Below are the courses being offered this term in the English graduate program.
Dr. Brooke Hunter
Mon., 5:20 – 7:20
Approaches to Premodern Literature: Medieval Field Survey
The study of premodern "English" literature requires students to supplement their usual interpretive skills with a slightly different toolkit. This course will act as a survey of the current field of English medieval literary studies and will introduce students to the interdisciplinary approaches and debates important to medieval studies. The course will work to give a broad view of the state of the field from the nitty-gritty materiality of manuscript studies to the latest trends in critical theory--including the explosion of medieval animal studies and the non-human turn. We will examine medieval textualities, the history of the book, and the formation of critical editions; we will explore the new philology, contemporary translation studies, and England's multilingual literary culture. We will also delve into the continuing debates over the aptness of contemporary theory to premodern texts. Although some of our primary texts will be read in translation, there will also be significant reading in Middle English. No previous experience with Middle English is necessary.
Dr. Travis Foster
Tues., 7:30 - 9:30
Sex Before Sexology
This class asks what sex looked and felt like before the instantiation of modern identity categories such as homosexuality or heterosexuality--before, that is, our desires became an index to our souls. To this end, we'll examine texts by nineteenth-century American writers that represent the experiences and expressions of what we now call sexuality, but do so in ways that resist the organizational force that term implies.
Many of our texts will represent same-sex desires and gender deviant or, in at least one case, transgender expressions. As readers, then, our challenge won't be to locate so-called queer content, but instead to know how to interpret this content--to ascertain, as Jordan Stein put it, "what exactly this evidence is evidence of." Do we, for instance, see pre-sexological representations of homoeroticism as somehow anticipatory, moving toward attitudes and behaviors that only now can be fully understood? Or might we see them as articulating alternative possibilities or futures that never came to pass? All of our texts, moreover, implicitly and explicitly position their representations of sex along the black/white color line that constituted the period's dominant system for racial distinction. We'll quickly find that interpreting sex in nineteenth-century American also demands that we grapple with the histories of race, particularly slavery, scientific racism, and the fears surrounding interracial sex and mixed race people.
Primary texts will likely include Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance, "The Man Who Thought Himself a Woman" (anonymously published), Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, selected poetry by Walt Whitman, Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper's Iola Leroy, selected stories by Mary Wilkins Freeman, Pauline Hopkins's Contending Forces, and Henry James's In the Cage--along with primary documents from Sexology Uncensored: The Documents of Sexual Science.
Dr. Jean Lutes
Thurs., 5:20 - 7:20
This course makes an intensive study of William Faulkner. Generally recognized as one of the most important novelists of the twentieth century, Faulkner produced some of his most extraordinary work between 1929 and 1942. We will study this period with the goal of better understanding Faulkner's narrative practices, his transformative vision of his native Mississippi, and the complex, often startling intersections of race, class, and gender in his work. Primary texts include The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom (1936), and Go Down, Moses (1942).
Dr. Lisa Sewell
Postmodern American Poetry: Witness, Crisis & Change
This course will introduce you to the work of North American poets who are writing today. We will explore the tremendous range and variety of the field and the issues that have taken center stage in the last two and a half decades. Our focus will be on the ways these writers have engendered and responded to fundamental changes that have shaped the current field of contemporary poetry, including the emergence of previously marginalized and/or silenced voices; an interrogation of the traditional lyric poem; and interest in avent-garde experimentation and "uncreative" writing; and the place of poetry in response to world-wide crises and tragedies such as 9/11, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Congo, Sudan and other countries, the murders of young women in Juarez, Mexico; and environmental disasters such as Katrina and the tsunami in Japan. We will try to be as contemporary as we can in our reading, exploring very recent books and even taking advantage of the Internet to explore poetry sites, to watch and listen to performances, and to see how poets are using technology to enhance and add to their ability to express themselves. Our reading will include poets such as Sharon Olds, Valerie Martinez, Robert Hass, D.A. Powell, Juliana Spahr, Frank Bidart, and CD Wright among others. We may also read various essays, manifestos and statements that help to further define the intentions of a particular writer.
Course requirements include active participation, weekly journals, a short essay, a final longer essay, and a presentation.
Dr. Heather Hicks
Tues., 5:20 - 7:20
With the turn toward "genre fiction" among contemporary authors of "literary fiction," science fiction has become an important part of the contemporary literary canon. It has also become increasingly central in the thinking of influential theorists such as Fredric Jameson and Walter Benn Michaels. We will take as our starting point these recent developments and use them as an occasion to read major works of science fiction from the past century. The topiics of these texts range from alien invasion, global catastrophe, and space travel to utopian and dystopian future societies. In our examination of them, we will consider how they depict the impact of technology on "global culture:" the intimate relationship between technological development and the history of warfare in the 20th century; the function of the alien as a figure for racial and ethnic "otherness;" the ways gender and sexuality have been transformed by scientific advances; and the complexities of human government and power. The primary objectives of the course are for you to gain significant expertise in critically acclaimed science fiction and to achieve a real understanding of the currently scholarly discussions about this genre. Texts will likely include the following: The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, The War with the Newts by Karel Capek, I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard, Blood Music by Greg Bear, The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, The City and theCity by China Miéville, Rainbow's End by Vernon Vinge, and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe , by Charles Yu. Our secondary readings will include critical and theoretical works by scholars such as Robert E. Scholes, Eric S. Rabkin, Scott Bukatman, Fredric Jameson, Walter Benn Michaels, and Carl Howard Freeman. Requirements will include lively class participation, short weekly reading responses, and a final seminar paper.
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)