Below are the courses being offered this term in the English graduate program.
Dr. Chiji Akoma
Mon., 5:20 – 7:20
Introduction to Literary Theory
This course is an introduction to the ideas, concepts, and movements that have influenced literary studies from early 20th century to present times. We will examine schools of thought and theories such as formalism, structuralism, Marxism, modernism, deconstruction, feminism, post colonialism, postmodernism, queer theory, and cultural studies to gain an understanding of how the advancement of these ideas has invariably impacted our notion of the text and the individual agency of the writer and the reader. The course will not only identify and explore the key components of these theories and their influential proponents, but we will also adopt a heuristic approach whereby part of our task will be to consider these theories on a practical level as tools for interpreting texts.
Undergirding our exploration is an awareness of the myriad of ways that "theory," in its various incarnations in our discipline--or the humanities, in general--has acquired a hegmonic status that even such seemingly counter-discursive ideologies as postcolonialism, feminism, or queer theory may well post their own sets of problems as prisms through which the textual wonderland is explored. The course will be mindful of what it is we do when we say we are "doing" theory. Through vigorous class discussions, oral presentations, seminar papers, and limited lectures, accompanied by a reading of some literary works, the course will not only offer a solid introduction to critical theory, but will also give students the impetus to develop critical tools needed for their individual research inclinations.
Dr. Mary Mullen
Tues., 5:20 - 7:20
Iron Cages and Imperial Prudes: Rethinking Victorian Modernity
Victorians are the first moderns and the first prudes. We are drawn to the Victorian period because of its modernity--Victorians faced similar social problems and inhabited similar institutions as ourselves--but we also often actively distance ourselves from Victorian culture and the "image of the imperial prude" it implies (Michel Foucault). Victorians' drive to standardize, centralize, and rationalize certainly suggests what Max Weber famously calls the "iron cage of rationality," a metaphor for modernity that emphasizes its constraining effects. And yet, moderns mock Victorians for being too serious, too moral, too antiquated.
Challenging a narrow definition of modernity as a historical period or condition, this course will familiarize students with ongoing debates in Foucaldian, postcolonial, Marxist, and queer theory to consider modernity as a attitude, a relationship, an imperial category. Equally important will be Victorian representations of and responses to modernity in novels by Ella Hepworth Dixon, Olive Schreiner and Oscar Wilde; prose by John Stuart Mill and Henry Mayhew; and novellas by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu and George Moore.
Dr. Kamran Javadizadeh
Thurs., 7:30 - 9:30
This course begins with what is, admittedly, a somewhat silly premise--that 1959 was a singularly defining year in the history of American literature (and of American culture more generally)--and then asks what can be learned by taking that premise seriously. By restricting ourselves (more or less!) to a single year within a national culture, we'll be in a position to investigate texts that cluster around sets of shared topics, in borrowed and contested forms, and that comprise, together, an especially rich archive of cultural production. We will read, for instance, James Baldwin's piercing essays from 1959 about the formation of racial and national identity,"The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American" and "Nobody Knows My Name," alongside a pair of white writers' contemporary fantasies about blackness: Norman Mailer's "The White Negro" and Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King. Another example: we will consider the sudden (it seemed) emergence of "confessional" poetry in Robert Lowell's Life Studies, W. D. Snodgrass's Heart's Needle, and Anne Sexton's To Bedlam and Partway Back alongside the contemporary (but tonally and formally quite different) configuration of personal experience and poetic form in Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish and Frank O'Hara's "Personism: A Manifesto." Over the course of the semester, we will work towards new ways to think about the central structural metaphors--containment and breakthrough--that seem to govern the literature of the period and will consider how 1959 did (and didn't) function as a fulcrum between modernism and what followed. Other primary texts will include works by Lorraine Hansberry, Elizabeth Bishop, Philip Roth, and Vladimir Nabokov. Some time will also be spent thinking about relationships between our literary texts and works from the visual and performing arts. Course requirements will include short written assignments, informal presentations, and one longer essay.
Dr. Crystal Lucky
African American Women Writers of the Twentieth Century
Black women's writing has had a profound impact on the American literary landscape. That of the twentieth century is rich and varied in form, theme, language, narrative structure and voice as it explores the complexities of race, gender, sexuality, class and spirituality in the lives of its subjects. The 1980s was a particularly important decade, as well, in the development of black feminist, read Womanist, theory and the nuanced ways it applied to the century's black women's fiction, poetry and drama. This course will use black feminist theory to read the work of several important black women writers, namely Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, Ann Petry, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison. Students will be required to offer one in-class presentation and to submit a seminar-style essay of 20-25 pages.
Dr. Lisa Sewell
Wed., 5:20 - 7:20
Ecopoetics and Environmental Criticism
Nature poetry has a long tradition in English and American literature. In recent years interest in nature, and in nature poetry, has been revitalized by widespread ecological awakening. Eco-criticism is a relatively young field of study in the humanities that developed in response to twin crises: actual environmental degradation and a breakdown in intellectual categories of 'the natural' brought on by technology and politics. This course will provide an opportunity to reflect on a number of key tropes in ecocritical thinking including post-humanism, wilderness, pollution, animals, food and apocalypse, and to investigate the links between poetry and the environment.
We will begin with Romanticism and American Transcendentalism, reading selections from Wordsworth and Emerson in order to think through assumptions about nature, wilderness, urban environments, and environmentalism that are bound up with conventions of the personal lyric, the pastoral, and the sublime. We will read the work of a number of contemporary poets who are writing more or less in the Romantic tradition alongside recent North American poetry that is working to retink our relationship to the natural world and to the non-human. The poets we focus on may include selections or single volumes by AR Ammons, Wendell Berry, Jorie Graham, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Susan Howe, Mary Oliver, Gary Snyder, Juliana Spahr and Brian Teare. Our readings will also include selections from ecocritical theory and literary criticism by major voices in environmental studies. Course requirements include one in-class presentation, weekly response papers, a mid-term essay and a final project.
This is a three-credit independent study in which students identify one or a cluster of jobs or professions in which an advanced degree in literature is of benefit. In the course of the semester, students will research the career options of interest, identifying one or two fields as the focus of their work. They must generate a research paper that explores the history and future prospects of the field of interest, as well as current information about the requirements of the work, geographical information about centers of activity for the profession, and desirable employers. This research should include at least two meetings with professionals who work in the field. The paper must also analyze how advanced study of literature serves to enhance the students' desirability in the profession in question. As part of their final project, students must develop a cover letter outlining the ways their particular training makes them suitable to work in this field. Students will make their research available to other students in the program by uploading their final project onto a special section of the Graduate English Program blog. Potential fields of research include the following:
Entertainment industry work
Rare book broker
Option for second-year graduate students to serve as intern for graduate faculty member in upper-level undergraduate English course. Interns will attend all class sessions, confer at least once with each student on written work, lead two-three class sessions under supervision of faculty member, and complete a final project that is either (1) a substantial critical essay concerning subject matter of course or (2) a research project concerning trends and issues within college-level pedagogy. Aim of program is to provide students with teaching and classroom experience. Students may apply to serve as interns by consulting with a faculty member who is teaching in area of interest, and, if the faculty member is amenable, submitting a one-two page statement, outlining how this course addresses their larger intellectual goals, and what they hope to accomplish as an intern. (3 Cr)