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Graduate Program

Graduate Seminar Descriptions: Spring 2017


ENG 508 Europe and its Others

Instructor: T. Hahn
CRN: 78366
M 1400-1640

Modernity – the moment in which we live now, the era that began a half millennium ago –often appears as a cataclysmic change, traceable to some watershed event:  the invention of print, the “discovery” of New Worlds in the West or the East, the Reformation.  This seminar will examine the ways in which western modernity has taken shape through narrative and visual depictions of non-Europeans, from the ancient world to 1600.  We will read the Romance of Alexander (written in Greek by an Egyptian in Alexandria) along with a series of demotic Greek, medieval Latin, and vernacular accounts Alexander’s encounters with strange peoples in the East.  We will then read “national” and ethnic historians, like Gerald of Wales and Geoffrey of Monmouth on Celts, Britons, and English, setting King Arthur in contrast to the cosmopolitan Emperor Alexander.  We will then turn to a set of travel and fantasy writings such as Mandeville’s Travels, More’s Utopia, and the letters of Columbus and Vespucci concerning New Worlds in the West, and Vasco da Gama concerning the “discovery” of India. Throughout we will pay extensive attention to the visual representation of non-Europeans, from manuscript illuminations through woodcuts, engravings, broadsheets, and other media, and we will contrast the reception of Otherness in both manuscript and print environments. 

Each week the seminar will center upon a series of Big Questions, including definitions of Colonialism, Globalization, Transnationalism, Cosmopolitanism; modernity, medievalism, and the conventions of periodization;  the history of the book, and the impact of visual materials on diverse audiences; and the function of fantasy and monstrosity in writing the Other.  Among the discourses and categories we will use to understand “not-Europe” will be race, nakedness and primitivism, landscape and space, maps and charts, and the representation of literacy (the written codes of the Other’s identity).  Secondary readings and discussions will draw on recent controversies and theory concerning Post- (and Pre-) Colonial Studies, the “New Ethnography,” and the meaning of Globalization and transnational identities before the modern era.  Seminar members may be expected to present at least one report, to lead part of a discussion, and to produce a substantive research paper at the end of the semester, perhaps as part of a mini-symposium.

Required texts (these have not been ordered at the UR / Barnes & Noble Bookstore; you must obtain them yourself!):

  • The Greek Alexander Romance,  trans. Richard Stoneman (Penguin:  978-0140445602).  Many used copies available on Amazon.
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, trans. Michael A. Faletra (Broadview:  978-1551116396).  Amazon does not sell this directly, and the reviews make clear that there is serious confusion about alternate o.p. editions: be careful!
  • The Book of John Mandeville, trans. Iain Higgins (Hackett:  978-0872209350).  A translation into modern English from an Anglo-French version, with lots of helpful supporting material.
  • Thomas More, Utopia, intro. by Wayne A. Rebhorn (Barnes & Noble Classics:  978-1593082444).  This is the 1551 translation by Ralph Robinson, so it is itself an early modern book.  Copies available on Amazon from $.01!

The rest of our extensive reading will be available in pdf format on the course site in Blackboard.

ENG 524 Satire

Instructor: K. Mannheimer
CRN: 25178
R 1400-1640

This course focuses on the satire of the British eighteenth century (often referred to as The Golden Age of Satire), but branches backward and forward (and across the Channel) to think more generally about how we might define this multifaceted, multigeneric literary mode. As we make our way through the primary texts, we will explore larger theoretical questions about how satire operates; its relationship to parody, to comedy, and to tragedy; and the differing satiric forces of different aesthetic forms, whether verse, visual art, prose-narrative, drama, or film.

ENG 555 Theorizing Documentary and Cinematic Realism

Instructor: J. Middleton
CRN: 78382
R 1000-1240

Following Vivian Sobchack’s phenomenological analysis in which “the designations fiction and documentary name not merely objective and abstracted cinematic things” distinguished by particular textual features, but name also “distinctive subjective relations to a variety of cinematic objects, whatever their textual features,” this seminar will critically explore the affective, sensorial, imaginative, and political dimensions of these subjective relations. We will examine conventional analytics in documentary film and media studies, such as indexicality, voice, and ethics, but seek to expand these modes of inquiry. The seminar will focus especially on the nexus of “fiction” and “documentary” and the complex status of the “real” in cinematic realism, rethinking the conventional delimitations of these terms and categories. Readings may include Bazin, Kracauer, Colin MacCabe, Vivian Sobchack, Laura U. Marks, Fredric Jameson, Bill Nichols, Alexandra Juhasz, Michael Renov, Ivone Margulies, and Anna Grimshaw.

ENG 557 Text and Medium: The Digital Page

Instructor: M. Eaves
CRN: 78398
W 1400-1640

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.