(Descriptions last updated: 23 February 2004)
English 498 (Senior Seminar) is designed to provide an opportunity for students, working closely with a professor, to do advanced work in an area of special interest. The seminar topics reflect current forms of literary and cultural study across the full range of the English department curriculum. Enrollment in each seminar is limited to 15 students and registration is restricted to senior majors only. ENGL 498 is required of all students who declared an English major in Autumn 1994 or after, and may not be taken more than once for credit.
English Honors students, who are required to take two senior seminars as part of their honors program, will sign up for one of their two seminars under the number ENGL 497 (Honors Senior Seminar). Add codes for ENGL 497 are available in the English Advising office, A-2-B Padelford, (206) 543-2190. ENGL 497 may not be taken more than once for credit.
Please note: This schedule, as with all schedules established so far in advance, is tentative and subject to change (especially section letters, days and times, but also instructors and/or topics). Be sure to check this page for updated information prior to the quarter you wish to register for a senior seminar.
497/8aA (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
U.S. Global Politics in the Late Twentieth-Century Novel. In this course, which is a study of both the aesthetic and political transformations evidenced in the novel, we will read a range of novels by US-based authors interested in exploring the sometimes catastrophic, sometimes revolutionary effects of US global politics and culture in the last half of the twentieth century. In the cold war era that followed the end of World War II, these influential novelists, writing with a pronounced sense of anxiety about the future of US culture and global politics, tried to account for the cultural and political developments of that era. Their focus was principally: the sudden and horrific destruction precipitated by the dropping of the atomic bomb; the legacy of the Jewish holocaust in Europe; the strategic importance of the Pacific Rim and Asia; the entrenchment of anti-communist narratives and rhetoric; a wave of postcolonial revolutions and nationalism; the growth of new global media and cultures; and debates about scientific and reproductive technologies. Through an engagement with these complex issues and the sometimes violent debates they provoked, our materials offer a sampling of how artists and intellectuals attempted to record and bear witness to wartime traumas and postwar revolutions, as well as how they sometimes reflected and reinforced the effects o new forms of globalization and cold war nationalism. As graduating seniors, students in the course will be expected to participate vigorously and daily in class discussions; they should also expect weekly writing assignments and a final long paper (10 – 12 pages). For more information, contact the professor. Texts: Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle; Jessica Hagedorn, Dogeaters; Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illumintted; photocopied course packet.
497/8bB (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
Hamlet and Contemporary Criticism. Study of the play and critical responses to it focusing principally on the 20th century. Research paper of moderate length (10 – 15 pp.). Texts: Shakespeare (Susan Wofford, ed.) Hamlet (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism); Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy (ed. Mulryne).
497/8 C (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
Reading for Technique. This seminar is designed with creative writers in mind, particular fiction writers. It is modeled on ENGL 581, “The Creative Writer as Critical Reader,” for MFA students. We will read a few novels and several short stories and analyze them from the point of view of practicing writers, rather than as literary critics. This means we will be directed by a different set of questions from those typically mobilized in a senior seminar or other literature class, and we will deploy some fairly hoary but still useful concepts to begin posing those questions. The questions will examine how aesthetic effects are produced, and the concepts will include such fundamental ones as plot, character, voice, and theme. The challenge, in other words, is not in the concepts themselves, as in some more theoretical courses, but in the application of the concepts to concrete instances and in the depth of insight to be gleaned thereby. While the class is designed for writers, and my preference is that it will be composed entirely or at least mostly of writers, non-writers can still learn a lot about how a piece of fiction is put together by concentrated attention to these questions.
In addition to the primary texts, we will read some
commentaries on writing by writers, which hopefully will help
illuminate our questions of craft. If there is time, we will
spend a week or two talking about the writer’s social role, political
commitments if any, and related vexed questions. Please
note that this is not a creative writing workshop. You will
not be producing original creative work for this class.
Assigned work will include response essays every two weeks, offering
a general technical assessment of the novel or stories under consideration,
and examining a particular aspect of the work (i.e., questions of plot,
character, voice, etc.). Also, a long essay at the end, modeled
on the MFA Critical Essay, in which you examine one or more authors in
light of your own aesthetic goals and practice and in light of some relevant,
independently researched criticism. The idea is that the response
papers will build toward the long essay. The readings reflect my preference
for unconventional fiction, but that should not detract from their usefulness
as models. I’m requiring more books than I usually do, on the
supposition that as practicing writers you will benefit by owning these
books long after the course is over, even if we only read selections
now. (If you have concerns about the expense, get in touch and I’ll
give you some ideas about how to save some money.) 497: Limited
to honors seniors majoring in English (add codes in English Advising, A-2B
PDL); 498: limited to seniors majoring in English.) Texts:
Primary: Hoban, Riddley Walker; Calvino,
Invisible Cities; Woolf, The Waves; Pancake,
Given Ground; Gass, In the Heart of the Heart of
the Country; O’Brien, The Things They Carried; Braverman,
Squandering the Blue; Bambara, Gorilla My Love;
Barthelme, Sixty Stories; Baldwin, Another Country;
Secondary: Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Calvino,
Six Memos for the Next Millenium: Gass, Fiction and
the Figures of Life; photocopied course packet.
497/8 A (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
Freud and/as Fiction. A consideration of Freud's relation to literature, both in his use of literary texts and in his exploitation of literary techniques and forms. Primary readings will be a handful of seminal Freudian texts on dream interpretation, sexuality, and culture, as well as at least one case history; ancillary readings will include some literary texts of particular importance to Freud (e.g., Oedipus Rex, Hamlet) and some theoretica texts on Freud and fiction (e.g., by Sarah Kofman and Malcolm Bowie). The cousre will be concerned not with psychoanalytic literary criticism per se, but with Freud's use of literature in the formulation of his theories. No prior knowledge of Freud will be assumed, but a knowledge of Sophocles's Oedipus Rex and some Shakesperean tragedies (Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, Othello) would be helpful. Class web site: http://faculty.washington.edu/nh2/classes/497-03.htm Texts: Freud, Interpretation of Dreams; Writings on Art and Literature; Dora.
497/8 B (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
Comics Literature. Comics have long been considered a “low” cultural art form. In this course, we consider comics as a genre worthy of academic attention. The course offers a whirlwind history of comics: early forms of writing in ancient times, medieval illuminated manuscripts, political satire and caricature, and contemporary comic strips and graphic novels. The ways in which the interaction of pictures and words produces effects special to this genre will shape our investigations. We engage in focused study of a relative explosion of late twentieth-century graphic novels globally. We will read texts by comics writers from around the world – including Japanese, New Zealand, American, and Iranian – about topics and themes as varied as the WWII holocaust, the first Palestinian Intifada, Lesbians and the media, Serbia/Bosnia/Croatian war, racism, the Iranian revolution, incest, apocalypse, and, of course, crimefighting. Questions of race, class, and gender, and colonialism inform this exploration of a genre that is popularly classified as being a western “white-boy” thing. Readings include both literary and critical texts. We will make at least one field trip to view the wonders of comics-related materials in the Suzallo Special Collections. Assignments include response papers, a creative project and presentation, and a critical research paper and presentation. Please read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics before the first day of class.
497/8 C (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
British Literature on Film. This class will examine the theory and practice of film adaptation. Students will encounter British literary works in both book and film forms. Assignments involve completing close readings of books and films, giving oral presentations, applying adaptation theory, and designing a film adaptation. This is a Computer-Integrated Course. Class sessions alternate between a computer lab and a seminar-style classroom. Web design is a component of several assignments--basic design skills will be taught in class. There will be three or more evening film screenings. Films will be on reserve in the Odegaard Media Center for those unable to attend the screenings. Books and Films: A Room With a View, Frankenstein, Mansfield Park, Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now, and A Christmas Carol.
497/8 D (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
Double Consciousness in 20th-Century American Culture. Beginning with the early 20th-century roots of double consciousness in W.E.B. DuBois’ analysis of African American thought, we will then explore how the metaphor of a dual consciousness has manifested in radical feminist thought, masculinity studies, Chicano and Asian American literary criticism, and popular psychology. A sampling of writers and texts to be included are: W.E.B. DuBois, Gloria Anzaldua, Luce Irigaray, Stanley Sue, Frank Chin, The Three Faces of Eve, Chuck Palahniuk, and Richard Condon.
497/8 E (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
Ulysses. This seminar is an introduction to James Joyce’s Ulysses as the summit of literary modernism. You will review Joyce’s Irish and European contexts, study Joyce’s methods of composition, and revel in his comic transvaluation of all novelistic values, styles, and humors. A portion of each meeting will be devoted to the musical “subtext” in Ulysses; opera, Irish street ballads, and turn-of-the-century music-hall favorites. Desiderata: inkling’s of Joyce’s early work, intimacy with Homer’s Odyssey, interest in sly uses of language. Students interested in the poetics of the novel (Cervantes, Rabelais, Defoe, Swift, Sterne) are encouraged to enroll in ENGL 329A. Requirements: five or six brief assignments and a course project involving independent research and resulting in a final paper (15-20 pages). Texts: James Joyce, Ulysses; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
497/8 F (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
This course not only will say so, it takes the statement as its opening premise. Boredom is as familiar an experience as it is alien to an expressive vocabulary. We will place boredom in different cultural and historical contexts: are there differences between ennui, the blasé, understimulation, acedia, world-weariness, and a case of the yawns? We will read literary texts that treat the topic thematically, as well as critical assessments of the phenomenon, ranging from sociological to psychological accounts. Even while attempting to synthesize an account of the experience, we will practice close reading in the spirit of distinguishing what particularly is at stake in each artist's or writer's depiction. Regardless of the mimetic fallacy, the course is reading and writing intensive. Students should be close readers, and bring their own coffee. Texts will include Chekhov, Samuel Beckett, Andy Warhol, Huysman's "Against Nature," Kracauer, Simmel, Patricia Spacks, Evelyn Waugh, J. G. Ballard, Brett Easton Ellis, Wallace Shawn, Thomas Bernhard, and Adam Phillips
497/8 G (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
British Writing of the Nineteen Twenties. This seminar will read a variety of works from this decade, ranging from its most famous (and difficult) poem, The Waste Land, to one of its favorite examples of popular fiction, The Inimitable Jeeves. We’ll read fiction by Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, and Aldous Huxley, as well as two notorious novels banned by the censors: D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. Each student will be assigned an additional “lost” or neglected book as a focus for individual research and writing. Texts: Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party; T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land; Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway; P. G. Wodehouse, The Inimitable Jeeves; D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover; Radcliffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness; Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point.
497/8 H (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
Success and Failure in the American City: Lily Bart and Carrie Meeber. Published a few years apart, House of Mirth and Sister Carrie are realist novels about two female heroines. This course will focus on these two novels as a way to understand the social, historical, and literary contexts from which they emerged. In particular, we will look at the rise of the modern city, the changing class and economic conditions for men and women at the time, and the rise of realism as the predominant mode of writing. While we will primarily be reading and rereading these novels, there will be corollary texts, including sociology (Veblen on the leisure class), critical essays, and theoretical works (Henri Lefebvre on urban spaces). By considering only two literary texts, we will have the luxury to read them in depth and to understand their connections to larger social and cultural systems. Assignments will include in-class work, participation, and a long final project. Texts: Edith Wharton, House of Mirth; Carol Singley, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth: A Casebook; Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie; Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class.
497/8 I (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
Medieval to Renaissance English Literature: From Script to Print, from Orality to Literacy. In this class we will be examining English literature as it evolves out of the Middle Ages into the Renaissance, and we will focus on two main cultural events: first, the shift from orality to literacy that began taking place during the Anglo Saxon period; and second, the invention of printing as an important technological agent that supercharged textual production. Early English texts are to an extraordinary degree both witnesses and children of their own age, and as we consider how literary texts evolve out of an oral to a literate culture, and out of a manuscript culture to a print culture, the ground rules of textual production, dissemination, and consumption themselves change. Coursework: Three quizzes (15% each), class discussion (15%), a class presentation (15%), and a 7-11 page paper (25%). 497: honors senior majors only; add codes in English Advising office, A-2B PDL; 497: senior majors only. Texts: Will include the following and perhaps others: Primary: The Battle of Maldon; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale; Malory’s Morte Darthur; various Sonnets from Petrarch to Shakespeare; The Wakefield Second Shepherds’ Play; The York Play of the Crucifixion; Everyman; Dr. Faustus. Secondary: Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe;. Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy. Michael Camille, Image on the Edge.
497/8 J (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar)
The Power of Virginia Woolf. What makes Virginia Woolf live on so vibrantly in the imaginations of others? Why does she have such passionate fans? Movies are made about her; plays refer to her even when they are not about her; actors dress as she did and take to the road inone-woman shows. In this course we’ll try to figure out why Woolf’s life and work have captured so many contemporary readers. Is it her thoughts on war? On the fluidity of gender and sexuality? On women as writers? On the politics of class? Or is it her complicated life story, full of successes, but also of anguish? We’ll read a selection of her fiction, and autobiographical writing as well as some recent essays and film tributes by those drawn to her work, her life, and her fascinating reputation.
The Piers Plowman Tradition. Next to the works of Chaucer, the poems associated with the figure of Piers Plowman can claim an important and continuous place in the development of what we can call an English vernacular literary canon. The Piers tradition contains works that (primarily) focus on criticism and satire of contemporary secular and religious institutions and on the development of a morally reflective and personally engaged individual citizen of early modern England. We’ll start with two of the fourteenth-century versions of Piers Plowman, the A Version (in the original Middle English) and the (longer) B Version (in modern translation). We will then read and discuss works which evidence the reception and development of this idealized figure of the plowman as he appears during the subsequent two centuries. Requirements for the course will include – in addition to attendance and participation in class discussions – weekly short writing assignments, an oral report, and a term paper. Texts: Vaughan, ed., Piers Plowman: The A Version; Donaldson, tr., Piers Plowman: An Alliterative Verse Translation; Barr, ed., The Piers Plowman Tradition.
Early Modern Literature, Medicine and the Self. This course will focus on early modern literary and medical texts and the ways in which they defined the early modern self. The juxtaposition of the medical with the literary may seem strange, but the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries were a time both when the literary arts flourished and when the burgeoning field of anatomy was beginning to come into its own as a scientific discipline. Many writers of the period therefore appropriated images of the body and its constituent parts in order to help them express their ideas of human nature. We will be looking at poetic, medical, and secondary critical texts with the goal of understanding how and why major writers of the period appropriated medical terminology and anatomical theory in order to write about selfhood. Because we will be spending the majority of the time reading literary texts, the excerpts from both medical and contemporary scholarly works will be very brief, but will figure prominently in class discussion. Major authors we’ll be focusing on will include John Ford, Edmund Spenser, John Donne and John Webster. Students will be required to write weekly response papers, write on e substantial research paper, take a mid-term examination and give one class presentation. Texts: John Ford, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore; William Shakespeare, Coriolanus; John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi.
Introduction to Australian Literature and Film. In this seminar we will read and discuss a selection of modern and contemporary Australian novels, short stories, and poetry; we will also view an example of the recent and significant revival in Australian film. The aim of the seminar will be to acquaint ourselves with major themes in Australian literature and film, and to situate these themes with regard to their historical, aesthetic, and cultural contexts. These themes will include: indigenous storytelling/writing and first contact; European homesickness; colonial ballads; the “yarn,” tall stories, and hoaxes; writing and the idea of a nation; women’s writing and writing for/about women; history and myth; exile and expatriatism; the pastoral and anti-pastoral; iconoclasm; rebellion; and disrespect. No prior knowledge of the literature or the cultural landscape of Australia is required, although a keen spirit of inquiry would be an advantage. Relevant contextual material will be provided in a course reader and will be developed in class during the quarter. Course participants will be welcome to make links between the course material and indigenous and New World experiences in North America (certain links will become clear rather quickly, as will some fundamental differences between Australian and North American contexts). Most classes will follow a seminar format. Assessment: Class participation 15%; seminar presentation 115%; short research assignments 15%; mid-term paper (5 pages) 20%; final paper (10 pages) 35%. Texts: Peter Carey, The True History of the Kelly Gang; Jack Davis, Mudrooroo Narogin, et al., eds., Paperbark: A Collection of Black Australian Writings; Stephan Elliot, dir., The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994); Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career (1901); David Malouf, Remembering Babylon; Phil Noyce, dir., Rabbit-Proof Fence (2001); Doris Pilkington, Rabbit Proof Fence; photocopied course packet.
Reading Proust’s "In Search of Lost Time." In this course we will read all six volumes of Proust’s semi-autobiographical novel, variously translated from the French as Remembrance of Things Past, and In Search of Lost Time. The novel cycle was published between 1913 – 1927, the last two posthumously, and its techniques and themes are considered integral to the development of literary modernism. In addition to its heavy reading component (each volume is approximately 600 pages in length; we will read them all in ten weeks), the seminar will demand oral presentations and weekly response papers.
From McCarthyism to the Patriot Act. Until recently conventional opinion saw the McCarthy period as safely behind us, the American civic religion of anti-communism a distant memory, its connection with our current narrowed range of political choices conveniently forgotten. The legislative response to the Oklahoma City bombing and even more the Patriot Act and its proposed sequel, Patriot Act II, however, have given new interest to the earlier period of repression and resistance. In the course we will get inside the McCarthy period—or more properly, the Age of J. Edgar Hoover. Secondary studies will give us a sense of the conflicting interpretive possibilities. Even more revealing, though, is the work of suppressed writers like Meridel Le Sueur, suppressed films like Salt of the Earth, and such well-known works as The Crucible and On the Waterfront. E.L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel places the Rosenbergs in historical and fictional context. The Rosenbergs' sons have their own first person perspective. Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and Mark Jenkins’ All Powers Necessary and Sufficient give us 1990s interpretations, the latter in a work set at the University of Washington during the Hoover/McCarthy period. During the last part of the course, as a further bridge between past and present, we will test the similarities and differences between the earlier period and our own. 497: honors senior majors only; add codes in English Advising office, A-2B PDL; 497: senior majors only. Texts: LeSueur, Harvest Song; Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes; Miller, Crucible; Wilson, Salt of the Earth; Doctorow, Book of Daniel; Kushner, Angels in America, Pt. 1: Millenium Approaches; Jenkins, All Powers Necessary and Convenient.
Representing the New Biologic: Fiction and Theory in an Age of Genomics. This course will examine a range of literary, filmic, and theoretical texts that represent transformations in our conception of the human body, the “natural” world, the distinctions among species, and reproductive processes that have been heralded by the mapping of the human genome and the advent of a range of new biotechnologies. We will consider theoretical and scientific writings on genomics alongside literary and visual texts, and will read historical materials on the history of genetic (often eugenic) scientific interventions. Our aim will be to understand how works of creative imagination allow us to envision the possibilities and pitfalls of “the new biologic” by which our culture has become saturated. Students will be expected to write original term papers and a series of shorter assignments over the course of the quarter. This course is designed to be reading and writing intensive. 497: honors senior majors only; add codes in English Advising office, A-2B PDL; 497: senior majors only. Texts: M. Pollan, The Botany of Desire; B.Katz-Rothman, The Book of Life; N. Ordover, American Eugenics; Octavia Butler, Dawn; Ruth Ozeki, My Year of Meats; Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake; photocopied course packet.
Trauma, Memory and Invention: Contemporary Central European Literature. This course focuses on Central European writers since World War II and on the role they played in recalling fractured European pasts and in engaging the changed landscape of the European present. The holocaust, ethnic persecutions and resettlements and the partitioning of Europe created two distinct Germanies, an augmented Poland, a subject Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, a Czechoslovakia tilting away from historic ties to Vienna and Berlin towards remote Moscow and an independent, multinational and communist, Yugoslavia under Marshal Tito. The imaginative recall and questioning of the thread that joined past and present was taken up by the writers of the region. Whether exercising dissident or minority points of view, or simply trying to reconcile the lived experience of history with “official” history, these writers represented the holocaust, ethnic and pre-industrial cultures “time has forgotten,” as well as the wartime Nazis and Stalin era occupations, while posing critical questions about the “economic miracle” in the West and the “soft totalitarianism” and stagnation of the East. Requirements: Frequent short papers, presentations and a term paper reflecting independent research on the literary, cultural or political background of the region or a specific writer. 497: honors senior majors only; add codes in English Advising office, A-2B PDL; 497: senior majors only. Required Texts: Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas Ladies and Gentleman, Gunter Grass, Cat and Mouse; Czeslaw Milosz, Captive Mind; Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting; Vaclav Havel, The Garden Party and other Plays; Danilo Kis, “Encyclopedia of the Dead;” Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude; Tadeusz Konwicki, Moonrise, Moonset; Christa Wolf, Cassandra; Dubravka Ugresic, Museum of Unconditional Surrender.
The Book in Literature. Our studies will start with a look at some pre-Gutenberg images of books and bibliophiles (Lucian, Augustine, Dante); then we’ll focus on the strange surprising uses of the book as object and idea, form and metaphor, in modern times (Cervantes, Swift, Flaubert, Mallarmé, Borges, Fowles, O’Brien, Kis, Phillips, et al.). Several brief assignments and a research project resulting in a 15-page final paper. Texts: Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard and Pecuchet; John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman; Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude; Danilo Kis, The Encyclopedia of the Dead; Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds.
Decolonizing Literature: African American Writers Between the Iron Curtain
and the Color Curtain. For two decades after World War II, the politics of
American literature and culture were defined not only by the Cold War between
the United States and the Soviet Union but also by the struggles of writers
and intellectuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Chester Himes,
James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry to replace the Cold War paradigm with
one that viewed emerging global conflict in terms of North/South rather than
East/West and defined “freedom” as the goal of struggle against
racism, capitalism, colonialism, and ‘internal colonization’ rather
than the Sovet Union. For both of these culture battles, “race” was
a central term of conflict. In this seminar, we will examine discourses of
the cold war and global decolonization movements in order to give an account
of the many alternative internationalisms developed in the novels, books
and essays of black writer-intellectuals in the period. Students will have
the opportunity to investigate a “post-nationalist” approach
to American studies and to learn critical approaches to the study of gender,
sexuality, race and nationalism. The final result of the seminar will be
a research essay taking up a topic related to black internationalism after
World War II. Texts will likely include: Richard Wright, White
The Outsider; The Color Curtain; Chester Himes: The
End of a Primitive; Lorraine
Hanesberry, Raisin in the Sun; Les Blancs; Amiri Baraka, The
LeRoi Jones - Amiri Baraka Reader (selections); James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time.
Please note: As always, published schedules (including instructors and topics) are tentative and subject to change. Check back when registration for Spring begins for the most current information.
Twenty-First-Century Literature. Where is literature today?
The New Economy of the 1990s is history; the internet has lost
its luster; we are living in a post-September 11th world of
warfare abroad and orange alerts at home. “Postmodernism,” whatever
it was, seems to be over, gone the way of deconstruction, poststructuralism,
and other late twentieth-century intellectual preoccupations.
This seminar will be asking, in open-ended fashion, whether
today’s young, innovative writers are offering us a new,
meaningful vision of literature and tis place in the world.
We will be reading both prose writers (Rabih Alameddine, Mark
Danielewski, Dave eggers, Michelle Tea) and poets (Christian
Bök, Kenneth Goldsmith, Susan Howe, Harryette Mullen). Texts: Alameddine, I, the Divine;
Bök, Eunoia; Danielewski,
House of Leaves; Eggers, A Staggering Work of
Heartbreaking Genius; Goldsmith, Soliloquy; Howe, The
Midnight; Mullen, Sleeping
with the Dictionary; Tea, Valencia.
Recent British Fiction. This seminar will offer a reading of six very recent novels from Britain and Ireland. “Very recent” means published within the past three years, and the aim is to give students some sense of the range and quality of contemporary British fiction. Four of the novels are from England, one is from Scotland, and one from Ireland. Two are first novels and the other four are by established writers. Two have postcolonial subjects and another two have wartime settings. Five of them (as it happens) tell stories which are in one way or another about childhood experience. All of them are interesting and challenging novels. They are: Monica Ali’s Brick Lane; Michael Frayn’s Spies; Ian McEwan’s Atonement; V. S. Naipaul’s Half a Life; Ali Smith’s Hotel World; and William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault.
Living in Place: Literature and the Environment. Our focus for this course will be upon how literary texts represent environmental issues and why it matters that they be represented in this way. How, that is, does the way in which people imagine the natural world affect who we are? How do our relationships with nature and our relationships with other people intersect? We will consider a range of prose texts, including novels, non-fictional essays and journalism, selected from a variety of historical and cultural settings. Course goals include: 1) developing analytical reading skills appropriate to different kinds of texts, 2) working on how to formulate and sustain critical arguments in writing, 3) exploring the logic and stakes of specific attitudes toward the environment, 4) understanding how environmental issues are linked to other social concerns, and 5) seeing how those linkages are affected by particular historical and cultural conditions.
What will make this class different from most other seminars, though, is that
it is part of a collaborative project between UW and a pair of local high schools.
We will be trying to devise effective modes of interacting with those other
classes and of conveying to them a sense of the kind of work we do at a university
like this one. The course will require some individual writing, but a major
part of the formal work will involve group research projects, with small groups
working on a particular text, investigating its public and critical reception
as background for preparing a teaching resource manual for that text. (Meets
w. C LIT 496B) Texts include: Robinson Crusoe; Encounters
with the Archdruid;
Go Down, Moses; Origin of Species (selections); Wild
Seed; Desert Solitaire;
Self-Help and Inheritance. "Self-Help" is the title of a best-selling book from 1859 by Samuel Smiles. It serves in the title for a course exploring literature in English from the 19th to 20th centuries, a period that has sharply promoted self-making through "self-help." But with this has also come a complication in thinking about inheritance. "Inheritance" fills out the title of the course and sets questions about the extent to which we are "made" by what has gone before, whether by family, gender, race, class, national/imperial legacy, or cultural/literary tradition. The class is designed as an appropriate capstone for seniors completing an English major given its theme, its seminar format, and significant writing component. It provides a forum for reflection on your own educational experience as an interplay between self-help and inheritance. Primary readings drawn from: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (with clips from BBC video), John Stuart Mill, ch. "Of Individuality" from "On Liberty," Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (with clips from recent film), Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland, Virginia Woolf, "A Room of One's Own," V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas. Secondary historical/critical/theoretical material (short selections, not read by all, covered by presentations) drawn from: Samuel Smiles, Edmund Burke, Matthew Arnold, Barbara Herrnstein-Smith, criticism on Naipaul, Peter Ackroyd). Requirements: on-going seminar discussion plus two presentations (whether leading discussion of a primary text or reporting ona secondary text), 4-5 pp. paper, @10 pp. paper treating more than a single text. If you choose, these can be related, so that the seoncd paper revises and expands upon the first. The above requirements count 25%, 25%, 50%. No final. I am open to adapt assignments to your purposes as you conclude your undergraduate work. Research, discussion, oral presentation, and critical writing (in tight-focus and wider-scope formats) are practical skills you can enhance and lay claim to in this course. Past senior seminars of mine have proved helpful to students for providing the basis of letters of recommendation and writing samples for purposes of graduate school or other training, or employment.
Drama on Trial: The Self-Conscious Stage. Our subject is the double meaning (and various shadings) of the subtitle. There is a long tradition in which the theater, distrusting its power of illusion, has been more or less conscious of its reality as theater, and makes a point of it in performance, refusing to be thought of as mere appearance, or misleadingly confused with life. At the same time there has been an emphasis on the idea of the self in the center of the stage, though that gets mixed up with the role of the actor, while the drama itself has been subject to critique, along with the “apparatus of reproduction.” . These tendencies, not mutually exclusive, have become so obsessive and sophisticated in certain advanced forms of theater, that one is likely to find no stage at all in the conventional sense, and sometimes even, no dramatic text. What remains instead is only theater, and instead of a character, only the self or fictions of the self; or in the breaking down and dispersion of the fictions, the appearance in the actor of the absence of a self. Or maybe the actor and audience thinking—as in recent theory, from deconstruction to queer—that the very notion of a self was, ideologically, an aberration of history. We shall discuss that unnerving (or is it promising?) possibility, while reading through, and conceptually staging, a spectrum of modernist and contemporary texts that point to the threatened or disintegrated self, or manifest it, shaking up the theater in the process. Expectations: aside from several short (2-3 pages) essays and a longer (12-15 pages) final paper, an activating presence in seminar discussions; no missing persons, no credit for blank stares. (Meets with C LIT 496C.)
History and the Graphic Novel. Although most of us think of them as serious-minded comic books, the illustrated novel or “graphic novel”, as it has come to be called, often documents significant alternative perspectives on the century’s most traumatic historical events and cultural phenomena. In this course, we will look at the manner in which some of the most celebrated graphic novelists have embroidered a distinct form of narrative, one that mixes documentary or journalistic techniques with the aesthetic concerns and license of the storyteller. Course requirements will include a final long paper project, preceded by an abstract, and a rough draft. Texts: Spiegelman, Maus, A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History; Maus II: And Here My Troubles Begin; Okubo, Citizen 13660; Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood; Sacco, Palestine.
Contracts of the Heart: Sacrifice, Gift Economy and Literary Exchange in Coleridge and Wordsworth. In this seminar we will study the literary relationship of Coleridge and Wordsworth who, as one critic remarked, “not only pervasively influenced one another, but did so in a way that challenges ordinary methods of assessments.” We will explore the possibility of deriving from theories of gift exchange and sacrifice a new model of literary influence that would shed light on this remarkably intimate and deeply conflicted relationship.
We will spend the first four weeks of the quarter studying theories of gift exchange and sacrifice as proposed, among others, by Marcel Mauss, Marshall Sahlins, Georg Simmel, Lewis Hyde and Pierre Bourdieu (on the gift); and by Sigmund Freud, Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss, René Girard and Georges Bataille (on sacrifice). The next six weeks will be devoted to the study of major poems by Coleridge and Wordsworth in chronological order, showing how the two poets, while desiring to imitate each other, find themselves competing for the same themes and appropriating each other’s subjects. Thus, while early Coleridge wrote successful nature poetry and Wordsworth portrayed moving stories of human suffering in a supernatural setting, after their collaboration on the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth turned to the philosophy of the mind’s relationship with nature, while Coleridge started to explore the effects of supernaturalism on the psyche.
Such moments of merging and separation can be profitably viewed through the lens of gift exchange and sacrifice. The gift, for example, generates a number of paradoxes that are relevant to the relationship between Coleridge and Wordsworth, being at once an altruistic model of social interaction, placing value on human bonds above economic or private interests, while at the same time remaining embedded in a self-interested power structure. Gift exchange often secures the privileged position of the donor at the expense of receivers and yet, as Mauss showed, receivers seem to retain “a sort of proprietary right” over everything that belongs to the donor. The gift thus generates the obfuscation of ownership rights and an erasure of the differences between donors and beneficiaries. We will see how Wordsworth and Coleridge, while collaborating early on a single unauthored volume (Lyrical Ballads) and wanting to write the same poem (“The Wanderings of Cain,” “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”), found themselves increasingly asserting “proprietary rights” over the stock of inventions which they initially passed on to each other according to the law of the gift. Wordsworth continued to use Coleridge’s ideas but tried hard to displace Coleridge as a gift-giving source, turning to nature or his private fund of “possessions,” to “Something within, which yet is shared by none” (“Home at Grasmere”). Assignments: A long paper (10-16 pp.), written in two stages and subject to revision; bi-weekly comments on assigned readings; a final exam. Texts: Marcel Mauss, The Gift; Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred; S. T. Coleridge, Selected Poetry (ed. Beer); Wordsworth, Selected Poetry.
Hard Women Poets. The poet-critic Thom Gunn has grouped the modernist poets Mina Loy, Marianne Moore, and H.D. as “Three Hard Women”; the critic Yvor Winters once said that reading Mina Loy was like moving through granite. Surprisingly, these are terms of approbation. This course will focus on those poets and that premise. We will engage in close reading – intensive textual analysis and forma l criticism – as well as comparative analysis. Students are expected to be present as well as vocal; those who go in fear of dictionaries are not encouraged to attend. We will focus on the work of four hard women poets: Marianne Moore, H.D., Mina Loy, and Dorothy Parker. While our readings will engage the poems individually, we will also explore the issue of difficulty per se., what those difficulties imply in terms of a reading public, and different ideas of hardness. Texts: Marianne Moore, Complete Poems; H.D., Collected Poems; Mina Loy, The Lost Lunar Baedeker; Dorothy Parker, Complete Poems.
Reading at the Limits of the Human: Encounters with Animal, Environmental, and Technological Others. In the introduction to Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal, Gary Wolfe makes a persuasive case for examining the non-human animal as a site of philosophical and ethical challenge to the human. Considering what the animal is, or means, he argues, is “perhaps the central problematic for contemporary culture and theory” (ix). This course takes Wolfe’s proposition seriously. It also exceeds the category of the animal, including the environment and technology as other Others whose relation to the human we might productively investigate. Through examining literary, theoretical, philosophical, filmic, painted, and photographed texts, this course invites you to consider how notions of the “human” are dependent on and troubled by engagements with and disavowals of “non-human” others. The course will be arranged into three interconnected sections – animals, environments, and technologies. In addition to the required texts, films you will be expected to screen during the quarter include: Michael Gondry’s Human Nature; Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, and Errol Morris’ Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. This course demands active and consistent engagement with the readings, class participation, response papers, and a final original research paper. Texts: Kirsten Bakis, The Lives of the Monster Dogs; Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake; Ruth Ozeki, All Over Creation; Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire; photocopied course packet with theoretical and other supplementary readings.
Writing on/ about/ from the Border. Borders and bordercrossings figure prominently in contemporary discourse related to postmodernism and globalization, where they allegorize the transgression of limits and the breaking of containments. This generalizing celebratory border discourse is usually non-site specific or references site-specific borders (such as the Mexico-U.S. border) only in passing. What happens if one places generalizing border discourse in conversation with writings which are not just about the border, but actually writing from a specific border, such as the U.S.-Mexico border? The course will explore how texts from the U.S.-Mexico border, especially from the Mexican side, sit oddly against the body of border discourse common in the U.S. context. We will read Chicano/a literature (Gloria Anzaldua, Américo Pareders, Jovita González ) literature by Mexican border writers (Federico Campbell, Rosina Conde, the filmmaker Maria Navaro [El jardin de Eden])and other Mexican and American "national" writers who have turned to the subject of the border (Cormac McCarthy, Carlos Fuentes, Guillermo Gómez-Peña). Texts: Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses; Carlos Fuentes, The Crystal Frontier; Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Warrior for Gringostroika; Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera; Américo Paredes, George Washington Gómez; Jovita González, Caballero; Rosina Conde, Women on the Road, María Novaro (Dir.), El jardín de Edén (The Garden of Eden); Ursula Biemann (Dir.), Performing the Border, photocopied course packet.
In this seminar we'll explore modern revisions of four classic texts of the Western canon--Shakespeare's The Tempest, Bronte's Jane Eyre, Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In addition to the four works, we'll read revisions produced by advocates for colonial and postcolonial cultures in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the cultures of the African diaspora. Readings from postcolonial and feminist criticism will accompany our discussion of the social, political, and interpretive controversies these works have generated. Grades based on participation (class discussion, response papers) and three five-page papers. (Meets w. C LIT 493, 496A; Comp. Lit majors have priority, Registration Period 1.)
Literary Culture and U.S. Neocolonialism. This course examines the relationship of the contemporary novel to the politics and culture of late twentieth-century U.S. Empire. It begins by examining U.S. Empire to be in part a cultural formation that depends on the production and circulation of narratives to describe, authorize and create a will for the exercise of U.S. interventions across the globe. We will center the question of how we might read the contemporary novel in American as a powerful cultural form that may represent, support or challenge narratives of U.S. Empire. Throughout, our framework for reading literature will be historical, transnational and geopolitical. We will focus on the events of the Cold War and decolonization; U.S. wars in Asia; and the economic restructuring of the planet called globalization. We will use our reading to ask broad questions including: How can we connect the political and formal developments of the novel in the United States after 1945 to U.S. global politics? What kind of empire is the U.S. How do international struggles abroad shape representations of American identity at home? How do the internal and global dynamics of empire-building shape culture in the U.S.? The reading list will include Graham Greene, The Quiet American, Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle, Theresa Cha, Dictee, Jessica Hagedorn, Dogeaters, Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place, and Barbara Kingsolver, Poisonwood Bible.