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The list below includes descriptions of a selection of undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Department of English.
Visit the undergraduate and graduate pages for course requirements for specific programs. For up-to-date information on course offerings, schedules, room locations and registration, please visit the Student Information System (SIS).
ENG 0001 English 1: Expository Writing. English 1 fulfills the first half of the college writing requirement for liberal arts students. For School of Engineering students, English 1 fulfills the English requirement. English 1 explores the principles of effective written communication and provides intensive practice in writing various types of expository prose, especially analysis and persuasion. Essays by contemporary and earlier authors will be examined as instances of the range and versatility of standard written English. English 1 is offered both semesters, with substantially fewer sections in the spring.
ENG 0002 English 2: First-Year Writing Seminars. English 2 fulfills the second half of the college writing requirement for liberal arts students. School of Engineering students are not required to take English 2. Like English 1, English 2 is a composition course designed to provide a foundation for writing in other courses. Unlike English 1, English 2 offers students the opportunity to choose among several seminar topics, all of which are approached in an interdisciplinary way. While drawing on various materials including fiction, essays, films and other visual and aural texts, English 2 puts the primary emphasis on students' own writing. English 2 is offered both semesters, with substantially fewer sections in the fall. English 1 (or 3) is a prerequisite for this course.
ENG 0003 English 3: Reading, Writing, Research. English 3 fulfills the first half of the college writing requirement for liberal arts students. For School of Engineering students, English 3 fulfills the English requirement. English 3 is designed for international students and for students who speak English as an additional language. This course explores the principles of effective written communication and provides intensive practice in writing various types of expository prose, especially analysis and persuasion. Essays by contemporary and earlier writers will be examined as instances of the range and versatility of standard written English. English 3 is offered in the fall semester as pass/fail.
ENG 0004 English 4: Writing Seminar. English 4 fulfills the second half of the College Writing Requirement for Liberal Arts students. Engineering students are not required to take English 4. English 4 is designed for international students and for students who speak English as an additional language. As in English 2, the seminar topics of English 4 are approached in an interdisciplinary way. While drawing on various materials including fiction, essays, films and other visual and aural texts, English 4 puts the primary emphasis on students' own writing. English 4 is offered in the spring semester; prerequisite is English 1 (or 3).
ENG 0005 Creative Writing: Fiction. In this generative workshop, we will read fiction from a writers' perspective while crafting our own short stories. Participants' work will be read and analyzed by their peers in a supportive workshop setting. In addition, we will address specific challenges and possibilities of fiction writing such as structure, tone, style, and point of view through brief creative exercises. At the end of the semester, students will compile portfolios that represent their growth as writers. Class time may be devoted to craft-based discussion of literary texts, as well as the workshopping of student drafts and other writing.
ENG 0006 Creative Writing: Poetry. In this generative workshop, we will read poetry from a writers' perspective while crafting our own poems. Participants' work will be read and analyzed by their peers in a supportive workshop setting. In addition, we will address specific challenges and possibilities in poetic composition such as form, tone, line, and argument through brief creative exercises. At the end of the semester, students will compile portfolios that represent their growth as writers. Class time may be devoted to craft-based discussion of literary texts, as well as the workshopping of student drafts and other writing.
ENG 0007 Creative Writing: Journalism. Living in an era of fake news, disinformation, misinformation and malinformation, it is more imperative than ever to examine the ethics, importance and perils of journalism. In this course, we will learn about how this form of writing differs in American than in other countries, examining how the First Amendment has helped to shape the many forms journalism takes today, from investigative and feature writing to multimedia forms of reporting like broadcast and photojournalism. We will discuss how journalists are under attack in Hong Kong, Russia, Uzbekistan and elsewhere, and how social media has been mobilized to distort the truth intentionally. Hunter S. Thompson, father of gonzo journalism, believed that objective journalism is a pompous contradiction in terms and used hyperbole and humor in his longform writing, whereas Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist who was murdered in the stairwell of her flat in 2006 wrote that she had been under daily assault, "merely for reporting what I have witnessed, nothing but the truth." We will discuss what our idea of truth might be and whether it can be rendered without bias, particularly when the digital revolution has transformed the way we deliver and consume the news. Bring your curiosity to class, because we will learn how to research topics we are passionate about, gather and synthesize information (through observation, interview, immersion and other techniques), and write succinct, energetic stories that are potentially publishable across print, digital and other media platforms, always with an eye towards being a more engaged local and global citizen.
ENG 0010 Nonfiction Writing. This course is an introduction to nonfiction writing in its various guises including the personal essay, literary journalism, travel writing, nature and science writing, humor, memoir and lyric/hybrid essay. We will explore the historical and cultural context of creative nonfiction, including publishing markets and trends in the field, and study the structure, techniques and range of narrative possibilities each of these subgenres provides us. We will read such writers as Joan Didion, Dave Eggers, Lucy Grealy, James Baldwin, Pico Iyer, Mary Karr, Philip Lopate, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Tobias Wolff, among others, and work on reverse engineering successful pieces of writing to determine for ourselves how an author uses rhetoric and figurative language to craft something memorable. We will learn the basics of interviewing, immersion, and research techniques, provide feedback to the other writers in class in a workshop setting and create works of our own original nonfiction using the course as a safe space for practice, inquiry, and experimentation
ENG 0011 Intermediate Journalism. What the news ecosystem will be like in the coming years is up for grabs, but the nuts and bolts of good journalism remain the same: getting the story by tuning into events and getting people to tell us what the public needs to know; finding and using sources effectively; investigating and analyzing events; and reporting it all accurately, clearly, and engagingly. This course gives you, as a student journalist, the opportunity to sharpen these skills by reporting and writing stories regularly as you learn the craft and business of the field. You'll work mostly independently on topics of your choosing to practice reporting and feature writing for various journalism platforms. We’ll also discuss practical, ethical, and legal issues in the news media among ourselves and with professional journalists. Prerequisite: Familiarity with the basics of reporting.
ENG 0013 Writing Fiction: Advanced. This course is open to students who have already taken at least one semester of ENG 5 (two are recommended) or have equivalent experience in a fiction workshop setting. In addition to craft-based discussions of literary texts, students will write and revise their own works of fiction, as well as offer feedback to one another in a supportive workshop setting. Students should also be prepared to work on reading reflections, writing exercises, and a final portfolio that represents their growth as writers.
ENG 0016 Writing Poetry: Advanced. This course is open to students who have already taken at least one semester of ENG 6 (two are recommended) or have equivalent experience in a poetry workshop setting. In addition to craft-based discussions of literary texts, students will write and revise their own works of poetry, as well as offer feedback to one another in a supportive workshop setting. Students should also be prepared to work on reading reflections, writing exercises, and developing a sustained poetry practice, project, or collection of poems.
ENG 0020 Black World Literature. This course is an introduction to African and African diasporic literatures, principally though not exclusively, from anglophone African countries, the English-speaking Caribbean, and Britain. We will explore a variety of forms—fiction, poetry, memoir, film—and trace their transmissions and transformations. The selection of texts is not meant to be exhaustive but aims to allow us to begin examining the possible political and cultural meanings of the "black" world. Texts may include: Things Fall Apart, Nervous Conditions, The River Between, The Lonely Londoners, Our Sister Killjoy, No Telephone to Heaven, Life and Debt, among others. Non majors as well as majors are welcome. This class counts toward the Africana major, ILVS, and the survey requirement for the English major.
ENG 0021 Heroes, Lovers and Demons: British Lit from Beowulf to 18th Century. This course, a survey of early English literature from the beginning through the seventeenth century, makes an excellent introduction to the English major. It should also be of interest to any students who wish to increase their knowledge of earlier English literature and hone their skill in literary analysis. Readings will probably include Beowulf, selections from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Milton's Paradise Lost, lyrics by Wyatt, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne, Queen Elizabeth, Amelia Lanyer, Ben Jonson, George Herbert, and Andrew Marvell, and plays by Marlowe (Dr. Faustus) and Shakespeare (Othello).
ENG 0032 Epic Strain. Is it possible for an artwork to represent the entire world? This is the central ambition of the epic: capacious narrative poems that promise nothing less than all of human existence (with some of the divine added in for good measure). Epics are notoriously about war and the founding of a nation, but we’ll see that they embrace far more: love and sexuality, fate and free will, history and its ironies. This course will focus on three great epics, which we will read in their (near) entirety: Homer’s Iliad (ca. 750 B.C.E.), the monumental account of the Trojan War and one of the oldest works of literature; John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), the story of Adam and Eve’s Fall from Paradise thanks to the seductions of Satan; and Derek Walcott’s Omeros (1990), a tale about the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, and a sly, postmodern reworking of the epic tradition. Along with these works, we’ll also consider some other epic-adjacent texts in part: The Book of Genesis, Virgil’s Aeneid, Pope’s “mock epic” The Rape of the Lock, Byron’s Don Juan, Browning’s Aurora Leigh, and maybe even some of David Simon’s The Wire. This course fulfills the pre-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0036 Asian American Writers. This course examines works across a range of genres by Asian-American writers and filmmakers, paying particular attention to the intersection of race, gender formation, sexuality, location, and class. We will put conceptions of feminism, queerness, and LGBT identity in conversation with the issues about ethnicity, race, citizenship, power, activism, and collective as well as individual histories that these works raise. Through close reading of literary and cinematic texts, we will explore the politics of representation and the various ways art can inform the world and be informed by it. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0038 Early African American Authorship. This course will be a journey through the first century of African American writing. Readings will range from the 18th century with Phillis Wheatley's poetry through the turn of the 20th century with Charles Chesnutt's fiction. Along the way, we will ponder why early African American literature is so deeply invested in the problems of authorship, authentication, self-fashioning, dissembling, and personae. This course fulfills the pre-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0047 Saul Bellow and Company. At a moment in the Twentieth Century when many lamented the death of the novel, the collapse of civilization and the victory of nihilism, one young writer set out to forge his own voice. Saul Bellow planned to go about it “free-style,” to discover, if he could, language to describe his time, place and experience. He began to write at the kitchen table, wrote through depressions and wars, personal tragedies and the curse of the Nobel, and finally entered an old age in which he continued to “scribble, scribble, scribble.” We will explore the fiction, letters and essays of Saul Bellow, alongside some of the poets, novelists and thinkers he imitated, did battle with, and deeply admired. Learn what inspired Bellow to light out on his own, and to reject the possibility of a life without art. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0058 Short Fiction. Course description TBA
ENG 0063 American Fiction 1900-1950. This course explores the emergence and character of American late high modernism, the self-conscious intellectual and aesthetic movement dating roughly from 1910 to 1945. We will study modernism in its experimental literary expressions; as a social period encompassing the First World War, women's suffrage, Prohibition and the Depression; as a period of diverse cultural expressions that include the Jazz Age, the Harlem Renaissance, European expatriation and urban bohemianism. We will focus on modernist writers' struggles to efface or subordinate plot or structure in narrative (an effort only more or less successful and oscillating in its visibility in texts under study); the condition of the modern subject, alienation; and representations of gender, racial designations, and sexuality, with emphasis on class across these categories and the difficulties attending ideas or efforts to achieve class mobility or economic self-sufficiency in this period. Texts will include: Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises; Jean Toomer, Cane; W. E. B. DuBois, from The Souls of Black Folk; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust; The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and selections from the writings of Gertrude Stein; William Faulkner, The Bear; James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room, and others. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0078 Feminist Science Fictions. Taking as a starting point Donna Haraway’s claim in “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1985) that “the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion,” this class will explore how the speculative, alien, or alternate worlds imagined in science fiction literature offer ways to see the conventional or normative in our own world through a critical lens. We will read a diverse selection of novels, stories, and essays that grapple with a range of feminist questions, including questions about the construction of gendered bodies; modes of reproduction both biological and technological; and the politics of post- or trans-humanism. Material will include fiction by Octavia Butler, Ursula Le Guin, Nalo Hopkinson, Mary Shelley, Vandana Singh, among others who continue to transform this evolving genre as a form of social critique; in addition to Haraway, we will also read some classic and some recent scholarship in feminist and queer science and technology studies. Open to all students who have fulfilled the ENG 1 requirement. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0080 Hitchcock: Cinema, Gender, Ideology. Alfred Hitchcock: the name is synonymous not only with cinematic suspense but also with the power of film as the defining art form of the twentieth century. Hitchcock's undiminished appeal reflects our continuing fascination with the visual satisfactions of classic cinema and with the possibilities inherent in the genres (thriller, suspense film, romantic melodrama) in which he primarily worked. This course will explore the relation between Hitchcock's achievement of cinematic "mastery" and his constant, even obsessive, attention to questions of gender, sexuality, and social authority—questions central to his explorations of narrative suspense and that make him at once the queerest and the most normative of classic Hollywood’s directors. We will examine how "seeing" in Hitchcock's films is the join between politics and erotics, inflecting cinematic spectatorship in the direction of erotic (and political) "perversions" including voyeurism, fetishism, sadism, and masochism—"perversions" that find expression in the stylistic flair of Hitchcock's films. With this in mind we will consider the pleasures that Hitchcock's style affords: Whose pleasure is it? What does it presuppose? How does its insistent perversity affect our understanding of film as such? We will try to answer these questions by reading a number of essays on Hitchcock and cinema, including recent interventions from the perspectives of psychoanalysis, feminism, and queer theory. In that sense, this course will introduce students to theories of cinematic interpretation. But our engagement with ways of reading film (in an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural framework) will be filtered through the careful study of Hitchcock’s major works, which are some of the most brilliant, influential, and crowd-pleasing films in cinematic history. These will include The 39 Steps, Rebecca, Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Rope, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0091-01 Topics Lit & Culture: Flight of Fancy: Travel American Literature. This course will focus on what multi-ethnic, early American literature has to say about travel, migration, captivity, escape (literal and metaphorical), and other versions of movement and stasis. Authors may include: Jane Schoolcraft, Harriet Jacobs, Zilpha Elaw, Charles Chesnutt, John Rollin Ridge, Sui Sin Far, Hannah Crafts, and Phillis Wheatley, among others. This course fulfills the pre-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0091-02 Topics Lit & Culture: Fictions of Conversion. Literary history is full of converts – figures who, by their own volition or through outside intervention, undergo radical changes in identity and consciousness. These include famous converts, such as Paul, Augustine, and Luther, who wrote passionately about their own conversion experiences. Closely related to such historical accounts of conversion are fictions of conversion, such as Shakespeare’s Othello (a tragedy about a Christian convert of ambiguous origin) or the story of Iphis and Ianthe in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (a comedy about a girl raised as a boy, who is later changed into a man by the goddess Isis). By depicting human subjects in states of emergency (i.e., in the process of emerging), such fictions draw attention to the literary-aesthetic forms through which the bewildering phenomena of human transformation are made intelligible and compelling. As readers, we are moved by these moving tales, even as we find ourselves unsettled by a sudden awareness of the contingent nature of our own being. Fictions of conversion want to re-form us. They are themselves vehicles of conversion.
This course will examine literary and dramatic representations of conversion produced during the English/European Renaissance, a period scholars have come to describe as the first great “Age of Conversion” (earlymodernconversions.com). Our goal will be to explore how Renaissance fictions of conversion contributed to the fashioning of the modern subject in all its variegated forms. Accordingly, we will attempt to cover a range of genres (lyric, tragedy, comedy, romance, hagiography, spiritual autobiography) that represent the different kinds of conversion afforded in this period (social, political, religious, gender, sexual, trans-human). Along the way, we will sample some critical studies of conversion and identity formation to aid our thinking. *No prior knowledge of early modern literature is required. This course fulfills the pre-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0091-03 Topics Lit & Culture: The Paranoid Imagination. This English class is about you (yes, you). That sudden rush of anxiety you’re feeling (maybe) is the topic of this course: paranoia. Paranoia has long fascinated literary writers and in this class we’ll try to understand why. We’ll read texts steeped in paranoia, and that means diving into a literary tradition swimming in dread, anxiety, surveillance, secret codes, feigned madness, hidden rooms, nosy neighbors, and unreliable (if not purposefully deceptive) narrators. But our class won’t just be about works that depict paranoid characters or situations. We’ll also consider paranoia as a style of reading or interpretation. What happens when literature encourages our paranoia? When it asks us to hunt for hidden codes or secret messages (that may or may not even be there)? Although we’ll consider some older paranoid literature, our focus will be trained on more contemporary works (since it often seems like we live in an especially paranoid age). We’ll read ghost stories and Gothic tales; detective novels and science fiction; as well as some hard-to-categorize works that play with form, ambiguity, and irony. Authors may include: George Orwell, Daphne DuMaurier, Shirley Jackson, G.K. Chesterton, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Ishmael Reed, Patricia Highsmith, Philip K. Dick, Colson Whitehead. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0091-04 Topics Lit & Culture: Women of Color Memoir. In this seminar we will read memoirs, fictional memoirs, and watch films made and written by women of color to examine how the genre of memoir explores American as well as global histories. We will look at how documented and imagined personal stories can radically re-shape static, essentialized and romanticized narratives of racialized, gendered, and sexual identities. We will also look at the radical possibilities that memoir possesses to reimagine representations of BIPOC women. Additionally, the class will both analyze the craft and creation of memoir as a political tool. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0107 Chaucer. This course explores the works of one of the three or four greatest poets in English. We'll read Chaucer in Middle English, but he is in almost every respect easier to understand than Shakespeare, who lived two centuries later. We will spend roughly half of the semester on the Canterbury Tales, the other half on Chaucer's most extraordinary poem, Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucer is primarily a narrative rather than a lyric poet: though the analogy is an imperfect one, the Canterbury Tales are like a collection of short stories, and Troilus like a novel in verse. We will talk about Chaucer's literary sources and contexts, the interpretation of his poetry, and his treatment of a number of issues, especially gender issues, that are of perennial interest. This course fulfills the pre-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0109 Ovid and Ovidian Tradition. Ovid is the most powerfully influential Roman poet in European literature from the twelfth century on. His erotic poems—the Amores, Ars Amatoria, and Remedia Amoris—fully explore the pathos and comedy of love, and make Ovid the Freud of the Middle Ages: he provides the most elaborate and memorable terminology for describing the uncertain stability of the lover's mind. The Metamorphoses, an epic or anti-epic, serves as a bible of pagan mythology for later poets. We will look in detail at these works and at some of the most memorable examples of their later influence. We'll read two French works in translation, the Roman de la Rose and Les Liaisons Dangereuses, as well as a number of shorter works in English. Authors to be studied may include Chaucer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Spenser. This course fulfills the pre-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0134 James Joyce’s Ulysses. This course will consist of a prolonged and meditative reading of James Joyce's Ulysses, considered by many to be the masterwork of 20th century literature. We will spend 10 weeks on the novel, reading a chapter or two each week in a way that approximates the book's original monthly serial publication in the avant-garde journal The Little Review. At the same time, we will be accessing and comparing the novel's serialization in the Modernist Journals Project in order to consider how this serial reading practice allows the novel, a paean to the everyday detail, to intersect with our own everyday experience. As we steep ourselves in the world of Ulysses, we will enrich our reading with judicious selections of classic and contemporary Joyce criticism as well as Richard Ellman's magisterial biography. In the last week of the course, we will take an initiatory probe into Finnegans Wake, a "book of the night" that Joyce saw as a complement to his attempt to capture the happenings of an entire day. The reading throughout will be challenging but exciting; previous knowledge of Joyce is NOT required. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0151 Poe, Hawthorne, Melville. We will read major works from these three authors, paying attention to elements of genre and form (romance, gothic, allegory, the short story and the novel); intellectual traditions (Puritan theology, Enlightenment rationality); and we’ll reexamine these canonical texts through a range of interpretive lenses (gender, sexuality, race, and class; psychoanalysis; historicisms new and old). This course fulfills the pre-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0173 Literary Theory. This course, intended as a seminar for advanced students interested in literary theory, will focus on some major texts of deconstructive, psychoanalytic, feminist, queer, Afropessimist, and “ethical” theory from the mid-twentieth century to the beginning of the twenty-first. We will examine how various theorists conceptualize the relations among language, representation, and society, with a particular focus on “literariness” as an effect of figure and rhetoric. By considering how structuralist, deconstructive, and psychoanalytic modes of analysis unexpectedly ushered in contemporary theory's investigation of gender, sexuality, racial identity, terrorism, radical evil, and political ideology, we will approach the question of whether or not “literature” has borders that can contain it. We will move from Barthes' utopian hope of freeing language from the signified’s tyranny to more recent, and far more traumatic, encounters with the negativity of the death drive.
Students should be prepared not merely to accept, but also, and more importantly, to revel in the difficulties of the texts we'll be studying and to engage them with all the passion and energy they bring to the reading of novels, poems, and films. They should also be prepared to work closely with other members of the seminar in the protracted, intense, and rewarding project of thinking and conversing together. Authors whose works we'll examine may include: Saussure, Barthes, Derrida, de Man, Said, Lacan, Gallop, de Lauretis, Johnson, Bhabha, Lowe, Žižek, Butler, Hartman, Wilderson, Zupančič, Spivak, Warren, Fanon, and Badiou. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0176 Earth Matters: Global English Literature & Environment. It was recently reported that in Guam there is no longer any birdsong. This January, Boston experienced some of the highest and some of the lowest temperatures ever recorded. Erratic weather patterns, melting glaciers, and a rise in ecological disasters mark the first two decades of this century. In what ways have human actions caused this catastrophe? And what can we do about it? In this course we will turn to literary texts (novels, poems, non-fiction prose), films, and documentaries to help understand how we got to this point and explore and imagine alternative futures. Major themes and topics include climate change, energy crisis, resource equity, and human rights. Readings will focus mostly on the Global South: Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, while also including North America and Europe. Authors may include Ben Okri, Rita Wong, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Amitav Ghosh, Rachel Carson, Benyamin, among others. The class fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0191-01 Seminar in English: Black Prison Writing. Nowadays, many in and outside of U.S. circles refer to the “prison-industrial complex,” a language which literally comes from The Wall Street Journal itself. At least one scholar-activist has criticized this formulation for minimizing, even erasing the continued power of the “military-industrial complex” in its attempt address the explosion of prisons as an industry, local and global, national and international. What’s more, before imprisonment would be defined according to contemporary economics, it had already been defined by those of the Black Radical Tradition in terms of enslavement--that is, the material and symbolic reduction of enslaved Africans to “chattel” for the white capitalist West. The large-scale transfer of Black persons from antebellum plantations to today’s prisons (where “old,” official slavery remains perfectly legal) can therefore be easily understood as an “internal slave trade” as opposed to slavery’s actual “abolition.” This course confronts this Pan-African problematic of the politics of prison (and mass criminalization) without losing sight of the connection between imprisonment and enslavement, whether past or present. We will focus on North America as a historic site of struggle for recent Black writing from and about prisons, confinement, incarceration, jailing, lock-up/lock-down, etc., etc. In the end, students should be able to think critically about incarceration; identify connections between old and new forms of captivity; analyze the cultural as well as socio-economic operations of jailing or imprisonment; and also interrogate established concepts of law, crime, order, etc., as encouraged by Black or African Diasporic movements of thought. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0191-02 Seminar in English: Mark Twain and Charles Chesnutt. Examines the major works of Mark Twain and Charles Chesnutt, two key late-nineteenth-century authors writing about and across the color line. Twain gave US literature one of its most iconic and controversial images of cross-racial fraternity in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn's Huck and Jim. Chesnutt, a Black author with a conflicted relationship to the canon of African American Literature, explored how the history of slavery shaped the Reconstruction-era present in works including his groundbreaking story collection, The Conjure Woman. This course puts these authors in ongoing dialogue by reading deeply in each author's oeuvre and considering questions of history (manifest destiny and imperialism, race and racism before and after the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson), genre (romance, realism, regionalism, naturalism, humor writing, and the gothic), and the politics of taste and the literary marketplace. We may also read selected works or excerpts by other key contemporaries (e.g. William Dean Howells, Joel Chandler Harris, Kate Chopin, Zitkála-Šá, Sui Sin Far.) This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0191-03 Seminar in English: Malcom X. He was “the finest revolutionary theoretician and activist produced by America’s [B]lack working-class in [the twentieth] century,” according to the late, great historian John Henrik Clarke. Still, systematic intellectual exploration of his ideas is arguably scarce: Malcolm X is for many more icon or memory, even an object of adulation (if not condemnation) as opposed to a monumental mind and body of Pan-African praxis. This is despite his extreme dexterity in Black history and folklore, national and international public debate as well as local and global political analysis. This is also in spite of his identification as a primary source of inspiration for modern Black liberation movement and Black Power consciousness, not to mention Black Arts Movement aesthetics and the historic Black Studies Movement, just for example.
Historically, Malcolm X may be unmatched as an orator, an organizer and a political intellectual figure of the African Diaspora. This course will thus engage his thought and his activism in addition to his legacy via his very own textuality as well as film and video focusing on his work; other thinkers who have published books and anthologies on his work; and a tradition of music and poetry for which his work has been an insistent revolutionary muse. Moving outside of ever multiplying clichés, we will closely study Malcolm X Speaks, By Any Means Necessary and February 1965: The Final Speeches – beyond The Autobiography of Malcolm as Told to Alex Haley, along with a wide range of supplementary texts. In the end, students should (1) acquire an expansive critical appreciation of this unconquerable historic figure; (2) discern the relationship between written or scribal and oral texts; (3.) develop a global as well as domestic or national as well as international understanding of such programmatic ideas; and (4.) analyze the connection between thinking, speaking and acting or agitating on a world scale – a vital link writ large in the life work of Omowale / El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz / Malcolm X, without a doubt. This course fulfills the post-1860 English major requirement.
ENG 0288 Graduate Seminar: Colloquium. A series of 2-hour colloquia run by distinguished professors at other schools; each year, the invitees will be selected to cover a wide variety of specialties. In advance of each colloquium, a selection from the visiting professor’s work-in-progress is distributed; students discuss the work in detail at the colloquium, raising pertinent questions and offering feedback. Required of all graduate students currently in classes; those who have finished coursework are welcome to attend.
ENG 0290 Graduate Seminar: Pro-Seminar. This series of meetings is required of all first-year students entering the graduate program with an M.A. and all second-year students who entered with a B.A.; other English graduate students may attend individual meetings, but do not have to register for the seminar. Different faculty members will address various topics relevant to professional development, pedagogy, and intellectual currents in the discipline in a minimum of six one-hour meetings.
ENG 0291-01 Graduate Seminar: James, Wharton, Baldwin. What does it mean to read these three authors in relation to one another? What sort of literary and critical tradition do they constitute? What can they tell us about the politics of gender, sexuality, and race in the formation of American and transatlantic canons? In what different and similar ways do they realize the possibilities of writing about the United States from the perspective of European expatriation? In this seminar, we will take up these questions by reading across the various genres in which these prolific authors worked: novels, plays, essays, memoirs, autobiographies. We will read both chronologically and nonchronologically, adopting a method of juxtaposition, montage, and anachronism. Texts will include such works as: James, The Portrait of a Lady, The Turn of the Screw, The Beast in the Jungle, The Ambassadors, Guy Domville, The American Scene; Wharton, The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, The Decoration of Houses, The Writing of Fiction, A Backward Glance; Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, Another Country, Blues for Mister Charlie, Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time. We will also read pertinent critical and theoretical texts.
ENG 0291-02 Graduate Seminar: Fictions of Conversion. Literary history is full of converts – figures who, by their own volition or through outside intervention, undergo radical changes in identity and consciousness. These include famous converts, such as Paul, Augustine, and Luther, who wrote passionately about their own conversion experiences. Closely related to such historical accounts of conversion are fictions of conversion, such as Shakespeare’s Othello (a tragedy about a Christian convert of ambiguous origin) or the story of Iphis and Ianthe in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (a comedy about a girl raised as a boy, who is later changed into a man by the goddess Isis). By depicting human subjects in states of emergency (i.e., in the process of emerging), such fictions draw attention to the literary-aesthetic forms through which the bewildering phenomena of human transformation are made intelligible and compelling. As readers, we are moved by these moving tales, even as we find ourselves unsettled by a sudden awareness of the contingent nature of our own being. Fictions of conversion want to re-form us. They are themselves vehicles of conversion.
This course will examine literary and dramatic representations of conversion produced during the English/European Renaissance, a period scholars have come to describe as the first great “Age of Conversion” (earlymodernconversions.com). Our goal will be to explore how Renaissance fictions of conversion contributed to the fashioning of the modern subject in all its variegated forms. Accordingly, we will attempt to cover a range of genres (lyric, tragedy, comedy, romance, hagiography, spiritual autobiography) that represent the different kinds of conversion afforded in this period (social, political, religious, gender, sexual, trans-human). Along the way, we will sample some critical studies of conversion and identity formation to aid our thinking.
ENG 0291-03 Graduate Seminar: New faculty, course description TBA
ENG 0291-04 Graduate Seminar: Literature as a Way of Life. This course is an experiment that takes its title from Pierre Hadot’s Philosophy as a Way of Life, which seeks to approach the study of philosophy not just as an abstract exposition of ideas but also as a set of existential exercises, an ongoing intellectual discipline aimed at creating and sustaining a particular mode of living. Framing this kind of active and activated thinking in particularly literary and linguistic terms, we will be mining a wide-ranging set of fictional and philosophical texts for the resources they might offer to develop what we will be calling “literary practice.” Engaging but ultimately exceeding the discourse of literary ethics that up to now has been the most “practical” orientation to literary study, the course will explore the different ways of conceiving and practicing “literature as a way of life.” From the imaginary modeling embodied by Flaubert’s Emma Bovary through the aesthetic discourses of late Victorian England and the linguistically-sensitive self-fashioning of Joyce’s Stephen Daedalus to the contemporary literary processing of Carmen Maria Machado, the course will be less a historical account of a literary period than it will be a critically-considered collection of novelistic case studies that attempts to broaden what we understand literary criticism to be and do. Accordingly, we will be placing our own elaboration of “literary practice” into conversation with some of the most recent contributions to rethinking the critical project (Toril Moi, Yi-Ping Ong, Sara Ahmed, Joseph North, Saidiya Hartman) as well as older accounts of intellectual pragmatics (Aristotle, Nietzsche, Foucault, Gramsci, Dewey, and above all Barthes). Along the way, we will take up questions of world-building, fantasy, textuality, and that ultimate critical bugbear: presence. Other potential authors include Proust, Woolf, Ruskin, William Morris, Pater, Wilde, Conrad, James, Lessing, Bowen.