Spring 2024 Graduate Course Descriptions
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Textual Criticism (ENGL 413)
Section: 001 #5033
Instructor: M. Werner
3.0 credit hours seminar
MW 4:15 – 5:30 PM LSC
“Low at my problem bending” Case Studies in Editing Modern Manuscripts: Emily Dickinson (and Others)
Between 1858 and 1885 Dickinson composed more than 1800 poems and 1050 letters as well as many fragments in prose and verse. Dickinson’s textual body — the material witness of her radical experiment in lyric address — will lead us to engage questions central to the theory and practice of textual scholarship. In this seminar Dickinson’s manuscripts will be our lodestars, catalyzing and focusing our exploration of competing notions of authorial intention; the coordinates of public and private documents; the complex interplay of bibliographical and linguistic codes; the significance of textual variants and versions in the imagination of textual identity; the challenges of reconstructing and analyzing the temporalities of the writing process; and the way of philology that encourages us to follow the histories and longings of key words in her lexicon. The study of Dickinson’s textual body offers us, moreover, a singular opportunity to consider how to read, interpret, and represent what Edward Said called the “three great problematics” of a life in writing: the “moment of birth and origins,” the “dialectic of incarnation,” and “the untimely end.”
While Dickinson’s work provides the central case study for our work together, the questions and methodologies we explore in seminar have wide and deep applications to the scholarly study of works by other writers. We will explore some of these other works together, and seminar participants are also encouraged to examine those bodies of work of special scholarly interest to them.
Seminar protocol and assignments are designed to promote dialogue and to marry theory and practice.
- Seminar Working Group Preparation: To facilitate a dynamic of engaged discussion in seminar, 4- 5 person Working Groups will meet regularly in advance of seminar to identify key ideas in and pose questions about the works under discussion. The results of these meetings will be presented in seminar.
- Short (10-12 minute) mid-term oral presentation of a written paper: At mid-term, you will present a carefully crafted statement reflecting on your textual /editorial ethos: What led you to enter the region of textual scholarship? What textual problems do you find most compelling? What editorial approaches are you most drawn to? What compels you to create new editions, rather than simply rely on the editions of the past? What readers do you hope will find your work, and what readers (do you fear) may never find it? In what ways do you imagine the textual work you do will have a life beyond you and an effect on the larger world?
- Term project (three options): 1) You may significantly expand the theoretical positions you have proposed in your mid-term paper 2) You may compose a traditional seminar paper on Dickinson or another writer of your choice composed through the lens of textual criticism; 3) You may prepare a small-scale scholarly edition (print or digital) of a work by Dickinson or another writer that includes appropriate paratextual materials.
Although this seminar will not require participants to develop the technical skills for creating digital editions, we will very often engage with digital textuality. I strongly encourage you to explore the ground-breaking work unfolding in the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities and to attend the virtual events sponsored by the Center. The CTSDH is a very welcoming place!
Postcolonial Theory (ENGL 422)
Section: 001 #5034
Instructor: A. Aftab
3.0 credit hours lecture
Th 7:00 - 9:30 PM LSC
Postcolonial Roots/ Routes
This seminar will offer a deep dive into theories of colonialism, postcolonialism and decoloniality by examining foundational theoretical texts in the field alongside newer developments that examine how our current biopolitical regimes regulate racialization, gender and sexuality. By reading classic postcolonial critics like Frantz Fanon and Edward Said alongside contemporary theorists such as Jasbir Puar and Dionne Brand, we will pay homage to the roots of the field while also exploring and imagining exciting new directions of decolonial inquiry. In this seminar, we will also read creative texts, like novels and poetry by Tsitsi Dangarembga, Shyam Selvadurai and Safia Elhillo, as critical theory. Some of our discussions will include: cultural representations of the subaltern; critiques of Western modernity; decolonization and violence; gendered orientalism; caste hegemony in South Asia and Dalit resistance; border imperialism; the homonationalist construction of the terrorist; and Black queer diasporic formations.
Cultural Studies (ENGL 424)
Section: 001 #6315
Instructor: F. Staidum
3.0 credit hours lecture
Tu 7:00 - 9:30 PM LSC
This course introduces the history, theory, and practice of cultural studies, including its relationship to literary studies. Emerging as a field in 1950s post-war Britain, cultural studies redefined the conventional meaning of culture. Attuned to the importance of historical context and issues of power, inequality, and difference, cultural studies did not limit itself to the study of high culture (i.e., fine art, literature, classical music, etc.) but instead a range of human activities, artifacts, and writings previously considered unworthy of serious study as culture. Put differently, any human production that communicates is culture, whether it be text, visual, performance, object, mass-produced, folk, scientific, political, or nonfiction, and thus all are available for examination as a cultural product. Cultural studies assumes that such productions go well beyond "mere entertainment"; they encode, circulate, and decode ideology and thus influence how we perceive class, race, gender, and other markers of difference.
Radically interdisciplinary, cultural studies combines literary criticism (e.g., poststructuralism and new historicism), media theory and communication studies, political economy, cultural anthropology, philosophy, sociology, history, museum studies and art history. Throughout the semester, we will examine central texts in cultural studies, work to extract from those readings a coherent set of theories and methodologies that we might apply to cultural objects, and begin to analyze cultural objects themselves in light of these theories and methods to discover the social, cultural, political, economic, and aesthetic contexts in which they are embedded. The course will familiarize students with a range of approaches, focusing initially on major figures in the Birmingham School tradition, especially Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall. We will be guided by Hall’s identification of the key interruptions to the development of cultural studies: its crucial relationship with Marxism; the challenge of feminism; and its tense collaboration with critical race theory. Since cultural studies is such a large field, the course will narrow its focus during the second half, spotlighting (1) how Black studies has both appropriated and contributed to the innovations in the field and (2) how we might apply cultural studies to nineteenth century culture, despite it being an approach disproportionately associated with the contemporary.
Old English Language and Literature (ENGL 441)
Section: 001 #5048
Instructor: I. Cornelius
3.0 credit hours seminar
TuTh 4:15 - 5:30 PM LSC
In this course we learn to read English from more than 1000 years ago. English has changed so much since this early period that speakers of Present Day English (PDE) must approach Old English as if it were foreign, by learning grammar and vocabulary and even some new letters. Yet the languages remain close enough that speakers of PDE learn Old English quickly. Learning to read Old English gives a fresh perspective on PDE (for instance, why ran and feet, not runned and foots?) and unique access to a rich body of literature: about 30,000 lines of English poetry survive from the period between 600 and 1200 and more than ten times as much prose (including sermons, historical narratives and chronicles, Bible translations, philosophy, and medical writings).
In the first half of this course we learn the basic grammar of Old English and some core vocabulary and learn to translate short texts. In the second half, we sample the diversity of literature in Old English: readings become longer and more challenging and class discussion becomes more interpretative. Secondary readings introduce us to the history and culture of early medieval England and contextualize our study of language. In the last two weeks we read Beowulf in Seamus Heaney’s translation, with dips into the original Old English. Assessment is by quizzes, midterm and final exams, and a class presentation.
20th Century Literature in English (ENGL 488)
Section: 001 #5035
Instructor: J. Stayer
3.0 credit hours lecture
M 7:00 – 9:30 PM LSC
It is impossible for literary criticism to steer clear of moral judgment. Our most pure formalisms are laden with ethical value. Even if avoiding moral judgment in literary analysis were possible, it would not be desirable. Ethical judgments of artistic works might be described as residing along a continuum whose two extremes are historicism and presentism. However, trying to hit a sweet spot in between the two holds its own perils. What looks like a nuanced position to some will seem uninformed by one side and too judgmental to the other.
Given that the course presupposes, indeed welcomes, disagreements along ethical lines, two theoretical frames will be invoked for guiding the disagreements which the course highlights: (1) Wayne Booth’s The Company We Keep. Rather than offering a monologic set of principles, Booth outlines a method of “coduction” in which competing systems of value evolve continuously in dialogue. (2) Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s 1997 essay “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading” (from Touching Feeling) describes reparative reading as coming after strong reading, as one that seeks weak responses, “eliciting love and care…in an environment that is perceived as not particularly offering them.” Such a theory was imagined for queer texts but may find application here.
Some authors and problems to be explored: T. S. Eliot’s anti-Semitism; Ezra Pound’s fascism; W. E. B. Dubois and eugenics; Oscar Wilde, E. M. Forster and sex with teenage boys; Joseph Conrad and racism/anti-colonialism; Gertrude Stein and Vichy; Virginia Woolf’s anti-Semitism and classism; Willa Cather and racism; Radclyffe Hall’s reactionary gender politics; E. E. Cummings, Eliot, and sexual consent; James Joyce’s misogyny.
Topics in American Literature (ENGL 490)
Section: 001 #3632
Instructor: J. Kerkering
3.0 credit hours seminar
W 7:00 – 9:30 PM LSC
“Topics in American Literature: Words Before Signs”
The “linguistic turn” in literary studies was decidedly a phenomenon of the twentieth century, one traceable to Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics (1916), an assemblage of lecture notes compiled by the Swiss linguist’s students after his untimely death in 1913. But linguistics was a vital discipline prior to Saussure’s consequential innovations, and nineteenth-century writers of poetry and prose joined philologists in conducting wide-ranging investigations into the nature and origin of words, of matter that also means. Those investigations will be the focus of this course. In addition to reading a variety of works by authors who devoted attention to examining what words are and how they function and malfunction, this course will also explore the opportunities and challenges encountered by literary historians of nineteenth-century texts when they resist the anachronism of projecting twentieth-century linguistics and its associated critical practices upon a century whose writers had no conception of such ideas and practices. Authors addressed will include Noah Webster, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Kate Chopin, Pauline Hopkins, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Edith Wharton.