Graduate Course Descriptions
ENG 615-3 Open Poetry Workshop
Tu 3:30-6:20 PM
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. There are no prerequisites, and those who want to explore a beginner’s interest in poetry are welcome to join with poetry graduate students in the MFA program.
ENG 617-1 Open Fiction Workshop
Tu 9:30-12:20 PM
Instructor: Jonathan Dee
This workshop is open to all graduate students interested in writing fiction. 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.
ENG 630-2 Graduate Proseminar: Classical Hollywood Cinema
Tu 3:30-6:20 PM
Film Screening Tu 7:00-9:45 PM
Instructor: Will Scheibel
What was “classical” about Classical Hollywood cinema? This course offers an investigation into the aesthetic and industrial system of Hollywood during the era of studio production between 1929 and 1948, as well as the gradual demise of the system into the early 1960s. We will consider Classical Hollywood as a formal tradition of film art, a business practice of filmmaking, and a cultural institution of film experience that exceeds a single geographic site. As a graduate pro-seminar, this course not only concerns the history of Classical Hollywood, but also historiographic methods of interpretation and research, leading to a final paper of 25 pages. Topics will include: the relationship between American cinema and American modernity; the development of narrative, visual style, and point-of-view in the classical film text; the studio oligopoly and the effects of its breakup; product standardization and differentiation through genres and stars; technologies of spectacle; New Deal labor and politics in the studios; location shooting after World War II; changes in audiences and exhibition contexts over time; the regulation of onscreen content; and the shift to independent and overseas production. No background in film studies is necessary for this course, but evening screenings are required.
ENG 630-3 Graduate Proseminar: Introduction to Early Modern Studies
M 12:45-3:35 PM
Instructor: Stephanie Shirilan
This course provides a point of entry for students interested in early modern texts and the disciplinary history of early modern studies. We will spend as much time with the literature of the period as the stories historiographers have come to tell about the “Renaissance,” the “premodern” and the “early modern.” We will begin with the modern “invention” of the Renaissance in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, will continue by observing the psychoanalytic, philological and bibliographic/bibliophilic investments of the early twentieth century, and will follow the rise and fall of formalisms, criticisms, materialisms and historicisms new and old through the early twenty-first century. Our chief investigation will be to examine the ways in which the early modern period has been both credited and discredited as the parent of modernity. Our discussions will trace the representation of privacy, masculinity, sovereignty, embodiment, property, and liberty (among others) as these discourses emerge out of the complex interplay between readers and writers of the sixteenth, seventeenth and twentieth/twenty-first centuries especially. We will read a selection of mainly canonical plays, poems and prose in order to provide exposure to the major genres of the period (including but not limited to revenge drama, rhetorical theory, lyric and devotional poetry, spiritual autobiography, sermons) and to better trace the historiographical themes and trends, but will include samplings of texts that have more recently made their way into a canon whose relative fixity/fungibility will be a central motif of the course.
ENG 630-4 Graduate Proseminar: Introduction to Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
Th 12:30-3:20 PM
Instructor: Carol Fadda-Conrey
This proseminar offers a broad introduction to some of the major concepts and texts in the fields of race and ethnic studies. Examining some of the main issues defining these fields of study from their inception till the present so-called post-racial moment, we will familiarize ourselves with formative debates related to the establishment of ethnic studies programs in the 60s and 70s (as well as the continuance of such struggles in the present moment); ethnic studies during the “culture wars” of the 80s and 90s and beyond; as well as the histories and effects of US racial and ethnic formations, color-blindness, comparative racialization, and state violence against black and brown bodies, from the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter.
Informed by intersectional, comparative, and transnational theoretical frameworks, the course readings will cover black feminist thought, critical race theory, queer critique, narratives of anti-racist and anti-imperialist struggles, and critiques of settler-colonialism, among others. We will investigate the histories and implications of the turn to the “critical” practice of ethnic studies and race theory with an emphasis on how race and ethnicity are constructed in relation to concepts of gender, sexuality, class, nationality, religion, indigeneity, citizenship, and immigration.
Covering a number of foundational texts in race and ethnic studies, as well as the specific fields of African American Studies, Latinx Studies, Asian American Studies, Native American Studies, and Arab American studies, course readings include works by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Cherrie Moraga, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Grace Lee Boggs, Audra Simpson, Steven Salaita, Ta-Nehisi Coates, David Palumbo-Liu, Claudia Rankine, and others.
ENG 650-2 Forms: Teaching Creative Writing and Photography in the Community
W 12:45-3:30 PM
Instructor: Michael Burkard
My role as a writer/instructor in this course is to facilitate discussion and share my experience working with many different community populations in Syracuse and elsewhere over the past two decades. My role is to prepare you for various writing exercises that could be used in visiting different community venues, often public schools in Syracuse, for 6-8 visits over the course of the University semester. I will provide you with reading materials that may suggest prompts. Our own writing assignments as a class will mostly consist of poems or short prose pieces which we could consider as possibilities for models or backgrounds at the different venues. The course is a collaborative experience in that 1) you will choose a site that fits your schedule and you will work with at least one other class member at the site, and 2) we work jointly with Stephen Mahan’s course (noted below). No previous photography experience is necessary. Our writing ideas and assignments will intersect with photographic ideas and assignments. There is a literary and photographic library in the Warehouse classroom we use. Final projects will involve creating an anthology of writing and photography (and often some drawing) done by students at the school sites, or from members of another site which might wind up on our list of venues. There is also a culminating gallery show of work produced at the venues at semester’s end, and some readings by the writers from the sites. These culminating events take place at the Warehouse. The site visits may replace a few of our class sessions, but both Stephen Mahan and myself are very available for conferences, group meetings, and we also visit the sites ourselves during the times the University students make their site visits.
Each student taking the course will complete assignments and also keep a journal for the semester. There will be weekly readings we will discuss as well. And we will also view some photography and films. If you are new to or not familiar with Photoshop, you are welcome to receive instruction from us.
Grading is determined by the quality of your participation in the class discussions and by the quality of your participation in the site/venue sessions in the community.
Undergraduates may enroll in this course with either instructor’s permission.
This course can be a stimulus for your own writing, and also offers a chance to meet with often young writers from very diverse settings and backgrounds.
Meets with TRM 610 M002: Literacy, Photography, and the Community—Stephen Mahan
Meets at the Warehouse on Fayette Street, a site on the Connective Corridor and Warehouse Bus Routes
ENG 650-4 Forms: Ulysses for Writers
Th 3:30-6:15 PM
Instructor: Dana Spiotta
When our list-obsessed culture makes its pronouncements about the best novels ever written, James Joyce's Ulysses usually lands at the top. This class will attempt to get beyond (underneath, behind) this novel's iconic status; we will inhabit this novel and make it ours. The class will consist of a very close reading of Ulysses. We will take it section by section while keeping close track of what accumulates. We will look at the architecture of the novel and talk about different ways of structuring a novel. We will examine how a novel sets up rules, and how it is possible to create a system without being overly schematic. We will be examining the narrative strategies and techniques and innovations employed by Joyce. We will read to understand the book, but also we will read with an eye toward developing our own work and our own ideas about what a novel can do.
ENG 650-5 Forms: Sonnets
Tu 12:30-3:20 PM
Instructor: Brooks Haxton
The sonnet became a popular format for short poems in English in the 16th and 17th centuries, fell into disuse for two centuries, and came back with the Romantics. In this course we will read and analyze sonnets in English, to describe pitfalls of the form, as well as its continuing appeal to readers and writers. Half of the reading will begin with sonnets and sonnet-like poems from the very recent past (particularly poems by women poets). From this beginning we will move backward in time. The other half of the reading will begin with early sonnets in English (mostly by men) and move forward. We will consider the shape of poems, in their expressive, temporal, spatial, sonic, logical, dramatic, and other dimensions. Students will prepare presentations and write original works in response to the reading.
ENG 650-6 Forms: The Prose Poem
Th 12:30-3:20 PM
Instructor: Chris Kennedy
According to Charles Simic, “[t]he prose poem is the result of two contradictory impulses, prose and poetry, and therefore cannot exist. This is the sole instance we have of squaring the circle.”
Despite Simic’s tongue in cheek notion that the prose poem “cannot exist,” it has a long history, with the “modern” prose poem emerging in France most famously in the work of Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stephen Mallarmé, and, in recent years in this country, a number of print and on-line journals and anthologies have begun to feature prose poems on a regular basis.
Despite the proliferation of prose poetry, defining what constitutes a prose poem is a difficult and perplexing task. What are the prose poem’s characteristics? What separates the prose poem from short fiction (flash fiction, micro-fiction, sudden fiction)?
This class will provide an opportunity to contemplate these questions and to explore prose poetry with the goal of distinguishing the elements unique to the form.
ENG 650-7 Forms: Adventures in Narrative
W 9:30-12:20 PM
Instructor: Fiona Maazel
One of our goals as writers is to keep a reader interested over the long haul. As Amy Hempel once put it, you start writing “assuming a person’s going to stop reading the minute you give them a reason. So the trick is: Don’t give them one.” Don’t give them a reason to put your work down and find something else to do. In fact, give them every reason to stay. In this class, we’ll be looking at what techniques various authors deploy to keep us reading. We will pay close attention to craft matters like: rate of revelation, order of disclosure, pacing, tension, characterization, plot, point of view, and so forth. We will also be paying attention to the difference between how an author seizes our attention and how s/he keeps it (note how often you love the way a novel begins only to lose interest 50 pages later). To this end, we’ll be reading texts that run from the conventional to the experimental to adduce some common tropes and techniques among them. It is worth mentioning that inclusion on a syllabus does not equal endorsement. The goal of the class is not to insist that the books we read are riveting so much as to generate involved discussion about what these authors tried to do and why. You will often find yourself thinking some of their techniques have failed. This is the point. Let’s talk about it.
ENG 650-8 Forms: Distance
M 9:30-12:20 PM
Instructor: Eleanor Henderson
Manipulating point of view is more than a matter of choosing a pronoun. As Wayne C. Booth writes in The Rhetoric of Fiction, “To say that a story is told in the first or the third person will tell us nothing of importance unless we describe how the particular qualities of the narrators relate to specific desired effects.” In this course, we will seek to do just that—to explore the qualities of dynamic narration in fiction. When we look beyond the basic considerations of perspective to the various relationships between and among author, narrator, character, and reader, we uncover a universe of narrative effects, from objectivity to free indirect style to stream of consciousness. Through a study of a wide range of prose works and narrative theory, including Faulkner, Kafka, Moore, Morrison, Woolf, and Booth, we’ll hope to gain more control over our own access to interior and exterior worlds.
ENG 730-1 Graduate Seminar: Modernism and Its Media
Tu 12:30-3:20 PM
Instructor: Chris Forster
Raymond Williams suggests that any explanation of modernist literature “must start from the fact that the late nineteenth century was the occasion for the greatest changes ever seen in the media of cultural production. Photography, cinema, radio, television, reproduction and recording all make their decisive advance during the period identified as Modernist.” This class takes this suggestion seriously, reading the broad and contested field of cultural production commonly called modernist as a response to, and engagement with, the changing media ecology of the early twentieth century. We will read key texts of modernist literature alongside media theory and some of the most provocative recent work in modernist studies, to try to understand the relationship between culture and the material forms which support it.
Likely primary texts include Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (and Hitchcock’s 1936 adaptation of the novel, Sabotage); Ezra Pound’s “translations” from Chinese (and Ernest Fenollosa’s essay on the “Chinese Written Character”); T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land; Henry James’s “The Beast in the Jungle;” manifestoes by Wyndham Lewis, F. T. Marinetti, Mina Loy, and others; as well as work by Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Samuel Beckett. The critics we’ll cover include Friedrich Nietzsche, Marshall McLuhan, Friedrich Kittler, Walter Benjamin, and Miriam Hansen, among others.
Course work includes short written responses, a book review, at least one presentation to the seminar of a relevant work of secondary literature, and a final essay that will be presented to the class in a final meeting modeled on the seminars of the Modernist Studies Association’s annual meeting.
ENG 730-2 Graduate Seminar: Readings Before Race
Th 9:30-12:20 PM
Instructor: Silvio Torres-Saillant
Surveying literature and thought from the Hammurabi Code (ca. 1750 BC) to the contemporary moment, this course explores the advent of race as a radical shift in the history of social relations. We start by recovering the memory of a time when dissimilarity of ancestry or phenotype did not constitute racial difference. We also dissect the now automatic equation between racism and slavery (“slavery is our original sin,” said Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to evoke the roots of racial troubles in Ferguson, Missouri). We seek to recover the memory of a time when the social superiority of slave masters (i.e., their material capacity to impose their will on others) did not necessarily lead to their claiming superior human caliber vis-à-vis their captives. An ancient Greek general might want slaves who displayed superior tact, skill, and courage in battle. A Roman nobleman might seek a bonded person who could teach his children geometry, rhetoric, or swordsmanship. One could be an Ethiopian slave named Aesop living in Hellas and achieve renown as an author of fables or a North African slave in Rome named Publius Terentius Afer and become the Empire’s foremost playwright. St. Augustine evokes his mother’s elevated moral sense, an attribute for which he credits the slave woman who raised her. The Ottoman Janissaries, the elite force that protected the Sultan’s household, consisted of men enslaved in childhood and raised to perform that lofty task, for which they received the best education and the best military training. We survey dark-skinned Nubian Pharaohs, the “blameless Ethiopians” of Homer, the beautiful and exalted Ethiopians of Herodotus, and dark-skinned Sudanese Sultans. In Greek mythology we look at the famed beauty of the Ethiopian Princess Andromeda and the greatness of the Ethiopian king Memnon, son of Tithonous and Eos. For the Judeo-Christian texts we look at the flattering depiction of the dark-skinned inhabitants of the Kingdom of Kush in the Old Testament and the nobility of character the Ethiopian eunuch, “a minister of Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure” in the New Testament.
After this background, the readings fast forward to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Here, for instance, we find the English poet and essayist Samuel Taylor Coleridge thinking himself into exhaustion in the effort to claim, against the textual evidence before him, that William Shakespeare could not have possibly intended for Othello to be a Negro. The elevated nobility of the character and the romantic attraction that a beautiful white Venetian young woman feels for him speak against that monstrous possibility. Ironically, there were enough African-descended Britons by the late eighteenth century for Coleridge to have heard about them, including a protégé of the Duchess of Queensbury named Julius Soubise who earned a reputation as a dandy much given to womanizing in his rapport with white ladies, who were the ones within reach in the elite circles that he frequented. The course will cover late sixteenth and through mid-seventeenth century English poetry that uses the recurring topos of black-white lovers wrestling with the challenge of racial difference (race then still in its early stages of development). Witness the ambiguity and complexity of Shakespeare’s own “dark lady” poems.
A third branch of readings will outline the historical events that created the conditions for the vilification of difference and the dehumanization of conquered and enslaved people to occur, for foreign civilizations to be deemed empty of knowledge and achievement (an inconceivable notion for the sages associated with the Alexandrian Library), and for the emergence of the Indian, the Negro, the Oriental, and the racial other in general as devalued identities. The disremembering of the glories of the regions that those populations hailed from followed, and a new knowledge of them emerged that construed them as regions of lesser humanity in dire need of elevation at the hand of European invaders. Here for the first time in the history of domination a discourse of justification emerges that previous chapters in the annals of conquests had simply done without. An important reading here will be Democrates Secundus, sive de iustis belli causis apud indios (ca. 1545), an Ur text in the history of racist discourse.
The course promises to provide students with the conceptual resources necessary for understanding racism as a way of knowing that shapes bodies of knowledge and incorporates tools of unknowing, a way of knowing that falls outside the structure of cognition which operates when percipients know other aspects of reality. Thinkers must abide by the rhetoric of disparagement to sustain a logic of maltreatment that becomes extreme othering. We will see, then, brilliant thinkers whose thought processes undergo a precipitous decline appear to decline when entertaining a racist thought. While engaging the Critical Race scholarship, the course locates its vision within the realm of intellectual history (which here differs from "history of ideas"). The course is designed to enable students to see racial thinking operating in a literary text even at times when an explicit racial remark is absent.
ENG 730-4 Graduate Seminar: History and Theories of the Novel
W 12:45-3:30pm PM
Instructor: Erin Mackie
In the seminar we will examine various solutions to a set of questions relevant to the literary history of the novel: What can the historian of “the novel” take as the object of study? What relations does the novel bear to other fictional and non-fictional prose narratives and to other genres and modes such as drama and satire? Especially, how do novels distinguish themselves from and/or appropriate these other genres? What relations do novels bear to other characteristic developments of the modern age such as the sex/gender system, psychic interiority, class, nation, race and ethnicity and the reflexive temporal self-consciousness that characterizes this epoch? How has the genre, novel, changed with cultural-historical shifts? Alongside representative theorists of the novel we will read representative novels. I am very eager to hear the interests and thoughts of those who would like to join this seminar before I set the texts and the syllabus; please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ENG 799-1 MFA Essay Seminar
F 9:30-12:20 PM
Instructor: Dana Spiotta
Each student will write an essay of approximately five thousand words. The essay will address a specific aspect of a major writer’s formal technique.