Archived Course Descriptions
Lower Division Course Descriptions
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. The first class meets in the room assigned to ETS 107-1.
In this survey of British literature from its beginnings to the eighteenth century, we will read a selection of poetry, drama, non-fiction, and fiction. This course will introduce you to some of the earliest and greatest works written in the English language, ranging from Anglo-Saxon riddles to working-class poetry, Shakespeare’s tragedies to libertine poetry bordering on erotica, and Arthurian romances to early travel narratives. Topics will include everything from love and sex to religion and food. We will engage with the texts’ broad sociohistorical contexts while paying close attention to their thematic elements and literary history. We will also seek out connections between the literature of these time periods and our current cultural environment in order to identify their continued relevance to the landscape of English literature and our contemporary moment. Students should expect to write two close readings in addition to one long paper (scaffolded by an outline and rough draft). There will also be a "creative" midterm assignment.
ETS 114 spans over 200 years of British literary history, moving chronologically through the Romantic, Victorian and Modern periods up to the present The course provides an inventory of critical movements, styles and trends across a variety of genres and forms. Texts will range from the poetry of William Blake to that of Basil Bunting, from Mary Wollstonecraft’s treatise on the rights of women to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Throughout the semester, we will seek to understand and account for the relationship between British literature, colonialism, and empire. Doing so will involve careful consideration of the social, industrial, ethical, and historical factors at play in the literary life of each text. This is a writing intensive class; assignments will include quizzes, close-reading discussion posts via Blackboard, two critical essays, a midterm exam, and a final research paper.
What does it mean to speak of the relationship between urban and literary form? Do authors’ experiences of cities shape their own literary production? How does literature represent or reflect on the experience of life in the metropolis? This course will focus on urban literary and cultural texts by British and Commonwealth writers from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. We will consider the ways in which the modern metropolis has been defined as either a place of entertainment and pleasure or of fear and disorder; the relationship between urban topography and individuals’ affective lives; and the different visions of urban modernity that a variety of cities offer. Throughout the semester, we will also track great literary types who are also distinctly urban characters: the detective, who emerges in novels and short stores in the 1840s-1860s; the struggling artist who moves to the city pursuing a dream of fame and fortune; the aesthete, who celebrates the cosmopolitan culture of city life; the courtesan or the prostitute; and the sweated worker.
This writing-intensive course offers an introduction to the literatures of America between the time of European contact and the Civil War. Writing in 1782, J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur posed one of the central questions of the period: “What is an American?” Through the close reading of sermons, autobiographies, poetry, short fiction, novels, and nonfiction, we will investigate the role of literature in answering this question. Further, we will explore how issues such as the colonization of Native Americans, slavery, and women’s social and political inequality complicate this question. Structured chronologically, the course will provide opportunities to gain understanding of the literature as well as the political, cultural, and social history of the period. Possible assignments include but are not limited to the following: weekly written reflections, three five-page papers, and a final essay exam.
What does it mean to make (it) in America? How much can American literature shape American culture(s)? What occurs in the process of creative making, the space between the first moment of artistic conception and the final presentation of a completed artistic object? Do we still make things anymore? Some critics argue that over the course of the 20th century, America has changed from a culture of industry (one that makes things) to a culture of consumption (one that purchases made things). This Survey of American Literature will address these questions and claims though an examination of poetry, short stories, and selected novels written from 1865 to the present. Reading texts from the major literary periods of the last 150 years through an aesthetic-historical lens, the course will teach students to shift from regarding literature as merely another form of cultural representation towards a deeper understanding of literature as a primary site of society’s imaginative exploration through making. Close attention to the dynamic relationship between making (in the sense of how we understand poieses as the Greek verb "to make," for which we derive our definition of poetry) and the development of American culture(s) will be a central focus of this course. Students will learn to formulate sustained interpretive, analytical, or conceptual arguments based on evidence drawn from texts which include works by Walt Whitman, Henry James, Elizabeth Stoddard, Bret Harte, W.E.B. DuBois, James Weldon Johnson, Wallace Stevens, Gertrude Stein, Dashiell Hammett, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Robert Creeley, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Toni Cade Bambara, Hisaye Yamamoto, Juan Felipe Herrera, Paul Auster, Kathy Acker, and Natalie Diaz to name a few. This course fulfils the Writing Intensive requirement.
This lecture course offers a survey of postwar U.S. novels and short stories from the late forties to the present. We will interpret the fiction through a sociohistorical lens, with particular emphasis placed on investigating the interconnections between literary form and social change. After an initial survey of fiction written in direct response to World War II and its aftermath, we will read literary texts associated with or influenced by the counterculture, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights and Black Arts movement, Second Wave Feminism, and the late twentieth-century triumph of U.S. consumerism. Authors include James Baldwin, Hisaye Yamamoto, Joan Didion, Thomas Pynchon, Michael Herr, Kurt Vonnegut, Grace Paley, Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Lê Thi Diem Thúy, and Junot Diaz.
In the 1930s, theatre critic James Aswell put to paper a cynical, enduring, and often misattributed sentiment: “Now we sit through Shakespeare in order to recognize the quotations.” In this introduction to the world and works of Shakespeare, we will not focus on simply recognizing quotations but on understanding Shakespeare’s language and the relationship between his works and the popular culture of his time. When writing his plays, Shakespeare drew influence from the images, rituals, and entertainment that surrounded him, from mystery plays and popular songs to British folklore. His writing was also shaped by his concerns as a businessman hoping to draw in theatregoers. We will explore what it means to read this now-revered author as a figure who could, and still does, transcend the boundaries between low and high culture. Texts will most likely include The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, Titus Andronicus, and Richard III, as well as modern film adaptations. Assignments will focus on developing the skills necessary for attentive critical reading and robust critical writing. Participation during in-class discussions and line readings will also be a key course component.
What constitutes popular culture, where do its meanings lie, and how do we “read” it? Popular culture pervades our everyday life to the point that we might even take it for granted, and therefore reading popular culture can tell about the culture in which we live. This survey course introduces you not only to the industries, texts, and audiences of popular culture, but to the different ways in which popular culture is produced, received, valued, interpreted, and used. You will learn about historical contexts through which texts circulate and make meaning, just as you will learn about the ideologies that determine historical reading strategies. Focusing specifically on the cultural practices of American media, we will look at examples from advertising, radio, commercial film, television, and digital and convergent technologies. As you develop a media literacy attuned to the historical and ideological conditions of meaning in popular culture, you will learn ways in which your readings—as consumer, critic, or fan—allow you to participate in that very process of meaning making. The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required.
While print, films, interactive texts, and other modes of expression have traditionally been construed as separate entities, now we may also read and experience these diverse forms through a screen-based device such as a computer. This course studies the growing number of forms in which a given cultural text is expressed and how our understanding of that text is shaped by its medium. We will examine the means by which “new” screen media are defined as well as the textual, cultural, and social implications of their deployment. While the boundaries between “old” media were clearly demarcated, digital forms merge forms and practices with new technologies of production, delivery, and display. We will explore the commonalities across a range of screen-based forms, while also assessing the unique aspects that truly differentiate one given medium from another. This course will map the function of medium specificity and its application to both “old” and “new” textual forms to map the ways in which our modes of reading shift from text to text and from screen to screen. Attendance at weekly evening screenings is required.
The aim of this course is to develop your abilities to engage critically with fictional texts. The course will introduce you to strategies of close reading, in order to help you become a better critical reader and writer of literary texts. Throughout the semester, we will pay close attention to various formal aspects of fiction—plot, point of view, character, imagery, trope, genre, intertextuality and etc.—and examine how they shape the meanings of the texts. We will also investigate how these texts produce meaning in relation to the historical and cultural contexts within which they are produced and read. The texts that we read all involve the broad theme of travel in one way or another. In the level of textual details, we will explore how these fictional narratives of travel (to the arctic pole, to colonized India, to Neverland, to outer space and many more) engage with the categories of gender and race, the ideas of enlightenment, and the ideologies of imperialism and nationalism. The reading may include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, Sam Selvon’s Lonely Londoners, and Andy Weir’s The Martian.
This course will instruct students in the basics of film analysis. The semester will roughly divide into three sections. In the first, students will learn how to interpret film by paying close attention to its material elements. We will then move on to consider the larger structures that organize these material elements into coherent texts, including narrative, genre, and the division of film into fictive and non-fictive modes. In the final portion of the course we will consider a series of special topics that inform how films are experienced beyond the bounds of the text itself, such as authorship and stardom. Students who take this course will also learn how to apply historical contexts to the reading of films. Film screenings will be drawn primarily from the Classical and post-Classical eras of Hollywood film, but will also include international films and films from other periods. Graded work for the course will consist of three critical papers, a test, reflection papers, and participation. Attendance at the weekly screenings for this course is required.
This course provides an introduction to the interpretation and analysis of film, arguably one of the most influential mediums of the twentieth century and one that has had a profound influence on our culture and society. We will focus primarily on classical Hollywood and contemporary English-language cinema (though non-English films and films from other periods will also be included) in order to understand how meaning is produced in film and how this affects the way we conceive of ourselves and the culture in which we live. We will examine both aesthetic and rhetorical elements—such as mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and so1und—as well as social and historical contexts, including stardom, reception, authorship, and exhibition. As a result, students will develop a critical vocabulary that will enable them to write critically about film—moving beyond “good” and “bad”—in order to get at the ways in which these meanings participate and engage with wider questions of film history and the influence of history on the production of meaning. No prior film experience is required. Graded work for the course will consist of rigorous classroom participation, weekly Blackboard posts, three critical papers and a final exam. The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required.
This course will introduce you to strategies for interpreting nonfiction. We will analyze various types of nonfiction, including memoirs, blogs, treatises, speeches, documentary films, reality television, podcasts, and journalism. Our inquiries will be guided by questions such as: what kinds of truth claims do these texts make? What are their rhetorical objectives? How do they characterize the writer/speaker? Assignments in the course will include shorter writing assignments as well as at least two longer critical papers.
Before the Occupy Movement increased public awareness, many citizens of the U. S. imagined that they were living in a society which, if not actually class-less, was at least in principle striving—democratically—for “equality” for all. Some still imagine this to be true. Yet evidence that inequality is not only growing in this country, but also actually growing at an accelerating rate has been available for a long time. The country’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, observed in the mid-1990s, that “the United States has become the most economically stratified of industrial nations.” Class differences are even sharper in 2015. This situation—in which wealth is increasingly concentrated at the top of the economic ladder--suggests how important is to understand the causes and consequences of class inequality. Using theory, fiction, and film, this course investigates class difference in all its dimensions.
Using theories of social class as lenses through which to read a wide range of texts, this course will look at the ways that class has historically structured people’s lives. Through a series of assignments intended to improve students’ reading and analytical skills while fostering a richer understanding of class, class struggle, and the ways that issues of class intersect with those of gender and race, this writing-intensive course will focus on placing literature within historical and theoretical contexts. Beyond more traditional literary texts, we will look particularly to related art forms such as music, film and visual art as a way of grasping a text’s historical moment while reading social and literary theory to help frame and give shape to our arguments. Possible authors may include: James Agee, Tillie Olsen, Toni Cade Bambara, Scott McClanahan and Saul Williams. Films and other media may include Tony Silver’s Style Wars, Gary Oldman’s Nil by Mouth, Marc Levin’s Slam, Woody Guthrie’s Dustbowl Ballads, Dorothea Lange’s photos, and others.
Michael Omi and Howard Winant define race as “a concept which signifies and symbolizes social conflicts and interests by referring to different types of human bodies.” Even though race has been shown to have no biological basis, it nonetheless, as Omi and Winant indicate, is a construction that structures both our daily, lived experience, as well as our relationship to society at large. By taking students through a progression of section topics that together build a coherent understanding of race, the state, history, and cross-racial solidarity, this course will help illuminate the ways in which past issues and concerns surrounding race resonate with contemporary concerns. We will use literary and other cultural texts to interrogate issues of race in America in the twentieth and twenty-first century; to explore how racial categories have been (re)created; and to investigate how categories like gender, class, and sexuality intersect with race. Theoretical texts may include works by Michael Omi and Howard Winant, and W.E.B. Du Bois, among others. Primary authors and texts may include Jean Toomer, Nella Larson, Moshin Hamid, James Baldwin, Chester Himes, and Junot Diaz. Through classroom participation, Blackboard posts, and three extended essay assignments, students will learn how to use the practice of close reading to interpret and analyze the ways texts encourage us to engage with race as an identity and cultural category.
Like many concepts too readily accepted as natural, ‘race’ has a history deeply involved in the fantasies and anxieties transmitted by literature. This writing intensive course will first consider conceptions of race and difference that predate our own thinking about racial categories. We will read William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Aime Cesaire’s 20th-century response. Both present fantasies of difference, and we will encounter such fantasies even in the travel writing and exploration narratives – the ‘nonfictioen’ – of early historical periods. Moving on to a second unit focused on some of the 19th and early 20th-century texts that ‘helped’ to establish our conceptions of race, racialism, and indeed racism, the course will examine fantasies present in the writings of Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad. This second unit will also consider fantasies of resistance including W.E.B. Dubois’ novel of liberation and conspiracy, Dark Princess, and George Orwell’s attack on British colonial racism, Burmese Days. Adventure stories and actual science fiction/ fantasy will be the focus of the third unit, with a reading of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes along with 20th and 21st century filmic parallels such as The Last Samurai or Dances with Wolves that express similar fantasies of becoming the Other. A final unit will study fantastic responses to the racialism present in Western culture. We will experience Sherman Alexie’s uneasy blend of realism and fantasy, and will round off the course with a comparison between Brett Easton Ellis’ novel of privileged excess, American Psycho, and Alain Mabanckou’s provocative and surreal response: African Psycho. Each of the units will have a corresponding writing assignment which will be assessed based on your knowledge of each text and your ability to apply close reading methods.
This course introduces students to autobiography--broadly conceived to include memoirs, testimonial texts, and other forms of life-writing—with a focus on works published by American authors of African, Amerindian, Asian, and Hispanic descent as well as writers of Jewish, Irish, and Italian ancestry prior to their entering the sphere of US whiteness. We study autobiography as a literary form with attention to its difference from and similarity to imaginative fiction. Concomitantly, it explores the notion of ethnicity as a situational location of identity. Students will read a set of “ethnic” American texts that set out to narrate the self, taking on the difficulty inherent to the problem self-representation and the equally complex challenge of performing ethnicity in a text. We consider the fortunes of the genre when practiced by writers whose community of shared ancestry resides in marginal sectors of the social system. How do they interact with the national corpus of literary texts? Authors studied include Frederick Douglass, Carlos Bulosan, John Okada, Luther Standing Bear, Claude Brown, Piri Thomas, Sui Sin Far, Maya Angelou, Julia Alvarez, Norma E. Cantu, Alice Walker, and Esmeralda Santiago.
This course focuses on the development of the institution of marriage in the U.S., examining the way it produces conceptions of sex and gender and organizes social and sexual life in the modern age. From seduction tales of the nineteenth century to current marriage equality debates, we’ll examine literary representations of marriage and deviations from it--including bachelorhood, romantic friendship, Boston marriage, extended kinship networks, divorce, polygamy, and gay marriage—to ask how gender and sexuality are being shaped by each imaginative plotting of marriage or resistance to it. Texts will range from selections such as Hannah Foster’s The Coquette and Ik Marvel’s The Bachelor’s Reveries, to short stories by Kate Chopin and Henry James, and up to Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man, Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home, and the TV series Big Love.
In this course, students will read and analyze the portrayal and role of gender in a collection of literary texts, focusing on the ethnic, cultural, racial, sexual, historical, and creative implications of gender in relation to the texts' writers and characters. The selected literature includes novels, poetry, essays, drama, short stories, and a graphic novel by writers from various countries such as the US, Britain, and the Middle East, featuring works by Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, David Henry Hwang, and Marjane Satrapi. This course is reading intensive, so students should be ready to handle rigorous reading assignments, accompanied by writing analytical papers that would reflect the students’ understanding of the issues raised in these texts.
In this class students will write weekly poems based on prompts, models, exercises, published poems and various poetic techniques. Students will give brief presentations on the poets read in class; possible poets include Li Po, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Phillip Levine, Mark Strand, Gwendolyn Brooks, Cesar Vallejo, Sylvia Plath, Philip Larkin, Robert Hayden, Frank O’Hara, Tomas Transtromer, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, among others. Students will also need to read the work of their peers and provide considered commentary on the student poems.
This course will acquaint students with some of the fundamental rules, tricks, pleasures, etc. of storytelling in prose. Each week students will read and discuss fiction written by their peers, as well as published work by modern writers. Students must come to class prepared and willing to discuss these stories. There will be in-class writing exercises and prompts. Class attendance and participation are mandatory.
This fiction workshop will focus on how to write and critique short stories. We will spend the first four weeks reading and analyzing published stories and doing in-class and out of class exercises. After the fourth class we’ll start to critique the stories of class members. For each story we discuss (except your own), you will post a 250-word response on Blackboard by the time class starts. You may also choose to bring (or post) a marked-up manuscript.
We will do writing exercises, some in class and some on your own. Each of you must keep a notebook (or file) for discussion notes and class exercises.
When does a trip become a pilgrimage? We can make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but we could also make a pilgrimage to a recording studio in Nashville, the Baseball Hall of Fame, Hollywood, the Louvre, or Faulkner’s home. The more we care about something, the more we invest it with emotional or spiritual meaning, and the more appropriate it is to call a visit a pilgrimage. Travel has been a prominent motif in religious literature and in popular culture. We will look at accounts of secular travel and pilgrimage narratives, primarily by Jewish travelers. Most claim authenticity, although the line between fact and fiction is not always easy to determine. In any case, travel narratives have played a central role in literary and religious history. Students will have the opportunity to write their own travel narratives in this course. What travel incident has most changed your life? Which travel experience makes the best story?ETS 235-1 Classics of World Literature 1 - Honors Course TTh 12:30-1:50 PM
This is an introductory study of some of the most valued and enduring literary works from ancient cultures around the world. We begin with some of the earliest surviving texts from Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures, proceed to hebrew Scripture, sanskrit and Greek epics, Greek and Roman lyric poetry, The New Testament, Saint Augustine, Tang and Song dynasty Chinese poetry, Japanese lyric, the Qur'an, and Arabic literature.ETS 242-1 Reading and Interpretation MW 12:45-2:05 PM Instructor: Chris Forster ETS 242-2: Reading and Interpretation TuTh 12:30-1:50 PM Instructor: Naomi Edwards
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; authority, textuality, and reading; subjectivity; and culture and history.
Upper Division Course Descriptions
ETS 303-1 Reading and Writing Fiction
All creative disciplines depend on the study and imitation of the particular art form for mastery of their elements. In this course you will read and analyze a number of short stories in order to deepen your understanding of a variety of concerns in storytelling including voice, style, description, story, and character. We will attempt to answer the question: how have authors generated emotions, interest, and power in creative texts? You will be required to display an understanding of these issues by producing creative and analytical responses to the texts studied. Possible authors include Flannery O'Connor, Alice Munro, James Joyce, James Baldwin, Jorge Luis Borges, Mary Gaitskill, Anton Chekhov, and Raymond Carver.
This course will look at theories of race with a focus on the intellectual history of responses to the advent of blackness, the rise of whiteness, and the partition of humanity into phenotypically differentiated branches as captured by literature and thought across several centuries. The class will survey William Shakespeare’s “dark lady” and the Bard’s relationship with Lucy Negro, Ben Jonson’s The Masque of Blackness, Thomas Jefferson’s reading of Phillis Wheatly, William Taylor Coleridge’s difficulty with the “race” of Othello, Wallace Stevens’ stigmatization of Gwendolyn Books, and the critical discussion about the all-black production of “white” plays on the contemporary American stage, among other “racial moments” in literature and thought. The class will consider these vis-à-vis the representation of phenotypical difference in texts written in European countries from Homer through the 1400s prior to the rise of the Christian West and the advent of the racial other as a factor of social relations and geopolitical exchange.
This course uses recent theoretical work on feelings and emotions as an analytical lens to examine literary and cultural studies. The course will be organized around several questions and problematics including: 1) the relationship between affect theory and psychoanalytic theory; 2) cognitive science formulations of affect and its relation to literature; 3) embodied affects; 4) queer affects; 4) sympathy and empathy as modes of communicating affect and emotion; 6) specific emotional affect and emotional formulations such as grief and mourning, shame and humiliation, love and intimacy, hatred, and regret. The course will be highly interactive, with frequent small group work and Blackboard exercises. Written work will include two 6-8 page essays and a take home final exam.
We have all had a good laugh at the Victorians. Confined to their impossibly full drawing rooms, the women wore crinolines, sewed, and played the piano—all the while thinking of marriage and home. The men were chivalrous but condescending, telling their wives and daughters what their opinions should be. Both men and women were prudes—even draping piano legs with skirts—and their tastes ranged from vulgar (knickknacks, festooned curtains, and a superabundance of chintz) to downright weird (stuffed pet animals). No one, of course, ever had sex, although couples at midcentury, miraculously, averaged six children. Deflating some of these myths, this course will introduce you to a complex age that is both remarkably similar to and strikingly different from our own. Reading novels, poetry, etiquette guides, letters, diaries, social and political treatises, and sermons, we will think through a set of issues that confused, confounded, and galvanized the Victorians (as they do for many of us), including gender, sexuality, domesticity, poverty and inequality, warfare, and imperialism. Pre-1900 Course
This course looks at the outpouring of fiction dedicated to particular places and environments in the years between the Civil War and the turn into the twentieth century. In this period of rapid expansion and industrialization, a period of migration, immigration, and displacements of peoples living in and coming to the U.S., a good deal of fiction hunkered down in specific locales, evoking the particularities of place, imaginatively projecting its social ecologies, and considering the forces that shaped its inhabitants. From rural New England to the emerging cityscapes of the industrial north, from vast expanses of desert and prairie to decaying southern plantations to the wilds of gold rush California: literary environments were invested with questions about the interrelation of space and time, nature and people, and social and national identities. Potential authors include Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Mary Austin, Bret Harte, Frank Norris, Jack London, Sara Winnemucca, Mark Twain, and Jose Marti. Pre-1900 Course
Shakespeare found the theater to be an especially productive space for meditating on the relationship between “knowing” and “showing” – a rhyme pair that echoes throughout work. His plays are preoccupied not only with questions about we know a thing to be true (what constitutes evidence, what it means be informed) but how we show (or don’t show) what we know and don’t know. Along with these questions, we will consider the function of knowledge and information as the object of desire, repudiation, and all manners of vexed transmission in some of Shakespeare’s most “lamentable” tragedies (Hamlet, King Lear, Othello). We will consider the ways in which these tragic plots are framed by meditations on the mechanical aspects of perception, communication, and representation. We will also explore the ways these mechanics (and meditations thereupon) are rendered farcical in the comedies (most famously, by the “rude mechanicals” in Midsummer Night’s Dream). Class discussion will emphasize the exigencies of performance (get ready to read aloud and think on your feet) and will be augmented by supplemental readings from a variety of early modern works that theorize perception from physiological, rhetorical, theological and political perspectives. Pre-1900 Course
The line between “fact” and “fiction” in early modern accounts of strange and foreign places is a blurred one at best, even (especially) in the ostensibly true accounts of those who claim to record what they witnessed with their own eyes. This course will study the conventions of truth claims and other common rhetorical and aesthetic practices in travel writing from utopian and extra-terrestrial voyages to diaries, letters, natural histories, and ethnographic reports of travelers to near and distant parts of the globe. Our study of these purportedly non-fictional texts will foreground their relationship to early modern literary, political, and philosophical developments as well as to traditions of representing geographic and cultural “others” in classical epic, natural history and historiography, medieval romance, and humanist satire. We will concentrate on texts by English travelers, colonists, envoys, pirates, and pilgrims in the “old” world as well as the “new.” Discussions will foreground the complex ways in which these identities and distinctions were wrought as well as the ways they have endured through repetition and reinvention. Pre-1900 Course
This course investigates such topics as the origins and development of the myth we know as “standard” English, the English-Only Movement, how editors and publishers regulate the homogeneity of printed English, how English actually varies around the world and what are the politics of its use and reception, how race and gender are encoded and enacted in and through language, how news shapes our views, how media convey subtle attitudes toward varieties of language that shape our thinking—in short the fascinating –and important--subject that is the politics of the English language.
This course explores the ways in which gender and sexuality are represented in an array of visual, historical, and literary texts from the Arab world and its diaspora. Some of the main issues that will be addressed include the historical development of feminism in the Arab world, the construction of gender roles in the context of war and conflict, as well as the outspokenness of many of the region's writers on topics such as love, sex, and homosexuality. In studying these issues, we will also be focusing on texts by writers of Arab descent living in the US who respond to and engage with their counterparts in the Arab world on some of the same topics but from a diasporic perspective, thus emphasizing a transnational and transcultural approach to our study of gender and sexuality. The main aim of the course is to familiarize students with some of the main issues surrounding the topics of gender and sexuality in the Arab world, encouraging them to sharpen their critical and analytical skills in their engagement with this material.
This course will cover a broad range of literary works written by U.S. women writers of color. We will consider how the intersecting systems of race, ethnicity, class, and country of origin (among others) come to bear on experiences of gender and sexuality. How do writers of color define the meanings of womanhood in the U.S. across different historical and cultural contexts? How do gendered subjectivities come into being in and through ideologies of race? In what ways might experiences of oppression be compounded by such an “interlocking matrix of domination”? What strategies of resistance and survival do these writers offer in their work? Readings will consist of literary and theoretical texts, and may include such writers as Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, Cristina Garcia, Edwidge Danticat, and Bharati Mukherjee.
This course analyzes Jane Austen’s novels in two sets of historical and cultural contexts: first, the early nineteenth-century British contexts in which they were written, and, second, the contemporary global contexts in which they continue to be adapted and read. Through a combination of lectures, readings, and discussions, the first half of the course will introduce you to Austen’s novels, examining their participation in early nineteenth-century British concerns over everything from authorship, poetry, Gothic novels, architecture, fashion, garden design, and estate management to rank, class, gender, sexuality, slavery, nationalism, and imperialism. The last half of the course will examine Austen film adaptations, fan culture, and literary tourism in order to understand the significance of the ongoing contemporary boom in Austen’s popularity. The two complementary halves of the course will be bridged by eight days of on-site study in southern England, where students will visit locations associated with Austen and Regency British culture. Class size is limited to 20 students. Students must enroll in both the Syracuse and England portions of the course. Admission to the course is by application only, through SU Abroad. The application process closed on October 9, 2015. Pre-1900 Course
In this class, you will develop your existing skills by reading the work of published poets, writing a poem every other week, and critiquing one another’s poems. You will revise three of the poems you write, with the ultimate goal set at producing three poems you have worked on hard enough to consider them "finished" by workshop standards. This will not be as easy as it sounds. I will expect you to do the work of a poet, which is demanding. Revising may range from minor tinkering to wholesale changes or even writing an entirely new poem in the process of trying to improve an earlier poem.
This class is for fiction writers with workshop experience. We will work on writing and reading stories. In class we will discuss student work as well as work by contemporary writers. We will focus on useful critique, significant revision, and close reading.
Cinema has often been called a universal language and it is certainly made all over the globe. But world cinema has a richness and complexity that defies a single model, despite the cultural ubiquity and economic power of Hollywood cinema. This course examines how the history of world cinema has been shaped by the historical processes of modernity, postmodernity, colonialism and globalization. In the first part of the course, we will consider the development of cinema within the contexts of late nineteenth and early twentieth century visual culture, tracing how it contributed to the conceptualization of the modern world as visual spectacle. Subsequently in the second half, we will explore the diverse pleasures, politics and aesthetics of cinema from around the world, including Bollywood, Hong Kong action films, Iranian neorealism, European art cinema and contemporary indigenous filmmaking. We will thus investigate how cinema contributes to our understandings of the world, our places within it, and our relations to other parts of it. In sum, we will discover how world cinema is always both local and global. The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required. Film and Screen Studies course
This course will examine the writings of Ann, Emily, and Charlotte Bronte in both their socio-historical and biographical contexts. In addition the course will examine the “myth of the Brontes” as constructed by Charlotte Bronte herself, her first biographer, Elizabeth Gaskell, and later biographers and critics through to the present day. We will read selections from the Bronte juvenilia; Elizabeth Gaskell’s influential Life of Charlotte Bronte; and the novels, Ann Bronte’s Agnes Grey and Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Villette. Students will conduct independent research that they will present in class, post weekly on Blackboard, and write three substantial essays. We will examine issues of childhood, family, sibling relations, authorship, female authorship, the nineteenth-century “Woman Question,” publication, reception, critical and biographical appropriation, loss, visual arts, animal rights, psychology, memory, and film adaptation. Pre-1900 Course
The field known as “the history of the book” investigates the materiality of a text—the history of its material forms, its modes of production/circulation/reception, and other topics such as literacy and ‘book culture,’ developing technologies of manuscript (and then print) type and illustration, the trade and storing of books as well as attempts to control circulation of—or even destroy-- ‘dangerous’ texts. This particular iteration is designed to begin by exploring the origins of material objects that came to be called “books.” From clay tablets and codices to manuscript to print, we investigate how the physical objects and the knowledge they represent arose and developed in European culture of the Middle Ages. We trace the role of individuals and cultural institutions in preserving and circulating texts. Who decided what should be kept/copied and what should not? How did copying work? How were manuscripts/books kept? What was the relationship between text and illumination? What works were judged worthy of preservation/illumination? What was the book trade like in the Middle Ages? What factors affected the ‘popularity’ of a particular text? Using archival materials in Bird Library as well as digital archives, we’ll examine Illuminated manuscripts, including Bibles and Books of Hours; unique manuscripts such as the Beowulf manuscript; the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and banned books. Pre-1900 Course
"If you want to send a message, use Western Union," a powerful studio executive says in an apocryphal, but oft-repeated, Hollywood legend. The line distills the common assumption that popular movies are intended to entertain, and that they are incapable of serious engagement with social causes. Throughout its history, however, Hollywood has released a large number of topical, engaged films commenting on contemporary issues, often to both critical and financial success. Our goal in this course is to return these films to their historical contexts, examining the purposes and meanings they served both for those who made them and those who watched them. We will develop a number of approaches to these films, thinking about topics such as how the studio system and censorship shape films as texts, to how different audiences engage with and interpret them, to how Hollywood narratives fit into a larger media environment. The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required. Film and Screen Studies Course
What are the roles of games and play in contemporary culture and how are these roles shifting? Just as digital games have grown profoundly more complex in the last fifty years, theoretical and critical approaches to digital games have proliferated and diversified, moving well past early debates between those studying games as narratives and those who examine games as systems of play. Of course, the study of games predates the digital age, and in this course we will engage with the foundational texts which serve as precursors to the contemporary critical approaches which we will also explore. We will trace the historical development of game studies as a discipline, while also examining both non-digital and digital games as case studies for our critical consideration. In addition to a variety of games, we will also study screen-based media texts which explicitly or implicitly engage with the concepts of game studies. Attendance at weekly screenings is a required component of this course. Film and Screen Studies Course
This course will survey some of the major achievements in fiction and poetry by American Jewish writers from 1945 to the present. It’s a very crowded scene, and we will attempt to sample this extraordinary variety. The reading list will likely include Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow (Seize the Day), Bernard Malamud (selected stories), Philip Roth (Goodbye, Columbus and The Ghost Writer), Grace Paley (selected stories), Isaac Bashevis Singer (“Gimpel the Fool”), Cynthia Ozick (“The Pagan Rabbi” and The Shawl), Norman Mailer (“The White Negro”), E.L. Doctorow (“Heist”), Art Spiegelman (Maus I and II), Steve Stern (“Lazar Malkin Enters Heaven”), Allegra Goodman (“The Four Questions”), Michael Chabon (The Final Solution), Nathan Englander (selected stories), Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything Is Illuminated) and selected poems of Allen Ginsberg, George Oppen, Howard Nemerov, Anthony Hecht, Denise Levertov, Philip Levine, John Hollander, Robert Pinsky, and Adrienne Rich. Some of the questions we will address include the following: Do American Jewish writers share a way of experiencing and reflecting about the world? Are there forms, themes, assumptions, attitudes, aesthetic and moral theories that are identifiable as "Jewish-American"?
One of the most powerful capabilities of cinema is its technological rendering particular bodies in particular spaces, but what happens when those bodies and spaces construct a particular race or ethnicity for a mass viewing public? Latino cinema has given visibility to a minority group on a global stage, and remains a rich, dynamic, and ever-present tradition in U.S. media and popular culture. This course focuses on the diverse cultural productions of Latino/a identity and difference in U.S. narrative fiction film. We will look at the questions, problems, and meanings that arise from images of Latinos, as well as ways in which Latino cinema can work as artistic protest and creative expression from the margins. Through the history and ideologies of Latino representation in film, you will learn the styles, themes, contexts, and figures important to its development, and how to position yourself in relation to it as a culturally competent viewer. Topics will likely include transnationalism and empire, Amerindian experiences and diasporic communities, border narratives and the Southwestern frontier, immigration and labor, magical realist folklore, the Chicano Movement, and Classical Hollywood stars and stereotypes. The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required. Film and Screen Studies Course
This course will survey a range of 20th- and 21st-century literary works by African American writers in the context of recent cultural and political debates around racial profiling, police brutality, mass incarceration, and stereotyping. Though analysis of fiction, memoir, critical essays, and contemporary reporting, we will explore some of the historical contexts of U.S. race relations, including slavery, Jim Crow, discriminatory housing policies, and the War on Drugs. Students will also be expected to keep up to date with current news coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement and other political developments around issues of racial justice. The reading list for this course may include works by Ann Petry, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The Thesis Writing Workshop is a forum for small-group mentoring and directed research toward producing an ETS Distinction Essay/Honors Thesis. Participants present drafts of their theses and engage in peer critique and other group and individual activities. Prerequisite: successful completion of ETS 494.
Graduate Course Descriptions
This course is open to students in the MFA Creative Writing Program. Students in other disciplines may apply after having a conference with me. In a few cases, undergraduates are admitted. I would require a conference before registration, and samples of writing in conference, and, possibly, a recommendation from a faculty member.
There will be weekly discussions of student writing. Outside reading will be assigned each week. A few films and/or art videos and/or poetry readings for view may also be presented. Experimentation and revision will be encouraged. This is a discussion course, and much emphasis will be placed upon prepared and cogent commentary from students on any writing we read or any of the viewings/readings we study.
This workshop is open to all graduate students interested in writing fiction (students not matriculated in the MFA Program need my permission to register, and MFA students have priority). Participants submit, read, and critique short stories or novel excerpts. Student work will be the focus of the class; outside reading, pertinent to discussion, may occasionally be assigned.
The art and literature of the first half of the twentieth century is frequently called modernist. It is a term that exists in awkward (and sometimes productive) tension with other key terms: “the avant-garde,” for instance, or postmodernism. This class seeks to introduce and understand that term, and the debates which surround it, by reading a series of key texts from the period alongside important criticism. No prior familiarity with “modernism” is necessary. Course readings will include work across genres by figures including W. B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett, Mina Loy, and others. Alongside these works we will read a diverse range of the major critics of the period, from a range of theoretical perspectives. Our goal will be to both understand the works we read, but also to understand the shifting contours and constructions of modernism as a key, but contested, term of literary history. Course work will include a seminar presentation, and a range of writing assignments (including a book review, a conference abstract, and a conference-length paper).
From the Crusades to contemporary tourism, travel has been a prominent motif in religious literature and in popular culture. We will look at accounts of exploration, mercantile travel, and pilgrimage narratives, primarily by Jewish travelers and authors. Most claim authenticity, although the line between fact and fiction is not always easy to determine. Travel narratives have played a central role in literary and religious history; traditionally, the pilgrimage and secular tourism challenge the Zion-centered worldview. In another genre and imaginative geography, folk tales present fantastic voyages that suggest meanings on an allegorical level.
As many of the narratives we will read were not written in English, for much of the semester we will work with translations. Consequently, the course will also refer to pertinent issues in translation studies. There is a natural connection between exploration and translation, because as George Steiner wrote, “The translator invades, extracts, and brings home.”
What we talk about when we talk about “realism” in fiction is usually very narrowly defined; the history of the novel has always been furthered by formal innovations and disruptions that might best be appreciated not as avant-garde experiments but as attempts to update and refine the representation, on the page, of what it feels like to live. That feeling, of course, changes in many ways across eras and across cultures: as Milan Kundera wrote, “Every novel, like it or not, offers some answer to the question: What is human existence, and wherein does its poetry lie?” We will read a broad and evolving survey of such answers, up to the present day.
My role as a writer/instructor in this course is to facilitate discussion and share my experience as a writer who has worked with many different community populations over the last two decades. My role is also to prepare you for various writing exercises that you could use in visiting these venues. I will provide you with material assignments each week—ideally these will clarify approaches that could become successful exercises. The in-class writing assignments will imitate or prefigure what/how we might work with similar assignments at the community site.
The course is a collaborative experience. A course taught by Stephen Mahan, “Literacy, Photography and the Community”, will meet with this course. No previous photography experience is necessary. Our writing ideas and assignments will intersect with photographic ideas and assignments. Grading for the course will be determined by the quality of your participation in our class meetings and in the community venues. Undergraduates may enroll in this course with the instructor's permission. Meets with TRM 610
This course will explore poems regarded as visionary in their conception and poems preoccupied with the representation of visual perception. Some of the poets whose work we will analyze will include: Shakespeare, Milton, Blake, Keats, Whitman, Dickinson, Marianne Moore, W.C. Williams, Eliot, H.D., Roethke, Bishop, Valentine, Simic, and Brigit Kelly, among others. Writing assignments will include imitations of these writers and pieces that use these writers as a springboard. Prose or verse will be fine for the assignments. We will read a few works in translation as well as writers of English.
This course will focus on literature narrated by characters who have become unhinged from the norms of society. They may stand apart from the mainstream because of willful eccentricity, madness, prejudice, even social disgrace, but in each case their alienation provides them with a unique perspective, one that allows the reader to see the world they describe without the dulling lens of convention. We will explore what authors might gain from narrating their works from an "outsider" perspective, as well as study how the peculiar forms and structures of these books reflect the modernist impulse in literature. Over the course of the semester, students will use these texts as a springboard for creating their own creative and critical work. Texts will include works by Knut Hamsun, Vladimir Nabokov, Jean Rhys, Donald Antrim, Joy Williams, Robert Walser, Claudia Rankine, Ben Lerner, Richard Yates, Denis Johnson, J.M. Coetzee and Octavia Butler.
We will read the work of several poets to provide the basis for a discussion of “voice” in Contemporary American Poetry. Some poets we will read include Frank Stanford, Terrance Hayes, Russell Edson, Alice Fulton, Ben Mirov, and Jennifer Chang. Students will be required to turn in weekly response papers (creative or analytical) that address or are inspired by the “voices” in the poems read for that week.
This seminar explores how 20th and 21st century visual cultures have engaged in various mediated acts of witnessing. The testimonial act of bearing witness to traumatic experience has become a privileged and omnipresent mode of communication over the last century. While the past hundred years have produced an incredible global proliferation of visual technologies, the same period also incorporated a catalog of historical traumas which have pushed the very limits of these representational technologies, from World War I to the Holocaust to climate change. Focusing on camera-based media (film, video, photography) from a variety of historical and geographical contexts (including the Holocaust, the AIDS pandemic, Israel/Palestine, Darfur and Nicaragua) this course will approach the task of conceptualizing the dynamics of witnessing within visual culture through the three interdisciplinary fields that have most shaped this concept: trauma theory, human rights discourse and visual studies. A number of fundamental questions shall guide us through this investigation: What function should visual representation serve in the face of unbearable trauma and injustice? How does the global circulation of images as witness shape the meanings they may produce? How do individual testimonies mediate collective histories? What forms of visual evidence count in producing the “truth” of an historical event? What are the implications of ubiquitous visual surveillance on the very idea of the camera witness? The weekly screenings scheduled for this course are required.
In this seminar, we will read postwar U.S. novels and short stories from the late forties to the present. We will interpret the fiction through a sociohistorical lens, with particular emphasis placed on investigating the interconnections between literary form and social change. After an initial survey of fiction written in direct response to World War II and its aftermath, we will read literary texts associated with or influenced by the counterculture , the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, Second Wave Feminism, and the late twentieth-century triumph of U.S. consumerism. I am still working on the final booklist for this course. Authors are likely to include James Baldwin, Hisaye Yamamoto, Joan Didion, Thomas Pynchon, Michael Herr, Kurt Vonnegut, Grace Paley, Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Chang-Rae Lee, David Foster Wallace, and Junot Diaz.
There are three extant versions of Hamlet: the First Quarto (known as Q1) the Second Quarto (known as Q 2) and the Folio text (known as F), and this fact arguably constitutes the most perplexing mystery in all of English Literature. Q1 is the earliest version of the play, and yet some (though not all) of its language is far from anything we associate with Shakespeare: “To be or not to be. Aye there’s the point.” Q1, however, when read in tandem with the other texts, reveals a great deal about both Shakespeare’s language and his writing practices. In this course, we will read the three extant versions of Hamlet with a focus on the play’s language—both its poetry and its prose. We will pay minute attention to the text even as we consider some of the overarching issues of the play, including Hamlet’s relationship to other writing, especially to the prose of Thomas Nashe, to the poetry of Christopher Marlowe, as well as to early modern translations of Homer, Vergil, and Ovid.
The course will be of particular interest to those working on poetry or on prose in any period.