Graduate Program

Graduate Seminar Descriptions: Spring 2015


ENG 508 Text and Image, from Manuscript to Print Culture

Instructor: T. Hahn
CRN: 78611
W 1400-1640

We will study defining characteristics of an array of manuscript and print cultures, assessing the continuities and disconnects that mark these media across the conventional divide of Middle Ages and Renaissance and beyond. The "cases" will be a high literary writer (Chaucer), a monument of popular culture (Robin Hood), and a broad genre (travel writing). Chaucer's texts generate the first deluxe literary manuscripts produced in England, and the first "scholarly" editions (with glosses and notes) to be printed. Despite his post-medieval popularity, virtually no medieval manuscripts survive for RH texts; we will therefore focus on the progression from broadsides to prose narratives to "biographies" that establish his legend from the 16th to 18th centuries. Finally we will look at Mandeville's Travels which survives in a variety of illuminated MSS, and which becomes perhaps the most widely published secular English book of the 16th century. In all three cases we will examine the relations of text and image, and attend to what these tell us about the material artifact, cultural registers, reception histories, diverse audiences, the circulation and afterlife of texts. Students will be asked to make transcriptions, to examine actual artifacts in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, to compare digital copies of MSS and printed editions, to apply techniques of analytic and descriptive bibliography, to produce edited versions of the texts examined, and to shape their analyses through recent arguments about the history of the book.

ENG 516 The Utopian in English Renaissance Writing

Instructor: R. Kegl
CRN: 79115
T 1000-1240

This course is organized around the interpretive power of the utopian. First we consider how the utopian figures in a selection of prose fiction, verse, and plays from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We focus on the literary and social impulses that animate writing typically categorized as utopian like More’s Utopia and Bacon’s New Atlantis. And we also focus on the utopian tendencies within English Renaissance writing, more generally. Our authors include Bacon, Brome, Cavendish, Godwin, Jonson, Lanyer, Marvel, Milton, More, and Shakespeare. Second, we consider the interpretive power of the utopian in English Renaissance studies and in the theories of literary and social analysis to which English Renaissance scholars are indebted. We sort through the applied criticism and theoretical arguments of writers like Bartolovich, Bloch, Empson, Frye, Grady, Halpern, Jameson, Kendrick, Lukacs, Marin, Marx, Moretti, and Williams.

Our focus on the utopian allows us to discuss a number of interpretive issues not restricted to English Renaissance studies, including how we assess the persuasiveness of literary analysis; how we move between theoretical arguments and applied criticism; how scholars have argued for the relationships among literature, other forms of culture, politics, and economics; and how literary critics have incorporated historical scholarship into their analyses.

ENG 525 The Early English Novel

Instructor: K. Mannheimer
CRN: 75810
M 1400-1640

This course reads examples of the Early English Novel while reconsidering what that definition entails. Classic literary history tells us that the novel first emerged in the eighteenth century, against a backdrop of emergent individualism, psychological exploration, empiricism, and bourgeois values; these contexts, it is said, when translated into literary style, resulted in a new kind of realism. But when we look at eighteenth-century novels, how well does this narrative pertain? Might not individualism and bourgeois morality actually conflict with one another, for example? Or couldn't an interest in psychological experience sometimes defy empirical description? What is "the realistic"? And how "historically determined," ultimately, might we deem any one genre to be? Authors considered include Behn, Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Walpole, and Austen; critics include Watt, Hunter, McKeon, Bender, Bakhtin, Gallagher, and others.

ENG 539 The "American Renaissance," Literature and Theory

Instructor: E. Tawil
CRN: 79777
W 1400-1640

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?