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Fall 2011/Spring 2012 Seminars and Workshops

Fall 2011

ENGL 303 Graduate Fiction Workshop
Topic: Narrative Craft and Linked-Story Collections
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 advanced consideration of elements of fiction and presumes 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. This particular workshop will focus on the linked-story collection, and as such, participants will read, present, discuss, and critique published linked-story collections by various authors, including Alice Munro, Anthony Doerr, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Daniel Bezmozgis, Barbara Johnson, and Daniel Mueenuddin. Additionally, workshop members will read articles on craft in Curious Attractions by Debra Spark, as well as attend literary events and participate in question-answer sessions with visiting fiction writers. Finally, being a responsible member of the writing community means promoting contemporary literature. Thus, workshop members will also compose a review of a newly released work of fiction for publication in an online or print venue during the semester.

ENGL 304 Graduate Poetry Workshop
Topic: TBD
Mark Jarman
(Tuesday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)

Description Forthcoming

ENGL 307-02 Graduate Seminar
Topic: Ma & Pa Poetry: Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman
Kate Daniels
(Tuesday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

In this MFA seminar, we will read the complete poetry of Emily Dickinson & Walt Whitman, along with several biographies and critical articles, addressing various aspects of each poet's work. Our goal will be to understand something about the startling emergence of the first original voices in American poetry, to trace the critical reception to both poets over time, to explore their influence on twentieth century poets, and to read them as writers, ourselves, examining closely selected technical aspects of their verse. We will begin with Dickinson. Over the summer, please read The Complete Poems of E.D., and the Sewall biography, so that we can get right to work. During the second week of September, former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins will give a guest lecture on Dickinson and her poetry.

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Thomas Johnson, editor

The Life of Emily Dickinson, Richard B. Sewall

My Emily Dickinson, by Susan Howe

Leaves of Grass, and Other Writings: A Norton Critical Edition, Michael Moon, editor

Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography, by David S. Reynolds

On Whitman: Writers on Writing, by C.K. Williams

+ critical articles to be assigned

ENGL 307-01 Graduate Fiction Workshop
Topic: Where the Girls Are: (Some) Contemporary Women Short Story Writers and their Influences
Nancy Reisman
(Tuesday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

In this course, we'll explore the work of several late 20th and 21st century women short story writers, and delve into their various aesthetics, influences, formal and thematic concerns. We'll consider generational and cultural moments (with an eye on the intergenerational links and divergences); the sense of relationship, desire, and place within writers' works; their visions of the short story form and uses of language; their representations of power and the power dynamics within forms; and their non-literary as well as their literary influences. Among the writers we'll read and discuss: Grace Paley, Alice Munro, Angela Carter, Lorrie Moore, Deborah Eisenberg, Lydia Davis, Clarice Lispector, Aimee Bender, Jhumpa Lahiri, and several newly emerging story writers. Course projects will include engagement with art-making process and oral and written discussion of formal and cultural concerns.

ENGL 355-04 Graduate Seminar in British Romanticism
Topic: Re-Orienting British Romanticism
Humberto Garcia
(Tuesday, 3:30-6:00p.m.)

This graduate seminar explores the complex ways in which Romantic poetry and fiction were enabled, in major part, by cross-cultural, political, and economic engagements with the Orient, defined (for the purpose of this course) as Muslim Afro-Eurasia with a particular focus on late eighteenth-century British India. In order to historically situate the Romantic fascination with the Orient, the first half of this seminar examines two formative periods: (i) George Sale's English translation of the Koran (1734, rpt. in 1795) and the various "Lives of Mahomet" that portrayed Islam sympathetically. (ii) Sir William Jones' groundbreaking linguistic work on Sanskrit and Persian literature and the influential role of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta (established in 1784) for the discovery/construction of Hindu and Buddhist Enlightenments. The second half of the course examines the orientalist works of Edmund Burke, Elizabeth Hamilton, Sake Dean Mahomet, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and others. The primary goal is to rethink British Romantic literature in a global and transnational context, understanding the codes, rhetoric, and genres of Romantic Orientalism in relation to literary experimentation, revolutionary politics, British nationalism, and the colonial enterprise at home and abroad. Various theoretical and interdisciplinary approaches (in history, economics, religious studies, etc.) will be paramount, but revisionist scholarship in postcolonial studies will receive the most sustained attention. Hence, the first two weeks of class are dedicated to a reappraisal and reexamination of a much-disputed but seminal theoretical text: Edward Said's Orientalism (1978).

Because this seminar is designed for specialists and non-specialists alike, the required 20-30 page seminar paper (50% of your total grade) could reflect related literary and theoretical issues in other fields and periods of interest. Class participation (10%), a formal presentation on assigned secondary readings (10%), and a seminar paper abstract (10%) are also required. The semester culminates in a conference-style oral presentation based on your revised abstract (20%).

ENGL 320 Studies in American Literature
Topic: U.S. Antebellum Print Culture
Teresa Goddu
(Monday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

This course will focus on the emergence of a national literary marketplace in the U.S. antebellum period by examining how the market revolution structured the trade in print.

In examining print as both a cultural form and a marketable commodity, it will situate texts within a variety of distributional, technological, consumerist, and discursive networks. It will historicize and theorize modes of antebellum authorship, circulation, and readership as well as attend to particular genres and forms. Our specific case studies will be drawn from early African American print culture. Indeed, we will use African American literature as our lens through which to understand the antebellum period.

The course will introduce students to archival research methods as well as to the interdisciplinary methodology of print culture studies which maps the relationships between the materiality of the text (its publication history or status as a commercial commodity) and its meaning. While the course will be focused on the US antebellum period for its historical frame and African American literature for its case studies, its methodology is transferable to all literary fields. All students with an interest in print culture studies are encouraged to take the class.

The class will consist of weekly archival exercises and several mid-size papers that synthesize the class's methodologies.

ENGL 355-02 Special Topics in English and American Literature
Topic: Poetry
Vereen Bell
(Wednesday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

Up to a point this seminar will be experimental in that the texts we use and approaches we take will be determined by the needs of the students enrolled. The long range plan is to create a model for future seminars like it that other instructors can teach. The seminar will have two objectives. The first objective is to refresh and calibrate our close-reading skills (which apply, of course, to other texts as well as to poetry) and to form an understanding of the formal strategies by means of which poetry addresses its audience, both in the present and in its original historical moment. The second objective is to examine representative longer poems as they are contextualized and interpreted by the different critical approaches which currently prevail in our profession. The first three weeks of the seminar will be devoted to poetry-reading boot camp, involving reading and discussing a variety of poems, both canonical and contemporary, selected to represent the range of possibilities of poetic expression. After that stage—for the next twelve weeks—we will examine at two or three week intervals major poems or clusters of poems selected (by the class, more or less) from a group which will include Shakespeare's Sonnets; Keats's Odes; Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"; Tennyson's In Memoriam; Yeats's "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen"; Eliot's The Waste Land; Frost's North of Boston; Sylvia Plath's Ariel; Adrienne Rich's Twenty-One Love Poems; Yusef Komunyakaa's Dien Cai Dau. The procedure with the longer poems will be first to discuss the poems themselves (without outside help, so to speak) and then to discuss and evaluate critical and scholarly writings about those poems. Where it is possible expert visitors will be invited in to guide our discussions at relevant points and walk us through the hard parts, giving us the benefits of their training and special interests.

At the end of the boot camp phase students will be required to submit at least one close-reading analysis of a specific poem. At the end of the second, students will submit a longer paper on a more substantial single poem or cluster of poems, by a poet of the student's choosing, that replicates the methodologies and the research-based analysis we will have used in the second phase.


Wherever in this city, screens flicker
with pornography, with science-fiction vampires,
victimized hirelings bending to the lash,
we also have to walk... if simply as we walk
through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties
of our own neighborhoods.
We need to grasp our lives inseparable
from those rancid dreams, that blurt of metal, those disgraces,
and the red begonia perilously flashing
from a tenement sill six stories high,
or the long-legged young girls playing ball
in the junior high school playground.
No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,
sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,
dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,
our animal passion rooted in the city.

(Adrienne Rich, Twenty-One Love Poems)

ENGL 355-01 Special Topics in English and American Literature
Topic: Maladies of Attention: The Distracted Subject of Cinema
Jennifer Fay
(Monday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.) Please note meeting time correction (was previously listed as 12:30-3:00)

As Jonathan Crary argues, the norms of attention have arisen in relation to the reciprocal and inseparable phenomena of modern distraction. Paradoxically, distraction may be a tool of attention, and thus attention, as a discrete category of perception, poses several challenges to theorization. Beginning in the 19th century and working towards more contemporary cinematic practices, this course queries the tension between various modes of distraction that are intricated in absorbed perception, specifically cinematic perception. It proposes to re-assess some of the canonical films and texts of film theory (realist, surrealist, feminist, Marxist...) that are predicated on distinctions between spectacle and narrative, shock and absorption, fragmentation and totality, and masculine and feminine feeling. The course will also engage films and readings that are not typically theorized together. By pairing theory/criticism and primary texts across a range of media, we will probe the thresholds of modern perceptual, affective, and political states of mind.

To give but two examples: We will read Gustav Flaubert's 1857 Madame Bovary with Chantal Akerman's 1975 experimental film Jeanne Dielman while reading excerpts from Lars Svendsen's A Philosophy of Boredom (2005) and Elizabeth S. Goodstein's Experience without Qualities: Boredom and Modernity (2005) in order to understand histories and forms of feminine and feminist boredom. Similarly, at the interstices of attention and commitment, we will ponder the emaciated body as a spectacle of suffering, a narrative of virtuosic self-mastery, an index of oppression, as well as a sign of political withdrawal (in both senses of that word). We will pair such texts as Steve McQueen's Hunger (2008), Franz Kafka's 1922 "Hunger Artist" and the writings and films of Brazilian Cinema Nova's most outspoken theorist, Glauber Rocha ("An Esthetic of Hunger", 1965) for whom the depleted body finds its revolutionary representation in the "sad, ugly...screaming, desperate" films of underdevelopment. This class takes seriously such attentive diversions as forgetfulness, indifference, boredom, repetition, disgust, and obsession, and it will attempt to connect them to a range of modern political conditions and affectations.

There will be a mandatory screening outside of class every week at a time and place to be determined.

ENGL 355-03 Special Topics in English and American Literature
Topic: Proseminar: Bodies and Subjects: The Violence of Social Contract
Kathryn Schwarz
(Thursday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)

In this course, we will think about the costs and rewards of social subjectivity. The costs are familiar elements of our analytical vocabulary, from interpellation and false consciousness to abjection and ideological jouissance. For that very reason, it is worth looking closely at the privileges conferred on the social subject. However illusory those privileges may be, they defend against the immanent capacities of the body: to nurture disease, to succumb to desire, to be in peril or out of place, to die. Those capacities exceed the reach of agency or intention, and locate the body in a transactional, mutable, and dangerous intimacy with the world.

Of course we know this; here we will concentrate on the stories told to manage that knowledge. One of those stories involves a notion of contract that upholds social integrity regardless of individual costs. If such contracts produce the hierarchies and exclusions that motivate ideological critique, they also rewrite the meaning of transience: temporary bodies sustain social permanence, and self-loss is always someone else's problem. Collective priorities thus have a peculiarly protective effect, even in their most oppressive forms. This perhaps sheds some light on the difficulty of radical change, even when we possess an articulate awareness of the coercions and seductions that shape social life.

We will build an archive that gives us tools for thinking about ideology in its various guises—language, labor, and history, consent, desire, discipline, and law—drawing on such theorists as Louis Althusser, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Michel de Certeau, Michel Foucault, Carla Freccero, Jacques Lacan, Elaine Scarry, and Slavoj Žižek. We will spend a few weeks with Renaissance texts, to consider the significance of assigning a "birth" to the modern subject: what happens, for example, if we set the "subject" of Foucault's discipline beside the "subject" of Jacob Burkhardt's individualism, and look at a play by Marlowe or Shakespeare through both lenses at once? As we move through the semester, students will have opportunities to assign texts—literary, historical, critical, and theoretical—that represent the periods, forms, and methodologies with which they are most concerned.

Other Courses of Interest

This course is dual listed with English and the description updated May 9, 2011

HIST 343 Studies in Early Modern English History
Topic: Studies in Early Modern English History: Religious politics and confessional conflict in early Stuart England
Peter Lake
(Wednesday, 6:10-9:00 p.m.)

This is a wholly different from the course I taught last fall (2010), which I changed to suit the interests of the students taking it. This is about the early Start and civil war periods and is more heavily contrasted on religious disputes and polemics between puritans and various sorts of conformists in England and between catholic and protestants and then between all sorts of people during the religious cacophony of the civil wars. Central will church state relations and questions about the nature and authority of the clerical calling and the clerical estate. Central for the earlier period will be the confrontation between Laudianism and its various others and critics and later between main stream puritans the more radical sects and Quakers. Obviously the relation between religion and politics will feature but this is not a course about political history.

Spring 2012

ENGL 303 Graduate Fiction Workshop
Topic: TBA
Nancy Reisman
(Tuesday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)

Description forthcoming

ENGL 304 Graduate Poetry Workshop
Topic: TBA
Kate Daniels
(Monday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

Description forthcoming

ENGL 305 Graduate Nonfiction Workshop
Topic: Creative Nonfiction Writing
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 Literature and the Craft of Writing
Topic: TBA
Tony Earley
(Wedensday,12:30-3:00 p.m.)

Description forthcoming

ENGL 307 Literature and the Craft of Writing
Topic: TBA
Rick Hilles
(Tuesday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

Description forthcoming

ENGL 318 Seminar in Victorian Literature
Topic: Visuality, Visual Culture, and the Victorian Imagination
Rachel Teukolsky
(Thursday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)

This course will approach Victorian literary and cultural history from the angle of visuality. We will study some of the famous Victorian high-art interactions between verbal and visual arts, such as D. G. Rossetti's poetry and paintings, Robert Browning's "painter poems," and art writing by John Ruskin and Walter Pater. We will also consider literary works remarkable for their visual play, such as Dickens's Bleak House, Brontë's Villette, and Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, among others. And we will explore some key objects of Victorian visual culture, including illustrated books, advertising posters, and representations of the Great Exhibition of 1851, usually considered the first World's Fair. Histories and theories of nineteenth-century visuality will potentially include Nancy Armstrong on photography; Sharon Marcus on fashion plates; Vanessa Schwarz on the idea of visual culture; W. J. T. Mitchell on ekphrasis; Walter Benjamin on art and machines; Michel Foucault on panopticons; Jonathan Crary on optical experiments; Martin Jay on "Scopic Regimes of Modernity"; and Friedrich Kittler on early film, among others. The course, aimed at both specialists and non-specialists, will consider some basic questions: How to analyze an image? What is visual culture, and how has the idea become significant to nineteenth-century studies? How do the shifting historical relations of high art to mass culture inflect our understanding of words and images in the nineteenth century?

ENGL 337 Seminar in Critical Theory
Topic: "Theory and Life"
Scott Juengel
(Tuesday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)

One could responsibly argue that no critical question occupied literary, political and cultural theory of the last decade more than the question of life. Indeed, it might seem hard to argue otherwise. As a concept, life heralds something both essential and elusive, and as such its fate concenters a range of theoretical investigations that extend across the arts, sciences and the political world. For instance, recent commitments to biological time have aligned Darwin with figures like Nietzsche, Bergson and Deleuze in order to think again the persistence of a livable future. And such a future, imaged so often these days as posthuman and virtually administrated, has not only put the matter of the human to heretofore unseen theoretical trials, but has triggered a return to the question of thingliness and the increasingly porous boundaries between the animate and inanimate, between life and the lifelike. Similarly, eulogies for the demise of the nation-state and a post-9/11 strategic bargain with humanism have produced a motley of concerns about the nature of sovereignty, politico-theological legitimacy, and the biopolitical (life in its "bare," "creaturely," "precarious" and "everyday" forms). In other words, this evanescent thing called life has reorganized multiple fields of inquiry in recent years; or rather, it has revealed itself again with ever-urgent force as a linchpin of late modern ethical thought.

While there will be a conceptual focus to the semester, this seminar is designed to introduce graduate students to a range of theoretical approaches, and as such our conversations each week will remain sensitive to method and argument. In this spirit, the course title is also a call to consider the role of "theory" in professional life both in and outside the academy. For example, in addition to charting the saliency of "life" in contemporary cultural theory, we will periodically explore the juncture where forms of historically situated life-writing and conceptual investigation intersect—i.e. Adorno's Minima Moralia; Derrida's "autobiographical animal" lectures; Benjamin's One-Way Street or "Hashish writings"; Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks; Butler on responsibly accounting for oneself after 9/11, etc.—in order to reflect on the history and experience of critical theorizing across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

ENGL 355-01 Special Topics in English and American Literature
Topic: Biocultures: Twenty-First Century Models of Science, Medicine, and Literature
Jay Clayton
(Monday, 3:30-6:00 p.m.)

Since the heyday of the science wars in the 1990s when radical critiques of science provoked a backlash in the scientific community, a shift has occurred in the relationship between science, medicine, and the humanities. New models range from cognitive studies and evolutionary psychology, which tend to emphasize what science can contribute to the humanities, to models that emphasize the way literary studies can affect scientific and medical practice by influencing public policy. In the latter case, focusing on the social, ethical, and cultural implications of science gives literary scholars an opportunity to intervene in established interdisciplinary conversations that have real consequences beyond the academy.

In this seminar we will concentrate on dystopian fictions and films such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1931), Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), Andrew Niccol's Gattaca (1997), Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake (2003) and The Year of the Flood (2009), David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (2004), Kazua Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (2005), and Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story (2010), as well as other recent novels such as Ian McEwan;s Saturday (2005) and Richard Powers's Generosity (2009); science fiction stories about the posthuman by Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert A. Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, Charles Stross, and Greg Egan; and theoretical texts in science studies by Lorraine Daston, Lennard Davis, Peter Galison, Sander Gilman, John Guillory, Evelyn Fox Keller, David Morris, Nikolas Rose, Steven Shapin, Mark Turner, and Priscilla Wald.

To provide hands-on experience in interdisciplinary research methods, interested students will join research teams in a medical school laboratory with the goal of identifying a literary work that explores the social or cultural implications of the lab's investigations in areas such as breast feeding, cancer research, contagious diseases, vaccine safety, genetic screening, cloning, organ transplants, pain, and sexuality research. Students will learn how grants are developed in the sciences; how multi-disciplinary teamwork occurs in the medical world; and how to generate papers on social, ethical, and cultural issues raised by science and medicine.

ENGL 355-02 Special Topics in English and American Literature
Topic: Herman Melville
Colin Dayan
(Tuesday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

This seminar is an intensive reading in the prose and poetry of Herman Melville, especially Moby Dick (1851); Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852); Israel Potter (1855); The Piazza Tales (1856); The Confidence Man (1857); Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866); Clarel: A Poem and a Pilgrimage (1876); Billy Budd, Sailor (1924). Only in the conclusion of the course will we turn to a discussion of literary critical approaches to these works. The burden of this class will lie in our close readings and contextualization of Melville's writings, which will demand some familiarity with authors and issues crucial to his accounts of the Old World and New, his obsession with taxonomies of the human, the facts of bondage, and the nature of belief--whether in law, God, or nation. These collateral readings include works by John Locke, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Orville Dewey, James Kent, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the legal opinions of Lemuel Shaw and Joseph Story, as well as selected natural histories of the Caribbean.

Requirements: an oral presentation and a final essay.

ENGL 355-03 Special Topics in English and American Literature
Topic: Beneath the Mask: Subjectivity and Suppression in African American and Caribbean Autobiography
Ifeoma Nwnankwo
(Wedensday, 12:30-3:00 p.m.)

This course will delve into the approaches to self-crafting and self-representation in autobiographical narratives African-descended individuals from the U.S. and the (English and Spanish-speaking) Caribbean. During the first unit of the class students will gain a firm grounding in autobiography theory and criticism, particularly that focused on the earliest narratives produced by people of African descent in the Americas. In the second (and most expansive) unit, we will explore more contemporary public articulations of self, including those posited in more contemporary literary texts, popular music (hip hop and dancehall reggae in particular), and oral narratives generated via interviews. The third unit will center on the crafting of a final project. Students will choose from multiple format options—a critical essay, a theoretical essay, an autobiographical narrative (about you or about someone else), a set of life history or oral history interviews (historically and theoretically contextualized), a series of poems, a short story, or a set of lesson plans for K-12 teachers. Substantive and intensive readings and discussions about the mechanics, implications, and histories of each format/methodology, particularly as it relates to African American and Caribbean people, will figure prominently in this unit, as will one-on-one conferences about each student's project.