Fall 2013 Courses
The following courses fulfill the LCI (Literatures, Cultures, Identities) requirement: 342 (Detective Fiction), 360 (Medieval Women Writers), 446 (American Masculinity)
The following courses fulfill the pre-1800 requirement: 221, 360, 345, 446
English 202A: Introduction to Fiction Writing
When asked for advice on starting a band, Blondie singer Debbie Harry replied, “Learn to play your instruments, then get sexy.” This class is all about mastering the basics before you can get sexy: the mechanics of plot, character, point of view, timeline, setting, and tone. We learn them by reading a lot, including stories by Flannery O'Connor, Lydia Peelle, Junot Diaz, and Sherman Alexie, and writing a lot: flash fictions, reading reflections, short stories, exercises. Coursework includes 3-4 short stories, 1-2 flash fictions, a writing notebook, workshops, and reading, reading, reading.
English 202B: Introduction to Fiction Writing
In this course you will write two 5-6 page stories, one Short Short and one Deep Revision, in addition to keeping a writer’s log and reading lots of short stories. You will have many opportunities to participate in panels, small group workshops, large group workshops, as well as many in-class writing sessions. Each day when you come to class you will know exactly what to expect, but you will also be surprised. So you'll need to be here every day--ready to do things you've never done before, remember things you've never remembered before, ready to write about things you didn't know you knew. All you need is a brave and willing heart.
English 203A: Introduction to Writing: Poetry
Through writing your own poetry and through reading a variety of poets, you will explore the genre not only as an expressive art but also as a new way of seeing: a sharper condensation of yourself and of your world.
“Let us remember . . . that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.” --Christian Wiman, Editor of Poetry Magazine
In this class we are attempting literary art—hoping to find meaning for ourselves and to convey it to others. You will learn about meter, rhyme, imagery, free verse, and other forms and elements of poetry. Even if you do not intend to continue writing poems, you will come to a greater enjoyment of reading poetry and other imaginative work (novels, short stories, plays, etc.). You will also find that all of your writing (yes, even research papers) will be enhanced by your close attention in this class to language.
English 203B: Introduction to Writing: Poetry
“A line will take us hours, maybe,” writes W. B. Yeats on the craft of poetry. “Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, / Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.” This creative writing workshop will take seriously Yeats’s notion that the effect of spontaneity in poetry is achieved only through fierce attention and substantial effort. By stitching and unstitching multiple drafts of their poems, seminar participants will work to develop the critical skills that will allow them to become more effective writers of poetry. Assignments in this course will emphasize writing as a process and will include selected reading of canonical and contemporary poems, weekly exercises, mid-term and final self-assessment essays and portfolios, in-class discussions, and peer reviews. A public reading of student work will be held at the end of the term.
English 205: Autobiography/Biography: Writings from the River: The Self as Hero
This course will examine the genre critically and creatively, thinking how the self both creates and is created by the text. We will explore connections and differences among autobiography, biography, literary memoir, and personal essay. We will consider how and experience why writing about the self so often entails an act of courage. In this last regard, we will give thoughtful attention to a diverse genre that spans cultures, genders, classes, and ages. And in exploring the myth of objectivity, we will also reflect on how imagination may play a part in telling the greater truths. We will read On Writing by Stephen King, Full Moon at Noontide, A Daughter’s Last Goodbye by Professor Ann Putnam, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff, among several other books.
English 210A: Introduction to English Studies
This course introduces students to the discipline of English Studies. Most of us are here because we enjoy and are moved by reading and writing. While our personal experiences with text can be productive starting points in textual analysis, the study of English requires discipline—in the twin senses of work ethic and mastery of a branch of knowledge. This course explores what it means to study English at the university level: in short, it introduces and helps students to develop the essential skills of reading actively, critically, and creatively and of executing substantive literary analyses. In addition, it considers personal, cultural, and ideological claims about what “literature” is and why it’s important, and identifies skills, terms, and perspectives students use in any English course.
The course highlights sets of questions central to the discipline: What is a literary text? What is genre? Who should decide what “counts” as literature, and why? How ought we to read a literary text? How do literary texts relate to social contexts? What is the discipline of “English”? This course challenges some of the assumptions and beliefs many have about what it means to be an English major, about the value of different kinds of texts, and about the politics—cultural, academic, ideological—that influence the discipline.
English 210B: Introduction to English Studies
This class serves as an introduction to the craft and study of literary and cultural texts and is required for English majors and minors. We will read poetry (lyric, dramatic monologue, sonnet, etc), prose (short stories and novels), drama (a Shakespeare play), and a graphic memoir. As we read, you will familiarize yourselves with the conventions of each genre and examine the relation between form and content. The texts we read swirl around the theme of "revision" or "rewriting," and we will consider the ways in which writers and texts reexamine and reformulate questions – formal, as well as thematic - from multiple perspectives. In this class you will also learn and utilize the basic tools of literary study (the OED, the MLA Bibliography, etc). Student writing will consist of analytic papers, creative texts, and an essay engaging cultural issues.
English 211: Introduction to Creative Writing
Allen C. Jones
Have you ever wondered if deep inside you, a creative voice yearned to call out, a vice like nothing the world has ever seen? Have you ever wanted to write a song that people could not help but hum, to craft a story that sends shivers through us at every turn, to build a poem so beautiful that it transports us to our own childhood, to the feel of spray off a crashing wave, to the crisp crush of the surf across a beach smooth with sea stones, to the long walk up through the dunes to a fallen cypress, shot through with an unstoppable fungus that is killing all the trees on the coast, but which in falling has created a small sheltered nook where wind, sand, sea and cold cannot reach you, and where reaching down, your hands trembling because you thought it was lost forever, you find a small silver…In this course, you will learn to write like dynamos, you will steal tricks from the masters, and you will discover that while writing is the hardest work in the world, it is also the most important. Fiction, poetry, nonfiction, drama, lyrics—we will do it all! (Fulfills a FN core and does not fulfill any English major/minor requirements.)
English 221: British Literature and Culture: Medieval to Renaissance
This course will introduce you to some of the major works of literature written in Britain from the Anglo-Saxon invasion to the aftermath of the English Civil Wars. Although the stories are diverse, and range over some nine or ten centuries, our discussions throughout the term will revolve (though not exclusively) around the relationship between literature and religion, whether in terms of shifts in heroic ideals, concepts of family and nation, the relationship between the church and the individual, depictions of Christ, the meaning of devotion, and the understanding of the cosmos. In order to better understand how literature expresses and re-interprets these ideas over such a vast stretch of time, we will study the survey period three times in three ways; that is, rather than reading once straight through the centuries, this course focuses on three different generic clusters—heroic narrative, drama, and confession—all under the broad rubric of “Faith, Reason, and the Imagination.” Thus, while learning techniques and vocabulary for close textual analysis, we will also gain a wider contextual framework by touching on the cultural transformations of Britain from the Christianization of its early Germanic invaders to the religious and political revolutions of the seventeenth century, noting especially the religious upheaval of the sixteenth century known as the English Reformation.
English 226: Survey of Literature by Women
After setting up some initial terms and contexts, we will follow a chronology which traces the development of the female literary tradition from the Medieval and Renaissance Periods up to the present. We will place each work in its historical, cultural and literary context. Sometimes we’ll read works which seem to speak to each other from across the expanse of decades or even centuries, though chronology will be the main way we’ll organize our readings. Several of the issues we’ll address include: (1) What are the canonical issues which come from a study of women’s literature? What issues emerge concerning the idea of the canon in general and the Norton Text in particular? Why has it come under such criticism? Why is there no Norton Anthology of Literature by Men? What works have been discovered or reclaimed? What happens to a developing literary tradition when key works have been lost or devalued? For this we will examine both “The Awakening” and “Life in the Iron Mills,” to name two. (2) Are there significant differences in women’s literature which we can characterize? Is women’s literature different from literature by men in some essential way? If so how? We will begin by looking at Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. (3) How have women been characterized through the ages in works written by men? Why have such concepts or images as the gaze, the mirror, silences, the blank page, a room of one’s own, the monster, the madwoman in the attic become gathering metaphors we encounter again and again in literature by women? (4) What has it been like through the ages to be both a woman and an artist? What has it cost women to follow their creative urgings? Why have they agonized over this? And why have they so often thought of their writing as something monstrous, perverted, abnormal, something to be hidden and composed anonymously and in private? What obstacles have women writers faced throughout history? What forces work against them and what strategies do they often employ to make their voices heard? How have women found the voice to write? What has changed? What has remained the same? We will examine what Emily Dickinson meant when she said, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” by looking at the strategies women writers have employed through the ages. We will contrast the strategies of outright rebellion; disguises and masks; apology and deference; and transposition. (Satisfies Humanities Core, Gender Studies, and English survey requirements.)
English 267: Literature as Art
In this course, we will explore literary aesthetics, paying particular attention to the ways in which literature often intersects with visual art forms such as painting, drama, sculpture, and drawing. Together, we will read, watch, and look at a variety of texts, including novels, poems, films, literary and art theory, trial reports, paintings, photographs, and drawings. With each text, we will gain a better understanding of what constitutes a work of art (both literary and visual), how a work of art is created, and how it is understood by others. Major texts may include the novels The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, the film The Lives of Others, and the graphic novel V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore.
English 342: Novel Genre: Detective Fiction
This course will trace the origins and development of the detective and noir genres, beginning briefly with works by Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe and Eugene-Francois Vidocq before turning its focus to twentieth and twenty first-century renditions. Of central concern will be the permutations that the traditional novel of detection underwent as detective fiction shaded into noir around mid-century. Incorporating concepts from post-classical narratology and theories of fictionality, we will explore the myriad ways the detective figure evolves in response to the historical vagaries of the mid-to-late twentieth century, factors which include: anti-communism, the Civil Rights Movement, a transition to a largely consumer and information economy in the US, the proliferation of corporate culture, and the rise of television. Amidst all of the seeming prosperity of the post-war boom, the detective frequently remains an outsider, economically disadvantaged, but none-the-less a self-employed specialist of the information economy, often upholding values in which he/she doesn’t believe. This course will have a substantial (but fun) schedule of readings (and a few movies), focused primarily on relatively traditional practitioners of the genre like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Chandler, Chester Himes, Walter Mosely, Suki Kim, Rudolfo Anaya and James Crumley, but also more fringe iterations of the genre, like those by Thomas Pynchon or Roberto Bolano.
English 345: History of the English Language
“We open our mouths,” writes Penelope Lively, “and out flow words whose ancestries we do not even know. We are walking lexicons.” The aim of this course is to come to an understanding of our English ancestries, and to develop a critical appreciation for the lexicons that we carry with us in every utterance or essay, text or tweet. The course examines the development of the English language from its roots in Indo-European to the present day. It aims to give students the knowledge needed to approach pre-modern texts with confidence, to develop sensitivity to the ways language functions and changes, and to explore the current state of the language. Students will learn the rudiments of Old English and Middle English, and sample literary texts from those periods. We will study the sounds, structure and vocabulary of English, and give particular emphasis to the way language change reflects and participates in cultural change. This course is unlike other English courses, and in fact more closely resembles courses in history, foreign language, and sociolinguistics.
English 360B: Major Authors: Medieval Women Writers
Twentieth-century feminists often subscribed to Virginia Woolf’s assumptions about early (medieval and early-modern) women writers: Shakespeare’s sisters, not having “rooms of their own,” failed to develop their native talents. Since the 1970’s, scholars have edited and contextualized the rich body of texts medieval women wrote despite illiteracy (in the Middle Ages this mean a lack of Latin—the authoritative language for writers), isolation, poor access to manuscript materials, and a lack of narratives modeling female subjectivity. “Authorship” in the Middle Ages required auctoritas, which is not the same as the modern notion of authority or power. Medieval Scriptural hermeneutics privileged the male as intellectual, the female as carnal and desirous. Silence was a woman’s greatest virtue, making the idea of female authorship synonymous with immodesty or, worse, the creation of fiction—and the fabulous was a kind of lie or deceit spun out of the unreliable and fallen human imagination. A host of cultural assumptions made the term “medieval woman writer” problematic, even potentially heretical; the highly nuanced strategies medieval women employed to legitimize their authority to speak, as well as to offer their readers recognizable genres, discourses, and imagery worthy of attention is the subject of this course. Authors include Marie de France, Heloise, Marguerite Porete, Christine de Pizan, and Julian of Norwich.
English 402: Advanced Creative Writing: Fiction
In this course, you will deepen their ability to write and revise short stories. You are expected to have a firm grasp of the basic elements of fiction—plot, character, structure, point of view, timeline, setting, and tone—and a nascent understanding of your writerly identity. You may have begun to think about what role your fiction might play in shaping our understanding of the world. With that in mind, more of the responsibility for the success of the class is shifted onto you, the student. We workshop near-weekly and read, write, and revise heavily. We adopt four literary journals as class texts, which the class discusses in an online forum. At the same time, the lessons of Fiction 101 bear repeating in this class: reading makes writers; participation in workshop benefits the reader as much as the writer; the art of revision distinguishes the advanced writer from the beginner.
English 403: Advanced Creative Writing: Poetry
In this course, students will build upon their growth as writers, writing and revising many poems, experimenting with different modes and forms, reading about prosody, and reading the work of many established poets. Peer-review of drafts will occur in a small workshop format, and the discussion and analysis of reading will be at a senior-seminar level. Books for the course will include an anthology and A Prosody Handbook, by Karl Shapiro and Robert Beum. Students will complete a portfolio of revised poems and also create a class-anthology.
English 410: Visual Rhetoric
In this seminar, we will unsettle our traditional understanding of the text by approaching rhetoric visually rather than lexically. Although our oral and written assessments about the texts under scrutiny will be expressed using primarily words, such discussions will work from the premise that the act of reading generates and requires a literacy that is visual before it is lexical. In order to investigate the register of meaning made available to readers when word is combined with image and when image argues without word, the course will introduce students to key theories and principles in semiotics, visual rhetoric, and visual literacy. Our critical readings will provide us with a vocabulary and set of critical frameworks that will challenge us to scrutinize our personal perceptions (in class, in the required analytic and creative work you will do, and perhaps even in your general vision) in light of broader cultural and counter-cultural meanings. Readings will include Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Neil Gaiman’s “Ramadan,” Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, a number of seminal theoretical essays, and a selection of experimental and avant-garde films.
English 445: The Books of the Booker: British National Identity and the Man Booker Prize (Twentieth-century British Literature)
For more than forty years, the Man Booker prize has been awarded to the “finest” full-length novel written by a citizen of the British Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland, and has bestowed honor, recognition, and controversy upon the winning author. Modestly described by its administrators as “the world’s most important literary award,” the “Booker,” as it’s commonly known, inhabits that uneasy intersection of high art and mass cultural approbation. And while the Booker judges would likely assert that the prize judges aesthetic matters only, a more realistic assessment would suggest that issues of social relevance and political climate inevitably inflect the selection process. By studying a selection of winning novels (and some of the shortlist “runners-up”), this course aims to uncover what the Booker Prize reveals about changing notions of (post)colonial politics, economic structure, and gender roles—in short, of British national identity. Authors to be studied include J.G. Farrell, Salman Rushdie, A.S. Byatt, Ben Okri, Alan Hollinghurst, Yann Martel, and Hilary Mantel.
English 446: Studies in 17th and 18th Century Literature: Masculinities in Early America
Alison Tracy Hale
This is a course about the construction and reconstruction of concepts of manhood in colonial, early national, and antebellum America. We’ll consider the always-contradictory and always-changing notions of what it meant to “be a man” in psychological, political, social, economic, personal, religious, sexual, racial, and familial terms, and explore some of the larger cultural and historical transformations that put pressure on the concept and practices of “manhood” in these eras. We’ll investigate different models espoused across the different eras, as well as their origins and catalysts: from Cotton Mather’s devout Puritan father to John Smith’s ruthless adventurer, from Benjamin Franklin’s Enlightenment exemplar to Jonathan Edwards’s passionate man of faith, from Charles Brockden Brown’s early capitalist adventurers to Washington Irving’s fearful pretenders, and from Melville’s “confidence men” to Whitman’s intemperate sots and impassioned celebrants of masculine love. Course texts will almost certainly include Franklin’s Autobiography, Melville’s The Confidence Man, Charles Brockden Brown’s Arthur Mervyn, and Walt Whitman’s Franklin Evans; Or, The Inebriate. You will also most likely be subjected to sermons and biographies by Mather and Edwards, as well as other colonial figures; short stories by Irving, Hawthorne, and Poe; poetry by Whitman; essays by Emerson and/or Thoreau; and you should not be surprised to find yourself confronted as well by the work of Frederick Douglass, William Apess, James Fenimore Cooper, Royall Tyler, George Lippard, Benjamin Rush, or Thomas Jefferson. In talking about men, we will of course need to talk about women, and may very well also read works by women, about men, but the primary focus of the course will be male authors talking about what it means to be a man.
This is a senior seminar course and will carry a heavy reading load; in addition, requirements include a shorter (6-8 pages) and longer seminar essay (12-15 pages); at least one presentation and discussion leadership of secondary/critical material, and frequent, substantial contributions to class conversation.
Prerequisites: English 210; English 224 or 225 or permission of instructor. (This course fulfills the pre-1800 requirement for the English major. Y-chromosomes welcome, but not required.)
English 493: Advanced Research Seminar
Students pursue an independent research project to produce a substantive piece of scholarship in the field of English Studies. To accomplish this goal, students interrogate their interest in a topic to produce a specific research question and a sense of its significance. They then create a research agenda and locate and evaluate primary and critical sources to craft an original argument. Students work from a single common text—The Craft of Research (3rd edition) by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams—to familiarize them with process and to guide their projects through the stages of planning, drafting, and revision. All other reading material is supplied by students’ individual research, performed in consultation with the professor, a librarian, and peers in the course. ENGL493 adopts the format of a writing workshop and so relies heavily upon peer-review, critically constructive feedback, and ongoing revision. ENGL493 benefits students who: must complete the thesis component of the Honors program; must provide a writing sample for admission to graduate programs; wish to investigate more deeply a topic to which they have been introduced in a past class or through extracurricular study.