Spring 2018 Course Descriptions
Undergraduate and Graduate Courses
ENGL 2123.001 Creative Writing
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
This course focuses on sparking the imaginative process and practicing the unique style of writing called “creative writing.” In this class, students will read published authors who write poetry and fiction, they will learn the building blocks of fiction and poetry, and they will learn how to write successful poems and short stories. ENGL 2123 is a prerequisite to ENGL 3133.
ENGL 2273: Literary and Cultural Analysis: Reality and Perception
English 2273, Literary and Cultural Analysis, offers an introduction to literary and cultural analysis focusing on textual explication, interpretation, and critique. In literature, as in life, things are not always as they appear. More information may help us easily solve a problem that previously seemed insurmountable. Experience may afford us new access and tools that enable us to approach the world in new ways, and different experiences may reveal different truths. Literary study allows us to utilize different strategies and perspectives in understanding the art of literature which gives substance to our own thoughts, opinions, and experience and helps us understand language, thus enabling our own self-expression. Many, if not all, of the literary selections in this course may take on surprising interpretations depending upon one’s critical approach. Through literary analysis, our goal is to cultivate critical thinking and analytical skills and to strengthen writing strategies in such a way as to both increase our understanding and facilitate our communication of that understanding to others.
ENGL 2443:001: World Literature 1700 to Present.
Amit R. Baishya
This course is designed to explore the idea of “rewriting” or “writing back” focusing especially on texts from the colonial and post-colonial world. Some of the key questions that will guide us during the semester include: How does “rewriting” or “writing back” give voice to figures that are under-represented or occluded in well-known cultural texts? What are the political and ethical stakes of such forms of rewriting? If certain literary texts emerge from particular historical contexts that shape the ways in which they view the “world,” how do forms of rewriting re-imagine multiple ways of existing in such “worlds”? We will explore these questions by putting texts in dialogue with each other. Jean Rhys’s (Wide Sargasso Sea) rewriting of the history of the “madwoman in the attic” from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre will enable us to explore the intersections between colonial, racial and gendered forms of oppression. We will also see how figures that are viewed as “monsters” or “others” in particular texts (Caliban in Shakespeare’s Tempest, Hurree Babu in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim) become primary figures in rewritings set in different cultural locations [Aime Cesaire’s A Tempest (set in the Caribbean), Jamyang Norbu’s The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes (the China-Tibet issue is its background)]. Finally, we will consider how Alfred Jarry’s absurdist take on sovereign excess in the French play Ubu Roi is reworked into a searing satire of dictatorship in post-colonial Nigeria in Wole Soyinka’s King Baabu.
ENGL 2883.002: American Literature from the Civil War to the Present
This course will survey late 19th and 20th century American literature, including the works of African-American, Jewish-American, Southern, and Women writers, with a view to what it means to be “other” in America, drawing not just on WEB Dubois’s notion of double-consciousness, but on the thought of recent French philosophers Michel Foucault and Emmanuel Levinas, all of whom made resistance to the normalizing forces of modern social and political life a central focus of their work. Among the authors whose work we will read are Mark Twain, Sarah Orne Jewett, Susan Glaspell, Henry James, Ambrose Bierce, Kate Chopin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, WEB Dubois, Charles Chesnutt, Ralph Ellison, Jack London, Stephen Crane, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Willa Cather, Bernard Malamud, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Philip Roth, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Maxine Hong Kingston.
ENGL 2883.001 American Literature – 1865 to the Present
This survey explores the manner in which the legacy of manifest destiny and the Era of Reconstruction have shaped – and continue to shape – American culture and thought.More specifically, this course is interested in how American peoples create meaning in a country where sacred values coexist, clash, and even complement systemic violence and discrimination. As we make our way through a diverse range of short stories, poetry,novels, essays, and films, some of the questions we will ask include what constitutes success? What is the source of happiness and peace? What spiritual or philosophical worldview shapes how American society views itself? What do values like “freedom” meanin an unequal and/or discriminatory society? What is it, exactly, that makes America “great”? Asking and answering these questions requires that we scrutinize several important historical moments, but the majority of coursework will ask students to maintaina focused curiosity about how texts shape our individual and collective historical understanding. Authors we will read include Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, W.E.B. Dubois, Booker T. Washington, Mark Twain, Henry James, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, SherwoodAnderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flannery O'Connor, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and George Saunders.
ENGL 2970.001 Special Topics: Style for Writers
As writers, we make stylistic choices when we shape language for our readers. But how often do we reflect on the implications of those choices? How does style affect the way others perceive us? How can style determine the work our writing does (or does not do) in the world? In this course, we will study and produce language as “a living force” (Performing Prose). We will examine the relationship between sentence level features and the larger rhetorical situations in which writing functions. We will analyze style in others’ work and apply dynamic stylistic concepts as we draft and revise our own writing. We will stretch ourselves as writers by playing with language, experimenting with new rhetorical techniques and adding sophisticated stylistic strategies to our repertoires. This course is ideal for students in any discipline looking for dedicated time to study and improve their writing in an energetic and supportive workshop setting. Students will be invited to design the major course project to fit individual interests and writing goals.
ENGL 3103 Creative Non Fiction Writing
Creative nonfiction is factually accurate narrative that employs literary techniques more commonly associated with fiction and prose poetry. This course introduces writers to the skills needed to write effective creative nonfiction, including memoir, lyric essay, historical essay, and personal reportage, through intensive reading, writing, peer criticism, and revision. Coursework includes responses to assigned readings as well as written and oral analysis of fellow writers’ work. Prerequisite: ENGL 2123
English 3103 Advanced Composition: Writing, Rhetoric, and Society
Now more than ever we have a responsibility to engage actively and ethically with writing and rhetoric in our daily lives. In this course, we will use rhetorical theory as a lens for examining argument in the world around us and as a tool for communicating across difference. We will develop an understanding of rhetoric as more than an obscure academic topic, exercise or skill, approaching it instead as a means of perceiving, responding to, and shaping the realities of the world. Toward that end, we will study rhetoric as persuasion, rhetoric as inquiry, and rhetoric as intercultural communication—investigating how each paradigm defines the purposes/ends of communication and positions rhetoric in relation to reality, truth, and ethical action.
ENGL 3213.001 Special Topics in Fiction
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
In Spring 2018, this course will be a hybrid class, combining the study of Magical Realism and Dystopian Literature with creative writing, specifically the writing of short stories in these twogenres.The genre of Magical Realism describes a realistic world view while incorporating magical or mythic elements. Dystopian Literature also depicts realistic world aspects but veers into a frighteningreconstruction of that “real” world. Both genres use artistic strategies that intersect with historical and contemporary politics. Readings for this class include scholarly treatments of the two genres,traditional folktales, and full-length novels. Authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Victor LaValle, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Phillip Roth and others will be included in this course.
ENGL 3253.001 Special Topics in American Indian Literature: Indians, Oil, and Water
Indians, Oil, and Water traces the complex relationship between tribal nations and people and non-Indians involving natural resources, in particular,oil and water, and how that relationship has been depicted in American Indian and Indigenous oral traditions, fiction, and film and Alaskan Native poetry. Some attention will also be paid to the legal structures that guide natural resource extraction on Indianland and to activism regarding natural resource extraction, particularly in regard to the recent intertribal, international movement Idle No More, along with site-specific activism in the past two decades including the 2016-17 occupation at Standing Rock. Thegoal of this course is to gain exposure to various American Indian ethics and beliefs about natural resources and natural resource development as expressed in literature, film, and other media and be able to discuss and write about these in an informed, intelligent,and cordial manner. Some of the books and films we will study in class include Linda Hogan’s SolarStorms and Mean Spirit, JosephErb’s The Beginning They Told and We Prayed in Water, and SacredWater: Standing Rock Part I—RISE. We will do both in class and out of class short, informal writing assignments in multiple genres, create a multigenre research paper, and takea final exam.
ENGL 3423: Film and Other Media
Joshua B. Nelson
TR 3:00-4:15, Screenings T 6:30-8:30
Examines the relationship between film and other areas of creative expression such as literature, music, art, video games, or online media. This course will examine several influential linked works that have inspired artists in a variety of genres in the humanities. We’ll investigate how they change across the mediums of music, film, and literature, how different historical contexts change the works’ reception, and why their themes have found such staying power across these dynamic times and artistic modes. Examples of texts might include George Orwell’s 1945 novella Animal Farm and Pink Floyd’s 1974 album Animals; Neutral Milk Hotel’s classic 1998 indie album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea combined with the The Diary of Anne Frank; heavy metal reworkings of Romantic poetry; or Greek tragedy remade in novel and album. These eclectic and, at times, even bizarre combinations will require some flexibility from us as we think through how to use what we know to make sense of the works, and how to found out what we don’t, as we explore how new voices emerge from older ones.
ENGL 3573.001 Arthurian Legend and Literature (crosslisted with MLL 3573)
Sixteen hundred years old and still going strong, the legends of Britain's King Arthur have proved an inexhaustible source of entertainment, inspiration, and meaning.This course traces the medieval origins and the development of this once and future fascination, from the fifth to the twenty-first century. All readings will be in modern English.
English 4133.001 History of the English Language
This course traces the development of the English language, from its Indo-European roots to its Germanic ancestry, and then through the major phases of its transformations: Old English (Anglo-Saxon), Middle English (the language of Chaucer), Early Modern English (the language of Shakespeare), and contemporary English, in some of its various forms. We will track changes in pronunciation and spelling, changes in vocabulary, and shifts of meaning for certain words. We will also follow the adjustments in the habits of sentence formation. Along the way we will see how various idiosyncrasies of modern English came to exist. Why do we say life with an [f] but alive with a [v]? Why the different pronunciations of l-i-v-e in “I live for live music”? Why don’t we say thou anymore? And what is ye in “Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe”? Why is there a b in debt and a gh in night? (Not the same reason in each case.) Many such questions will be addressed in this class.
1) workbook assignments; workbooks to be turned in at each exam
2) 3 in-class exams
3) comprehensive final exam
4) one 10-page paper
5) one reading aloud of a passage of Old, Middle, or Early Modern English
Requirements are weighted with respect to the final grade as follows:
1) 10% 2) 15% each 3) 20% 4) 20% 5) 5%
ENGL 4233 Major Figures in Theory: Jacques Lacan
Ever wondered about the causes of hate and aggression? The nature of love? You know that you do things with language, but have you considered what language does to you? Have you wondered about our strange relation to our bodies? Surely, you have thought about human happiness and why we never seem to find it?
Jacques Lacan, twentieth-century psychoanalytic thinker, philosopher, sometime literary critic and very occasional film theorist, wrote about these things and more. This course will study the work and trace the influence of Jacques Lacan on literature, culture, and film. Lacan is considered the most important psychoanalytic thinker since Freud and we will examine how his theories can help us understand phenomena such as misogyny, racism, and capitalism.
Some of the texts we will study together with Lacanian theory will be the films of David Lynch; Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady; horror films such as the recent Get Out (Jordan Peele); Nella Larsen’s Passing; and psychoanalytic writing about the Trump presidency.
ENGL 4333.001 Black Arts/Black Power
This course examines the key texts, ideas, events, and debates of the Black Power era and its aftermath. Emerging from a matrix of Marxist and Black Nationalist thought and movements, artists, activists and other intellectuals coalesced to form new cultural and social movements in the 1960s and 1970s in North America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Besides reading historical, personal and literary accounts of the events and debates, we will watch films and listen to music from and about the era. Some of the texts we will study: Lorraine Hansberry, Raisin in the Sun; Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice; Larry Neal and Amiri Baraka, eds. Black Fire; Toni Cade Bambara, ed., The Black Woman; and films such as A Huey P. Newton Story, dir. Spike Lee, 2001; or music by Nina Simone.
ENGL 4733.001: American Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism
This course will survey works in 19th and 20th century American Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism, with attention to the relations between modern subjectivity and state power – to the ways in which gender, class, and race have been influenced by the normalizing processes of society and government. Among the authors we will read are Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Henry James, Kate Chopin, Booker T. Washington, Charles Chestnutt, Pauline Hopkins, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Katherine Anne Porter, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jack London, James Weldon Johnson, Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitgerald, William Faulkner, and Abraham Cahan.
ENGL 4853.001 Capstone: Eating Local in Indian Country/Indigenous Food Studies
Food studies is an emerging field that engages critically the social, cultural, scientific, historical, and even literary and filmic contexts of food.In Eating Local in Indian Country, we will study and discuss in particular “decolonial” and traditional Indigenous food ways as depicted in a number of new nonfiction texts and cookbooks as well as in more literary texts. We will also do some cooking, enjoyeating some food, spend time with Indigenous expert guests who will visit our class, and go urban foraging as time permits. Some of the books we will read include Roberto Cintli Rodriguez’s Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother: Indigeneityand Belonging in the Americas, Heid Erdrich’s Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes,editors Hannah Kay Wittman, Annette Aurelie Desmarais , and Nettie Wiebe’s Food Sovereignty:Reconnecting Food, Nature and Community, and poet Rain Cranford Gomez’ s Smoked Mullet CornbreadCrawdad Memory. The goal of the English Capstone is to demonstrate mastery of the competencies you have developed during your undergraduate experience as an English major in asignificant amount of writing. In light of this, we will write a research paper in our topic area as the major project.
ENGL 4923/5923 Advanced Fiction Writing
Intensive writing workshop designed to increase developing writers’ skills in the craft of fiction. Our focus will be on creating short stories in the contemporary literary vein. Students will submit new works of fiction, offer constructive detailed critique of fellow students’ work, and hone the craft of revision. Coursework includes detailed written responses to fellow writers’ work as well as verbal analysis and feedback in workshop. Prerequisites for 4923: ENGL 2123 and ENGL 3123.
ENGL 5543: Shakespeare and The Idea of the Person
W 3:00 – 6:00
Certain things seem to go without saying and one of them is the person. Most of us take for granted the meaning of the word and the values which underpin it; we assume its stable, trans-historical significance. The modern liberal subject is at the centre of the contemporary West’s self-conception: the rights-bearing individual, whose dignity is a measure of his or her autonomy and whose interests are prior those of the group or of traditions, dogmas and hierarchies. We are persons insofar as we can exercise our wills; outside forces have a duty to allow or even empower us to achieve our inwardly-nurtured desires. Some may take issue with all or part of the construction, some may prefer to filter it primarily through politics, speech, the body or the marketplace. It is, however, close to our culture’s conceptual bedrock.
It didn’t come out of nowhere. In this class we will consider the development of modern personhood in the fractious, uncertain and intensely creative world of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Early moderns inherited a medieval ontology that located persons within a network of natural and supernatural relationships. However, the intellectual revolutions which made up the Renaissance and Reformation era subjected that ontology to intense pressure. For Pico, writing in the high summer of Italian humanism, man was a demigod of transcendent beauty and potential. For the Reformers, on the other hand, he was a broken thing that, apart from God, had power only to make himself more miserable. For proto-naturalist Francis Bacon, at the dawn of the scientific revolution, he was merely one object among others in a demystified cosmos, but one that could use his intelligence to become the master of all. Amid it all was William Shakespeare, who plumbed questions of human nature and human value as deeply as anyone in the period. It is not just that over the course of almost forty comedies, tragedies and histories Shakespeare stages a gloriously chaotic and diverse selection of characters, but that he uses these characters to meditate on what it means to be a human being. Shakespeare recognizes that the person is the point at which politics and metaphysics, religion and theology, science and aesthetics converge. He is acutely aware of how culturally contingent our understanding of the human is, and how it can be complicated by both our high ideals and our base desires for power.
Over the course of the semester we will read selected plays of Shakespeare’s alongside intellectual milestones such as More’s Utopia and Descartes’ Meditations, as well as contemporary critical and historical scholarship.
Pico: Oration on the Dignity of Man
Luther and Erasmus: Discourse on Free Will
Bacon: The New Atlantis and The Great Instauration
Las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indes
John Foxe: excerpts from The Book of Martyrs
Montaigne: The Essays
Shakespeare: King Lear; The Merchant of Venice; I Henry IV; Twelfth Night; The Tempest; Troilus; Coriolanus
ENGL 5553:001: Postcolonial Theory and Writing—Humans and Animals in a Postcolonial Frame
Amit R. Baishya
Postcolonial literature and theory traditionally privileges questions of “human suffering” (Kwame Anthony Appiah). If animals are in the horizon at all, they usually appear as specters that haunt constructions of the human. While we will acknowledge the genealogy of “human skins, animal masks” (Neel Ahuja) in postcolonial literature and theory over the longue durée, our joint explorations will also orient us in different directions. Some of the fundamental questions driving this class include:
- Whether actual animals that appear in postcolonial literature/theory can be read and encountered as material and tangible presences instead of being reduced to metaphorical substitutes for divergent states of de/humanization?
- If we encounter animals as material presences in such imaginative works, do they provide alternative ways of envisaging located inter/trans/multispecies relationships?
- What are the differences between anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism and zoomorphism? While we will critique anthropocentrism relentlessly, we will consider whether there more affirmative ways of rereading forms of anthropomorphism and zoomorphism?
- What are the ethical and political stakes of considerations of postcolonial bio/zoopolitics?
- How are such critical interrogations of postcolonial animality related to the construction of that slippery and elusive term: the “human”?
To explore these questions, this class will be divided into four units: “The Human Animal,” “The Humanized Animal?: Dogs,” “Megafauna” and “Small and Mythical Animals.” We will read some fairly well-known Europhone literary and cinematic texts along with texts in English translation. Some of the Europhone texts we may cover include: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant,” Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide, Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People, JM Coetzee’s Disgrace, Zakes M’da’s The Whale Caller and Tania James’s The Tusk That Did the Damage. We will also read quite a few texts in English translation: possible texts include Ibrahim Al-Koni’s Gold Dust (Original: Arabic), Dany Laferrière’s Dining with the Dictator (original: French/Creole), Eka Kurniawan’s Man Tiger (original: Bahasa Indonesia), Mahasweta Devi’s “Pterodactyl, Purna Sahay and Pirtha” (original: Bengali), Saadat Hasan Manto’s “The Dog of Tetwal” (original: Urdu) and Jehirul Hussain’s “Minor Preludes, Major Preludes” (original: Assamese). We may occasionally watch and discuss film texts like Serge Avedikian’s Barking Island and Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s Taskafa. The aim of combining such a diverse range of texts is to build a transnational and cross-continental comparative frame, which I firmly believe is one of the unique strengths of the best versions of postcolonial studies.
Primary texts will be supplemented by relevant theoretical texts. While we will occasionally discuss works by Europhone and North American animal theorists (Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Donna Haraway, Cary Wolfe, Joan Colin Dayan, Akira Mizuta Lippit, Susan McHugh), we will prioritize critical productions by postcolonial (Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Gayatri Spivak, Neel Ahuja, Rob Nixon, Phillip Armstrong, Mel Chen, Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin) and critical race theorists (Achille Mbembe, Alexander Weheliye, Che Gossett) who powerfully reconsider the question of animality through a provincialization of Eurocentric frameworks. Our focus on such theorists will hopefully demonstrate how considerations of animals in postcolonial studies engage in dialogue with and sharply diverge from articulations within the oeuvre of the much-vaunted “animal” and “nonhuman turn” in contemporary critical theory.
ENGL 5803.001 20th C. American Literature: From the New Negro to the Black Panthers
This course surveys and evaluates the cultural and political agendas of the “New Negro” through the Black Arts/Black Power movements in the Twentieth Century and beyond. We examine the formation and expressions of Black Power from its Caribbean origins in the early 20th Century to its impact on the larger African Diaspora through the present. In our discussions, we focus on the cultural exchanges and intellectual engagements between the local struggles for civil rights and the larger global movements for decolonization in Africa and the Caribbean. We will read and critically engage with a variety of literary, historical, and other cultural texts, including film and music.