All Literature Courses
ENGL 1923: Great Works of Literature
ENGL 2413: Exploring Literature
ENGL 2543: Survey of British Literature I
ENGL 2653: Survey of British Literature II
ENGL 2773: Survey of American Literature I
ENGL 2883: Survey of American Literature II
ENGL 2963: Survey of Postcolonial and Indigenous Literature
ENGL 3123: Mythology
ENGL 3133: Readings in Multi-Ethnic Literature
ENGL 3143: Readings in Postcolonial Literature
ENGL 3153: Readings in Literature by Women
ENGL 3163: Literatures of the Ancient World
ENGL 3170: Readings in Literature & Other Disciplines
ENGL 3183: Native American Literature
ENGL 3193: African-American Literature
ENGL 3243: Literary Theory & Criticism
ENGL 3333: Short Story
ENGL 3343: Reading Poetry
ENGL 3363: Readings in Drama
ENGL 3373: Readings in Non-Fiction
ENGL 3383: Readings in Narrative
ENGL 3410: Popular Fiction
ENGL 3813: Readings in the American Experience
ENGL 3933: Shakespeare
ENGL 4100: Studies in Medieval British Literature
ENGL 4110: Studies in 16th-Century British Literature
ENGL 4120: Studies in 17th-Century British Literature
ENGL 4130: Studies in 18th-Century British Literature
ENGL 4160: Studies in 19th-Century British Literature
ENGL 4170: Studies in 20th-Century British Literature
ENGL 4200: Studies in Early American Literature
ENGL 4210: Studies in 19th-Century American Literature
ENGL 4220: Studies in 20th-Century American Literature
ENGL 4230: Studies in Literature and Theory of Diversity
ENGL 4300: Studies in Romanticism
ENGL 4310: Studies in Modernism
ENGL 4320: Contemporary Literature
ENGL 4333: Studies in Native American Literature
ENGL 4400: Studies in Regional Literature
ENGL 4600: Studies in Chaucer or Milton
ENGL 4700: Single Author/Work Pre-1800
ENGL 4710: Single Author/Work Post-1800
ENGL 4723: Studies in Shakespeare
ENGL 5013: Introduction to Graduate Studies
ENGL 5043: Traditions in Literary Criticism and Theory
ENGL 5063: Seminar in Shakespeare
ENGL 5093: Seminar in Milton
ENGL 5163: Middle English Literature
ENGL 5410: Seminar in British Literature of the 16th Century
ENGL 5420: Seminar in British Literature of the 17th Century
ENGL 5440: Seminar in British Literature of the 18th Century
ENGL 5460: Seminar in British Literature of the 19th Century
ENGL 5480: Seminar in Modern Literature
ENGL 5630: Seminar in Early American Literature
ENGL 5660: Seminar in American Literature of the 19th Century
ENGL 5680: Seminar in Contemporary Literature
ENGL 6220: Seminar in Genre
ENGL 6240: Studies in Literature
ENGL 6250: Seminar in Race and Ethnicity
ENGL 6260: Studies in Literary Criticism
ENGL 6270: Seminar in Region
ENGL 6280: Seminar in Gender
Variable Topics Literature Courses
Spring 2022: Exploring Literature – various instructors
Readings from a wide range of literature depicting diverse experiences and identities. Class discussions cover literary forms and meanings, along with the imaginative depictions of different communities. Specifically for non-majors, this course teaches skills in reading poetry, fiction, and drama with greater understanding and enjoyment, while also thinking about issues of diversity in the US.
Spring 2022: British Literature Survey I - Chelsea Silva
This course introduces students to a range of major and minor British literary works composed before 1800. Our readings will span a variety of genres, including poems, novels, legal documents, autobiographies, romances, dramas, recipes, complaints, travel guides, and philosophical treatises. We will approach early British literature not as a homogeneous group of dated texts but as a complex, evolving, and material body of writing that continues to shape political and ideological systems today. This class is invested in thinking about texts as material objects and authors as embodied subjects—both the authors of the texts we will read, and ourselves, as writers of literary criticism. The course is therefore also intended to guide students in developing the ability to think seriously and deeply about their work as readers and thinkers, and to interrogate their relationship to the practice of writing.
Spring 2022: British Literature Survey I – Cynthia Rogers
Connections and Continuities: In this course we will be “reading across time” from the age of the Anglo-Saxons up to the satires of the 18th century. The texts allow us to explore a variety of human connections—the fellowship of warriors, the passion of lovers, the struggle for domination, the soul’s search for the divine, and women’s roles within their communities. By tracing these threads as they weave in and out of different genres, forms, and literary movements, we can see the larger tapestry they create, as each theme is rewoven to fit its own time. The course will place texts into their literary and social contexts to help us seek out the enjoyment and meanings they gave their original readers, and to find how they still speak to our own age.
Spring 2022: Survey of British Literature II – Elizabeth Grubgeld
This survey of English and Irish literature takes us from 1800 to the early 21st century. We will anchor the survey in three short novels--Castle Rackrent (1800), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1885) and Voyage in the Dark (1934)—and the film My Beautiful Laundrette (1985). In relation to these works, we’ll read a wide variety of poems, stories, plays, and non-fiction. The course provides a strong foundation in two centuries of literary and social history, as well as enhancing the ability to read, write, and talk about literature with understanding
Spring 2022: Survey of British Literature II - Cailey Hall
What is British literature? How have writers from across Britain’s shifting empire contributed to - and challenged - what we have come to think of as the British literary canon? To start answering these questions, we will read and analyze a wide array of British literature - including poetry, essays, a play, and novels - from (roughly) 1800 to the present. Some of these texts are now considered canonical in the study of British literature; we will also engage with texts that fall outside this canon, and discuss the process of canon formation and exclusion. By the end of the term, you’ll have a stronger understanding of how British literature changed (in both form and content) over the last two centuries, as well as the sociopolitical contexts that guided these changes and the major literary terms that we use to describe work from this period.
Spring 2022: American Literature Survey I – Oliver Spivey
The literature of early America up to the Civil War.
Spring 2022: American Literature Survey II – Ryan Slesinger
From the American Romantic period and the Civil War to the present, with an emphasis on multicultural literature.
Spring 2022: Survey of Postcolonial and Indigenous Literature - Alyssa Hunziker
This course will survey recent works in postcolonial and Indigenous literatures. We will read literature in English across a number of countries (Antigua, Guam, Native North America, Sudan, Haiti, the Marshall Islands, among others) and across a variety of genres (novels, short stories, poetry, graphic memoir, poem-films). While we are reading widely across disparate traditions and contexts, each of our texts engage with the aftermaths of colonization. Our readings will address such topics as: tourism, military occupation, environmental destruction, colonial education and control of language, political and literary representation, postcolonial adaptations, museum collections, Orientalism, and nuclear colonialism, among others.
Spring 2022: Mythology (cross-listed with Latin 3123-31221) – Richard Sears
We’ll be focusing on Classical myths, their cultural contexts, and their place in world literature. No prerequisites. Readings will be available in Canvas
Spring 2022: ENGL 3123-31018 – Mythology (Honors) – Cynthia Rogers
In this course, we will read Greek and Roman Mythology—ancient stories that tell about heroes, heroines, monsters, gods, goddesses, and the founding of nations. We will explore how the cultures around the classical Mediterranean created these stories to investigate humanity’s desires, courage, community, justice, and faith. Understanding this network of compelling and enduring stories will enable us to also look at the inheritance of these ideas in our own art, literature, and culture.
Spring 2022: Readings in Literature by Women - Lindsay Wilhelm
This class surveys women-authored bildungsroman and coming-of-age stories dating from the early nineteenth century to today. Throughout, we’ll consider how women have used their writing to explore and challenge commonly held notions of how girls should be educated and what it means to grow up. Readings are formally, historically, and geographically diverse, ranging from Jane Austen’s Gothic parody Northanger Abbey to Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis to Tara Westover’s memoir Educated. Graded assignments include two papers, a memoir/creative writing project, and smaller assignments as needed.
Spring 2022: African-American Literature – Andrew Belton
Origins and development of the African American literary tradition in its historical and cultural context.
Spring 2022: Reading Poetry – William Decker
Learning to read poetry is all about getting beyond mystification and cultivating an appreciation of crafted language and the expressive capacity of common words. This course will introduce students to the spectrum of poetic form as well as to the major themes that recur through the centuries. We will sharpen our ability to hear poetry as a prerequisite to our ability to read it. Knowledge and pleasure will share equal emphasis. We will make use of the excellent 250 Poems: A Portable Anthology, but the semester will culminate in our reading of two single-author volumes: Allen Ginsberg’s classic Howl (1956) and Nikki Finney’s National Book Award winner, Head Off & Split (2011). Series of short writing assignments and a take-home final exam.
Spring 2022: Crime, Corruption, and Vice in Popular Fiction – Lindsay Wilhelm
This class explores the vast world of popular fiction, with a focus on fiction about crime, corruption, and vice from the early 1800s until the present. Our readings will cover major trends in the genre, from nineteenth-century sensation novels to “Golden Age” detective fiction to contemporary noir (what’s with all these thrillers with “girl” in the title?). Throughout, we’ll track how fiction about crime developed in response to shifting audience demand, new understandings of criminality, innovations in print technology, etc. Graded assignments include two papers, a creative/critical project, and smaller assignments as needed.
Spring 2021: Readings in Nonfiction - William Decker
This semester, Readings in Nonfiction, will be offered as a course in the literature of travel. Not so much a genre as a highly accommodating publisher’s category, Travel Writing can be wildly comic or austerely somber. It is almost always ethnographic and somewhat seriously historical. Frequently it is highly lyric and intimately personal. It is unavoidably political and reveals as much about the traveler as the lands through which the traveler passes. We will explore a range of travel narratives from the 19th to the 21st centuries, some short, some long, and our reading list will feature the following: Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Jamaica Kincaid, Mary Morris, and Saidiya Hartman. In addition to class discussion, coursework will consist of three papers, discussion board assignments, and a final exam.
Spring 2020: Readings in Nonfiction – William Decker
This class will explore the varieties of twentieth- and twenty-first century memoir writing. Featured authors: James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Conroy, Tobias Wolff, Alison Bechdel, Joan Didion, and Edwidge Danticat. Three 4-6 page papers and a final take-home exam.
Fall 2021: Readings in Narrative: Narrative & Necromancy: Fictions of the Dead - Andrew Belton
Narrative, as a practice of the imagination, or authorial magic, summons vivid characters as lingering visions or apparitions into our minds. Whether recasting historical events or building imaginary worlds, narrative has the power to elevate reading to an adventurous experience of moving through the world of another. In this course, we study narratives that move, with the Other, through the world of the dead. The readings include stories that imagine ghosts, spirits, death (as experience, personification, and dimensionless space), underworlds, afterworlds, and so much more; selections are taken from classical literature (including Egyptian mythology and scenes from Dante’s Inferno) with more contemporary existential representations including novels like Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits). While necromancy, sometimes regarded as “death magic,” is a term that describes several practices of fortune-telling, predicting future events, occult knowledge, resurrection, and so forth, the course also makes space for fun pop culture readings of apocalyptic zombies, and the like.
Spring 2021: Readings in Narrative - Edward Jones
A study of approaches to the short novel or novella. Authors will include Melville, George Eliot, Dostoevsky,Tolstoy, James, Mann, Kate Chopin, Conrad, Wharton, Kafka, Oates, Murdoch, and Bellow.
Fall 2020: A Historical Survey of Fantasy Fiction - Timothy Murphy
This course provides a historical survey of English-language fantasy fiction from its origins in the late Victorian period to the present, focusing on "high" or epic fantasy and "low" fantasy or "sword & sorcery." Readings will include novels and short stories by William Morris, Lord Dunsany, Hope Mirrlees, J.J.R. Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, Robert E. Howard, C.L. Moore, Joanna Russ, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, China Mieville, and others. Grading will be based on two 5-7 page essays, a midterm exam, a final exam, and attendance/participation.
Fall 2020: Readings in the American Experience (DH) - Ryan Slesinger
This course will chart a path through the long twentieth century of American road narratives, addressing examples in fiction, poetry, song, and film to discover the importance of the road as a symbol to American imaginations. Representative of freedom and mobility, “the road is life,” as Kerouac writes, and the road trope becomes a compelling site for the study of American life and values. This class will pay special attention to the growing diversification of voices telling road stories throughout the twentieth century, and the challenges that these authors present to the generic constraints of the road text.
Spring 2021: Health, Care and Medicine in Middle English Literature - Chelsea Silva
This advanced seminar centers on experiences of illness and impairment in late medieval England. Studying practical texts such as remedybooks alongside literary accounts of ill health, students will explore medical care and literary production as entangled practices. Readings will likely include work by authors such as Thomas Hoccleve, Julian of Norwich, John Audelay, Robert Henryson, and Geoffrey Chaucer, as well as Middle English medical texts that record historical practices of bodily maintenance and repair. We will also read critical sources discussing topics such as archival methodology, disability studies, and authorship. Because many Middle English medical works remain unpublished, this class will also involve work with digitized manuscripts. Students will learn and practice archival skills including paleography (the study of historical handwriting) and codicology (the study of books as material objects) that will allow them to read, transcribe, and interpret original medieval sources. A final project asks students to synthesize this knowledge and take stewardship of an unpublished manuscript, producing a brief transcription and analysis of their object. No prior experience with Middle English is required.
Fall 2020: Literature and Social Change - Andrew Wadoski
The sixteenth century in England was a period of epochal social and cultural transformation. The era was marked by profound changes -- in religion, law, political organization, demographics, economic relations, and land ownership, among others – that defined, and continue to shape, the modern world. We will turn to the era’s imaginative writers both to understand these changes and to see how people grappled with them in real time. Our authors will include Thomas More, Isabella Whitney, Sir Thomas Smith, Edmund Spenser, Justus Lipsius, and William Shakespeare. We will also read secondary works by a range of literary and cultural historians. Assignments will include response papers, exams, and a lengthier project.
Spring 2020: Studies in 19th Century British Literature - Lindsay Wilhelm
In this course, we’ll read a selection of popular literature dating from the nineteenth century, focusing particularly on writing about murder, fraud, adultery, seduction, and other crimes and vices. While all our texts hail from Britain and share certain broad thematic concerns, they also represent different genres and authorial perspectives: we’ll read ballads, broadsides, conduct books, penny dreadfuls, newspaper articles, and novels by women and men writers from across the sociopolitical spectrum. Throughout, we’ll consider why advancements in literacy and developments in print technology gave rise to a body of literature so fixated on social degeneration. We’ll also look closely at how this body of writing both challenged and reinforced dominant ideologies concerning race, gender, nationality, and class. Lastly, several formal assignments will give you the opportunity to hone your close reading and critical writing skills while exploring these issues in texts beyond the syllabus.|||General trigger warning: Some of our readings will include descriptions of murder, torture, rape, sexual slavery, and other violent acts, not always in a fictional context. If you are sensitive to depictions of violence, consider taking a different course.
Spring 2022: Disease and Disability in British Modernism – Rafael Hernandez
The period associated with literary modernism brought with it new ways of understanding the body. Advents in medical pathology and psychiatry, crises of war and plague, ever-changing views on sexuality, and new biopolitics of control were all rendered in the literature of the era. To better understand this complex period, this course will survey modernist literature from Britain, focusing on the ways authors represented disability and disease in their work. We will read novels, poetry, and short stories from writers like Virginia Woolf, W. Somerset Maugham, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson, D. H. Lawrence, and Jean Rhys (among others). Additionally, we will study the visual culture of the moment to consider the role of the visual arts in the period's ideas of embodiment. Finally, beyond representations in modernism, we will address how even modernism itself was characterized -- by its devotees and critics alike -- as disabled, diseased, and pathological.
Spring 2021: Modernism and the Bloomsbury Group - Lindsay Wilhelm
In his 1914 manifesto, the writer Wyndham Lewis famously “BLAST[ed] years 1837 to 1900,” in essence telling the Victorian period to go to hell. While few of his contemporaries were as blunt as he was, Lewis’s determination to overturn the cultural, social, and political conventions of the previous century is emblematic of modernism: a literary and artistic movement that took root in the 1890s and thrived in Europe and the U.S. until WWII. In this class, we’ll conduct a survey of literary work from this highly varied movement, paying particular attention to the hotbed of activity centered around the London neighborhood of Bloomsbury. Authors of interest include canonical names such as Virginia Woolf (the most famous member of the so-called “Bloomsbury Group”) and T. S. Eliot as well as lesser-known figures such as Mulk Raj Anand and Nancy Cunard.
Spring 2022: Youth and Love in Early America – William Decker
In 1800, the median age in the United States was 16. Our young nation was a country of raging teenagers. What was it like to be a young person in that era? Here are some adjectives: unstructured, unchaperoned, dangerous, oppressive, chaotic, exciting, weird, and free. Addressing the question in detail will be a semester-long project, one engaging a wide range of texts, some quite short, others moderately long. Our reading will challenge many beliefs about what it meant to be alive in the mythic American past. Authors include James Fenimore Cooper, Charles Brockden Brown, Frederick Douglass, Hannah Webster Foster, Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Jacobs, and Susanna Rowson.
Fall 2020: Life Along the Color Line - William Decker
This class will explore a series of “classic” 19th-century American titles for what they have to say about the multiracial/multiethnic society the United States has always been. Authors: James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt. Note: this may be your last best chance to read and fall in love (guaranteed!) with Moby-Dick. Three 4-6 page papers and final exam via email.
Spring 2021: Modern American Poetry - Lisa Hollenbach
In this course on 20th-century modern American poetry, we will study the modernist “long poem,” examining poets’ ongoing interest in forms and genres beyond the short lyric. These include experiments in the epic, the life poem, the documentary poem, the narrative poem, and the poetic sequence. As we read, we’ll pursue challenging questions about genre and interpretation raised by these poems. But we will also develop an inquiry into a range of issues such as experimentation across the arts; history, tradition, and myth; war and violence; mass culture and new media technologies; psychology and philosophy; and politics of gender, sexuality, class, and race. Our primary readings will be long poems from writers such as Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Muriel Rukeyser, H.D., Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Bernadette Mayer, and others. Assignments will include frequent short writing assignments, a literary analysis essay, and a culminating research project.
Spring 2021: Disability Studies - Elizabeth Grubgeld
Neither depressing nor sentimental, literature by and about disabled persons can engage us in thinking about the body in new ways. With readings drawn primarily from 20th century American writers, the course will analyze representations of disability from a wide variety of sources, including performance art, film, and graphic (comic book) narrative, as well as traditional genres such as fiction and non-fiction, drama, and poetry. The goal is to develop a new comprehension about the social construction of disability as a category of identity within western culture through learning to read, discuss, and write about works of literature that express the diversity of this experience. Mid-term, mid-length paper, various short assignments. Attendance and reading absolutely essential.
Fall 2021: Studies in Romanticism: Romance, Romanticism, and Readers - Cailey Hall
This is a class for anyone who has ever wondered about the difference between Romanticism and romance. It is also a class for anyone who has ever felt like their preferred forms of cultural consumption might best be described as “guilty pleasures.” This course will explore the long history of the prose romance, and how it relates to the cultural movement often referred to as Romanticism. We will also analyze the rise of the Quixote, an archetypal bad reader whose mind has been seemingly deranged by reading too much romance. Finally, we will consider the afterlives of both romance and Romanticism by studying the late twentiethcentury phenomenon of the historical romance novel. Readings will include literature from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, “The Rivals” by Thomas Sheridan and poetry by Charlotte Smith, Lord Byron, John Keats, and L.E.L.) and more recent work, such as the Netflix series, “Bridgerton.”
Fall 2021: The 1920s in American Literature - Lisa Hollenbach
The 2020s will mark the centennial of a number of literary works long associated with the heights of American modernism, including T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans (1925), and Langston Hughes’s The Weary Blues (1926). But with these centennials comes the opportunity to reassess and rethink the hold that the 1920s still has on the cultural imagination of the United States. What will the 1920s mean for the 2020s, and how have the 1920s been variously (re)imagined over the past century? What new perspectives might we bring to this period of U.S. literature and history that began in the aftermath of a devastating global pandemic; that produced a flourishing of cultural production in new media; and that saw the rise of—and organized struggle against—white supremacist and anti-Black violence, restrictive immigration policies, economic inequality, and environmental devastation? Readings to include both literary works published during the 1920s and works published later by writers such as Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Mourning Dove, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Jean Toomer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Nella Larsen, Toni Morrison, and Amaud Jamaul Johnson. Frequent short writing assignments and a longer project.
Spring 2022: Listening to Contemporary Poetry – Lisa Hollenbach
A course on the sound and sounding of U.S. poetry from 1950 to the present with a focus on poetry in performance, audio recordings of poetry, multimedia poetics, poetry and music, poetry and sound culture, and methods of literary listening. Readings and listenings will draw from a diverse roster of poets and survey some of the major movements in U.S. poetry that have revitalized the spoken word: from the Beats to the Black Arts movement to the Nuyorican poets to slam poetry to digital and multimedia poetry. Assignments include a collaborative audio podcast project and more traditional short essay and writing assignments; no prior experience with podcasting or digital audio technologies is expected.
Spring 2021: The End of the World - Timothy Murphy
Intensive survey of 20th & 21st-century literary visions of the end of the world, involving plagues, genetic mutations, alien invasions, warfare, social collapse, climate change, and other catastrophes. The course's main goal will be to find adequate definitions of the two words in its title: what is a world, and how can it end? Readings include novels by M.P. Shiel, Olaf Stapledon, C. L. Moore, Arthur C. Clarke, Richard Matheson, Mordecai Roshwald, Kurt Vonnegut, J.G. Ballard, Ursula K. Le Guin, Doris Lessing, Octavia Butler, Cormac McCarthy, and Colson Whitehead. Grading will be based on class participation, two short preliminary essays and a longer final essay.
Spring 2020: Native American Literature and the Environment - Alyssa Hunziker
Indigenous territories are often at the forefront of extractive industries including drilling, mining, fracking, as well as recent pipeline projects. In light of these extractive histories, our course will ask: How do Native authors write about the environment, particularly in the face of climate change, resource extraction, and diminishing land and water use rights? This course will survey recent fiction by Native American and First Nations authors which focus on Indigenous relationships to land, territory, and non-human entities.
Spring 2022: Multi-Ethnic Westerns – Alyssa Hunziker
From HBO’s Westworld to Mitski’s Be the Cowboy to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” we’ve seen much contemporary engagement, revision, and critique of classic tropes of the west which move beyond representations of cowboys-and-Indians battling on the frontier. This course engages with such revisions and rewritings in contemporary literature by Black, Native, Chicanx, and Asian American authors. Reading works by Natalie Diaz, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Toni Morrison, Simon Ortiz, Julie Otsuka, Leslie Marmon Silko, and C. Pam Zhang, we will ask: how does twentieth and twenty-first century multi-ethnic U.S. literature respond to the western as a genre? How might our visions of the west expand to include overlooked histories, such as all-Black towns in Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Native and Chinese workers in the California Gold Rush, and Japanese American internees, among others?
Spring 2022: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – Cynthia Rogers
Like a medieval form of social media, the Canterbury Tales is filled with conversation and debate from different points of view. A sleepy-eyed lover, nuns, a con-man, a knight, craftsmen, would-be saints and sinners—a wide slice of humanity who temporarily travel together and play a tale-telling game to pass the time. Like these travelers inside the text, we will enjoy the humor and drama of the stories, while also listening for the conversational gambits embedded in them. For instance, which path leads to true love? What happens when we take revenge? How can we work for the “common good?” How does money affect a person? What are the positive and negative stereotypes about women and men?
Spring 2020: Spenser - Andrew Wadoski
This class will focus on the writings and life of Edmund Spenser, a poet, ethicist, and political theorist who, along with Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Milton, is one of the most significant and influential figures in the English literary canon. Spenser is often read as being willfully arrière-garde or nostalgic in his poetry, and certainly he writes in a seemingly outmoded form (allegorical epic), about evidently passe topics (knights in shining armor), and in an archaic, pseudo-Chaucerian style. However, this class will consider the ways Spenser is, in fact, one of the late 16th century’s most acute observers of the political and cultural sea changes of early modernity. Among the topics we will explore are empire, nation, and colonialism; globalism and cosmopolitanism; race, ethnicity, and national identity; capitalism, financialization, and slavery; political action and agency in an information age; poetics, ethics, and metaphysics; and gender, the body, and sexuality. We will sample from The Faerie Queene, A View of the Present State of Ireland, The Shepheardes Calender, and his minor works, and our primary readings will be buttressed by readings from a range of sources, contemporary analogues, and modern scholarship.
Spring 2022: Studies in Shakespeare – Richard Sears
We will be investigating “Shakespeare’s Imagination,” reading plays that especially reflect on the imagination, fantasy, dramatic art, and the construction of reality for Shakespeare’s characters and audience—all those ghosts and green worlds, moveable forests and statues come to life. We will investigate through the plays both early modern and contemporary (to us) theories of imagination and world building. The class will also help you get a taste of current scholarship, with a more intensive critical reading of Hamlet. Assignments include class participation, weekly discussion posts, short response essays, and a short research project. No exams, no prerequisit
Variable Topics Literature Courses
Spring 2022: Wonder and Identity in Premodern England – Chelsea Silva
Premodern British literature is full of merveilles, from mechanical automata to werewolves, saints, and shooting stars. Travel narratives recount strange creatures abroad and household manuscripts direct their readers in the production of grand illusions within their own kitchens. In this graduate seminar, we will explore the role of wonder in the construction of personal, communal, and national identity through a variety of works produced between 700 and 1600, as well as more modern objects that engage with our subject. As Caroline Walker Bynum has observed, premodern wonder-reactions are most often catalyzed by situations in which “ontological and moral boundaries are crossed, confused, or erased.” The marvelous encounter was, in other words, both a personal affective experience and one that situated its participants within wider cultural and political relationships. Readings will be provided in modern English and may include works by Augustine, Marie de France, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Mandeville, Robert Greene, and Thomas Browne, as well as recent critical and theoretical work
Fall 2021: The Literature of Indigestion - Cailey Hall
The eighteenth century is often framed as the century of taste, a time fascinated with the development of aesthetic principles that informed cultural production and structured polite society. But, as Simon Gikandi argues in Slavery and the Culture of Taste, the economic growth that enabled this tasteful culture was fueled in large part by wealth derived from chattel slavery in the Americas and the Caribbean. This course will explore long eighteenth-century British cultural production that cannot easily be digested into discourses of taste. In the texts we encounter – covering topics including cannibalism, vegetarianism, agricultural “improvement,” Britain’s expanding consumer culture, and the medical fascination with the digestive process – we will be thinking about (in)digestion both literally and metaphorically. Readings may include Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, James Grainger’s “The Sugar Cane,” The Woman of Colour, The History of Mary Prince, and Domestic Medicine by William Buchan. We will also engage with more recent texts – both primary and secondary – that are in conversation with our eighteenth-century reading.
Fall 2020: Seminar in British Literature of the 19th Century—Literature and the Darwinian Revolution– Lindsay Wilhelm
In his retrospective on Charles Darwin, the popular science writer and erstwhile novelist Grant Allen called the theory of evolution a cultural “bomb-shell”; “subsequent generations,” Allen writes, “will remember [1859, the publication date of Origin of Species] as a crisis and turning point in the history of mankind.” This class will examine the aftershocks of this crisis as it reverberated in both scientific and literary writing leading up to and succeeding Darwin’s “bomb-shell” work. Keeping in mind that the Victorian period predated modern-day notions of disciplinarity, we will look at how literary works intervened in scientific debates about the shifting place of humankind in the cosmos; conversely, we’ll also consider how scientific writers relied on literary rhetoric to substantiate their claims and guide the reception of their theories. Primary materials include selections from the major evolutionary theorists of the period—Darwin, his grandfather the Romantic naturalist Erasmus Darwin, T. H. Huxley, the philosopher Herbert Spencer, and others—paired with work from literary interlocutors such as George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, and H. G. Wells. We will read these materials alongside the theoretical and critical work of Thomas Kuhn, Bruno Latour, Gillian Beer, and others.
Fall 2020: Sounding American Poetry - Lisa Hollenbach
This graduate seminar will investigate the electronic sound and sounding of American poetry in the 20th and 21st centuries. How did the advent of sound recording and broadcasting technologies shape modernist poetics, and how did literary modernisms, in turn, shape the cultural forms of phonography and radio? How have writers used and experimented with new media for the production and dissemination of poetry and poetry performance? What new literary modes and genres, and notions of voice and audience, have emerged in relation to audio media? How does sound culture, including literary sound culture, construct national imaginaries? How are digital audio archives of poetry recordings changing the ways readers engage with poetry and scholars construct literary histories? How have American audiences listened to poetry, and what critical methods can we use to analyze the ways that listening is socially and discursively as well as technologically mediated? Primary texts may include poetry, essays, radio plays, and recordings by writers such as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, Sterling A. Brown, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Charles Olson, Sylvia Plath, Jack Spicer, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, John Giorno, Susan Howe, Joy Harjo, Nathaniel Mackey, Fred Moten, and Harmony Holiday. Secondary critical and theoretical readings will draw on approaches from a range of interdisciplinary fields, including modernist studies, media and radio studies, sound studies, performance studies, cultural studies, and digital humanities. Assignments may include audio projects alongside more traditional research-based writing.
Spring 2021: Whitman and Dickinson - William Decker
We will undertake a comprehensive reading of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson with due attention to their poetry’s formal and thematic features. As well, we will examine this poetry as writing that emerges from technical experimentation and explore individual poems as units in larger compilations (with Whitman, the many “books” comprised by successive editions of Leaves of Grass; with Dickinson, the manuscript fascicles). Throughout, we will engage in historically contextualized and theoretically informed reading and discussion and consider the relevance of these 19th-century practitioners to contemporary poetry and experimental poetics.
Spring 2022: Fantastic Epics Since 1968 – Timothy Murphy
This seminar will examine the global shift in ambitious literary fiction from modes of mimetic realism to non-mimetic modes of narration that can broadly be described as fantastic. These nonmimetic or fantastic modes include absurdism, historiographic metafiction, magic realism, science fiction, weird fiction, mythopoesis, Afrofuturism, and Indigenous Futurism, several of which can operate simultaneously within a single work. The course will begin with readings of important critical and theoretical definitions of the relationship between novel and epic (by Lukács, Bakhtin, and Mendelson) and the logic of fantastic narration (by Todorov, Hume, Attebery, and Clute). We will then proceed to examine eight major novels that will serve as exemplary cases of new epic narrative since 1968: Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (US, 1973), Robert Coover’s The Public Burning (US, 1977), Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (India/UK, 1981), Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home (US, 1985), Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead (Laguna Pueblo/US, 1991), Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Wizard of the Crow (Kenya, 2006), Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X: The Southern Reach trilogy (US, 2014), and N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season (US, 2015). Each student will lead class discussion on at least one fictional work and write up the results of that discussion for grading by the instructor, and each student will formulate a final research project resulting in a critical essay of 20-25 pages (or a comparable alternative project formally proposed to and approved by the instructor). Discussion leading/write-up, final project, and regular attendance/participation will constitute the components assessed to determine the final course grade.
Spring 2020: Styles of the Global Fantastic - Timothy Murphy
This course surveys the major varieties of fantastic fiction that have developed around the world since World War II, including science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, surrealism, and weird fiction. Although such fiction was once considered sub-literary in comparison with realism by most scholars and critics, its increasing stylistic sophistication, its growing relevance and popularity in a high-tech world, and the scope it allows to ambitious writers have recently compelled scholars to reassess its possibilities. Among the major authors studied will be Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina), Mervyn Peake (UK), Stanislaw Lem (Poland), Italo Calvino (Italy), Philip K. Dick (US), Ursula K. Le Guin (US), Doris Lessing (South Africa/UK), the Strugatsky brothers (Russia), Angela Carter (UK), Samuel R. Delany (US), M. John Harrison (UK), Haruki Murakami (Japan), Nalo Hopkinson (Jamaica/Canada), and Ted Chiang (US). Students will be evaluated based on their performance in leading one session of class discussion and then writing up an assessment of the experience; regular participation in other class discussions; and a final research essay of 20-25 pages.
Fall 2021: Slave Narrative Tradition: Frederick Douglass to Colson Whitehead - William Decker
Beginning with three classic nineteenth-century texts, this seminar will explore the tradition in its post-slave and neo-slave narrative phases. Featured authors include Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Martin Delany, Charles Chesnutt, Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, and Colson Whitehead. We’ll also look at short selections by Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Richard Wright. Since the course bridges distinct eras, students will be encouraged to pursue semester projects that reflect individual period and author interests.
Fall 2021: The New Native Literary Renaissance - Lindsey Smith
This course is a study of tremendous new talent in Native American literature of the past few years. We will read recent poetry, fiction, and memoir by writers including Tommy Orange, Terese Marie Mailhot, Kelli Jo Ford, Toni Jensen Erica Wurth, Stephen Graham Jones, Brandon Hobson, and others. Course requirements include research essays, presentations, and discussion leading.
Spring 2021: Transnational Studies in Native American Literatures - Alyssa Hunziker
In the 1831 Supreme Court case Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, Justice John Marshall shifted the United States’ relationship towards tribal nations by arguing that they should no longer be classified as “foreign nations” but instead as “domestic dependent nations.” Since then, Native peoples have often been positioned as perpetual domestic subjects. However, Native Americans have always built international relationships as global figures, diplomats, and travelers. From 2007’s United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to 2016’s transnational solidarity movements in support of the Standing Rock Sioux and NoDAPL, Native peoples have continued to organize across the boundaries of the nation, engaging in foreign diplomacy and building relationships with other colonized nations abroad.
This course explores a wealth of contemporary literary and critical writing on transnational Indigenous studies and Native American literature by authors like Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo), Linda Hogan (Chickasaw), LeAnne Howe (Choctaw), Gerald Vizenor (White Earth Band of Ojibwe), James Welch (Blackfeet), and Arigon Starr (Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma). Our literary and critical readings will explore both historical and imagined relationships between Native North America and countries like the Philippines, Viet Nam, Japan, Ireland, France, Italy, Brazil, Guatemala, and Iraq, among others. While we will primarily explore overseas connections, we will also ask: How might we begin to think of Oklahoma as a transnational space?
This course should be of particular interest to graduate students working in American literature, transnational American studies, postcolonial and settler colonial studies, and Native American and Ethnic American literatures. Assignments will include a short essay (~8 pages), a seminar paper and presentation (~15-20 pages), and experience as a discussion lead. We will also engage in brief archival research assignments together to see where transnational relationships can be found in historical documents.
Spring 2020: Forms of Postcolonial Optimism - Katherine Hallemeier
Following formal political decolonization, postcolonial literature has been described as post-optimistic literature. Almost by definition, the postcolonial novel expresses disillusionment with nationhood and the developmentalist logics that frame it. And yet, in twenty-first century Anglophone fiction of Africa and South Asia, imagined nations proliferate hopeful attachments. This seminar will take up novels in which optimism persists through disappointment and euphoria wards off despair. Paying attention to how formal strategies correspond with affective states, we will consider whether U.S. imperialism produces an empire of happiness and how globalized discourses of enchantment compound alienation. We will read classic theories of the postcolonial nation (e.g. Brennan, Cheah, Andrade, Adéèkó) and recent scholarship on postcolonial affect (e.g. Quayson, Van der Vlies), as well as fiction by writers such as NoViolet Bulawayo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Arundhati Roy.
Spring 2022: Irish Modernism – Elizabeth Grubgeld
Ireland presents a perfect case study for thinking about modernism more broadly: a
radical embrace of new forms, a desire to create new orders of meaning, and an effort
to accomplish this by bringing the urban cosmopolitan in contact with the local in
the creation of a new cultural expression that would draw upon both the international
avant-garde and the folklife of the rural and urban poor. Grounding ourselves in three
superb studies of the movement (Castle’s Modernism and the Celtic Revival), Garrigan-Mattar’s
Primitivism and the Irish Revival, and Gibbons’ Joyce’s Voices), we’ll study the
poetry, stories, essays, and plays of W.B. Yeats in his early and middle periods; the plays and travel writings of J.M. Synge; some examples of folk and fairy tales; plays by Augusta Gregory and Sean O’Casey; stories and memoir by George Moore; short fiction by James Joyce and Seamus O’Kelly; and the artwork of Sarah Purser and Jack B. Yeats. We will also explore the philosophical and historical relationship between Irish Revivalists and the writers of the Harlem Renaissance.