Fall 2012 Graduate Course Descriptions
ENG 5019: Literary Criticism 2
What goes into the act of writing criticism? What does it mean to analyze "the text itself," or to look at its "context"? What meanings (whose meanings) are being recovered through these procedures? Is criticism "interpretation," "description," "analysis," something else? What are aesthetic experiences, and what is their relationship to written criticism? This course will trace the genealogies of ideas underlying some of the most important current engagements with these questions. We will begin with revolutionary ideas about language, truth, culture, and social life from the nineteenth century as a way of introducing major approaches of the twentieth and twenty-first century. Our survey will include Romantic criticism; critical aesthetics; Victorian theorizations of culture and economics; "The New Criticism" and other formalisms; philosophical hermeneutics and the question of the past; approaches from linguistics, psychology, cultural anthropology, sociology, and cognitive science; feminist criticism; New Historicism; and cultural studies. The goals of this survey, and of the course's writing assignments, are to come to some self-awareness about what we do as literary or cultural critics and to develop thoughtful research practices.
ENG 6049: Studies in Queer Theory
In this course we will explore theoretical readings that address sexuality and gender and that are loosely defined as "Queer Theory." Because any theory is only useful to the extent that it helps us to explain, predict, and change reality, we will evaluate these tools by also reading several extremely contemporary texts written by or for the queer community. These supplemental texts will allow us to test, confirm, modify, or reject the various theoretical readings in an effort to develop an understanding of how systems of sex/sexuality/gender function in our world today.
Please be forewarned: readings in this course are particularly dense and some readings will contain explicit erotic material. If you have any objections to explicit sexual material please speak with me about accommodations.
ENL 6305: John Ruskin and the Victorian Crisis
John Ruskin was not merely one of the greatest prose stylists of the nineteenth century and by far the single most important English art critic, but a trenchant thinker whose ideas about the relationship of art and society decisively influenced late Victorian and early modernist thought; a social theorist whose critique of Victorian industrial society had a decisive influence on later thinkers (Mahatma Gandhi, among others); an innovative stylist whose later works uncannily forecast some of the formal innovations of modernism; and a pioneering environmental prophet whose observations are still relevant almost two centuries after his birth. We will read selections from most of Ruskin's major works, the full texts of The Seven Lamps of Architecture, Sesame and Lilies, Unto this Last, and his autobiography Praeterita, and some briefer texts by among others Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, William Morris, and Walter Pater.
[This course counts within the area of specialization of the British Literature concentration.]
ENL 6305: Shakespeare
In order to rescue Shakespeare's plays from the isolation in which they are so often studied, we will read selected works alongside relevant plays by his contemporaries. The course will be divided into 3 parts: 1) The Revenge Tragedy, 2) Comic Patterns, and 3) The Morality Play Tradition. Assigned secondary readings will represent a variety of critical approaches and will provide some cultural context. Most class sessions will consist of text-based discussions of the plays, interspersed with short student presentations and viewing of video clips. Discussions of the secondary readings will begin by way of student presentations.
[This course counts within the area of specialization, pre-1800, of the British Literature concentration.]
LIN 6107: History of the English Language
This is a course in historical linguistics which charts the internal and external history of English. The internal history deals with phonology and morphology, which are difficult to relate to the histories of its speakers. The external history deals with the growth and movements of its speech community and has more contacts with general history and literary history. The objective of the course is to achieve an awareness of language as a historically contingent system governed by rules that are inherent to its structure and development rather than externally imposed and that are subject to analysis that combines the methods of history and science. Readings and workbook exercises will introduce a variety of research problems and techniques. Assignments on special topics will include a 30-minute collaborative class presentation and a related individual paper of 1,500 words.
LIT 6318: Science Fiction and the Environment
This class considers a diverse selection of science fiction, from the inception of the genre to the present day, and pays special attention to how each work participates in the construction of the environmental movement, writ broad. Although tracing connections betweem science fiction, nature, and eco-critical discourse will be the primary research focus, the overarching objective of this course will be to familiarize students with the historical development of science fiction in a way that will inform their own research projects. Theoretical and philosophical texts will include readings of work by Martin Heidegger, Bruno Latour, and Ursula Heise, among others. Fictional works will include Frank Herbert's Dune, Ursula K. Le Guin's Word for the World Is Forest, and Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, among others.
[This course counts within the area of specialization of the Science Fiction and Fantasy concentration.]
LIT 6934: Caribbean Historical Fiction
This course focuses on the genre of historical fiction within contemporary Caribbean literature. Generally speaking, historical fiction seeks to explicitly represent a historical time period, perhaps dealing with particular historical events or figures. Caribbean writers often employ the genre to either challenge dominant narratives of a historical event, for example the Cuban or Grenadian Revolutions, or to recover marginalized historical figures by depicting them as central agents of historical change, like those of Mary Ellen Pleasant and Camila Henríquez Ureña. The course will engage with questions about literary form and historiography, for instance, how the feminist revisionism in Michelle Cliff's and Julia Alvarez's novels translates into a pedagogical approach to teaching the reader about history, how Dionne Brand and Ana Menéndez deploy elements of romance and testimonio, and how Junot Díaz and Edwidge Danticat historicize the relationship between the Caribbean nation and diaspora. The class places creative writers in dialogue with theorists of historical fiction and Caribbean studies, thereby teaching various theoretical approaches and encouraging students to engage in debates regarding the interpretation of the course texts. By reading the work of critics such as Linda Hutcheon, David Scott and Santiago Juan-Navarro, students acquire the critical vocabulary needed to analyze Caribbean historical fiction.The assignments for the course will be geared towards providing writing models and building research skills for graduate work in general and the project of the MA thesis more specifically.
[This course counts within the area of specialization of the Multicultural and World Literatures concentration.]
LIT 6936: Hitchcock and the Novel
Renowned throughout his long career as the "Master of Suspense," film director Alfred Hitchcock equally deserves to be recognized as "The Master of Adaptation." A remarkable number of Hitchcock's films (he made almost 60 films overall) were adapted from novels, and Hitchcock used British, American, and French fiction as a treasure-trove from which to extract plots and characters for his cinematic masterpieces. Yet Hitchcock often made significant and startling changes to his source materials, making the study of Hitchcock's art of adaptation a fascinating point of access to cinema's techniques for transforming literary sources. This course will focus on Hitchcock's most original and daring adaptations of literary works, including The Lodger, The 39 Steps, Rebecca, Strangers on a Train and—of course—Psycho (based on the novel by Robert Bloch). As part of our exploration of Hitchcock's adaptations of fictional works, the course will address Hitchcock's representations of gender and sexuality as a key aspect of his visual style. Assigned readings and viewings include the novels and films, as well as critical and theoretical essays on Hitchcock, and recent essays on adaptation theory.
[This course counts within the area of specialization of the British and American Literature concentrations.]
AML 6938: Animals and American Literature
This course will explore the presence of animals in American literature and culture. Exploring the borders between and limits of the constructs of humanity and animality, attention will be given to issues of narrative, anthropomorphism, animals' roles in plotting, and the potentials and constrictions of agency. Readings will feature theoretical texts such as Jacques Derrida's The Animal That Therefore I Am and Carey Wolfe's Animal Rites as well as texts from the nineteenth (possibly earlier) and twentieth centuries, including Jack London's White Fang, Gerald Vizenor's Griever: An American Monkey King in China, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, and the comic Animal Man.
[This course counts within the area of specialization of American Literature concentrations.]
ENC 6930 Tech/Rhet: Theory & Practice
From pencils, to printing presses, and from pixels to podcasts, the development of new technologies allows us to interact with the world in new and challenging ways. ENC 6930 Tech/Rhet: Theory & Practice is an introduction to the intersection of rhetoric, technology, and culture in contemporary digital environments. Through reflection on writing practices and technologies, students will further develop the critical technological literacy necessary to become informed readers, inventive writers, innovative teachers, and, ultimately, more responsible citizens. Topics for discussion will include identity, literacy, community, new media composition, and posthumanism.