English Literature Graduate Course Descriptions for MAs
English 580—Special Studies: Writing & Invention
Invention is a term with many meanings, and in this course, we will consider it as a canon of rhetoric, a stage in the writing process, and a product of thinking, writing, or making. We will survey theories of invention as they are expressed in rhetorical theory, composition pedagogy, historical works, creative writing and literature. With our readings and accompanying writing assignments, we will pursue questions such as: Does invention entail discovering something that already exists or creating something new? Can an invention be “new” if it is composed of preexisting materials? Can invention be taught or prompted, and if so, which approaches are effective? Writing assignments will include a mix of critical, creative, researched, and pedagogical pieces. This course welcomes students with interests in composition, pedagogy, literature, and/or creative writing.
English 524—Restoration and 18th Century Literature--Old New Media: Information Societies in the Long Eighteenth Century
Mass media. Information overload. Going viral. You’ve likely heard these phrases describe our current moment, and the variety of new digital and virtual media that seems to have overwhelmed us with new ways to communicate. But how might these phrases also work to describe media cultures long before the invention of the Internet? Our course takes this question as its driving theme, studying the surprisingly vast array of texts and media forms that populated – or, indeed, crowded – the long eighteenth century. To best understand how eighteenth-century readers encountered what we now consider canonical texts within a busy and complex print culture, we will be working with a range of diverse media each week rather than focusing on one text at a time. We will also make use of digital archives to construct a fuller picture of the eighteenth-century’s diverse media landscape, and to discover ways our new media can engage with the “old new media” of the long eighteenth century.
English 546—Studies in Ethnic Literature: Native American Storytelling
In The Truth about Stories, Thomas King writes that “stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous.” Our course in Native American storytelling will use King’s work of non-fiction as a lens through which to explore fiction as well as various other genres, such as poetry, autobiography, and the vast oral literature that predates and continues to inform Native American writing. In doing so, we will take up such questions as: why do we tell stories, and how are the stories we tell informed by who we are? What opportunities do written stories--an art form foreign to traditional tribal cultures--hold for Native Americans? How can a “foreign” form of expression articulate Indian sovereignty and self-preservation? How can stories be “dangerous?” Our exploration of such questions will consider the relationships between written and spoken texts, between history and literature, and between tradition and change. In addition to King’s book, we will read works by writers such as Momaday, Erdrich, Ortiz, Silko, and Alexie as well as earlier writers and storytellers.
English 580AC—Introduction to Digital Humanities
What questions might you be able to answer if you could read every book published
in a single century? What would you learn if you could lay a novel out in geographical
space? What understanding could you gain if you could visually break down and compare
the language in two volumes of poetry? Does reading change if you can only do it on
The term “Digital Humanities” describes an amalgamation of interdisciplinary approaches and practices for preserving, studying, and enjoying thousands of years of intellectual and artistic human achievement. The newest in humanities fields, Digital Humanities attracts much research funding, brings traditional scholarly disciplines into dialog, and appears in many humanities job ads. This seminar will survey some of the major debates, questions, and practices in literary studies. Assignments will include essays engaging in theoretical debates about digital scholarship, evaluation of existing scholarly materials, hands on experience with XML encoding and Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) guidelines, and transcribing and encoding existing literary texts for digital archive publication. No prior technical background needed.
English 680—Theory and Practice in Composition
This course will introduce you to theories of rhetoric and writing, major research questions in the field of composition studies, and best practices for teaching writing in schools and colleges. We will investigate writing processes, analyze varieties and examples of student writing, and hone our own writing skills by drafting, revising, and evaluating our own and others’ work. As we read significant publications in the field, we will continually consider the relationship between theory and classroom practice. Assignments will give you experience reading challenging pedagogical and theoretical texts; posing complex and worthwhile questions about the teaching of writing; performing research and synthesizing your findings; drafting course materials for current or future writing classes; reading instructional texts critically; and responding effectively to student writing. Topics of discussion will include writing about difficult texts; using writing as a reading strategy; teaching sentence structure and grammar; and responding to and assessing student writing. This course is designed especially for prospective and practicing teachers; it may not be taken for credit by students with credit for ENGL 780.
English 700—Introduction to Graduate Study
Bridging the gap between your experiences as an undergraduate and what will be expected of you as a graduate student, English 700 introduces new graduate students to the process of conducting scholarly research in the humanities and the principles that currently govern its production. The course will also introduce you to key terms and concepts of literary and cultural theory as well as their practical application in criticism. During the course of the semester, we will also help you to begin to see yourselves in professional contexts, both academic and non-academic, and acquaint you with the challenges and the opportunities that await you upon graduation. Lastly, this course will examine contemporary debates about the value of the humanities and what is at stake in these debates.
English 703—Seminar in American Literature I
“The Horror not to be surveyed—
But skirted in the Dark—”
--Emily Dickinson, J777 (1863)
“For a people who made so much of their ‘newness’—their potential, freedom and innocence—it
is striking how dour, how troubled, how frightened and haunted our early and founding
literature truly is.”
–Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark (1992)
Early American readers took particular pleasure in scenes of distress, or so one would assume when reading literature of the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries. Authors from Charles Brockden Brown to Emily Dickinson certainly lingered over these moments of horror and terror, of violence and cruelty. While scholars have offered different labels for this literary tradition—“gothic,” “dark romantic,” or just plain “melodramatic”—most agree that such representations were intimately tied to the nation’s own disturbed past. This course thus takes as its primary focus the “disturbances” prominently featured in the literature of the early American period. From madness to massacres, we’ll explore what these anxious sites say about America’s own conflicted history.
English 721—Seminar in Medieval Literature: What is Medieval?
The term 'Medieval' is a pejorative retronym invented by nineteenth-century scholars to describe a period between the purported decline of a purported golden Classical age and the purported rebirth of learning during a purported Renaissance. The Medieval was long synonymous with 'the dark ages', with much of its writing (apart from Chaucer) primarily valued as specimens to be analyzed for their role in the evolution of English literature. This has changed over the last half-century, as generations of scholars trained in post-structuralist theory, gender and race studies, book history, and more recently digital humanities have understood the achievements of this era on its own terms. The Medieval remains contested today–the 'alt-right', for example, has misguidedly tried to appropriate this period–but we can now understand the era not as a barbaric disruption separating the two greatest periods of Western Culture, but as a dynamic and diverse era defined by literary and cultural innovation.
The purpose of this class will be twofold: 1) we're going to survey literature written on the English isles between roughly 450 and 1520 CE; we'll cover Anglo-Saxon lyrics and perhaps Beowulf (in translation, though we'll work with original texts as well), early and late Middle English (including Chaucer and the anonymous author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), Romances (we'll certainly read Sir Orfeo), some prose (possibly selections from Thomas Malory's Morte D'arthur, and mystical writings by Julian of Norwich and/or others), maybe some drama. Read alongside recent scholarship on these works, we'll come away with a decent understanding of contemporary issues and debates in medieval literature; 2) we'll think about how authors, readers, publishers, and scholars have understood the medieval period by analyzing anthologies and editions of medieval texts and authors, ranging from Thomas Speght's 1598 edition of Chaucer's Works through the 2012 ninth edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Doing so we'll think deeply about how literary history is constructed, and, more generally, how we as future teachers and scholars can productively shape and contribute to the futures of medieval studies. And maybe we can come up with a better name to describe the period.
Assignments TBD, but expect a few short papers, occasional reading quizzes, and a substantial final project.
English 780—Advanced Theory and Practice in Composition
For teaching assistants in English. Review of new theories of rhetoric, recent research in composition, and new promising developments in composition programs in schools and colleges. Students are given practice in advanced writing problems, situations and techniques and may propose projects for further special study.
English 803—Creative Writing: Nonfiction
Prerequisite: consent of creative writing program director
Literary journalism is the course topic. This means telling a story which is all fact but using the techniques of a fiction writer: action, language, character, setting, and theme. You’ll be asked to read intensely in this genre so that you can learn what’s been done before and to write short and long pieces of literary journalism, first by gathering facts and then weaving these, using nonfiction techniques, into a story. To gather facts, literary journalists research, interview, and they also hang out—spend large amounts of time with a subject—which is more officially called saturation reporting. During this time they are observing the subject in action in different circumstances and recording details to show rather than tell the subject’s story. The showing not telling is where literary journalism is different from the journalism we read in large circulation magazines and newspapers. The use of theme and metaphor also distinguishes this genre from other journalism.
You will write and rewrite nonfiction, including in-class and out-of-class assigned writing exercises. You will share your work for critical review by me and by your fellow students both in large workshop and in smaller groups because I assume your work is in progress and subject to revision. Criticism and revision are essential to the class: you will be expected to revise your work based on criticism. If you are not satisfied with the criticism you’ve received from fellow students, you may see me for more discussion.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
The Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism, ed. Kevin Kerrane and Ben Yagoda
Hiroshima by John Hersey