6215 Study in Renaissance Lit: Spencer, Milton & Epic History
Thematic title: Spencer, Milton and Epic History
Course Description: This course will examine some of the ways England’s two most prominent epic poets approached the relationship between epic and history. Traditionally, this relationship was conceived as a very close one. With Virgil’s Aeneid as the model, epic was supposed to be history writ large – the story of a nation’s past explained, expanded, dramatized, theorized, and celebrated. Both poets are working with this standard of epic, but both at the same time problematize and complicate it. Our goal is to observe how this is so, and in the process we will consider three ideas of epic “history”: mimesis, the portrayal of a reality outside the poem; topicality, the referencing of issues, especially political ones, from the poets’ times; and teleology, the conception of a specific, linear, and purposeful time continuum with a beginning and an end. Developing a sense of these three ideas and of the relations between them, we will strive for a better understanding of the “great arguments” of The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost
Reading: The Faerie Queene and Paradise Lost
6300 Study in Restoration & 18th c Br Lit: Lit & Politics Age of Revltn
Thematic Title: Literature and Politics in the Age of Revolution
Description: In the wake of the American and French Revolutions and amidst growing calls for social and legal change, imaginative writers began exploring political questions with new urgency. In this seminar, we consider how a range of texts from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries both participated in and were shaped by debates about freedom, equality, justice, and authority. We discuss the major political issues of the era: the campaign to abolish slavery, the controversy surrounding the French Revolution, and the debates about women’s rights. In addition, we consider topics including the nature and value of social reform; the role of sympathy and sentiment in the development of human rights; the place of gender, race, and nation in the Romantic imagination; and the relationship between public and private life. The course should be of interest not only to students who are specializing in eighteenth and/or nineteenth-century literature but to anyone who wishes to examine the relationship among literature, justice, and social change.
Likely authors: include Phillis Wheatley, Thomas Day, Hannah More, William Cowper, Olaudah Equiano, Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Paine, Helen Maria Williams, Charlotte Smith, Elizabeth Inchbald, Jane Austen, and Mary Prince; secondary readings by Lynn Hunt, Mark Canuel, Anne K. Mellor, Claudia L. Johnson, Marilyn Butler, and others.
Requirements: a midterm essay (5-7 pp); a final research paper (15-20 pp); a presentation; and lively participation.
6500 Study in 20th c British Lit:
Theme: Performance Theory in Poetry
Description: When we hear the phrase “performance theory,” what naturally comes to mind are thoughts about the ideas of innovators like Stanislavsky, Brecht, Strasberg, Meisner, Adler, and Hagen, not to mention performances by such greats such as Laughton, Brando, Newman, De Niro, Nicholson, Day-Lewis, Streep, Keaton, Close, Sarandon, Dench, Dunaway, and other native geniuses. But isn’t there a sense in which every human being is born to the stage? Auden has one of his insolent but candid personae quip that human beings can be separated, not into the good and the bad, but into the sane who know they are acting and the mad who do not. Well, Auden did write both plays and libretti, but he is primarily known as one of the modern era’s eminent lyricists. So following his provocative hint, this seminar will inquire into the performative dimensions of the lyric. What happens when rather than being taken as the authentic expression of an originating if fictional character, a lyric is instead approached as a performative script for a reader-become-actor? Almost instantaneously, the familiar complexities and nuances of its poetic language are transformed into cues, prompts, and directives to a would-be performer. The reader consequently forfeits the relatively safe task of reconstructing a single and presumably cohesive consciousness, and must now begin experimenting with different versions of an always yet-to-be-enacted subject. Since any worthwhile lyric’s poetic cues are numerous bordering on myriad, inconsistent in their instructions, and licentious in their mingling, our would-be performer faces an acting challenge both impossible and exhilarating.
Readings: Works by W. B. Yeats, W. H. Auden, Sylvia Plath, and Seamus Heaney, as well as selections from contemporary performance theory and practical literary stylistics.
Assignments: seminar presentations, two inclass exams, and two essays.
6600 Study in American Lit to 1900: Remapping Early Amer Lit
Thematic Title: Remapping Early American Literature
Course Description: Beginning in the late twentieth century, American Studies began to shift toward transnational paradigms that acknowledge the broad transatlantic context of European, African, and American cultural production together with the intersecting histories and shared cultural heritage of hemispheric colonialism and indigeneity. This course considers a wide range of early American literary texts within the context of this new American (or Americas) Studies. By focusing on colonialism, imperialism, and European conflicts over control of the seas and North American lands, participants will examine various ways in which texts that cross geopolitical boundaries challenge traditional critical approaches. Through this critical “remapping” of early American literature, seminar members will explore the relationship between literary-historical geographies and textual constructions of identity, community, and belonging.
Readings:Authors studied will likely include Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, William Williams, Olaudah Equiano, Royall Tyler, Susanna Rowson, Leonora Sansay, Mary Prince, Edgar Allan Poe, and Herman Melville.
Assignments: Participants in the course should expect to complete a scholarly book review, an oral presentation, and a research paper of approximately 20 pages each. Seminar members will also have primary responsibility for leading the discussion during at least one seminar meeting.
6820 Study in Modern Critical Theory/Practice
Course Description: This course is an introduction to literary research methods, the practice of literary criticism, critical and literary theory, and cultural and textual studies. The emphasis will be on acquiring portable research skills for literary study in graduate school and beyond. We will focus specifically on learning how to apply the major literary theories—from Marxism, psychoanalysis, and American formalism to structuralism, feminism, reader-response, deconstruction, cultural criticism, and postcolonialism. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to use essential research tools, understand and be able to apply the main schools of literary and critical theory, scrutinize problems related to the textual history of a work, investigate the history and present of the profession, write a grant proposal, and conduct a thorough review of scholarship for a research project in their defined area of study.
6830 Study in Literary Criticism: Evidence
This course is designed to assist PhD students in preparing their dissertation prospectuses and bibliographies. It can be taken as a foundation for, or in conjunction with, ENGL 8830. We will examine a range of evidence relevant to literature and consider how varieties of evidence are synthesized into convincing arguments. These types of evidence will include features of literary form and genre, literary history, critical theories, historical scholarship, and interdisciplinary scholarship. We will work with primary texts and recently published criticism from a range of periods and approaches. Most of these texts will be chosen by the students. Students will be assessed on a draft dissertation prospectus and bibliography of primary and secondary sources, an article review, a book review, and a mock DQE.