Previous Courses

Graduate Seminars


6210 Studies in British Literature, the Beginnings to 1500

  • 101 TuTh 11:00-12:15 Professor Leah Flack

    Course Title: Homer in the Ancient and Modern Worlds

    Course Description: This course will engage in an intensive study of two of the founding works of the Western literary tradition, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. We will consider the translation, transmission, and reception of these epics by reading a variety of works from the past century by authors such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound, H.D., Derek Walcott, Margaret Atwood, Louise Gluck, Christopher Logue, and Colm Toibin. We will work to develop a diverse set of methodological approaches to our study of classical literature and modern responses to it. We will also focus on developing scholarly arguments. In lieu of a single seminar paper, students will produce three shorter papers. Students will also keep a critical journal and lead one discussion. Learning in this course will be collaborative, and all students are expected to contribute actively and thoughtfully.

6400 Studies in 19th Century British Literature

  • 101 MW 2:00-3:15 Professor Brittany Pladek

    Course Title: Epic in the Nineteenth Century

    Course Description: “The critics say that epics have died out / With Agamemnon and the goat-nursed gods; / I’ll not believe it,” writes Elizabeth Barrett Browning in her great Victorian epic, Aurora Leigh. The nineteenth century was an era of major change for the epic poem. Anxious about the fortunes of poetry in an increasingly prose-focused age, and ambitious to insert themselves into what was seen as an elite literary tradition, nineteenth-century poets like Barrett Browning and William Wordsworth explored new approaches to this traditional genre, revising prior models focused on the exploits of gods and heroes to argue for the legitimacy of inner life, contemporary politics, and artistic development as “epic” themes. In this course, we will survey the literary epic as a nineteenth-century genre by returning to its lineage in pre-modern epic poems like Virgil’s Aeneid and Dante’s Inferno. By familiarizing ourselves with these influential pre-modern epics, then examining their nineteenth-century reception by poets like Blake, Barrett Browning, and Wordsworth, we will also grapple with wider questions about genre. What is at stake in classifying a work by genre? Do genres have an inherent politics or ethics? How do genres change, and how much can they change before becoming something else? How do genres interact with other formal categories like medium and mode? Are genres useful or limiting ways of thinking about literature?

    Note: It is recommended that students be familiar with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey before taking this course, or that students take this course in conjunction with Dr. Leah Flack’s class, “Homer in the Ancient and Modern Worlds.”

    Readings: The reading load is heavy: we’ll be moving through several long epic poems at a fast clip while also reading secondary sources in genre theory. Probable primary-text readings include Virgil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Inferno, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Blake’s Milton, Wordsworth’s Prelude, Keats’s Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion, and Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh.

    Assignments: Several short papers, a presentation, and a final research paper.

















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