(Last updated: March 24, 2000)
497/498 A (W)
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”).
This is a service learning course which
will require students to spend a number of hours interacting with people
from the Seattle community and getting a first-hand experience of the modes
of gift exchange and sacrifice studied in the course. For example,
it will be interesting to test what is involved in charitable acts toward
the needy, and how destitutes become sacrificial victims, by reading not
only theoretical analyses of charity and sacrifice, or Wordsworth’s poem
“The Old Cumberland Beggar,” but also by observing directly the position
of a donor or receiver of gifts, of a perpetrator or victim of sacrificial
violence. 497: Senior English honors students only; add codes in English
Advising office, A-2-B PDL; 498: Senior majors only.
Assignments: A long paper (10-16 pp.), written in two stages and subject to revision; bi-weekly comments on assigned readings and community involvement; a final exam. Texts: The Oxford Authors: S. T. Coleridge; The Oxford Authors: William Wordsworth; Marcel Mauss, The Gift; René Girard, Violence and the Sacred; photocopied course packet.
497/498 B (W)
van den Berg
Patients’ Stories, Doctors’ Stories. This course examines poetry and prose about the experience of sickness, pain, and caregiving. Physician-writers will include Rudolph Fisher, William Carlos Williams, Oliver Sacks, Richard Selzer, and Rafael Campos. Novelists and poets will include Walt Whitman and Louisa May Alcott (both nurses during the American Civil War), and a number who have written about illness and pain: Fanny Burney, Audre Lord, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Gustave Flaubert, John Donne, Rebecca Brown, Anatole Broyard. We will consider different versions of the doctor/patient relationship. We will study how different writers sue the medical situation to portray the body as object and subject, the experience of disease as a breakdown of community and as a formation of community, the simultaneous experience of isolation and dependency, and the narratives of chaos, quest, and restitution that mark attempts to give meaning to pain and disease. Students will be asked to research literary depictions of a medical situation or disease, and present their findings to the class. Requirements: class participation; class presentation; term paper. Texts: Rebecca Brown, Gifts of the Body; William Carlos Williams, The Doctor Stories; Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons; Audre Lord, The Cancer Journals; John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions; Anatole Broyard, Intoxicated by my Illness; Gustave Flaubert, Three Tales.
Beyond Race. This course concerns the effort on the part of a number of writers to have aesthetic experience (music, literature, art) become a way to remove the constraints of fixed racial and ethnic identity and to create an unraced “kingdom of culture” in the words of W. E. B. DuBois. Our selected texts portray both the power and precariousness of this ideal. Texts: DuBois, Souls of Black Folk; Ellison, Invisible Man; Shadow and Act; Adrienne Kennedy, People Who Led To My Plays; David Hollinger, Post-Ethnic America; Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory; Jane Kramer, Whose Art Is It?
497/498 D (W)
The Sense of Hearing. This seminar is based on two simple premises: (a) All good literature (in prose or verse; dramatic, narrative, argumentative, meditative, etc.) needs, asks, begs, to be performed. If you can’t hear a writer’s voice, or the play of voices he/she constructs, something’s badly wrong either with what you’re reading, or with you. (b) If it’s the latter, the situation can be remedied. Most people do not read as well as they might; the most common reason is that they don’t hear enough of what they read clearly enough. But one can improve. So, this is essentially a course in reading better by hearing better. Besides the assigned texts, we will be reading a lot of poems, shorter prose passages, etc., which I will photocopy for our use. Texts: Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra; Austen, Pride and Prejudice; Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest.
497/498 E (W)
Jonathan Swift. We will focus on Swift’s achievement as a satirist. Included for in-depth study are Gulliver’s Travels, A Tale of a Tub and Swift’s misogynistic poetry. Requirements include frequent response papers, one class presentation, and one long (10 page) seminar paper. Texts: Swift, Gulliver’s Travels; Tale of a Tub and Other Pieces; Complete Poems ; A Modest Proposal and Other Satires.
497/498 F (W)
Fear, Gratitude, Grief, Joy, Anger, and Other Emotions I Have Known While Reading and Living. This is a course about emotional responses to literature (and some film). Its point is to explore the intense reactions we have to some things we read and view, and to try to understand exactly what they are, and why we have them. We’ll read fiction (mostly from contemporary writers) together with essays about emotions, feelings, and affects from other disciplines including psychology, philosophy, and anthropology. We’ll take up some provocative questions: What does it mean to “identify” with a character, really? How much of our own lives do we read into a character’s life? What does it mean to “escape” into a book? Why would someone want to do that, anyway? What does “being moved” by something we read/view involve? How do we account for the bodily responses that sometimes accompany intense emotional responses? Students will write short response papers, a longer seminar paper, and give a class presentation. Participation in discussion is required. So are lively opinions, and an interest in this topic.Texts: Jeanette Winterson, The Passion; Tim O'Brien, In the Lake of the Woods; Nora Keller, Comfort Woman; Danzy Senna, Caucasia; Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World.
497/498 G (W)
British Writing in the 1920s.This seminar will explore British writing during the 1920s. The class 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 (both of them banned by the censors): D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. In addition, each student will be assigned a “lost” or neglected book written during this decade as the focus for individual research and writing. Course requirements include active participation in class discussion, library research assignments, oral reports, short and longer papers, and a final examination. Texts: P. G. Wodehouse, The Inimitable Jeeves; Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party; T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land; Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway; D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover; Radcliffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness; Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point.
497/498 H (W)
Darwin’s Descent. The publication of Charles Darwin’s theories about evolution in 1859 and his theories about sexual selection in 1871 irrevocably altered the way in which people thought about themselves, their relationships to one another, their belief systems, and their ideas about the physical world in which they lived. This course will examine several of Darwin’s central scientific works, and their impact on period literature. In particular it will focus on the effect of the theories of “natural selection” and “sexual selection” on a number of nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts that either implicitly or explicitly engage with Darwin’s ideas. Central questions that will guide our discussion include: How did Darwinian theories inform the representation of class conflict and struggle? How did ideas about sexual selection shape literary representations of women’s roles in society? How did ideas about “the survival of the fittest” impact on literary depictions of national and/or racial belonging? How did these ideas feed imperialist aspirations? In sum, how did Darwinism shape modern tarns-Atlantic literature, and how did this literature contest Darwinism? Texts: Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man; The Origin of the Species; Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills; Frank Norris, McTeague; Charles Chesnutt, The House Behind the Cedars; Henry James, Daisy Miller; Octavia Butler, Dawn; Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics.
497/498 YA (W)
MW 7-8:50 pm
The Gothic Revival and Nineteenth-Century Poetry. Nineteenth-century poets were fascinated by a medieval past that seemed to them to be defined by love, honor, violence, and magic, and in this seminar we will examine the development of medieval themes and images throughout the poetry of the period. We will briefly consider the work of Chatterton and Macpherson, two eighteenth-century fabricators of “antique” material, and then we will move through Coleridge’s “Christabel” and Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes” to texts such as Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott,” Morris’s The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems, and (parts of) Swinburne’s Tristram of Lyonesse. A reading of all of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King will occupy a substantial part of the semester. Topics of discussion will include visuality in poetry, the relationship of poetry to material culture, and the conflict between nationalism and internationalism in nineteenth-century medievalism. We will consider a variety of critical approaches to these topics, and students should be prepared to attend both to poetic craft and to theoretical argument. Course requirements: brief midterm report, longer seminar paper, active participation. Texts: Tennyson, Idylls of the King; Lang, ed., The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle; Arthurian Poets: Algernon Charles Swinburne.
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 through 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 and sets questions for the course about the extent to which we are “made” by what has gone before, whether through 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 and its seminar format—providing a forum for reflection on your own educational experience as an interplay between self-help and inheritance. No better time to undertake this than in the first academic quarter of the new century! Primary readings drawn from: Austen, Pride and Prejudice; Mill, ch. “Of Individuality” from “On Liberty,” Carroll, Alice in Wonderland (with recent TV production), Dickens, Great Expectations (with recent film), Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own,” Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas, Ackroyd, English Music (2 ch.). Secondary historical/critical/theoretical material (short selections, not read by all) covered by presentations, drawn from: Samuel Smiles, Edmund Burke, Matthew Arnold, Barbara Hernstein-Smith, colonial/postcolonial criticism on Naipaul, Frederick Jameson, possibly A. S. Byatt. Requirements: on-going seminar discussion plus 2 presentations (whether leading discussions of a primary text or reporting on a secondary one); 4-5 pp. paper, 8-10 pp. paper treating more than a single text. These 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, critical writing (in tight focus and more synthesizing formats) are practical skills you can enhance and lay claim to via this course. Past senior seminars of mine have proved helpful to students for providing the basis of letters of recommendation and writing samples, for purpose of graduate school or other training, or employment. Texts: Austen, Pride and Prejudice; Carroll, Through the Looking Glass; Dickens, Great Expectations; Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas; Woolf, A Room of One’s Own; optional: Ackroyd, English Music; Mill,On Liberty with The Subjection of Women and Chapters on Socialism.
Paris Noir. In this seminar students will study African American intellectual production that generated in Paris after the Second World War. We will consider works such as Richard Wright’s Savage Holiday and White Man Listen! as well as James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, Chester Himes’s detective novels, Carlene Polite’s The Flagellants and Ollie Harrington’s cartoons. Students will engage notions of national identity, race, including negritude, postcolonialism, and the issues emerging from the first Congress of Black Writers held at the Sorbonne in 1956. In addition to novels, we will consider works by Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire and Jean Paul Sartre. Each student will be expected to present a seminar paper and write a final research essay. Texts: Polite, The Flagellants; Baldwin, Giovanni's Room; Wright, Savage Holiday; White Man Listen!: Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks; Fabre, From Harlem to Paris; Himes, A Case of Ra
Specters of Hamlet. This course will consider some psychoanalytic and post/colonial interpretations that have emerged in the wake of Hamlet in the twentieth century. We will begin with Shakespeare’s play, and then go on to read works by Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, Ania Loomba, Jacques Derrida (Specters of Marx) and Wulf Sachs (Black Hamlet), and films by Pankaj Butalia (When Hamlet goes to Mizoram) and Mrinal Sen (Genesis).
Constitutional Fictions: The Cultural Jurisprudence of Race, Rights, and Citizenship in Late 19th- and early 20th-Century American Law and Literature. In this class we're going to read some literature, watch a film, and study some law. In these diverse materials, we'll examine the figuration of race, politics, and notions of equity. We'll consider what the different discourses have to say to each other and what role these particular texts have had in shaping our sense of justice and civic virtue. The texts include Plessy v. Ferguson, D. W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation," Pauline Hopkins's Contending Forces, and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, among others. Senior English majors only. Texts: Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn; Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces; James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man; W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk; Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition; Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery.
The Trickster in the Modern Novel. An examination of the myth and use of trickster images in contemporary fiction. How trickster figures are used as key elements in the plot to foreshadow and illuminate events, and to enrich characters and the magical realism of the landscape.Texts: Gabriel Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude; Keri Hulme, The Bone People; Toni Morrison, Tar Baby; Gloria Naylor, Bailey’s Café; Octavia Butler, Kindred.
--withdrawn 21 September --
The Epic and Modern European Literature. This course will be concerned with the early modern European tradition of the epic genre (Dante and Milton), and the transformations of that tradition in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. (Voltaire, Goethe, Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Mann and Beckett).
African American Feminist Epistemology. “To separate [black women] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” So declared the 1954 Supreme Court in Brown vs. …Topeka, banning as unconstitutional “separate but equal” education. This seminar proceeds from this federal case to explore a range of issues related to African American women’s intellectual and academic lives. We will study black feminist epistemology—theories of how African American women learn (and teach); of how preliterate 19th-century black women developed knowledge, then articulated what they knew; of how race, gender, class and sexuality identifications affect learning; of how the complex, gendered dynamics of university classrooms influence learning; and so on. We will also examine the politics of active learning and its relation to contemporary feminist ideologies. This interdisciplinary course combines literary studies with feminist methodologies from such disciplines as History, Philosophy, Education, Women Studies, and Psychology. Moreover, although the formal research paper is a major course requirement, that particular assignment will probably not take the traditional form of researched essays written for English courses. Texts: Guy-Sheftall, ed., Words of Fire; A. DuCille, Skin Trade; Gibaldi, ed., MLA Handbook for Writers; Hacker, ed., Bedford Handbook; photocopied course packet.
497 I (Honors Senior Seminar)
Legends of Good Women: Ancient and Medieval. At the end of the fourteenth century the English poet Chaucer produced a collection of narratives he called Cupid’s Saints’ Lives (or Legend of Good Women). This contains stories about ancient women (and their men)—e.g., Cleopatra, Dido, Thisbe, Medea, among others—influenced by medieval hagiographic narrattives (saints’ lives) and by traditions of ‘courtly love.’ The course will examine the traditions—classical, religious, and courstly—in which such collections of women’s lives are told. Readings for the course will start with the Bible (e.g., Ruth, Judith, Esther) and Ovid (Heroides and Metamorphoses). We’ll then turn to some medieval saints’ lives, retellings of Ovid (esp. the Romance of the Rose), Dante’s Vita Nuova, and Christine de Pizan’s Book of the City of Ladies. We’ll then read Chaucer’s Legend and end with Osbern Bokenham’s mid-15th-century ME collection of poetized saints’ lives which were themselves imitative of Chaucer’s ‘Legend.’ Requirments for the course will include participation in discussions, an oral seminar presentation, and a substantial term paper. N.b.: 497 only! NO 498 component; senior English honors students only. Meets w. C LIT 493A. Texts: The New Jerusalem Bible: Standard Edition; Ovid, Heroides (tr. Isbell); Metamorphoses (tr. Melville); DeLorris/DeMeun, Romance of the Rose (tr. Horgan); Dante, Vita Nuova (tr. Musa); Christine de Pizan, Book of the City of Ladies (tr. Richards); Chaucer, Love Visions (tr. Stone); Cazelles, The Lady as Saint; Osbern Bokenham, A Legend of Holy Women (tr. Delany).
TTh 4:30-6:20 pm.
Imagining the Mediterranean in Early Modern England. This course will examine English representations of the Mediterranean—that place “in between” Europe and Africa, Christianity and Islam, East and West—in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Central questions we will address include: How is England’s identity negotiated in relation to Italy, Spain, and Africa? What is the relationship between literature and empire? How does early modern England think about “race”? What is the place of gender in representations of the exotic, on the one hand, and the domestic, on the other? Strongly recommended: at least one previous class in sixteenth- or seventeenth-century literature. Texts: Virgil, The Aeneid; Marlowe, The Complete Plays; Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy; Shakespeare, Othello; Antony and Cleopatra.
Texts for A Time. This seminar most broadly deals with the oxymoron "popular classic" as we explore the cultural status in Dickens's time and in our own of A Christmas Carol (1843) and Great Expectations (1861). What did these books have to say about and for mid-nineteenth-century England? How was their popularity and literary stature regarded when they appeared, as they became part of a growing body of Dickens's work, and as part of a boom in literary production? The first part of this seminar will look at these and related questions. The remainder of the quarter we will consider the status of these texts in another time -- ours -- including the past four or five decades. On the one hand there has been much effort to sustain or recreate Dickens's originals--readings and adaptations that tend to look backward. On the other hand, there has been much cultural appropriation of the Dickens originals--products more or less "based on" the Dickens stories, but directed to the tastes and terms of our own times. As with Shakespeare on stage and film, new versions may prove the universalitiy of the literature's message and manner, or they may lampoon and undercut it. The challenge for this seminar is to see just what questions about Dickens, his age, us and our age these texts and their progeny raise. Texts: Dickens, A Christmas Carol; Great Expectations.
Gilles Deleuze. Though firmly grounded in the history of philosophy and therefore presenting a number of difficulties for one approaching his work from a strictly literature-oriented standpoint, Gilles Deleuze’s writings resist any stock categorization or classification, and his thinking is not restricted to academic philosophy. Throughout his career, he was concerned with what he later referred to as “the creation of concepts” that would allow for the critical understanding and opening up of new practical possibilities vis-à-vis both politics and art. He had, moreover, a special affinity for Anglo-American literature and discusses at length in books and essays the writings of Lewis Carroll, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Malcolm Lowry (in addition to Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, Antonin Artaud and numerous others writing in languages other than English). In this seminar, a number of the main elements of Deleuze’s philosophy will be presented. We will discuss, for example, Deleuze’s perspectivism, his notion of difference, his concept of productive or machinic desire, and his ideas concerning the relation of sense and nonsense, delirium and the self. Emphasis, however, will be on how Deleuze educes these concepts from his readings of literary works and how they may be applied in turn in literary analysis. No special training in philosophy or prior reading of Deleuze will be assumed.Texts: Constantin V. Boundas, ed., The Deleuze Reader; Gilles Deleuze, Dialogues;Essays Critical and Clinical; Isabelle Eberhardt, The Oblivion Seekers; Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland; Herman Melville, Bartleby; Benito Cereno; Witold Gombrowicz, Cosmos and Pornographia.
Nineteenth-Century American Literature: Alternative Images of the Nation. We’ll begin by studying efforts to created mainstream, middle-class models of nineteenth-century American life: safely stereotypic visions of national culture and experience promoted through popular “fireside poetry,” Currier and Ives engravings, and other art forms. Then we’ll explore, in dramatic contrast, a series of literary texts in which the meaning of America is hazarded into an agitated interplay of perspectives, in which voices excluded from the official cultural mainstream are attended to, and in which otherwise neglected aspects of the historical moment are granted visibility. We’ll be studying the battle between stereotype and underlying social complexity, between the official cultural mainstream and what it would exile to its margins, as this battle is fought in novels and biographies, poems and tales. Readings in Douglass, Fuller, Whittier, Whitman, Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, Rebecca Harding Davis, Chopin, and Crane. Texts: Margaret Fuller, The Essential Margaret Fuller; Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave; Henry Thoreau, The Portable Thoreau; Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills; Kate Chopin, The Awakening and Selected Stories; Stephen Crane, The Portable Stephen Crane; Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Portable Hawthorne.
Ulysses. This is a comprehensive introduction to James Joyce's Ulysses as the summit of literary modernism. To dispel fear of Ulysses, we'll read the book one episode at a time, focusing on the progressive making and unmaking of sense, and emphasizing Joyce's exuberant comic transvaluation of all novelistic values (narrative devices, generic conventions, topics, perspectives, styles and humors). Desiderata: inklings of Joyce's earlier work, intimacy with The Odyssey, interest in sly uses of language. Requirements: weekly page-long assignments and a course project (term paper).Text: James Joyce, Ulysses (ed. Gabler).
Downwind from the Boom: Re-reading U.S. Cold War Culture. In this course students will re-evaluate the Cold War period by reading texts and seeing some films not typically considered in classes on the era. These texts attempt to represent communities or individuals existing at a remove from the middle class suburban culture that seems to incarnate the booming postwar economy of the 1950s and 1960s. They include written works by working class, ethnic and lesbian writers, as well as a number of films, including Bad Day at Black Rock, Salt of the Earth, and Blackboard Jungle. Students will be expected to keep a journal, in which they track their responses to the texts and discussions on a weekly basis. They will also be required to lead at least one class discussion. The final course project will be the writing of an essay of 10-15 pages that analyzes an issue or problem covered in the course. Texts: Chester Himes, If He Hollers, Let Him Go; Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt; Amerigo Paredes, The Hammon and the Beans; Hisaye Yamamoto, Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories; Paula Marshall, Brown Girl, Brownstones; Louis Chu, Eat a Bowl of Tea; SLoan Wilson, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.
Invention, Creativity Theory, and the “Myth of Genius.” Going beyond what Robert Weisberg has called the “myth of genius,” this course will examine how and why texts (literary and non-literary) are produced. In it, we will focus our attention less on what a text means (the question of interpretation) and more on how it came to exist (the question of production), shifting our emphasis from the product to its production. We will begin by examining various and at times conflicting theories of invention and creativity, from classical theories of imitation to the “birth” (in the eighteenth century) and subsequent “death” of the author (in the twentieth century), reading several case studies along the way. Some questions we will consider: What are the political, economical, and other social factors that contribute to the production of texts? What is the role of the writer, reader, and language in all this? What role does gender, race, and class play? From there, we will perform our own case study, applying the theories we’ve read to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The last third of the course will be devoted to students’ own case studies leading to a final seminar paper and class presentation. Texts: Conrad, Heart of Darkness; Karen Burke LeFevre, Invention as a Social Act.
Learning the Ropes: The Process of Acculturation and the Powers of Fiction We’ll be using this senior seminar as an occasion to ask some basic questions about the nature and purposes of narrative in the European tradition. How does fiction contribute to the process of teaching individuals what their appropriate social roles and expectations ought to be? How does this process vary across historical moments and across different cultures? We will be reading a series of texts from different historical periods, ranging from Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain and Quevedo’s The Swindler to Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, Faulkner’s Go Down Moses, and Walker’s The Color Purple. What will make this class different from most other seminars, though, is that it is part of an NEH-sponsored collaborative project between UW and a pair of local high schools. We will be trying devise effective modes of interacting with those other classes, electronically and/or in person. What I hope we can help provide for those classes is a sense of the broader historical reception for each of these works. Thus a significant part of the formal work for the course will involve research group projects, with small groups working on each of the last four novels in the course, investigating their public and critical reception. What issues stirred public debate when these works came out, and why? How has that changed over time? Besides the group research project, students will be expected to write several relatively short comparative papers dealing with each of the texts in the course. I am looking for participants interested in this as an experimental project and interested in taking a more active role in the process of education, that is, in serving as facilitators and teachers for other students rather than simply as learners. We’ll be figuring out how to do this as we go along, in what I hope will be a collaborative process of invention. Contact me at email@example.com if you have specific questions about the class format. Meets with C LIT 496B.
Shakespeare and the Renaissance Philosophy of Love. Texts: Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier; Shakespeare, Sonnets; Love's Labour's Lost; Romeo and Juliet; Troilus and Cressida; Othello; Measure for Measure; Antony and Cleopatra.
Language and Gender. Over the past twenty-five years developing research on language and gender has spawned lively debates concerning claims that language announces and reinscribes gender. This course will introduce students to issues of gender-differentiated language use. We’ll explore a range of claims related to topics including gender differences in conversational practice, cross-cultural issues of gender and language, and the ways linguistic aspects of gendered use intersect with constructs of race and class and sexual orientation. Finally, we’ll explore theoretical debates concerning models of culture vs. power in evaluating these findings. One goal of this course is to see how the tools of the academy can illuminate debates taking place outside its walls. Texts: Jennifer Coates, ed., Language and Gender: A Reader.
Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale. We will be studying the Knight’s Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Much of the course we will be looking at the text in detail: sorting out its values, looking at how Chaucer creates characters, studying his narrative techniques, poetic language, style, tone – and considering the problems that arise from his assignment of this particular tale to the Knight. We will be looking at the larger intellectual context as well: Christian views of / attitudes toward paganism, the planetary gods / stellar influence / horoscopes, natural philosophy (Plato and Aristotle), medieval notions of psychology, Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, Boccaccio’s “original” version of Chaucer’s story, Greek and Latin myths and their survival in the medieval Christian world. Last, but not least, we will look at the immediate context of the Knight’s Tale – which means the Miller’s Tale and the Reeve’s Tale as “answers” to the world view and arstistic practices of the Knight. Class reports, discussion, major research paper. Texts: Chaucer, Knight’s Tale (ed. Spearing); Canterbury Tales (ed. Hieatt); Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy; Plato, Timaeus.
Novels, Politics, and Power. This senior seminar, taught in conjunction with Political Science 405 (Professor Stuart Scheingold), will use novels to study politics. Although our main interest is in the kinds of power which operate within both macro and micro politics, the novels and student concerns will surely take seminar discussions in other directions as well. To facilitate those discussions there will be very short weekly writing assignments, and at the end students will write a longish seminar paper. Anyone wishing to discss the course should see Professor Griffith in A-11-F Padelford. Meets with POL S 405. Texts: Ahron Appelfeld, The Iron Tracks; Pat Barker, Regeneration; Andre Brink, A Dry White Season; Russell Banks, Continental Drift; Bernard Schlink, The Reader; Ian McEwan, Black Dogs; Pavel Kohout, I Am Snowing; Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale.
MW 7-8:50 pm
Classical Stories in Medieval Literature. The Renaissance claims for itself the “rebirth” of interest in the classical past, a claim credited in literary and intellectual history ever since. Yet the Middle Ages was fascinated by ancient culture as well. This class addresses medieval ideas of history and the relation of the (medieval) present to the classical past as they are represented in a wide range of narrative traditions, from romance to moral literature and feminist polemic. What do poems with classical sources or themes tell us about medieval ideas of the value of history? of its accessibility through textual tradition? of the difference between their culture and ancient culture? What does the medieval perspective on classical traditions teach us about our own interest in the past? The class will be organized around two classical stories: the Ovidian tale of Orpheus and Eurydice and the story of Thebes, known to the Middle Ages primarily through Statius’ Thebaid. We’ll read these in English, of course, but we will read most Middle English texts in the original (no previous experience necessary). Other readings include: Sir Orfeo, Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice, Roman de Thèbes, Chaucerian texts including Troilus and Criseyde and selections from the Legend of Good Women, and Christine de Pisan’s City of Ladies. Texts: Melville, trans., Thebaid; Benson, ed., The Riverside Chaucer; Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies; Kindrick, ed., Poems of Robert Henryson; Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History.