Below are the courses being offered this term in the English graduate program.
Dr. Heather Hicks
What's Hot? Introduction to Theory Across the Discipline of English
This course will be run as a seminar in which each week, a different graduate faculty member will introduce you to a body of theory that is particularly important within current discussions in their field of specialization. What are some of the major theoretical approaches in medieval studies today? Early modern studies? What about 19th-century American literature and British literature? Modernism? Postcolonial Studies? Irish Studies? Contemporary literature? This new, experimental class is an attempt to bring you immediately into dialogue with a wide variety of theories that are shaping literary study today. The course is intended to be a lively opportunity to meet most of the English faculty members who teach at the graduate level and to engage in dialogue about and analysis of the contemporary state of literary theory. Assignments will include one work of “public” writing and a more conventional academic paper.
Dr. Brooke Hunter
English Medieval Romance
Medieval romances—the mode of literature that tells stories of chivalry, ladies, love, and martial prowess—shaped ideas about everything from racial and cultural identity to best practices for flirting. Focusing on the romances of King Arthur and other English heroes, this course will consider three main questions: how romances construct ideas about peoples (nationes) and political power; how romances structure the experience of love, sexuality, and gender; and how romances shape the practice of religion and notions of religious otherness. At least half of the course reading will be in Middle English including the cannibalistic crusader sieges of Richard Coer de Lyon, the first long work by Geoffrey Chaucer, Book of the Duchess, and the exhaustive collection of Arthuriana, Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur. We will also read several works of early Arthuriana in translation including Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae and Chrétien de Troyes Lancelot: le Chevalier de la Charrette. Previous experience with Middle English will be helpful but not necessary.
Dr. Jean Lutes
American literary history has a fierce, vibrant strain of narratives written by immigrants who have pushed beyond boundaries of both genre and nation to tell their stories. The course examines some of the most influential texts in this tradition, focusing on fiction and creative nonfiction published in the twentieth- and twenty-first century. Given that our national political discourse is now dominated by debates over immigration, this is an ideal moment to reflect on what immigrant authors have to teach us about the impact of narrative, the power of language (English and otherwise), the dynamic of assimilation, and the ever-shifting vision of America itself. For intellectual guidance in our inquiry, we will turn to the fields of ethnic studies and postcolonial criticism, which offer rich theoretical contexts for better understanding the relationship between cultural and individual identity. These activist models of thought will also provide us with critical tools to consider how experiences of oppression and marginalization manifest themselves in narrative forms.
After a brief look at the 1782 essay, “What is an American?” by French American author J. Hector St. John de Crevocoeur, we will fast-forward to the late nineteenth century, when an unprecedented number of immigrants arrived from China and southern and eastern Europe, and the Jewish American poet Emma Lazarus wrote her now-famous sonnet (“Give me your tired, your poor, / your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) to raise money to build a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Likely texts include Sui Sin Far’s Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1912), Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers (1925), Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep (1934), Achy Obejas’s Memory Mambo (1996), Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies (1999), Frank McCourt’s ’Tis (1999), Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway: A True Story (2005), Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel American Born Chinese (2006), Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), and Dave Eggers’ What is the What (2007).
Dr. Yumi Lee
The rise of “ethnic” literatures has been a hallmark of 20th century American literature. Works by African American, Latino/a, Asian American, Native American, and other nonwhite authors have both circulated on best-seller lists (think Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club) and been closely studied by scholars and literary critics, becoming mainstays on college syllabi (say, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior). But when, why, and how does a work become part of a canon? Ethnic literary communities have built their own canons, curated, protected, and celebrated within their particular literary traditions. At the same time, works marketed as “multicultural” have been integrated over time, with much difficulty and debate, into a mainstream American literary canon, marked by the ascension of certain works to the status of general “Great Books,” the conferral of major prizes upon ethnic authors, and the like. This course explores the history of the emergence of “ethnic” literature and investigates the conditions of possibility for the creation of an ethnic literary canon (or ethnic literary canons). We will consider questions such as: what is the burden of representation for the ethnic author? Can ethnic literature be universal? Should it be? Along the way, we will investigate how the rise of multicultural literature has intersected with histories of immigration, the Civil Rights movement, feminism and queer liberation, and student movements. At the conclusion of the course, we will examine several recent texts and debate the status and value of identity politics and ethnic canons in the present (and future) political and cultural climate. Literary texts may include works by James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara, Maxine Hong Kingston, Chang-Rae Lee, Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; critical texts will include essays by Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates, Gayatri Spivak, Barbara Christian, David Palumbo-Liu, Lisa Lowe, and Roderick Ferguson among others.
Dr. Megan Quigley
Joyce’s Ulysses: Immigration, Emigration, and Irish Modernism
Why did James Joyce, writing his modernist masterpiece Ulysses in exile, make its hero the son of a Hungarian emigrant to Ireland? Stephen Dedalus, Joyce’s alter ego in the novel, encounters questions of immigration and racial difference through Bloom, who is always somehow outside the Irish circles he attempts to penetrate. The novel’s climax occurs when Bloom, wandering Jew, and Stephen, disillusioned Irish Catholic, meet, perhaps fostering a father-son bond. Bloom seeks to replace the son he lost and create the connection to Ireland that he always desired; Stephen seeks a cosmopolitan, linguistically savvy father-figure to help him move beyond his sense of Irish paralysis. But is the father-son bond forged? Through the narrative intricacies, Homeric parallels, and linguistic innovations of his modernist style, Joyce interrogates the problems created by race and immigration for nation-building in his modern Irish Epic.
This course will take many approaches—using literary theory, films, music, graphic novels, guidebooks, Joyce’s letters—as we learn to “read” Ulysses. We will also learn about theories of immigration and the history of immigration and emigration in early 20th-century Ireland. This graduate class will also examine recent reformulations of the category of ‘literary modernism,’ considering whether modernism refers to a transhistorical genre or a historically situated set of works.
We will begin the course by reading two stories from Joyce’s Dubliners and the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in order to learn about some of the characters and themes in Ulysses. We will then launch into Ulysses, taking the parallels to Homer’s Odyssey less as directing the plot than influencing the style of each chapter. Our course will include a field trip to the Rosenbach Library in downtown Philadelphia in order to see the Ulysses manuscript, a wonderful opportunity offered by the Rosenbach curatorial staff.
In Ulysses, Joyce sought to recreate in a novel the way that Dublin appeared on the 16th June 1904. But what does Joyce’s novel show us about the difficulties that both Ireland and the United States face in building inclusive communities in the 21st century?
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)