Graduate Seminar Descriptions: Spring 2014
ENG 507 The Writings and Culture of John Gower and William Langland: Studies in Self Composition
Instructor: R. Peck
The goals of this seminar are three: 1) To provide a close reading of two major poems of England’s second literary Renaissance in the 14th century – Gower’s Confessio Amantis and Langland’s Piers Plowman (the B-text) – within the ethical polemics, theory of rhetoric, and the development of sophisticated psychological structures of their cultural environment. 2) To explore as a form of pedagogy concepts of the relativity of “self” and “uncertainty” through elaborately devised first-person narrators and fictional “autobiography.” 3) To develop a phenomenology of “being there” that sophisticates concepts of landscape and place amidst a “middel-weie” on middle earth.
ENG 550 Modern Poetry
Instructor: J. Longenbach
A close study of several major modernist American poets (Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore), stressing both the formal extravagance and the historical situation of their poems, along with an examination of a few of the most influential critical paradigms that have been brought to modern poetry and to modernism at large over the last few decades (Hugh Kenner's The Pound Era, Marjorie Perloff's Poetics of Indeterminacy, Michael North's The Political Aesthetic of Yeats, Eliot, and Pound).
ENG 555 (Post) Cinematic Affect and Emotion
Instructor: J. Middleton
Film theory since Eisenstein has sought in various ways to understand the medium's distinctive emotional and bodily effects upon spectators. The "affective turn" of the 1990s in critical theory more broadly opened up new avenues for film scholars to rethink spectatorship beyond psychoanalytic and semiotic paradigms prevalent in the 1970s and 80s. This seminar considers the theoretical precursors to this affective turn, but focuses in particular on scholarship from the 1990s to the present that analyzes the production and expression of affects and emotions in and between bodies onscreen and off. We will read texts that shaped contemporary affect theory (Silvan Tomkins, Eve Sedgwick and Adam Frank, Brian Massumi, Deleuze and Guattari), theories of affect and embodiment in film and media (Steven Shaviro, Elena del Rio, Laura Marks, Vivian Sobchack), as well as cognitivist approaches to cinematic emotion (Carl Plantinga, David Bordwell). We will also read work in cultural theory that could include Lauren Berlant, Sianne Ngai, and Sara Ahmed. With attention to the "post-" of the seminar's title, we will examine not only films but different forms of media that challenge and reconfigure the boundaries of the cinematic object.
ENG 557 Text and Medium: The Digital Page
Instructor: M. Eaves
The goal of Text and Medium is an understanding of the relationship between the "text" that we generally assume is some kind of "content" and the "medium" that communicates it. The perspective of the seminar is historical and critical. The key assumption is that media— the human voice, manuscripts, books, telegrams, photos, film, TV, paintings, electronic files--shape their "content"--words, pictures, sounds—and their authors and their audiences. There have always been media because life cannot be lived without them. We are now experiencing a digital revolution. This remarkable media shift puts us among the first explorers to arrive on the scene of epoch-making changes. We can exploit our own unique intellectual opportunity to look back on the history of media from the powerful new perspective of digital media—and also to contemplate the great void of communication that we cannot yet cross. We shall enlist the traditional tools that critics have developed to analyze and understand literary works.
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.