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What is it about Beowulf that lends itself to so much retelling? Why is it so hard to receive it? What has the curriculum done wrong in presenting it? Why must everyone give Beowulf a sex life? Why did Woody Allen hate it? How did Seamus Heaney transform it? How does it lurk on the edges of popular culture, but can't seem to make it in the ranks of high literature without toil, and groan, and much apology? And, what is the nature of translation—not just of words, but a whole ethos? This multimedia class will examine older and newer translations of Beowulf, read Scandinavian literature relevant to Beowulf (Hrolfskraki Saga etc.), look at comic books based on Beowulf, watch the three major movies made about Beowulf in the past ten years, listen to Benjamin Bagby's performance of Beowulf, and read articles about translation theory. Minimal instruction in Old English vocabulary and the problems of translating some of the harder passages in Beowulf.
Early English Drama is essentially a course in religious tragicomedy —bawdy, pious, salvific, threatening, exemplary, and pedagogically vital plays that interface with the humanistic plays of the sixteenth century. After a brief look at Christian liturgical drama, we will trace the origins of vernacular folk drama through the Corpus Christi mystery cycles that begin with Creation and conclude with the Last Judgment. We then examine the less scripturally oriented morality plays, and conclude with the university wits and the secular pedagogy of spectacular ethics in representative Tudor drama. We will examine the plays in terms of their stagecraft, their message and performative values, their comic genius, and their cultural significance.
We will read an array of texts that recapture the lives and desires of late medieval women and men, and that continue to capture the imagination of living readers. These will include stories of zombies and ghosts who bridge the world of spirit and flesh, tales of reanimated corpses and souls rescued from hell, knightly combats and romantic affairs, and intense spiritual forays into inner and outer worlds. Readings will include the unsurpassed Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the out-of-body experience of Pearl, Piers Plowman (the autobiographical vision of a frenzied layman seeking Truth on the still-recognizable streets of London), varied excerpts from Gower's Lover's Confession, and readings on divine love, spiritual discipline, religious dissent, the dangers of reading, and the pleasures and perils of urban life. Our purpose is to enrich our sense of the present in feeling the power of early English writings. Students will offer presentations, write short responses/analyses, and a longer final paper.
The class will explore the full range of Shakespeare's theater, including examples of history plays, comedy, tragedy, and romance. We will be approaching the plays from many angles, looking at their stark and extravagant language, their invention of complex, conflicted human characters, their analyses of the worlds of politics and war, their self-conscious theatricality, as well as the ways that they join together play and seriousness, the the tragic and the comic. We'll discuss the plays' fascination with madness and delusion, the work of dreams, as well as their interest in ghosts, witchcraft, and magic.
This course introduces students to some of the major British novelists during the nineteenth century such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy. The course will situate these novelists within the aesthetic and historical concerns of the period and cover an array of topics (e.g., the rise of the novel, the marriage plot as a narrative device, capitalism, gender, sexuality, race, and empire).
The course covers the period roughly between World War I and World War II, dealing with the rich creativity we associate with Modernism. We will read and discuss such writers as Eliot, Faulkner, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Steinbeck, etc., studying not only the works but some of the major trends in art, culture, and knowledge that make the modern period so important and exciting. The method will be a combination of close reading, lecture, and discussion with (probably) one short paper and one longish paper.
The explosion of black culture during the early twentieth century known as the "Harlem" or (more broadly) "New Negro" Renaissance included the emergence of some of the most important works of the African-American literary tradition. This course will provide a survey of the literature and culture that reflect the spirit of that era. In addition, the course will consider recent African-American fiction in order to ascertain what the Harlem Renaissance has meant for subsequent writers and artists. Special attention will be paid to the following topics: migration, jazz, the Blues, literary modernism, theories of black identity, and difference within black America. Readings include works by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, George Schuyler, Toni Morrison, Samuel R. Delany, and more. Requirements include class participation, six 1-page reading responses, and two 6-8-page formal writing assignments.
Fiction is a genre defined by its falseness. It is made up of invented material and stands in opposition to fact. In this study of modern British and American fiction (1890-1950), we'll be examining the ways that some of the most influential writers of the past century have foregrounded the action of imaginative invention. As we set out in search of the paradoxical truths expressed by the masquerade of fiction, we'll be looking at strategies of deception, exaggeration, and contradiction. Writers we'll be studying include Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner.
A study and exploration of the major movements of twentieth-century drama—naturalism, expressionism, surrealism, epic theater, absurdism. Possible author list: Anton Chekhov, Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, David Mamet, Caryl Churchill, August Wilson, Sam Shepard, Paula Vogel, Suzan-Lori Parks, Yasmina Reza.
What is an author? This course begins with the premise that the answer to this question is anything but self-evident. Does the idea of the author as solitary genius correspond to the actual practices of ordinary writers? And does it correspond to the practice of even the "great" authors like Shakespeare? Was such an ideal ever anything but a myth? What role do editors play in the practice of authorship? Should they count as co-authors? How do market factors and modes of publication affect what and how an author writes? How has our understanding of authorship changed in a world of virtual authors and virtual texts? Looking at a wide range of examples, we will examine a number of sites of debate: collaborative authorship; ghost writing; forgeries and hoaxes; plagiarism; celebrity authorship; best-sellers; film, electronic and digital media; self- and on-demand publishing; copyright. Students will have the opportunity to do original research on topics of their own choosing.
Why has memoir become one of the most popular literary genres of the past few decades? This class will examine the development of our "confessional culture" while also charting a historical trajectory of American memoirs from the mid twentieth century to our current moment. Discussions will also highlight the relationship between the narrating "I" and the development of national mythologies that present American identity as defined by specific distinctions of race, class, gender and sexuality. Students will explore various modernist and postmodernist innovations apparent in contemporary memoirs as well as changing conceptions of the self. Authors to be studied include: Barack Obama, Malcolm X, Joan Didion, Richard Rodriguez, Alison Bechdel, and others.
As part of a long tradition dating back to classical Rome, and in forms ranging from poetry to plays to essays to visual art to prose fiction to films, satirists have taken aim at the foibles and follies of their societies. This course, international and multigeneric in scope, will introduce students to some of the richest periods in the history of satire, while also exploring larger questions of how satire can be defined, how it operates, and whom or what it targets. Texts include the work of Horace, Juvenal, Donne, Rochester, Wycherley, Pope, Swift, Montagu, Gay, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Graffigny, Flaubert, Wilde, and Brecht. Visual satire—including work by Hogarth, Cruikshank, Rowlandson, and Daumier—will also figure into the course, as will a handful of films (Capra, Sturges, Hal Ashby).
Comic books have recently proven themselves capable of astonishing artistic achievements and of infiltrating Hollywood and academia. This course features a formal analysis of the combination of text and image to tell a story and generate a variety of aesthetic effects and responses, and a cultural history of comic books, from their modern origins during the Great Depression to World War II, attacks on the genre in the 1950s, the "British Invasion" of the 1980s and '90s, and representations of race, gender and sexuality. Primary texts include Howard Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby, Will Eisner's A Contract with God, The Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman et al., Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore and David Gibbons's Watchmen, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and more. Critical and historical sources include Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Bradford Wright's Comic Book Nation. Course requirements include a mid-term exam, five 1-page reading responses, and a 5-page formal paper.
This 4-credit intersession course will be conducted in London and Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, from Saturday, December 29, 2012, through Saturday, January 12, 2013. We will have a full range of theater experiences in venues as diverse as theater-in-the-round at the Orange Tree to the multiple stages of the National Theatre, from intimate fringe productions and experimental theater to the extravaganzas of West End. See the Theater in England website for descriptions of the program and syllabuses from the past 20 years. This year we will see the best of what is available (twenty or so plays). We will have seminar discussions of the productions which you will then write about in your journals. The fee for the course is $2,750, which includes tuition, tickets to all plays you see, 15 nights housing at the Harlingford Hotel, and transportation to Stratford-upon-Avon and return. The fee does not include transportation to London and back from the US. Instructor's permission required to register.
An introduction to the history, technology, and cultural significance of motion pictures of the "pre-sound" era, with screenings of 35mm prints accompanied by live music in the Dryden Theatre. Special attention will be paid to the major pioneers, Dickson, Porter, Lumière, Méliès, and Griffith, but the course will include a variety of internationally produced films selected from the world-famous archival film collection of George Eastman House. Discussion sessions will cover the origins and development of the motion picture industry and its leading genres up to the general introduction of movies with pre-recorded music, sound, and dialog beginning in 1927. Broad issues relating to the transformation of American and world popular entertainment forms and traditions, in relation to the established performing arts of the period, will also be covered. Relevant connections to preserving the world's film heritage will be highlighted, and the film restoration facilities of the Motion Picture Department will be visited in the course of the semester. Students will be expected to take a midterm exam and write one paper. Enrollment limited to 20.
This course introduces students to the poetics of television. We will explore the ways that television tells stories and how it constructs worlds; the significance of genre, style, and form to those stories and worlds; and the relationship between television and the horizons of social, historical, and aesthetic experience that television opens up as one of the most important culture industries of the last 100 years. Much of our class will be devoted to watching TV and discussing what we watch, from the sitcom, news, reality TV, domestic melodrama, soap operas, and crime procedurals to advertising, animation, mini-series, sci-fi and fantasy, the Western, "art television," and live drama. Students will also come to understand poetics as an approach useful to the study of any medium, especially when combined with the more speculative and conceptual projects of media and critical theory.
The course will deal with a selection of films directed (and some also written) by the highly regarded contemporary director, Martin Scorsese. We will proceed in roughly chronological order, examining the growth and development of his career, his characteristic manner and matter, his successes and failures. We will also discuss the concept of the auteur as it applies to his work.
Restricted to “Selznick” students.
This course contests its title. There is language and literature/film that records how language has failed as a means of (human) species adaptation toward conflict resolution in domestic and international contexts. This course, following the observations of Virginia Woolf in Three Guineas (1939), tries to document the language/literary connections between domestic violence and war making. In domestic situations, violence is protected by traditions of privacy and male governance of households; in public situations, there has been an inertia throughout recorded history in enacting the ideal announced in Isaiah: "[nations] shall not learn war any more." In our own society genres of popular and elite culture teach the necessity and glory of war through literature, film, toys, sports, and ideals of heroic behavior. Our normal ways of speaking still presuppose violence and war as a "last resort" in solving domestic and international antagonisms.
Restricted to “Selznick” students.
Restricted to “Selznick” students.
This workshop is for advanced fiction writers who have completed ENG 121 or have permission from the instructor. The course emphasizes the development of each student's individual style and imagination, as well as the practical and technical concerns of a fiction writer's craft. Readings will be drawn from a wide variety of modern and contemporary writers. Students will be expected to write three original short stories as well as to revise extensively in order to explore the full range of the story's potential.
Poetic Forms is a creative writing workshop dedicated to the practice and exploration of writing in form. Previous experience in writing in form and meter is not required, but previous coursework in creative writing is suggested. Open by instructor permission only and limited to fifteen students. Email instructor with a poetry sample of 3-5 pages.
This course will introduce students to the theoretical backgrounds, practical challenges, and creative activity of literary translation. We will survey appropriate theories of language and communication including semiotics, post-structuralism, pragmatics, discourse analysis, and cognitive linguistics. We will consider varied and conflicting descriptions by translators of what it is they believe they are doing and what they hope to accomplish by doing it; and we will study specific translations into English from a variety of sources in order to investigate the strategies and choices translators make and the implication of those choices for our developing sense of what kinds of texts translations actually are. Finally, students will, in consultation with the instructor or with another qualified faculty member, undertake exercises in translation of their own. By the end of this class each student should have a working knowledge of both the critical backgrounds and the artistic potentials of translation.
Introduction to Graduate Studies in English is a semester-long introduction to doctoral study in English.
So wrote Tertullian in his book on the Female Sect. The vagina is a crossroad between the external and the internal, and Eve started that by letting the Devil through the door; her punishment was terrible pain in childbirth. This course examines various medieval (and some later) texts where the feminine and the monstrous intersect. Todd Akin's now infamous remark about female physiology reveals a misconception about conception that goes back as far as the Middle Ages, and exposes the "patristic" need (still alive) to control female sexuality and reproduction. We will analyze the monstrous womb from a "timeless" perspective, addressing ancient and modern texts as they thread through the middle ages. The female body is porous, secretive, powerful, attractive, and repellent. It takes in and it expels: blood and progeny. It is associated with the abject, the messy, and it is all the more horrifying when it is not constrained socially and politically. The monstrous is always meaningful. In his De Portentis, Isidore of Seville identifies it as a sign that prints and shows (monstrare). The "monstrous feminine" emerges most prominently in the evil mother, the temptress, the hag, the witch, and the shapeshifter especially as these figures are seen to subvert "safe" sexuality and political power. The texts we will look at include scriptural and classical writings on women, medieval appropriation of the figures of Eve, Medea, and Melusine of Lusignan, horror of the "vetula" (old woman), the "loathly lady" romances, the Sheela na Gig, selections from The Malleus Maleficarum, De Secretis mulierum, Ambroise Pare's On Monsters and Marvels, "Duessa" and "Error" in Book I of Spenser's Faerie Queene, "Sin" in Milton's Paradise Lost, two or three contemporary films about monstrous mothers (Splice, Aliens), and articles from Jeffrey Jerome Cohen to Julia Kristeva to Sarah Alison Miller to Misty Urban to film theorist Barbara Creed.
"Malory" will consider the position of Malory's Morte d'Arthur in the development of the Arthurian legends and will examine Malory's sources and influence. Malory draws on both a chronicle and a romance tradition, which have their roots in the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chrétien de Troyes. These Arthurian antecedents as well as the sources of Malory's great book—including parts of the Vulgate cycle of French romances, and the Alliterative Morte Arthure and Stanzaic Morte Arthur—will be read, and the ways in which Malory combines the two traditions and adapts his sources will be discussed. Some of the major works influenced by the Morte, including Tennyson's Idylls of the King and Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, will also be read. And the adaptation or reinterpretation of the Morte in film, art, and popular culture will be considered. But the central concern of the course will be a reading of the Morte itself.
This seminar analyzes a number of English Renaissance plays often considered revenge tragedies. We will discuss the formal, thematic, and theatrical markers of revenge tragedy; the aesthetic implications of modifying the "tragic" with revenge; the social and cultural resonances of shifting permutations of theatrical revenge; and the interpretive questions that are prompted by the excesses (emotional, narrative, semantic, theatrical) of plays' characteristic violent and bloody spectacles.
The seminar's readings provide a survey of key sixteenth- and seventeenth-century dramatists (including Beaumont, Chapman, Fletcher, Ford, Kyd, Marlowe, Marston, Middleton, Shakespeare, Shirley, Tourneur, and Webster), theatrical venues (larger and smaller public theaters, schools, households), and theater historians and literary critics.
This course will consider some of the most canonical Victorian novels written by the most acclaimed novelists of the nineteenth-century (e.g., Charles Dickens, George Eliot, William Thackeray). We will situate these novels against the backdrop of a host of modern aesthetic and historical developments that changed understandings of temporality, capitalist exchange, class, sexuality, realism, narrative technique, etc. We will examine what it was about the genre of the novel that contributed to its dominance during the nineteenth century and the degree to which the modifier "Victorian" conveys both historical and aesthetic markers. The course will address some of the tensions between a genre that sought to represent "society" and its historical/cultural transformations even as its status as a novel emphasized its fictionality.
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? How do tropes supplement rational critical arguments, or even at times substitute for them? Of the literary works, 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? Readings include literary works by Melville, Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, and critical works by D.H. Lawrence, F.O. Matthiessen, Leslie Fiedler, William Spengemann, and Richard Poirier.
The task of any discussion of frames and framing in the visual arts—whether in painting, sculpture, film, performance, architecture, graphic novels and cartoon strips, or digital media—is first and foremost to counter the tendency of framing devices to invisibility with respect to the artwork they supposedly contain. We see the work, but we do not see the frame. It is against this tendency to ignore the frame that this seminar is directed. At first glance the frame may seem to be unproblematic. Starting from a consideration of the foundational texts of frame theory in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, we will examine the discursive limits of the material and non-material border in the writings of, among others, Mayer Schapiro, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Claude Lebensztejn, Louis Marin, Craig Owens, and Jacques Derrida.
The Great War, Paul Fussell has famously argued, initiated a new form of distinctly modern memory—unsparing, unsentimental, and essentially ironic. At the same time, it ushered in an unprecedented era of remembrance that transformed Great Britain into a culture obsessed with the commemoration of its war dead—in a manner anything but ironic—and with preserving the memory of the war as a piece of cultural heritage. In fact, long before the war was over, the people of Britain—both soldiers and civilians—were imagining how to remember it, and devising the administrative and aesthetic structures that would shape so much of its postwar memory. So powerful was this impulse—and so pervasive was the postwar obsession with memorialization—that Geoff Dyer has argued, "The war, it begins to seem, had been fought in order that it might be remembered, that it might live up to its memory." Recently, scholars of the war have begun to question not only how the war was remembered but whose war has been remembered and whose memories valued, opening the established history of the war to other narratives: war as experienced, for example, by women, working class men, colonial soldiers, and laborers. And they have illuminated the way memory is fabricated to produce myths of the war that, over time, serve changing interests. This seminar will explore the work of memory in some of the many memoirs and works of imaginative literature that appeared in the decades immediately following the war (e.g., Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, Vera Brittain, Ford Madox Ford, Rebecca West, and Virginia Woolf). We will consider the prodigious production of war poetry and the posthumous canonization of the "war poets" (e.g., Brooke, Owen, Sassoon, Rosenberg). And we will consider the appropriation and transformation of the war and its memory in late twentieth-century literature, film, and television (e.g., Pat Barker, Alan Holinghurst, Downton Abbey and other new BBC adaptations). We will also consider, as a critical framework, the rich body of theoretical and historical scholarship on memory work and memorialization, not all of it specific to the WWI context.
The materiality of language and literature is the modern version of a long-censored conception of language, Nominalism. The new conception emerged through the work of Wittgenstein, Bakhtin, Austin, Whorf, Derrida, and Kristeva in the mid-twentieth century. Literary criticism tried to take it up through Deconstruction. Recently Ordinary Language Criticism translates materiality away from exclusively text-centered criticism and toward wider contexts. This course considers some of the history of Nominalism and the political reasons for its having been censored. It articulates the terms of modern materiality of language, and it suggests how it asks to reconceive literature, its reading, study, and teaching in ways that can accommodate all world cultures. Recognizing the materiality of language overturns the sense of language as a spiritual, divine, or exceptional human trait, revokes the basis of centuries of censorship, and proposes senses of language sharable by all people.
Readings are taken from the work of the writers named above and from Robin Lakoff, Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Barbara Johnson, Herman Melville, Henrik Ibsen, Franz Kafka, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Sharon Olds. We will not read all of the above, but seminar members are invited to choose among these and to propose other writers that may contribute to our discussions.
Special application required and/or instructor's permission required.