200-Level Courses

Course Descriptions (as of September 27, 2006)
The following course descriptions have been written by individual instructors to provide more detailed information on specific section sthan that found in the General Catalog.  When individual descriptions are not available, the General Catalog descriptions [in brackets] are used. (Although we try to have as accurate and complete information as possible, this schedule remains subject to change.)



200 A (Reading Literature)
M-Th 8:30

In this course we will read selections of 20th century American Literature. As we read, we will ask ourselves the following questions: “What shapes the characters’ desires?” and “How do their desires shape the objects they yearn for?” In pursuing these questions, we will pay special attention to social processes of racialization, nationalization, sexualization, and engendering, tracing how these processes intersect, transform, and maintain lines of continuity. To enrich our readings of literary texts, we will also be reading theoretical and historical materials that I have collected in a course packet. This is not a lecture class, so students must come prepared to engage in class discussions. To ensure that everyone keeps up with the readings, I will administer a quiz each day. Other course requirements include: delivering a presentation on a published article of literary criticism; writing a 3-5 page mid-term paper; participating in on-line EPost discussions; and writing a 5-6 page final paper. The literature we will read this quarter includes: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton; The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison; If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes; Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller; and My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki.

200 B (Reading Literature)
M-Th 9:30
Modernism and Material Culture: The Changing Texture of Literature. “But if there are no stories, what end can there be, or what beginning? Life is not susceptible perhaps to the treatment we give it when we try to tell it.” --Virginia Woolf, The Waves.

This is a course in Anglo-American modernist fiction and poetry with an attention to writers’ experimentation with the form and content of literature. The first half of the twentieth century gave rise to unparalleled creativity and complexity in literary expression. Beginning with a selection of American writers, we will quickly cross the Atlantic, visit Paris between the wars, and travel to England and Ireland, where we will remain for the duration of the term. As we explore writers’ techniques for responding to the modern world, we will examine the changing content that writers begin to present using complex narrative techniques. The modern world infiltrates literary works in abstract and concrete ways. Modern writers not only begin to imagine the thought processes of their protagonists, but they record the advertisements they see and the products they use. Objects and artifacts will become anchors for our imagination of the world that these characters and writers inhabited. We will also read scholarship that uses archival and material sources to analyze and contextualize modernist texts. As we navigate texts that differ in style and shape, central questions will include writers’ methods for representing consciousness, the formation of crucial artistic circles, such as Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, the relation between gender and artistic production, and writers’ responses to World War One and the British Empire. Readings may include the fiction of Willa Cather, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, and James Joyce, and the poetry of T. S. Eliot, H.D., Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Gertrude Stein, and W. B. Yeats. Texts: American Poetry: The Twentieth Century (Volume 1: Henry Adams to Dorothy Parker); Willa Cather, My Antonia; William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises; James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Virginia Woolf, The Waves; photocopied course packet.

200 C (Reading Literature)
M-Th 12:30
American Modernism: 1910-1940. The modern period in American literature was a time of extensive formal experimentation fueled by rapid, widespread cultural changes. At home or abroad, directly or indirectly, American writers produced texts that dealt with modern psychology, technological advancement, world war, economic depression, racial injustice, sexual identity, gender equality, and the place of the United States within a transnational cultural nexus. In this course, we will study modernist writing in a historically thick context. In other words, we will consider the ways in which the American literature of this era interacts with its historical milieu. We will attempt to answer questions such as the following: Why do so many modernists leave the United States for Western Europe? What are the effects of expatriation on the modernist artist? Why is so much work from this ear regarded as difficult? What political role does the author play in modern society? Why do many of these authors adopt polarizing political positions (communism and fascism)? Can experiments in language further the cause of social justice? At the end of the quarter, we will spend a week examining some of the ways that postmodern American poets have extended the formal and thematic experimentation of the modernists. We will read poetry by Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, H.D., Mina Loy, Wallace Stevens, Charles Reznikoff and Louis Zukofsky, among others. Fiction will include William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood. Requirements: Daily attendance and participation, participation in a group presentation, and three papers (of two, three, and five pages, respectively).

200 D (Reading Literature)
M-Th 1:30
The Novel Individual of the Late Victorian Era. One type of contemporary commonplace refers to the individual as a social construct. In the spirit of this thought, if not the letter, this course will take as its subject the imaginative construction of the written individual. We will observe how several late Victorian novelists provide identities for their characters: paying attention to how the boundaries of a character are drawn and the various permeabilities those boundaries offer. We will trace the portrayals of causality, agency, and historicity as they appear in elements of plot, character, and setting. This course will align the theoretical problematic of selfhood with its various literary solutions, in order to investigate what may be gained from working with the technical aspects that stand between the individual and his literary doppelganger. Assignments: several response papers, one longer paper, and a final exam. Texts: Charles Dickens’s The Mysteries of Edwin Drood (1870), George Meredith’s The Egoist (1879), and Henry James’s What Maisie Knew (1897), as well as a significant course packet with readings in literary theory.

200 E (Reading Literature)
TTh 10:30-12:20
From Medieval to Modern. Nowadays people tend to associate literature with “self-expression.” You write because you have a story to tell, feelings to describe, or hard-won wisdom to share. It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, it is a peculiarly modern prejudice that everyone has a unique self worth acknowledging, cultivating, and “expressing.” Beginning with excerpts from Beowulf and ending with Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, this class will track the origins and development of this faith in the power of writing to give “voice” to everyday people’s thoughts and emotions. Along the way we will learn when and why people started writing such things as sonnets, novels, and autobiographies. Readings will include well-known authors (Chaucer, Spenser, Donne) as well as ones who might be less familiar (Kempe, Lanyer, Equiano, Cowper). Texts: Samuel Richardson, Pamela; Stephen Greenblatt, ed., The Norton Anthology Of English Literature, Vol. 1: The Middle Ages through the Eighteenth Century, 8th ed.

200 F (Reading Literature)
M-Th 2:30-4:20
Fictions of Detection. –Just the facts, Ma’am--. This course, through a focus on the Anglo-American detective fiction genre of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, will investigate more broadly the features and functions of textuality and the analytical strategies it calls for: what are we doing when we “do” literature? Following the fictional detective’s example – his or her mission to uncover a hidden story through attentive reading of the available evidence – we will examine some poems, stories, novels and films that invite us to unwind riddles, explain mysteries, and make interpretations that might contradict superficial certainties or common sense. But these pursuits will also demand that we reconsider the fundamental assumptions that govern terms like reading literature, history, identity, and truth. Texts: Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist; A. S. Byatt, Possession; Paul Auster, City of Glass (adapted Paul Karasik & David Mazzucchelli.

202 A (Introduction to the Study of English Language and Literature)
MWF 10:30 (lecture); quizzes: Thursdays, 11:30; 12:30; 2:30
[Gateway course designed for English pre-majors and majors. Introduces critical, historical, and theoretical frameworks important to studying the literature, language, and cultures of English.] Concurrent enrollment in ENGL 197 writing link required. See Time Schedule for specific sections linked to ENGL 202.

207 A (Introduction to Cultural Studies)
M-Th 9:30
In his “Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society,” Raymond Williams describes “culture” as “one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language.” Despite its formidable difficulty, Williams articulates a working definition of the term that traces its complex etymology and that suggests to us – or perhaps poignantly reminds us – that culture is not a “higher” realm that exists apart from daily practices and interactions, but is rather a discursive and experiential site of perpetual contestation, participatory impetus, and dynamic change. We will take this notion of culture, i.e., as a process and not a thing, to be our point of departure for considering a variety of readings. Some key questions will be: How are both cultural productions and reception connected to dominant power relations and ideologies? What is the future of history in a postmodern age? In what sense do symbolic representations have material effects? What, exactly, is at stake in the so-called “culture wars”?

Our first weeks will be occupied with developing a working vocabulary and with establishing an understanding of select cultural studies methodologies. Aside from these valuable secondary sources, we will read in a variety of media, including print texts, feature films, and images from advertising. Student responsibilities include: daily participation in class discussion, attentive reading and note-taking, a shorter mid-term paper; one small group presentation, a longer final paper, weekly quizzes , and – crucially – respect for all members of the community and a willingness to engage complex and often uncomfortable questions sincerely. Everybody will be responsible for making our class discussions lively and productive; you should not expect to be a passive onlooker. Come to class prepared for an exchange, not a lecture.

Be warned that the secondary material is densely theoretical; expect to read closely and more than once. You will need to keep your thinking-cap on for the whole ten weeks. Texts: Simon During, ed., The Cultural Studies Reader; Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society; photocopied course packet (available at The Ave Copy Shop, 4141 Univ. Way in late August).

207 B (Introduction to Cultural Studies)
M-Th 11:30
[Asks three questions: What is Cultural Studies? How does one read from a Cultural Studies perspective? What is the value of reading this way? Provides historical understanding of Cultural Studies, its terms and its specific way of interpreting a variety of texts, i.e. literature, visual images, music, video, and performance.]

211 A (Medieval & Renaissance Literature)
M-Th 9:30
Patronage, Print, and Authorship before 1800. In this course we will examine literary texts before 1800 along with the material conditions that supported them. We will start with some Old and Middle English texts, including The Dream of the Rood and The Battle of Maldon, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, some Chaucer and some Malory, paying attention to the shift from manuscript and print cultures. Then we read four plays and a masque to understand the changing conditions of public entertainment. Finally, we track the course of sponsored literary works from the 15th through the 18th centuries, considering songs and sonnets and signature pieces from Wyatt and Surry to Pope and Johnson. Coursework: three quizzes and a class presentation. Texts: Greenblatt, ed., The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1, 8th ed., ; Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe.

212 A (Literature of Enlightenment & Revolution)
TTh 9:30-11:20
Solitude and Society. As direct heirs of what has been called the “invention of liberty” in the 18th and 19th centuries, we have been obliged to learn new ways of maintaining our individuality in a community made up of millions of other free-wheeling individualists. One strategy, of course, is to go it alone; another is to design large, well-populated states that set out to insure the individual liberty of all members. In this course we will discuss efforts, imagined and real, to reconcile the benefits and liabilities of solitude and society. Lecture, discussion, short essays written in and out of class. Texts: The U.S. Constitution; Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, William Wordsworth, The Prelude(selections); Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (selections); R. W. Emerson, “Self-Reliance”; H. D. Thoreau, Walden; John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.

213 A (Modern & Postmodern Literature)
M-Th 9:30
This course is an introduction to literary modernism, and to the historical, intellectual, and aesthetic conditions which signaled its emergence. Beginning in the nineteenth century with some of modernism’s immediate predecessors (Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy), we will then move into the early twentieth century in an attempt to identify what exactly modernism is, and to find points of comparison (and departure) among several of its most famous texts. As we’ll see, modernism was a highly innovative and complex moment in literary history, as the formal and thematic experiments of modernist authors were not confined to any particular genre, medium, or language. Our readings, then, will provide us with a good sense of modernism’s expansiveness: we will read a novel by Joseph Conrad, short stories by James Joyce, an “autobiography” by Gertrude Stein, essays by Virginia Woolf, and poems by Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, H.D., and Mina Loy. Our goal will be to gain a richer understanding of the historical period and its literature, and to explore some of the principal thematic and formal concerns of modernist authors. In so doing, we will ask ourselves the following questions, among others: what is modernism’s sense of its own past, or of its future? To what degree is modernism a radical break with tradition, and to what degree does it align itself with earlier literary periods? How, exactly, do authors experiment with literary form, and how successful are they in their attempts (and what would “success” mean in this context?)? What is modernism’s reaction to popular culture, politics, and the Great War? How do authors of the period represent individual consciousness, violence, and the shocks of urban life? Time permitting, we will also examine the role of film in the early twentieth century in order to discuss the relationship between cinematic innovations of the period and those found in its literary works. Films may include selections by Charlie Chaplin, Sergei Eisenstein, Buster Keaton, and Fritz Lang.

Finally, we’ll conclude the course with a discussion of postmodernism and its vexed relationship to its literary predecessor. Specifically, we will focus on the various points of similarity and difference between the texts of these two periods, and grapple with the following questions: to what degree does postmodernism represent a significant departure from modernism, and to what degree is it more of the same? Does postmodernism struggle to throw off modernism’s ghost (with all its negative connotations of elitism and reactionary politics), or do postmodern authors simply echo Ezra Pound’s call to “make it new,” albeit in a different manner? At the center of this discussion will be Samuel Beckett, alternately described as the last modernist and as the first postmodernist, but we will also spend some time on Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire in our closing weeks.

Note: much has been made of modernism’s difficulty, and the way in which modernist texts often defy easy interpretation (or even easy reading). While this course will certainly provide you with a solid understanding of the period, many of the texts we read are undeniably difficult, and consequently you will need to be prepared for the challenges and rewards that come with them. We will be moving at a brisk pace, so expect to make a serious time commitment to completing each of the assigned readings. Texts: T. S. Eliot, Selected Poems; Ezra Pound, Selected Poems; Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot; James Joyce, Dubliners; Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent; Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; Vladimir Nabakov, Pale Fire.

225 A (Shakespeare)
Mon 1:30-3:20 (lecture; quizzes Wednesdays 1:30-3:20)
The Language of Shakespeare. To read the works of Shakespeare, we must return to the world and words of Early Modern England. Relishing Shakespeare's plays requires us to examine the word-play, the dialect politics, and the general celebration of language that the Early Modern stage encouraged. This class provides an introduction to the plays of Shakespeare in conjunction with the language of late sixteenth-century England. When did one use "thou" or "thee"? Why do "prove" and "love" rhyme? Why does Shakespeare's grammar seem so different than our own? We will consider the sounds and meanings of words, the construction of sentences, and the dialect representation that give such a rich texture to Shakespeare's work. Readings include Twelfth Night, Love's Labor's Lost, Henry V, King Lear, and some accompanying linguistic/cultural material on Early Modern England. No previous experience with Shakespeare or language study is necessary; enthusiasm for the plays is the only prerequisite. (Please note: unlike previous quarters, in Autumn 2006 ENGL 225 will not be offered as a "W" course.)

229 A (English Literary Culture: 1600-1800)
M-Th 11:30
Chaos. Every course description of ‘English Literary Culture, 1600 – 1800’ states that during this period England went through great changes of just about every conceivable kind, especially from 1600 to 1700 – then you read ‘great works’ from this time period or perhaps go through a series of less-great works that focus on some particular change. This class will be different. We will enter the chaos itself, as seen through the eyes of those who were there. Students will read and discuss works both expected and unexpected, lawful and unlawful, sane and insane. Readings will include, but not be limited to, Spenser’s Mutability Cantos, the anonymous Arden of Feversham, Shakespeare’s King Lear, the anonymous Revenger’s Tragedy, Milton’s Paradise Lost, the poems of John Wilmot, and Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. We begin with a world of assumed stability, the stability becoming increasingly unstable in those years leading up to the chaos of the English Civil War. We will read about the beheading of England’s king in 1649 (by order of the revolutionary government) in that child of chaos, the newly invented news-paper. We will conclude with stability restored, but a brave, new stability such as would have been unrecognizable to those living prior to the Revolution. Warning: Some of the readings will be obscene. The course will provide hands-on experience in how literary research is done, its frustrations and rewards. You will be encouraged to ask questions at all times. There will be a research paper and a final exam. Texts: Greenblatt, ed., Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vols. B & C (8th ed.); M. L. Wine, ed., The Tragedy of Arden of Feversham; Brian Gibbons, ed., The Revenger’s Tragedy; John Wilmot, The Complete Poems; Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year; photocopied course packet.

230 A (English Literary Culture: After 1800)
M-Th 12:30
In his critically important book Culture and Imperialism, literary scholar Edward Said writes that “Nearly everywhere in the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century British and French culture we find allusions to the facts of empire, but perhaps nowhere with more regularity and frequency than in the British novel.” In such novels, Said writes that “the facts of empire are associated with sustained possession, with far-flung and sometimes unknown spaces, with eccentric or unacceptable human beings, with fortune-enhancing or fantasized activities like emigration, money-making, and sexual adventure.” Said takes literary scholars to task who “simply ignore imperialism” despite its persistent presence in fiction. Since Culture and Imperialism was published in 1993, literary scholars have responded to Said’s critique by exploring imperialism in the British novel, and it is with these scholars that your work will be in conversation this quarter. We will read texts spanning from the 1850s to 1912, exploring the work that these novels do as cultural production in the context of the British empire. The central problematic of the course, the issue around which we will generate our questions and critique, is that of the liberal self—that is, the coherent, rational British subject who retains a sense of self through knowledge and authority over the “other.” Thus, we will begin with domestic fiction with a faraway imperial presence and then move to detective fiction which depicts entreatments of “other” bodies into the English domestic space. Our last novel is set in India, the “jewel in the crown” of the British Empire. Important note: The reading load in this course is 150+ pages per week, in addition to other theoretical and historical material and literary criticism. Two major papers are also required for the course. If you cannot commit to this rigorous workload, I suggest that you do not register for this course. Texts: Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would be King,” Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Speckled Band.” Additional course packet required.

242 A (Reading Fiction)
M-Th 8:30
"Metafiction is a term given to fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artefact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality. In providing a critique of their own methods of construction, such writings not only examine the fundamental structures of narrative fiction, they also explore the possible fictionality of the world outside the literary fictional text." --Patricia Waugh, "What Is Metafiction and Why Are They Saying Such Awful Things About It?"

Reading (Meta)fiction. In this course we'll be reading metafictional short stories and novels from a variety of national traditions. We'll explore metafiction as a means of questioning the practices surrounding reading and writing fiction. Our explorations will likely intersect with other topics in literature such as intertextuality, parody, the avant-garde, genre history, reader-response theory, modernism and postmodernism, and national and international literary traditions. Authors of primary texts we may read: John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail Bulgakov, Italo Calvino, Julio Cortázar, John Fowles, Franz Kafka, Vladimir Nabokov, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Gertrude Stein. Even though most, if not all, of the primary texts will be twentieth-century works, undoubtedly these works deliberately refer to earlier eras' fictional modes. However, extensive familiarity with pre-1900 literature will not be necessary. Course website: Texts: Italo Calvino, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler; Alain Robbe-Grillet, Two Novels: Jealousy and In the Labyrinth; photocopied course packet.

242 B (Reading Fiction)
M-Th 12:30
[Critical interpretation and meaning in fiction. Different examples of fiction representing a variety of types from the medieval to modern periods.] Texts: Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy; Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon; Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake; Zadie Smith, White Teeth.

242 C (Reading Fiction)
M-Th 1:30
“In the history of looking, bodies have been ubiquitous storytellers whose fictions have helped fix the face of America and the changing look of those conceived as alien to it.” -- Ardis Cameron, Looking for America.

Modernism and the postmodernism are often characterized by the prominence of the visual and changes in visual technologies. In this course we will investigate what it means to say that ‘looking has a history’ by closely reading some modern and contemporary literary texts. How do these texts both participate in dominant ways of seeing and ways of knowing, and also intervene in order to produce alternative histories and fictions of identity? We will explore this question by considering the constructions of race, class, gender and sexuality as representations that both fix identities and fail to account for the multiplicities of lived experiences. Hence, the course will emphasize the close reading of cultural forms, literary and visual, for how they operate to convey meaning about a range of topics including the rise of industrialization and consumer capitalism, the individual and the public sphere, memory and history, and globalization. Course work will include a demanding reading schedule, participation in class discussion, response papers and quizzes, mid-term and final essay. Texts: Riis, How the Other Half Lives; Stein, Three Lives; Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Larsen, Passing; Kincaid, A Small Place; Yamashita, Through the Arc of the Rainforest.

242 D (Reading Fiction)
M-Th 2:30
Dirt Road Modernism. Literary modernism is traditionally associated with urban experience in the first several decades of the 20th century. Indeed, many modernist texts respond to life in big cities, with the rise of consumer culture and advertising, new modes of transportation, and the sensory experience of living in close proximity to so many people. In this course, however, we will read modernist fiction that examines life far outside the city. We will look at texts that represent back-roads, backwoods, and rural spaces for a variety of reasons. Some try to resist historical and technological development, through alternative senses of place; some document experiences diametrically opposed to urban modernity; still others celebrate a primitive rural aesthetic as the next new thing for blasé city-dwellers. As we read and discuss texts by Jean Toomer, William Faulkner, Mary Austin, Zora Neale Hurston, James Agee, Mabel Dodge Luhan, and others, we will focus on how the experience of different places might relate to the literary aesthetics of modernism. We will ask questions like: How do these texts infuse places with cultural meaning—or how do they draw meaning from the places and spaces they engage? How do the texts deal with the past, and the prospect of the future? How do they relate rural experience to urban space and culture? Student Responsibilities: daily attendance and active participation, careful reading and critical thinking, short class presentations, a 3-page midterm paper, and a 6-7 page final paper. Texts: Jean Toomer, Cane; William Faulkner, Light in August; Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain; Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men; James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; plus a course pack with theoretical and historical readings.

242 E (Reading Fiction)
M-Th 2:30
K. Feldman
This course will introduce students to key fictions that help us imagine ourselves living in the so-called era of “modernity.” These fictions shape our collective understanding of some of modernity’s seemingly most benign commonsensical beliefs: formal equality, abstract citizenship, the state’s monopoly on violence, the progressive movement of history, liberal individualism, civilized rationality, and human freedom. But by carefully reading several defining texts of U.S. literary modernism, this course will consider how such beliefs have often been structured by a whole other set of fictions, this one far more violent. These fictions include racial supremacy, national exceptionalism, and territorial expansion. We will study how these two sets of fictions emerge simultaneously, unpack the ways in which they inform one another, and consider how they are given shape and texture in a handful of canonized U.S. novels. Be forewarned that this is a hard and time-consuming task, to be sure. But the rewards are quite extraordinary. Our readings will help students achieve (among other things): a textured and critical sense of modern U.S. history, one that sees racial slavery and continental conquest as constitutive forces; a nuanced understanding of the relationship between modern formal literary innovation and modernity’s organizing concepts; and an introduction to several contemporary critical reading methodologies. Students will be expected to keep up with a heavy reading load, actively participate in a range of class activities, and write 2 short exploratory essays (3 pages each) and 1 longer argumentative essay (6-8 pages). Texts: Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, McKay’s Banjo, McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and Morrison’s Beloved. A course packet may include writings by John O’Sullivan, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Frederick Jackson Turner, Michel Foucault, Paul Gilroy, Samuel Huntington, Etienne Balibar, David Scott, Charles W. Mills, and others.

243 A (Reading Poetry)
M-Th 11:30
American Poetry of the 20th Century: Poetics, Politics and the Avant-Garde. Over the course of the last century, American poets questioned – and often dispensed with – nearly all the traditional trappings of verse. In the first half of the century, poets attempted to modernize American poetry by radically altering form and syntax. While Gertrude Stein used disjunctive grammar and syntax to explore perception and consciousness, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot assembled textual fragments into some of the most important long poems of the era. Marcel Duchamp and Mina Loy brought European avant-gardism to the United States, while Jean Toomer and Langston Hughes combined imagist precision with syncopated rhythms to produce the eloquent lyrical protest-verse of the Harlem Renaissance. In the 1930s, Objectivist poets like Charles Reznikoff and Louis Zukofsky followed William Carlos Williams’s lead in creating poems that depicted quotidian, working-class America; however, the Objectivists combined this interest in everyday life with a profound commitment to Marxist ideals of social justice.

In the 1950s, postmodern strains of experimentalism began to emerge. Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, and others associated with Black Mountain College explored the relationship between the poet’s breath and word placement on the page; at about the same time, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and the Beat writers linked a prophetic, neo-Blakean free-verse style to bohemianism and a rejection of the moral and political conservatism of the Eisenhower era. Meanwhile, John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara applied the techniques of Abstract Expressionist painting to the writing of poetry. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Gwendolyn Brooks and Amiri Baraka expressed their commitment to African-American nationalism through their politically engaged free verse. During the last quarter of the century, American poetry underwent an increasing balkanization that resulted in various (and variously opposed) “camps” of traditionalists, academics, , avant-gardists, performance poets, etc. Among these various camps, the Language poets have perhaps made the most interesting contribution to American poetics.

In this course we will pay special attention to the function of American poetry within a broader cultural and political milieu. We will attempt to think about poetry not as a rarified art form that provides an escape from modern life, but as a self-conscious use of language that reflects and reacts upon the culture in which it is produced. In developing a deeper appreciation for the complexities of modern and postmodern poetry, we will also try to develop a deeper understanding of fundamental culture changes within the United States during the last century. Requirements: Daily attendance, one presentation, three papers (of two, three, and five pages, respectively) and various in-class assignments. Text: photocopied course packet.

250 A (Introduction to American Literature)
M-Th 8:30
Working Through Classic American Literature. This course will look examples of American literature to ask what they can tell us about labor, work, and/or occupations – those things that most everyone spends his or her life doing “making a living.” Thoreau attempted to piece apart life and examine its fundamentals in order to inquire how much work is necessary for anyone to do, and, above all, to what end we work. In different ways, Davis, Melville, and Sinclair will draw readers’ attention to the otherwise hidden industrial work that in their eyes prevents workers from having fully realized lives. Other readings will expand our definitions of labor to include immaterial forms, such as intellectual and affective labor. A course reader will include short theoretical pieces about the concepts of labor and work, the commodity, Taylorism, Fordism and Post-Fordism, alienation, racialized labor, “women’s work” and more, from a variety of writers such as Karl Marx, Fredrick Winslow Taylor, Hannah Arendt, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, and Janet Zandy. We will treat ideas of work and labor philosophically and critically, with open minds: what is the nature of labor and/or work? What do different kinds of labor have to do with gender, race/ethnicity, wages, products, the nation-state, leisure, etc.? The material we’ll read includes short stories and novels (a couple we’ll read whole, others we’ll read selections) from American literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries: Louisa May Alcott, Work; Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills; Elizabeth Keckley, Behind the Scenes; Herman Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener” and “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids”; Tillie Olsen, “I Stand Here Ironing”; Upton Sinclair, The Jungle; John Steinbeck, “The Chrysanthemums”; Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts. There's a good chance we'll also look at the work of some photographers such as Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, or Gordon Parks, to add a visual counterpart to our literary texts.

250 B (Introduction to American Literature)
M-Th 11:30
[Survey of the major writers, modes, and themes in American literature, from the beginnings to the present. Specific readings vary, but often included are: Taylor, Edwards, Franklin, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Dickinson, Twain, James, Eliot, Stevens, O'Neill, Faulkner, Hemingway, Ellison, and Bellow.] Texts: Childs, Hobomok; James, Daisy Miller; Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle; Kincaid, Lucy; photocopied course pacekt..

250 C (Introduction to American Literature)
M-Th 2:30
This course will cover some of the major short story writers of 19th-century America: Hawthorne, Melville, Poe, James, Davis, and Chopin. Through the stories selected, we will be able to examine a variety of themes including (but not limited to) religion, history, genealogy, aesthetics, race, power, landscape, gender, sex, technology and class). Texts: McIntosh, ed., Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tales; McCall, ed., Melville’s Short Novels; Kate Chopin, The Awakening; Wegelin & Wonham, eds., Tales of Henry James; Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills; Thompson, ed., The Selected Writings of Edgar Allen Poe.

257 A (Introduction to Asian-American Literature)
TTh 1:30-3:20
This course will examine the historical currents that necessitated the emergence of Asian American literature, in conjunction with a consideration of the difficulties and possibilities inherent to defining an “Aisan Pacific American” literary sensibility. Asian American populations have been deeply impacted by restrictive immigration legislation and American foreign policy, putting its peoples in a unique position for defiing Americanness. How do artist with an Asian ancestry challenge a country that ostensibly celebrates diversity yet looks with suspicion on the foreign? The course will include novels, short fiction, theory, and film, beginning in the early twentieth century with the works of Carlos Bulasan and ending with contemporary writers such as Brian Roley and Chang-rae Lee. Texts: Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior; John Okada, No-No Boy; Chang-Rae Lee, Native Speaker; David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly; Brian Ascalon Roley, American Son.

281 A (Intermediate Expository Writing)
MW 8:30-10:20
[Writing papers communicating information and opinion to develop accurate, competent, and effective expression.]

281 B (Intermediate Expository Writing)
TTh 9:30-11:20
[Writing papers communicating information and opinion to develop accurate, competent, and effective expression.]

283 A (Beginning Verse Writing)
MW 2:30-3:50
As a culture, we tend to think of poems as spontaneous effusions, communicated to us by a muse. And though the muse has come to take many different guises – experience, culture, emotion, neurological short-circuit – this conception of the poem is still rather mystical and mystified, and, at best, only partially true. The focus of this course is the missing X of the equation: the tempering of the muse’s raw material with discipline. Our approach, then, will include reading a sampling of poems old and new, turning them this way and that, and shaking them to see what doodads fall out, all in order to develop ways of understanding and discussing poems. We will, simultaneously, apply what we have learned to crafting our own poems, as well as to reading, discussing, and critiquing each others’. The goal is to provide students with a basic toolkit of poetic devices and techniques, an understanding of how to employ these metaphorical wrenches and sonic skill saws (among other things) more effectively, and to pour a concrete foundation for future reading and writing. Recommended Preparation: The best way to prepare for this course is to read. And while reading canonical poets is never a bad idea, becoming familiar with contemporary poetry and poets is also important – after all, you are a contemporary poet. Anthologies of contemporary poetry, such as “The Best American Poetry” series and “Poets of the New Century,” are excellent resources for getting acquainted, as are literary journals, such as Gulf Coast, Poetry Northwest, The American Poetry Review. Last, Open Books (a poetry-only bookstore in Wallingford) is a great place to begin browsing for single-authored collections, and the owners are almost invariably helpful with suggestions. Assignments and Grading: Students are expected to complete a series of poems, recitations, critiques, one presentation, one short (2-3 pages) essay, and to participate in class discussions. Text: photocopied course packet.

283 B (Beginning Verse Writing)
TTh 9:30-10:50
We’ll concentrate each week on a particular aspect of poetry, with readings and discussions to explore that topic followed by a workshop of student work inspired by particular technical and artistic considerations. Substantial reading, writing, revision and memorization are all essential elements of the process. Students will produce portfolios of their own revised work, along with reflective essays on their peers’ writing. Majors only, Registration Period 1; sophomores, juniors only, Registration Period 1. Text: photocopied course packet.

284 A (Beginning Short Story Writing)
TTh 9:30-10:50
English 284 A will serve as an introduction to the basic elements of the art of short fiction. Through the reading of previously written works and the creation of our own narratives, we will explore such fundamental topics as plot, character, setting, dialogue, theme, metaphor, image, and point of view. We will use small group workshops to illuminate the relationship between readers and writers: what are the responsibilities that each has to the other? Through workshopping, we will also ask questions of our stories and explore possibilities for future revision. Majors only, Registration Period 1; sophomores, juniors only, Registration Period 1. Text: Ann Charters, The Story and Its Writer.

284 B (Beginning Short Story Writing)
TTh 3:30-4:50
By the end of this course, students should have a better understanding of what defines a great contemporary short story and how to craft their own work. While the class will contain discussions about the typical elements of fiction (plot, character, setting, etc.) the real emphasis will be on equipping students with a process for exploring and creating stories on their own. In approaching fiction, perhaps for the first time, students have a fresh perspective on the generative process, and as such will be able to benefit from thinking about the roots from which great prose arises. This course will be held in a class-wide workshop format. Students will submit work to be reviewed by other students and the professor after which the class will discuss the author's work and make suggestions for its improvement. We will also be discussing published stories by professional writers and excerpts from Robert Olen Butler's book on writing "From Where You Dream." The class may also venture outside the classroom to write from experiences in art galleries and natural areas.

The best thing a student can do in order to prepare for this course is read. Familiarizing yourself with modern literary fiction will help you understand the expectations for how to create your own stories. Magazines that publish short fiction include "The New Yorker," "Atlantic Monthly," "Harper's," etc. Prominent anthologies of contemporary authors include "The Best American Short Stories," "Best New American Voices," and many others that are readily available in almost any bookstore. As always, studying the classic works of authors like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Wolff, Alice Munro, etc. will surely help as well.

Students will be writing two stories over the course of the quarter and revising one of them. A presentation on one of the stories in the required fiction anthology will also be required. In addition, in-class writing activities, exercises, and responses to other students' stories will also be considered part of the body of work students should produce by the end of the quarter. Evaluation will consist of a response to the written stories, the presentation, and class participation. Texts: Michael Martone and Lex Wilford, eds., The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: Fifty North American Stories Since 1970; Robert Olen Butler, From Where You Dream (ed. Burroway).



to home page
top of page