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III. Advanced Courses

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

Senior Year Requirements

The College requires a special exercise to distinguish the work of the senior year in one’s major.  In the English department, that requirement takes the form of English 300, Senior Tutorial, or enrolling in at least one 300-level courses in the senior year.

Description of English 300:  All senior English majors should consider taking this course.  The tutorial should reflect and extend the intellectual interests you have developed in your earlier course work.  The tutorial itself involves working with an individual faculty member to produce a long paper (approximately 10,000 words or 40 pages).  The project may consist of a sustained critical essay or a series of linked essays, or one of several alternatives, such as primary research in the Special Collections department of the Library, a piece of translation, a work of dramaturgy, a work of fiction, a collection of poems, or a scholarly edition of a particular work or group of works.

300 a or b

Senior Tutorial

Preparation of a long essay (40 pages) or other independently designed critical project.  Each essay is directed by an individual member of the department.  Special Permission.


Mr. Kumar           T         3:10-5:10

Senior Creative Writing Seminar

Study and practice of various forms of prose and poetry for experienced creative writers.  Open to seniors in all departments.  Special Permission.

Writing samples are due before pre-registration.  Check with the English office for the exact date of the deadline.  Yearlong course ENGL 305-ENGL 306.


Ms. Dunbar            W        1:00-3:00

Race and its Metaphors

(Same as AFRS 319) Re-examinations of canonical literature in order to discover how race is either explicitly addressed by or implicitly enabling to the texts. Does racial difference, whether or not overtly expressed, prove a useful literary tool? The focus of the course varies from year to year.

Topic for 2018a: Blacks and Blues: Blues as Metaphor in African American Literature. Ralph Ellison wrote of the blues that it is “an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger its jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism.” This course takes the blues as a metaphor and follows it through canonical African American writing to consider multiple themes: black sonics, black vernacular traditions, sexuality and freedom, social critique, joy, pain, and futurities of blackness. Students interested in this course need not have a musical background, but interest in the links between sound and black literature will be expected.


Mr. Antelyes           T         3:10-5:10

Literature of the American Renaissance

Intensive study of major works by American writers of the mid-nineteenth century. Authors may include: Cooper, Poe, Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Douglass, Fuller, Stowe, Delany, Wilson, Melville, Whitman, and Dickinson. In addition to placing the works in historical and cultural context, focusing on the role of such institutions as slavery and such social movements as transcendentalism, the course also examines the notion of the American Renaissance itself. 


Mr. Markus            W        1:00-3:00

Studies in Shakespeare

(Same as DRAM 342) Advanced study of Shakespeare’s work and its cultural significance in various contexts from his time to today.

Topic for 2018a: Shakespeare Today. This course seeks answers to the question of what Shakespeare means in our contemporary culture. What is “Shakespeare” and, for that matter, what is “culture” today? How dead is the author if he is called Shakespeare? How has Shakespeare been made, rediscovered, and reinvented? The exceeding (and frequently uncritical) appreciation of Genius Shakespeare has been variously described as “Bardolatry,” “Shakespeare cult,” “Shakespeare fetish,” and “Shakespeare myth.” Our aim is to examine the genealogy and the current effects of Shakespeare’s distinguished cultural status. We begin by clarifying a few theoretical issues and exploring how this cultural icon has been constructed from Shakespeare’s time to the present, after which we focus on specific Shakespeare plays contrasting their cultural significance and possible meanings in Shakespeare’s time with their significance and meanings today. Four Shakespeare plays are at the center of our investigations: The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and The Tempest.  In this second part of the course, we pay special attention to stage, film, and digital adaptations as well as other cultural appropriations of these plays.


Mr. Kane           T         3:00-5:00

Twentieth- and Twenty-first Century Poetry

Intensive study of selected Anglophone poets.  The course may focus on particular eras, schools, topics, and theories of prosody, with consideration of identity groups or locations.


Mr. Chang           R          3:10-5:10

Selected Author

Study of the work of a single author. The work may be read in relation to literary predecessors and descendants as well as in relation to the history of the writers’ critical and popular reception.

Topic for 2018a:  Select Author:  Virginia Woolf. 

Virginia Woolf seems more like our contemporary than any other British modernist. A scathing and often hilarious critic of patriarchy, her writing is free of the vexing misogyny that dates the work of her male counterparts. She treats women’s quotidian experiences - their travails, but also their pleasures - as subjects of universal artistic concern. Her detailed explorations of the flux of consciousness and the intricate nature of memory continue to resonate in our confessional culture. But so to do her queer attempts to get beyond both the dreary offices of gender and the pondering of one’s own uniqueness. Against the grain of her reputation as a chronicler of the inner life, her writing focuses the mundane object-world in new and unfamiliar ways and probes the elusive nature of our social tie, our being-in-common. Like Freud, she tried in her late work to imagine what a civilized society might look like in an era of unprecedented barbarity, when appeals to collective existence were being marshaled under the banners of jingoism, imperialism, militarism, and fascism. Perhaps her most urgent lesson for us, however, is neither strictly “personal” nor “political”: Woolf made powerful pleas for our right to privacy and anonymity, for the freedom to think about nothing in particular and to do so without interruption in a room of one’s own. On the other hand, no one did more than she to invent her readership and to secure her afterlife as a literary celebrity: no reading of Woolf is quite separable from the life and the legend, the fallacy and the figment, of the author. In addition to reading her novels, we sample her short fiction, essays, memoirs, diaries, and letters.


Ms. McGlennen              R          3:10-5:10

Transnational Literature

This course focuses on literary works and cultural networks that cross the borders of the nation-state. Such border-crossings raise questions concerning vexed phenomena such as globalization, exile, diaspora, and migration-forced and voluntary. Collectively, these phenomena deeply influence the development of transnational cultural identities and practices. Specific topics studied in the course vary from year to year and may include global cities and cosmopolitanisms; the black Atlantic; border theory; the discourses of travel and tourism; global economy and trade; or international terrorism and war. 

Topic for 2018a: Indigenous Transnationalisms. This course focuses on the ways in which transnational studies has become a more helpful tool in unpacking particular critical questions that both American Studies and literary/cultural criticism produce. In many ways, transnational literatures and visual culture continue to serve as a means to subvert dominant narratives of the nation-state as a static and stable territory.  Many contemporary North American Indigenous writers and artists – across colonial and tribal borders alike – utilize their work to more accurately reflect the global flow of Indigenous peoples, ideas, texts, and products etc. and call into question the geo-political boundaries of colonial nation-states.  Indigenous transnationalism as a theoretical position demonstrates how some Native American/First Nation/Indio literatures and visual culture produce a mobilizing force of shared cultural and political alliances across nationalistic lines while remaining steadfast to tribally-specific and inter-tribal identities and citizenships.  In this way, many Indigenous artists are critiquing national identity and imperialism, and radically challenging the histories, geographies, and contemporary social relations that define the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean.


Mr. Simpson             M     3:10-6:10

English Seminar

Topic for 2018a: Then Whose Negro Are You?: On the Art and Politics of James Baldwin. When interviewers sought out some sense of James Baldwin’s ambition, the artist often responded, “I want to be an honest man and a good writer.” The forces constellated around Baldwin’s career made this hardly a simple declaration. The issue of becoming a writer was an arduous task in itself, so much so that Baldwin felt he had to leave the United States, particularly his adored Harlem, to do so. Getting in the way of his artistry was the nation’s troubled negotiation with its own soul: the US was trying to figure out what it wanted to be – an apartheid state? An nuclear dreadnought? A den of prudish homophobes? An imperial power? A beloved community? A city on the Hill? This course looks at all things Baldwin, or at least as many things as we can cover in a four month period. It certainly indulges his greatest hits – his essays, Notes of A Native Son; his novel, Giovanni’s Room; his play, Blues for Mr. Charlie’s – and several other writings both published and unpublished. It does so with an eye toward understanding Baldwin’s circulation as a celebrated author and a public intellectual both in the mid-twentieth century and the present day.


Notice to Majors

Students may receive credit toward the major for other courses offered in the programs (when taught or team-taught by members of the department) upon the approval of the curriculum committee. Please consult with the chair if you have questions about a particular course.


Ms. Dunn and Ms. McCloskey

Inside Out Taconic Prison Course – Disability and Identity

(Same as EDUC 181) In this course, we use a multidisciplinary lens to examine the individual, social, and institutional structures that shape the experiences of disabled people. We consider how the fields of psychology, medicine, legal studies, and media representations of disabled people influences how they are received in society, schools, and in prisons. We devote a significant portion of this class to reading about how disability intersects with other identities including race, gender, class, and sexuality and how societal understandings produce inequalities in schools and in prisons. 

By application only to the Dean of the College and must be over 21. 

This course is held at the Taconic Correctional Facility for Women.