Department of English


Advanced Seminar Descriptions: Fall 2015 and Spring 2016

ENG 380 Digital Projects: The English Renaissance

Instructor: R. Kegl
CRN: 23604, Spring 2016
TR 940-1055

This advanced seminar considers how digital projects contribute to our understanding of English Renaissance Literature. We examine digital editing projects, manuscript and print archives, indexes and catalogues, journals and books, teaching resources, and sites whose compiled materials are dedicated to individual authors, practices, or spaces (like the theaters). In order to assess the accessibility, applicability, and reliability of these digital projects, we read both works of English Renaissance literature and works of literary criticism. Readings include literary works by Jonson, Milton, Shakespeare, and Spenser. Students submit short research exercises throughout the semester and assemble one longer research paper or project.

ENG 380 The "American Renaissance"

Instructor: E. Tawil
CRN: 23983, Spring 2016
TR 1230-1345

In this seminar, we will do two things at once: first, read a group of literary texts associated with the “American Renaissance.”  At the same time, we will read and analyze some of the masterworks of twentieth-century literary criticism that have produced, defended, and contested this tradition.  The course will proceed by alternating week by week between a work of literature and a work of criticism, and by doing that will be able to establish an interesting reciprocal dialogue between the two kinds of writing.  Of the critical texts, we will ask such questions as:  What authors or works (or features of texts) do different critics tend to value or devalue, emphasize or forget in order to produce a “tradition”?  What happens when we focus on the narrative elements of criticism?  For example, when are literary histories themselves structured and emplotted like the literary texts they discuss?  Of the literary works themselves, we will ask:  what features of form or content made these works the harbingers of a cultural “rebirth”?  And is there any sense in which these literary works do something like “criticism”—in thinking, for example, about their own value as fulfilling the call for a national aesthetic?  What happens when we key into this “self-theorizing” dimension of the literary work?  Readings include literary works by Melville, Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, and critical works by D.H. Lawrence, F.O. Matthiessen, Leslie Fiedler, and Richard Poirier.

ENG 380 The Horror Film

Instructor: J. Middleton
CRN: 23995, Spring 2016
WF 1150-1305

This course examines major critical issues surrounding the horror genre, through close study of Classical Hollywood, post-classical, and international horror films, and readings in critical theory. Issues to be explored include boundary transgression and bodily abjection in the construction of the horror monster; gender, pregnancy, and the monstrous-feminine; social Otherness (race, class, sexuality) as monstrosity; the figure of the serial killer and the shift from classic to modern horror; the grotesque and the blending of comedy and horror in the zombie film. As a research seminar, the course will involve the development of a substantial research project.

ENG 380 Mystical Literature: Melting into God and Marrying Jesus in Medieval England

Instructor: S. Rozenski
CRN: 85437, Fall 2015
TR 1525-1640

Written accounts of the experience of divine presence are the core of a tradition we now call “mystical” (and which was, in the Middle Ages, most often called “contemplative”). Mystical literature offers a rich array of potential resolutions to some of the fundamental contradictions at the very heart of the Christian tradition. God is transcendent yet immanent -- revealed through both scripture and revelation, yet unknown and hidden. Christ, both divine and human, is married to both the soul and the church; the fairly explicit erotic poetry in the Bible is said to represent this. Even scriptural meaning is never transparent: a long tradition of exegesis took care to distinguish the literal and the allegorical meanings of sacred texts.

The authors introduced in this course grappled with these issues in language that can paradoxically both affirm and deny its own capacity to discuss God. Together, we will study some of the key texts of this tradition: the works of theologians Pseudo-Dionysius and Hildegard von Bingen, condemned heretics Meister Eckhart and Marguerite Porete, popular devotional writer Henry Suso, the Yorkshire hermit Richard Rolle, the Dutch beguine Hadewijch, and the English anchoress Julian of Norwich -- as well as anonymous works such as The Cloud of Unknowing and The Seven Points of True Love and Everlasting Wisdom. We’ll end the semester by looking at the uses of mysticism in the 20th and 21st centuries, with particular attention to T.S. Eliot’s 1943 masterpiece, Four Quartets.

Although we will be reading medieval mystical texts from across Europe primarily in either Middle English or modern English translation, the history of their reception, transmission, and translation will also be considered as student interest warrants.

ENG 380 Madness, Marriage, and Monstrosity

Instructor: B. London
CRN: 85446, Fall 2015
MW 1150-1305

The nineteenth-century novel is usually associated with Victorian values: happy marriage; wholesome homes; moral propriety; properly channeled emotions and ambitions. Many of the most popular novels, however, paint a very different picture: with madwomen locked in attics and asylums; monsters, real and imagined, lurking behind the facade of propriety; genteel homes harboring opium addicts; fallen women walking the streets; and sexual transgression and degeneracy popping up everywhere. Indeed, for novels centrally structured around marriage and society, madness and monstrosity appear with alarming regularity. The intertwining of these tropes suggests some of the cultural anxieties unleashed by the new body of women writers and women readers. We will begin with Frankenstein and end with Dracula, two novels from opposite ends of the century. We will also consider such classic marriage plot novels as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre and some popular sensation fiction of the 1860s.