Graduate Course Descriptions
ENG 630-4 Graduate Proseminar: Early America
Instructor: Patricia Roylance
Designed as an introduction to U.S. literary and cultural studies, this seminar will survey American language and writing from the sixteenth to the late eighteenth centuries, and will provide a foundation for more advanced study of this period. Because this is a Pro-Seminar, the reading will be somewhat heavy, but you will need no prior knowledge of the period. For the final project, you will work on primary material from the course or closely related to it, but you will have conceptual and methodological freedom in choosing an approach.
Reflecting recent revisions in the critical conception of this field, “Early America” will be treated as a problematic rather than as a settled category. We will question the homogeneity and push the literal boundaries of “America”: what regional, racial, religious and linguistic subcultures exist within the space of America? what transatlantic and hemispheric contexts illuminate early American literary production? We will read Native American oral literature and writings from New Spain, New France and New Netherland alongside literature from the British colonies, and alongside European writings about the “New World.” The course will culminate with an examination of the rhetoric of the U.S. Revolutionary War, which attempted to present as unified and univocal a colonial period that had been anything but.
ENG 630-5 Graduate Proseminar: What was Modernism?
Instructor: Chris Forster
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: realism, the avant-garde,” or postmodernism, for instance. 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, Djuna Barnes, 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).
ENG 631-1 Critical Theory
Instructor: Crystal Bartolovich
“Critical Theory” provides an introduction to a range of meta-critical concepts, debates and protocols—that is, the underwriting assumptions (varied and contradictory as these may be) -- on which the discipline of “English” currently relies. We will read both influential texts from the past that are still referenced (implicitly or explicitly), as well as notable examples of current trends. We will also spend time considering professional structures, norms, genres and demands: the formation of the university, book reviews, bibliographies, conferences, journals, seminar papers, prizes and so on. In other words, we will explore ways of reading theoretical, critical and literary/cultural texts—including our profession as an institution--and examine how critical questions have been and are now generated in English, as well as why new critical practices emerge (or fail to do so). No matter how much (or little) “theory” you have already read, this professional orientation will direct your thinking toward “English” as a discipline in new ways, and prepare you to work within it self-consciously and critically.
ENG 650-1 Forms: Best Versions
Instructor: Chris Kennedy
One of the great mysteries of writing fiction and poetry is when and how to revise: How does a writer know when a story or a poem is finished? How much should a writer rely on other opinions to reshape his/her vision? In this class we will read different versions of several published stories and poems, as well as different drafts of student work, as a catalyst for discussion about how to edit and revise.
ENG 650-3 Forms: Poetry, Memoir, & Nonfiction
Instructor: Mary Karr
We’ll read and discuss eleven memoirs, plus excerpts of a few others. Work for the semester will consist of reading and being engaged with the books.Assignments will include: small creative projects and in-class writing sprinkled through the semester; a presentation on one of the writers; and a final paper, memoir, or 10 poems. Readings may include (a) poems by Roger Fanning, Louise Gluck, Robert Hass, Terrance Hayes, Seamus Heaney, Yusef Komunyaaka, William Matthews, Heather McHugh, Pablo Neruda, Craig Raine, Charles Simic, and Dean Young; (b) fiction by George Saunders; (c) essays by James Wood, and (d) a memoir by Elif Batuman.
ENG 650-5 Forms: Poets and Collaborators
Instructor: Michael Burkard
As writers/readers, we are the collaborators. In discussion and in writing we will respond to poets in translation. These poets would include Transtromer, Syzmborska, Vallejo, and a wide range of contemporary American poets, including Fanny Howe and Lucille Clifton. As a class, we will write some collaborative work amongst ourselves. We will explore various means of adapting to issues of translation, subject matter, and forms. Each class session will review poetry from our reading list, and a discussion of written assignments. Collaborations between writers and artists and writers and musicians will be reviewed, and we will incorporate a project of collaboration along these lines in a class assignment.
ENG 650-8: Forms: Creative Nonfiction: All Over The Page
Instructor: Arthur Flowers, Jr.
Exploration of the various forms of creative nonfiction with special emphasis on fusions of nonfiction, fiction and poetry — nonfiction works using the techs of other genres to enhance their impact. This process will be contexted with dialogues on the ever-evolving nature of text. Readings will consist of shorts and excerpts. Reader to be provided. Writing prompts likely.
ENG 650-9: Forms: Hopeful Monsters
Instructor: Alexandra Kleeman
In evolutionary biology, a “hopeful monster” is an aberrant organism flawed by the usual standards of its species, but unexpectedly well-adapted to the world into which it is born. In this course, we consider the incidental advantages offered up by literary work that is risky, off-balance, misshapen, or which runs counter to our own good taste and preferences. Through discussions of texts by Stein, Tutuola, Dick, Cha, Bernhard, Bowles, and others, we will explore the notion of malformation, mutation, and the triumph of the failed. We will question the equivalence of “structure” and “form,” and dwell with writing that resists likeability. Writing assignments, workshops, and in-class presentations will urge you to build completed pieces from your abandoned or unwanted works, and spend time revisiting your own “monsters” and mistakes.
ENG 715-2 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 model or target 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 proscriptive 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 717-2 First Year Fiction Workshop
Instructor: Dana Spiotta
Students will submit a minimum of three short stories/novel excerpts and will read and constructively critique the work of their peers. Development of the crucial skill and discipline of revision will be emphasized. Required of, and restricted to, first-year MFA fiction students.
ENG 718-2 Second Fiction Workshop
Instructor: Dana Spiotta
This course is the required workshop for students in the second year of the MFA Program in Fiction.
ENG 719-1 Third Poetry Workshop
Instructor: Mary Karr
This is an advanced course, so I assume you’re all passionate about poetry and motivated enough to read, write, critique each other’s work with utmost care and respect, and rewrite, rewrite and rewrite. It’s a class 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 poems. What I value first and foremost is clarity in communication and strong feeling (in the reader, NOT the writer). I expect everyone to rewrite based on workshop comments. If your notes are sketchy, cartoony, or in any way haphazard, I will ask for typed notes for each class.
First and foremost, you must be open to virtually any kind of speech, language, subject, and opinion. You must get along with each other, and anyone engaging in a personal attack on anyone else in the group will have a hard time completing the workshop. Free speech is seldom comfortable, and this workshop is a free-speech space.
ENG 721-1 Third Fiction Workshop - Prerequisite ENG 717 and ENG 718
Instructor: Arthur Flowers Jr.
This course is required for students in the third year of the MFA Program in Fiction. In this class, students will deepen their fictive practice by reading and critiquing the works of their peers. Workshop format, craft, product, vision.
ENG 730-1 Graduate Seminar: Postwar U.S. Fiction
Instructor: Susan Edmunds
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 late twentieth-century 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 Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Chang-Rae Lee, and Helena Maria Viramontes.
ENG 730-2 Graduate Seminar: American Film Melodrama
Film Screening Th 6:30-9:15PM
Instructor: Will Scheibel
Film scholar Linda Williams calls melodrama “the fundamental mode of popular American moving pictures.” Following her argument, this seminar suggests that to study American film melodrama is to deepen our understanding of American cinema’s aesthetic and affective expressions. A cinema of heightened emotionalism based on excess and containment, fantasy and desire, and pathos and identification, melodrama has been theorized as a site of ideological critique and viewer pleasure. With origins in the “blood and thunder” spectacles of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century theater, melodrama came to fruition on the screen in the action serials and passionate epics of the silent era. The term is perhaps most associated with family and women’s pictures of Classical Hollywood, including sentimental “weepies,” stories of “fallen women” and mother/daughter relationships, and the Gothic romance. We will look at these different examples from Marxist, feminist, and psychoanalytic approaches, as well as in the contexts of genre and American culture. Yet, as melodrama never disappeared, we will consider ways in which it persists in especially apparent cases—art cinema, postmodern cinema, the male action films of Kathryn Bigelow, and the queer films of Todd Haynes—that have further expanded our definition of the term. Required Books: Christine Gledhill, ed., Home Is Where the Heart Is: Studies in Melodrama and the Woman’s Film (London: BFI Publishing, 1987); Barbara Klinger, Melodrama and Meaning: History, Culture, and the Films of Douglas Sirk (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994) [electronic version available through EBSCOhost/SU Libraries]; Ben Singer, Melodrama and Modernity: Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).
For a complete list of films and readings, please contact Will Scheibel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ENG 730-5 Graduate Seminar: Gender and Sexualities in the “War on Terror”
Instructor: Carol Fadda-Conrey
In this seminar, we will focus on feminist, anti-racist, and anti-imperialist engagements with and responses to the events of 9/11 and the ensuing “War on Terror,” looking closely at the role of gender and its intersections with race, sexuality, and religion in mobilizations of the US security state. Even though we will focus in our analysis on the period following the events of September 11, 2001, we will also be questioning the notion that 9/11 is an exceptional traumatic event that produces exclusive forms of US trauma and citizenship. We will pay close attention to the ways in which gender, religion, sexuality, and race have been deployed in constructions of national identities, war projects, and imperial agendas since 9/11, starting with depictions of some of the first responses to the attacks, and moving on to include the rhetoric informing much of the dominant narratives about the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the torture practices at the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons. In analyzing the ascendency of violent, militaristic, and exclusionary US citizenships in light of intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and religion, this course evaluates some important theoretical concepts that have defined anti-hegemonic responses to the US security state’s practices. Such concepts include, for instance, Jacqui Alexander’s “the patriot-citizen,” Mahmood Mamdani’s “good Muslim vs. bad Muslim,” Amy Kaplan’s “homeland insecurity,” and Jaspir Puar’s “homonationalisms.”
Other theoretical and cultural texts we will read include works by Judith Butler, Susan Sontag, Junaid Rana, Amy Kaplan, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Sunaina Maira, among others. We will also be reading fiction, poetry, and drama by writers including Laila Halaby, Yussef El Guindi, Art Spiegelman, and Wafaa Bilal.