Graduate Seminar Descriptions: Spring 2018
ENG 506 Writing the Fairy: Its Origins, Developments, and Ambiguities
Instructor: S. Higley
This seminar will explor the development in north-western literature of the "fairy", a creature popularized over the centuries, and derived from many tributaries. Discussion of origin and influence must obviously be pursued, but I will emphasize its liminal status: neither god, demon, nor human, neither all benevolent nor all malevolent, neither Christian nor pagan. One meets the fairy at the edges of things: stiles, thresholds, dusk, puberty, inheritance. The fairy is old whereas the term is new, and goes back far beyond its alleged Celtic origins. Its outstanding features as it developed in the Middle Ages are its uncanniness and its in-between-ness, and its association much later with childhood and death. Fairies involve themselves eagerly with human beings, but neither can belong to the other's world without terror and loss, for which the Tale of Melusine is a major focus along with selections from Old Irish, the Mabinogi, Norse sagas, Arthurian romance, Shakespeare, Perrault, Keats, Yeats, Byatt.
ENG 514 Pre-Modern Idea of the Book
Instructor: G. Heyworth
ENG 549 WWI and the Culture of Memory
Instructor: B. London
The Great War, Paul Fussell has famously argued, initiated a new form of distinctly modern memory – unsparing, unsentimental, and essentially ironic. At the same time, it ushered in an unprecedented era of remembrance that transformed Great Britain into a culture obsessed with the commemoration of its war dead – in a manner anything but ironic – and with preserving the memory of the war as a piece of cultural heritage. In fact, long before the war was over, the people of Britain – both soldiers and civilians – were imagining how to remember it, and devising the administrative and aesthetic structures that would shape so much of its postwar memory. So powerful was this impulse – and so pervasive was the postwar obsession with memorialization – that Geoff Dyer has argued, “The war, it begins to seem, had been fought in order that it might be remembered, that it might live up to its memory.” Recently, scholars of the war have begun to question not only how the war was remembered but whose war has been remembered and whose memories valued, opening the established history of the war to other narratives: war as experienced, for example, by women, working class men, colonial soldiers and laborers. And they have illuminated the way memory is fabricated to produce myths of the war that, over time, serve changing interests – some of which can be seen in current centenary celebrations. This seminar will explore the work of memory in some of the many memoirs and works of imaginative literature that appeared in the decades immediately following the war (e.g., Robert Graves, Vera Brittain, Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf). We will consider the prodigious production of war poetry and the posthumous canonization of the “war poets” (e.g., Brooke, Owen, Sassoon, Rosenberg). And we will consider the appropriation and transformation of the war and its memory in late twentieth century literature, film, and television. We will also consider, as a critical framework, the rich body of theoretical and historical scholarship on memory work, trauma, collective memory, and memorialization, not all of it specific to the WWI context. As debates about Civil War and other memorials are raging in our country, this course may prove timely in even more ways than originally anticipated.
ENG 557 Reading the Lyric
Instructor: K. Gross
“The lyric” has always been an elusive quarry, as is the question of what kinds of critical tools we need to listen to, analyze, and animate lyric poems. The seminar will combine the intense study of the work of particular lyric poets with the close reading of texts by important critics and theorists of the lyric. Among the other questions we’ll consider are the nature (and fiction) of voice in lyric, the fate of the lyric “I,” the importance of formal elements (meter and rhyme, the organization of sound and syntax), the nature of linguistic play and “difficulty” in lyric poetry, the work of metaphor, the shape of poetic memory. The poems taken up will include Shakespeare’s sonnets, the lyrics of John Donne, and poems by John Keats, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hardy, and Wallace Stevens. We’ll also be devoting time to crucial critical texts by William Empson, John Hollander, R. P. Blackmur, Christopher Ricks, Sharon Cameron, Anne Carson, and Jonathan Culler among others.