Description: In this seminar we investigate the issue of greatness as it seems to be reflected in Shakespeare’s drama. The idea of individual human greatness has accounted for much of the attention Shakespeare’s characters have enjoyed, but more recently they have been deemed interesting to the extent he undermines or interrogates this concept. Does Shakespeare cast his characters as “great?” What is greatness? What theoretical, political, or theological implications does it carry? In considering these questions with regard to Shakespeare’s characters, we also consider his own greatness. What makes him stand apart in our minds from his fellow Renaissance dramatists? Does he capture greatness better than they? Or does he rise above them for complicating the idea in ways they cannot? We will concentrate on Shakespeare’s histories and tragedies, examining each play in tandem with an analogous selection from another dramatist. Selections will include plays by Marlowe, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Middleton, Chapman, Massinger, and Webster.
Description: In his On the Constitution of the Church and State, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote that “Religion, true or false, is and ever has been the centre of gravity in a realm, to which all other things must and will accommodate themselves.” That supposed “centre of gravity,” however, was actually more like a vortex in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Rife with religious anxieties, reform movements, and fanatical doomsday prophets, from the followers of Mother Ann Lee to the Christian Israelites, Britain was peopled with radical Protestant sects that vied with mainstream Anglicans for control over the hearts and minds of the British population. Catholics, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims appeared in the literature of the period, but generally depicted as fringe figures or dangerous groups of malcontents. And then there were the atheists. This course will examine how canonical and non-canonical poets and novelists confronted the major religious controversies of their day. From the rabid anti-Catholicism of the gothic novel to the vehement atheistic pamphlets produced by William Godwin and Percy Shelley, religious sensibilities were of primary concern as this literary culture negotiated its conflicts about the evolving nature and status of divinity and the supernatural. A book review, an oral report, a conference paper, and major research paper will be requirements for the course.
Readings: William Blake, The Book of Thel; The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; annotations Percy Shelley, “The Necessity of Atheism”; “A Refutation of Deism”; “The Wandering Jew”; “Mont Blanc”; “The Triumph of Life”; Julian and Maddolo”; “Essay on the Devil and Devils”; “Peter Bell the Third”; “Homeric Hymns” Hannah More, excerpts from Cheap Repository Tracts: Betty Brown, Black Giles, The Shepherd of Salisbury A L Barbauld, “A Summer’s Evening Meditation.” Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts (1790), some of her Hymns in Prose for Children, Devotional Pieces William Godwin, essays from The Genius of Christianity Unveiled William Wordsworth, excerpts from The Excursion, Lyrical Ballads and Ecclesiastical Sonnets Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Ancient Mariner,” and excerpts from The Statesman’s Manual; Lay Sermons, the Aids to Reflection, and On the Constitution of Church and State Byron, Cain, The Giaour James Hogg, Confessions of a Justified Sinner Charles Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer Joanna Southcott, A Dispute Between the Woman and the Powers of Darkness (1802), A True Picture of the World and a Looking-Glass For All Men (1809), and The Third Book of Wonders (1814) Richard Brothers, A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times Coda: Jane Rogers, Mr. Wroe’s Virgins..
Description: In this course, based on your requests, we will study theories of postmodernity and postmodern literature written in the United States, paying particular attention to postmodernism’s revision of unifying modernist grand narratives into considerations of difference, plurality, and fragmentation. (For those who took my modernism course last spring, this course is an excellent sequel. Enrollment is not predicated, however, on having taken the modernism course.) To do so, we will begin with a focus on a few classic postmodern novels (e.g. Pychon, DeLillo, Coover) and then turn our attention to the ways in which authors allegedly marked by “difference(s)” engage and critique conditions of postmodernity: e.g., Kingston, Tripmaster Monkey, Morrison, Jazz; Butler, Lillith’s Brood; Tei Yamashita, I Hotel or Tropic of Orange; Viramontes, Their Dogs Came With Them. (Though the specific novels we’ll read are not yet determined, the Norton reader, Postmodern American Fiction, will definitely be required. Feel free to buy that now and peruse it through the summer!) Our goal is to establish a foundational knowledge of post-1965 U.S. literature and theory that can inform your future research or teaching.
Requirements: Article “prospectus” modeled on that required for a dissertation prospectus; 20-page paper; class presentations.
Description: Ever since Plato, that poet manqué, figured it would be an excellent idea to boot all the other poets out of his ideal Republic, and Aristotle, that Macedonian pragmatist, leapt to literature’s defense with his ingenious physiological metaphor of katharsis, literary critics and theorists have faced a tough choice. Take the high road and augustly repress the uncouth Platonic interlopers? Or, hit back as Aristotle did, and promote literature’s real time value to human societies? This survey of critical theory will be organized around the Aristotelian project of finding, fabricating, or fantasizing an answer to Plato’s surly challenge: Literature, who needs it?
Readings: Because this question has provoked such divergent responses, from the earliest stirring of western civilization to the present, it casts a net which is millennial in its reach. Besides Plato and Aristotle, the syllabus will cover works by Longinus, Sidney, Johnson, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Matthew Arnold, Freud, T. S. Eliot, Carl Jung, Kenneth Burke, and I.A. Richards.
Assignments: Regular analytical abstracts, two exams, two essays.
Thematic Title: Teaching Writers in the Twenty-First Century
Description: ENGL 6840 is designed to help new teachers as well as teachers new to college-level writing instruction develop historically informed, theory-based, data-driven approaches to FYE and other writing-focused courses. Our twice-weekly meetings will emphasize discussion of readings, writing assignments, and teaching-related research. Everyone will have opportunities to complete scholarly projects that include (if desired) creative and/or digital components, and the class will host an end-semester pedagogy conference in collaboration with UWM graduate students and faculty.