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 of the four required 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
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. Means T 3:10-5:10
Creative Writing Seminar
Advanced study and practice of various forms of prose and poetry. Open in the senior year to students concentrating in English. Special Permission.
Writing samples are due before pre-registration. Check with the English office for the exact date of the deadline. Yearlong course 305-ENGL 306.
Mr. Kumar T 10:30-12:30
Senior Creative Writing
Swift immersion in writing culture. Engagement with diverse forms: fiction, nonfiction, journalism, poetry. Emphasis on experimental sampling and practice. (Credo: “Write the truest sentence that you know.”--Hemingway) Special Permission.
Open to seniors from all departments. Writing samples are due before pre-registration. Check with the English office for the exact date of the deadline.
Ms. Graham R 1:00-3:00
Studies in Literary Theory
This course is designed as preparation for the senior thesis, as preparation for graduate level work (in an Anti- or Post-Theory environment), and as a capstone to the English major, answering the puzzling question of why certain critical perspectives are favored or ignored by professional readers of poetry, prose, epic, specific periods of literature, or literary schools. Although Derrida is dead and pundits and journalists seem all too ready to bury his legacy, we are not entitled to dismiss him without a reading. In addition, we will address questions pertaining to the relation of literature to history and to social life (Gadamer, Lukacs, Benjamin, Adorno, Said, Hayden White), literary language to ‘objective’ language (Saussure, Benveniste, Austin, Bakhtin), and metaphor to metonymy (Jakobson, J. Hillis Miller, De Man, Derrida, Lacan, Ricoeur) as well as Reader Response criticism (Iser, Fish) and theories of Discourse/Textuality (Foucault, Barthes).
Ms. Dunbar W 1:00-3:00
Blacks and Blues
(Same as AFRS 319) 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.
Ms. Graham T 3:10-5:10
American Literary Realism
Advanced study of literary realism and naturalism focusing on the historical bent of the great American novel between 1870 and 1910, the first period in American literature to be called modern. What constitutes reality in fiction? How is verisimilitude in characterization and context achieved? What is the relationship of realism to other literary traditions? Authors may include Henry James, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Charles Chesnutt, Frank Norris, William Dean Howells, Edith Wharton, Thorstein Veblen, Theodore Dreiser, and Willa Cather.
Topic for 2017a: American Literary Realism and Naturalism: A Reading of Major American Novels Written Primarily Between 1870 and 1910. After the Civil War, the U.S. experienced increasing rates of democracy and literacy, the rapid growth of industrialism and urbanization, an expanding population due to immigration, and a rise in middle-class affluence, which provided a fertile literary environment for writers interested in explaining these rapid shifts in culture. A grand explanatory narrative directs the plot and action of these novels. Authorial intentions give way to a set of laws or principles derived from the dominant ideologies that supported America's maturation into a super-power: Social Darwinism, the Gospel of Efficiency (new Protestant work ethic), or Imperialism (new Manifest Destiny). Surprisingly, the myth of American ‘progress’ is tested and found wanting in almost every book on the syllabus. In seeking scientific objectivity, writers plied a representational strategy focused on ‘hard facts’ and minute detail, which as often as not found the protagonist at odds with his or her environment. Though post-war, the terrain we cover is embattled: race riots, strikes, downward economic mobility, criminality, and homelessness. Shut out of the canon by reason of changing fashions in literary tastes, the less familiar authors on the syllabus belong to the emerging protest novel. Authors will include: Henry James, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Charles Chesnutt, Frank Norris, William Dean Howells, Edith Wharton, Thorstein Veblen, Theodore Dreiser, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison.
Ms. Kane M 3:10-5:10
Postmodern American Literature
The seminar will examine the production of the “postmodern” as a period, an aesthetic, and a critical practice. Though the scholars and writers debate the term ceaselessly, it remains rather firmly entrenched in particular, often bracketed, premises. What happens to the stylistic gestures of fragmentation and decentering when they represent formulations that do not proceed from a prior assumption of coherence? Who provides the raw material of surface differences? How do pop genres and visual epistemologies resist or reinforce these structures? We will examine such questions through a variety of classic texts, theoretical and imaginative, as well as works that devise similar features or effects from different histories. Authors will include Gertrude Stein, Don DeLillo, Colson Whitehead, Lydia Davis, Harryette Mullen, and Nick Flynn.
Ms. Gemmill T 6:30-8:30
Romantic Poets: Rebels with a Cause
Intensive study of the major poetry and critical prose of Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats in the context of Enlightenment thought, the French Revolution, and the post-Napoleonic era. Readings may include biographies, letters, and a few philosophical texts central to the period. Some preliminary study of Milton is strongly recommended.
Why is it that the most influential and ambitious work in queer studies has rarely emerged from the field of Romanticism? As Michael O’Rourke and David Collings rightly note, “We have had [scholarly studies called] Queering the Middle Ages, Queering the Renaissance, Victorian Sexual Dissidence, and Queering the Moderns—but no Queering the Romantics.” Accounting for this critical gap, Richard Sha argues that the Romantic period has been mischaracterized as a “seemingly asexual zone between eighteenth-century edenic ‘liberated’ sexuality...and the repressive sexology of the Victorians.” In reality, this relatively brief cultural moment in England produced a diverse range of queer figures, both historical and literary: from Anne Lister, whose diary records hundreds of pages in code about her sexual relationships with women, to the Ladies of Llangollen, who openly cohabited with the support of English high society, to the myth of the modern vampire, a deeply sexualized and often queer figure. Given the richness of the terrain, then, why are queer studies lagging behind in Romantic circles?
In this advanced seminar, we will address this underdeveloped area of scholarly research through our reading of primary and secondary texts, our class discussion, and our critical research projects. Reading theory and criticism from Romanticism studies and adjacent scholarly fields, we will ask ourselves—what is queer about this literary-historical moment that has not yet been accounted for? Our goal will be to redefine the boundaries of queer Romanticism—beyond a simplistic search for queer characters in the primary texts—to include broader theoretical categories such as queer affect and queer temporality, among others. We will focus primarily on the poetry of the period, but will also attend to some prose genres, including the diary and the essay.
Ms. Kim T 3:00-5:00
Global & Refugee Canterbury Tales
In Britain in the last several years, the hashtag #WhyIsMyCurriculumSoWhite? has agitated for a change in the complexion and primacy of white colonial literature and history in UK universities. Likewise, you see this also in the US with #blacklivesmatter protests in the university and have seen it in our field of English literature with the protest at Yale regarding the core canonical authors class. In those demands, Yale English students demanded to know why their curriculum and core required class is a bastion of colonial male white privilege. They want their classes decolonized and they have, of course, named Chaucer as part of the problem. In South Africa, this has sparked a huge student push in activism with the hashtag #RhodesMustFall. The student protests and the accompanying hashtags have only highlighted a global issue in higher education and particularly in our English curriculum. What does the major (usually white, usually dead, usually male, usually European) author mean in an English curriculum? And is there a way to decolonize this category?
Gauri Viswanathan wrote in 2014 in the preface of her 25-year anniversary republication of the now classic Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India that now “Perhaps the most significant effect of postcolonialism—with all its shortcomings, blind spots, and metropolitan evasions—is that the curricular study of English can no longer be studied innocently or inattentively to the deeper contexts of imperialism, transnationalism, and globalization in which the discipline first articulated its mission” (xi). She points out in this study but also in thinking of the work done since the first publication of her book that English literature as a field has a very short history (150 years) and in fact began as a colonial project and thus was formed internationally before become a “national” literary field (xii-xiii). We need to ask ourselves as Viswanathan suggests: “precisely where is English literature produced?” Medieval English studies should always already be seen as global, inclusive, multilingual, multicultural. But Viswanathan’s point should also alert us to that fact that Chaucer’s Middle English oeuvre and particularly his Canterbury Tales was first taught as part of an English literary curriculum not in Britain but abroad in its colonies. Chaucer’s place in the contemporary canon has everything to do with his creation for the global colonial classroom. Thus, Chaucer had a global curricular readership long before he had an English curricular one.
This class focuses on situating Chaucer, and particularly the Canterbury Tales, as a global work and especially in lieu of recent projects that address the plight of international refugees (http://refugeetales.org). In particular, we will read the Canterbury Tales in relation to the compelling work of black feminist writers, playwrights, and poets of the African diaspora (in the Caribbean, Africa, and black London) who have revised, adapted, extrapolated, and voiced the Canterbury Tales in Jamaican patois, Nigerian pidgin, and the south London dialects of Brixton. We will consider the place of Global English in relation to creating this Chaucerian black diasporic and feminist cluster of works. These will include Patience Agbabi’s Telling Tales (2014) that sets the Canterbury Tales in multicultural London with a distinctly London musical beat. Likewise, Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo’s recent song and dance adaptation of the “Miller’s Tale,” Wahala Dey O!, premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012 with the cadences of Nigerian pidgin English. Jean Breeze’s poem, “The Wife of Bath Speaks in Brixton Market” includes the weaving-in of Jamaican patois. It will also include the 2016 publication of Refugee Tales that includes Patience Agbabi’s work as well as the work of a cluster of British and diasporic British (Middle Eastern and African) writers as they take up the task of communicating refugee’s tales that they have encountered at one UK refugee detention centre. And finally, this class will consider the reach of Global Chaucer and think about translation and adaptation. We will examine the master list of the Global Chaucer project (https://globalchaucers.wordpress.com/resources/translations-and-adaptations-listed-by-country/). This class will include a workshop with Patience Agbabi (Telling Tales, Refugee Tales). Students are welcome to work on translation projects, creative projects, archive projects, digital storytelling, as well as traditional critical papers in relation to the Global Chaucer site and the Refugee Tales project.
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.
Topic for 2017a: American Jewish Literature. This course is an exploration of the American Jewish literary imagination from historical, topical, and theoretical perspectives. Among the genres we will cover are novels (such as Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep, Philip Roth's The Counterlife, and Dana Horn’s A Guide for the Perplexed), plays (Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance), stories (by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, Grace Paley, Melanie Kaye-Kantrowitz, and others), poems (by Celia Dropkin, Moyshe-Leyb Halpern, Irena Klepfisz, and others), essays (Adrienne Rich’s “Split at the Root”), artists’ books (Tana Kellner’s Fifty Years of Silence), and graphic collections (Vanessa Davis’s Make Me a Woman). Topics include the lineages of Talmudic hermeneutics and Midrash, the development of Yiddish American modernism, the (anti)conventions of queer Jewish literatures and the intersections of Jewishness and queerness, the possibilities and limitations of a diaspora poetics, and contemporary representations of the Holocaust. No prerequisites.