Graduate Seminar Descriptions: Fall 2016
ENG 504 Chaucer: Major Works
Instructor: S. Rozenski
This seminar will offer us the opportunity to study most of Chaucer's stunning range of prose and poetry: a diverse corpus that incorporates elite and popular discourse, native and foreign literary traditions, and perennial ethical concerns and contemporary scientific developments. Chaucer's work encourages us to think about his use of rhetoric and translation, the moral ambiguities of fiction and romance, the role of classical literature in a post-classical society. We will also look at the material history of his work in order to understand how a medieval audience would have encountered his poetry (and see what is at stake in editing medieval texts today). By exploring Chaucer’s reception history, we can better understand the role of tradition and literary criticism in shaping our understanding of an author or a text: some of our main goals will be to examine Chaucer's fourteenth-century context, the critical fates of his contemporaries, and the forces at work in creating the Chaucer we encounter today.
ENG 539 The "American Renaissance," Literature and Theory
Instructor: E. Tawil
In this seminar, we will do two things at once: first, read a group of literary texts associated with the “American Renaissance.” At the same time, we will read and analyze some of the masterworks of twentieth-century literary criticism that have produced, defended, and contested this tradition. The course will proceed by alternating week by week between a work of literature and a work of criticism, and by doing that will be able to establish an interesting reciprocal dialogue between the two kinds of writing. Of the critical texts, we will ask such questions as: What authors or works (or features of texts) do different critics tend to value or devalue, emphasize or forget in order to produce a “tradition”? What happens when we focus on the narrative elements of criticism? For example, when are literary histories themselves structured and emplotted like the literary texts they discuss? Of the literary works themselves, we will ask: what features of form or content made these works the harbingers of a cultural “rebirth”? And is there any sense in which these literary works do something like “criticism”—in thinking, for example, about their own value as fulfilling the call for a national aesthetic? What happens when we key into this “self-theorizing” dimension of the literary work?
ENG 557 Utopia & Literature
Instructor: J. Tucker
“Utopia” commonly refers to an ideal society; this course presents “utopia” as a (para-)literary genre, an occasion of societal modeling, and as a cognitive mode, attitude, and process. The course addresses literary representations of utopias throughout the tradition of literature in English. Topics for discussion include the relationship between utopia and dystopia (including “critical” utopias and dystopias), utopian literature’s influence on and representation in modern science fiction, the politics of utopias, and intersections with the history of intentional communities. Course requirements include a seminar paper, an in-class presentation on a critical reading, and class participation.
ENG 561 Language and Literature in the University 1155 to Present
Instructor: D. Bleich
Until the twentieth century, the university and its structures, organization, governance, values, approaches to scholarship and understanding were products of an all-male culture. Only recently have scholars begun to re-understand the university in these terms. When language and literature entered the universities, they were conceived within an all-male intellectual tradition that dates back at least to Plato.
This course examines how language was conceived, used, and studied in universities, and how written literature, always an elite enterprise, came to university attention as mass literacy grew. Today’s subjects of language and literature, now in the hands of ordinary people who have several genders and many languages, have nevertheless retained the values of the traditional male culture through which they entered the university.
The course will test the foregoing premise by examining prevailing conceptions of language and of literature. We will consider the roles future scholars might play in the light of this review of our history and current practices.
A section of this course, perhaps three or four meetings, is devoted to preparing students for scholarly participation and publication. This includes writing proposals for conference papers, observing the genres and registers in particular journals to which you may send your work, identifying and articulating your professional interests for possible teaching appointments. We start on the process of learning how to avoid falling into habits of jargon, posturing, overgeneralization, or idle abstraction.