Graduate Seminar Descriptions: Fall 2015
ENG 510 Shakespeare
Instructor: K. Gross
One aim of this seminar will be to take up some of the most basic, and inexhaustible, questions about Shakespeare’s plays, about the force of their words and their work as dramatic fictions. We’ll consider, for example, the plays’ joining of radically different fictional worlds (low and high, concrete and fantastic), the dense resonance and relentless ambiguity of their language, the emergence in them of characters whose thoughts and gestures seem to have a life of their own, and the sense the plays offer of a private and public reality constantly improvised and constantly at risk. Shakespeare’s intense sense of play, as well as his skepticism, are part of this. These things are further related to Shakespeare’s business as a maker of artifacts for the stage, texts that turn relentlessly on the contingencies of performance, the actor’s freedom and exposure, playing as well on the conflicted appetites of their audiences. Such issues relate to more broadly philosophical concerns in the plays about the nature of our life in time and the powers of human thinking. We’ll be looking a small handful of plays in a number of different genres, comedy, tragedy, romance, including Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, King Lear, Anthony and Cleopatra, and The Tempest.
We’ll be using either the New Pelican Shakespeare or Arden Shakespeare texts of the plays—starting with the Pelican Twelfth Night. These have been ordered from the bookstore. Students should also purchase and read during the first week or two of the semester Simon Palfrey’s Doing Shakespeare, published by Methuen in 2011 (also available as an electronic edition through the UR library).
ENG 550 Yeats and Poetic Form
Instructor: J. Longenbach
An intensive study of the greatest English-language poet of the 20th-century, with special attention to the variety of formal and structural procedures that make the poems so thrilling (line, stanza, syntax, meter, rhyme, diction, figure, etc.). Some attention will also be paid to Yeats’s plays and prose (autobiographical, critical, fictional) and to the various contexts (literary modernism, Anglo-Irish history) that Yeats’s work engaged, but in any case the focus of the seminar will be on how poems--qua poems, rather than vessels for extractable information--work.
ENG 551 The Sacralization and Desacralization of Texts
Instructor: D. Bleich
Criticism and theory (of language and literature) over the last century has been an exploration of how to think about literary texts and a wide variety of other texts. Sacralized texts are considered to be the most important ones, on the model of the bible. This course considers how texts have come to be sacralized to begin with, how sacralization assumed a secular form in the literary “canon,” how sacralization is itself a male-coded practice, and how many thinkers, critics, authors over the last century have struggled to say how texts and language are no longer eligible for sacralization.
Topics treated are German and Russian Formalism, New Criticism, Deconstruction and ordinary-language philosophy, and contemporary consideration on the dissolving boundaries between literary and nonliterary genres. The path of attention is to how all texts have been increasingly available to all people, how the ranking of texts according to value or “greatness” no longer speaks to how we read, write, and speak.
ENG 557 The Construction of Authorship
Instructor: B. London
Since Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault proclaimed "the death of the author" in the late 1960s, the subject of authorship has been hotly debated in literary and cultural studies. Rather than being quietly buried, however, "the author" has been given new life and a precise historical dimension in a range of scholarly work in both literature and other disciplines. Looking at such issues as the gendering of authorship, the history of publishing and the literary marketplace, readership and reception history, the institutionalization of authorship in author societies and university curricula, and the effects of the new electronic technologies on the way we think about the processes of artistic creation, this course will explore the rich body of critical work that has recently emerged on the subject of authorship. We will consider both the impact of this work on the reinterpretation of canonical writers and the tools it provides for reading and revaluing forms of authorship that have not readily fit traditionally accepted categories. Course readings will combine critical and theoretical discussions of authorship with attention to particular literary texts (from a wide range of historical periods) that highlight and focus particular issues and problems in conceiving and reconceiving what we once called "the author." Students will be encouraged to design research projects around authors and works of their own choosing.