Department of English


Advanced Seminar Descriptions: Spring and Fall 2014

ENG 380 Gender & Sexuality in American Cinema (Fall)

Instructor: J. Middleton
CRN: 40606
TR 940-1055

Desires and anxieties concerning gender and sexuality have long played themselves out on cinema screens. This course examines major theoretical perspectives on these subjects through a focus on classical and contemporary American film. We will read and analyze film scholarship rooted in feminist theory, psychoanalysis, queer theory, genre studies, masculinity studies, and other critical perspectives. The course will enable students to engage critically with concepts of spectatorship, identification, and ideology in cinema. Films to be screened include Vertigo, Stella Dallas, Imitation of Life, Gilda, The Searchers, Some Like it Hot, Die Hard, Aliens, My Own Private Idaho, Boys Don't Cry, and others.

ENG 380 Slavery & the 20th-Century African-American Novel (Fall)

Instructor: J. Tucker
CRN: 40619
WF 1025-1140

Race-based slavery in America ended over a century ago, but our nation continues to grapple with the legacies of "the peculiar institution." Specifically, slavery has haunted the literary imaginations of African-American writers of the last century. This course surveys a range of African-American novels in order to analyze the ways in which these texts both portray and represent slavery's lasting effects on American culture, society, and politics. Readings include works by Steven Barnes, Arna Bontemps, Octavia Butler, Pauline Hopkins, Charles Johnson, Edward P. Jones, Gayl Jones, Toni Morrison, Margaret Walker, and more. Students will be evaluated on class participation, bi-weekly reading responses, and two formal papers.

ENG 380 Problems in Western Civilization (Spring)

Instructor: D. Bleich
CRN: 39475
TR 1525-1640

Using literary works, critical commentaries, and historical sources, seminar members will find one or more problems to research in depth. The general themes of the “menu” of issues are domination, hierarchical social organization, and public and domestic violence. Specific topics include pederasty, slavery, censorship, heresy, witch-hunting, androcentrism and misogyny, and war.

Seminar members are to study how literature articulates the aforementioned themes and topics. Emphasis is on how literature and our responses to it can reach forms of understanding not given by critical and historical accounts, but when read alongside the nonliterary accounts, create different perspectives.

The seminar proceeds in two phases. The first part, of six or seven weeks, presents an introduction to the general themes. Readings come from (1) Freud’s several commentaries on the problems of civilization, coordinated with works by Kafka, Morrison, and Smiley; (2) from the Greek classical period—Plato’s Symposium and Republic, from Aristotle’s biology, coordinated with Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex; and (3) from Sandra Harding and Merill B. Hintkka’s 1983 volume of essays, Discovering Reality, critical of Western habits of thought. This phase also outlines some of the possible ways to use works in the lists given below. An annotated commentary on this outline will be distributed.

The second part of the course asks members to present research proposals which include literary and other readings that come from the following lists: St. Paul, Quintilian, Augustine, Abelard and Heloise, Andreas Capellanus, Wyclif, Kramer and Sprenger, Machiavelli, Galileo, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Melville, Dostoevsky, Ibsen, Woolf; analytical commentaries by scholars such as Norman Cohn, R. I. Moore, Anne Hudson, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, Moses Finley, Orlando Patterson, Jean Elshtain, William Percy, Martha Nussbaum, Pierre Bourdieu, Marianne Hester, Brian Levack. Students’ proposals for other texts will be considered; readings and discussions in this part of the course are determined by the students’ research projects.

As research proceeds, readings used by seminar members will be distributed and prepared for discussion, so that researchers can present their work and developing opinions to the rest of the group.

ENG 380 American Detectives: Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald (Spring)

Instructor: G. Grella
CRN: 39494
TR 1650-1805

The course deals with the great trio of American writers of what became known as hard-boiled detective fiction. We will study some of the history and background of the form and read some of the most important stories and novels by the three important writers of this major American literary creation. In the process we will discuss matters like detection itself, crime as a subject, and the ways in which a high literary art developed from popular fiction.