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English Freshman Course Descriptions Spring '17

Course descriptions from the English Department to supplement the information in the college catalogue.

I. Introduction to Literary Study

101.51               TR       1:30-2:45

Mr. Foster

Playwork:

Western drama, from Aeschylus through YouTube.  Readings may include Sophocles, Medieval mystery plays, William Shakespeare, Eugene O'Neill, Bertolt Brecht, Lillian Hellman, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Sam Shepard, Christopher Durang, and Sarah Kane.  Some performance will be required.  Writing will include theater reviews, historical research, literary criticism, and original dramatic scripts.

101.52  

Ms. Moynihan                MW     9:00-10:15                  

Coming of Age:

The first Bildungsroman, also called the “novel of development” or “coming-of-age novel,” is believed to be Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795). Originally a genre that foregrounded the rites-of- passage undergone by a white, male protagonist in order to integrate him fully into his society, this course examines Bildungsromane from the 19th century to today to consider the ways in which a range of British and American writers have adopted, revised, and/or transformed it. We will also investigate the extent to which changes in the genre may be mapped against larger social, cultural and historical shifts. Authors will include some of the following: Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, John Barth, Philip Roth, Danzy Senna, Tobias Wolff and Alison Bechdel. 

101.53  

Ms. Moynihan                  MW     12:00-1:15

Coming of Age:

The first Bildungsroman, also called the “novel of development” or “coming-of-age novel,” is believed to be Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795). Originally a genre that foregrounded the rites-of- passage undergone by a white, male protagonist in order to integrate him fully into his society, this course examines Bildungsromane from the 19th century to today to consider the ways in which a range of British and American writers have adopted, revised, and/or transformed it. We will also investigate the extent to which changes in the genre may be mapped against larger social, cultural and historical shifts. Authors will include some of the following: Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, John Barth, Philip Roth, Danzy Senna, Tobias Wolff and Alison Bechdel. 

English 170

Entitled “Approaches to Literary Studies,” English 170 is designed as an introduction to the discipline of literary studies.  While each section has a different focus (see descriptions below), they have a common agenda: to explore the concerns and methods of the discipline.  Topics range from specific critical approaches and their assumptions to larger questions about meaning-making in literature, criticism, and theory.  Assignments will develop skills for research and writing in English, including the use of secondary sources and the critical vocabulary of literary study. 

As an introduction to the discipline, English 170 is recommended, but not required, for potential majors.  It is open to freshmen and sophomores, and others by permission. Although the ideal sequence of English courses for freshmen interested in majoring in English is English 101 in the Fall and 170 in the Spring, 101 is not a prerequisite for 170.  Freshmen wishing to take English 170 in the fall semester must have AP English credit. The English department does not recommend that students take 101 and 170 during the same semester.  Note that English 170 does not fulfill the Freshman Course requirement.

170.52

Mr. Antelyes             TR       12:00-1:30

Approaches to Literary Studies:  Changing The Subject

Questions about the nature of subjectivity have become central to contemporary literary studies.  What is the relation between the subject of the work of literature and the subjectivity of the author who produced it?  How is that subjectivity constituted by and encoded in literary form?  How have specific subjectivities, as well as subjectivity in general, been conceptualized in literary history, criticism, and theory?  This course will consider such questions, and their implications for the study of literature generally, by focusing on current areas of contention over the claims of subjectivity, such as gender, sexuality, race, postcoloniality, and postmodernity.  Works may include Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (gender and sexuality); Gayl Jones’s Corregidora (race); Nicholson Baker’s

The Mezzanine (postmodernity); and Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North (postcoloniality).  In addition to placing these texts in their historical and cultural contexts, we will explore a variety of critical perspectives, including semiotics, feminism, psychoanalysis, and cultural studies.

170.53

Mr. Chang                     WF      1:30-2:45        

Approaches to Literary Studies:  Literaray Subgenres

We will study an assortment of literary texts that speak to our contemporary moment, a media landscape altered (for better and for worse) by the weapons of mass discussion. These experiments trespass the border between fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, technology and genius, reality and textuality, fragment and work, rigor and delirium, love of language (philology) and love of truth (philosophy). They are difficult to categorize. They break from established genres but are nevertheless generically named: short-short stories, lyric essays, prose poems, illness narratives, antinovels, metafictions, autofictions, creative nonfiction, literary criticism, literary hoaxes. Their pertinence for serious students of literature is difficult to overstate, if only because, in them, literature itself (“Literachoor” as Ezra Pound liked to say) is not presumed innocent but, like Kafka’s indignant protagonist K., put on trial. With bravado and cunning, these texts interrogate all the conventions that ballast our habitual understanding of what literature was, is, and might still be, including plot and character, author and narrator, voice and style, grammar and punctuation, genre and gender.

Here is a list of some likely and unlikely readings, in no particular order: Virginia Woolf’s On Being Ill, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up, J. L. Borges’s Ficciones, Franz Kafka’s Parables and Paradoxes, Sir Thomas Browne’s Hydrotaphia, or Urne-Buriall, Walter Benjamin’s One-Way Street, Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, Ern Malley’s Angry Penguins, Charles Simic’s The World Doesn’t End, Harryette Mullen’s S*PeRM**K*T, Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, David Shields’s Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, Theresa Cha’s Dictée.

170.54

Ms. Kane                  TR       1:30-2:45

Approaches to Literary Studies:  Journeys of Transformation

The course investigates the journey as a representation of fundamental change. Not only a plot of movement through space, the journey acts as a figure for transformation in or disruption of physical, emotional, and spiritual states of being, in individuals and groups.  We will focus on the status and function of the journey as a determinant of bodily character, identity, genre, plot, and history. Each unit will also address a philosophical framework, an interpretive issue, or an analytical practice important to literature as a discipline.  Students will develop their skills through class discussion, short, directed assignments, and longer essays, including a research essay and an annotated bibliography. Primary texts will include Christine de Pisan’s allegory City of Women, the verse romance Gawain and the Green Knight, Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir Maus, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original pulp Tarzan, Colson Whitehead’s  recent novel The Intuitionist, selections from Harriet Jacobs’ memoir  Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.  

ENGL 170 is not a writing intensive class, in that we will not focus on student writing during class time.  The class does require college-level grammatical and writing abilities, and a desire to delve into theories of interpretation about texts.

170.55

Mr. Perez                MW     10:30-11:45    

Approaches to Literary Studies: Telling Secrets

Margaret Atwood describes secrecy as “a poppy made of ink” that “blooms” inside its subjects. She begins her poem with a correlation between blood and secrecy that resonates powerfully within the American imagination: “Secrecy flows through you,/a different kind of blood.”  This course investigates the primacy of secrets and confessions as modes of authenticity and self-knowledge in US cultural production.  In particular, we consider how the secret provides a major constitutive and regulatory structure for the expression of sexuality and race in American life.  We also examine the dynamic relationship of readers to what remains inexplicit in the literary.  How is it that the unspoken in a text might provide a key moment defining not only that text but naming a particular readership?  Peter Brooks contends (following Foucault, following Freud) that “the obligation to hide…is merely an aspect of the need to avow, to confess.”  As Atwood's poem suggests, secrecy is a matter of both blood and ink, an interiority shaped by dominant narratives and national symbology yet no less intimate, true and secretive to its subject. Do secrets foreclose speech or urge us toward confession?  What are the different performative modes of confession (and secrecy) beyond speech and writing?  Is it the role of the critic to make silences articulate and what are the ethical implications of such a project?  We will read works by Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin, Anne Sexton, and Michelle Cliff.  Approaches include psychoanalysis, critical race theory, feminist theory, queer theory, narratology, new historicism, new criticism, reader-response, and deconstruction.

English 174 - 179 – Special Topics

Courses listed under these numbers are designed to offer to a wide audience a variety of literary subjects that are seldom taught in regularly offered courses.  The courses are six weeks in length, and the subjects they cover vary from year to year.  Enrollment is unlimited and open to all students.  Instructors lecture when the classes are too large for the regular seminar format favored in the English department.  Does not satisfy Freshman Course requirement.  These courses are ungraded and do not count toward the major.   They may be repeated. 

177.51
Mr. Hsu                 WF      12:00-1:15
Special Topics

Topic for 2017b:  Imagining the City. This six-week course will survey various approaches to thinking and writing about the city. How do our surroundings change us? What power does an individual have to reshape or reimagine the vast urban landscape? We will consider the city via a range of topics, from the rise of automobiles and suburbs to the questions posed by gentrifcation, in a diverse array of depictions: the ethnic underground of Chang-rae Lee's Queens; the forlorn Baltimore depicted in the television show The Wire; the midnight wanderings of Teju Cole and Junot Diaz; the global bustle of Jessica Hagedorn's Manila; and present-day graffiti artists and urban farmers reclaiming their "right to the city."

1st Six Weeks.