among other influences, the ideas of the philosopher Friedrich Schelling, who defines human nature not in terms of our capacity for reason or work or some other more familiar characteristic, but in terms of addiction. Schelling conceptualizes the subject (the human person) as the subject of “Eigensucht” (“addictive creatureliness”). This course will investigate the linked cycle of social, cultural, and literary issues surrounding addiction, drugs, the therapy culture, and the war on drugs by reading a variety of cultural texts: history, fiction, documentaries, theory. . . It will address the basic question: what social, political, economic, . . . interests are served by teaching citizens to accept the “invitation to infirmity,” that is, to think of themselves and all members of society as inescapably “sick“?
ETS 340-1 Theorizing Forms and Genres: Cinema and the Documentary Idea
Film Screening W 7:00-9:50
Instructor: Roger Hallas
Invented at end of the nineteenth century, cinema was inevitably shaped by industrial modernity’s demand for rational, scientific evidence and its technological need for media that could potentially archive the world. Cinema has continued to be regarded in various ways as a powerful medium for documenting the world, for capturing the “real” in all its diversity. This course investigates the complex history and theorization of the documentary idea across various film and video practices. We shall examine not only classic and contemporary documentary films, but also experimental cinema, essay films, fake documentaries, and docudrama. We shall interrogate the very term “documentary” which has a long and contested history that traverses scientific, legal, aesthetic, political, sociological, and ethnographic discourses. Moving from the euphoria and anxiety around the first public film screenings by the Lumière Brothers in 1895 through the radical defamiliarization of the world in 1920s Soviet film and 1960s political cinema to contemporary “first-person” documentaries that bear witness to historical trauma, the course explores the relations between film and video practices from (often radically) different national, historical and political contexts. MEETS WITH HUM 300 M002. The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required.
Film and Screen Studies Course
ETS 340-2 Theorizing Forms and Genres: Time Across Media
Film Screening M 7:00-9:50
Instructor: Chris Hanson
This course will explore representations and uses of time across multiple media, focusing in particular on artistic and industrial practices, technological developments, and theories about temporality. Media texts, forms, and related technologies examined in the course will include mainstream and experimental film and video, television, interactive media, and video games. We will closely study media objects which reference their own temporality or reconfigure time using formal methods such as repetition and narrative structures built around time travel. The role of medium specificity in both the representation of time and our experiential understanding of temporality will be considered, as well as the cultural and social significance of historical shifts in notions of time. Texts and technologies to be examined will include Life of an American Fireman (1903), Ballet Mécanique (1924), Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), A Movie (1958), Koyaanisqatsi (1982), Groundhog Day (1993), Memento (2000), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003), Decasia (2004), Lost (2004-2010), time-shifting on television (i.e. VCRs and TiVos), Braid (2008), and YouTube. The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required.
Film and Screen Studies Course
ETS 340-3 Theorizing Forms and Genres: Latino Autobiography
Instructor: Silvio Torres-Saillant
This course focuses on life writing by US authors of Hispanic descent, thus introducing students to the study of a literary genre (the autobiography) in relation to an ethnicity (Hispanic/Latino). In taking a close look at key Latino texts that set out to narrate the self, the course will take up the question of Latino identity as a topic to be investigated, the difficulty that the project of narrating the self poses, the socio-political background that frames the current popularity of autobiography, and the critical problem that any representation of the self entails. The course asks what happens to our reading of a Latino autobiography when we acknowledge the epistemological instability of both the ethnicity and the genre therein named. The course also calls attention to the levels of complication that obtain when the “genre” is practiced by writers who, by virtue of their “ethnicity” and the location of their “community” in the social system, perceive themselves as marginal in relation to the national corpus of literary texts. The now classical formulations about the form will be brought into conversation with contemporary voices that have influentially pronounced themselves on the subject.
ETS 401-2 Advanced Writing Workshop: Poetry
Instructor: Michael Burkard
The maximum enrollment for this course is 15. Anyone interested in taking the course must submit 1) hard copy of five pages of your own original poetry; 2) hard copy of a 50-100 word statement of your interest in such a course; 3) hard copy of a list of 25 writers / artists / musicians whose work you are currently interested in or whose work has influenced your own writing to a greater or lesser extent. This hard copy is to be left in a secure envelope in my mailbox in HL 401 during the registration period. Include your email address and I will contact you about whether you are admitted to the course or not.
The course will emphasize a weekly writing and reading assignment. A variety of twentieth- and twenty-first-century poets will be examined, as well as weekly discussion of at least half the student work turned in for any given week. Your grade will be based on the quality of your participation in class discussion and insights into the reading material, as well as the quality or vibrancy your own poetry writing over the course of the semester. Issues for writing prompts and writing assignments will be frequent and will sometimes vary for different students. Attendance at two to three poetry readings during the semester will be required.
ETS 403-2 Advanced Writing Workshop: Fiction
Instructor: Arthur Flowers
Advanced Fiction Workshop. Workshop format. Fiction sample required, ten pages or less in hard copy to my mailbox in 401 HL.
ETS 405-2 Topics in Medicine & Culture: Dying and Death in American Literature
Instructor: Deirdre Neilen
Contemporary culture in the United States appears to worship youth and do all it can to deny or at least delay aging for as long as possible. Consequently, many of us have difficulty both facing our own mortality and handling the serious illnesses of those we love. This course will examine American attitudes and responses toward the end of life through fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and film. Literature allows us to analyze our own attitudes and philosophies more objectively than we might otherwise do. This course will introduce the ethical issues that arise with end of life care particularly from the perspective of physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals. This class is held in Room 1508 Setnor Academic Building - SUNY Upstate Medical Center.
ETS 405-3 Topics in Medicine & Culture: First Person: Narratives of Illness, Disability, and Identity
Instructor: Rebecca Garden
This course explores first person narratives of illness and disability, especially in light of other forms of social difference, such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class. Using tools of literary analysis and cultural criticism, students come together from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds to examine the experiences of writers with AIDS, autism, cancer, hepatitis, and multiple sclerosis. Students consider ethical and social issues such as doctor/patient relationships, caregiver relations, questions of control, authority, appearance and “normalcy,” and the role of empathy and emotion in medicine and healing. This class is held in SUNY Upstate Medical Center.
ETS 410-1 Forms and Genres: Early Modern Fantasy
Instructor: Stephanie Shirilan
We live in a world where the imagination has been rhetorically demoted to signify the infantile or merely unreal—a world, that is, where “Imagineers” work for Disney. But this was not always the case. In early modern Europe, the imagination was deemed capable of extraordinary transformations: mothers imprinted fetuses with their thoughts and desires; preachers lit upon conceits that could literally break hardened hearts; healers cured and actors infected by transmitting and transfiguring spirits. In addition to contextual readings on early modern science, philosophy, and theology, we will read widely from literature classified as early modern romance (Spenser’s Faerie Queen and Sidney’s Arcadia), utopian fiction (More’s Utopia, Hall’s Mundus Alter et Idem), travel narrative (Behn’s Oroonoko, Neville’s Isle of Pines) and proto science “fiction” (Kepler’s Somnium, Godwin’s Man in the Moone) in order to consider how historiographies of genre have militated against richer understanding of the powers of the imagination in early modern fantasy.
ETS 410-2 Forms and Genres: 20th Century American Poetry
Instructor: David Yaffe
“The self is a cloister full of remembered sounds,” wrote Wallace Stevens. Twentieth-century American poetry is filled with sounds—along with visions and voices, meanings and interpretations, decisions and revisions—well worth remembering and rediscovering all over again. This course will favor depth over breadth, giving these poets the time and thought they deserve. Poets on the syllabus could include Stevens, T.S. Eliot, Hart Crane, Langston Hughes, Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, John Ashbery, and Anne Carson. We will also question whether the lyrics of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen can be considered as a kind of poetry. Poets not represented on the syllabus will be included in presentations, at the discretion of the instructor. After a semester of reading these poets, you will, to paraphrase Stevens, discover yourselves more truly and more strange.
ETS 410-4 Forms and Genres: The Middle East in Graphic Novels
Instructor: Carol Fadda-Conrey
This course focuses on a selection of graphic novels that handle some of the complex issues defining life in the Middle East during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including the traumas of war and conflict, coming-of-age struggles, gender relations, and the day-to-day effects of social, religious, class, and political confluences. We will start by studying some of the major tenets of the graphic novel form by reading introductory works by Scott McCloud and Will Eisner that define the parameters of this genre, and will then move on to closely analyze graphic novels that feature countries like Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, and Egypt. The selection of texts includes Ari Folman and David Polonsky’s Waltz with Bashir, Joe Sacco’s Palestine, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Lamia Ziade’s Bye Bye Babylon: Beirut 1975-1979, and Toufic El Rassi’s Arab in America, among others. In addition to the delineation of these works’ thematic foci, we will also study the development of the graphic novel as an emerging form in Middle Eastern literary and cultural circles, thus tracing its production, circulation, and reception within as well as outside the Middle East.
ETS 410-5 Forms and Genres:"What's Love Got to Do with It?" --Medieval Romance
Instructor: Patricia Moody
Arguably the most influential and also the most enduring genre to emerge from the European Middle Ages, romance’s evolving development is one of translation and transformation, adaptation and refashioning, and fertile intertextual and intercultural exchange among the linguistic and political entities of medieval Europe. (Krueger). Before the twelfth century, western vernacular writings dealt almost exclusively with religious, historical, and factual themes, all of which were held to convey the truth. During the second half of the twelfth century, however, a new genre emerged: the romance, which was consciously conceived as fictional and therefore allowed largely to break free from traditional presuppositions. Medieval romances astound the modern reader—first, by their broad circulation throughout Europe; second, by the multitude and variety of stories, characters, themes, and motifs they reveal; and finally, by the sheer diversity of their forms and subject-matter, complexity of narrative strategies and perspectives, and critical responses they invite. (Green) This course offers an examination of medieval fictionality. Beginning with the origins, forms, and contexts of medieval romances, we examine the emergence of romance in its first formative period in the twelfth century, the role of magic and fantasy, and transformations of stories from ancient to modern times. Throughout we consider the difficulties of the genre and the kinds of sociological and cultural issues romance interrogates.
D.H. Green, The Beginnings of Medieval Romance: Fact and Fiction, 1150-1220. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature No. 47
Roberta L. Krueger, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance
ETS 410-6 Forms and Genres: The Multi-Plot Victorian Novel
Instructor: Kevin Morrison
Between 1837 and 1901, over 7,000 novels were published in Britain. This volume makes any attempt at achieving breadth of knowledge about the genre, at best, daunting. Delving into the literature and history of the period, this course will stress intensive rather than extensive reading. We will focus on three rich and complex texts: Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley (1849), George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871–1872), and Walter Besant’s Children of Gibeon (1886). Our thematic concerns will include the public and private spheres; femininity and masculinity; poverty and inequality; as well as marriage and the marriage plot. Formal concerns will include the nature of realism; the relationship of history to literature; novelistic genres; and the length, breadth, and crowdedness of these novels themselves.
ETS 420-2 Cultural Production and Reception: American Icons
Instructor: David Yaffe
This course will explore the concept of the icon in American culture. How have certain figures become the subject of scrutiny, obsession, even worship? And how has the idea of the icon been a central theme in American literary texts and in American life? Possible icons may include Walt Whitman (a gay icon and poetic icon), Henry James (an icon of the literary Master), F. Scott Fitzgerald (an icon of the Lost Generation), Miles Davis (an icon of black masculine hip), Allen Ginsberg (a Beat icon), Bob Dylan (an icon of the 60s counterculture, much to his chagrin), Billie Holiday (an icon of the martyred jazz diva), Sylvia Plath (an icon of confessional poetry), and Andy Warhol (our icon of iconography itself). Expect two major papers and a presentation of original research.
ETS 420-4 Cultural Production and Reception: The Bloody Argument
Instructor: Stephanie Shirilan
In the Jacobean revenge play, illicit desire, jealous fury, and boundless ambition culminate in dizzying scenes of death and dismemberment: severed hands, skewered hearts, poisoned skulls, lycanthropy, and accidental suicide. Incest and necrophilia, body-swaps, bartered maidenheads, and all varieties of murder and madness feigned and real are commonplaces of the Jacobean stage. What did violence “do” for the late-Renaissance playgoer? What did it enable playwrights such as Ford, Webster, Middleton, Tourneur, and their audiences to think and say? Considering exigencies of performance, contemporary politics, and dramatic theory, we will debate whether the Jacobean tragedy upholds or subverts the values and virtues of the late Renaissance church and court, carefully weighing the villain’s highly seductive arguments against the blander virtues of the play’s moral authorities.
ETS 440-1 Theorizing History and Culture: Politics and Poetics of the Common
Instructor: Crystal Bartolovich
“Commons” (eg. “global commons,” “creative commons”) is a ubiquitous term in digital, ecological, and political debates, but its historical roots are in an agricultural space that emerged under very different conditions from those that pertain today—conditions that—along with rural commons as such-- were largely destroyed with the rise of capitalism (though variations persist even now). In this class we will move back and forth between reading literatures from the early modern period when the idea and space of “the common” was a potent site of political struggle in England, and the literatures and debates that draw on fantasies (and attempted enactments) of the “common” now. Texts will include More’s Utopia, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the poetry of Jonson, Marvell, and Milton, as well as works by less familiar figures, such as Isabella Whitney and the Diggers. These early texts will be paired with examples of the discourse of “the Common” that have emerged since the publication of Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” in the late 1960s, in sites as diverse as fiction (eg. Octavia Butler, China Mieville), film (Avatar), Web 2.0 tracts, and resistance movements, from food riots in the global South to Occupy Wall Street.
ETS 494-1 Research Practicum in ETS
Instructor: Crystal Bartolovich
This 1-credit course introduces students to the scope and demands of an honors or distinction project in ETS. Enrollment is by invitation to participate in the distinction program, and/or honors program, only. In five formal seminar meetings, we will cover choosing a mentor, developing a suitable topic with engaging research questions, compiling a bibliography, reading critically, and taking notes effectively. In addition to the workshops, you will have individual meetings outside of class with peers, your advisor, and the workshop coordinator to lay a firm foundation for writing your thesis in the spring, when you will enroll in the second part of this workshop, ETS 495.
ENG 630-1 Graduate Pro-Seminar: Victorian Genders and Sexualities
Instructor: Claudia Klaver
The goal of this course is to introduce graduate students to a range of feminist and queer readings of nineteenth-century literary and cultural texts. Although our reading will be heavily weighted toward the Victorian novel, we will also read a significant selection of Victorian poetry.
The course will be divided into three segments (though most of the literature that we read could fall into more than one segment). First, we will examine fictional, poetic, theoretical, and critical models of normative genders and heterosexualities in Victorian England. We will explore the domestic ideology that dominated the organization of such cultural norms, examining particularly the forms of masculinity and femininity that it naturalized, and the institutions of romantic love and bourgeois marriage that the ideology supported. Primary texts for this section will probably include Dickens’s David Copperfield, Eliot’s Adam Bede, and/or Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right, as well a poetry by Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.
In the second segment of the course, we will explore desires and practices that coexist with, are articulated in relation to, and/or present transgressive challenges to more normative Victorian desires and sexualities. The goal of this unit will be to think outside of the homo/hetero binary, examining instead sites such as the eroticized child, pornography, cross-class and interracial romances, and role-playing. We will look at Charles Dodson's relationship with Alice Liddell and John Ruskin's infatuation with Effie Gray; “Walter's” My Secret Life, the textual and photographic self-documentation of the life-long relationship between Hannah Cullwick and Walter Mumby; and perhaps Meadow’s Seeta.
Finally, in the third segment of the course we will examine the presence and “problem” of homoerotic or queer genders and sexualities in Victorian fiction and poetry. We will not only explore the role that “queer” characters and relationships play in a number of texts, but also the analytical and historical questions that accompany such perverse readings and re-readings of characters and texts. Primary texts will include Bronte’s Villette, Stoker’s Dracula, Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Gray, and poetry by Tennyson, Christina Rossetti, and Michael Field.
ENG 630-4 Graduate Pro-Seminar: US Modernism
Instructor: Susan Edmunds
This course offers an introduction to modernist fiction in the US. We will begin by contrasting two accounts of the modernist emphasis on difficult form. Lukacs condemns modernist investments in “spatial organization” and aesthetic experiment for refusing the writer’s political and ethical task of socio-historical engagement. More recently, David Harvey has argued that the formal features of modernist texts confront as such a crisis of representation intrinsic to the experience of modernity, and thus engage the task of socio-historical engagement more fully and with more insight than writing in other genres. With these arguments in hand, we will read an array of texts associated high modernism, the Harlem (and Chicago) Renaissance, the proletarian literature movement, and popular or middle-brow modernism. Areas of social change and social struggle that we’ll be discussing in relation to these texts include: the betrayed legacy of Emancipation and the fight for racial justice; sexual revolution, gender emancipation and women’s suffrage; capitalist expansion, labor radicalism, and the ethical role of the state; new animosities and cross-fertilizations between high art and mass culture; massive immigration, migration, and the pro-nationalist bid to forge a distinctly “American” voice.
ENG 631-2 Critical Theory: Politics of Theory
Instructor: Greg Thomas
This course offers an introduction to central theoretical questions, arguments, and modes of inquiry underwriting the formal study of literature and culture—arguably in the US, in the Americas, and in the world. The first order of business in such a context would be to put great pressure on satisfactory or unsatisfactory definitions or concepts of “theory” (or “theoreticism”) itself, as it is construed to somehow stand apart from “practice,” “empiricism” (even “nativism” or “primitivism”), etc. A second order of business would be to engage in a de facto survey of prevailing schools of thought, ones easily identifiable as “theoretical” in the handling of traditional academic-intellectual business at this point in historical time. A third order of business would be to challenge the domination or hegemony of such canonical “theory-making” (very much akin to nation-building, as in the tradition of empire) in part by considering a range of works not always (or ever) conventionally identified as “theory,” arguably because of the origins, preferred genres, or politics of these “theorizing” productions. We may thus read in fields generally classified as Marxism, post-structuralism, feminism, psychoanalysis, Queer Theory, etc.—but along with texts such as The Invention of the Americas, The Wretched of the Earth, “On the Abolition of the English Department,”Red, White & Black, Almanac of the Dead, as well as The Mass Psychology of Fascism, just for example.
ENG 650-1 Forms: The Novella
Instructor: Brian Evenson
In this class, we'll read a number of novellas, think about what the novella offers writers that is different from the novel and the short story, and workshop parts of a novella. The following are the texts for the class:
Desire & Delusion Arthur Schnitzler
Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
Nevermore Marie Redonnet
Bloodshed Ozick, Cynthia
Collected Novellas Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter Cesar Aira
Savage Jacques Jouet
Song for Night Chris Abani
The Literary Conference Cesar Aira
The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson
The Turn of the Screw Henry James
ENG 650-3 Forms: Innovative Approaches to Editing
Instructor: George Saunders
This class will attempt to get into some strange but hopefully productive corners of the question: “How can I make my fiction more compelling, edgy, and moving?” In the academic setting we normally approach writing from one of two directions: (1) the workshop, or (2) by studying classic texts, but via a “for writers” approach (i.e., our Forms courses). While both approaches have their advantages, I’ve found myself wondering if there might be a third way, that comes at texts from a new direction and, in the process, reconfigures our habitual approach to editing. So, in this course, among other things yet to be determined, we’ll (a) study and edit the less successful (published) works of great artists; (b) closely and critically examine contemporary works of fiction as they appear in several popular magazines; (c) do extremely close line edits of texts by ourselves and others, in an attempt to destabilize our habitual relation to our own prose. The point of all of this is to tease out the most efficient relation between our reading and writing practices.
ENG 650-4 Forms: Four Women and Three Men
Instructor: Michael Burkard
We will focus on the different styles and strategies in writings by Grace Paley (poems: Fidelity), C.D. Wright (poems: The Big Self), Denise Duhamel (poems: The Star Spangled Banner), and Lisa Jarnot (poems: book to be chosen soon). We will also read interview material and statements by the artist Louise Bourgeoise, and view work by French photographer Sarah Moon. Stories by Grace Paley, and work by Bourgeoise and Moon, will be available on library reserve or in conference. With Bourgeoise and Moon we will see what effective analogies could be made between a visual artist's work and process and a writer's work and process. With Paley's work we will spend some time on her comparing / contrasting her poems and stories.
The other works we will read: Ultramarine (poems: Raymond Carver), On the Tracks of Wild Game (poems: Tomaz Salamun), Etheridge Knight (poems: The Essential Etheridge Knight), John Ashbery (text yet to be selected) : some of Carver's stories will also be on reserve and we will view some of his writing comparing / contrasting his poetry and fiction. We will also view the artist William Kentridge (composer of the opera "The Nose," based on Nicolai Gogol's short story), and discuss his work and his comments on his practices and process.
The class enrollment is limited to 16 (no audits). Students will lead presentations and discussions of the writings/ art at hand each class session. Written responses, either in the form of a student's own creative writing, or in the form of a brief (250-300 words) and relevant critique will be required for 10 of the classes. Other ideas for presentations will be possible if the ideas appeal. Grading will be based on the quality of anyone's participation in discussion, and in her / his writing over the entire semester, as well as the interest generated by presentations.
Ideally, the course will suggest at least a few new possibilities for strategies (or lack thereof) in one's own current creative writing, whether poetry or fiction or…
ENG 650-5 Forms: Memoir
Instructor: Mary Karr
My memoir class will focus on revelations. The class may include a meditation component. The purpose of the class is for each student to have a revelation.
Books would include:
Confessions of St. Augustine (conversion to Christianity)
Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (conversion to atheism)
Autobiography of Malcolm X (to Islam)
The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton (to Catholicism)
Speak, Memory, Nabokov (to aestheticism)
Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston (to woman warrior)
A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, Harry Crews (to his father's son)
Possessed, Elif Batuman (to theorist from novelist)Dispatches, Michael Herr (to Buddhist)
There will be a reading journal and memoir writing assignments, as well as a major memoir segment for the final paper, which we may or may not workshop.
ENG 650-8 Forms: Tribes of American Poetry
Instructor: Bruce Smith
The Fugitives, the Confessionals, The New York School, the Beats, and the Slam poets are not the only schools or movements that have found a common identity and practice. This course will examine groups that are defined aesthetically, geographically, racially, and politically, as well as determine new designations such as the “New Ellipticals” or “Neo-Formalists.” The course will also examine pairings of older schools such as The Black Arts Movement where artists within the movement sought to create politically engaged work that explored the African American cultural and historical experience with new manifestations such as The Dark Room Collective where sustaining writing in community is as much a practice as the activism of building a community-based reading series for writers of color. Older and newer models will be paired for reading and students will be asked to do weekly presentations as well as written responses to the reading.
ENG 715-1: First Poetry Workshop
Instructor: Brooks Haxton
Students in this workshop will write one poem each week and revise at least four of these into carefully considered versions on the basis of workshop analysis. Reading and writing assignments will address issues that arise in workshop. Admission is strictly limited to first year students in the MFA Program in Poetry.
ENG 716-1: Second Poetry Workshop
Instructor: Bruce Smith
Students in this course will be asked to write twelve poems, one “free” poem to push back against the world with the imagination per week. The emphasis will be both on the craft—the language and the shaping and forming of the writing, and the imagination—the vision that's unique to each individual. Classroom work will consist primarily of workshop style discussion of student work, although each class will begin with poems, ancient and modern, as models or targets for discussions of technique as well as examples of tapping the resources available to the writer. This term I’ll begin class with what I call an “exemplary” poet–avoiding the more prescriptive term “essential.” Exercises will include ways to locate the source of your poems as well as ways to "music" them, to shape them, and to revise them.
ENG 717-1: First Fiction Workshop
Instructor: Dana Spiotta
This course is the workshop for students in the first year of the MFA Program in Fiction.
ENG 718-1: Second Fiction Workshop
Instructor: Arthur Flowers
Craft. Discipline. Vision. Heart.
ENG 719-2: Third Poetry Workshop
Instructor: Mary Karr
This is an advanced course based almost entirely on revision, so your notes on each other’s poems should be detailed and serious. I’d also like to see your revisions fairly regularly in conference, and for you to keep different drafts of the same poem. We’ll also be looking at entire books with an eye to building a thesis in the spring. For the first class, bring in copies of tables of contents and actual, physical first books that you like a lot. Also at the first class, you’ll bring in a poem each, but thereafter, one poet will bring in groups of 6-8 poems, rather than our looking at one per human. If this doesn’t fly, we’ll go back to the old way, but I often find it’s clarifying before thesis work.
ENG 721-1 Third Fiction Workshop
Instructor: George Saunders
This class is required of, and restricted to, third-year students in the fiction program. We’ll read and critique the work of our peers. The instructor will focus on various topics, including avoidances, structural examination of stories, the importance of compression, and the development of a personal style of line editing.
ENG 730-2 Graduate Seminar: Postcolonial Dialogues: Literature and Criticism
Instructor: Manan Desai
How have writers from Africa and South Asia responded to, appropriated, and reworked Joseph Conrad’s fictions of empire? How have the forms of the bildungsroman and autobiography been used by subaltern writers in India and Central America for political claims? And how might we read these various appropriations of western literary forms without recourse to the simple formulation of the empire “writing back,” a notion dangerously close to reducing postcolonial literature to a derivative discourse. In this course, we will draw connections between works from various geographical and temporal locations through a long conversation about narrative form, dialogism, intertextuality, circulation, and translation in, what Pascale Casanova has recently described as, “the world republic of letters.” Likely literary texts include Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; Anita Desai’s Baumgartner’s Bombay; Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum; Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children; Emile Habiby’s Saeed the Pessoptimist; Aime Cesaire’s The Tempest; George Lamming’s The Pleasures of Exile; and Elizabeth Nunez’s Prospero’s Daughter. We will also spend a unit on the genres of autobiography, life-writing, and testimonio, including works by Rigoberta Menchu and Sharankumar Limbale.
ENG 730-3 Graduate Seminar: Temporality and Embodiment
Film Screening: Tu 7:00-10:00
Instructor: Chris Hanson
The adoption of standard time in the late nineteenth century was a direct result of industrialization and the development and expansion of steam-powered transportation across Europe and North America: as railway networks grew to connect more distant spaces, so too did the need to synchronize train schedules between towns and regions. Prior to the widespread use of standardized timekeeping, a single train could pass through dozens of local time “zones” during a trip of a few hundred miles. Railroads also contributed to what Wolfgang Schivelbusch describes as the “annihilation of time and space” as geography was altered and compressed by the capacity to travel large distances in short amounts of time and senses of localized time were discarded in favor of standardized modes.
During this period, the function of time within social and cultural practices shifted dramatically; temporality was explicitly linked to the measurement of productivity of labor with devices such as the time-stamp machine, and the emergent representational forms of photography and cinema radically reconfigured understandings of time. A pronounced and sustained philosophical investigation on the perceptual experience of time and space emerged in the wake of these profound industrial, technological, cultural, and social changes—an inquiry which continues to this day as later media forms such as television and digital media continue to challenge, redefine, and reshape our experience of time. We will examine the varied functions of temporality and the relationship of time to our perceptual apparatus and lived experience through a range of theoretical lenses, using films and other screen media texts as our case studies to investigate the shifts in the conceptions and experiences of temporality initiated by industrialization and which continue today. The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required.
ENG 730-4 Graduate Seminar: Politics and Poetics of the Common
Instructor: Crystal Bartolovich
Do “we” inhabit a “global commons?” What do these terms (“we,” “global,” “commons”) mean to the—often very differently-positioned—users who deploy them (not only is it evoked in the global South as well as the North, but the “common” is as likely to be championed by libertarians as autonomists)? Taking up such questions, this seminar has three intertwined goals: first, to survey a sampling of significant texts (literary, theoretical, legal, political, etc) in which the concept/figure of “the common” has played an important role, from Hesiod and Plato to Antonio Negri, Slavoj Zizek, and Vandana Shiva. Second, to see if it is possible to sort out “myths” (regressive) of “the common” from “utopian” (progressive) aspects in current debates by taking this long historical view. Third, to explore the possibility that the oblique moves of cultural figuration might sometimes address “the common” more productively than direct conceptualization can do—and why that might be the case.
Course material will be drawn largely from the diverse archives that I have been thinking about in my current book project, “A Natural History of the Common,” and thus will include a heavy (though by no means exclusive) emphasis on early modern British material, since I am suggesting in this book that it is impossible to understand current uses of “the common” in English fully without careful attention to the agrarian commons that emergent capitalism destroyed in early modern England—fantasies of which still turn up in diverse sites globally—as well as the elaborate baggage of meanings and affective resonance that “common” has accrued over centuries of –often highly charged—use in English. By focusing the seminar on a book project, I hope to be able to show how one positions oneself in complex debates and contributes to them. Likely course material includes: Thomas More’s Utopia, Alain Badiou’s writings on Plato, Shakespeare’s Tempest, Cameron’s Avatar, Digger Pamphlets, Occupy Wall Street manifestos, colonial travel narrative, Hardt and Negri on migration, Milton’s Areopagitica, and Web 2.0 manifestos. I am also invested in testing out the capacity of genres such as sci-fi, fantasy, and magical realism (eg Octavia Butler, China Mieville, Wall-E, Patrick Chamoiseau) to stage the particular kind of dialectical critical pressure that Thomas More’s Utopia—I will argue—enacts. As these examples of possible texts suggest, my concern will be to draw your attention to why and how “the common” manifests so frequently in current ecological, digital, political, and globalization debates and resistance movements—as well as in cultural forms—and to attempt to tease out the tendrils of misrecognition, fantasy, and nostalgia—as well as the challenge of unfinished historical struggles—that link contemporary envisionings and practices to earlier “commons”—and break with them.
A 20-25 page seminar paper on a topic specifically related to course problematics will be required, but given the conceptual nature of this class, wide flexibility in choice of topics will be possible.
Since I am on research leave during spring 2012, students with questions about, or suggestions for, the course should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sample of my work on this subject can easily be accessed here (it was also published in Angelaki) : http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/%7eglobal/wps.htm