Course Offerings: Fall 2006
Fall 2006 promises to be an exciting semester. Please visit descriptions of our Current Upper-Division Undergraduate Course Offerings and our Current Graduate Seminar Offerings.
UPPER-DIVISION UNDERGRADUATE COURSE OFFERINGS :
Professor Ryan Trimm
Powell and Pressburger
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, an Englishman and a Hungarian immigrant, were perhaps the dominant British filmmakers in the middle decades of the twentieth-century, a time that witnessed vast transformations not only in British cinema but also in Britain’s standing in the world. However, the team (which named themselves “The Archers”) had ambivalent relations with Britain and British filmmaking. The films they turned out are landmarks in British cinema, but all display an uneasiness with traditionally conceived British identity and with characteristic themes in British filmmaking. The result was a body of work characterized by strange and striking plots, lush visuals, and an unsettled and unsettling emotional tone.
ENG 303 will use the peculiarity of treating a pair of filmmakers (who did not always work together) as a single auteur as a way of interrogating the idea of the auteur itself. We will watch Powell and Pressburger films such as Black Narcissus, Contraband, Forty-Ninth Parallel, The Red Shoes, Peeping Tom, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and A Canterbury Tale. However, rather than just charting a straight-forward course of films by these filmmakers, one projecting an internal line of continuity and development, we will want to situate their films within a larger frame. We will look at some early and contemporaneous British films (The Private Life of Henry VIII, Sabotage, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Servant) that our duo work with and against. We’ll also look at a few films--British, American, and Australian--influenced by Powell and Pressburger: Derek Jarman’s War Requiem, Stephen Frears’s Dirty Pretty Things, Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence, and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. Doing so will allow us to more fully develop explorations of key themes and visual motifs in Powell and Pressburger: the question of British identity in a rapidly changing world; the relation of film to other cultural practices such as music, dance, and photography; the evolution of the “literary” film; the role of cinematic color as index of excess; and the instability of racial, gender, and sexual identities.
Professor Matthew Frankel
FILM GENRES: Film and the Sea
This course will give students an opportunity to watch and consider a variety of recent depictions of the sea in film. We will examine how the sea serves as a complex site and available image for different modes of philosophical speculation, scientific exploration, and aesthetic appreciation, as well as the possibility of defining these films about the sea as part of a distinct cinematic genre. In addition, the course will introduce recent critical work on the history and theory of cinema. Viewings will include but are not limited to: Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic, Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale, James Cameron's Aliens of the Deep, and Dana Brown's Step into Liquid
Professor Peter Covino
ADVANCED CREATIVE WRITING:
We will explore some of the most innovative and exciting poems ever written both in English and some in translation, beginning from Medieval times with a special focus on avant-garde and contemporary poetry. In addition to writing/revising your own poems (10-15 pages per semester), we will spend focused class time responding to changing poetic traditions with a keen understanding of how these trends still influence our work as contemporary practitioners of the art. Every other week, students will respond to specific assignments related to formal principles discussed; for example, students will attempt to write poems in at least three traditional forms, such as the sonnet, terza rima, and ode, as well as experiment with newer, non-conventional poetic strategies. By the end of the semester, each student is expected to complete a chapbook size collection/portfolio of poems that has been fully revised. Students will be expected to articulate their ideas and opinions about weekly assignments in an informal journal that will be utilized as the basis of class discussion; two short response papers 2-3 pages are also required. This course is offered with special consideration of the campus reading series and local reading venues and, as such, we will also read and discuss three recent books of contemporary poetry of varied styles depending on scheduled events.
Professor Paul Arakelian
THE STRUCTURE OF AMERICAN ENGLISH
This course has two different but complementary goals. On the one hand, we will review the grammatical terms and rules, which are used by most grammarians and English teachers to “improve” our written and spoken language. On the other hand, I will introduce you to linguistic concepts and analyses, which will explain why we write and speak the way we do. Between these two poles of judging what we do and admiring how we do it, wavers the stuff of most English courses, literature and composition. So, to ground our discussions of both grammar and linguistics, you will analyze samples of literary and expository texts.
Professor Paul Arakelian
THE STRUCTURE OF AMERICAN ENGLISH
(See Section 01 for Description)
Professor Paul Arakelian
THE EVOLUTION OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
In this course we will EXPLORE HOW THE English Language has evolved in the 1000 years from its origins in 600 AD, as a remote North Sea dialect, to its emergence in the Renaissance as a world language. In addition, we will consider how English culture may have influenced language change and how the language may have mirrored cultural values. The majority of class time will be devoted to individual or group exercises and projects which will give you a sense of the sounds and structures of English and the opportunity to make connections between language and culture.
Professor Martha Rojas
Narrating the Self: From Personal Narrative to Pseudo-Autobiography
Autobiographical texts have been read both as works of historical truth and as works of literary artifice, of pure fact or of fanciful fiction. Texts that confound such distinctions have been assailed as fabrications, lies, forgeries, and their authors accused of presenting a “false person.” In this course we will read the self-penned “true” life stories of printers, preachers, philosophers, and sailors, con men, scholars, entrepreneurs, and runaway slaves, and those held captive by nuns, pirates, addiction and governments. We will consider whether there are any inherent qualities that make a text necessarily autobiographical; whether “autobiography” describes a practice of reading as well as of writing; and the longing for an encounter with an authentic self that troubles the reading and writing of autobiographical narrative. We will begin by reading the memoirs of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin and end with those of Caroline Knapp (Drinking: A Love Story) and James Frey ( A Million Little Pieces ).
Professor Gitahi Gititi
AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERARY GENRES
(Other than Short Story and Novel)
For purposes of this semester, the course will focus entirely on African American Theater. We will be concerned with the politics of representation and location, paying close attention to the relationship between the historical moment and the dramatic and performance texts. The meaning of the dramatic text studied will be linked to their significance and potential social effects. Written largely during periods of turbulent social change, the texts chosen provide an opportunity to reflect on the transformative power of theater. Beginning with a broad overview of the issues and performance traditions impacting African American Drama, we will proceed to the major highlights in the evolution of the latter. Notions of race, gender, class, and how these impact the retrieval of black people as speaking subjects will also be examined.
Professor Felix Okeke-Ezigbo
AFRICAN AMERICAN FICTION
This course examines the novel and the short story as vehicles for the articulation of African American experience from its inception to the contemporary period.
A close look at tone, content and form may illuminate the development of a specific African American literary tradition, as well as the political, economic, social and cultural conditions that have affected and continue to affect the thematics in and the conditions of production of the literature of African-descended peoples in the USA.
Authors studied include Morrison, Toomer, Ellison, Hurston, Chesnutt, Walker.
Professor RB Reaves
Studies in the literature of the Bible. Readings are primarily from the Old Testament in English translation. Topics considered include the following: the tracing of origins and influences from the early oral cultures to the Hellenistic era, the traditions of Hebrew poetry and literary practice, the development of the Torah as a unified text, and the process of the shaping of diverse texts produced over many centuries culminating in a canonized scripture.
Professor Jennifer Jones
REVOLUTION AND REVOLT:
Scholars have long read English Romanticism in relation to the movements for democratic reform associated with the American and French revolutions. This course continues this investigation by considering how other political revolutions occurring in the same period alter (or not) the ideals and realities associated with Romanticism, those revolutions being efforts to emancipate women and slaves. Our chief points of focus are on abolition discourse and the revolt by slaves in Saint Domingue and on women’s literary participation in the various revolutions and controversies. How does our view of Romantic ideology change when we focus on English responses to slavery and the slave revolts of the 1790s? How do countervailing narratives by women and slaves affect definitions of rights, progress, self, imagination, empathy? How do they influence our dreams for social change now? What, finally, are the possibilities, the limits, and the politics of imagination?
MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE AUTHORS:
Chaucer, Jonson, and Pre-Novelistic "Character"
This course will undertake detailed studies of Geoffrey Chaucer and Ben Jonson, two major early English authors whose work was as important as any in their periods to the definition of English literary sensibilities. Of Chaucer's work, we will read large portion of The Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde, and some of the lyrics and shorter narrative poems. Of Jonson's writing, we will read several of his major plays, selections of other plays that helped define the Jonsonian sub-genre "humour comedy," non-dramatic poetry, and the Discoveries. To unify an otherwise bifurcated course, we will pay particular attention to the strategies employed by both Chaucer and Jonson to develop a concept of "character" in eras when highly psychologized novelistic concepts of character (familiar to us) were not yet available. Some of the topics that will occupy us are rhetorical concepts of ethos and persona, our current preoccupation with the "subject," medieval and early modern concepts of privacy and interiority, and humour physiology and humour psychology. We will also read in the character tradition pursued by Theophrastus, Sir Thomas Overbury, and others. Finally, we will consider how these two authors' senses of their own identities might be important components of our critical approach. There will be a lot of reading for this course; constant preparation, attendance, and participation are essential. Assignments will probably include two essays, a midterm exam, and a final exam. There will also be activities designed to (re-)familiarize ourselves with Middle English and Early Modern English, and oral presentations.
Professor Stephen Barber
MODERNIST LITERATURE 1900-1945
( An International Perspective)
This course considers a wide range of the issues, motives, and ambitions embodied in the modernist novel. Preoccupations that will emerge through class discussion include the changing possibilities of novelistic genre; narratorial consciousness; experimental identities; adult relations to childhood; the spatialities of present and past; the vicissitudes of gender; alternatives to triangular desire; phallic and non-phallic sexualities; and the languages of affect to name but a few.
Our bibliography is international in scope: novels by Kafka, Proust, and Woolf provide main focal points, but Cather, Colette, Faulkner, Forster, Gide, Hall, Rhys, Mann, and Musil are also considered. Students reobliged to focus on the section assigned for each class session; we won’t be able to pursue our strategy of close reading if we aren’t all reading/discussing the same passages at the same time.
There are three writing assignments: the first is a close-reading of a passage from one novel in terms of the course’s preoccupations; the second is a comparative reading of two passages from two novels that ostensibly treat the same or a similar subject; and the last is to be a full-dress critical essay.
Professor Karen Stein
WOMEN WRITERS: Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is the premier contemporary Canadian author. Her works span the genres from literary criticism to poetry to fiction to children’s literature. In this course we will analyze selected texts in the contexts of current literary criticism, and contemporary social and political issues, especially as they relate to women.
Readings will be chosen from these texts:
Alias Grace; Bodily Harm; Cat’s Eye; Edible Woman; Good Bones; Lady Oracle; Life Before Man; Murder in the Dark; Oryx and Crake; Selected Poems; Surfacing; The Blind Assassin; and The Handmaid’s Tale
Required work will include:
Two short oral reports; An annotated bibliography; Occasional quizzes; Three response papers; A final research paper
Professor Dorothy Donnelly
Identity, Protest, Ethnicity, Gender
This course will offer an in-depth study of modern poetry. It will emphasize poetry that focuses on identity, protest, ethnicity, and gender issues. There will also be a study of the historical and social milieu which shaped the methods and themes emphasized in individual works. One of the important aims of the course will be to explore the contrast/similarities found in works by different writers concerning their thematic subjects.
The course will be discussion in format. Requirements include a mid-semester and a final examination, as well as a short critical paper.
The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, 2nd ed. Ellmann & O'Clair, eds.
Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness . Carolyn Forche, ed.
Professor Sue Vaughn
BRITISH RESTORATION AND ENLIGHTENMENT AUTHORS DRAMA:
Fops, Rakes, and Gentlemen
This course centers on the playwrights of the British Restoration and Enlightenment period. It showcases the court-theatre coterie that produced the drama and the opposition that helped to modify Restoration Comedy into Sentimental Comedy.
Professor Karen Stein
INTERNSHIP IN ENGLISH
(By Override Only)
These courses offer 3 credits each for successful completion of a supervised internship experience. The courses are designed to provide practical job experience related to your English
major. They are intended to help you identify career skills, explore career goals, learn job search techniques and explore a particular work environment.
The first step in this process is to fill out an application for the course(s). Applications are available in the Advising Office, INDP 139. You will be expected to find your own job placement. Lists of possible placements are available at the UYA office in Taft Hall. You may consult with the UYA Program in Taft Hall or with a member of the English Department advising staff for assistance (The UYA Program offers a 15-credit internship). You are expected to work at the placement for 120 hours over the semester (approximately 10 hours/week).
1. A journal of work experience: what you do at your job, what you are learning about office management and politics, how you fit in, what you are learning about your own capabilities and interests.
2. Evaluation by your supervisor at the job site.
3. Your final report.
4. Other class assignments.
Professor Ryan Trimm
SENIOR SEMINAR: Narrative and Identity
This course is designed to complete your experience here as an English major by providing you with an opportunity to use the skills and knowledge you have acquired in an intensive project of your own. All students will generate the equivalent of an undergraduate thesis; this will take the form of a research essay or a critical/creative portfolio. Each student will consult with the instructor during the first week of class to propose his/her project and a schedule for completion.
To help forge conversational connections between the different on-going projects, we will arrange our discussions under the broad heading of narrative and identity. We will begin the semester by exploring how story-telling strategies intersect with the construction and maintenance of a sense of self. We will look at a few pieces that will help us think critically about narrative and identity (Paul de Man’s “Autobiography as Defacement” and Roland Barthes’ S/Z). The film Memento will serve as a basis for discussing these issues.
To provide feedback on your works in progress, we will run the second part of the course like a writing practicum. Twice over this part of the semester, you will distribute copies of the current stage of your project. At the next class meeting, the class will then discuss your project and offer advice. You will also meet with the instructor periodically.
The main objective of this course is to complete a senior project. By preparing and producing this work, by providing feedback to one another on your projects and through class discussions, you will make use of the skills learned over the course of your career as a student of English literature. The course is thus designed to help students reflectively draw together their experiences as an English major.
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GRADUATE SEMINAR OFFERINGS :
Professor Jean Walton
INTRODUCTION TO PROFESSIONAL STUDY
ENG 510 is now one half of a two-semester sequence (the other half is ENG 511), required of all Masters and PhD students in English. It replaces ENG 510, a one-semester course worth 3 credits with a conventional grading system (A-F). ENG 510 and 511 are now worth only 1.5 credits each (for a total of 3 credits) and are run on the S/U grading system. If you haven’t already taken 510, you are now required to take 510 in the Fall, and 511 in the Spring semester.
510 (and 511) will serve as a much needed support system as you complete the requirements for your other courses. The course will meet once every two weeks, either on a Monday or a Friday afternoon (we will determine which day is best for us as a group when we meet for the first time this Fall), and will consist of a series of workshops and informational sessions designed to introduce you to the practical, theoretical, and professional aspects of graduate studies in English. The tentative itinerary will include sessions on the following topics: Introduction to all aspects of the Graduate English Program; Practical Skills for Graduate Work (featuring a panel of advanced graduate students); Ins and Outs of Library Research; Workshop on creating an annotated bibliography; Introduction to schools, movements and critical approaches; Writing Research Papers; “English” as a Profession (including academic and non-academic job opportunities).
511 (offered in Spring 07) will include sessions on: How to identify appropriate Academic Conferences and submit papers; how to apply for appropriate Grants; how to write and present conference papers; Getting published in academic journals or book collections; Overview of the portfolio/exam structure in the MA and PhD programs at URI; Writing a dissertation proposal; Overview of the academic Job Market; Constructing initial portfolio for job market.
Professor Martha Rojas
STUDIES IN 19TH CENTURY U.S. TEXTS:
American Cultural Negotiations
This course explores the relationship between diplomatic service and authorship in the United States . Starting with Benjamin Franklin, whom Thomas Paine declared "not the diplomatic of a Court, but of Man," a series of literary figures have confronted the problem of representing a democratic republic to the world at large. Diplomacy and its paradigm of intercultural contact and compromise have yielded numerous narratives of national, political, and personal imagining. Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass, and Henry Adams are among those who have negotiated the contours of the familiar and the foreign for the U.S. government as well as for their readers. For some, like Henry Melville, diplomatic service figured as a desired and elusive sinecure. Others like James Fenimore Cooper and Margaret Fuller initiated cultural embassies on their own, independent of governments and directly addressing European and American publics. And others still, like Henry James, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton have simply taken up the diplomatic metaphor in novels like The Ambassadors, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and The Custom of the Country. These figures saw themselves as well as their texts as interpreters, go-betweens and commodities of exchange. We will explore the dynamics of personality and the status of the author as a species of the diplomatic gift that makes possible friendship between nations and cultures.
Professor Katherine Scheil
BRITISH TEXTS BEFORE 1700:
Gender and Genre in Comedy
The English Renaissance produced some of the most enduring and intriguing comedies in the history of drama. In their analysis of social and personal relations in both court and country, these plays provide a window into the issues that preoccupied writers and audiences in the early modern period. Centered around the plays of William Shakespeare, this course surveys the genre of dramatic comedy in Renaissance England. Specifically, we will focus on issues of gender as they are articulated on the stage, including such topics as the social conditions for women and men, boy actors, historical circumstances, class relations, comic traditions, and performance conditions.
We will explore why and how Shakespeare used the genre of comedy to talk about issues of gender and social relations. In order to contextualize Shakespeare’s particular methods of questioning, challenging, and experimenting with cultural practices, we will look at other comedies produced in the Renaissance by Ben Jonson, John Fletcher, Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. Theories of comedy will also inform our discussions: in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, a comedy is described as a play of “mirth and
>merriment,” yet the variety and eclecticism of plays from this period call this description into question. The “happy ending” of comedy is not always supplied with a marriage; Ben Jonson resolves his comedy Epicoene with a divorce, and several of Shakespeare’s comedies end with discomfort rather than contentment. Thus, we will spend the semester exploring how this “mirth and merriment” is articulated on the stage, and what social purpose it served for Renaissance audiences. Dramatic texts will be supplemented by other readings from the period, including conduct books, ballads, sermons, and historical writings. Assignments will include 20-minute seminar presentations and short papers, and a longer research paper. Weekly readings will be composed of primary texts (especially in the beginning of the course), and critical readings on comedy and gender.
Professor Peter Covino
SEMINAR IN CREATIVE WRITING:
Developing a Collection of Poetry
Advanced poets as well as critical writers of varied interests are encouraged to take this course, which will explore ideas behind how books of poetry are organized. While the bulk of the workshop will focus on the development and intense revision of student poems, we will spend focused time appreciating and evaluating strategies for developing and arranging a longer manuscript of poetry. Participants will begin to establish a personal theory of poetics by considering principles of thematic and stylistic unity and/or disunity, audience response, and even anti-artistic principles. We will consider work written in English and in translation, selected from specific collections of poetry from such writers as Dante, Coleridge, Rimbaud, D.H. Lawrence, and contemporary writers such as Jean Valentine, Jorie Graham, Terrance Hayes, and others. Since this course is offered in consideration of the campus reading series and local reading venues, the goal will also be to discuss recent books of contemporary poetry of varied styles from at least one mid-career poet, and an emerging poet, depending on scheduled events. In addition, to producing and/or revising a manuscript of significant length, minimum 15 pages, each student will be asked to prepare a brief presentation and write a short response essay (3 pages) for at least one book. Those not interested in writing creatively may substitute a longer critical essay, instead of a manuscript of poems.
Professor Carolyn Betensky
SEMINAR IN PERIODS:
Discourses of Class and the Nineteenth-Century Novel
If contemporary discourses of class owe their existence in large part to the social and economic forces that reshaped Europe in the nineteenth century, "class" owes its existence just as much to the nineteenth-century theorists and novelists who helped to create and consolidate what they were trying to understand or represent. This course will consider the imagination of class in nineteenth-century philosophical, political, sociological, and pedagogical discourses alongside novelistic traditions that often simultaneously
confirmed and countered them. We will also read writings on the concept of class from twentieth-and twenty-first-century theorists, historians, and literary critics.
Professor Stephanie Dunson
CULTURE AND DISCOURSE
Standup and Be Counted: Ethnic Humor in American Culture
Humor stands as one of the most prevalent means for ethnic Americans to express cultural identity, voice social concerns, and challenge mainstream attitudes about race and ethnicity. A corrective for the pressure of social inequity, the work of ethnic comedians on stage serves as relief and retaliation for marginalized minority populations, the performers themselves sometimes standing as the most visible emissaries of individual ethnic communities. In addition to mediating difference across cultural divides, ethnic humorists also often critique shortcomings and hypocrisy within ethnic communities, proffering opportunities for self-reflection, challenges for self-reliance, and calls for political change.
The primary focus for this class will be the work of ethnic standup comedians—those performers who offer their perceptions of American culture through their individual efforts on the live stage. Through study of comedy history, analysis of routines, and consideration of theories of ethnic identity, we will explore some pivotal questions about the role of ethnic humor in general and the position of the ethnic standup performer in particular: In spite of their often subversive, occasionally scathing accounts of mainstream society, why do ethnic humorists hold such cache in American culture? Why do some ethnic comedians challenge racial and immigrant stereotypes even as they seem to deliberately exemplify them? How does ethnicity shape conceptions of humor and humor shape conceptions of ethnicity? What role does identity politics play in affecting what is considered humorous and what is deemed offensive?
Professor John Leo
SEMINAR IN MEDIA :
Comparative Media and "Ontologies of the Present"
The course will build on Jane Chapman's Comparative Media History, and will most likely engage parts of Fred Jameson's A Singular Modernity ; Mary Ann Doane's The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive; and Jonathan Crary's Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture. We will explore some key concepts and theoretical texts having to do with visual cultures and post-humanistic paradigms for re-imagining and teaching literature, film, and "the humanities" (e.g. Alain Badiou, Patricia Cartwright, Winfried Fluck, Vivian Sobchack). Thus we'll look at "literature as an [emerging] institution" in comparative contexts (geocultural/spatial, temporal) in terms of historical literacies, class and access, and cultural "levelling." Similarly we will examine visual culture but with the focus on image-to-mass reproduction-to-film--and thus comparatist questions in contexts of visual literacies, distribution, and circulation.
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