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Fall 2013/Spring 2014 Seminars & Workshops

Fall 2013

ENGL 303:   Graduate Fiction Workshop
Lorraine Lopez
(Monday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)

This is a graduate workshop in fiction writing with an emphasis on narrative craft. As such, the workshop undertakes more complex and nuanced consideration of elements of fiction, as members are already familiar with basic techniques of characterization, scene and narrative structure, and development of story. The function of this workshop is to help writers develop fiction they are actively engaged in creating: new work—published work, writing samples submitted for admission to the program, and work that has been turned in for other workshops may not be submitted for workshop—that will likely become part of the final thesis.

ENGL 304.01:   Graduate Poetry Workshop
Rick Hilles
(Monday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

The primary focus of this intensive graduate workshop in poetry writing will be your poems in progress; we will also read and discuss various volumes of contemporary poetry, many in conjunction with the Visiting Writers series. All workshop members will be expected to: participate intensely in class discussions, prepare in advance substantive and substantial written comments on peers’ work-in-progress, attend regular conferences with the workshop leader, and, by the end of the semester, produce of a significant body of new poems.


ENGL 307:  Literature and the Craft of Writing
Topic: Frost and Stevens
Mark Jarman
(Tuesday, 2:00-5:00 p.m.)

Our course will examine the work of these two poets side by side, with a special emphasis on the craft and innovations of both poets.  We will consider how these poets employed the lyric stanza, blank verse, the sonnet, the sequence, and the epigram. Issues like metrical versus free verse will usually be close at hand. We will begin by considering 19th century precedents for each poet. Along the way we will also consider poets who benefited from the example of one or the other.  In the case of Robert Frost, Robert Lowell and Seamus Heaney.  And Elizabeth Bishop and John Ashbery, in the case of Wallace Stevens.


ENGL 312   Seminar in 17th C. Literature
Topic: Texts and Consequences: An Introduction to Textual Scholarship
Leah Marcus
(Monday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

Textual studies as a discipline is at the foundation of literary studies in that it determines the shape of the texts we read, teach, and write about. This course will introduce graduate students to the field, which has generated considerable excitement and scholarly attention in recent years. We will be studying the rhetoric of the edition: how are literary texts subtly (or not so subtly) shaped by the ways editors prepare them for readers? We will also consider different theories of the literary text, and how they help to determine the form in which literary texts reach readers, both in print and online. Finally, we will consider several prominent recent controversies over specific editions: the Oxford Shakespeare and its two-text King Lear, Hans Gabler’s edition of Ulysses, and others of particular interest to students. Major emphasis will be placed on gender assumptions and colonialism as forces that help to shape editions.

WRITING ASSIGNMENTS: The course will include a short (5-page) paper due the sixth week of class and a longer (15-20-page) paper due during finals week. In addition, you will be responsible for portions of each seminar session and you will offer a preliminary discussion of your ideas for the long paper during two seminar meetings at the end of the course. The longer paper will consider issues of textual scholarship that are particularly relevant to you in your primary area of interest.


ENGL 355 Special Topics in English and American Literature
Topic: Things
Jonathan Lamb
(Tuesday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

The laconic title belies the complexities of the issues surrounding things. What is now known as the New Materialism comprises three distinct schools of thought apart from the general category of Cultural Materialism. Let us say that Cultural Materialism investigates the transit, exchange, installation and appreciation of commodities, a system that grew very fast after the eighteenth-century, when markets for goods became global. It is based, like capitalism itself, on the assumption that the movement, sale and consumption of chattels is a good thing, an activity we ought to pursue and enjoy, and whose history is of central importance to the understanding of social life. The three schools of thought are not of this opinion, believing instead that things have qualities and tendencies of their own, independent of what we might think or desire. Actor Network Theory, chiefly associated with the historian of science Bruno Latour, has used the model of the laboratory and the parliament to suggest that things come about and act to some degree independently of human intentions; thing theory (Bill Brown) has made it possible to imagine that the things we regard as property are, like human chattels, extremely unhappy with their servitude; object-oriented ontology has carried this position further into an eco-critique of consumption and of the human assumption of dominion over the earth and its resources. We shall study representatives of these positions, but here is a preliminary reading list:

Lucretius, De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things), Loeb edition

Jonathan Swift, Tale of a Tub

Charles Johnstone, Chrysal, or Adventures of a Guinea

William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England

Karl Marx, Capital I,

Henry James, The Spoils of Poynton

Georges Perec, Things

Edmund de Waal, The Hare with the Amber Eyes

Neil MacGregor, A History of the World in 100 Objects

Arjun Appadurai, The Social Life of Things

John Plotz, Portable Property

Bill Brown, Things

Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter

Bruno Latour, We have never been modern

The course will begin with several introductory sessions and eventually evolve into a series of presentations, as students feel competent to handle the various theories on show and make a choice of how and where they would like to wield them.


ENGL 320   Studies in American Literature
Topic: American Classics and Their Afterlives
Cecelia Tichi
(Tuesday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)


The seminar will investigate U.S. literary prose source texts and the bases on which they have recurrently been reconfigured for renewal and exploitation. The white whale and the scarlet “A” circulate ubiquitously, as do “the call of the wild” and “Call me Ishmael,” while Uncle Tom and Tom Joad reappear well into the twenty-first century. From prose fiction sources we find a proliferation of reinvigorating genres and modes of adaptation and mutation as these now-classic texts reemerge in film, popular music, opera, stage drama, blogs, YouTube, Twitter. Anchoring in the source texts, the seminar will search out their multimedia “afterlives” and seek to understand how and why texts reappear at certain pivotal socio-cultural historical moments. Source texts include Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Moby-Dick, The Scarlet Letter, The Grapes of Wrath, The Call of the Wild, The Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman.


ENGL 337a Introduction to Literary Theory
Topic: Proseminar: Secularism
Allison Schachter
(Thursday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)

Secularism, Literature, and the Politics of Culture:

In this course we will study a range of twentieth and twenty-first century theoretical texts that question the boundaries of secularism, civil society, and minority rights. Engaging with these critical discourses in anthropology, comparative and world literature, postcolonial studies, and modernist studies, we will interrogate the political, social, and aesthetic implications of reading literature through the lens of the secular. We will move beyond the binary of secularism and religion, to consider how modern literary works negotiate the politics and aesthetics of secularism. Is secularism a discourse of the majority? How do minority writers engage with and challenge the divide between the secular and the religious? Is the novel a secular genre? What is the relationship between secularism and modernity? This course serves as the English department’s pro-seminar and will introduce students to a range of theoretical and critical perspectives. Students will incorporate these perspectives into their own work and learn to make critical interventions in their fields of interest. Readings will include works by Erich Auerbach, Marthin Luther King, Malcolm X, Walter Benjamin, Edward Said, Talal Assad, Aamir Mufti, Saba Mahmood, Daniel Boyarin, Judith Butler, Hannah Arendt, and Seyla Benhabib.

This course is open to all English graduate students.


Spring 2014

ENGL 303 Graduate Fiction Workshop
Lorrie Moore
(Wednesday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)


ENGL 304 Graduate Poetry Workshop
Mark Jarman
(Monday, 2:10-5:00 p.m.)

The graduate poetry workshop will be focused on class discussion of poetry written by participants.  Members should aim to complete 12 pages of their poetry for the course.  Each class member will also present the work of a contemporary poet of their choice once during the semester. Discussion of the following books by visiting poets will also be included: World Tree by David Wojahn, Secure the Shadow by Claudia Emerson, New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland.


ENGL 305 Graduate nonfiction Workshop
Peter Guralnick
(Tuesday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)

This is a graduate workshop in Creative Nonfiction with a particular emphasis on the profile and long-form narrative piece. Three major pieces will be required, along with some brief additional exercises. Every student in the course will critique each of the papers in writing, and the class will consist primarily of constructive discussion of the work. In addition there will be readings of work by such writers as Gay Talese, Gary Smith, Janet Malcolm, Jonathan Lethem, Joseph Mitchell, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, and Alice Munro. Much of the focus of discussion will be on issues of characterization, narrative technique, selectivity of detail, and angle of perception -- in other words, how to make a real-life story or profile come alive in much the same way that fictional narrative can. The implicit bond between reader, writer, and subject will also provide a jumping-off point, along with the proverbial Rashomon-like nature of truth. Most of all, the workshop should be seen as a kind of shared enterprise in which a mutual enthusiasm for writing should lead to discussion that is as wide-ranging as it is lively and engaging.


ENGL 307 Lit/Craft Writing
Tony Earley
(Tuesday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)


ENGL 316 Romantic Prose and Poetry
Mark Schoenfield
(Tuesday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

Law, Narrative, and Romantic Literature:    

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, 
But to be young was very Heaven! O times, 
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways 
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once 
The attraction of a country in romance!
               Wordsworth, Prelude, Book IX

Accused of murder in Frankenstein, Justine is convicted because she cannot produce a persuasive narrative. Flummoxed by Mr. Collins, Mrs Bennett laments that an entail--a legal device devised to direct inheritance--results in no knowing which wan an estate will go.  Francis Jeffrey, declaring the authority of his Edinburgh Review, grounds it on the legal authority or precedent and tradition.  Throughout the romantic period, issues of justice, property, and individual rights developed simultaneously with romantic aesthetics, theorizations of narrative persuasiveness, and proliferations of genres of the novel, poetry, and periodical prose.  We will explore authors such as Godwin, Wordsworth, Byron, Jane Austen, Mary Robinson, Walter Scott, Charles Lamb, John Galt, James Hogg, and Francis Jeffrey, and consider how these authors engaged legal issues in their writing and how the pervasive legal cultures they inhabited shaped their works.  Final papers may concern law and literature of any period.


ENGL 337B Introduction to Literary Theory
Topic: Colonial Modernity
Ben Tran
(Thursday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)

Since the 1990s scholars from various academic disciplines have employed the term “colonial modernity” to examine the entwined relationship between modernization and colonialism. While most of this scholarship understands the two enterprises as going hand-in-hand, our class will explore how modern thought and aesthetics in non-European contexts emerged both from and against the conditions of colonial modernity. We will consider multiple formations and implications of colonial modernity, while reevaluating modern literature and culture. In order to achieve these goals, we will consider colonial modernity’s relationship to aesthetic modernism, the prosaic, gender, history, nationalism, and revolution. This seminar will be comparative in nature, considering authors from different contexts, including Adorno and Horkheimer, Aimé Césaire, Pheng Cheah, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rey Chow, Frantz Fanon, Fredric Jameson, and Pramoedya Ananta Toer.


ENGL 355 Studies in American Literature
Teresa Goddu
(Monday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

Early African American Print Culture:This course will focus on an emerging field within nineteenth-century US literary studies: early African American print culture. We will explore the critical models shaping this field along with the methodological and archival methods upon which it is based. We will explore how questions of print culture studies—questions of the materiality, production, dissemination, and consumption of print forms—can teach us about early African American literature and how African American literature in turn transforms our understandings of print culture. We will focus specifically on the slave narrative, examining it as not only as a literary genre and cultural form but also as a marketable commodity. The course will introduce students to archival research as well as to the interdisciplinary methodology of the history of the book which maps the relationships between the materiality of the text (its publication history or status as a commercial commodity) and its meaning. Requirements will include weekly writing assignments and research exercises along with a final project that will ask students to prepare their own edition of a slave narrative.



AMER 300
Topic: American Tragedy (in Theory)
Jennifer Fay
(Wednesday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

American Tragedy (in Theory):This course concerns the unlikely intersection of American Studies, a resolutely modern and geographically located field of study, and tragedy, an ancient dramatic genre often viewed as incompatible with the modern world. By some accounts, tragedy is the ethical violence that befalls kings, queens, and their progeny in trials of sovereign power, and thus the United States’ “exceptional” democratic status may render a distinctly “American” tragedy both temporally and temperamentally impossible. With these challenges in mind, this seminar will trace the status of American exceptionalism within the institutional lifespan of American Studies (from its Cold War beginnings to our post-Americanist third wave), while exploring the efficacy of a theoretical and affective vocabulary rooted in the history of tragedy. Is America the exception to European tragedy? Is America the tragic exception to the promises of democracy?

Tragedy raises interesting questions about feeling and identity, especially in the context of our neo-liberal age. Is the tragic affect available to the common person, and can it be ordinary? What narratives are available when tragedy is not a catastrophic event but an on-going state of affairs? How does the tragic narrative—of Oedipus and Antigone, for example—reflect gendered experience, and of what use are these narratives for us today? Is there a distinctly feminist tragedy? How might tragedy offer a useful paradigm as distinct from melodrama and trauma? Alongside literary and cinematic works that begin to address these questions, we will likely read from a range of philosophically-inflected meditations on tragedy, from Plato and Aristotle, to Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin, Butler, Berlant and Žižek. As we may discover, “tragedy” and “American Studies” are sufficiently hard to define that they may exist, in the most prosaic sense, only “in theory.”


WGS 303
Topic: Queer Theory
Kathryn Schwarz
(Tuesday, 3:30-6:20 p.m.)

Queer Theory: History and development of queer theory. Key intellectual antecedents, significant theorists, and current trends. How sexuality intersects with gender, race, class, nationality, ability, and religion.




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