The English major at Franklin & Marshall offers students a choice between two complementary tracks, one emphasizing literary study, the other creative writing. We require majors in either track to have some experience in both areas. Studying literature and practicing creative writing develop in us obvious skills—skills of reading, writing, analysis, creativity and critical thinking—but they also enable us to engage with the rich diversity of human experience.
Since we cannot separate language or literature from their cultural and intellectual contexts, the literature component of the English major at Franklin & Marshall offers a substantial historical base, with core courses on topics in the traditional periods of British and American literature. Additionally, students take thematic courses in subjects like “Caribbean Literature,” “Nature and Literature,” “Graphic Novel,” “African Literature,” and “Baseball in American Literature and Culture,” as well as upper-level seminars in authors or topics that build on the historical core.
The track in creative writing joins the passion for language and imaginative writing with the study of literature. It is built upon the premise that reading widely and deeply in literature, including contemporary literature, is essential to becoming a skilled creative writer: in other words, that the best writers are also avid, engaged readers. Students who choose a concentration in creative writing practice the craft of writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction in workshop settings where writing is valued as a serious art form. The major culminates in an advanced creative writing workshop in which students complete creative theses in the genre of their choice. The creative writing major is a gateway to a lifelong love and appreciation of words.
Literature majors also take at least one course in creative writing. All students, through their own attempts to write creatively, can develop an appreciation for how the great works they study in their literature courses might have been created. English majors in both tracks come to appreciate the rigor that both disciplines—literary criticism and creative writing—entail.
English majors have rich research opportunities beyond the requirements of the major through independent study and Hackman summer research scholarships, which engage students with the scholarly activities of their professors. They also have opportunities for involvement in a range of extra-curricular activities: attending readings by and meeting numerous visiting writers, participating in events at the Writers House, helping to plan the Emerging Writers Festival, or writing for or staffing one of the College’s literary publications.
English majors are highly valued for their abilities to think and write. The study of English is not just good preparation for a career, however. It fosters an engagement with the big questions of living—questions about language, meaning and value. It fosters self-reflection and greater awareness of the natural and social worlds in which we live. Moreover, studying English literature gives us a purchase on how narratives and metaphors work so that we can interpret and deploy them wisely and even re-make them for our own time, with its enormous challenges and demands.
A major in English with a concentration in Literature consists of the following eleven courses, at least two of which must be literature courses at the 300-level: ENG 226; two Pre-1800 literature courses (ENG 201, 202, 203, 206, 212, 256, and 200- and 300-level courses designated as Pre-1800); two Post-1800 literature courses (ENG 204, 207, 208, 210, 257, and 200- and 300-level courses designated as Post-1800); one course designated either Pre- or Post-1800; one creative writing course (ENG 225, 381, 382, 383, 384); two electives; and two 400-level seminars.
A major in English with a concentration in Creative Writing consists of the following eleven courses: ENG 226; three creative writing courses (ENG 225, 381, 382, 383, 384); one Pre-1800 literature course (English 201, 202, 203, 206, 212, 256, and 200- and 300-level courses designated as Pre-1800); one Post-1800 literature course (ENG 204, 207, 208, 210, 257, and 200- and 300-level courses designated as Post-1800); one course designated either Pre- or Post-1800; one designated Contemporary literature course; one elective; one 400-level literature seminar; ENG 480.
The English minor consists of any six English courses, at least three of which must be literature courses, and at least three of which must be at the 200-level or above.
The writing requirement in the English major is met by completion of the normal courses required to complete the major.
Students are urged to consult with departmental advisers about appropriate courses within the department and in related fields.
Majors in the Department of English have studied abroad in the following programs in recent years: Advanced Studies in England, Bath; various programs in London, Scotland and Australia. See the International Programs section of the Catalog for further information.
A list of regularly offered courses follows. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement; (WP) World Perspectives requirement.
Required Major Courses
226. Engaging Literary Texts: Introduction to Literary Study. (H)
What are some of the ways that works of literature engage us, and in turn how can we learn to engage in various ways with literary texts: their words on the page, their imagined communities, their invented characters? How can learning about and practicing different interpretive approaches incite our readerly pleasures as well as our understanding and excitement about a work of literature’s complexity of language and form, its aesthetics, and its power both to represent and transform lives and times and places.
Pre-1800 Literature. (H)
These regularly offered courses examine selected issues and ideas in the traditions of British and American literature in the historical periods before 1800. ENG 201 covers British Literature from the Medieval Period; ENG 202 examines British Literature from the Renaissance; ENG 203 treats British Literature from the Restoration and the 18th century; ENG 206 treats American Literature from its beginnings through the 1830s; ENG 212 covers Shakespeare; ENG 256 examines African-American Literature from the colonial period through the 19th century. The department also offers 300-level courses designated “Pre-1800.”
201. Medieval British Literature. (H)
This course surveys selected major works and other representative examples of Old and Middle English literature, and some Latin and French texts written in England, from approximately the eighth through the fifteenth centuries. The course explores the development of medieval attitudes and themes in a variety of forms and genres, including poetry, prose, and drama. Readings may include Beowulf and other Old English poetry in translation; St. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History; Arthurian material such as Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain and Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur; Piers Plowman; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as well as other Middle English romances; and a selection of plays from the N-Town cycle for Corpus Christi. Students will gain extensive experience and practice reading and analyzing the English language at various stages of its historical development, including Old and Middle English. Same as LIT 201. (Pre-1800)
202. The Renaissance Humanist: Early Modern British Literature. (H)
The Renaissance humanist has become symbolic of the many monumental achievements of the early modern European period: the discovery of the New World, the rediscovery of classical texts, the invention of the printing press, the reformation of the Western Church, and the formulation of a recognizable English language. We will take as our subject the Renaissance humanist and try to figure out just who this character was … and how s/he was figured in the literary and dramatic texts of William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, and John Donne as well as Thomas More, John Milton, and Queen Elizabeth I herself. (Pre-1800)
203. Eighteenth Century British Literature. (H)
A period of enormous social, intellectual and political revolution, the so-called long eighteenth century in Britain (1660-1800) calls into question age-old assumptions about the nature of humanity. From the sex comedies of the Restoration to the satires of Jonathan Swift, the treatises of Mary Astell, the novels of Daniel Defoe and Frances Burney, the neoclassical poetry of Alexander Pope and the lyric poetry of Thomas Gray, literature of the eighteenth century engages in debates about gender, slavery, social class, human nature and our place in the cosmos. Social, intellectual and literary developments of the age still shape our modern world and our understanding of what it means to be a human being. (Pre-1800)
206. American Literature I: Insiders and Outsiders in Early American Literature. (H)
This course draws on the diverse body of writing that stretches from Euro-American contact to the early years of the United States. The texts we’ll read are loosely gathered around the problem of belonging: distinguishing insiders and outsiders, considering what is at stake in making this distinction, and exploring what happens when the distinction breaks down. (Pre-1800)
212. Sex, Lies, and Shakespeare. (H)
Disguise & lies & sex, swearing & pairing, sins & twins, fear & a bear. Shakespeare brought all this to the London stage, and this course brings it to U. The basic course goals: to understand and appreciate the achievements of Shakespeare’s written poetry and drama and to comprehend the interpretive role you play, and the interpretive role mixed-media play, in the thematics of sex and lying. (Pre-1800) Same as WGS 212.
256. African American Literature I: Declarations of Independence and the Narratives of Slavery (H)
This course covers African American narratives of slavery from the colonial period through the early 19th Century. The Declaration of Independence, the founding narrative of American selfhood and agency, provides the discursive background of the course. The Declaration did not mention Slavery, thereby erasing Slaves’ experiences in the American narrative about peoplehood. We will engage the logic, rhetoric and contradictions of the document by pluralizing “declaration” to broaden and then examine how Slaves’ oral narratives (the Spirituals, etc.) and texts (by Phyllis Wheatley, Oladuah Equaino, etc.) were figurative and literal declarations of independence that simultaneously question the Declaration›s principles and ideology and affirm its transcendent meanings in the writers’ discourses on Slavery, Black humanity and selfhood, race, the American Dream, etc. (Pre-1800). Same as AFS/AMS/WGS 256.
352. Madonnas, Mothers, & Virgins: Medieval Religious Women. (H)
This course will examine a range of texts written about, for, and—especially—by women, and will attempt to unravel how gender and religion reflect and shape one another from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries. We will look at early saints’ lives and spiritual guides written for female audiences, letters written by women theologians, hagiographic romances, miracle plays, and narratives of female spiritual revelation. Meets pre-1800 requirement in the English major. (Pre-1800). Same as LIT/WGS 352.
363. Reading Characters in the Atlantic World. (H)
Texts from the eighteenth-century Atlantic world raise a number of related questions: What constitutes individual character: reputation? personal particularity? the body or face? Can one "read" a person like a book? How can printed texts both depict character and contribute to its formation? And why did readers and writers in early America and the broader Atlantic world find these questions so important? Through genres including drama, didactic sentimental fiction, gothic romance, and memoir, we'll expand and unsettle the way we understand both "reading" and "character." Meets Pre-1800 requirement for Creative Writing and Literature majors and the 300-level literature requirement for majors in the literature track. Same as LIT 363.
Post-1800 Literature. (H)
These regularly offered courses examine selected issues and ideas in the traditions of British and American literature in the historical periods after 1800. ENG 204 covers British literature in the 19th century; ENG 207 covers American Literature from the founding of the Republic to the Civil War; ENG 208 extends from the Civil War through World War II. ENG 210 treats 20th-century literature written in English; ENG 257 examines African-American Literature of the 20th century. The department also offers 300-level courses designated “Post-1800.”
204. Nineteenth Century British Literature. (H)
The nineteenth century was rocked by social, scientific, technological and political transformations, yielding responses from high exuberance to deep anxiety about the new and the old. At the heart of the cacophony of voices lay a set of essential questions: What forces of the past shape the present of the individual, the community, the nation? What beliefs and practices must be changed, to give way to the new, the modern? What are the costs and benefit of progress? This course takes its keynotes from poet Wordsworth, natural historian Darwin and novelists such as Mary Anne Evans [pseud. George Eliot], Charles Dickens, and Thomas Hardy. Other texts may include Victorian children’s literature, essays on The Woman Question by J.S. Mill and Florence Nightingale, Tennyson’s poetic reinventions of myth, and Conrad’s modernist novel, Heart of Darkness. (Post-1800)
207. American Literature II: American Nobodies. (H)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Frederick Douglass aren’t usually considered “nobodies.” Yet along with other American writers of the early nineteenth century, they experimented with, as Emily Dickinson puts it, being nobody. Being nobody could mean slipping out of one’s life to watch it from the outside, or finding oneself mysteriously doubled, or conceiving of the self as a deeply passive structure, created by external events. We will study how a variety of literary texts propose unusual models for selves in general and American selves in particular. Meets Post-1800 requirement in the English major. (Post-1800)
208. American Literature III: Individuals vs. Systems. (H)
What is the power of one individual to resist oppression? Can a person’s love conquer all? Or are we at the mercy of forces like biology, economics, and technology? For American writers at the turn of the twentieth century, these questions were paramount. Fascinated by new theories of nature and society, Mark Twain, Frank Norris, Edith Wharton, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and others experimented with narratives in which characters were pitted against powerful systems. We will study these narratives as well as the philosophical and cultural contexts in which they emerged. (Post-1800)
210. Modernism and Modernity. (H)
In this course, we’ll explore how modernist writers—such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, André Breton, and T.S. Eliot—rebelled against the literary conventions of their day. In stunning, iconoclastic verse and prose, these writers turned to surrealist mind games, stream of consciousness narration, Freudian psychology, experimental cinema, and jazz-inflected metapoems to question the meaning of literature itself. Some issues we may consider: literary constructions of mind and self, early twentieth-century gender roles, WWI, Irish independence, mass entertainment, Futurism, Imagism, and bodies/machines. (Post-1800)
257. African American Literature II: Meaning of the Veil and African American Identity. (H)
In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), the African American writer W. E. B. Du Bois introduces two concepts—the “veil” and “double-consciousness”—to explain the black experience in America. This course, which covers African American literature from Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Aesthetic/Black Power movement and beyond, will examine the recurrence of the veil metaphor (and its synonyms) generally and engage Du Bois’s formulation of the concept specifically in the cultural and historical contexts that frame this period’s literature. We will explore how writers (Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, etc.) engage topics (race, gender, music, identity, etc.) that reinforce, expand and/or complicate Du Bois’s metaphor. (Post-1800.) Same as AFS/AMS/WGS 257.
316. Harlem Renaissance. (H)
The Harlem Renaissance represented an explosion of Black cultural, economic and political activity in the first and second decades of the twentieth century. Fifty years after emancipation, African Americans were still struggling for equality and acceptance from White America. The cultural products of the period -- events, writings, music, theater, and literature, for example -- represented a desire by African Americans to forge a new identity and find a place in American democracy. We will explore how African Americans used these cultural products to express their history, experiences, predicaments, hopes and racial consciousness and pride. In this course, we will examine some of the writers and the texts of the period. Same as AFS/AMS 316.
161. Science Fiction. (H)
Comprising a broad survey of twentieth- and early twenty-first-century science fiction, our readings will include 4 novels and numerous works of short fiction. Although science fiction has its roots much earlier in literary history, we’ll begin in the so-called “Golden Age” of science fiction (beginning in the ‘30’s), then move through the “New Wave” that begins in the ‘60’s, Cyberpunk and more.
164. Fictions of Adolescence. (H)
This course explores the idea of adolescence through narrative fiction. How does narrative define and construct the adolescent experience through time? Attention will be paid to issues of gender as well. Texts include: Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women; Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar; John Knowles’ A Separate Peace; Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Peter Cameron’s Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You.
165. Violence, Truth, and Story. (H)
This course examines the literature of human rights and trauma: stories responding to the U.S. Civil War, the Haitian revolution, and the Rwandan genocide, as well as murder, suicide, and PTSD. Despite their content, the texts we study aren't dominated by horrific images. Instead, they approach their subjects through unconventional narrative forms. We'll work to understand how and why they do so—to come to terms with the complexities of stories about violent experiences.
169. Caribbean Literature. (H) (NW)
What is Caribbean literature? Some writers and scholars question the identity of a region of so many diverse languages, races, ethnicities, religions, and nations. At the same time, others argue for the coherence of a region marked by a history of European colonization and slavery. This course will focus on anglophone (English-language) Caribbean literature of the twentieth century, a rich and varied body of work that has recently produced two Nobel Prize winners, Derek Walcott and V.S. Naipaul. In this course, we will explore how this literature grapples with issues of race, gender, nationalism, independence, decolonization, the ethics of violence, the importance of vernacular expression, and the formation of a literary tradition.
182. Tolkien’s Mythology. (H)
J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is often described as one of the most important and influential novels of the twentieth century, yet it is commonly banished from the literary canon. Why is this? This course examines Tolkien’s role as an author of popular fiction as well as of “great” literature, and will address the following questions: what is the relationship between Tolkien’s scholarship and his fiction, between the medieval text that informed his intellectual life and his novels? To what extent do Tolkien’s experiences during the Great War affect the mythology of Middle Earth? Is The Lord of the Rings good literature, and what kinds of criteria do readers and critics use in answering this question? Readings include The Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and selections from the Silmarillion. Same as LIT 182.
229. Writing and Community. (H)
This Community-Based Learning course will give students the opportunity to both experience and reflect upon the role of the creative writer-as-educator-and-or-arts-activist. In class we will engage in exercises designed to increase our understanding of writing as both craft and practice. Students will produce significant written work for the course, including poems, fiction, and essays, journal entries, lesson plans, and a final essay and portfolio. They will also work in teams to lead creative writing workshops in the Lancaster community.
231. Women Writers I. (H)
A study of the experiences of women as presented in selected British and American literature from the Middle Ages through the 19th century, as presented from a variety of cultural perspectives. We will consider various readings of the texts, including those that emphasize feminist theory and historical context. Among others, we will be reading Jane Austen, Aphra Behn, Anne Bradstreet, the Brontës, George Eliot and Mary Wollstonecraft. Same as WGS 231.
233. Women Writers II. (H)
A study of the changing world of American and British women in the 20th century as portrayed by women writers. The critical emphasis will be on feminist theory and the political, social and cultural background of the times. Among others, we will read works by Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf. Same as WGS 233.
250. Contemporary American Short Story. (H)
An examination of the current state of American short fiction. We will read, discuss, and write about arguably important short stories, most published within the past 25 years, in an attempt to explore some of the predominant concerns and formal innovations of today’s short story writers. We will not consider these writers in a vacuum but rather in the context of those writers who have preceded them. Writers include Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson, Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Alice Munro, and others. This course counts as a “contemporary literature” requirement for English majors with a concentration in creative writing.
253. Epic and Romance. (H)
This course focuses on epic and romance: two genres of ancient literature which mutually inform and influence each other, and both of which formulate the foundations and inspirations of popular 21st-century genres of fiction (fantasy, science fiction, romance, among others). Readings will be selected from texts including Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the Irish Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), Beowulf, the Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. Our discussions will focus on the formation of the notion of heroism, and examine various stages in the development of concepts of heroism in western culture, and the cultural fantasies that accompany it. Above all, epic and romance concern themselves with the process and problematics of self-definition, that of the individual and of the community as a whole. The course addresses the following questions: How was reading used as a method of unifying culture in secular communities? In what ways did these narratives affirm and/or challenge societal rules? How does this literature treat figures of the nation and the king? The conventions of gender? Same as LIT 253.
258. Contemporary Science Writing. (H)
In this course, we will examine texts ranging from popular science to science fiction, by scientists and nonscientists alike. As readers, we will be interested in the ways people write about science, and, as writers, we will try to put some of these principles into practice. We will be equally interested in the ethical, social, and philosophical questions that contemporary science raises, and in how to probe these questions in writing. Same as ENE/STS 258.
260. Nature and Literature. (H)
Readings from a variety of traditions, periods, disciplines and genres to discover diverse assumptions about nature and humanity’s relation to it. Readings from both Western and non-Western cultures, though with emphasis on the British and Euro-American traditions. Such broad exploration across vast divides of time and culture should not only teach us about varied understandings of nature but also encourage self-consciousness as we form our own conceptions of what nature is and how we ought best to interact with and in it. Same as ENE 260.
262. Contemporary Young Adult Literature. (H)
Young Adult Literature is, in name, a contemporary invention. A category defined by audience rather than genre, Young Adult literature has morphed over the past several decades to encompass an increasing range of themes and issues as well as diverse modes of narration and expression. This course will take a particular interest in the theme of identity, including (but not limited to) identity formations around issues of race, ethnicity, social class, gender, sexuality, mental health, and disability. The course will consider both realistic and speculative iterations of YA Lit. Students will need to be prepared to read widely to explore what it means to treat contemporary young adult literature as literature, with the tools we have available to us as critics and scholars. While primarily a literary studies course, the course may include creative writing prompts and options for interested students.
265. Contemporary Graphic Novel. (H)
In this course, we will develop an historical, aesthetic and formal understanding of contemporary graphic fiction. We will study the genre’s precedents in early comics, the interplay of the comics and their historical and cultural contexts, graphic fiction’s engagement with high art, and the formal elements of graphic texts. Readings will include comic strips and comic books from 1900 to the present, Maus I and II, Watchmen, Fun Home, Jimmy Corrigan, It’s a Bird, Black Hole, and other comics. Same as ART 265.
315. Literary Theory. (H)
This course focuses on the big ideas that animate literary criticism, from sexuality to the unconscious, race to colonialism, signification to deconstruction. We study questions such as: What is subjectivity? How do words get their meaning? Where does gender come from? Our goal is to see literary texts, but also the world around us, in new and challenging ways. Students enrolling in this course should have taken at least one college-level literature course. Same as LIT315.
362. End of Nature?: Contemporary Anthropocene Literature. (H)
Mass extinction, vast gyres of floating garbage, melting polar ice caps, ocean dead zones, rising atmospheric carbon levels, super storms: have we entered the anthropocene -- the geologic “age of man”? The experience of an Earth nowhere untouched by humans finds expression in all genres of literature and generates unfamiliar and compelling new ways of conceiving our species and our world. Readings include science fiction, realist fiction, poetry, non-fiction and theory. It is recommended that students complete at least one college-level literature or environmental studies course before enrolling. Meets Post-1800 or Contemporary English major requirement, not both. Same as ENE 362.
366. Contemporary Queer Poetry & Poetics. (H)
What does Whitman mean by "manly love"? Does it matter if Nikky Finney identifies as queer if her syntax does so on her behalf? Is queer theory a poetics of sexuality? Or is poetics a queer theory of literature? This course will examine the current state of queer poetry and a variety of critical theories as they pertain to the contemporary literary landscape. We will read, discuss, research, interview, experiment alongside, and write about poems & poets published within the last century in an attempt to better understand how both queer and trans poetics have irreparably affected the direction of American poetry. Same as WGS 366.
390 and 490. Independent Study.
Independent study directed by the English staff. See chairperson for guidelines and permission.
Writing courses, to which admission is only by permission of the instructor, are limited to enrollments of no more than 15 students.
CREATIVE WRITING COURSES
225. Introduction to Creative Writing. (A)
A general introduction to the modes and means of writing poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction with an emphasis on writing exercises and revision. Students will be introduced to the workshop method of critiquing student writing, which means you’ll have the chance to have your work discussed by your peers, and vice-versa. Meets creative writing English major requirement.
Anderson, Cho, Day, Hartman, Montemarano
381. Writing Fiction. (A)
A workshop for students who have found fiction writing a satisfying means of self-expression and who now are ready to raise their work to a higher level. Students will write and significantly revise two or more short stories. What we read in this class—student work as well as contemporary published fiction—we will read as writers, meaning: with extreme attention to craft. We shall concern ourselves with the many choices writers make and the effects of these choices. We will practice writing dazzling sentences. Permission of the instructor required.
382. Writing Poetry. (A)
English 382 is an intermediate poetry workshop focused on generating and analyzing student work with the intention of fostering creative experimentation and bettering craft. Assignments will investigate the powerful tradition of lyricism, inherited form, and poetic genre (the elegy, the manifesto, the performance persona, etc.) while exploring the way rhyme, metre, and other poetic techniques can turn convention on its head. Participants will read widely while engaging American and international poets with whom we are in conversation on the page and the stage. The semester will culminate in a portfolio of revised student work distributed as a chapbook. Students of all majors are encouraged to enroll. Meets creative writing English major requirement. Permission of the instructor required.
384. Writing Nonfiction. (A)
A workshop for students ready to find their voices in a genre that claims to tell the truth without making it up. As a term, “nonfiction” says what it is by saying what it isn’t, but if nonfiction is anything that is not fiction, where are its boundaries? Where does its creative dimension take shape? We will read works of contemporary memoir, essay, and experimental nonfiction, and students will write and significantly revise two or more nonfiction texts that report, interrogate, and play with the truth. Permission of instructor required. Meets creative writing English major requirement.
480. Advanced Creative Writing Workshop. (A)
This is an advanced workshop for writers of fiction, poetry, nonfiction or drama. Each student will use the semester to finish writing, revising and organizing a creative writing thesis—a body of the student’s best work. Participants will read and discuss their own and each other’s theses-in- progress. Students will be expected to revise and tighten individual poems or stories, to shape their theses and to understand the aesthetic choices they are making. Permission of the instructor required.
Seminars, to which students are admitted only by permission of the instructor, are limited to enrollments of no more than 15 students. Seminars examine various topics, issues and authors.
417. A Feeling for Fiction. (H)
When we read a novel, we expect to feel something. Yet when a work blatantly makes a play for our feelings, we dismiss it as sentimental or manipulative. This course explores the literary and cultural history underlying these intuitions. By tracing the interwoven histories of the novel, emotion, aesthetics, gender, and the self in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century transatlantic literary culture, it examines the changing relationship between feeling and fiction. Texts include works (like Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther) renowned in their own time for their emotional impact and works (like Tenney’s Female Quixotism) that trumpeted the dangers of fiction and thereby acknowledged its emotional and political power. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Completion of ENG226 and a 300-level ENG literature course is recommended.
462. Toni Morrison. (H)
This seminar will focus on Toni Morrison as a major African American and American writer. We will examine Morrison’s oeuvre in both fiction and criticism, and explore how her aesthetics and vision, and her analyses of them, are informed by historical contexts and their racial, sexual, gendered, class, etc. impulses. Permission of the instructor required. Same as AFS/WGS 462.
463. Arthurian Legends. (H)
This seminar examines the cultural history of the Arthur myth through the Middle Ages and contemporary literature and popular culture. Readings will begin with some of the Celtic background to the legends of King Arthur, and will then address the history of the romance narrative tradition in the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chrétien de Troyes, and Thomas Malory. We will also consider ways that the Arthurian tradition has been revised and revisited in more recent contexts, from the poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson, to novels such as T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, to films like Boorman’s Excalibur and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Permission of the instructor required.
467. Virginia Woolf. (H)
In her essay “Modern Fiction,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.” This proposition reflects Woolf’s turn from realism to a modernist style devoted to interiority, impressionism, wordplay, and what she called “breaking the sentence and the sequence.” At the same time, Woolf, an ardent feminist, wrote compellingly about the politics and culture of the early twentieth century. This course will consider Woolf’s major works alongside excerpts from the letters and diaries, charting her formal innovations as well as her social critiques. Through an examination of literary criticism, we will explore the main tendencies in Woolf studies from the 1970s to the present day. Same as WGS 467. Permission of the instructor required.
470. Henry James: Story of the Mind. (H)
In 1881, Henry James created literary history with The Portrait of a Lady: it was the first novel to contain an entire chapter in which nothing happens—except that the lady thinks. This course will look backward and forward from this moment in James's career to examine how his representations of mind and body develop and evolve. We'll be guided by James's cast of adventuring ladies—from the American flirt in Venice, Daisy Miller, to the righteous ghost-seeing governess of The Turn of the Screw, to the two women sharing one lover in The Golden Bowl—as we study psychology and narrative from the 1870s to the 1910s. Permission of the instructor required.
473. William Blake: Vision & Myth. (H)
A seminar on the work of William Blake (1757-1827), London artist, poet, revolutionary, and visionary—as well as the work of a few twentieth and twenty-first artists influenced by Blake’s visions. The seminar will examine Blake’s visual art and his poetry, with emphasis on the latter. Blake readings will range from the deceptively simple and lyrical Songs of Innocence and of Experience, to reflective works such as The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, to the haunting “Mental Traveler,” to elaborately visionary and apocalyptic pieces, in which Blake created his own complex mythological system, such as The Book of Urizen, America: A Prophecy, and Visions of the Daughters of Albion. Possible twentieth and twenty-first century works include Allen Ginsburg’s “Sunflower Sutra” and and “Howl,” David Almond’s Skellig (YA fiction), and C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, a Christian rejection of Blakean vision. Students will participate in “springboard” groups whose task it will be to research a topic relevant to the day’s reading and initiate weekly discussions; they will also write short papers and a final 10-15 page analytic research essay or a hybrid creative/analytic research essay. Permission of the instructor is required.
489. Shakespeare Out of Time. (H)
In this seminar, we will deliberately study Shakespeare, his poems, and his plays out of their historical context and put them in other “out of order” time-frames. In other words, we will read anachronistically. This happens often in performances and film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays: think Henry 5 on WWI battlefields or As You Like It in 19th-century Japan. Other performances try to reconstruct the conditions of “the Shakespearean stage,” with hose, doublets, and saucy wenches. A problem with this kind of performance/reading practice is that we spectators/readers aren’t really living in the English Renaissance: think no electronic devices, no democracy, and no (respected) diversity.
494. Contemporary Indian Literature: India in English, English in India. (H)
Although fiction by Indians writing in English since the 1980s is probably best known on the world stage, Indians have been prolific producers of literature in English in a variety of genres for the last two centuries. Through exposure to fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, this course will offer a taste of the tremendous energy and vitality which characterizes literary production in India today. Students will also develop a picture of the fraught place English has occupied in India from the pre-Independence period to the first decade of this century. Meets 400-level seminar requirement for the English major or the contemporary literature requirement for majors in the creative writing track, or fulfills the NW requirement. The course cannot count for more than one of the English major requirements. Permission of the instructor is required.
Topics Courses Expected to be Offered in 2021-2022
- Contemporary Anglophone Identities.
- Contemporary Young Adult Literature.
- Contemporary Autobiography.
- Old English.
- Contemporary India in Literature and Film.
- Contemporary Jewish Voices.
- Literary Care and Self Care.
- Beowulf in Old English.