Department of English


Advanced Seminar Descriptions: Spring and Fall 2015

ENG 380 Nobel Prize Literature

Instructor: B. London
CRN: 40276, Spring 2015
TR 1400-1515

This course will provide an opportunity to sample an exciting body of contemporary literature, some written by authors already widely acclaimed at the time they received the Nobel Prize and some by writers suddenly catapulted into fame and international recognition. While a central focus of the course will be the literature itself, we will also look at some of the particular controversies and debates the prize has generated and at how receipt of the prize changed writers' lives and literary reputations. In the U.S., where less than 5% of the literature published each year is literature in translation, Nobel prize-winning literature is often the only modern literature Americans read in translation. We will therefore consider the question of translation and the role of the Nobel Prize in creating and promoting an international literature. We will also consider the special challenges this literature poses for its readers in speaking to both local and global audiences.

ENG 380 Major Authors: Ernest Hemingway

Instructor: G. Grella
CRN: 75999, Spring 2015
MW 1525-1640

The course will consider the life and work of the most famous American writer of the 20th century; we will read and discuss the major novels and short stories, perhaps some of the nonfiction, and screen a few of the films based on his writing. Assignments will consist of reports and papers on selected works and some secondary material. We will spend most of our class time on discussion rather than lectures, so participation and dialogue will be important components of our study.

ENG 380 The Early American Novel: From Seduction to Sublimity

Instructor: E. Tawil
CRN: 79252, Spring 2015
TR 1230-1345

We’ll trace the remarkable developments of the novel form in the U.S, from the decade after the Revolution (when Americans first begin to write long prose fictions) to the decade before the Civil War (when the American novel claimed its ascent to literary Art). All along the way, we will be reading “novels,” yes, but it will quickly become apparent how varied a form this noun actually names; we’ll read a broad range of the novel’s different modes (the epistolary novel, the novel of seduction, the gothic, the historical novel, sentimental-domestic fiction, the Romance). We begin in the 1780s, when the American novel is just trying to find its feet, and yet sees itself as having a profound political duty to serve the national interest. Even fictional writings about sexual conduct—the seduction novels with which we begin the course—charged themselves with this grave nationalist purpose. We then follow the form through the early nineteenth century, as it becomes obsessed with the topics of race and violence that now threatened to destroy the young nation. Strange as it may seem, the novel in the period seemed to believe that it could resolve massive real-world crises, particularly slavery and white-Indian conflicts over land ownership, in fictional and symbolic terms. We end in the 1850s when American novelists asserted that their writing was relatively autonomous from politics, and—as part of the same gesture—transcended everyday life to achieve “Literature” with a capital L. We spend the last month with the widely advertised literary masterworks of Hawthorne and Melville, asking ourselves how the novel had progressed from a didactic form of social consciousness to a species of writing that could open a world of sublime aesthetic experience. Readings will likely include works by: Hannah Webster Foster (The Coquette), Charles Brockden Brown (Edgar Huntly), James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans), Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Martin Delany (Blake), Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter), and Herman Melville (Moby-Dick).

ENG 380 The Realist Novel

Instructor: S. Rajan
CRN: 80515, Fall 2015
TR 1105-1220

This course explores developments in the realist novel over the course of the nineteenth century. We will read and closely examine some of the most exemplary practitioners of the realist novel within the British and Continental tradition, from Jane Austen and Honoré de Balzac to George Eliot and Virginia Woolf. The course will examine the aesthetics of realism and how realist fiction’s promise to show the reader what the world is like assumed a different form among varied novelists. Students will be exposed to theories of realism, past and present, and will thus not only gain a firm understanding of the aesthetics of realism but also deepen their understanding of each novelist.

ENG 380 The "American Renaissance"

Instructor: E. Tawil
CRN: 81534, Fall 2015
TR 1230-1345

In this seminar, we will read some of the acknowledged literary masterpieces associated with what literary critics starting in the 1940s started to call the “American Renaissance,” a remarkable flowering of imaginative literature in the mid-nineteenth-century U.S. which included prose fiction by Melville and Hawthorne, essayistic prose by Emerson and Thoreau, and poetry by Whitman and Dickinson. As we read these literary works, we will also read some of the magisterial works of literary criticism that first defined and theorized them as part of an American “renaissance.” Why did critics choose describe it in these terms? What authors or works had to be devalued or forgotten in order to produce this kind of tradition?