Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Graduate Studies in English
   Course Descriptions


Spring 2017 Course Descriptions

Fall 2016 Course Descriptions

Spring 2015 Course Descriptions

Spring 2017 Course Descriptions


411 1U/1G CHAUCER, Barrett.  MWF 11 (32131)

          same as MDVL 411

           Area Requirement: British, Beginning to 1485 & MFA Literature  

The poems of Geoffrey Chaucer entangle themselves in the nonhuman world: the narrators of Chaucer’s dream visions encounter lecturing eagles and sexy daisies, while the pilgrims of the Canterbury Tales tell stories of mudbound oxen, deadly black rocks, and blabbermouth crows. Indeed, in Chaucer’s worldview, humans are themselves entities caught between heaven and earth, spirit and flesh, reason and instinct. They are simultaneously “creatures” (God’s premiere creations) and “critters” (Donna Haraway’s homespun term for “the motley crowd of living beings including microbes, fungi, humans, plants, animals, cyborgs, and aliens”). We’ll use these ecologically-inflected insights as points of entry into Chaucer’s poetry, working our way over the course of the semester through the dream visions (Book of the Duchess, Parliament of Fowls, House of Fame, and Legend of Good Women) and a sizable selection of Canterbury Tales. As we’ll see, medieval ideas of nature necessarily impinge on concepts of culture: Chaucerian critters will help us explore (among other topics) the imminent obsolescence of chivalry, the urgent necessity for female counsel, and the role of faith in an age of heresy and clerical corruption. The “English literature” we study here at the University of Illinois comes into being in Chaucer’s late fourteenth-century England, an island society struggling to recover from the depredations of Yersinia pestis, the microbial critter responsible for the demographic disaster known as the Black Death. Our task in ENGL 411 will be to explore Chaucer’s place in the mesh of this medieval natureculture.

          A note about language: we will be reading Chaucer’s poems in their original Middle English (and I’ll be testing you on your facility with that earlier form of the English language). But you will have lots of opportunities to practice and develop your Middle English skills before any sort of evaluation takes place. (I’m thinking the midterm exam is the logical place to test Middle English comprehension, leaving the final exam to concentrate on the interpretative side of things.) Written work will include a few short methods-based papers, but the primary research focus of the course will be the Critter Project, an assignment asking you to become in-class experts on a variety of Chaucerian critters.


416 1U/1G TOPICS IN BRITISH DRAMA TO 1660, Stevens.  MWF 11 (39243)

          TOPIC: Drama of Shakespeare’s Contemporaries

           Area Requirement: British, Beginning to 1485-1660 & MFA Literature 

When the bad bleeds, then is the tragedy good: so says Vindice in The Revenger’s Tragedy. This course covers several of the more lurid tragedies written by Shakespeare’s contemporaries between 1585 and1638/9. Notable highlights from these plays include the severing of a tongue, the presentation of a heart on a dagger’s point, a dance of madmen, and the ‘much searing’ of a heroine’s breasts.

          Our focus on early modern tragedy will allow us to consider a range of important questions about genre, authorship, gender, the performance of violence, and the transformation of theatrical conventions from the early days of popular theater to the last years before the theaters go dark in 1642. Plays include The Spanish Tragedy; Doctor Faustus; The Revenger’s Tragedy; The Duchess of Malfi; The Changeling; Tis Pity She’s a Whore; and The Fatal Contract. Although our focus is on non-Shakespearean drama, we will also be reading Romeo and Juliet in conjunction with the 2017 Department of Theatre production of this play, and students will have the opportunity to research and write about Shakespeare plays not listed on the syllabus.

          This class emphasizes the plays in performance, both in their own time and in more recently; the material conditions of early modern theatre more generally; and, given our subject matter, the ethical, pragmatic, and aesthetic problems that arise in the stage representation of violence. Assignments will include several written assignments of varying lengths; a group performance assignment; and a final examination. Prerequisites for the course: One year of college literature or consent of instructor. Anti-requisite: some recent sections of ENGL 416 that may have covered the same grounds; check with the instructor before enrolling if you’ve taken 416. Familiarity with Shakespeare helps but is not necessary. *Please note: this class is restricted to eligible undergraduate students in the departments of English and Theatre. Other students, and any graduate student wishing to enroll in this class, may only do so with the explicit permission of the instructor.


TEXTS:     Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology (eds Bevington, Engle, Maus, Rasmussen); Tiffany Stern, Making Shakespeare from Stage to Page; and a course packet and/or critical readings distributed over email.


418 1U/1G SHAKESPEARE, L. Newcomb.  TUTH 2-3:15 (54465)

          Area Requirement: British, Beginning to 1485-1660 & MFA Literature 

This course explores seven Shakespearean plays from a range of dramatic genres and from a variety of critical approaches.  We’ll look especially at the features that made these plays popular in their day:  their open staging, their playful language, and their laying bare of the period’s familial, national, gender, and racial tensions.  We’ll also consider how the meanings of ‘Shakespeare’ keep multiplying, thanks to the constant, sometimes subversive, reinvention of the plays by literary critics, performers, and adapters world-wide.  That diversity compels us to use multiple interpretive frames to look at the plays:  close reading; informal staging; film analysis; feminist, historicist, postcolonial, and queer studies critical approaches.  Be ready for proactive discussion, performance experiments, a rare-book library visit, and attending at least one live production of a Shakespeare play on campus.  Written assignments include informal writings, two focused short papers, a longer paper based on guided research (7-9 pp.), and a final exam.


TEXTS:     (these print editions are required) Greenblatt et al, eds., Shakespeare: Essential Plays (3rd edition, 2016, ISBN 978-0-393-93863-0); McDonald, ed., Bedford Companion to Shakespeare (2nd edition, 2001, ISBN 978-0312248802); one individual play edition TBA.


423 1U/1G MILTON, Gray.  TUTH 2-3:15 (45971)

          Area Requirement: British, 1485-1660 & MFA Literature 

This course introduces you to one of the greatest British writers—John Milton.  Milton was a blind seer, a regicidal prose-writer, and an inspired poet.  He also wrote arguably the most ambitious English epic, one that aimed to explain the origins of life itself: Paradise Lost.  This class will explore Milton’s prodigious and ostentatiously learned output in the context of his own life and the historical turmoil of the mid-seventeenth century that transformed it. We will focus on the complex issues of religion, gender, and politics he engages, looking at his often contradictory responses to the ideas, literature, and men and women of his time. We will also trace his carefully crafted public image, thinking about Milton’s view of the role of poetry and polemic within a revolutionary historical context.


427 1U/1G LATER 18TH C LITERATURE, Markley.  TUTH 12:30-1:45 (32152)

          Area Requirement: British, 1660-1800 & MFA Literature 

Between 1720s and the 1820s the landscape of Great Britain changed in radical ways: as the population of the British Island almost doubled, deforestation, agricultural intensification, industrialization, and the growth of an imperial empire transformed both the British people and the environment in which they lived.  We will focus this semester on three interlocking developments that complicate our understanding of the Enlightenment: 1) the growth of what we might now call an ecological understanding of the natural world; 2) colonialism and the slave trade devoted to securing overseas the resources that Britain did not have or could not produce; and 3) and the increasingly active role that literature played as a forum for exploring changing notions of authority, liberty, and gender identity.  We will read texts by important writers active in the second half of the eighteenth century, including novels by Jane Austen, Anne Radcliffe, and Charlotte Smith; the autobiography of Oladuah Equiano; poetry by William Blake; Anna Barbauld, Anne Yearsley, Oliver Goldsmith; and nonfiction by Mary Wollstonecraft, Adam Smith, and others.  Course requirements: regular attendance and participation, two essays, a midterm, and a final exam.


435 1U/1G 19TH C BRITISH FICTION, Courtemanche.  TUTH 11-12:15 (32170)

          Area Requirement: British, 1800-1900 & MFA Literature 

An optimistic note of progress is the keynote of many 19th-century novels: characters learn and grow, society works through conflict, secrets are uncovered. But in British fiction, this process of discovery and growth is often complicated by nostalgia and fears of loss. Sometimes the characters discover that what they were looking for was in front of them all along, or find they can never truly untangle the dark origins of the problems that entrap them. In this class, we’ll be focusing on this particular mixture of romance, Bildungsroman, the detective story, and Gothic historicism. Our readings will include Jane Austen’s Emma, Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. These novels are tremendously fun to read, but also very long, so be prepared for a great deal of reading (both fiction and secondary criticism). The course will require one close-reading paper, one research paper, a midterm and final, weekly written assignments, and active class participation.


449 1U/1G AMERICAN LITERATURE 1820-1865, Murison.  MW 11-12:15 (32185)

          Area Requirement: American, Beginning to Civil War & MFA Literature 

Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned the earth much?

Have you practiced so long to learn to read?

Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems…

—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1855 

American Romanticism.  Whitman’s brash challenge to his readers—his declaration that there is something more to life beyond ownership and measurement, beyond formal education, even beyond the poem in the book you’re reading—serves as a perfect opening to the concerns of this course. There are few eras more tumultuous than the period between the signing of the Missouri Compromise in 1820 and the outbreak of the Civil War. Marked by economic panics, westward expansion, and brawling electoral politics, and over it all the fierce debates over and daily urgencies of slavery, this is also the era of American Romanticism, where we see writers urging fellow citizens to dispense with the past and engage in an original relation with the universe. Together we will read such writers as Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Lydia Maria Child, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Jacobs, and, of course, Walt Whitman, all of whom posed this romantic challenge to their generation—through their experimental writing and in their urgent political commitments. The aim of the course is twofold: a deeper appreciation of the literary movement of American Romanticism (including those authors who dissented from its more optimistic modes) and a firmer understanding of the relation of romanticism to political activism in the fight against slavery.


455 1U/1G MAJOR AUTHORS, Loughran.  MWF 10 (32205)

          TOPIC: Weird Writers: Poe, Lovecraft, Vandermeer

          Area Requirement: Later American Literature, Civil War to Present & MFA Literature



ABOVE:  Edward Gorey meets H.P. Lovecraft at the shoreline of the “normal/abnormal.”


This course will be devoted to three centuries of the strange, as imagined in the minds of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and more recently Jeff Vandermeer.  “Weird fiction” is now a legitimate generic designation (Google it!), carrying with it an implicit celebration of the abnormal, the odd, the otherworldly, the deviant—the weird.  For these three authors, that means a series of encounters with madmen, mushroom-people, extra-terrestrials, and other Lovecraftian blob-monsters of the deep.  Some questions we might ask include: what the relationship between weird stories today and the early Gothic? Why are weird stories, which often carry with them some coded form of horror or discomfort, so pleasurable and so popular?  But most of all, what makes something weird—and does the when of that weird matter?  In what sense, in other words, are Poe’s maniacs nineteenth-century maniacs? How are Lovecraft’s monsters archaeological artifacts from the early twentieth century? And what might we learn about the norms of our own moment from the fungalpunk and steampunk fantasies of Jeff Vandermeer?  Along the way we’ll read novels and stories from these three major authors, possibly play a videogame or two based on their imaginings, and investigate supporting scholarship from queer, postcolonial, and feminist theorists---a body of work that, it turns out, is just as interested in weird things as these three weird writers are.


455 2U/2G MAJOR AUTHORS, T. Newcomb.  MW 1-250 (32210)

          TOPIC: Citizens Coen: The Cinema of the Coen Brothers

          Area Requirement: Later American Literature, Civil War to Present  

Over nearly thirty years Joel and Ethan Coen have occupied a distinctive place in American cinematic culture, as postmodern auteurs who gleefully violate the stylistic “rules of the game” while also paying reverent homage to previous moments in American films. Their films consistently foreground their own roles as creators, which has made them key predecessors for later “star” directors such as Tarantino and Spike Jonze; yet in their personal lives they don’t court flamboyant celebrity but remain quietly devoted to their art.  They have won many awards including the Oscar, yet they are still regarded with skepticism by some academic critics who find their films all about style and genre pastiche rather than substance. This class will explore these contradictions and many others as we survey the Coens’ work of the past three decades, along with some of the “originals” that have inspired them to rethink cinematic genres, especially the screwball comedy, the Hitchcockian thriller, the gangster picture, and the hard-boiled film noir.  The syllabus will certainly include, among others, Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, O Brother Where Art Thou?, and The Man Who Wasn’t There, along with Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels and the original “Ealing comedy” The Ladykillers.

          The class involves a two-hour weekly screening and a two-hour discussion session, both of which are mandatory.  You can expect essays, quizzes, brief oral presentations, and a final exam.


460 1U/1G LIT OF AMERICAN MINORITIES, Jenkins.  TUTH 12:30-1:45 (46884)

meets with AFRO 498

           TOPIC: Theorizing Hip Hop: Hip Hop (as) Narrative

            Area Requirement: Later American Literature, Civil War to Present & MFA Literature 

In this seminar we will apply the tools of literary theory and criticism to hip hop artistry. We will think about rap music not only as a poetic or lyric form, but as a narrative one: a medium of storytelling. While we will explicate individual performances and recordings, our larger goal will be to theorize hip hop as national discourse and contemporary cultural artifact. To that end, our study will include a great deal of recent scholarship on hip hop, particularly new analyses of hip hop aesthetics that expand upon earlier, purely historical treatments. In our work with both primary and secondary texts, we will consider the kinds of stories that rap music tells, including those that it tells about the nature of hip hop itself (hip hop meta-narratives). We will also explore the ways that hip hop culture is deployed in the telling of other types of stories, and in other media (the novel, television and film, visual art). Focusing primarily on work produced in the last fifteen to twenty years, the course will be organized thematically, addressing key topics that recur in the music and in the culture more broadly. Our primary objective will be to gain a more nuanced understanding of rap music’s aesthetic and cultural significance, through critical analysis of hip hop as performance and as social metaphor. Attendance and participation, short responses, online postings, midterm and final paper.



          TOPIC: America at the Nadir: Race and Representation from Twain to Hurston On-Line 2nd 8 week section (March 13 – May 3, 2017)

          Area Requirement: Later American Literature, Civil War to Present & MFA Literature 

This course will use a multi-disciplinary approach to explore the perceived role, or “place,” of blacks and other marginalzied groups (including women and the poor) in US society as it was represented in popular forms of expression, such as literature, film, theater and music at the turn of the twentieth century. We will begin with cultural production from the Reconstruction and progress through the Harlem Renaissance and explore such themes as identity and representation; “black face” minstrelsy; “manifest destiny” and modernity; etc.


470 1U/1G MODERN AFRICAN FICTION, M. Basu.  MWF 1 (52394)

          same as AFST 410, CWL 410, FR 410

          Area Requirement: Anglophone Literature & MFA Literature 

“Modern African Fiction” endeavors to highlight the connections and links (as well as the disparities) between representative writings from different regions of the African continent. Indeed, the term modern calls for precisely such an inter-textual understanding. After all, the regions we somewhat loosely territorialize as ‘modern Africa’ are also congruous in so far as they were almost all irredeemably transformed by the experience of colonialism. The term ‘modern’ has in fact since then come to be inextricably tied to the distinct twists and turns of the colonial encounter in various parts of Africa. What Simon Gikandi calls “the colonial factor” will therefore be an important entry point into our comprehension of the isomorphisms between the required texts for the course. We will also take the term ‘modern’ seriously in so far as it emerges from a manner of periodization that has had a great deal to do with the novel as a generic form. As we read for the course, we will thus attempt to understand how African writers have kneaded this particular genre to the specificities of their colonial and postcolonial conditions. Given that this course reads modern African fiction in relation to theorizations of colonial and postcolonial conditions in the continent, we will not only concentrate on developing abilities such as close-reading, comparative analysis, and argumentative logic, but will also attempt to broaden the horizons of our interpretation by allowing the close reading of an individual text to be informed by readings of social structures and political-cultural events.


481 1U/1G COMP THEORY AND PRACTICE, Schaffner.  MWF 11 (44165)

          Area Requirement: Critical Theory WS Student ONLY 

Teaching writing is always labor intensive, often challenging, and occasionally terrifying. In this course, we will explore a core set of questions that inform the teaching of writing in our schools: Why teach writing? What is academic writing good for? Is there such a thing as good writing? Do effective writers gain any power in contemporary society? This course is designed with future language arts teachers in mind, so you'll leave the class ready to do such things as: design compelling assignments that challenge your students, respond effectively to student writing, create thoughtful group writing assignments, support various forms of multimodal writing, and work with writers who challenge what you know and how you think. Students who take this class should be prepared to question how you were taught to write in high school. Students should also be prepared to write in new ways. 


482 1U/1G WRITING TECHNOLOGIES, Gallagher.  MWF 10 (44168)

          same as LIS 482

     Area Requirement: NONE 

This class examines the impact online writing technologies have on our reading and writing practices. The class will investigate the relationship between today’s digital platforms, i.e., Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat, and earlier methods of writerly communication such as cuneiform tablets, scrolls, the printing press, and letter writing. We will address some of challenges writing technologies pose, including the role gender, race, and class play in social media as well as legal and ethical challenges writers face in the 21st century. Assignments include (a) a mid-term and final paper, (b) class participation, and (c) a creative media project about the history of an obsolete writing technology.


504 A THEORIES OF CINEMA.  TU 1-4:50 (43352)

          same as MACS 504, CWL 504

          Area Requirement: Critical Theory 

This semester the course begins with a review of basic and formative film theory, understood within the historical context in which it was and is written and received.  Building on this groundwork, the course then moves on to consider rhetorical aspects of film theory and asks what theories film scholars can use to address the relationships among film, politics, and society.


508 G BEOWULF, Trilling.  W 3-5:50 (43342)

          same as MDVL 508
          Area Requirement: British, Beginning to 1485 & MFA Literature 

Beowulf has been a foundational text of the English literary canon since J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1936 lecture on “The Monsters and the Critics,” and it formed the bedrock of philological studies long before that. Although most students will have encountered Beowulf in at least one undergraduate literature course, this course offers an opportunity to work with the text in its original language of composition. During the semester, students will work through Beowulf in Old English while also working through the poem’s critical history. Beginning with the landmark Tolkien essay, students will survey a range of Beowulf criticism, from its philological origins to the most recent theoretical reappropriations of the text. We will consider major critical issues such as the dating of Beowulf, its manuscript context, Christian and pagan influences, sources and analogues, historical background, orality and literacy, gender, empire, and canonicity. We will make use of 21st century tools such as The Electronic Beowulf to bring the manuscript into the classroom, and we may even have time to discuss modern reflexes of the poem, such as the Julie Taymor opera Grendel and the film Beowulf directed by Robert Zemeckis.

         Our primary text will of course be Beowulf itself. Readings will also include a course packet of secondary literature. Students will be responsible for less formal in-class discussions, prepared presentations to the rest of the seminar, and a formal seminar-length paper at the end of the term. A reading knowledge of Old English is required for this course; students who have taken “Introduction to Old English” or the equivalent will be adequately prepared. Undergraduates may register with the consent of the instructor. 


527 R SEMINAR IN 18TH C LITERATURE, Nazar.  TH 1-2:50 (32265)

          TOPIC: Enlightenment Narratives of Education

          Area Requirement: British, 1660-1800 

In “What is Enlightenment?” (1784), Immanuel Kant described enlightenment as the emergence from “self-imposed tutelage” into critical and moral independence.  Kant’s well-known formulation obscures, however, how shedding the shackles of tutelage was understood by the eighteenth century to be itself a matter of tutelage or education.  This seminar considers the paradoxical rhetoric of education—tutelage to be free from tutelage—permeating eighteenth-century letters.  It also reassesses, in light of the period’s concern with education, some key liberal legacies of the Enlightenment, such as its norm of autonomy or self-governing agency. The idea that reason is less an inborn capacity than a construction or development—a product of experience and hence capable of being shaped by human intervention—constitutes one of the most powerful and contested legacies of Enlightenment modernity.  It found particular appeal amongst women, who used it to contest long-standing essentialist notions of women’s biological and mental inferiority.  It was a crucial shaper, too, of the new genre of the novel, of which a principal subset was the Bildungsroman or “novel of education.”  Navigating the intersecting fields of eighteenth-century theories of education, histories of the novel, and feminist/gender theory, we will consider questions such as the following: What are the principal goals of education according to Enlightenment thinkers and novelists?  How do considerations of race, class, and gender mark the period’s discourses of education?  How do various authors imagine the relationship between inherited custom and critical independence, and between teachers and students?  What do we make of the period’s rhetoric of “nature” and how does it evolve over the course of the century?  Why do so many women educationists deploy a separatist rhetoric, best exemplified by Mary Astell’s argument that women should retreat from a corrupt and corrupting social world into a “Protestant nunnery”?  How do the texts we read challenge the conventions of literary periodization—for example, the separation of “eighteenth century” and “Romantic”?  These preliminary questions are expected to be refined and supplemented by the questions you bring to the seminar table.


537 E SEMINAR VICTORIAN LITERATURE, Goodlad.  M 1-250 (32276)

          TOPIC: Genre and Seriality

          Area Requirement: British, 1800-1900 & MFA Literature 

This course undertakes in-depth exploration of the nineteenth-century fictional genres that both exemplified and fueled the great wave of serialized print culture which began in the 1830s with the advent of Balzac and Dickens.  While comparisons to such genres are visible in the novels and novel series of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the most salient afterlife of Victorian-era fiction is arguably to be found in the millennial surge of serial television which has flourished on cable and streaming platforms since The Sopranos, The Wire, and Mad Men.  Our critical readings will focus directly on theories of genre, seriality, and the relevant material cultures including classic work by Bakhtin and Todorov as well as recent criticism by John Frow, Robyn Warhol, Franco Morretti, Jason Mittell, Sean O’Sullivan, Susan Bernstein, and others.  Our fictional readings will include Balzac’s Lost Illusions, Trollope’s Framley Parsonage, and a George Eliot novel to be chosen by the class.  We will also watch the first season of the Danish television series, Borgen. Students are advised to view additional serial television shows in advance—most especially the first two seasons of The Wire.


543 E SEMINAR MODERN BRIT LITERATURE, Mahaffey.  W 1-2:50 (43359)

            TOPIC: Yeats and Bowen:  Imagination and History as Twin “Realities”

     Area Requirement: British, 1900-Present & MFA Literature 

Jane Bennett, before writing Vibrant Matter, published a book on Enchantment in Modern Life in which she argued that in a disenchanted age, it is important to reconsider the unexpectedly ethical potential of moments of enchantment. In this course, we will look at enchantment as a literary goal and as a political plight for the Irish (effectively immobilized by the British). For the section on W.B. Yeats, we will explore Yeats’ interest in magic and his desire to have his poems sung (accompanied by a psalter) as different responses to the complex dangers and possibilities of enchantment, a word that comes from the French verb “to sing” (chanter). We will probe the kinship between magic and imagination in an effort to ascertain in what sense the imagined or the vanished may be experienced as “real.” We will investigate the history of fairies in Ireland as ancient gods and goddesses who can still be experienced through nature in the present, and we will analyze Yeats’ assertion in his late poems that death and life are also products of the human imagination.

          When we turn to Elizabeth Bowen, we will begin with selected stories that insist on the continuing reality of people and places that have vanished or that exist only in the imagination. Then we will read three of her novels—probably The House in Paris, The Last September, and Eva Trout—in order to test the hypothesis that things can be sentient, with a “magical” vitality that exceeds human reason.

          Readings will include chapters from Bennett, from Thomas Moore’s The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life, and selections from Heidegger. Literary works will include Yeats’ poetry, selected plays and stories, selected short stories by Bowen, and two-three of her novels.


559 T SEMINAR AFRO-AMERICAN LIT, Spires.  TH 3-4:50 (39298)

          TOPIC: Black Aesthetics in the Long 19th Century

          Area Requirement: Early American Lit, Beginning to Civil War & MFA Literature 

This course will examine the development of a self-conscious black aesthetic and literary criticism over the course of the long 19C century, beginning with Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1793) and ending with W.E.B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk (1903).  We will give special attention to form and genre, particularly serialized fiction and poetry, in a way that challenges the slave narrative-to-novel trajectory that dominated twentieth-century criticism and challenges us to theorize a black literary culture that emerged well before the “Harlem Renaissance” of the twentieth century. We’ll think how an expanding archive and a different relation to that archive has and will continue to change the way we construct African American Literary histories (plural). We will also question the relationship between black artists and Western aesthetics, a tradition that was often overtly hostile to black expressive culture.  In that sense, we will simultaneously probe early black aesthetic discourse and situate it within and against aesthetic discourse(s) more broadly. Artists up for consideration include: Frederick Douglass, Frances E. W. Harper, Harriet Wilson, Pauline Hopkins, and others.



578 G SEMINAR LIT & OTHER DISCIPLINES, Underwood.  M 3-4:50 (54471)

           TOPIC: The Popular and the Canonical: Understanding the Reception of Fiction, 1780-1960

            Area Requirement: Critical Theory & MFA Literature 

Literary scholars can hardly get through a conversation without characterizing books as canonical or non-canonical. But it is far from clear what we mean. Is there a single canon? Who defined it? When did canonicity and popularity become distinct things? Are they blurring together again, or has a “middlebrow” terrain emerged between them? If a formerly non-canonical work gets adopted on syllabi, does it become canonical?

          These questions sprawl across the boundary between the history of literary criticism and the sociology of culture. We’ll approach them first of all theoretically, reading influential statements about literary judgment by William Wordsworth, Q. D. Leavis, Theodor Adorno, and Pierre Bourdieu, as well as histories of reading by John Guillory, Andreas Huyssen, Deidre Lynch, and Gordon Hutner. But we will also consider reception as a practical research problem for scholars writing about particular works. How can we recover ordinary readers’ responses to a book, or survey the whole history of its critical reception? Meredith McGill, Robert Darnton, and Janice Radway will guide us toward archival resources and empirical methods that cast light on those questions. We will integrate theory and methodology to look closely at a few case studies where readers’ judgments about a work have been especially volatile and interesting—ranging from Jane Austen’s Emma (1815) to H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” (1928). Finally, we’ll pull all these elements together to form tentative hypotheses about the changing relationship between popularity and canonicity. Although the syllabus emphasizes literary examples drawn from the United Kingdom and United States, 1780 to 1960, seminar papers about reception in other periods and national contexts are welcome.


578 R SEMINAR LIT & OTHER DISCIPLINES, Littlefield.  TU 1-2:50 (60407)

          TOPIC: Techno-Cultures

           Area Requirement: Critical Theory & MFA Literature 

Radio, telephone, television, computers; brain imaging, pharmaceuticals, artificial hearts; fax machines, refrigerators, automobiles; artificial sweeteners, frozen food, GMOs. If you’re interested in the history of technologies; intersections between technology, science, and culture; and really great stories, then this is the seminar for you. We’ll read in and around some foundational texts from the history of technology, (feminist) science and technology studies, and literature and technology (Kittler, Kuhn, Haraway, Latour, Star, Marx, Wajcman). Then we’ll move on to some excellent case studies and fiction. Our goal is to think critically about the ways that technologies are not only invented and introduced to various publics, but how their production and use becomes ubiquitous and invisible. Topics will partially depend on student interest. All are welcome; previous experience with science and technology studies is NOT required.


Possible texts may include, but are not limited to:

  • Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda (2010)

  • Drugs for Life: How Pharmaceutical Companies Define Our Health (2012)

  • Magnetic Appeal: MRI and the Myth of Transparency (2008)

  • Refrigeration Nation: A History of Ice, Appliances, and Enterprise in America (2016)

  • The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data (2016)

  • Feeling Mediated: A History of Media Technology and Emotion in America (2014)

  • Our Biometric Future: Facial Recognition Technology & the Culture of Surveillance (2011)

  • The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction (2016)

  • fiction by Margaret Atwood, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Kyle Kirkland, Robert Scherrer, China Miéville, George Saunders . . .

Students can take one of two paths in this course:

1) Response papers and a final seminar paper (in stages: proposal, bibliography, draft)


2) A set of smaller assignments but NO seminar paper; these might include a brief scholarly edition, book review, funding proposal, and/or conference paper


583 R TOPICS WRITING PEDAGOGY AND DESIGN, Ritter.  TU 1-2:50 (32285)

          same as CI 566

          TOPIC: Writing Program Administration: Theory and Practice

           Area Requirement: Writing Studies 

This seminar will focus on the theory and practice of writing program administration in the context of both the field of Writing Studies and the ongoing dichotomy between “management” and faculty (including non-tenure-track) that characterizes, if not dramatically shapes, the operations of writing programs on US college campuses. While our primary focus will be writing program work at the first-year/general education level, we will also consider allied sites of writing, such as writing centers and WAC/WID programs. We will examine and interrogate—as well as experiment with—methodologies for policy creation and maintenance, data collection and research, and archival practices in program administration, in addition to examining the theories informing those methods. 

By the end of the seminar, students will be able to (1) Locate and situate key institutional and curricular issues facing writing program administrators (WPAs) today; (2) Understand the historical conditions under which WPAs have labored and how those histories affect current WPA theory and practice; (3) Differentiate between multiple theories of leadership, management, and administration, including those rooted in collaborative models; and (4) Articulate the relationship between the intellectual work of writing program administration and sound program leadership.

Writing assignments for the seminar tentatively include an extended case study, policy analysis, critical book review, and a job “package” (statement of administrative philosophy, mock job letter, and accompanying materials). In addition, active participation and deep engagement with weekly readings is expected. This course is open to MA and PhD students in English/Writing Studies as well as graduate students from outside the department, however, students from outside English are strongly encouraged to consult with the instructor before registering.



584 E TOPICS DISCOURSE AND WRITING, Schaffner.  M 1-2:50 (56821)

          same as CI 569

          TOPIC: Protest Rhetorics

     Area Requirement: Writing Studies & MFA Literature 

We live in a world that is seething with protest rhetoric. By looking at the expressive tactics deployed in an array of contemporary movements coming from both the political left and the right (e.g., #BlackLivesMatter, Second Amendment rights advocacy, environmentalism, grazing rights, Occupy Wall Street, the debate over restroom use by transgender people, and more), we will explore instances of high-stakes rhetorical action that involve social media (slacktivism?), physical occupation, gestural expression, performance, spoken and written discourse, and direct action. Students will explore contemporary protest rhetoric through various primary documents (video, images, audio recordings), journalistic accounts, academic research, and theories of communication and rhetoric. Historical work will also be encouraged. Students from departments across campus are invited to enroll and bring varied research interests and methodologies into the class.


584 G TOPICS DISCOURSE AND WRITING, Pritchard.  M 3-4:50 (32287)

          same as CI 569

          TOPIC: Fashion Rhetorics

      Area Requirement: Writing Studies & MFA Literature 

In this graduate seminar we will read scholarship at the intersections of rhetoric and fashion studies, a scholarly discourse cutting across a range of disciplines and fields including rhetoric and composition, literary studies, history, performance studies, ethnic studies, and sociology. We will examine a diversity of adornment performance—past and present, in everyday life and as rendered in cultural productions (e.g. arts, literature, and film) to document the emergence of fashion and style’s impact on social, political, and economic terrain, but also a myriad of critiques of fashion and style emerging from scholarly works in the field as well as in popular media. This course will especially emphasize research on rhetoric and fashion in relation to critical race theory, feminist theory, and queer theory. Engaging this scholarship, we will posit the implications of this research for the current state and next steps of fashion as an interdisciplinary field of study generally, and what the place of that field is and can be within rhetorical studies, literary studies, American Studies, and Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies in particular.

          The course will also support the development and support of each student finding or further developing their own fashion and style studies research, writing, and creative projects, with an eye toward exploring the broad implications of their interests for theory, methodology, and pedagogy of this field. Course readings will include texts by Roland Barthes, Carol Mattingly, Minh Ha T. Pham, Valerie Steele, Tanisha C. Ford, Reina Lewis, Tiffany M. Gill, Vicki Karaminas, Anne Hollander, Elizabeth Wilson and others.



          TOPIC:  The Teaching of Literature

           Area Requirement: NONE

This seminar concentrates on preparing graduate students to teach literature courses in three of the most common pedagogical genres within English studies: the introductory-level course for non-majors, the national or period literature survey course for majors, and the upper-division topic seminar. We will read and discuss some pedagogical theory, but the class will primarily focus on the practical, with an eye toward generating a teaching portfolio containing documents of value on the academic job market: a statement of teaching philosophy, sample syllabi for each genre of course, sample lesson plans for the same, and sample course assignments. This portfolio will be put together week by week during the semester, and much of it will be generated and revised through peer review—expect to talk to one another about not only planning for the literature classroom but also about debriefing what happens within it! From time to time, I’ll bring in faculty speakers to share their own experiences grappling with pedagogical issues.



          TOPIC: The Teaching of Film

           Area Requirement: NONE 

This course is designed to equip graduate students with fundamental skills for teaching undergraduate film in the age of new media. The seminar will focus on lesson planning, creating audio-visual toolkits, moderating discussions, crafting assignments, and other pedagogical issues. We will therefore focus on four principle undertakings: 1) drawing up lesson plans around a textbook and learning to augment them with information from other sources; 2) making persuasive audio-visual material that illuminate the technical and critical aspects of cinema; 3) sharpening a teaching philosophy that informs the whole pedagogic project and clarifies why a study of cinema is important in our media driven age; and 4) practical matters like effective syllabi and assignments. By the end of the semester, participants will have a portfolio of key documents and digital material that will be of practical use in the teaching of film and in the presentation of a competitive teaching profile in the academic job market.






Division of Creative Writing

Course Descriptions




All courses in the creative writing series emphasize the student’s own work and are taught as workshops.  The classes have an enrollment limit of 18 to insure the maximum efficiency of the workshop and to permit adequate individual attention.  Class attendance and participation will be counted as an extremely important part of the course requirement.




504 W WRITING WORKSHOP IN FICTION, Shakar.  M 5-6:50 p.m.  (43388) 

Directed projects in fiction writing, either short stories or sections of a novel, with group discussion and critique.  There will be a course packet for the class, featuring short stories and essays on the writing of fiction and related topics; there will be a discussion of these readings at the beginning of each class meeting. 


506 R WRITING WORKSHOP IN POETRY, Harrington.  TH 1-2:50 (43390) 

Directed individual projects, with group discussion in poetry.