English Course Descriptions: Summer 2008

Session I (May 12 – June 6)

English 202—Medieval Lit and Culture

C. Wright. MTuWTh 9-11:50 Group I

In this course we will read a broad selection of medieval European literature in modern English translation, including such genres as heroic epic (Beowulf, The Song of Roland); lyric poetry (Provençal troubadour poems); chivalric romance from the era of “courtly love” (the lais of Marie de France, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Chaucer’s tragedy Troilus and Cressida); and finally religious vision (selections from Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio). Several of the texts we will read (the troubadour poems, Roland, Gawain, and Purgatorio) are translated by the Pulitzer prize winning American poet W. S. Merwin, who will appear at the University of Illinois in Fall 2008 along with former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky (translator of Dante’s Inferno) to talk about their translations of Dante and Dante’s influence on modern literature. As we read Merwin’s translations we’ll discuss his fascination with the Middle Ages and medieval culture and his methods of making medieval texts accessible to modern readers. We’ll also learn about the rich diversity of cultures in the Middle Ages through excursions into the history, art, and cultures of the times and places in which these works were produced.

English 419—Shakespeare, II

Mohamed. MTuWTh 12-2:50

Shakespeare Requirement

This course will cover Shakespeare’s plays and poems of 1603 onward. We will especially examine the generic complexities of the ‘problem comedies’ and of such major tragedies as Othello and King Lear. Also emphasized will be how the context of performance affects the plays, both in Jacobean England and beyond Shakespeare’s time and place. Such plays as Macbeth and Henry VIII are cognizant of their context in adopting several conventions of court entertainments. The ability of the plays both to reflect and challenge the expectations of their cultural milieus may equally be noted in Paul Robeson’s black Othello of 1930 London, or director Vishal Bharadwaj’s ‘half-caste’ Othello figure in the Bollywood film Omkara. What do we make of Lear’s three daughters become sons, and samurai, in the Japanese film Ran? Or Wole Soyinka’s transformation of Macbeth into a satire on African despots in King Baabu? These interpretations not only take Shakespeare in new directions, but also invite us to reconsider elements of the original that might initially go unnoticed. Students will write brief (i.e. 2-3 page) essays and a final examination.

English 435—19th C British Fiction

Garrett. MTuWTh 9-11:50

Group II or V

This course will sample nineteenth-century British fiction by reading a series of novels organized around a protagonist’s development. This popular form, often labeled Bildungsroman, focuses on a character’s emotional and moral growth through his or (in four of the five novels we’ll be considering) her changing relations to others, especially family members and lovers. While these novels foreground individual experience, they also engage with the characteristic social concerns of the period such as class relations and gender roles, telling stories of the growth of the self that also explore the tension between individual desires and social constraints and working out resolutions that range from comic fulfillment to tragic sacrifice. Requirements: two papers, totaling 15-20 pages, and a final exam.

TEXTS: Austen, Pride and Prejudice; Brontë, Jane Eyre; Dickens, Great Expectations; Eliot, The Mill on the Floss; Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles

English 452—AMER LIT 1945-PRESENT

Hutner. MTuWTh 9-11:50

Group III

This summer’s version of English 452 will be concerned with varieties of realism in contemporary American fiction. We will be reading novels and short stories that take up the general question of the way we live now, although we will see that the responses make up quite a diverse and nuanced range of understandings. These novels—some well-known, some not—examine customs and concerns—about identity, livelihood, intimacy—but they also stage conversations on cultural, economic, and political questions. To this extent, the novels are about what kind of people we are and what kind of a people are Americans, especially over the last 25 years. The reading list will be comprised of books and stories that students can be counted on to keep up with. Students can count on having steady reading assignments—a manageable load if students keep up. Registered students will be sent a list of titles when it is ready so that theycan have a head start on the reading. Students will also be responsible for a variety of short writing assignments and group work. Attendance and participation, mandatory.


Wood. MTuWTh 12-2:50

Group IV

TOPIC: Wordsworth and Keats

This course offers an in-depth study of two definitive poets of the Romantic period. Wordsworth modernized poetry both through his use of “common language” and by taking the operations of individual human consciousness, and the desire for self-realization, as his subject. Keats, the major poet of the second generation of Romantics, was deeply influenced by Wordsworth’s poetic mission, but was suspicious of its potential for narcissistic self-sufficiency, what he called “the egotistical sublime.” This course places Wordsworth and Keats in dialogue and in context: the tumultuous historical episodes—the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and Peterloo Massacre—that marked the generational divide between the two poets will be a major focus of the course.


Shapiro. Group V. Taught on location in England

TOPIC: Theatre in Britian

The course will involve the study of 12-15 plays (a mix of classics and new works) currently being performed in Stratford-upon-Avon and London. Students will explore the plays as both dramatic texts and as theatrical events. The course will include backstage tours, visits to theater museums, guest lecturers, and meetings with actors and directors. Weekends will be free for excursions and independent travel.

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