Below is a list of Current Upper-Division Undergraduate Course Offerings and our Current Graduate-Seminar Offerings.
Prof. Gitahi Gititi
Tu Th 11:00 - 12:15 PM
CONTEMPERARY AFRICAN LITERATURE
Like literature and related disciplines, contemporary African film concerns itself with questions of self-definition and the establishment of an authentic tradition of self-representation. A corollary issue is the creation of African film as both intellectual property and commercial artefact, allied to the larger process of establishing and maintaining political and economic power; the reconstruction of cultural foundations eroded by European colonization. Seen as a more direct tool of communication than many other modalities, film addresses issues of individual and group morality, ethics, social class formation and its consequences, gender disparity, and other problems afflicting post-colonial African states, including the nature of political authority and its legitimization, nation-building, conflict resolution, as well as projections of the present and the future.
Prof. Carolyn Betensky
Tu Th 12:30 - 1:45 PM
Topics in Victorian Literature and Culture:
Sex and the Victorian Novel
The Victorians have the reputation of being prudish and “repressed” about sexual desire. In this class, we will learn about the history of this assessment and test it out by reading some pretty surprising representations of sex and sexuality in British novels of the era. In addition to novels and historical materials, we will be reading theoretical studies on Victorian sexuality by Michel Foucault and Sharon Marcus, among others.
Topics in Medieval Literature:
Medieval English Romance
Medieval romances are long vernacular fictions, among the ancestors of novels, in which young protagonists strive to win love and marry, to display the noble virtues of chivalry and courtliness, or to master other lands while defending their own. Throughout the Middle Ages romances were mainly written as poetry, and did not shift decisively to prose until Sir Thomas Malory’s late fifteenth-century Death of Arthur. As the predominant genre of courtly literature, romance was an important imaginative space for developing and reconsidering ideologies of identity, sexuality, justice, nation, conquest, faith, and history. Rarely didactic, romances tend to explore social ambiguities, irresolvable problems, the power of affect, and the limits of knowledge. Through their focus on “marvels” — whether in the form of magic rings, powerful fairies, or invisible knights — romances contemplate the relationship between the familiar and the incomprehensible, as well as between rhetorical form and the literary imagination.
This course focuses upon influential romance authors, some of whom we know by name — such as Marie de France, Chrétien de Troyes, Chaucer, and Malory — and others whom we know only by their poems — such as “the Gawain poet” and “the Sir Orfeo poet.” We will place these authors in their English and continental context and discuss some of their major preoccupations, such as definitions of honor, race, nation, gender, and faith; but we will also consider what it might mean to read and to interpret these stories, which so often take reading and interpretation as their own central problem.
Prof. Karen Stein
Tu Th 2:00 - 3:15 PM
Utopias and Dystopias
The genre of utopia/ dystopia is replete with paradoxes. Utopia: the good place or no place. Dystopia: the bad place. Margaret Atwood calls the genre "ustopia," for within every utopia lurks a dystopia and vice versa. Toni Morrison argues that utopias are written by people who would not be allowed in them. We will read a range of utopian and dystopian fiction by women writers including Margaret Atwood, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ursula K. LeGuin, Marge Piercy, and Alice Sheldon (aka James Tiptree). Questions we will address include: how do these fictions mirror and/or critique social conditions? What visions of society do these novels and short stories imagine? What social conditions favor the appearance of such fictions? Is the genre of utopia still viable, or has it been replaced by dystopias? How do these fictions relate to feminist theories? What are the links between utopian fiction and science fiction? How do inclusion and exclusion function in utopian fiction?
This course will satisfy the 1900 to present historical period requirement upon completion and submission of a Curriculum Modification. See Professor Walton, Professor Williams, or Dr. Hagen to do the necessary paperwork.
Prof. Jean Walton
Tu Th 11:00 - 12:15 PM
Popular culture gave us Queer Eye for the Straight Guy—which could be interpreted as a celebration of gay identity in the public sphere OR as queer minstrels packaged FOR straight consumers. In this course, we will read and watch gay-, lesbian-, and trans-authored texts and films to explore the complexity of sexual identity, but also to ask what the QUEER EYE can show us when it is trained, CRITICALLY, on heteronormative culture: hence, Queer Eye ON the Straight World. Beginning with the sensational Oscar Wilde trials, we will read some of the central queer-themed novels of the modernist era (by Forster, Woolf, Hall), but also some lesser-known recently re-published treasures (by Allatini, Tyler and Ford). Then we'll take a brisk foray into the forties, fifties, and sixties in the U.S. (Highsmith, Baldwin, Isherwood), then move on to the post-Stonewall era, and see how some more contemporary authors recall and reassess earlier eras of struggle, both personal and political (Lorde, White, Feinberg). Finally, we'll consider Alison Bechdel's fabulous graphic memoir, Fun Home, with its meditation on both her own, and her father's, queerness, and Canadian Butch performer Ivan Coyote, whose story-telling talents have taken Canada by storm. We will also look at some of the queer avant garde films of Kenneth Anger, Su Friedrich, Barbara Hammer, and others.
This course may count as a 20th century period requirement or an upper division elective for the English Major, or as an upper division course toward the Gender and Women's Studies Major.
For a taste of the kinds of narratives we'll be considering, try out these links:
Prof. Naomi Mandel
Tu Th 9:30 - 10:45 AM
The Fiction of Generation X
This class will focus on fiction by Generation X, a group of authors that includes Douglas Coupland, Jay McInerney, Colson Whitehead, Nelly Arcan, Marie Darrieussecq, Bret Easton Ellis, Yann Martel, Frederic Beigbeder, Jonathan Safran Foer, Dave Eggers, David Foster Wallace, Chuck Palahniuk, Claire Messud, Emma Donoghue, Tom McCarthy, Ben Lerner, Zadie Smith. All of these authors were born between 1960-1980; they came of age in a world marked by the collapse of Communism and the ascendency of the New Right, as the discourse of capitalism, the economic function and social significance of the commodity, replaced the commitment to liberal causes that characterized the 60s and 70s. For Generation X, happiness is the product of Prozac, serenity is elicited by Valium, love is haunted by AIDS. Its catchword is "whatever," its anthem "Nevermind." How does Generation X think about identity (in the heyday of "identity politics"), history (with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the onset the Gulf War), and violence (before and after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and the global "war on terror")?
M 7:00 - 9:45 PM
Topics in Renaissance Literature: Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson
A study in early Renaissance drama.
Prof. Martha Rojas
Tu 3:30 - 6:15 PM
The Edmund S. and Nathalie Rumowicz Seminar in Literature and the Sea:
Obsessed: Moby-Dick and the Aesthetics of Monomania
Anything worth doing, is worth obsessing over.
The plot of Moby-Dick has been recycled for decades, inspiring films, radio dramas, cartoons, comic books, a pop-up book, a television mini-series, a couple of heavy metal albums, a music video and a rap rendition. Moby-Dick has also become the object of obsession, prompting artistic works that are motivated by preoccupations with Melville's novel. This course will devout itself to reading Melville's Moby-Dick and to a range of works that have responded to it, from the artist Frank Stella's series of 135 pieces — prints, reliefs, sculpture, murals, and other ephemera — that tries to capture the power and emotion of the novel rather than attempt to narrate it, to more recent projects like Laurie Anderson's Songs and Stories from Moby-Dick, Matt Kish's Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page, the collective Moby-Dick Big Read Project, an online version of Melville's novel: each of its 135 chapters read out aloud, by a mixture of the celebrated and the unknown, broadcast online in a sequence of 135 public and accessible downloads, and China Miéville science-fiction interpretation, Railsea. In addition the seminar will feature guest lectures and a class trip to New Bedford.
This course will satisfy the 1800-1900 historical period requirement upon completion and submission of a Curriculum Modification. See Professor Walton, Professor Williams, or Dr. Hagen to do the necessary paperwork.
Prof. Jennifer Jones
Tu Th 11:00-12:15 PM
Nineteenth Century British Poetry
This is an advanced English course that will focus on the writings of two major English Romantic poets, William Wordsworth (1770-1830) and Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792-1822).Â The works of these respective writers are common insofar as both are overtly concerned with â€“ and contribute to â€“ social, political, and aesthetic discourse in the period around 1800 in Europe, a period which may be defined broadly by the transformations and displacements associated with political revolution, industrialization, and war. This class will have three critical goals: We will study the particularities of how Wordsworth and Shelley practice and define poetry, in their prose writing and in poetry; how their respective poetic projects respond to and intervene in Enlightenment discourses of reason; and both writersâ€™ political and artistic uses of philosophy, particularly Platonism. Â We will study how the study of prosody â€“ a disciplined attunement to meter and rhythm in English poetry â€“ adds new layers of complexity to that first goal.Â And we will study critical reception of these poets in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with an emphasis on critics who relate the Romantic past to the present moment.Â
This course will satisfy either the 1660-1800 or 1800-1900 historical period requirement upon completion and submission of a Curriculum Modification. See Professor Walton, Professor Williams, or Dr. Hagen to do the necessary paperwork.
Not for graduate credit.
Prof. Sarah Eron
Tu Th 11:00-12:15 PM
The Eighteenth-Century Novel
This course is a survey of the novel at the time of its inception, when the novel was just emerging as a new, literary form. It will seek to answer such questions as: what defines the “novel” as a genre distinct from other, literary prose forms? What is “modern” about the novel and novel reading? How might we think of the novel as a new, literary trend that seeks to portray the modern subject and explore the psychology of the individual? In addition to these attempts at defining what is unique about the novel as a new mode of fictional writing concurrent with the rise of modernity, we will also explore the novel’s reliance on popular, early eighteenth-century genres such as: the epistle, the poem, the essay, the epic, and the play. How do these modes contribute to the rise of the novel as a mixed, conglomerate form? This course will consider such topics as sentimentality and satire, modernity and the mock heroic, romance and travel narrative, narrative time and the conditions of realism, nationalism and the British imagination. Authors may include: Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Burney, and Haywood.
This course will satisfy the 1660-1800 historical period requirement upon completion and submission of a Curriculum Modification. See Professor Walton, Professor Williams, or Dr. Hagen to do the necessary paperwork.
Prof. David Faflik
Th 4:00-6:45 PM
Studies in 19th Century American Texts:
Melville and Historical Method: Texts, Archives, Contexts
“For far too long,” Randall Fuller writes, “American literary studies has historicized – always historicized – at the expense of more flexible approaches.” Whereas in Fuller’s mind the field was once held captive by the insular formalist principles of the New Criticism, it has subsequently passed through successive waves of self-correction since the 1960s only to arrive at an opposite extreme, such that the New Historicist “recovery of social contexts and marginalized voices” has likewise reduced literary analysis and interpretation to a rote set of restrictive rituals. It’s a predicament that would seem to have left us trapped between an aesthetic rock and a historical hard place.
Now is an appropriate time to reconsider the status of history’s partnership with the cognate field of literature. On the one hand, we would do well to remember the close connections between these disciplines before insisting on their disentanglement. The nineteenth century, especially, saw literature turning historical, and history remaining literary, in the period’s vogue for historical novels and story-driven histories. On the other hand, it is not just our objects of study that overlap; our interpretive methodologies are interrelated, too. For students of literature no less than history continue to share a strikingly similar self-consciousness for narrative, around which both the newest New History and post-postmodern literary study might still be said to revolve. History and literature in other words have as much in common as they ever have. To confront the one is to reckon by necessity with the other.
This course undertakes that confrontation through an encounter with the writings of Herman Melville. If the American author of Moby-Dick (1851) is a less than obvious exemplar of literary historicism, he nevertheless did produce an historical novel in Israel Potter (1855). That narrative – the centerpiece of our course – recounts the life and times of its eponymous protagonist, a Revolutionary War veteran who, despite his humble origins, carves out a career of remarkable involvements and incidents. More than that, Israel Potter finds Melville in a reflexive vein not unlike Fuller’s. Here, the author interrogates the relation between history and literature in a sustained attempt to reconcile the two. That effort is embedded, in Melville’s case, in a comically picaresque account of Potter. But whatever the twists and turns of Melville’s storyline (much of it borrowed from a Rhode Island-based writer’s earlier Life of our hero, which we will also read), its interest for us resides at least as much in its historicist method as its topical historical matter. Melville’s Israel Potter can indeed be read as “metahistory,” which is precisely how we will read it and associated works as we conduct our own methodological reckonings.
Selected readings will include primary works from the likes of Melville (beginning with, but not limited to, Israel Potter) and Benjamin Franklin, alongside American Revolution-accented novels by James Fenimore Cooper (The Spy, 1821), William Gilmore Simms (The Partisan, 1835), and Catharine Maria Sedgwick (The Linwoods, 1835). In addition, we will examine a full complement of secondary readings in literary criticism, theory, and historiography. *Note than students can expect to perform their own original archival research as well.
Prof. M. Cappello
Tu 4:00 - 6:45 PM
Seminar in Creative Writing:
To all burgeoning practitioners of nonfiction forms:
Lyric Essay, Creative Nonfiction, Literary Nonfiction, Experimental Memoir
To what do these phrases refer and what's happening nowadays to the genre that
used to rest easy under the sign of "autobiography," "biography," "travel writing,"
and "memoir"? What kind of revolution is the ESSAY currently undergoing, and
how can your own yen to write nonfiction be informed by its exciting and timely new
developments? How can we bring our skills as literary interpreters or semioticians to the
writing of nonfiction? Can we bridge the divide between scholarship and art? What's the
difference between cultivating a sensibility and leaving a creative writing workshop with
a bag o' tricks?
This seminar in literary nonfiction is open to students who self-define as "creative
writers," those who wish to use the class to discover the "creative writer" within, and also
those who wish to use the seminar as a space for theorizing about genre. Together, we'll
explore the changes nonfiction is undergoing as we pay special attention to genre-
bending writers (contemporary prose stylists working at the border of nonfiction and
fiction, or at the borders of nonfiction and poetry); numerous timely preoccupations of
the genre and your place therein (e.g., popular cultural debates around the "truth" of
nonfiction); the difference between memoir and autobiography, and between literary
nonfiction and journalism. I will introduce you to and tempt you to practice a range of
modes so that you might expand the repertoire of your writing practices, take risks at the
level of form and content, and find ways to let your writing arrive at unanticipated rather
than predictable places. We'll pursue a reading and writing responsive to the crisis of
meaning inspired by the Internet's representational modes; to matters of the short form in
a digital age, from fuelliton and aphorism through status line to flash nonfiction to tweet;
and to questions of performative strategies analogous with the essay: the poetry reading,
the talk poem (cf. David Antin), the lecture (e.g., John Cage; Martin Pops), the Pecha
Kucha, the Chalk Talks of Chevalier Jackson and Austin Kleon, to name a few. The
seminar will be run workshop-style, incorporating a form of "epistolary critique." Each
writer will produce a portfolio of short pieces by mid-term, and one longer,
sustained, "consummate" piece of writing by semester's end. Reading broadly and
deeply, we'll draw from the well of a canonical and uncommon reading list in "the field,"
hoping to encourage the development of your own uncommon archive, in theory and
Prof. Carolyn Betensky
Th 7:00 - 9:45 PM
Seminar in Genres:
Psychoanalysis and the Victorian Novel
This course will consider the ways that psychoanalysis (a Victorian cultural production, after all) and “the” novel (which is so often taken to be synonymous with “the” Victorian novel) inform, reflect, and anticipate each other. Readings to include novels by Charles Dickens, Margaret Oliphant, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy, along with essential texts by Freud and contemporary psychoanalytic critics.
Prof. Sarah Eron
Tu 7:00-9:45 PM
Graduate Seminar in Historical Periods:
This course will consider new perspectives on Enlightenment and its relationship to aesthetics in the period of the long eighteenth century. Moving beyond the conception of Enlightenment as a mere triumph of reason, we will consider the role of affect studies in eighteenth-century works of literature and philosophy. Topics may include: the rise of empiricism, questions of modernity, the concept of the eighteenth-century public sphere, issues of authority in modern literature, theories of modern subjectivity, the Royal Society and the rise of modern science, and aesthetic categories such as: taste, sympathy, the sublime and the beautiful, and the eighteenth-century appeal to “common sense.” Most particularly, we will explore the question of moral feeling in eighteenth-century aesthetics and how this relates to Enlightenment conditions of polity, secularism, individualism, and society. We will also investigate the relationship of eighteenth-century aesthetic theory to a pathologized discourse of cognitive feeling in the literature of the late period. How do reason and affect function through a necessary economy in eighteenth-century thought? What happens to the Cartesian divisions between the mind, body, and spirit in late eighteenth-century literature? Finally, moving forward with this nuanced understanding of “Enlightenment,” this course will consider the possible survival of modernity in the aftermath of an Enlightenment aesthetics. Does an ethos of Enlightenment survive in the culture of “postmodernity”? How, if at all, is the postmodern subject inscribed by the pervasive ontology of Enlightenment? Authors may include: Locke, Hume, Smith, Kant, and Foucault; Addison, Pope, Sterne, Fielding, Johnson, and Haywood.
CONTACT the English Department
an advising appointment