ENG 8000: Literary Theory
Dr. Heather Hicks
This course will be run as a seminar in which each week, a different graduate faculty member will introduce you to a body of theory that is particularly important within current discussions in their field of specialization. What are some of the major theoretical approaches in medieval studies today? Early modern studies? What about 19th-century American literature and British literature? Modernism? Postcolonial Studies? Irish Studies? Contemporary literature? This new, experimental class is an attempt to bring you immediately into dialogue with a wide variety of theories that are shaping literary study today. The course is intended to be a lively opportunity to meet most of the English faculty members who teach at the graduate level and to engage in dialogue about and analysis of the contemporary state of literary theory. Assignments will include one work of “public” writing and a more conventional academic paper.
ENG 8350: Milton
Dr. Lauren Shohet
This course explores how political, spiritual, and personal liberty are read and written in texts of John Milton and his contemporaries. With Milton as a center of gravity, we also shall read texts of John Donne, Amelia Lanyer, Lucy Hutchinson, Gerard Winstanley, and others. Our primary focus will be on the gendered dimensions of their poetics, political theory, and theology (with opportunities for students to pursue other interests as well). Secondary readings will include theoretical, historical, and critical engagements of the writing and the age.
Students with and without prior experience in Milton or Renaissance poetry are equally welcome. We shall situate Milton’s writing in arenas including the Renaissance epic, studying and teaching poetic form, Reformation theology, Renaissance relationships to Classical lyric forms, and early-modern political theory. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to consider adaptations of Paradise Lost in centuries, cultures, and genres of particular interest to them.
Requirements include lively participation, three ungraded one-page response papers, a short (3-5 page) paper, and a final seminar paper.
(this course fulfills the pre-1800 British literature requirement)
ENG 8560: Revolutionary Decade: the 1790s
Dr. Evan Radcliffe
The 1790s was the decade of the French Revolution in Britain as well as France, with each new moment of turmoil—what an alarmed Alexander Hamilton referred to as “a rapid succession of dreadful revolutions”—generating its own vehement response across the Channel. The fall of the Bastille and The Declaration of the Rights of Man, the flight and arrest of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the royal trials and executions, the outbreak of war between Great Britain and France, the Terror—each year seemed to witness more of these “great national events,” as Wordsworth called them. Wordsworth (who experienced some of the Revolution first-hand) and other British writers addressed these events and their possible implications in varied ways, often through developing their own original approaches and forms. Indeed, many of their works—Blake’s illuminated books and hybrid satire, Wollstonecraft’s feminist writings, Godwin’s combination of political philosophy and fiction, Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads—were themselves highly innovative or even revolutionary.
To keep the shifting world to which these writers responded in focus, we will move through the decade largely year by year, taking note of each historical moment and exploring particular issues and forms as we examine individual texts. One central issue will be sympathy, especially in relation to 18th century views of “sensibility,” including topics such as how these texts or their characters aim to elicit it (or not); the ways different political sides in the Revolution controversy employ or criticize it; how considerations of class and gender affect its portrayal and suggest its limits; and its role in writers’ self-definitions as politically engaged or implicitly in retreat. Possible readings (some in excerpts) include Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France; Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man; Mary Wollstonecraft’s two Vindications and The Wrongs of Woman, or, Maria; William Godwin’s Political Justice and Caleb Williams, lectures and poems by the radical John Thelwall; a Gothic novel (perhaps two) by Anne Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis; Elizabeth Inchbald’s novel A Simple Story; Mary Hays’ confessional novel Emma Courtney; and poems and other texts by William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. We will also read modern critical discussions. Although we will concentrate on just a few texts each week, the year-by-year approach will provide many opportunities for individual students to explore lesser-known but interesting figures.
ENG 9710: Eco-Poetry
Dr. Lisa Sewell
Eco-poetics refers to poetry that explores the themes and forms of nature, environmentalism, ecology and climate change. Eco-poetry is not new; “nature poetry” has a long and central tradition in English and American literature—poems about land and water are as old as song itself. What is new is the sense of urgency around the survival of nature, indeed does nature even exist? The advent of the Anthropocene and the violent changes in our climate have spawned an increase in the number of poets concerned about the environment, as well as the number of scholars engaged in “eco-criticism” and the “environmental humanities.” This class will be devoted to studying the history, theory, and literature of these poets and movements.
We will begin with Romanticism and American Transcendentalism, reading selections from Wordsworth, Emerson and Thoreau in order to think through assumptions about nature, wilderness, urban environments, and environmentalism that are bound up with conventions of the personal lyric, the pastoral, and the sublime. We will then turn to the work of more recent poets working across various traditions in contemporary poetry and poetics—from the contemporary lyric to more experimental, innovative modes—including selections from Gary Snyder, Mary Oliver, WS Merwin, AR Ammons, Arthur Sze, Katy Didden, Brian Teare, Juliana Spahr, Camille Dungy, Ed Roberson, and Evelyn Reilley.
We will also investigate the links between poetry and the environment, reflecting on a number of key tropes in eco-critical thinking including wilderness, pollution, poverty, animals, food and apocalypse, as well as the intersections between eco-criticism and other theoretical frameworks such as post-humanism, post-colonialism, and eco-feminism. Our critical and theoretical readings will draw on work by major voices in environmental studies including Timothy Morton, Stacy Alaimo, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence Buell, Rob Nixon, Jonathan Skinner, Lynn Keller, Margaret Ronda, Angela Hume and others. Course requirements include one in-class presentation, weekly response papers, a mid-term essay and a final project. If interested, students will have the opportunity to produce their own ecopoetical projects.
ENG 9720: African American Literature
Dr. Crystal Lucky
This course will focus on the fiction and non-fiction of Toni Morrison whose writing has affected the development of both American and African American literature in the latter portion of the 20th century like no other writer. Alongside appropriate contemporary criticism, we will read interviews with the Nobel Prize winner, Playing in the Dark, and each of her eleven novels. Because of the rigor of the course material, students will be expected to come to the first class meeting with some assigned reading already prepared.
Students will be asked to present once during the semester on a text of the student’s choice, to consider some theoretical concern addressed therein and to prepare a literature review associated with the chosen text. Additionally, students will be required to submit a 20-25 page seminar paper on a relevant research topic.
LST 7101: Crime Fiction and Gender
Dr. Jean Lutes
This course studies detective fiction as an intellectually rich phenomenon that critiques social and economic realities and addresses fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge itself. As its title suggests, it also assumes that ideas about gender are central to narratives of detection—and that a rigorous inquiry into the genre yields insight into the startling array of meanings our culture has associated with sexuality and gender. Surveying a selection of American detective fiction beginning with Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, we will read the genre as both an art form and an index of cultural beliefs, and we will apply feminist theories about embodiment, knowledge, desire, intersectionality, and structures of power to the narratives we read. We will ask some hard-boiled questions of our own, including: What desires are created, fulfilled, or neglected by detective fiction? What can be known, how, and by whom? Along with way, we will consider the shifting landscape of crime fiction and how critical approaches to the genre have evolved. Likely texts include Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1930), Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1939), Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955), Chester Himes’s A Rage in Harlem (1957), and Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress (1990).
(this course will count toward the GWS certificate and the MA in English)
LST 7303: Narratives of Northern Ireland
Dr. Jennifer Joyce
The Troubles in Northern Ireland, beginning in the late 1960s and lasting almost thirty years, claimed more than 3,500 lives. The political conflict and violence between unionists—mainly Protestant, who want Northern Ireland to remain British—and nationalists—primarily Catholic, who favor the idea of an Irish state encompassing the island as a whole—touched nearly every aspect of life in Northern Ireland. This seminar will examine contemporary literary responses to the atrocities of these recent Troubles in Northern Ireland and look at the various responses to peace and ongoing reconciliation. Late twentieth and early twenty-first century voices will represent a range of varied backgrounds who are considered astute observers of the political atmosphere; writers including but not limited to Seamus Deane, Deirdre Madden, Seamus Heaney, Colette Bryce, and Owen McCafferty. By critically reading these works, we will draw conclusions about the ways in which conflict and peace ultimately shape community, and in doing so, we will come to a fuller understanding of Irish identity.
(this course will count toward the MA in English)
Direction of writing of the thesis, focused research on a narrowly defined question, under supervision of an individual instructor.
A broader exploration of a theme or area of literature than a thesis. The examination is comprised of a comprehensive statement essay and an oral exam component.
A special project pursued under the direction of an individual professor.
Dr. Evan Radcliffe
This option for second-year graduate students is a three-credit independent study in which students identify one or a cluster of jobs or professions in which an advanced degree in literature is of benefit. In the course of the semester, students will research the career options of interest, identifying one or two fields as the focus of their work. They must generate a research paper that explores the history and future prospects of the field of interest, as well as current information about the requirements of the work, geographical information about centers of activity for the profession, and desirable employers. This research should include at least two meetings with professionals who work in the field. The paper must also analyze how advanced study of literature serves to enhance the students' desirability in the profession in question. As part of their final project, students must develop a cover letter outlining the ways their particular training makes them suitable to work in this field. Students will make their research available to other students in the program by uploading their final project onto a special section of the Graduate English Program blog. Click to read more about PRO.
Second-year graduate students have the option to serve as an intern for a graduate faculty member in an undergraduate English course. Interns will attend all class sessions, confer at least once with each student on their written work, lead two or three class sessions under the supervision of the faculty member, and complete a final project that is either (1) a substantial critical essay concerning the subject matter of the course or (2) a research project concerning trends and issues within college-level pedagogy. The aim of the program is to provide students with teaching and classroom experience. Students may apply to serve as interns by consulting with a faculty member who is teaching in an area of interest, and, if the faculty member is amenable, submitting a one-two page statement, outlining how this course addresses their larger intellectual goals, and what they hope to accomplish as an intern.