(Descriptions last updated: 1 March 2007)



Notes of Interest

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 17 students and registration is restricted to senior majors only. ENGL 498 is required of all students who declared an English major between Autumn 1994 and Spring 2005, and may not be taken more than once for credit. (Students following the 1994 - 2005 requirements may take a senior capstone course in lieu of ENGL 498.)

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.

Summer 2006

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497/498aA (Honors Senior Seminar/Senior Seminar) W
MW 10:50-1:00

The Graphic Novel? As a descriptive term for a popular form of visual storytelling, ‘graphic novel’ is both inadequate and misleading. Most aren’t novels at all but often an odd mix of autobiography, personal essay, travel narrative, and historiography, and there is currently little in the way of a critical account of the cultural politics of the form. Yet statistics seem to indicate that the ‘graphic novel’ is the most widely read and circulated (arguably ‘literary’), global genre of writing or storytelling. With almost nothing to go on, aside from a few scattered theoretical readings, we will attempt to construct our own sense of how, if, and in what regard, the ‘graphic novel’ matters as a form of literature. How, as well as when, should it be regarded as a ‘literary’ text or form? What historical or cultural conditions seem to have created its power as a popular reading genre at the end of the twentieth century? Texts may include: Jimmy Corrigan; Palestine; Persepolis; Epileptic; and Blankets. This list is tentative, so please check the UW bookstore later for a final list.

Autumn 2006

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498 A (Senior Seminar)
MW 9:30-11:20

Privacy. This course will investigate literary versions of keeping it to yourself. The recurrent topic will be what it means to be a self with secrets; how erotics is registered, legislated, and curtailed by interiority – and what may or may not be its obverse: publicity and theatricality; and the limits and expanses of individualism. The historical focus will be 19th- and 20th-century literature, with emphasis on the latter. This will be a reading-intensive course, and discussion is required, in flagrant defiance of the mimetic.

We will begin in the 19th century, with Kierkegaard’s “Diary of a Seducer,” make a pass at or through Durkheim’s anomie, and, after some forays which I cannot divulge here, end with the fabulously disgusting literary sensation, “The Elementary Particles” (alternately translated as “Atomised”) by the eminently irritating and alas interesting French novelist Michel Houellebecq. There will quite possibly be a section on (literary) diaries (ballast provided by Thomas Mallon, with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Bridget Jones’s Diary as instances of self-inqiry); the performance and purchase of monogamy’s violation (Adam Phillips, Laura Kipness); Dorothy Parker on keeping your trap shut as a version of the lyric poem; Julian Barnes (Talking it Over); and gossip. Too, we might do Noel Coward’s Private Lives, something by the perennially if not painfully subtle Anita Brookner, and what would privacy be without Henry James?

This class sounds fun, and it should be. Do not, however, flatter yourself that it will be easy. Privacy demands concentration, and this course will call upon audible, applied, and public forms of that enterprise. Warning: the Houellebecq novel is sexually explicit, and often cartoonishly misogynist; do not take this course if you are put off by such renderings. NOTE: if you have suggestions for reading, email me (jb2@u.washington.edu). Senior English majors only.

498 E (Senior Seminar)
TTh 10:30-12:20


Contemporary Visual Culture. This seminar will examine how our sense of self in contemporary culture is rooted in a visual existence. We are surrounded by a wealth of visual data, but rarely do we focus on how this information comes to be synonymous with what is natural and transparent, or how we derive pleasure and meaning from a constant data stream of manufactured images. We will draw material from such diverse sources as film, advertising, art, literature, cyberspace, and travel writing. In addition to becoming conversant with the major theories that inform visual studies, you will be responsible for producing a final research project that will be presented to the class. Some of the central questions we will examine this quarter are: who has the power or permission to be seen? Does visibility equate to political power? How is our understanding of space, nation, and community related to how we see? Senior English majors only. Texts: Nella Larsen, Passing; Nicholas Mirzoeff, ed, Visual Culture Reader; Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly; Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code.

498 F (Senior Seminar)
TTh 11:30-1:20

Cultural Politics of Nationalism. The study of literature and of culture is traditionally bound to nationality (e.g., we study “American fiction” or “French Cinema”). In recent years, this nationalist approach to literary and cultural study has come under considerable scrutiny, as writers and critics have begun to ask what is lost and gained by this way of conceptualizing cultures. This line of inquiry gains added traction in the present moment, where we witness on the one hand a proliferation of global or transnational cultural institutions, media, and practices, and on the other hand the (re)newed life of ethnic or cultural nationalisms (e.g., black nationalism, queer nation, and other forms of nationalist mobilization that are expressly antagonistic toward the institutions and policies of established nation-states). This course will engage a set of (relatively) contemporary literary, visual, and critical materials that interrogate the idea of national cultures, and the cultural work we perform under the rubric of nationality. Separately and collectively, these materials invite reflection on the histories of nationalism, its tenacity, and it uncertain futures. Materials for the course will likely include Paul Beatty, White Boy Shuffle, Ana Castillo, So Far From God, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, New World Border, Jessica Hagedorn, Dogeaters, the films Blade Runner (Ridley Scott) and Traffic (Steven Soderbergh), and a packet of critical writings by Benedict Anderson, Anne McClintock, Roger Rouse, Arjun Appadurai, Stuart Hall, Arif Dirlik, and others. In addition to short responses and in-class writings, work for the course will include an annotated bibliography, an in-class presentation, and a substantial research paper (12-15 pages). Senior English majors only. Texts: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities; Paul Beatty, The White Boy Shuffle; Ana Castillo, So Far From God; Guillermo Gomez-Pena, The New World Border; Jessica Hagedorn, Dogeaters.

498 G (Senior Seminar)
TTh 1:30-3:20

Loving / Hating / Reading / Fiction. This is a seminar in the weird pleasures, wild emotions, and secret seductions of reading fiction. How, exactly, do we take in fiction? How much control does the author have over how the reader feels while reading? Do we read differently when we’re reading across gender or sexuality or ethnicity? Why do some readers choose puzzle novels while others prefer love stories? Can we love novels if they are about things we hate? How do films read stories differently from books? Do we identify with characters who seem in many ways to e our opposites? We’ll read modern and contemporary fictions to try to get some tentative answers to these questions. Discussion will be at the heart of what we do, so come expecting lots of talk and lively differences of opinions. You’ll be thinking on paper too, in short responses and a longer seminar paper. Senior English majors only.


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Winter 2007

498 D (Senior Seminar) 12/18: NOTE NEW INSTRUCTOR, TOPIC
MW 1:30-3:20

Pre-Renaissance Drama. In this course we will examine varieties of English drama written before and leading up to Shakespeare, including the complete Chester Cycle, a number of non-cycle plays, morality plays and Tudor interludes. We will formulate some ways of approaching these playtexts: as cultural markers, as expressions of civic identity, as spectacular performative ventures, as intellectual parents and children during eras of change, as contemplative texts for reading, and as really good plays. Senior ENGL majors only. Meets w. ENGL 516A. Texts: David Mills (ed.). The Chester Mystery Cycle; John Coldewey (ed.). Early English Drama: An Anthology; Albert Labriola and John Smeltz (eds.). The Bible of the Poor (Biblia Pauperum): A Facsimile and Edition of the British Library Blockbook C.9.d.2; Michael Camille. Image on the Edge; Victor Turner. From Ritual to Theatre.

498 E (Senior Seminar)
TTh 9:30-11:20

New Black Aesthetics. What cultural, theoretical and political trends inform black literary production at the end of the twentieth century, or in the era to come after the civil rights movement, the black cultural nationalist movements of the late 1960s and 1970s, and integration? In this course, our primary goal will be to examine how various “postmodern” texts—marked in part by the shifting terrain of race in America—take a look back toward earlier forms of black culture and aesthetics. Many of the texts to be considered make self-conscious efforts to re-represent history, the meaning of black identity, and the conditions of community. As we engage this literature, we will consider how it addresses both past and present circumstances, and whether we can discern a “new” black aesthetics. Required texts are likely to include: Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo; Octavia Butler, Kindred, Andrea Lee, Sarah Philips; George Wolfe, The Colored Museum; Trey Ellis, Platitudes; Jewelle Gomez, The Gilda Stories; Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist. Texts likely to be available on E-Reserve: Linda Hutcheon, The Politics of Postmodernism (excerpts); Manning Marable, “From Freedom to Equality: The Politics of Race and Class”; Cornel West, “The Postmodern Crisis of the Black Intellectuals”; bell hooks, “Postmodern Blackness”; Mark Anthony Neal, Soul Babies (excerpts).

498 G (Senior Seminar)
TTh 11:30-1:20

Gift, Sacrifice, and Literary Identity 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, they did so in a way that challenges ordinary methods of assessment.” We will begin with a study of contemporary theories of gift exchanges and sacrifice, which will highlight major themes in Coleridge’s and Wordsworth’s poetry and offer a new model of interpreting their unusual collaboration. We will then proceed with a close examination of Coleridge’s and Wordsworth’s work, focusing on periods in which they found themselves in close competition with one another. For example, while early on Coleridge wrote successful nature poetry and Wordsworth wrote moving stories of human suffering and social injustice, after their collaboration on the Lyrical Ballads (1798), Wordsworth turned to the philosophy of the mind’s relationship with nature, while Coleridge started to explore the effects of supernaturalism on agents caught in a world that no longer makes sense in terms of orthodox Christian theology. What will emerge from this seminar is a clear sense that Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s careers were profoundly shaped by what each took to be the identity of the other, often misconceived through the distorting lens of self-projections. We will also compare multiple versions of a few major works by Coleridge and Wordsworth (such as Wordsworth’s “Salisbury Plain” poems and The Prelude and Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”), which are an important source of understanding the origins and nature of their literary collaboration. Senior ENGL majors only. Texts: Wordsworth, Selected Poetry (ed. Roe); Coleridge, Poetry and Prose.

498 H (Senior Seminar)
TTh 1:30-3:20

Love and the Social Bond in the Middle Ages, The goal of this course is to study the tension between individual erotic passion (whatever its form of expression) and the constraints of the family, feudal society, and religion. We will address these questions by reading a selection of examples of works written between the 12th and 14th centuries: preceded by the Old Testament Song of Songs as a foundation for medieval understandings of desire. This will be followed by two stories of virgin martyrs, a selection of Provençal and French courtly lyric poems, one or two courtly romances, (Tristan and Iseut; Yvain, and/or the Knight of the Lion, by Chrétien de Troyes), Dante’s Vita Nuova, Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Tale,” the “Pardoner’s Tale,” and an unusual spiritual love letter by St. Catherine of Siena. All readings will be based on English translations, but students will be encouraged to read whatever writings they can in their original language.

Here are a few of the questions we will address:

• What is the relationship between courtly desire and medieval misogyny?
• What necessary link is there between sexual desire and sin?
• How is homoerotic desire understood and expressed in medieval letters?
• Can men and women of differing social ranks or classes properly love each other?
• What is the relationship between courtly love and chivalric combat in medieval romance?
• What are the social purposes of marriage in medieval society?
• What are the consequences, real or imagined, of adultery in medieval literature?
• What place does wealth have in courtly erotic desire?
• Can there such a phenomenon as truly spiritual or sacred erotic desire?
• Can men and women desire the Virgin Mary or the flesh of Christ?

Undergraduate students will be evaluated according to: their participation (30%), two short papers, 5-8 pp. (40%) and a take-home quiz (30%) at the end of the course. Senior ENGL majors only. Meets w. ENGL 516B, C LIT 496A; FRENCH 411, FRENCH 591. Taught by Prof. Eugene Vance, French & Italian Studies.

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Spring 2007

498 B (Senior Seminar)
MW 9:30-11:20

Screenwriting for Readers & Writers. This seminar is designed for both creative writers and those who don’t consider themselves writers but think of themselves as critical readers. The class will study films adapted from short stories, examine the screenwriting process and, through small group collaboration, write a screenplay adaptation of a short story. Text: Paul Argentini, Elements of Style for Screenwriters.

498 C (Senior Seminar)
MW 10:30-12:20

Literary Learning: Challenges to Sense-Making.

“Is it not a pleasure to learn and to repeat or practice from time to time what has been learned?” –Confuscius

“Fictions are for finding things out, and they change as the needs of sense-making change.” –Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction

“Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense.” --favorite adage of former Seattle DJ team

This seminar focuses on three primary texts: a late 20th-century consideration of what schools are for, Neil Postman’s The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School; a writer’s meditation about ways of knowing and being, John Fowles’ The Tree; and a novel that makes its own sense of individual and collective American life, post-Vietnam, John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. This seminar will provide opportunity for reflective as well as critical conversation and writing, and both creative writing and literature/culture majors are welcome. Senior English majors only, registration periods 1 & 2. Texts: Postman, The End of Education; Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany; Fowles, The Tree (note: the Bookstore may not be able to acquire used copies of Fowles’ The Tree; therefore please try to purchase from on line –google author and title for available copies.)

498 L (Senior Seminar)
TTh 10:30-12:20

Consuming Literature, Literary Consumption. Love, money desire, consummation, shopping: in this course we will delve into the pleasures and delusions of consumption. Starting in the late nineteenth century when department stores brought mass-consumerism to cities in Europe and the United States, we’ll investigate how consumption is a key trope in literature, and by which we read literature throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. We’ll consider consumption broadly as an economic, emotional, corporeal, and historical concept – and one that simultaneously encapsulates mundane, everyday activities (buying coffee, eating lunch, cruising the mall) and global economic and political conditions. We will follow these various notions in and through literature to evaluate how consumption and consumerism develop and change, and to ask just how prominently they matter. Some of the ideas, debates and phenomena we’ll trace include how anxieties over the cultural impact of mass-consumerism and consumer capital emerge in literary texts; how consumption and circulation condition national, gendered and racial identities and histories; whether love and desire are forms of consumption, and what it means to be consumed by one’s desires; how literature itself is consumed as a commodity in the marketplace and as stories that have cultural staying-power. Be prepared for a brisk reading pace, regular writing and collaborative assignments, and an annotated bibliography and substantial research paper at the end of the quarter. Senior English majors only, Registration Periods 1 & 2. Texts: Emile Zola, The Ladies’ Paradise; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Djuna Barnes, Nightwood; Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle; Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight; Monique Truong, The Book of Salt; Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’ Diary.

498 M (Senior Seminar)
TTh 12:30-2:20

Mapping the Reader’s Journey. We book lovers have had our hearts stolen, been transported to a different place by at least one book. Because you can never take the same journey twice, rereading a beloved book can be revelatory, of the reader as well as the book. In this course we’ll attend to the process of reading, exploring the difference between first readings and subsequent readings, discovering how the book is never the same and how we change as readers trekking across readings and through time. In addition to Anne Fadiman’s Rereadings, a collection of essays by diverse writers on the surprises and insights rereading brings, Italo Calvino’s compound positioning of the reader in If on a winter’s night a traveler, and a few articles, you will work closely with a book you choose. Writing assignments will include regular reflective exercises to log your journeys, as well as formal arguments you develop through rereading and revision. To prepare for this class, think carefully about which old love you want to revisit again for a few weeks. A book you read several years ago when you were in another time and place, and one about which you’ve already done some writing will be a good choice. Hopefully, neither of you will get through your reunion unchanged and you, dear traveler, will have a deepened appreciation for who you are as a reader and the role reading can play in your present and future journey. Texts: Anne Fadiman, Rereadings; Italo Calvino, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler.

498N (Senior Seminar)
TTh 1:30-3:20

Added 2/14; sln: 12792
Circa 1900: Transitional Realisms. How did resourceful, independent Huckleberry Finn grow up to become Benjy Compson, the wise-fool "idiot" narrator of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury? How did late nineteenth-century American literary values, which emphasized everyday life and everyday folks, transform in just a few decades to accommodate the experimental forms and perspectives of modernist writers like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot and Zora Neale Hurston? In this class, we will investigate the pronounced cultural change that occurred across the divide of the twentieth century by examining its roots, through several clusters of "realist" texts produced around the year 1900. Our first "case study" involves Henry James and the perceptual uncertainties of novels such as The Turn of the Screw (1898) and What Maisie Knew (1897), along with several longish short stories, texts by James' literary associates, nineteenth-century psychologists, critical essays and some examples of visual art. Our second "case study" focuses on Charles Chesnutt and the ambiguities of the color line, via his novel The Marrow of Tradition(1901) and his stories of the color line (1899), alongside other stories about racial identity and conflict, critical essays, and examples from popular journalism, photography and anthropology similarly concerned with race and its elusive "definitions." In the final third of the quarter, students will compile their own "case study" of another set of texts circa 1900, working individually and in groups. Overall, our aim is to query the idea of "realism" and its capacity to generate radically different approaches to representation. This class should be especially useful (and fun) for students of literary history, cultural studies, modernism and nineteenth-century American literature, but will also satisfy those who simply like to read deeply. Texts: Henry James, What Maisie Knew; The Turn of the Screw (with The Aspern Papers and Two Stories); Charles Chesnut, Conjure Tales and Stories of the Color Line; The Marrow of Tradition.

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