English Course Descriptions: Summer 2010

Session I (May 17 – June 11)

English 255—SURVEY OF AMERICAN LIT I, Loughran. MTuWTh 12-2:50

The purpose of this course is to introduce you to American literature written before the Civil War and to assure that you have basic cultural literacy about terms, ideas, and events that will help you when you enroll in upper level literature courses. Our focus will be fourfold, encompassing specific literary forms, major literary movements, major historical events and problems, and finally the general history of intellectual ideas in this period. We will get at these problems by thinking broadly about “American culture” from its earliest iterations up until the crackup called the Civil War. By looking at a variety of visual and verbal texts—from paintings, engravings, and maps to slave narratives, novels, poems, autobiographies, essays, and pamphlets—we will try to get to know this culture both through its parts (its poems, essays, and stories) and through our own cohesive reconstruction of these parts into an integrated whole—a story, which we will call, in our class, “American Literature, Part I.” This is a course that will thus introduce you not just to the basic facts of American cultural history but that will challenge you to theorize the very practice of “literary history”—which is, in fact, a very special kind of storytelling that we practice in English departments.

Required texts will include the Norton Anthology of American Literature (Package One: Volumes A and B).

English 280—WOMEN WRITERS, Bauer. MTuWTh 9-1:50 Group III or V

same as GWS 280

TOPIC: U.S. Women Writers, 1919-2010

This course examines 20th- and 21st-century US women’s writing in a variety of forms and styles. We will focus on how literary works are simultaneously products of one author’s imagination and participate in a set of historical norms, shaped by the cultural anxieties to which the author, in turn, responds; at the same time, we will define the vision of gender animating these works.

This survey of American women’s writing will include the following themes: women and identity, sexuality, and work. We will start with women’s writing in the 1910s and move, decade by decade, into the present. This class will take a historical and cultural approach to US women’s writing, as well as illuminating various literary methodologies. The reading list will include canonical and noncanonical readings from various genres—poetry, memoir, radical and conservative novels—in order to demonstrate both formal and thematic concerns in representative women’s texts.

Our readings include: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Turned” (1911) and The Crux (1911); Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat” (1926) and Fannie Hurst’s “The Smirk” (1926); Meridel Le Sueur’s The Girl (1939); Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” (1948) and Life Among the Savages (1953); Confessional and Modern Poetry by Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Adrienne Rich (1960s to 1980s); Selections from memoirs by Hornbacher, Grealy, and Cairns (1990s), and Allison Bechdel’s Fun Home (2006).

Requirements are an exam and a final, along with a response paper each week.

English 403—HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, D. Baron. MTuWTh 9-11:50

An examination of the history of the English language from its beginnings to the present, this course will treat in detail, and with equal emphasis, the English of the middle ages, the Renaissance, and the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as the English used in the Americas and elsewhere in the world today.

We will concentrate on relationships between language and literature; dialect and the process of language standardization; the social implications of linguistic variety; and the nature of World Englishes. We will also study new word formation and the attempts, over the past four centuries, to reform English spelling, grammar, and usage. No previous background in language study is necessary, although such experience will not be held against you.

There will be a mid-term exercise, a final exam, a presentation, and a short essay.

TEXT: Jan Svartvik and Geoffrey Leech, English: One tongue, many voices. Palgrave, 2006.

English 442—BRITISH LIT SINCE 1930, Hart. MTuWTh 12-2:50 Group II

This class focuses on British national culture since the 1930s, examining literary and theoretical texts in the light of the profound social changes that have occurred since the inter-war years. Since we cannot possibly cover every aspect of this field in a short summer class, we will focus instead on four discreet areas of literary production. In the first week, we will read poems by two of Britain’s leading 20th-century poets, W. H. Auden and Philip Larkin, exploring their different approaches to the politics of Englishness. Week 2 sees us shift focus to the new immigrant populations of Great Britain; our key text will be West Indian novelist Samuel Selvin’s The Lonely Londoners (1956). In the third week of class, we consider the unfashionable idea that Britain had a post-WWII avant-garde, reading Ann Quin’s Berg (1962)—a neglected mixture of classic British realism and the French existential novel—alongside experimental dramas from the same period. Finally, we will turn to contemporary poetry, reading the “dub” poetry of Linton Kwesi Johnson and Jean Binta Breeze, as well as very different lyric poetries by Denise Riley and Carol Anne Duffy.

English 455—Major Authors, Capino. Lect: MTuWTh 12-2:50; Screening: M 5-7 p.m. Group IV

TOPIC: Spike Lee

This course examines three key aspects of Spike Lee’s films: their politics, stylistics, and economics. First, Lee has alternately invited praise and ridicule for his cinematic statements on issues relating to race, class, gender, and history. This course will examine those statements and also pay attention to the different voices (of the firebrand, the trickster, the public intellectual, etc.) that speak them. Second, Lee has received far too little credit for his astute exploration of postclassical Hollywood style. This course will reveal him to be one of the most consistently thoughtful and innovative stylists in contemporary American cinema. Third, while Lee’s stature as independent filmmaker par excellence is duly recognized by the public, too little attention has been paid to the monetary concerns that enable and constrain his artistic expression. This course will study the business of Lee’s cinema in relation to the larger history of the American independent film’s shifting fortunes in the last two decades. The course requires two film screenings and about thirty pages of reading per week, a screening journal, quizzes, and two papers.

English 500—Intro to Criticism and Research, Markley and Hutner. MTuWTh 12-2:50

This workshop will offer Ph.D. students the opportunity to revise extensively an existing seminar paper or dissertation chapter for submission to a scholarly journal. Students will be responsible for detailed, thoughtful criticism of others’ work and for substantively revising their own work during the course of the summer session. At the end of the session each student will provide a completed essay to submit to a suitable journal.

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