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Course Descriptions 2019-2020

Course Categories:

Courses Primarily for Undergraduates

English 300 – Seminar in Reading and Interpretation: Psychoanalytic Theory, Gender, and Literature

Course Description: This course serves as an introduction to several schools of psychoanalytic literary theory. It puts literature, gender, and psychoanalysis into dialogue by focusing, among other things, on the question—and art—of interpretation. Taking as our primary interest the scope and force of fantasy, aesthetics and meaning, sexuality, gender, and the unconscious, we’ll study some of Freud’s most intriguing essays on these topics while considering how similar questions and issues arise in fascinating works by Victorian and modern writers also weighing the limits of subjectivity and meaning.

Teaching Methods: Seminar-style discussion, focusing intensively on passages and background arguments, including with clips and slides.

Evaluation method: Weekly discussion posts on Canvas, one response paper, final essay, and in-class participation.

Texts Include: Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (ISBN 9780141439761); Henry James, Turn of the Screw(ISBN 0312597061); Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer (ISBN 0486275469); Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room (ISBN 0140185704); Katherine Mansfield, Selected Stories (ISBN 0393925331); and H. D, Tribute to Freud(ISBN 0811220044). Please follow the editions assigned; comparable pagination will greatly advance our discussions. Various essays by Freud, Klein, and Lacan will circulate as pdfs on Canvas.

Notes: English 300 is an English Literature major and minor requirement. First class mandatory. No P/N registration. This course does NOT fulfill the WCAS Area VI distribution requirement. This course may not be repeated for major or minor credit.

English 300 – Seminar in Reading and Interpretation: Songs and Sonnets

Course Description:  Beginning with the sonnet craze in the late sixteenth century, this course will explore the relationship between poetry and popular culture, investigating the ways in which poets draw on the latest trends in popular and literary culture and in turn the ways in which that culture incorporates and transforms poetry—on the stage, in music, and on the screen.  We will consider how poets borrow from and respond to one another, experimenting with traditional forms and familiar themes to make the old new.  In order to recognize and interpret this experimentation, we will first study those traditional forms, learning to read and interpret poetry. While we will be reading a range of poems in modern editions, we will be situating them in their social, historical, literary and material contexts, analyzing the ways in which these contexts shape our interpretation.  How for example might our reading of a poem change if we encountered it scribbled in the margins of a legal notebook or posted as an advertisement on the El rather than as part of an authoritative anthology?   Readings may include poetry by Shakespeare, Donne, Marlowe, Sidney, Spenser, Keats, Shelley, Williams, Stevens, and Eliot.

Teaching Method(s): Discussion.

Evaluation Method(s): class attendance and participation required; two papers, short assignments, and an oral presentation.

Texts include: The Norton Anthology of Poetry, eds. Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy (ISBN: 978-0393679021, approximate cost: $60-65 new, 45-50 used, $25 rental).

Text will be available at: Beck’s Bookstore.

Notes: English 300 is an English Literature major and minor requirement. First class mandatory. No P/N registration. This course does NOT fulfill the WCAS Area VI distribution requirement. This course may not be repeated for major or minor credit.

English 300 – Seminar in Reading and Interpretation: Poe

Course Description: Edgar Allan Poe invented the short story, the detective story, the science fiction story, and modern poetic theory.  His stories and essays anticipate the Freudian unconscious and various forms of psychoanalytic, poststructuralist, and modern critical theory.  Poe wrote an uncanny novel called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and several volumes of poetry and short stories.  As editor or contributor to many popular nineteenth-century American magazines, he wrote sketches, reviews, essays, angelic dialogues, polemics, and hoaxes.  This course will focus on Poe's writings as a means of learning how to read and analyze a variety of literary genres, including lyric and narrative poems, the novel, the short story, detective fiction, science fiction, the essay, the literary review, and critical theory. We will study poetic language, image, meter, and form as well as various story-telling techniques such as narrative point of view, plot, structure, language, character, repetition and recurrence, and implied audience.  We will also engage with a variety of critical approaches to reading and interpreting Poe’s writings, including formalist, psychoanalytic, historicist, Marxist, feminist, queer, critical race, poststructuralist, and postcolonial theory and criticism. We will conclude by looking at the ways Poe's works have been translated and adapted in a selection of contemporary films and other popular cultural forms.

Teaching Method: Some lecture; mostly close-reading and discussion.

Evaluation Method: 2 short essays (3-4 pages); and one longer essay (8-10 pages); in-class participation.

Texts will include:

Notes: English 300 is an English Literature major and minor requirement. First class mandatory. No P/N registration. This course does NOT fulfill the WCAS Area VI distribution requirement. This course may not be repeated for major or minor credit.

English 307 – Advanced Creative Writing

Course DescriptionTo paraphrase Grace Paley, a good story has two stories. To break it down a bit, a good story has at least two conflicts. In this workshop, we’ll uncover how chronic and acute conflicts ignite one another to create forward movement, and in some cases, how the acute conflict resolves the chronic. We’ll also delve into how plot and character revelations help answer those elusive but crucial questions: what is this story about and why is it being told? Students will read exemplar stories and submit a story of their own, which will be workshopped twice. This class is for serious writers who are unafraid of taking real risks, unafraid of true rewrites/revisions, unafraid of working hard toward turning a good story into a great one.

Teaching Method: Workshop.

Evaluation Method: Creative writing assignments on conflict, suspense and tension, voice, character and plot revelations, and dialogue, as well as peer-reviews, and responses to craft questions.

Text Include: Coursepack of short stories and novel beginnings.

Coursepack will be available at: Quartet Copies.

Instructor Bio: Nami Mun grew up in Seoul, South Korea and Bronx, New York. For her first book, Miles from Nowhere, she received a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers and the Asian American Literary Award. Miles From Nowhere was selected as Editors’ Choice and Top Ten First Novels by Booklist; Best Fiction of 2009 So Far by Amazon; and as an Indie Next Pick. Chicago Magazine named her Best New Novelist. Her stories have been published in The New York Times, Granta, Tin House, The Iowa Review, The Pushcart Prize  Anthology, Tales of Two Americas Anthology, and elsewhere. She currently teaches creative writing at Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program.

English 313 – Studies in Fiction: Postcolonial Noir: Crime Fiction, Empire, and the Postcolony (Post 1830/TTC)

Course DescriptionCrime fiction is where questions of law, justice, and community are investigated, but only rarely resolved. This course will explore this problem in a transnational context, to expose the fundamental issues of power and difference that have underlain the classic detective novel, and then work our way through texts produced in colonial and postcolonial settings in the Middle East and North Africa. Surveying over 150 years of detection, we will use these texts to understand the relationship between criminal investigation and literary interpretation, between history and the present, and between literary style and political authority.  

Teaching Method: Seminar.

Evaluation Method: Short paper, group presentation, final essay.

Texts include:

Texts will be available at: Norris.

Note: This course is combined with Comp Lit 301 and Humanities 370-6

English 323-1 – Chaucer (Pre 1830)

Course Description: As we follow along the road to Canterbury, we not only hear a compendium of stories-both pious and irreverent-but we also meet a collection of characters whose diversity spans the spectrum of medieval society:  a noble knight and a manly monk, a drunken miller and a virtuous priest, a dainty nun and a domineering wife, who compete with one other, trading insults as well as tales.  Over the course of the quarter, we will explore the ways in which Chaucer experiments with late medieval literary genres, from chivalric romances to bawdy fabliaux, frustrating and playing upon the expectations of his audience.   Against and alongside this literary context, we will consider the dramatic context of the pilgrimage itself, asking questions about how the character of an individual pilgrim, or the interaction between pilgrims, further shapes our perceptions and expectations of the tales:  How is a romance different, for example, when it is told by a knight, by a social climber, or by a renegade wife?   We will be reading Chaucer's poem in the original Middle English.  At the end of the quarter, we will give an in-class performance of one of the tales.

Teaching Method(s): Discussion and some lectures

Evaluation Method(s):  class attendance and participation required; an oral presentation; several short papers; quizzes and an exam.

Texts include: The Canterbury Tales, ed. Jill Mann  ISBN 978-0140422344 (approximate cost: $18-23)(The Canterbury Tales, ed. Larry D. Benson or The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson are also acceptable editions).

Textbooks available at:  Beck’s Bookstore.

English 324 – Studies in Medieval Literature: Queering Medieval Romance (Pre 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: Medieval romance famously celebrated “courtly love”—the ennobling passion of an aristocratic man for an upper-class woman. But just as deeply ingrained is the ideal of same-sex love between men. And despite—or perhaps because of—the Church’s misogynist bias, the culture shows a surprising openness to transgender phenomena. This class will explore two kinds of texts: those in which women masquerade as men, and those in which heterosexual love disrupts or is disrupted by the bonds of male affection. In Ovid’s tale of Iphis and Ianthe, two girls (one passing as male) fall in love and marry, while in the life of the transgender saint Marina, a woman who becomes a monk is accused of fathering a child. In Silence, a stunningly postmodern French romance, the “silenced” hero/ine is born female but raised male; as a knight, s/he is charged with homosexuality after rejecting the queen’s advances. After our study of ambiguous gender identities, we’ll turn to ambiguous desires, reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Amis and Amiloun, and The Romance of the Rose. We’ll end with Chaucer’s “other masterpiece,” the magnificent Troilus and Criseyde. Set in ancient Troy, this romance features the ambiguous, bisexual Pandarus, who seems to be in love with both the hero and the heroine. Amis and Amiloun and Troilus and Criseyde will be read in Middle English, the other texts in translation. 

Evaluation Method: Class discussion, two expository essays, and a final creative project. There will also be in-class exercises in translation and reciting Middle English, which will not be graded but could make a difference if you're on the borderline.

Texts (at Norris):

English 331 – Renaissance Poetry: Love in the Age of Shakespeare (Pre 1830/ICSP)

Course DescriptionFantasy, confusion, seduction, despair, faith: these burning topics flourished in the famous love poetry of the English Renaissance. Why, we will explore, did people serving in the court of Queen Elizabeth become obsessed with writing sonnets about frustrated desire? How did poets link the confusion caused by tortuous love with other issues–– how to express feeling in writing, how to get ahead in the world, or how to “possess” others imaginatively? How were the “private” issues of love deeply intertwined with politics, religion, race, nationalism, and gender identities? When did love cement social bonds and when was it an unruly force that seemed to unravel the very fabric of the self or the community? We’ll tackle these questions by reading poems by Sidney, Donne, Wroth, Herbert, Marvell, and Pulter in the context of religious controversies, court politics, colonialism, same-sex desire, feminism, and medical theory.

Teaching Method: Discussion.

Evaluation Method: Papers, presentations, posts.

Texts include:

Texts will be available: Online.

English 344 – 18th Century Fiction: Marriage Plots Before Austen (Pre 1830/ICSP)

Course DescriptionThis class will trace the surprising proliferation of plots that led to marriage—or not—in prose fictional forms before the consolidation of the modern realist novel.  Jane Austen’s chaste representations of courtship were preceded by over 100 years of far less polite renditions of desire, economic need, frustration, rebellion, and amorous failure.  Due to women’s historical exclusion from independent paid labor, girls were expected to turn into women who became wives.  This social expectation was interrogated, re-imagined, and subverted in new ways across the developing form(s) of prose fiction in Britain in the “long” eighteenth century (roughly 1660 – 1820).  As we will see, the marriage plot ascribed to Austen was far from the norm in the pre-realist novel:  we’ll instead encounter extra-marital sexual autonomy, sapphic desire, incest, sex work, delusion, discipline, remarriage, and many other plot twists which show that the literary-historical road to the courtship plot was rocky, contested, and definitely not predictable.

Tentative list of texts:  Anonymous, The London Jilt; Penelope Aubin, The History of Charlotta DuPont; Aphra Behn, Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister; Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders; Henry Fielding, The Female Husband; Eliza Haywood, Fantomina; Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote; Sarah Scott, Millenium Hall; Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary or Maria.

English 359 – Studies in Victorian Literature: Thomas Hardy: Distance and Desire (Post 1830)

Course Description: One of the first English writers to experiment with impressionist ideas and techniques, and a key contributor to naturalism, Hardy helped to fashion a distinctly “modern” narrative while advocating progressive social reform. We will study how his fiction challenged the limits of Victorian culture, voicing tensions that brought his novels to the brink of censorship. We will also pair those works with remarkable poems by him that make powerful claims about time, repetition, intimacy, doubt, and belief. In this way, we’ll follow how his fiction tried to educate late-Victorian readers in new ways of perceiving and thinking about themselves, their environment, their shared history, and the world.

Teaching Methods: Seminar-style discussion, focusing intensively on passages and background arguments, including with clips and slides.

Evaluation Methods: Weekly discussion posts on Canvas, one response paper, final essay, and in-class participation.

Texts include (in order of use):

Please follow the editions assigned (new and used available at the Norris Center Bookstore); comparable pagination will greatly advance our discussions.

English 366 – Studies in African American Literature: Feeling Black / Black Feeling (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course DescriptionThis course introduces and investigates the matter of black feeling. Does blackness have a feeling? What emotional baggage accompanies racial difference? How do emotions inform, distort, and even precede our notions of race and culture? And how do all types of feelings, personal and public, shape or interrogate the project of racial representation? Drawing together seminal and lesser-known works in African American literature with secondary texts from affect theory, black studies, postcolonial theory, and Afro-pessimism, we will explore the messy entwinement of blackness and emotion and identify how this entwinement is variously represented across the African American literary tradition.

Teaching Method: Discussion.

Evaluation Method: 1 short oral presentation on an assigned reading; 2 short papers (4-5 pages); class participation.

Texts include

Texts will be available atNorris Bookstore and Canvas. 

English 368 – Studies in 20th Century Literature: Queer Modernisms (Post 1830)

Course Description: What was queer life like when terms such as “homosexuality,” “gay,” and “lesbian” were new, and few people used them or knew what they meant? What possibilities did queer people imagine for how their lives could turn out, with no firmly established vocabularies or role models available? To investigate the sexual and gendered contours of this period, in this course we will explore how authors in the early twentieth century tackled these and related questions in literature, grappling with the political and social challenges and possibilities of the time. The seminar is organized around key sites of literary production – London, New York, and Paris – and the writers who resided in them, thus taking part in new cross-cultural experiments and innovations in literature, art, and film during a period of political and social unrest not unlike our own.

Teaching Method(s): Seminar Discussion

Evaluation Method(s): participation, short reading responses, in-class presentation, and a final paper.

Texts include: Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood. Also a selection of poetry, short stories, and other writing by authors including E. M. Forster, Mina Loy, Marcel Proust, Federico García Lorca, and the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.

Texts will be available at: Norris bookstore and through Canvas.

Instructor Bio: Todd Nordgren specializes in British and American modernist literature and culture, queer and feminist theories, life writing, and genre studies. At Northwestern, he has designed and taught courses on poetry and poetics, modernist fiction, and life writing in minority communities. His recent work includes a forthcoming chapter in the Routledge Companion to Queer Theory and Modernism on the intersections of autobiography and celebrity culture in the early 20th century.

His current book project, “Taking Form: Writing Queer Lives in the Early Twentieth Century,” examines how modernist literature inaugurated a new optimism about expectations of what a queer life could entail. “Taking Form" explores the period between Oscar Wilde’s trials for “gross indecency” in 1895 and the formation of large-scale gay and lesbian movements after World War II, highlighting how authors challenged, eluded, and exceeded the sexual constraints and codes of the school story, the marriage plot, the imperial romance, and autobiography to make writing about queer life possible in an era of increasing medical and legal categorization.

English 374 – Topics in Native American and Indigenous Literature: Native Chicago Literatures of Place and Protest (Post 1830/TTC)

Course Description: This course focuses on Native American literatures from and about Chicago.  We will complicate prevailing ideas of the city as a space of realist and modernist literatures by white writers, from Upton Sinclair to Ernest Hemingway, and examine how Native literatures position Chicago differently in literary and national geographies. To do so, we’ll also complicate views of Chicago as a Native place either before colonial settlement in the nineteenth century or after federal policies of relocation, which moved thousands of Native people from reservations to urban centers in the 1950s.  We’ll investigate how Native writers use the form of the autobiography and sentimental literatures to envision connections between Indigenous people in Chicago and the Caribbean; make use of newspaper publication networks to criticize federal Indian policy; create poetry chapbooks; and take the city itself as a surface for inscription.

Teaching method: Seminar.

Evaluation methods: Weekly discussion posts; short papers; final paper.

Texts include:

Texts available at: Norris Bookstore

English 377 – Special Topics in Latina/o Literature: Latinx Modernism (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: In this course we will investigate the rich archive of Latinx writing from the early twentieth century, from poems and crónicas published in Spanish-language newspapers to such landmark works as Facundo Bernal’s A Stab in the Dark (1923), Julia de Burgos’s Song of the Simple Truth (1938), and Américo Paredes’s George Washington Gómez (1940). What experiences of modernity do their works describe, and how are those experiences linked to histories of colonization, migration, and exploitation? We will pay particular attention to the idea of latinoamericanismo (Latin Americanism) as a “spiritualized” critique of American materialism. How did latinoamericanismo respond to the increasing racialization of Latinx people in the early twentieth century? What possibilities for enchantment and abundance did Latinx modernism afford to communities in the face of difficult living and working conditions?

Teaching Method: Discussion.

Evaluation Methods: Short writing assignments, group project, research paper.

Texts: Will include Facundo Bernal, A Stab in the Dark (9781940660394), Américo Paredes, George Washington Gómez (9781558850125), Julia de Burgos, Song of the Simple Truth (9781880684245), Guillermo Cotto-Thorner, Manhattan Tropics (9781558858817), as well as selected poems, chronicles, essays, and stories. Texts will be available at Norris Bookstore and via Canvas.

English 378 – Studies in American Literature: Founding Terrors (Pre 1830/TTC)

Course Description: This course will focus on the imagination of politics and the politics of the literary imagination in Revolutionary America as a means of rethinking traditional accounts of both literature and politics in insurrectionary America.  Radically utopian in its desire and vision, the American Revolution was also driven by feelings of loss, betrayal, anger, and fear, and haunted by the specter of ghosts, insurrection, and apocalypse. We will examine the affective, sensational, and specifically literary shaping of various founding documents as a means of illuminating the more terroristic, contradictory, irrational, and socially and psychically devastating aspects of the American Revolution; and we will examine the ways the imaginative writings of the time—poems, novels, and other works of fiction—reveal aspects of the “real” American Revolution that were repressed, silenced, or written out of the more official writings of the Revolution. 

Teaching Method: Lecture; discussion

Evaluation Method: Essay (3 pages); essay (5-6 pages); participation; final examination


English 385 – Topics in Combined Studies: The Horror Film (Post 1830)

Course Description: This course surveys the American horror film from its meteoric rise during the emergence of sound cinema in the 1930s to the present. The course will focus on one major feature-length film per week. Films likely to be discussed include Bride of Frankenstein, Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, Halloween, Alien, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and Get Out. Major themes and questions will include not only the question of why it's fun (or not) to be scared but also what social and philosophical themes the genre of horror opens up in surprising and provocative ways (from gender, violence, and technology to childhood, evil, and race). To catalyze our discussions we will read a variety of critical and philosophical texts on specific films, horror as a genre, and texts more broadly intersecting with course topics by authors from a wide range of disciplines.

English 387 – Studies in Literature and Commerce: Risky Business and the American Dream in Modern Literature (Post 1830)

Course Description: They say it’s lonely at the top. This insight has inspired the creation of some of the 20th and 21st century’s most vivid, if counterintuitive, literary underdogs: CEOs and other rich and powerful business figures seemingly living the American Dream. Characters like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s illusory Gatsby, American Psycho’s murderous Patrick Batemen, or Lake Success’ hilariously narcissistic hedge fund manager, Barry Cohen, offer us complex meditations on the meaning of wealth, power, desire, and self-fulfilment. In this course we will consider how writers used the figure of the CEO behaving badly to investigate the meaning of success and happiness in 20th and 21st century America. At the same time, we will read about some of the most spectacular scandals of the last two centuries in American business, such as those created by the executives at Enron; a genius mathematician teamed up with a cabal of crafty bankers; or a hapless VP turned FBI double-agent. Pairing fact with fiction, we will ponder the lives of some of the most entertaining and disturbing figures at the top of the American business food chain.

Teaching Method: Seminar discussion.

Evaluation Method: Two short papers, long paper, group research paper, one discussion-leading assignment.

Texts include: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Great Gatsby; Martin Amis, Money; Bret Easton Elis, American Psycho (selections); Adam Haslett, Union Atlantic; Gary Shteyngart, Lake Success.

Selections (provided by professor): Kurt Echeinwald, The Informant; David Enrich, Spider Network; Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind, The Smartest Guys in the Room; James Stewart, Den of Thieves

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore.

Instructor Bio: Dr. William Casey Caldwell is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English Department at Northwestern University. His research focuses on early modern literature, monetary history, market culture, and history of sexuality. Caldwell is co-editor of The Hare: An Online Journal of Untimely Reviews in Early Modern Theater, and has published on audience laughter and dramaturgy in reconstructed early modern playhouses. A former Franke Graduate Fellow in residence at Northwestern’s Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, he has worked as Senior Research Assistant at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, and recently co-taught Shakespeare at Stateville maximum security prison. Caldwell also gives preamble talks at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and volunteers with Northwestern’s Prison Education Program. He holds an MFA in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin College in Partnership with the American Shakespeare Center; an MA in Philosophy from the University of Auckland; and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin.

English 388 – Studies in Literature and Religion: Radical Spirits (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: Recent scholarship on the history of abolitionism has reframed the activist, religious, and literary history of the movement to end slavery, placing new emphasis on the critical importance of women, the organizing efforts of Black people, and religious dissent in shaping the movement. This course takes up the radical history of abolitionism, elaborating the importance of religious communities within the early antislavery movement and the contributions of Black activists. Reading across the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, we will ask questions about how the shifting concerns of these various coalitions compete and collaborate. We will read from a broad selection of antislavery essays, poems, sermons, and personal narratives, while also looking toward Octavia Butler’s genre defying novel, Kindred (1979), as a lifeline to the present.

Together we will explore abolition as a religiously inflected literary genre and will investigate how antislavery work inspired new forms of communication and literary style.

Teaching Method: Discussion, collaborative group work.

Evaluation Method: Participation and preparation; two essays (3-5 pages); and a final collaborative project with in-class presentation.

Texts include: Voices include: Anthony Benezet, Octavia Butler, Paul Cuffee, Ottobah Cugoano, Frederick Douglass, Charlotte Forten Grimké, Lemuel Haynes, Benjamin Lay, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sojourner Truth, David Walker, Phyllis Wheatley, John Greenleaf Whittier, and John Woolman.

Note: This course fulfills the Area V (Ethics and Values) and Area VI (Literature & Fine Arts) distribution requirements.

Instructor Bio: Ean High’s research and writing join ongoing efforts to revitalize critical knowledge of religious life and expression in the study of American literature. His work has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s Charlotte W. Newcombe Fellowship, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, and the Libraries of Haverford College. His commitment to the classroom has been recognized by a teaching award from the Northwestern English Department.

English 388 – Studies in Literature and Religion: Science Fiction and Social Justice (Post 1830)

Course Description: This course will examine major utopian and dystopian texts and films in relation to social justice issues in the twentieth century and beyond, while following the stories of artists, organizers, and communities that have used speculative world-building to imagine livable, sustainable futures. We will focus on how feminist, anarchist, LGBTQ, and Afrofuturist art and activism have contributed to a substantial critical discourse on the intersections of science, technology, ecology, war, race, gender, sexuality, health, and ability. This course will further examine how artists and activists have understood religion as both impediment and partner to social justice work, while alternatively embracing, subverting, and defying religious authority. We will also attend to how religious myths and imagery are sampled and remixed by science fiction authors to plot an alternative course for world history. Counts towards the Religion, Law & Politics (RPL) and Religion, Sexuality & Gender (RSG) religious studies major concentration.

Teaching Method: Discussion, presentations, readings, writing assignments.

Evaluation Method: Attendance, participation, writing assignments.

Texts include:

Note: This course is combined with Religious Studies 379.

English 397 – Research Seminar: 19th Century American Poetry (Post 1830)

Course Description: Nineteenth-century American poetry has frequently been reduced to the study of two poets--Whitman and Dickinson--who stand apart from the rest by virtue of their eccentricity and extraordinary ambition. This selective account of poetic inheritance has produced the unusual circumstance of a canon that needs to be opened not only to culturally marginal but also to culturally dominant poets and poetic forms. This course integrates the study of Whitman and Dickinson with the study of a vastly expanded canon of American poetry. The course also reads theoretical and critical texts that raise questions about canonization and the formation of literary historical narratives. In its attention to the historical and cultural contexts that poetry variously inscribes and defers, the course repeatedly returns to the oscillation that that word always-already enacts in relation to the texts that lie within it.

Teaching Method: Mostly discussion.

Evaluation Method: Mandatory attendance and active, informed participation. No exams, but possible quizzes. The major work of the course, as in all Research Seminars, is the research and writing of a 15-page research paper that takes as its subject a nineteenth-century book of poetry found in the NU Library stacks or in Special Collections.

Texts Include: Poets may include Joel Barlow, Phillis Wheatley, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Greenleaf Whittier, Lydia Huntley Sigourney, William Cullen Bryant, William Wordsworth, Edgar Allen Poe, Sarah Helen Whitman, Sarah Margaret Fuller.

Prerequisites: Open to juniors and seniors only. Students must successfully complete 5 300-level English courses before taking English 397.

English 220 – The Bible as Literature

Course Description: This course is intended to familiarize students with the most influential text in Western culture, read as a work of literature. We will consider such questions as the variety of literary genres and strategies in the Bible; the historical situation of its writers; the representation of God as a literary character; the Bible as a national epic; the New Testament as a radical reinterpretation of the "Old Testament" (or Hebrew Bible); and the Bible’s overall narrative as a plot with beginning, middle, and end. Since time will not permit a complete reading of the Bible, we will concentrate on those books that display the greatest literary interest and/or historical influence. We will look more briefly at traditional strategies of interpretation and at the processes that went into the construction of the Biblical canon.

Course texts: John B. Gabel, Charles B. Wheeler, Anthony D. York, and David Citino, The Bible as Literature: An Introduction, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), ISBN 978-0-19-517907-1, plus any standard edition of the Bible.

Note: This course is combined with Comp Lit 211-0.

English 300 – Seminar in Reading and Interpretation: The Imaginary History of Nature

Course Description: One of the main projects of modern Western culture has been the attempt to conceptualize the realm called Nature and, in particular, to define the relation of the “natural” world to the human one. In the course of the past several centuries, often sharply incompatible versions of Nature have been produced by the sciences, philosophy, religion, and the various imaginative arts. We will trace a series of these competing visions of Nature and the natural, focusing on the arrays of rhetorical and artistic methods that have been employed to promote each one at the expense of its rivals. The guiding idea of the course is that Nature is not so much a definite area of reality as a malleable imaginary construct invented and forever re-invented for historically variable reasons. The focus in this seminar falls on the nineteenth century, where ideologies of Nature took particularly distinct forms, but we will cover earlier and later materials as well, including an experimental video (wild hogs in a supermarket) and at least one film.

Teaching Method: Discussion.

Evaluation Method: Class participation, several short papers.

Texts include: William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream; sermons of John Wesley; poems by William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats; Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man (excerpts from each); John Stuart Mill, “Nature”; Edmund Gosse, Father and Son; Jack London, The Call of the Wild; Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man (film); Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild.

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore.

Notes: English 300 is an English Literature major and minor requirement. First class mandatory. No P/N registration. This course does NOT fulfill the WCAS Area VI distribution requirement. This course may not be repeated for major or minor credit.

English 300 – Seminar in Reading and Interpretation: For the Love of Literature: Don Quixote and his Daughters

Course DescriptionDon Quixote is often considered the first novel ever written. It tells the story of a country gentleman who reads too many chivalric romances, and fancies himself a knight on a quest for glory. The novel poses some of the most profound questions about the value and importance of literature. Why do we read and love literature, and how does that love manifest itself? How is our view of the world shaped by the fictions we read? Where is the line between fiction and reality? What are the dangers of too much reading? Don’t we need fictions to transfigure the world into the beautiful and noble place we want it to be? Don Quixote – this complex novel, which seems to contain everything in itself – is also a reflection on a rapidly modernizing world. As intimate feudal societies vanish into a mere memory, how are individuals left alienated and feeling like they don’t belong? How can the world be made more humane, welcoming, hospitable as a commercial modernity wreaks havoc on the social bonds between people?

Don Quixote provides the model for innumerable eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels, many of them by and about women, and concerned with women’s alienation from a patriarchal culture at odds with the stories they read. After reading selections from Don Quixote, we will read a range of quixotic novels including Charlotte Lennox’s Female Quixote, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Emma, and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, to understand how they use the new form of the novel to critique and transfigure the cultures they are confronted with: modernity, patriarchy, enlightenment, print culture, market society, scientific realism and much else. Above all, we will ask why storytelling remains indispensable even in a disenchanted modern world.

This class is an introduction to the practice of literary criticism. For each class, we will read short works of criticism alongside the novels, and seek to apply their methods to the analysis of the novels. We will explore a wide range of methods, such as surface reading, distant reading, theory of the novel, genre analysis, cognitive approaches, Marxism, feminism, structuralism, new formalism, and more, to ask what we can learn by studying literature through these lenses. We will find that the novels themselves are highly reflective about novel writing, offering their own theories about the form of the novel, its relation to society, the virtues of realism, and finally, the dangers and possibilities of fiction. Ultimately, this will be a class about how our love of stories both deludes us and gives us hope for a better world.

Notes: English 300 is an English Literature major and minor requirement. First class mandatory. No P/N registration. This course does NOT fulfill the WCAS Area VI distribution requirement. This course may not be repeated for major or minor credit.

English 307 – Advanced Creative Writing: Fabulous Fictions

Course Description: Fabulous Fictions focuses on writing that departs from realism. Often the subject matter of such writing explores states of mind that are referred to as non-ordinary reality. A wide variety of genres and subgenres fall under this heading: fabulism, myth, fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, horror, the grotesque, the supernatural, surrealism, etc. Obviously, in a mere quarter we could not hope to study each of these categories in the kind of detail that might be found in a literature class. The aim in 307 is to discern and employ writing techniques that overarch these various genres, to study the subject through doing—by writing your own fabulist stories. We will read examples of fabulism as writers read: to understand how these fictions are made—studying them from the inside out, so to speak. Many of these genres overlap. For instance, they are all rooted in the tale, a kind of story that goes back to primitive sources. They all speculate: they ask the question, What If? They all are stories that demand invention, which, along with the word transformation, will be a key term in the course. The invention might be a monster, a method of time travel, an alien world, etc., but with rare exceptions the story will demand an invention and that invention will often also be the central image of the story. So, in discussing how these stories work we will also be learning some of the most basic, primitive moves in storytelling. To get you going I will be bringing in exercises that employ fabulist techniques and hopefully will promote stories. These time-tested techniques will be your entrances—your rabbit holes and magic doorways—into the figurative. You will be asked to keep a dream journal, which will serve as basis for one of the exercises. Besides the exercises, two full-length stories will be required, as well as written critiques of one another’s work. Because we all serve to make up an audience for the writer, attendance is mandatory.

Prerequisites: Prerequisite English 206. No P/N registration. Attendance at first class is mandatory.

English 308 – Advanced Nonfiction Writing: The Video Essay

Course Description: In this course we will practice a cutting-edge form of nonfiction at the intersection of literature, documentary, experimental film and video art. We will apply literary techniques to the composition of short multimedia essays and explore the many ways in which writing with images and sound differs from writing for the page. Like its print counterpart, the video essay is an attempt to see what one thinks about something. The video essay may engage with fact, but tends to be less self-assured than documentary. Rather, the video essay, writes Phillip Lopate, “wears confusion proudly as it gropes toward truth.” Agnes Varda, the poetic French filmmaker who coined the term cinécriture, or film writing, best described the promise of the form when noting that, for her, writing meant more than simply wording a script. Choosing images, designing sound—these, too, were part of that process. At its best, the video essay leverages the visceral power of sound and image, builds a sympathetic resonance with language, and enlivens the senses. The goal of this course is to better understand how the act of writing with media, while still driven by language, is shaped by visual and sonic elements. We will author our own short video essays and will, in the process, learn to record and edit video, produce layered soundscapes, use our voices as tools of performance, and make our films visible to the world.

English 312 – Caryl Churchill: Techniques and Provocations

Course Description: The New Yorker proclaims that Caryl Churchill “is the greatest playwright alive and one of the most elusive.” Since she came to international prominence in 1979 each new work has rocked expectations: her subjects and theatrical treatments are unorthodox and ever-changing. Many of her scenarios teeter on the brink between farce and catastrophe, utilizing a mixture of realistic and starkly non-realist techniques to pose challenging questions about the timeliest questions of the day (gender identity, rapacious capitalism, environmental degradation, migrancy and refuge, and totalitarianism). This course will provide a systematic introduction to understanding a selection of Churchill’s full-length works and shorter plays in the light of her activism and experimentation, touching also on her major influences from the theatre and philosophy.

Teaching Method: Seminar/lecture/discussion

Evaluation Method: Participant, written critiques, analytical essay

Texts include:

Caryl Churchill, Plays One
Caryl Churchill, Plays Four
Caryl Churchill, Shorts

Other texts on Canvas Texts will be available at:
Norris Bookstore

Note: This course is combined with Theatre 340-0.

English 313 – Studies in Fiction: Desire and Danger in the 19th Century Novel (Post 1830)

Course Description: Desire is the field in which we put our very identity, autonomy and independence at risk.  And yet romantic and erotic desire are the motors not only of social relations but of narratives and fiction.  How do our desires and the characters’ desires entwine in the phenomenon we call “narrative desire?”  And what are the dangers of identifying with the characters and outcomes of a supremely “plotted” world?  We will look at four classic novels in which the dangers of desire are figured, variously, as class snobbery, identity theft, sexual violence, betrayal, and vampirism!

Evaluation Method:  three papers (3, 5, 7 pages); 2 brief seminar reports; class participation.

Texts Include:

English 313 – Studies in Fiction: The Arabian Nights (Post 1830/TTC)

Course Description: In this course we will study the collection of stories known in English as The Arabian Nights orThe Thousand and One Nights. While in the contemporary popular imagination the Nights is often reduced to a few well-known stories, this course will take a wider approach to the collection, and study it as the product of an ongoing process of translation, circulation, and exchange. Over the quarter, we will read the earliest of these stories, as well as follow the collection's history from its evolution in Arabic oral and manuscript traditions to its eighteenth- century "discovery" and translation into European languages. While the collection has been called a “book with no author” because of its long history of oral and textual evolution, it could just as easily be called a book of many authors, who include its anonymous Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic originators and transmitters, its French and English translators, and its modern interpreters. The last third of the course will therefore be devoted to the modern “afterlives” of the collection in novels, film, and theater. We will consider how the Nights has been used in these works as a vehicle for deeply-considered investigations into narrative form and also clichéd and colonially-imbued images of the Middle East. Reading and watching these works next to and against the Arabic versions, we will encounter the vast variety of ways that the Nights has been a source of narrative techniques, literary themes, political allegories, and feminist debates across literary traditions.

Teaching Method: Seminar. 

Evaluation Method: Essay exam, short paper, final essay .

Texts include: Muhsin Mahdi, ed., The Arabian Nights (Norton Edition); Muhsin Mahdi, ed., Sindbad and Other Stories; Hassan Blasim, The Corpse Exhibition. 

Texts will be available at: Norris.

Note: This course is combined with Comp Lit 301, Humanities 370-6, and MENA 390-6.

English 322 – Medieval Drama (Pre 1830)

Course DescriptionThe earliest surviving English drama was performed in honor of the religious festival of Corpus Christi (Christ’s Body). Each pageant was staged on a wagon that was pulled through the city streets, and presented an episode of sacred history, beginning with the Creation at dawn and ending with the Last Judgment, performed by torchlight. Each episode was sponsored by a particular craft guild, and the allocation of these episodes created complicated, and sometimes deliberately comic, relationships between the audience, the actors, and the roles they played. The shipwrights, perhaps predictably, use the York Building of the Ark pageant to advertise their wares. But in the York Crucifixion, the carpenters represent themselves as incompetent woodworkers who compound Jesus’s suffering by being comically bad at their job of building a cross and nailing Jesus to it. When Jesus finally speaks from the cross to say “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” he thus refers to their craftsmanship as well as their sin. In the nearby town of Chester, the cloth-makers were responsible not only for the spectacular costume of the Serpent, with a woman’s face, feathered body, and snake’s tale, but also for the clothes Adam and Eve put on after the Fall, marking their loss of innocence. In this course we will read a selection of pageants from the York, Chester, and Wakefield Corpus Christi cycles before considering morality plays such as Mankind and Everyman and topical plays such as the Croxton Play of the Sacrament. Where the cycle plays were civic celebrations using amateur actors, the morality and topical plays seem to have toured as money-making ventures. As such, they sometimes encourage their audiences to choose vice over virtue, even as they worry – sometimes playfully, sometimes solemnly, sometimes gruesomely – that even salvation can be bought and sold.

Course Text: David Bevington, Medieval Drama (either the 1975 edition, ISBN 978-0395139158, or the 2012 reprint, ISBN 978-1603848381)

English 332 – Renaissance Drama: Playing and Plotting London and the World, c. 1600 (Pre 1830/TTC)

Course DescriptionThis class considers the impulse to detail the familiar and the strange in relation to each other in the performance cultures of early modern England.  Visiting London from Basel around 1599, Thomas Platter observed that “the English don’t much care to travel abroad, but prefer to experience foreign affairs at home, in their plays.”  And in fact the playhouses of this time were full of merchants of Venice, massacres in Paris, Spanish tragedies, and places even further from home, the courts of Persia, the markets of Constantinople, and the Holy Land.  One play from the same time asks rhetorically, “Had not ye rather, for novelty’s sake, see Jerusalem ye never saw, than London that ye see hourly?”  At the same time, though, and often in the same plays, playgoers examined the city of London and its customs with a new care.  London and the world, the close and the faraway, were made perspectives for grasping each other as spatial, corporal experiences, through plotting and playing.  These plays represent life both close and distant, and map new environments and new experiences linguistically, visually, and physically.  We will also make use of digital mapping resources to place these plays for ourselves.

Teaching Method: Largely discussion.

Evaluation Method: Papers or equivalent projects; some group work on mapping or “plotting” projects.

Texts include: Heywood, Four Prentices of London; Chapman, Jonson, and Marston, Eastward Ho!; Dekker and Webster, Westward Ho!; Day, Rowley, and Wilkins, Travels of Three English Brothers, as well as others

Texts will be available at: Beck’s.

Note: This course is combined with Comp Lit 303.

English 338 – Studies in Renaissance Literature: Early Modern Sexualities (Pre 1830/ICSP)

Course DescriptionThis course explores the history of sex and sexualities -- in all their variety -- in English Renaissance literature and culture.  Before the homo/hetero divide, before what Michel Foucault calls as "the implantation of the perverse," before genders in their modern forms, what were the routes, locations, effects, and politics of sex and desire? To what extent can we discuss "sexuality" in relation to "identity" in the pre-modern era? To address these complex questions, and to begin to ask new ones, we will concentrate on a range of exemplary literary and historical texts from around 1600 in England.  We will be interested to explore both the multiple forms and functions of desire, eroticism, sex, gender, etc. in this culture, as well as the terms, methods, and theories we now use to read the sexual past. We will be particularly interested in gaining fluency in the seemingly familiar but simultaneously foreign languages of early modern identities and desires: sodomy, tribadism, friendship, marriage; bodies, their parts, and their pleasures.

Teaching Method: Participatory seminar with some mini-lectures.

Evaluation Method:  Papers, preparation for seminar, participation in seminar.

Texts include: (tentative list as of 4/19, some texts in required course reader).

Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1 (ISBN: 0679724699); Donne, "Sapho to Philaenis"; Ovid, Metamorphoses (sel.); Marlowe, Hero and Leander; Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis; Beaumont(?), Salmacis and Hermaphroditus; Montaigne, "Of Friendship"; Shakespeare and Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen (978-0671722968); Marlowe, Edward II (0747543798); Herrup, A House in Gross Disorder (0195139259); Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (978-0-7434-8496-1); Margaret Cavendish, The Convent of Pleasure; Beaumont and Fletcher, Love's Cure; additional historical and theoretical texts.

Texts will be available at: Beck's Books Evanston; Quartet Copies.

Note: This course is combined with Gender Studies 361-0.

English 339 – Special Topics in Shakespeare: Shakespeare: Global, Local, Digital (Pre 1830/TTC)

Course Description: Performance, Imitation, Interpretation, Adaptation. What happens when Shakespeare’s plays time travel, migrate across the globe, mutate into new forms, and reach audiences through new media? From Renaissance London to 21-st century India, from apartheid South Africa to modern China, readers have remade Shakespeare’s plays to address their own local issues. In this class we will reflect on the adaptation and appropriation of Shakespeare in cultures of the world across various scales, from the local to the global, and through a range of media—from the latest digital platforms to traditional forms like print, theater, and film. Like Shakespeare’s plays, our conversations will take place in multiple venues and from multiple perspectives, from the traditional classroom to the digital media lab, from the rare books room of the Newberry Library to the stages of Chicago’s theaters. We will consider how Othello, Macbeth, and The Merchant of Venice have been continually reinvented across the globe in many media, exploring texts like Shishir Kurup’s Merchant on Venice, Toni Morrison’s Desdemona, Msomi’s uMabatha, Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, the teen film O, and scenes from films including Throne of Blood and Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti, Te (the Maori Merchant of Venice). Our exploration will culminate with students collaborating to build a digital curation of Shakespeare's works.
Teaching Method: Discussion

Evaluation Method: Papers, presentations, digital curation

Texts include:

Note: This course is combined with Humanities 325-6.

English 340 – Restoration and the 18th Century: Sex, Violence, and Consent (Pre 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: This class will examine foundational articulations of feminine sexual consent and their failings.  From the perspective of literary history in the “long” eighteenth century (roughly 1660 – 1820), we will track constructions of sexual violence, coercion, and consent in Britain and its colonies.  Social contract theorists like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke base political power on consent, not force; but they exempt domestic power—the power of husbands over wives, fathers over children, masters over servants and slaves—from contractual reform.  The uneven development of liberal patriarchy is distilled in an ostensibly free woman’s agency:  she can agree to marry, but become a wife or feme covert, she grants her husband sexual access to her body irrespective of her desire.  Even more constitutively repressed by the liberal polis is the intimate violence endured by enslaved African women.  This class will also consider pornographic constructions of women’s anatomy as figurations of feminine consent and pleasure; representations of sex work; sexual violence, rape law, and constraint (within and outside slavery); and women’s queer desire and resistance to marriage.  As a survey of literature in the period, this class will include poetry, drama, prose fiction, and political philosophy, as well as some contemporary criticism.

A tentative, non-exhaustive list of texts includes:  anonymous prostitute narratives; Mary Astell, Some Reflections on Marriage; Aphra Behn, “The Rover,” “The Amorous Prince,” “The Lucky Chance,” and/ or “The Dutch Lover”; John Cleland, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure; Daniel Defoe, Roxana; John Dryden, “Amboyna”; Marisa Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives (excerpt); Eliza Haywood, Love in Excess; Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection (excerpt);  Mary Hays, The Victim of Prejudice; John Locke, Two Treatises of Government; Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract; Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile (Chapter 5); Thomas Shadwell, “The Libertine”; Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe:  An American Grammar Book”; Jonathan Swift, “The Lady’s Dressing Room,” Strephon and Chloe,” “A Beautiful Young Nymph Preparing for Bed”; Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary or Maria.

English 344 – 18th Century Fiction: Jane Austen Judges the 18th Century (Pre 1830)

Course DescriptionThe enduring appeal of Jane Austen’s novels is due in part to the fact that the historical and cultural debates in which she intervened are very much the same ones that confront us today: tradition v innovation, parental authority v filial obligation, customary social bonds v contractual relations, emotion v reason, the role of women in society, the value of the arts. This class will provide an in-depth look at Jane Austen’s development as a writer, in the context of the “culture wars” in Britain in the 1790s, in the wake of the French Revolution. We will begin by reading Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in order to better understand how Austen navigates the treacherous waters of the revolution controversies, and develops her own idiosyncratic solution to these social crises. Arguments abound about whether Austen is a conservative or progressive writer, but we will find that these conventional categories are inadequate to understand her inventive approach to the social upheavals of her day.

We will read a range of Austen’s novels, including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. But we will also have the opportunity to read some of Austen’s precocious juvenilia, selections from her letters, a sampling of her unfinished works (Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon), memoirs, and contemporary criticism. Our goal will be to understand the experimental and fluid nature of Austen’s thought, as well as the way in which she transformed the history of the novel.

Throughout, we will focus especially on the problem of “judgment” as it plays out in enlightenment and counter-enlightenment thought. Enlightenment progressives condemn pre-judice and want everyone to judge for themselves, but conservatives understand the importance of custom, tradition and experience for developing judgment. Austen is one of the few in the period to have grasped the full scope of the problem. Working against the seductions of eighteenth-century sentimentality and the romance plot which threaten a reader’s capacity for judgment, Austen designs narratives that compel her readers to engage in a sophisticated practice of judgment and evaluation. Some of Austen’s most distinctive narrative strategies, such as “free indirect discourse,” are in the service of a pedagogy of judgment that is at the heart of her novelistic project. The supple and attentive strategies of judgment she honed in her novels are as relevant today against a reductive scientism and disoriented aestheticism as they were when Austen first penned them.

Note: This course will be significantly different from previous iterations of the course I have taught under the same title.

English 358 – Dickens (Post 1830)

Course Description: In this course we will consider Dickens, "arguably second only to Shakespeare in the pantheon of English writers," as an analyst of the troubled social, psychological, and spiritual patterns of modern life, trying to see how his innovations in novelistic technique (notably his development of veins of lunatic comedy that can only be called "dickensian") arise from and at the same time give form to his vividly idiosyncratic vision of modernity.

Evaluation Method: Evaluation based on class presentations and participation, quizzes, and a term

Texts Include: David Copperfield (1849-50); Bleak House (1852-53); and Little Dorrit (1855-57).

Note: The instructor disclaims responsibility for any cases of addiction to reading Victorian fiction
traceable to this course.

English 366 – Studies in African American Literature: Black Feminist World-Making (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: Black Feminist World-Making examines the long and rich tradition of world-making in black feminist fiction and non-fiction. It prioritizes and how, why, and when black feminist authors and critics engage in the imaginative practice of world-making to imagine new and altogether different worlds than those we know. It asks students to think about how an archive centering black women’s writing alters, augments, and confounds our very ideas about time, space, and relationality. We will take a long view of these practices, considering the critical work of black feminist writers and theorists who came of age in the mid-century, including Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and Barbara Christian, and comparing their world-making practices to those of millennial black feminists, including N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and Beyoncé.

Teaching Method: Seminar-style discussion

Evaluation Method: 2 papers; 1 Oral Presentation

Texts include: Texts include Toni Morrison, Beloved; Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood, N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season; Beyoncé, Lemonade; Janelle Monae, Dirty Computer

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore

Note: This course is combined with AFAM 380-0-20.

English 366 – Studies in African American Literature: Passing In/Around American Culture

Course Description: This course examines the various modes, methods, and interpretations that fall under the sign “passing” in American culture, from the nineteenth-century to the present. In addition to classic stories of crossing the colorline, we will read art, music, and other media and criticism in which passing poses the ideal medium to discuss social difference. Broad pertinent topics include: enslavement and the afterlives of slavery; performance; class; appropriation; transness; digital cultures; blackness; disability; cartoons.

Note: This course is combined with AFAM 380-0-24.

English 368 – Studies in 20th Century Literature: Ulysses (Post 1830)

Course Description: An encyclopedic epic that tracks three Dubliners' crisscrossing adventures on 16 June 1904, James Joyce's landmark Ulysses captures a day in the life of a semicolonial city in a wealth of analytic--in his word, vivisective--detail. Proposing that Ulysses has much to teach us about how to read our own everyday worlds, we'll study the book's eighteen episodes alongside sources, annotations, and commentaries. In thinking about Ulysses' fictional Dublin, we'll consider such matters as Joyce's transmutation of Homer's Odyssey and his own actual Dublin into a modern epic quest; Ireland's long colonial history and its struggle to throw off British rule; characters' conflicting dreams of a subject or sovereign Ireland; home, exile, and homecoming; psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious and "the psychopathology of everyday life" (Freud); scapegoat dynamics in theory and everyday practice; bodies, food, peristalsis, hunger, sex; desire, the gaze, gender, gesture, dress and social power; performance--studied and unconscious--and theatricality; the pain and mourning of loss; the power of love; the scalpel of wit; the social life and political bite of jokes, comedy, humor; the socio-economic sex/gender system, including marriage and prostitution, as key to political authority in light of Joyce's reported remark that women's emancipation is "the greatest revolution of our time in the most important relationship there is"; intersubjective dynamics, human and animal, dead and alive; history, time, memory, monuments; the powers and pleasures of language; the play of inner and spoken voices amid the chameleonesque narrative styles--interior monologue, dialogue, colloquy, reported speech, telling silences, omniscient authority, poetry, news, advertising, jokes, parody, obfuscation, song, music, play script, letters, catechism, allusion, citation, noises, soundscapes from the cat's mrkgnao to a screeching tram; Joyce's worldly, inventive English; and so on. We'll approach this challenging, maddening, amazing, exhilarating, funny, deeply rewarding book in ways playful and critical, jocoserious and analytic, and engage it with serious purpose and imaginative freedom in search of treasure and revelation.

Teaching Method: Lecture and discussion.

Evaluation Method: Attendance, preparation, participation (20%); Canvas discussions (25%); class presentation (15%); option of course papers and projects or a final exam (40%).

Texts Include: 

English 368 – Studies in 20th Century Literature: Gender and Horror (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course DescriptionA longstanding source of fascination for feminist cultural critics, horror movies frequently highlight issues of gender and power. How is an audience affected by watching women’s bodies subjected to violence on screen? What forms of femininity and masculinity get depicted as dangerous or monstrous? Who do we perceive as expendable, and with whom do we identify? In our discussions, we will consider these questions as we analyze a selection of classic and contemporary horror movies. Alongside these films, our readings will introduce some of the major debates in feminist cultural studies. We will explore how feminists look at film in relation to issues of embodiment, desire, identity, and violence, and we’ll debate the particular possibilities and pitfalls horror brings to gendered representation.

Teaching Methods: discussion, collaborative group work

Evaluation Methods: participation, two short analytical papers (5 pages each), final essay (8-10 pages)

Texts Include: Halloween (1978), Alien (1979), Slumber Party Massacre (1983), 28 Days Later (2002), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), Get Out (2017).

Note: This course is combined with Gender Studies 373-0-20.

Instructor Bio: Erin Andrews’ research and teaching interests include speculative fiction and sci-fi, American literature, gender and sexuality studies, and popular culture studies. At Northwestern, she has taught in both the English and Gender & Sexuality Studies Departments on topics including 20th and 21st century literature, feminist and queer theories, and film. Her courses center interdisciplinary teaching methods, with a focus on creating opportunities for students to make connections between assigned literary and theoretical texts and their larger historical, political, and cultural contexts. Her current book project focuses on post-World War II American science fiction, and it explores the relationships between the sci-fi genre and U.S. military power.

English 372 – American Poetry: Walt Whitman and the Democratic Imaginary (Post 1830/TTC)

Course Description: This course will focus on the intersections between democratic revolution and revolutionary poetics in Walt Whitman’s writings.  We will focus in particular on Whitman’s democratic experiments with the language, style, and forms of poetry, and his daring representation of such subjects as the dignity of labor and the working classes, the body, sex, race, technology, comradeship, war, America, the globe, and the cosmos.  We will begin by exploring the sources of Whitman’s 1855 Leaves of Grass in the social and political struggles of his time.  We will consider the fascinating intersections between personal and political crisis, homoeroticism and poetic experimentation in the 1860 Leaves of Grass.  We will also look at Whitman’s attempts to find new forms to give voice to the simultaneous carnage and intimacy of the Civil War as the first modern war in Drum-Taps and Sequel (1865).  And we will conclude by reflecting on Whitman’s struggle in his later writings to reconcile the revolutionary dream of democracy with a post-Civil War world increasingly dominated by the unleashed forces of economic expansion, materialism, selfism, and greed.  The course will end with readings of poets and writers from Ginsberg to Neruda in the United States and elsewhere who continue to “talk back” to Whitman.

Teaching Method: some lecture; mostly discussion.

Evaluation Methods: Essay (3-4 pages); essay (8-10 pages); final examination.

Texts Include: Walt Whitman: Poetry and Prose.

Textbooks available at: Norris Book Center.

English 375 – Topics in Asian American Literature: Techno-Orientalism (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: Techno-Orientalism names a variant of Orientalism that associates Asians with a technological future. This seminar will explore how Techno-Orientalist tropes are used by, played with, and rewritten by Asian American authors. We will study how twentieth-century and contemporary issues of technology, globalization, and financial speculation collide with a history of yellow peril and Asian Invasion discourse, as well as how these tensions manifest in figures and tropes such as robots, aliens, and cybernetics. Texts include poetry, novels, short stories, comics, and film.

Teaching Method: Seminar-based discussions.

Evaluation Method: Active participation; in-class presentation; regular reading responses; two short essays; and one longer essay.

Texts include:

Texts will be available at: Primary texts will be available at Norris Bookstore. All course readings besides the primary texts will be available in a course reader available at Quartet Copies.

Note: Co-listed with Asian American Studies 376-0.

English 378 – Studies in American Literature: American Fiction in the 1950s (Post 1830)

Course Description: This course reads deeply within the American 1950s, a decade which saw the publication of big books, from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) to Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat (1957). Focusing on the writings of James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Patricia Highsmith, we will investigate the ways their writing takes up adolescence, race, self-discovery, fear, sexuality, and personal courage in the mid twentieth century. How do the concerns of these authors ignore, redirect, and bear witness to the major public issues of the day? What does it mean to be a critical, cult, or commercial success in the 1950s? To answer these questions, we will read pulp novels, best-sellers, poems, a picture book, and a few short stories, in addition to viewing at least two films.

Teaching Method: Discussion, collaborative group work.

Evaluation Method: Two short, exploratory essays; and one longer essay (6-8 pages). Preparation and participation, weekly reading response.

Texts include: Readings will include James Baldwin, Go Tell it on the Mountain; Gwendolyn Brooks, Annie Allen and Maud Martha; Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt; and E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.

Texts will be available at: Norris campus bookstore.

Instructor Bio: Ean High’s research and writing join ongoing efforts to revitalize critical knowledge of religious life and expression in the study of American literature. His work has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s Charlotte W. Newcombe Fellowship, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, and the Libraries of Haverford College. His commitment to the classroom has been recognized by a teaching award from the Northwestern English Department.

English 383 – Studies in Theory and Criticism: Cultures of Information: Neoliberalism, Affect, and Global Media (Post 1830/TTC)

Course Description: What does the information age feel like? This course traces the rise of hyper-modernized cultures of information that developed in Japan and in the Western world and shaped so much of contemporary culture since the late twentieth century. It does so not only by attending to the advent of new technologies that define this period, but also to "neoliberalism": an economic and political paradigm prizing the creation of new markets and a focus on the productivity and care of the self. Evolving unevenly in different contexts, neoliberalism values market exchange as, David Harvey writes, “an ethic in itself,” which has come to shape certain forms of the political, affective, and aesthetic experience of the contemporary moment. In this course we will attend to a variety of aesthetic texts in literature, film, and games that will allow us to follow the history of neoliberalism in its global, national, and aesthetic contexts.

Note: This course is combined with Humanities 370-6-20 and Asian Languages & Cultures 390-0-20 and is co-taught by Professors Hodge and Noonan (Asian Languages and Cultures).

English 386 – Studies in Literature and Film: Tales of Oil and Water (Post 1830/TTC)

Course Description: What can a dystopian film like 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road tell us about how to change our actions, today? How can we recognize urgent questions from our own world in such a surreal cinematic assault on the senses? How do such imaginary prophecies of near-future worlds "memorialize" the present? As interlocking narratives of globalization, resource competition, and ecological crisis collide in the news, the natural resources on which human lives and social relationships depend have increasingly preoccupied recent fiction, film, and criticism. Whether it’s a question of “too much” or “not enough” — of deluge or scarcity — the tales we will read and watch together in this course depict resource wars and dystopian imaginaries through everyday, intimate events and encounters. They zoom in, in other words, from geopolitical power struggles caused by oil and water, to their effects on a human scale — helping us see how our actions count in both distantly mediated and effectively immediate ways. Featuring stories composed of fast-paced action, futuristic sci-fi, film noir mystery, devastating satire, and the aesthetics of the surreal, these works cannot be captured by a single mood. Instead, they collectively intensify our awareness of the ecological path we are on, as if to say: remember this tomorrow. Our discussions of essays, novels, stories and films will be guided by how each represents pressing problems of compromise and control, agency and activism, competition and coexistence, in a "now" viewed as the future's past.

Required Texts (available at Beck’s Bookstore or online):

Recommended Texts (available at Beck’s Bookstore or online):

Note: This course is combined with Comp Lit 302-0.

English 397 – Research Seminar: The Age of Imperialism: Theory, History, Literature

Course Description:  Nothing marks the modern world so much as the devastating and disruptive effects of imperialism.  An understanding of this complex phenomenon is vital not only for an understanding of modern history and geography, but also for modern literature.  Lenin and Arendt draw diametrically opposed interpretations of Hobson’s original theory of imperialism:  while Lenin understands imperialism as the last stage of capitalism, Arendt believes it is the first stage of rule by the bourgeoisie.  At stake in this debate, at least for Arendt, is the ability of an interpretation of imperialism to explicate works of literature written under imperialist conditions.  With a focus on the “Age of Imperialism” (especially the “scramble for Africa” and “the Great Game”), we will begin the class with an examination of some of the central theories and interpretations of European imperialism (those of Marx, Hobson, Lenin, and Arendt); continue with an exploration of the historical conditions of certain imperialized regions (India, Congo Free State, and Nigeria); and make use of both inquiries as we confront some of the most lucid and powerful literary encounters with imperialism in this century, including works by Kipling, Conrad, Achebe, and Desai.

Teaching Method:  Brief lectures and discussion

Evaluation Method:  Two in-class presentations (one collaborative, one independent); research dossier developed over the course of the quarter; final research paper.

Required Texts: Texts will likely include theoretical writings and novels by Hobson, Lenin, Arendt, Kipling, Conrad, Achebe, and Desai.

Prerequisites: Open to juniors and seniors only. Students must successfully complete 5 300-level English courses before taking English 397.

English 275 – Introduction to Asian American Literature

Course Description: Asian American, Asian-American, Asian/American: from Chinese Americans to Hmong Americans to mixed race Asian Americans, from fourth-generation Californians to cosmopolitan college students, from desert internment camps to New York City office buildings, what do the many subjects and locations of Asian American literature tell us about the capaciousness of the category itself? This class has two goals—first, providing an overview of literature written by Asian Americans in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries and placing these texts in conversation with key concepts from Asian American culture and history. Second, interrogating the constructed, pan-ethnic nature of Asian American identity, a category that came into use only in the 1960s as a coalitional entity defined by shared histories of labor, discrimination, and national and cultural unbelonging.

This class does not presume prior knowledge of Asian American literature. Key terms and concepts we will cover include: representation, identity, authenticity, aesthetics, labor, globalization, assimilation, and canonicity. In the process, we will familiarize ourselves with the richness and diversity of Asian American literature by considering a variety of genres, including short stories, documentaries, novels, speculative fictions, and memoirs.

Teaching Method(s): Lecture, Discussion.

Evaluation Method(s): Regular reading responses; two short essays; one long essay; active class participation.

Texts (subject to change; please confirm final text list on Canvas before purchasing):

Texts will be available at: Primary texts will be available at the Norris Bookstore and on reserve in the library. Other texts will be available in a required course packet available at Quartet Copies.

English 300 – Seminar in Reading and Interpretation: Taking Comedy Seriously

Course Description: What is comedy? Ever since Aristotle’s promised account of comedy, written to follow his famous discussion of tragedy in Poetics, accidentally got lost, comedy has suffered from genre confusion in the shadow of its allegedly more serious double, tragedy. On the one hand, the source of comedy’s appeal seems to go without saying. On the other, maybe for that very reason, comedy has rarely gotten the same kind of serious attention as other forms of writing and performance, and some of its sharpest theorists are also its greatest creators. Is it the same as what is funny? Is it just a happy ending? What is happiness, anyway? Who knows? This two-thousand-year indecision makes comedy an ideal topic for a course to explore tactics of reading and interpretation. We will read comedies from Aristophanes to modern sit comes, and weigh against them some of comedy’s theories, including formal, historical, social, anthropological, and psychological approaches.

Teaching Method(s): Mostly discussion-based.

Evaluation Method(s): Several short writing assignments; final project

Texts include: Aristophanes, Birds; Terence, Eunuchus; Shakespeare, As You Like It; Behn, The Rover; Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest; Gleason, The Honeymooners; Stoppard, Arcadia; Vogel, How I Learned to Drive

Texts will be available at: Beck’s.

English 300 – Seminar in Reading and Interpretation: Bad Books

Course Description: What makes a book bad? Having a harmful moral lesson? Being poorly written? Once we decide a book is bad, what should we do with it? Is official censorship the answer? Should publishers be boycotted? How should we decide what is acceptable to teach in a classroom setting—and to what extent should this depend on the age of the students? These questions have been argued over since Plato declared that the poets should be excluded from his utopian city. They are no less pressing in our own day, when commitments to free speech run up against anger at harmful racial and other stereotypes in literature. In this course, you will have to opportunity to examine arguments about what constitutes “bad” literature from a range of historical and cultural contexts. Even as you read and analyze arguments about the literary and moral value of particular books, you will have to the opportunity to construct your own arguments in response and grapple with the real difficulties that books can present—especially when they clash with values that we ourselves hold dear.

Teaching Method(s): Lecture and discussion.

Evaluation Method(s): Active participation in discussion, Canvas posts, one short paper, one longer paper, collaborative project.

Texts include: Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, George Orwell, 1984, Salman Rushdie, Satanic Verses, Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, and essays including Chinua Achebe, “Racism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” John Milton, “Areopagitica,” and selections from Plato’s Republic.

Texts will be available at: Norris and Canvas

English 300 – Seminar in Reading and Interpretation: James Joyce's Works and Worlds

Course Description: In this seminar we'll study selected works of James Joyce (1882-1941) as a field for developing and practicing close-reading and critical skills across a range of literary genres: lyric poems (Chamber Music), short stories (Dubliners), epiphanies (Giacomo Joyce), play (Exiles), the education- and artist-novel (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), selected episodes of the epic Ulysses, widely considered the twentieth century's most influential novel; critical and historical essays ("Ibsen's New Drama," "Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages"), and a small sampling of the radical experimental language of Finnegans Wake. Alongside them, we'll study model literary historical and critical approaches to Joyce's works that engage Ireland's long colonial history and struggle for sovereignty; biographical documents and biography; modernist patronage, print culture, censorship, publication, and Joyce's ongoing world reception history, including translation; theoretical works (Freud, Althusser, Derrida, Lacan, Butler, genetic criticism); literary antecedents (Odyssey, Dante, Hamlet, Blake, Swinburne); and relations to contemporaries (Yeats, Eliot, Woolf, Pound). Students will build toward designing and completing seminar projects that combine research and/or theoretical questions with critical close reading.

Evaluation Method: Faithful attendance; informed, engaged participation; exercises; formal analysis of a speech, exchange, or scene (2-3 pp.); critical essay using two different approaches (5-6 pp.); class presentation; final project (8-10 pp.); self-evaluation.

Texts include:  TBA. Additional required and recommended readings via NUCat, Canvas, and Library Reserve.

Textbooks will be available at: Norris

English 306 – Advanced Poetry Writing: Theory and Practice of Poetry in Translation

Course Description: A combination of seminar and workshop. Together we will translate several short poems and study theoretical approaches to literary translation and practical accounts by literary translators.  We will approach language, poems, poetics, culture and theoretical issues and problems in relation to each other. Your written work will be due in different forms during the course.  In your final portfolio, you will present revised versions of your translations and a research paper on translation.

Prerequisite: A reading knowledge of a second language and experience reading literature in that language.  If you are uncertain about your qualifications, please e-mail the instructor at to describe them.  Experience writing creatively is welcome, especially in poetry writing courses in the English Department.

Teaching Method: Discussion; group critique of draft translations; oral presentations by students.

Evaluation Method: Written work ("Canvas" responses to reading, draft translations, revised translations, and final papers) as well as class participation should demonstrate students’ growing understanding of translation as a practice and as a way of reading poetry and engaging with larger theoretical ideas about literature.

Texts include: Essays on translation by a number of critics, scholars and translators, in two published volumes and on the Course Management web site ("Canvas”).

Note: This course is combined with COMP_LIT 311-0 and COMP_LIT 414-0.

English 307 – Advance Creative Writing

Course Description: TBA

English 309 – Advanced Creative Cross-Genre Writing: The Art of Obsession

Course Description: Much of writing is made up of obsessions. We might use our obsession as catalyst and fuel, something that gets us writing and, if lucky, keeps us writing. And sometimes we write about our obsession directly, hoping (perhaps futilely) to be purged free of it, once and for all. Susan Sontag, while talking about writing and the writer’s life, said it simply: “You have to be obsessed. It’s not something you’d want to be—it’s rather something you couldn’t help but be.” In this course we’ll explore “obsession” from two main angles: personally and textually. On the personal level, and as a way to get us started, we’ll discuss and identify subjects we keep returning to—from harmless infatuations to downright obsessions. Is Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo or the soundtrack from Mama Mia playing nonstop on your headphones, for example? Is there a painting you keep seeing in your mind’s eye? What exactly is your relationship with a well-made cheeseburger? What is the chronic conflict of your life? On a textual level, we’ll read stories, essays, and books that deal with obsession in one form or another, or reveal the linguistic obsessions the author held while writing them.

Students will have the option to write a creative non-fiction essay or a short story. This class is for serious writers who are unafraid of taking real risks, unafraid of true rewrites/revisions, unafraid of working hard toward turning a good story or an essay into a great one.

Teaching Method: Workshop.

Evaluation Method: Creative writing assignments, peer-reviews, and reading responses, workshop participation.

Text Include: Coursepack and books.

Coursepack will be available at: Quartet Copies

Instructor Bio: Nami Mun was raised in Seoul, South Korea and Bronx, New York. She is the author of the novel Miles from Nowhere, which received a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, a Hopwood Award, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers and the Asian American Literary Award. Some of Nami’s honors include fellowships from University of Michigan, Northwestern University, The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Bread Loaf and Tin House. Miles from Nowhere went on to become a national bestseller. Nami’s work can be found in Granta, Tin House, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, The Iowa Review, the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation, among others. Previously, she has worked as an Avon Lady, a street vendor, a photojournalist, a waitress, an activities coordinator for a nursing home, and a criminal defense investigator.

English 313 – Studies in Fiction: Science Fiction (Post 1830/TTC)

Course Description: This course provides a literary introduction to science fiction. Beginning with its 19th century origins in gothic fiction and adventure narratives, we will trace the development of science fiction through its early 20th century boom as a pulp form, its mid-century emergence as a recognizable literary genre, and its late 20th century adoption as a venue for exploring identity politics. How have longstanding genre themes like technological innovation and futuristic social progress endured or changed over time? How have explorations of race, gender, and sexuality been important to the genre’s development? How has sci-fi shaped the wider social world in realms like scientific research, political rhetoric, fan cultures, and popular media? We will consider these questions as we survey a selection of novels and short stories by major science fiction authors.

Teaching Methods: short lectures, discussion, collaborative group work

Evaluation Methods: participation, two analytical papers (6-7 pages each), final essay (7-9 pages)

Texts Include: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick; The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin; Binti by Nedi Okorafor.

Short fiction selections will include work by H.G. Wells, Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, James Tiptree Jr., and Octavia Butler.

Texts Will Be Available At: All novels will be available at the Northwestern University Bookstore. All short fiction will be posted on the course Canvas site.

Instructor Bio: Erin Andrews’ research and teaching interests include speculative fiction and sci-fi, American literature, gender and sexuality studies, and popular culture studies. At Northwestern, she has taught in both the English and Gender & Sexuality Studies Departments on topics including 20th and 21st century literature, feminist and queer theories, and film. Her courses center interdisciplinary teaching methods, with a focus on creating opportunities for students to make connections between assigned literary and theoretical texts and their larger historical, political, and cultural contexts. Her current book project focuses on post-World War II American science fiction, and it explores the relationships between the sci-fi genre and U.S. military power.

English 324 – Studies in Medieval Literature: The Middle Ages Go to the Movies (Pre 1830/TTC)

Course DescriptionThis course will set three kinds of medieval legend in conversation with their modern film treatments. We’ll start by reading examples of medieval saints’ lives alongside the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, starring Edward James Olmos as a self-sacrificing high school math teacher. We’ll then go on to read different medieval versions of the Robin Hood legend in conjunction with a series of Robin Hood films, starting with the 1922 silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks (we will probably skip the critically-panned 2018 remake, unless someone can make the case that its shortcomings are interestingly symptomatic). We’ll consider the ways authors and directors reimagine the legend for different historical moments, including as a context for examining categories such as heroism, masculinity and femininity, and the relationship between law and violence. Finally, our study of King Arthur and the Round Table will pair the anonymous La Mort le Roi Artu with Robert Bresson’s award-winning Lancelot du Lac (1974). In what ways do the modern retellings of these medieval tales give us new insight into the tales themselves? In what ways does the reconstruction of the Middle Ages serve purely modern ends? What kinds of different “Middle Ages” do these texts and their retellings imagine? In addition to this comparative work, we will pay attention to the films as films and to the medieval works as both oral performances and textual objects in order to think about the relationship between medium and message.

Course texts include: The Death of King Arthur, trans. James Cable, ISBN 9780140442557; Early Christian Lives, ed. Carolinne White, ISBN 9780140435269

English 332 – Renaissance Drama: Power and Commerce in Early Modern Drama (Pre 1830)

Course Description: "Greed is good”: Shakespeare and his contemporaries delighted in writing plays that explored this worldview. Early modern playwrights were especially fascinated by the power that people could accrue through the world of business and commerce. In this course, we will consider key works by Shakespeare that explore the possibilities offered by the market, alongside plays by his contemporaries that celebrate and satirize the pursuit of profit. We will read specific plays for how much fun, and potentially dangerous, they consider the hunt for wealth and power to be, including: Shakespeare’s exploration of political power, justice, and debt in The Merchant of Venice; Ben Jonson’s satire of the alchemical desire to turn lead to gold in The Alchemist; and Thomas Middleton’s Ocean’s 11-style con-game in Michaelmas Term. By analysing major works of early modern drama, written just as the West was witnessing the emergence of capitalism and the modern economy, we will gain a deeper understanding of how writers were representing and questioning the basic assumptions of their culture about the role that commerce could or should have in their lives.

Teaching Method(s): Seminar Discussion. Brief Lectures.

Evaluation Method(s): One short paper, one medium-length paper, one long paper, individual oral presentations.

Texts include: Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Timon of Athens; Ben Jonson, The Alchemist; Thomas Middleton, Michaelmas Term; William Haughton, Englishmen for My Money

Films (made available on Canvas): Shakespeare’s Globe Theater’s The Merchant of Venice; Cheek by Jowl/Pushkin Theater’s Measure for Measure.

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore.

Instructor Bio: Dr. William Casey Caldwell is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English Department at Northwestern University. His research focuses on early modern literature, monetary history, market culture, and history of sexuality. Caldwell is co-editor of The Hare: An Online Journal of Untimely Reviews in Early Modern Theater, and has published on audience laughter and dramaturgy in reconstructed early modern playhouses. A former Franke Graduate Fellow in residence at Northwestern’s Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, he has worked as Senior Research Assistant at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, and recently co-taught Shakespeare at Stateville maximum security prison. Caldwell also gives preamble talks at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and volunteers with Northwestern’s Prison Education Program. He holds an MFA in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin College in Partnership with the American Shakespeare Center; an MA in Philosophy from the University of Auckland; and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin.

English 335 – Milton (Pre 1830)

Course Description: We will study John Milton’s poetry and prose in context, with sustained attention to the complexities of his art, the crisis of his times, the subtlety of his thought, and the extent of his influence. Milton’s defenses of political, personal, and religious liberty, his self-presentation, and his grappling with key ethical questions involving free will, gender definitions, crime, authority, rebellion and redemption will be among the many concerns that arise as we explore his work in the context of the raging political and theological controversies of his time.

Teaching Method: Class discussion and lecture.

Evaluation Method: Papers, class presentation, class participation.

Texts Include: Paradise Lost by John Milton.

English 338 – Studies in Renaissance Literature: Reading Between the Lines (Pre 1830/TTC)

Course DescriptionThe English Renaissance, like our own day, was filled with new, experimental encounters with text. Where the twenty-first century has produced new forms like the Instagram poem and the Twitter saga, the sixteenth century saw the rise of the printed anthology, shape poems, and commercial playtexts. With the introduction of the printing press, the rise of literacy, and the invention of the commercial theater, more people were exposed to a greater range of writing than ever before. This explosion of printed texts led both to fresh avenues of creativity—women writing for print, ordinary people building their own custom volumes— and new challenges, including censorship and piracy. As we read the writing of the age of Shakespeare as it appeared when it was first printed, we will think about what difficulties and opportunities for creativity face us as we travel farther into our own digital age, as how we encounter texts changes once again.

Teaching MethodLecture and discussion.

Evaluation Method(s): Active participation in discussion, Canvas posts, one short paper, one longer paper, creative new media project.

Texts include: Selections from John Donne, The Complete English Poems; George Herbert, The Complete Poetry; Aemilia Lanyer, The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer; William Shakespeare, King Lear; Philip Sidney, The Major Works; and Leah Knight and Wendy Wall, gen. eds., The Pulter Project: Poet in the Making.

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore (some materials available online).

English 363-1 – 20th Century Fiction: Modern British Fiction and The First World War (Post 1830)

Course Description: This course explores recurring motifs in Edwardian (1901-10) fiction and beyond, providing a clear introduction to British modernism and to the “setting” of the First World War (1914-18). We’ll study the cultural and literary shift from naturalism to post-impressionism, as well as other formal changes in British fiction that writers tied to the immediate aftermath of the war and its catastrophic effects. We’ll also trace comparable arguments and shifts in painting and aesthetics, and examine related social and cultural preoccupations, among them: changing conceptions of privacy, psychology, and gender; and widespread concerns about rural change, urban decay, national cohesion, military conflict, and the ends of imperialism.

Teaching Methods: Seminar-style discussion, focusing intensively on passages and background arguments, including with clips and slides.

Evaluation Methods: Weekly canvas posts, one short analytical paper, final essay, and in-class participation.

Texts include (available at Norris Center Bookstore and in order of use): Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent (ISBN 0141441585); E. M. Forster, Howards End (ISBN 0486424545); James Joyce, Dubliners (ISBN 978-0143107453); Katherine Mansfield, Selected Stories (ISBN 0393925331); D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love (ISBN 0486424588); Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (ISBN 0156628708); and selected poetry in George Walter (ed.), The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry (ISBN 9780141181905). Please follow the editions assigned; comparable pagination will greatly advance our discussions.

English 365 – Studies in Postcolonial Literature: Indian Ocean Cultures (Post 1830/TTC)

Course DescriptionThe course will read Indian Ocean texts in the context of broader African and South Asian writing and oceanic cultural practices. Topics will include slavery, Swahili poetic forms, Indian Ocean translations, cultural translation, women’s writing, and queer representations. Engaging a broad range of critics and theorists in oceanic and diasporic studies (e.g., Paul Gilroy, Subramani, Gaurav Desai, Isabel Hofmeyr, and Françoise Lionnet), we will read, discuss, and write about such authors as Nadifa Mohamed, Abduralzak Gurnah, M.G. Vassanji, Mwana Kupona, Sofia Mustafa, and Shaaban Robert. 

Teaching Method: Interactive lectures, debates, role-play, one-on-one meetings, and small group discussions.

Evaluation Method: Two 6-page papers, weekly Canvas postings, regular self-evaluation, peer critiques, class participation, take-home exam, pop quizzes (ungraded), and 1-minute papers (ungraded).


Primary reading list (may change):

  1. Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Paradise.  Publisher: Penguin. ISBN-13: 978-0140233117.
  2. Nurrudin Farah’s Publisher: Penguin. ISBN-10:0143122533
  3. Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies. Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN-10:9780670082032
  4. Nadifa Mohamed’s Black Mamba Boy. Publisher: ISBN 0007315767, 9780007315765
  5. Ananda Devi’s Indian Tango. ISBN-10:092404781X
  6. M.G. Vassanji’s The Gunny Sack. Anchor. ISBN-10: 0385660650

Note: This course is combined with Comp Lit 301-0-20.

English 366 – Studies in African American Literature: Black Insecurity (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: What does it mean to read major works of post-soul black literature from the standpoint of insecurity? How is black insecurity distinct from insecurity broadly conceived? What unique qualities does literature have that help critics understand black insecurity in ways other forms can’t? This class will examine essays, poetry, and fiction written in the post-soul era—that is written between the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act—to examine the ongoing struggle for black freedom and the conditions of insecurity that underwrite it. We will specifically examine the relationship between insecurity as an affect, and the periodization of post-soul writing, asking specific questions about the unfulfilled promises of Civil Rights era agitation and the ongoing insecurities that suffuse discourses of black activism, especially those related to police and vigilante violence of the last decade. We relate these forms of antiblack violence to the ongoing War on Terror to assess their interdependence. We will also interrogate how progressive calls for various kinds of security from food security to climate security reinforce the discourse of security.

Teaching Method(s): Seminar-style Discussion.

Evaluation Method(s): 3 Analysis papers; 1 Oral Presentation.

Texts include: Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals; Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye; Claudia Rankine Citizen; Colson Whitehead, Underground Railroad.

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore

Note: This course is combined with AFAM 3XX.  More details will be available at a later date.

English 366 – Studies in African American Literature: 19th-C Black New World Literature

Course DescriptionThis course introduces students to a variety of works by black writers of the long nineteenth century. In this class, we will concentrate on the poetry and fiction of this period and explore the central themes, styles, commonalities, and differences within these works. For instance, we will consider how dialect and geography change our understanding of the subject matter. We will confront our preconceived expectations of what “black literature” means in the nineteenth century and consider the implications of this process throughout the semester.

The course is reading and writing intensive, and every class will require preparation of a primary text and supplementary reading through which we will explore central issues in the assigned reading, including issues of class and citizenship, identity formation, and gender. Texts will include works by Florence Hall, Harriet E. Wilson, Mary Prince, Charles Chesnutt, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and others, in addition to companion critical and theoretical articles.

Evaluation Method(s): Assignments will include regular online discussions, leading an in-class discussion, and mid-term and final papers. Students will be evaluated on their performance in these assignments as well as class attendance and participation.

This class depends on discussion and participation of every member of the class. Come to class prepared to enthusiastically tackle, through discussion and our own literary criticism, issues of gender, class, sexuality, and race as they figure in our readings and other materials.

Required texts:

Our Nig, Harriet E. Wilson

Imperium In Imperio, Sutton E. Griggs

English 368 – Studies in 20th Century Literature: Woolf and Bloomsbury (Post 1830)

Course Description: TBA

English 378 – Studies in American Literature: Visionary Women Writers (Pre 1830)

Course Description: This course explores major touchstones of women’s lives and writing in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, paying particular attention to women’s disobedience and radical expression. How, why, and with what success did visionary women challenge the structures of power in the early Americas? To answer these questions, we will consider poems, novels, journals, and other manuscript writings, tracing women’s mark on religion, literature, and revolutionary politics in the American colonies. There will be a significant archival component in this course and students will have the opportunity to pursue original research in small writing groups.

Texts include: Anne Bradstreet, The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America; Coosaponakeesa’s march on Savannah; Mary Dyer, “Petition to the Massachusetts General Court”; Anne Hutchinson’s court records; Toni Morrison, A Mercy; Judith Sargent Murray, “On the Equality of the Sexes”; Lucy Terry Prince, “Bars Fight”; Mercy Otis Warren, “Observations on the New Constitution”; and Phyllis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.

Teaching Method(s): Discussion, collaborative group work.

Evaluation Method(s): Participation and preparation; one exploratory essay (3-5 pages); short weekly writing; and a final collaborative archival project with in-class presentation.

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore.

English 378 – Studies in American Literature: The Chicago Way: Urban Spaces and American Literature (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course DescriptionUrbanologist Yi Fu Tuan writes, "What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place when we get to know it better and endow it with values." In The Untouchables, Sean Connery tells Kevin Costner, "You want to get Capone? Here's how you get Capone. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He puts one of yours in the hospital, you put one of his in the morgue. That's the Chicago way." In this class, we will examine "the Chicago way" from many different angles in order to interrogate the values with which various artists have endowed Chicago. We will read in a broad range of media: journalism, poetry, song, fiction, film, and sequential art to see how a sense of Chicago as a place works over time. We will pay close attention to depictions of the construction of American identity, and to the role of the artist and intellectual in the city.

Teaching Method: Discussion, brief lectures, guest speakers, and an optional urban tour.

Evaluation Method: Class participation; brief written responses to each text; several options for papers of various lengths.

Texts Include: Nelson Algren's Chicago: City on the Make and The Neon Wilderness; Richard Wright's Native Son; Stuart Dybek's The Coast of Chicago; journalism by Ben Hecht, Mike Royko and others; short fiction by Sandra Cisneros, James T. Farrell and others; poetry by Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, Tony Fitzpatrick and others; the films The Untouchables, The Blues Brothers, Call Northside 777, and Barbershop; the graphic novel 100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call.

Note: Texts will be available at Comix Revolution, 606 Davis Street.

English 383 – Studies in Theory and Criticism: Black Vernacular as Theory (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course DescriptionThis course will take as fundamental that black vernacular—the dialects and slang and folk language found in black communities—is a form of theory and theorizing. This theory, though different from the capital-T Theory of notable philosophers, will be shown to also possess intellectual sophistication, simply in, as Barbara Christian has said, “the form of the hieroglyph.” If we assume, rightly, that black people have always theorized, only in different and alternative ways, how might we examine the nuances of that theory? What does it look like? Where, and it what forms, can it be found?

“Black Vernacular as Theory” will traverse myriad discursive genres—from novels to poems to music to social media to personal lives. It will put, say, the conversations between black women in the kitchen on par with the intellectual status of literary theorists, dismantling implicit hierarchies between “high” and “low” theory. Students will read the work of Barbara Christian, Geneva Smirtherman, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and others; listen to the corpus of Kendrick Lamar and Big L; and reflect on community conversations from family reunions and barbershops. Ultimately, we will begin to rethink what “counts” as theory, and how we might come to understand various marginalized communities within black cultural production as doing substantive work in terms of knowledge production.

Teaching Method(s): Primarily discussion.

Evaluation Method(s): Mandatory attendance and participation. Brief weekly responses and one longer final paper.

Texts include: Readings will include Barbara Christian's “A Race For Theory,” the fiction of Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston, the critical work of Geneva Smitherman on black English, hip-hop, and other work.

Texts will be available at: Norris.

Note: This course is combined with AFAM 3XX.  Details will be available at a later date.

English 385 – Topics in Combined Studies: Information Overload! Text Technologies from the Printing Press to the Smartphone

Course Description: This course explores the anxiety, exhaustion, and unease brought on by information technologies. We will trace emotional responses to technological change, from the shock of the printing press to the malaise of the present "information economy." How did new text technologies reshape language and society? Who is permitted access to certain kinds of information and why?  We will take a hands-on approach to these questions by pairing literature that addresses the anxieties of technology, like the scifi linguistics of Arrival and the postapocalyptic Shakespeare of Station Eleven, with book history and digital humanities techniques designed to manage information. Students will learn how books are made, how search algorithms work, and how to analyze text with code.

Teaching Method: Discussion.

Evaluation Method: Class participation, presentations, 1 midterm paper, several short responses, final project.

Texts may include: Ted Chiang Stories of Your Life (ISBN 1101972122); Ben Jonson The Staple of News (PDF provided); Emily Dickinson poetry (excerpts provided); Safiya Noble Algorithms of Oppression (ISBN 1479837245); Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Americanah (excerpts provided); Emily St. John Mandel Station Eleven (ISBN 0804172447).

Note: This course is combined with Humanities 325-6-20.

English 386 – Studies in Literature and Film: Celebrity Culture (Post 1830)

Course Description: In 2007 Stephen King opined “I think there ought to be some serious discussion by smart people, really smart people, about whether or not proliferation of things like The Smoking Gun and TMZ and YouTube and the whole celebrity culture is healthy…I mean, I know people who can tell you who won the last four seasons on American Idol and they don't know who their f------ Congressmen are.” This course will ask students to take up King’s call, discussing seriously the origins of celebrity culture in America and its proliferation in the 20th and 21st centuries. To this end, we will read literature and watch films that address Hollywood filmmaking, connections between “the American Dream” and celebrity status, the relationship between stars and their fans, the consequences of intense media scrutiny, and the racial and gendered structures that shape fame. Recognizing that the divisions between celebrity culture, politics, and other media forms have long been blurred, this course will also prompt students to delve into the dark sides of American culture, asking questions about our obsessions with crime, corruption, and Hollywood glamour.

Teaching Method: Seminar discussion.

Evaluation Method: participation, short writing assignments, weekly reality TV journal, presentation and final paper.

Texts include: James Baldwin, The Devil Finds Work and F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon. We will watch and analyze a range of films on celebrity culture, including three versions of A Star is Born; Sunset Boulevard, dir. Billy Wilder; All About Eve, dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz; Misery, dir. Rob Reiner; and The Bling Ring, dir. Sofia Coppola; as well as music and music videos by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore and through Canvas.

Instructor Bio: Todd Nordgren specializes in British and American modernist literature and culture, queer and feminist theories, life writing, and genre studies. At Northwestern, he has designed and taught courses on poetry and poetics, modernist fiction, and life writing in minority communities. His recent work includes a forthcoming chapter in the Routledge Companion to Queer Theory and Modernism on the intersections of autobiography and celebrity culture in the early 20th century.

His current book project, “Taking Form: Writing Queer Lives in the Early Twentieth Century,” examines how modernist literature inaugurated a new optimism about expectations of what a queer life could entail. “Taking Form" explores the period between Oscar Wilde’s trials for “gross indecency” in 1895 and the formation of large-scale gay and lesbian movements after World War II, highlighting how authors challenged, eluded, and exceeded the sexual constraints and codes of the school story, the marriage plot, the imperial romance, and autobiography to make writing about queer life possible in an era of increasing medical and legal categorization.

English 387 – Studies in Literature and Commerce: Love and Money from Shakespeare to Crazy Rich Asians (Post 1830)

Course Description: “Love is like money…hard to find and easy to lose.” Writers through the ages have long mined uncanny similarities between the pursuit of love and money, though not always in such a melancholy note, for their plots and poetic language. In this course, we will ponder the entertainment value of certain potent combinations of romance and riches, as these are presented through the lives of literature’s best known and most complex characters. Characters such as Shakespeare’s Shylock, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and Kevin Kwan’s extravagant Singaporeans, confront us with fascinating questions about erotic desire and wealth that play upon our hopes and fears: how do we know if we love someone for themselves or for their money? What is the difference between a romantic and financial bond? What does it mean to experience passion through the filter of financial language and metaphors? Can we really have it all??? As we consider the relationship in these texts between romance and riches, jealousy and insolvency, we will challenge our basic assumptions about what it means to be in love, in debt, flush with money, and trapped in poverty.

Teaching Method: Seminar Discussion.

Evaluation Method: Two short papers, one medium-length research paper, one long paper, one discussion-leading assignment.

Texts include: Guy de Maupassant, “The Necklace”; Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice; Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary; Gabriel García Márquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores; Jonathan Dee, The Privileges; Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians.

Movies (made available on Canvas): Indecent Proposal (1993), Crazy Rich Asians (2018).

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore.

Instructor Bio: Dr. William Casey Caldwell is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English Department at Northwestern University. His research focuses on early modern literature, monetary history, market culture, and history of sexuality. Caldwell is co-editor of The Hare: An Online Journal of Untimely Reviews in Early Modern Theater, and has published on audience laughter and dramaturgy in reconstructed early modern playhouses. A former Franke Graduate Fellow in residence at Northwestern’s Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, he has worked as Senior Research Assistant at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, and recently co-taught Shakespeare at Stateville maximum security prison. Caldwell also gives preamble talks at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and volunteers with Northwestern’s Prison Education Program. He holds an MFA in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin College in Partnership with the American Shakespeare Center; an MA in Philosophy from the University of Auckland; and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin.

English 388 – Studies in Literature and Religion: Saints and Rebels (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course DescriptionThe religious life is not always one of peace and consolation. Anger, despair, apathy, and doubt also have their place—and these emotions have created some of the greatest religious poetry in the world. In this course, you will experience the poetry of the three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—as it wrestles with these darker emotions. The resources of poetic language allow space for ambiguity and doubt to coexist with hope and faith; the tools that poets use to craft emotion can powerfully explore conflict and resolution. You will have the opportunity to sample from a wide variety of poetic genres, from the verse of the ancient world to contemporary American rap. The goal of this course is not to map any particular poem neatly onto a spectrum of religious faith, but rather to explore the ways in which men and women from widely disparate backgrounds have experienced and expressed conflicts in their spiritual lives.

Teaching Method: Lecture and discussion.

Evaluation Method: Active participation in discussion, Canvas posts, one short paper, one longer paper, class presentation.

Texts include: Coursepack including selected poetry from poets including: the Psalms, Job, Hildegard von Bingen, Rumi, Yehuda Halevi, George Herbert, John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickenson, Yehuda Amichai, Kendrick Lamar, and Mona Haydar.

Texts will be available at: Quartet Copies and Canvas.

English 397 – Research Seminar: The Uses and Abuses of the Middle Ages

Course DescriptionWhat does the Unite the Right rally, held in Charlottesville, VA on August 11-12, 2017, have in common with J. K. Rowling’s well-received Harry Potter novels? Despite their obvious ideological differences, both are instances of medievalism, defined as the “adoption of, adherence to, or interest in medieval ideals, styles, or usages” in the modern world. Indeed, both draw on the same conception of the Middle Ages as the so-called “Age of Chivalry,” with its values of courage, faithfulness, and fighting ability, centered on the masculine and aristocratic figure of the knight. In this course we will examine this and other conceptions of the Middle Ages, including the “Dark Ages,” the “Site of Origin,” and “The Mirror of Post-Modernity,” investigating the modern uses and abuses associated with each. As we do, you will learn how to identify and narrow a research topic, navigate electronic databases, identify and evaluate pertinent critical articles, and produce article abstracts, an annotated bibliography, and a project proposal. The course will culminate in a 12-15 page research paper that investigates a single instance of medievalism, analyzing the ways it seeks to use the Middle Ages to change the modern world. Broadly defined research areas might include, but are not limited to, romantic medievalism, the relationship between medievalism and nationalism, the role of medievalism in international relations, medievalism in role-playing and online gaming, and queer and trans medievalisms.

Course texts: Wayne C. Booth, et al., The Craft of Research, 4th ed., ISBN 9780226239736.

Prerequisites: Open to juniors and seniors only. Students must successfully complete 5 300-level English courses before taking English 397.

English 202 – Introduction to Creative Writing

Course Description: This course will introduce students to the major elements and tools of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction writing. Through exercises and projects, you’ll practice using these tools to produce original, exciting works of literary art. Along the way, you’ll sharpen your ability to track these elements both in published texts and in the work of your classmates, and further develop how you measure aesthetic value. You’ll be encouraged to see yourself as an active member of a community of artists, and to establish a regular discipline as a working writer. Writing and reading will be due in nearly every class, and peer workshop will play an important role in learning to see your work more objectively.

Teaching Methods: Discussion.

Evaluation Methods: Evaluation of a final portfolio.

Texts include: A course reader.

English 206 – Reading and Writing Poetry

[Prerequisite to English Major in Writing]

Course Description: An introduction to the major forms of poetry in English from the dual perspective of the poet-critic. Creative work will be assigned in the form of poems and revisions; analytic writing will be assigned in the form of critiques of other class members’ poems. A scansion exercise will be given early on. All of these exercises, creative and expository, as well as the required readings from the anthology, are designed to help students increase their understanding of poetry rapidly and profoundly; the more wholehearted students’ participation, the more they will learn from the course. Prerequisites: No prerequisites. No P/N registration. Attendance of first class is mandatory. Freshmen are NOT permitted to enroll until winter quarter. Seniors require department permission. Prerequisite for the writing major and sequence-based minor. Literature Majors are also welcome. Teaching Method: Discussion; one-half to two-thirds of the classes will be devoted to discussion of readings and principles, the other classes to discussion of student poems.

Evaluation Method: Evidence given in written work and class participation of students’ understanding of poetry; improvement will count for a great deal in estimating achievement.

Texts include: An anthology, a critical guide, a 206 Reader prepared by the instructor, and the work of other students.

Note: This course may also be counted toward the English Literature major.

English 207 – Reading and Writing Fiction

[Prerequisite to English Major in Writing]

Course Description: A reading and writing course in short fiction. Students will read widely in traditional as well as experimental short stories, seeing how writers of different culture and temperament use conventions such as plot, character, and techniques of voice and distance to shape their art. Students will also receive intensive practice in the craft of the short story, writing at least one story, along with revisions, short exercises, and a critical study of at least one work of fiction, concentrating on technique.

Prerequisites: English 206. No P/N registration. Attendance of first class is mandatory. Course especially recommended for prospective Writing Majors. Literature Majors also welcome. Teaching Method: Discussion of readings and principles; workshop of student drafts. Evaluation Method: Evidence given in written work and class participation of students’ growing understanding of fiction; improvement will count for a great deal in estimating achievement.

Texts include: Selected short stories, essays on craft, and the work of the other students.

English 208 – Reading and Writing Creative Nonfiction

[Prerequisite to English Major in Writing]

Course Description: An introduction to some of the many possible voices, styles, and structures of the creative essay. Students will read from the full aesthetic breadth of the essay, including memoir, meditation, lyric essay, and literary journalism. Discussions will address how the essay creates an artistic space distinct from the worlds of poetry and fiction, and how truth and fact function within creative nonfiction. Students will be asked to analyze the readings closely, and to write six short essays based on imitations of the style, structure, syntax, and narrative devices found in the readings. Students can also expect to do some brief writing exercises and at least one revision.

Prerequisites: English 206. No P/N registration. Attendance of first class is mandatory. Course especially recommended for prospective Writing Majors. Literature Majors also welcome.

Teaching Method: Discussion; one-half to two-thirds of the classes will be devoted to discussion of readings and principles, the other classes to discussion of student work.

English 210-1 – English Literary Traditions, Part 1

Course Description: This course is an introduction to the early English literary canon, extending from the late medieval period through the eighteenth century. While the readings are, by definition, canonical, we will devote substantial attention to questioning the very idea of “canonicity” as an historically and literarily constructed phenomenon. What cultural, literary, and historical ideologies are represented in this canon? How do these texts make rhetorical bids for inclusion? How do they respond to the pressure for novelty and innovation? How do they manage the so-called “anxiety of influence” imposed by their poetic forbears? In readings of Chaucer, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, and Behn, among others, we will consider the values inscribed in and by “the canon”: what literary posterity has preserved, and what it has omitted, as the poetic legacy of western culture. 

Teaching Method: Two lectures and a discussion section every week.

Evaluation Method: Midterm exam, Final exam, Midterm paper, final paper, participation.

Course Materials (Required): Norton Anthology of English Literature (Volumes A, B, C)

Class Notes: English 210-1 is an English Literature major and minor requirement; it is also designed for non-majors and counts as an Area VI WCAS distribution requirement.

English 210-2 – English Literary Traditions, Part 2

Course Description: This course surveys exemplary and outstanding British literature by major authors from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, putting literary texts in conversation with such historical developments as the French revolution, the industrial revolution, the rise of nationalism and imperialism, new print and transportation technologies, rapidly increasing literacy rates, and a wealth of related cultural arguments.

Teaching Methods: Lectures paired with seminar-style discussions, all focusing intensively on passages and background arguments, including with clips and slides.

Evaluation Methods: 1 short analysis, final paper, periodic quizzes, and participation.

Texts include:  The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors (8th ed., Vol. B: ISBN 0393928314); Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (Penguin; ISBN 0141439661); George Eliot, The Lifted Veil (Oxford; ISBN 0199555052); Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (HBJ; ISBN 0156628708). Please follow the editions assigned; comparable pagination will greatly advance our discussions.

Note: English 210-2 is an English Literature major and minor requirement; it is also designed for nonmajors and counts as an Area VI WCAS distribution requirement.

English 211 – Introduction to Poetry

Course Description:  The experience of poetry can be understood in it at least two radically different ways:  as a raw encounter with something unfamiliar or as a methodically constructed mode of access to the unknown.  The experience of poetry includes both of these models, and theories of poetry from antiquity to the present day have grappled with these two dimensions of the poetic experience.  In order to understand a poem, a reader must, in some sense, enter into its unique and complex logic, while nevertheless remaining open to the sometimes unsettling ways it can surprise us.  In this class, we will read some of the greatest lyric poems written in English, as we systematically develop an understanding of the formal techniques of poetic composition, including diction, syntax, image, trope, and rhythm. Students should come prepared to encounter poems as new and unfamiliar terrain (even if you've read a particular poem before), as we methodically work through the formal elements of the poetic process.

Teaching Method:  Lectures and required weekly discussion sections.

Evaluation Method:  Weekly wreading exercises;  two 5-7 page papers;  final project;  final exam.

Required Texts: Course packet available at Quartet Copies and on Canvas.

Note: This course is combined with Comp Lit 211-0.

English 213 – Introduction to Fiction

Course Description: In this course we will look at works of fiction which explore in various ways the constitution of the self through an “Other.” Whether in the guise of monster, rival, uncanny double, or oppressed social group, the Other challenges our sense of self.  Tragically, in real life this process takes place along the borders that constitute and divide us as sexual, racial, and human beings.  Literature offers us ways of exploring and talking about this profound existential and political dilemma, and of connecting it to the medium in which all our identities are immersed:  language.  We will look at five novels, spanning two centuries, two continents, and a wide range of human identities and dilemmas. 

Teaching Method:  2 lectures, 1 required discussion-section per week. 

Evaluation Method:  midterm paper (15%); midterm exam (15%); final paper (25 or 30%); final exam (25 or 30%); quizzes and class participation (15%). 

Texts (available at Norris bookstore): 


Please note that it is IMPORTANT to acquire the editions listed here OR to have a digital version of the texts, so we can all “be on the same page.”

English 234 – Introduction to Shakespeare

Course Description: We'll read a range of Shakespeare's plays: comedies, histories, tragedies, and tragicomedies, from early in his career to his final works. The course will introduce the plays by introducing them back into the context of the theatre, literary world, and culture in which Shakespeare originally wrote them.  We will think about Shakespeare's contexts and how they matter: a theatre on the outskirts of ever-expanding Renaissance London; a financially successful acting company in which he played the simultaneous and often overlapping roles of writer, actor, and co-owner; a world of reading and writing in which words, plots, and texts were constantly being re-circulated into new plays; the rich possibilities of the English language around 1600.  We will centrally consider the ways in which these theatrical, literary, and cultural questions register within the plays themselves.  What do words, plays, stories do—how do they work—in Shakespeare's plays?  Who or what is an audience or an actor in these plays?  How do Shakespeare's plays stage issues such as gender, race, religion, sexuality, social class, entertainment and the media -- and how does his approach to these issues continue to speak to our own era?

Teaching Method: Lectures with discussion; required weekly discussion section.

Evaluation Method: Papers, midterm, final, discussion participation.

Texts include: Folger Library paperback editions of the following plays (these editions only): A Midsummer Night's Dream (978-1-5011-4621-3); The Merchant of Venice (978-1-4391-9116-3); Henry V (978-0-7434-8487-9); As You Like It (978-0-7434-8486-2); Hamlet, Updated edition (978-1-4516-6941-1); The Tempest, Updated edition (978-1-5011-3001-4); The Two Noble Kinsmen (978-0-671-72296-8); additional critical readings on Canvas.

Texts will be available at: Beck's Books Evanston.

English 270-1 – American Literary Traditions

Course Description: The question of who counts as “American” and why is not only a pressing issue of our own moment but a question with a long history.  And while it might not be obvious, the question of what counts as “American literature” is deeply connected to questions of peoplehood and citizenship.  People with varying forms of literacy in diverse languages—from Spanish to English to Cherokee—answered this question in early America in writing, and these debates shaped early American literatures while continuing to resonate in films, in contemporary literature, and in political debates.  This course will survey American literatures before 1900, through a series of questions: Who counts as “American,” and why?  What is literature?  When is early?  We’ll read well known texts that have long counted as American literature, Anne Bradstreet’s poetry and Herman Melville’s novella Benito Cereno, while also looking at texts that have defied these terms: narratives of Spanish conquest gone horribly wrong; Native American protest literatures; Frederick Douglass’s newspaper; and Edgar Allan Poe’s polar horror story.

Teaching Method: 2 lectures per week and a discussion section

Evaluation method: short essays and a final exam

Texts include:

*Readings will be included in a course packet

Texts will be available at: Quartet copies

English 270-2 – American Literary Traditions, Part 2

Course Description: This course is a survey of American literature from the aftermath of the Civil War to first decade of the twentieth century. The course will take as a cue how writers experimented with various styles and genres of literature to explore the idea, if not always the realities, of “America.” Our exploration of these writers and their texts will fold into the contexts of social histories about the U.S. and reunification, the rise of capital and the Gilded Age, imperialism, and immigration.

Texts Include: Levine, Robert S. et al., The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Volume C (978-0393264487).

Note: English 270-2 is an English Literature major and minor requirement; it is also designed for non-majors and counts as an Area VI WCAS distribution requirement.

English 277 – Introduction to Latina and Latino Literature

Course Description: What does it mean to be Latinx? This course will introduce students to major authors, genres, and movements in Latinx literary history. We will take a thematic approach, examining how Latinx writers from various communities (Puerto Rican, Mexican American, Cuban American, Dominican American, Central American) have characterized such concepts as language and assimilation, gender and sexuality, race and indigeneity, and borders and migration. We will also put some pressure on the category of Latinx. How do the experiences and histories of the various groups described under that label benefit from and/or resist identification as a single ethnicity? Most importantly, we will ask what literature has to offer as a way of understanding Latinx experiences. What kinds of knowledges and experiences do novels, poems, stories, and plays produce that are different from other kinds of discourses?

Teaching Method(s): Lecture and discussion sections.

Evaluation Method(s): Two short essays, group project, final exam.

Texts: Will include Ernesto Quiñones, Bodega Dreams (978-0375705892), Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (978-0679734772), and Oscar Casares, Where We Come From (978-0525655435), available at Norris Bookstore. Other texts available via Canvas.

Note: This course is combined with Latina/o Studies 277-0.

English 392 – Situation of Writing

Course Description: The situation of writing requires that we create literature, as well as the contexts in which literature is shared, appreciated and understood. We are the inheritors, perpetuators and innovators of literary culture, and in this class, we will position our inquiries on the present and future, even as we acknowledge the enduring humanistic values of creative writing. We will begin with a discussion of ideas about shaping the literary traditions of the United States starting with Melville, and moving quickly to those who have led or lead in shaping that tradition by shaping it or walking away from it—Roxane Gay, Adrienne Rich, Richard Baldwin, and others. Then we will build on these ideas practically with a service learning assignment and a creative work that reaches a new public, coordinates new media or engenders community. Our class will be enhanced by the annual Return Engagement series, featuring visits and readings from alumni of Northwestern’s Writing Program. My intention is to have a conversation that will unfold in real-time between us all, and will evolve into a learning experience that is both pragmatically useful and philosophically illuminating. My hope is that this class will help us to become more conscious of our motives and processes as writers; that it will allow us to more lucidly defend creative writing as an art form and a vital contribution to society; and that it will acquaint us with the productions of literary culture, including their changing technological platforms and their relationship to social structures. This course is part of the Hewlett Diversity Initiative, and as part of this program, we will investigate literature and culture through the lens of social inequalities and diversities.

English 393 – Theory and Practice of Poetry

Course Description: This selective-enrollment, yearlong "Sequence" is designed to make students 64 Return to Calendar increasingly informed readers and self-sustaining apprentices of poetry. The Fall portion of the course begins with summer reading and intensive study in which poets learn to identify operative modes in poetry -- including description, rhetoric, story and song -- and begin connecting contemporary participants with root systems in the tradition. We support our studies with reading exercises and "imitation" assignments, in which students convert close reading into fodder for original writing. Students will write at least four papers and will write, workshop and revise four poems during the Fall term. They also will lead presentations on one chosen poet and one classmate during workshop. In the Winter term, students will continue to read and complete close reading assignments and will stretch their skills as they complete a week of "Daily Poems," thereby drawing on original energy and stamina to bring their work to the next level of accomplishment. Finally, in the Spring term, students will focus entirely on their own work, drafting, revising, workshopping and completing one long poem of at least 120 lines that combines autobiographical material with writing from research. Throughout the year, our close reading assignments hone skills in sensitive and critical thinking; our imitation poems challenge existing habits as they introduce new strategies; our Daily Poems exercise agility and confidence; and our workshops cultivate the openness and humility necessary to serious writing and lifelong learning. Through this intensive and nurturing Sequence, students become careful readers of each others -- work and complete a polished portfolio of original writing.

Note: No P/N registration. Attendance at first class mandatory. Admission by application only.

English 394 – Theory and Practice of Fiction

Course DescriptionThis course will allow you to explore how fiction works. We’ll be looking at, discussing, writing about, commenting on, and researching the elements of fiction, but mostly what we’ll be doing is writing buckets (you will be turning in a completed piece every other week during the Fall quarter), so we’ll be reading mostly to steal: we’ll figure out what works and we’ll use it for our own material. We’ll be engaged in the reading of a concise, funny book on the craft of fiction, and we’ll also be reading a wide and varied array of short stories. Again, though, this work is geared to do one simple thing: to find out what means and modes of expression you best respond to, and to figure out ways to approach this question: Given all the other potentially more awesome forms of entertainment out there, what is the role of sitting around scribbling things and reading other people’s scribblings? Why do it? Just so you know, what we’re doing in class closely replicates what all successful fiction writers do on a daily basis: reading the work of their peers and those of established and emerging authors with care, attention, and greed, and writing copious amounts to see what sticks. The more you do both of these activities, the better and more confident you’ll get.

Teaching Method: Lectures, discussion, small- and large-peer workshops.

Evaluation Method: This is a portfolio- and participation-based course. Grade based on timely delivery of all assigned work, with equal weight placed on your own stories and revisions and on your peer feedback.

Texts Include: TBA

Note: No P/N registration. Attendance at first class mandatory. Admission by application only.

English 395 – Theory and Practice of Creative Nonfiction

Course DescriptionAn advanced year-long course in reading for writers, critical analysis of techniques of creative nonfiction, and intensive creative writing. Reading of primary works will concentrate on longer creative nonfiction works, and the creative project for the latter part of the sequence is a work of creative nonfiction of approximately 15,000 words. A guest non-fiction writer will visit in May as writer-in-residence.

Teaching Method: Discussion.

Evaluation Method: Based on creative and critical work; class presentations and participation.

Texts Include: Varies each quarter. Texts will be available at Norris Center Bookstore and Quartet Copies.

Note: No P/N registration. Attendance at first class mandatory. Admission by application only.

English 398 – Honors Seminar

Course Description: Part of a two-quarter sequence for seniors pursuing honors in the English Literature major, consisting of a seminar in the fall quarter and an independent study with an honors adviser in the winter quarter.

Prerequisites: Seniors only. Permission of department required. Attendance at first class mandatory. No P/N registration.

Courses Primarily for Graduate Students

English 403 – Writers' Studies in Literature

Course Description: This course, which is for writers of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, focuses on the contexts and processes of creative writing.  Our readings will be multi-genre texts of many sorts that enact or think or imply something about how what we are writing develops out of—and develops in various ways—our social formation, our intellectual curiosity, our psychic processes, our emotional investments, our sense of language, our artistic possibilities, and much more.  Course readings will greatly broaden our sense of how other writers have used their materials and abilities.  Some of our readings will also provide us with models of such use; with these, each student can advance his/her/their creative work and sense of what that work is and can be.  Also, we’ll see in many of our readings how our complexity as individuals provides us with a great range of structures, stances, and processes of writing.  From our discussions of the course readings, we’ll draw methods and stances that will allow students to think about (and perhaps sketch) new possible projects and new ways of working on present projects.  Writing assignments will be unlike any that you have previously completed.  (This is not a creative writing workshop.)  Readings include Katherine Mansfield, Clarice Lispector, Grace Paley, Lucille Clifton, Richard Wright, Christopher Bollas, Lisel Mueller, Adrienne Rich, Lorine Neidecker, Helene Cixous, Adrienne Rich, Mahmoud Dharwish, Marga Minco, Isaac Babel.

English 422 – Studies in Medieval Literature: Forging a Literary Career in the Fourteenth Century

Course Description: Although “professional writers” did not yet exist in fourteenth-century England, a wide range of factors determined the shape of literary careers. In this seminar we’ll examine some of them by looking at four canonical writers: the Pearl Poet, William Langland (a nom de plume), John Gower (ca. 1330-1408), and Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400). As for the Pearl Poet, not only his name but also his dates and patronage remain obscure. Yet he exercised considerable control over the manuscript production of his works, which include Pearl and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Langland, the author of Piers Plowman, was a member of the gentry class, using a pen name for political reasons. Having devoted his entire career to successive revisions of a single masterpiece, he invites us to think about the reasons a controversial author might choose anonymity, as well as the difficulty of supporting oneself by writing and the significant roles of scribes. Gower and Chaucer, who were friends, nevertheless had very different career paths. Gower enables us to reflect on a writer’s choice of languages: he penned his three major poems first in French, then in Latin, finally in English. The civil servant Chaucer, displaying the greatest authorial self-awareness in the period, also allows us to consider the choice of audience. After a political and personal crisis, he deliberately turned from court patronage to produce the closest thing we have to a work “for the general public,” namely The Canterbury Tales. We will read all four poets selectively, along with critical and theoretical work on manuscripts, scribal culture, professional readers, underemployed clerics, multilingualism, and gendered readership.


English 441 – Studies in 18th-Century Literature: Fictions of Judgment in the Eighteenth Century

Course DescriptionThe eighteenth century witnesses a far-reaching “crisis of judgment,” to which we are still heirs. In the period, the crisis plays itself out in the discourses of empiricism, aesthetics and the novel, as it does today in humanistic interpretation, political theory and the implementation of scientific research to improve our lives. This class will explore the many dimensions of the crisis of judgment in the eighteenth century, with particular attention to the role of fiction in the crisis. Fictions are essential to enable judgment, whether in the perception of three-dimensional objects, the discernment of character or the discovery of purpose in a world stripped of ends. But at the same time, a worry emerges in a number of discourses that fiction corrupts our judgment or leads it astray. Attempts are made to purge judgment of its fictive underpinnings. How do we make sense of these contradictory impulses, and what effects do they have on the prevailing accounts of judgment? Why are fictions perceived to be so threatening to our capacity for judgment? How effective are the efforts to conceal the role of fiction in judgment? Can we admit the agency of fiction in judgment without conceding that judgment is always errant or deceived? In particular, how does the emergence of the novel as a form in the eighteenth century (the rise of the novel) respond to the crisis?

In this class, we will explore the problem from many angles, including accounts of perception and experience in empiricism and the novel (Aristotle, Locke, Sterne, Benjamin), aesthetic discourse as an attempt to restore final causes in the wake of empiricism (Shaftesbury, Addison and Steele, Kant), the prevalence of Quixotic narratives in the early novel (Don Quixote, Joseph Andrews, Tristram Shandy, Female Quixote, Emma) and the discernment of novelistic character (Joseph Andrews, Tristram Shandy, Pride and Prejudice). Alongside this literature from the period, we will read secondary criticism on the rise of the novel (Georg Lukacs, Ian Watt, Michael McKeon), secularization (Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre, Thomas Pfau, Iris Murdoch), final causes (Aristotle and the new science), and the status of fiction in the period (Luiz Costa Lima, John Bender, Helen Thompson). Our goal will be to understand the emergence of the novel in relation to the eighteenth century crisis of judgment.

English 461 – Studies in Contemporary Literature: Hannah Arendt: Poetry, Politics, and Thought

Course Description: This course takes its point of departure from a careful reading of The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt’s massive study of Nazi totalitarianism and its origins in anti-Semitism and European imperialism.  For the first three weeks of the class, we will read the three sections of the Origins along with a selection of Arendt’s contemporaneous writings on issues at the heart of her study: wide-scale statelessness and forced migration; racism and imperial expansion; totalitarian propaganda and the “holes of oblivion.”  Arendt recognized that the Origins posed a question that remained unanswered in that work:  faced with the manufacture of living corpses, what preserves our humanity and redeems our actions?  Arendt’s next major work, The Human Condition, thus moves toward an analysis of the conditions and modes of human activity:  from the biological life process, to the world-creating capacity of homo faber, to the urgency and fragility of human action.  As we read The Human Condition, which seeks to answer the question posed by the Origins by accounting for what European philosophy has generally failed to analyze with sufficient clarity—namely, the dimensions of the “active life”—we examine Arendt’s attempt in the same period to review and, in her own way, deconstruct the concepts of thinking around which the ideal of a “contemplative life” concretized.  This prepares us for a reading in the final weeks of the seminar of Eichmann in Jerusalem, where she re-conceptualizes evil as a certain implementation of systematic thoughtlessness.   As we examine these three major works, each of which is a reflection on the relation between language and politics, we will continually attend to the varying ways in which Arendt sought to understand where poetry stands in relation to human “conditionality,” and we will use her often-neglected suggestions in this regard to develop an Arendtian poetics.

English 493 – Elements of Craft

Course DescriptionBy the end of his life, Yeats rarely revised his poems, except, he said, in favor of a “more passionate syntax.” In the hands of certain writers, such as Joan Didion, the shape of a sentence becomes an instrument for discovery and moral inquiry. For other writers—Hemingway and Henry James come most immediately to mind—their characteristic sentence-making reveals attitudes towards human relationships, experience, and consciousness. This course is dedicated to the pleasures and rewards of syntax, of sentence-making, as an essential, and often over-looked, element of craft in the development of a writer’s voice and originality.

Class time will be divided evenly between close and creative reading of weekly assigned texts and the writing workshop, in which students attend to the work-in-process of their peers (poetry, non-fiction, or fiction). As this is a graduate seminar vigorous participation in class discussion and workshop is assumed.

English 494 – The Long Form

Course DescriptionThis course engages second-year students in beginning to research and plan a writing project that will lead to the MFA thesis (which will be completed by the end of their third year).

In order to begin the long-term project of the MFA thesis, students will develop during this quarter a project plan that will outline the sequencing of research and writing, and initiate the first stages. Students will be expected to continue work on this project plan during this academic year (2019-20), while generating new writing in workshops, taking seminar courses, and teaching.  The project plan is the final work product of this quarter.

During the quarter, students will first identify core pieces of their creative work already drafted or (perhaps) finished that they see, at this point, as possible seeds of the larger work that will later become the MFA thesis.  Since everyone in this Litowitz cohort is working in the home genres of creative nonfiction and poetry, this early core of work might be 15 to 20 pages of poetry or a group of short essays, or a single long essay, or (if the student is intending to write a cross-genre MFA thesis) work in more than one genre.

Students will meet as a class four times during the quarter, will meet and work together in other weeks in small groups and/or with one other student in the course, and will also meet three or four times individually with the instructor. Class discussion will be about, and will support, students’ work process, use of research and creative materials, readings suggested by the instructor and students, and drafts of new work.  The goal is to generate and develop a first plan for the larger work; the goal is not to try to determine definitively what the shape, genre, and focus of the MFA thesis will be.  That project should be continuously developed, drafted,  and revised until its due date.

Teaching Method: Class discussion, peer-to-peer learning in small-group and partner meetings, individual meetings with instructor.

Evaluation Method: Evaluation will be based on the end-of-quarter project plan, the amount and quality of writing, drafting, and assembling of research materials and artistic models during the quarter, and on engaged and constructive discussion during meetings both large and small.

Texts include: TBD based on the six individual projects.

Texts will be available at: TBD

English 403 – Writers' Studies in Literature

Course Description: Where does writing come from?  Previous topics in Writers Studies in Literature have considered writing and its roots in the body and the mind.  This class will move the conversation to its roots in speech.  By looking at examples of literature that were initially meant to be spoken aloud, we will explore how they were placed, elegantly and not, onto the page.  How does this happen?  The bardic boom, the pulpit pitch, the mad futurist with a megaphone—so many of the great works of literature were first delivered orally, then spelled out and called literature.  Speeches, psalms, slams, rants, anecdotes, manifestos, declarations, sermons, lectures, yarns, ballads, brags, jeremiads, prayers, incendiary instructions for the coming revolution—we’ll investigate as many as we can of these in the readings, considering, as writers, how we can get performative narratives of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from the stage to the page.  We will discuss, too, the instructive aspect of art and literature, the difference between voice and style, and how oral culture differs from written culture, with a serious take on Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy.  We will consider formal prosody, rhetoric, and poetic forms, and original and amusing methods inventive writers come up with to interpret the sound of speech.   Readings may include sermons by John Donne, Toni Morrison, and Herman Melville; prayers and suras from Adam Zagejewski and the Koran, Brags from Beowulf, Beastie Boys, Sharon Olds, and Shmuel HaNagid, anecdotes from Ivan Turgenev, Tatyana Tolstaya, and Olga Tokarczuk, murder ballads from Cole Porter, Jake Adam York and Dolly Parton, speeches and declarations from Susan B Anthony and Frederick Douglass, and jeremiads by Jamaica Kincaid, Valerie Solanis, and Joy Williams, for starters.

Note: Northwestern graduate students in programs outside the English Department are welcome to apply for a space in English 403: Writers' Studies in Literature with Professor Bouldrey, scheduled on Wednesdays 6-9, winter 2019.

If you are seeking to count this course as an elective in your own program, you must seek approval from your home department or program.

Click here to fill out and submit the application.

Application Deadline: November 11, 2019.

English 434 – Studies in Shakespeare & Early Drama: Early Modern Sexualities

Course DescriptionHow can we practice the history and analysis of sexuality in early modern Europe? Is sexuality best described by a continuity of models, or alterity and historical difference? To what extent can we discuss “sexuality” in relation to “identity” in the pre-modern era? To address these complex questions, and to begin to ask new ones, we will concentrate on a range of exemplary literary and historical texts from around 1600 in England. We will be interested to explore both the multiple forms and functions of desire, eroticism, sex, gender, etc., in this culture, as well as the terms, methods, and theories we now use to read the sexual past. We will be particularly interested in gaining fluency in the languages of early modern identities and desires: sodomy, tribadism, friendship, marriage; bodies, their parts, and their pleasures. We will centrally engage recent critical controversies in the field over the utility of historicism in sexuality studies.  


Note: This course is combined with Gender Studies 490-0-21.

English 461 – Studies in Contemporary Literature: Contemporary Experiments in Racial Form

Course DescriptionThis seminar surveys literary experiments in contemporary Ethnic American poetics and narrative that expand notions of what constitutes “ethnic literature,” a category historically denigrated as insufficiently imaginative or aesthetically minded. In addition to highlighting the richness and complexity of these literary traditions, our goal in this course is to track evolving referents for racial formation in a “postracial” era defined by the gap between ostensible cultural tolerance and the persistence of structural inequality. Responding to the contradictions of racial representation, scholars of African American, Latinx, Asian American, and Native American literatures have redoubled critical engagement with form, genre, and aesthetics. Some conceptual questions for consideration include the following: how do experimental texts by writers of color destabilize conventional modes of understanding ethnic and racial representation? What tensions and resonances arise when critical race and ethnic studies meet theories of the avant-garde? And to what extent do these literary experiments suggest that race itself can be understood as a cultural form or generic object?

Possible authors include: Gloria Anzaldúa, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Sesshu Foster, Myung Mi Kim, J. Michael Martinez, Salvador Plascencia, Claudia Rankine, Colson Whitehead, Karen Tei Yamashita, Layli Long Soldier, and David Treuer. Possible critics include: Phillip Brian Harper, Walter Benn Michaels & Sean McCann, Fred Moten, Anthony Reed, Christina Sharpe, Ralph Rodriguez, Ramón Saldívar, Dorothy Wang, and Timothy Yu.

English 471 – Studies in American Literature: Past and Future Humans in the Archives of American Literature

Course DescriptionIn pre-1900 America, questions about who counted as human and why circulated at the intersection of science and literature, as people worked through the question of the continent’s ancient and recent past and its future forms of belonging by experimenting with scientific methods, theories, and representations. Scientific genres—natural history, ethnology, exploration reports, evolutionary description, specimen illustrations, to name a few—offered a vocabulary and set of orientations through which to examine and discuss the repercussions of chattel slavery and settler colonialism and to speculate about the continent’s future. Key voices in these debates were African and Native American writers who—while often said to be the objects of science—in fact created their own models of the human and theories of the past and of human difference. What we now call American literary history emerged as a contested category and object of study during this time, in conversation with proto-anthropological texts, illustration, display, and theory.

This course examines this set of interdisciplinary conversations and their import for American literary studies today by taking up the multivocal, interdisciplinary nature of the early American archive and its capacious geographies, and by developing methodologies for reading its texts in their cultural and geographic diversity. What are the ongoing consequences for literary studies of literary-scientific debates about personhood and the past? In what ways does our sense of both “American” and “literature” need to shift to account for the range of voices contributing to these conversations? This course aims to introduce students to a wide-ranging set of writers and genres; to engage with transatlantic, hemispheric, and culturally specific methodologies; and to instigate conversations about American literary studies and its futures. Along the way, we’ll gain experience working in literary and historical archives while also critically examining the formation and current configuration of those archives.

Readings will illuminate key debates about the course terms, pairing canonical texts with less well known writers and recent scholarship. Course assignments will ask students to write for multiple audiences and to experiment with various forms for conveying scholarly research.

Primary Texts to include:

Scholarly Texts to include:

English 481 – Studies in Literary Theory & Criticism: Theories of Comedy

Course Description: This course has two key objectives: to survey comedic theory from antiquity to the present while enabling each student to delve deeply into the period, genre, and/or theoretical concerns of their intended specialty. Common readings will survey major variants of comic theory from the Western tradition and examine instances of comedy, farce, humor, laughter, satire, parody, jesting, and jokes in their historical contexts, thinking comparatively about past and present. We will also consider what constitutes the butt of comedy and how twentieth-century theories of democracy and twenty-first-century theories of inclusivity—from the standpoints of gender, ethnicity, race, and disability—respond to the long history of laughter and the concept of resolvability. A writing assignment will address these representational traditions comparatively. Students will also develop individual reading lists—for example, drawn from the English Department’s qualifying exam lists—and the other writing assignment will be tailored to these text and traditions.

Note: This course is combined with Theatre 545-0-20.

English 496 – MFA Poetry Workshop

Course Description: This creative writing and creative reading workshop will explore a particular fascination of American poets with the portrait. In addition to close readings of poems, we'll also look at portraits by artists, considering the ways in which poets adopt strategies from the visual arts. We'll consider ekphrastic and dramatic modes in poetry, as well as the relationship between the literary portrait and various stylistic revolutions and experiments in American poetry around questions of subjectivity and representation, all of which are intended to enrich the sources and materials for our own poems.

Northwestern graduate students in programs outside the English Department are welcome to apply for a space in English 496: MFA Poetry Workshop with Professor Curdy, scheduled for Mondays 10-12:50pm.

Click here to fill out and submit the application.

Application Deadline: November 11, 2019

English 497 – MFA Fiction Workshop

Course Description: The primary text for English 497, the Fiction Workshop, is the work written by the people in the class.  Writing is the only art with an abstract medium: language. But like every other art, writing is about making something.  Musicians make music, potters make pots, painters make paintings, and writers make stories and novels.  One learns to make pots through the trial and error of making pots.  The analogy holds for writing; one learns to write by doing: writing and rewriting.  It is the craft of each art that can be learned, and it is craft that the artist relies on to make and improve a piece.  And so the writing workshop is craft oriented.  Because the medium, language, is an abstraction, the tools of writing stories--which are central to human thought--are not pens or typewriters or computers, but abstractions: scenic construction, dialogue, etc.  That’s what governs improving one’s in-process work and that is what we come together to discuss in each class.  The stories that people in the class are working on will organically lead to discussions about the craft of writing that will apply not just to that particular story, but to the art of writing in general--to all our stories.  In critiquing a fellow writer’s story, one is also, on the deepest level, engaged in articulating a personal aesthetic.  The idea of a workshop is to then harness the clarity of those personal articulations back into one’s own writing.

Northwestern graduate students in programs outside the English Department are welcome to apply for a space in English 497: MFA Fiction Workshop with Professor Dybek, scheduled for Tuesdays 6-9 pm.

Click here to fill out and submit the application.

Application Deadline: November 11, 2019.

English 498 – MFA Creative Nonfiction Workshop

Course Description: Shortly after the invention of the telephone in 1876, the increasing concentration of electrical lines crisscrossing the American landscape caused a problem: audio quality was dropping everywhere. Electrical interference—noise—turned out to be the cause. Alexander Graham Bell found that when he bound two copper lines loosely together, the twisted pair greatly improved the ratio of signal-to-noise. That discovery led to the balanced circuits in place today, connecting billions of people to zettabytes of imbalanced data. Our nonfiction workshop takes inspiration from the twisted pair by reading essays that coil loosely and at times haphazardly around one another, as when Ginger Strand channels and ultimately furthers John Berger’s “Why Look at Animals?” (1977) with her essay “Why Look at Fish?” in 2005. When Teju Cole rereads and reconsiders James Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village” (1953) with his own written attempt in 2014, a reader can’t help but feel as though one is eavesdropping on a master class. Another essay pair finds resonance in the use of extended metaphor, as in “The Last Vet” (2010) by Aminatta Forna and “Driving as Metaphor” (2019) by Rachel Cusk. Both “Stop Blaming Jaws” (2013) by Heather Havrilesky and “F/X Porn” (1998) by David Foster Wallace find congruence in the cinema as subject matter, each drilling down to one blockbuster in particular, one attacking as the other defends. Every week we will read some new pairing of essays that focuses our inquiry on the craft of essay-making. This being a workshop, we will take inspiration from these readings and filter them through our own biases and blind-spots, producing new written work intended for audiences of the literary essay. One of the main goals of this course will be to assemble a library of formal tools that can help us recognize and respond to varied aesthetic demands.

Note: Northwestern graduate students in programs outside the English Department are welcome to apply for a space in English 498: MFA Creative Nonfiction Workshop with Professor Bresland, scheduled for Tuesdays 6-9 pm.

Click here to fill out and submit the application.

Application Deadline: November 11, 2019

English 403 – Writers' Studies in Literature

Course Description: In the early 1960s, the author James Lord and the painter Alberto Giacometti took part in an extraordinary artistic interchange. Over the course of 18 sittings, Giacometti painted a portrait of the writer, while Lord crafted a literary portrait of the artist. Using Lord's A Giacometti Portrait as a jumping-off point for discussion, we'll examine works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry that have resulted from the close study of a single subject--a person, a group of people, a place, an object, an experience, or a physical sensation. We'll also examine how the assigned texts blur the borders between observer and observed. And finally, we’ll conclude the course with a close examination of the self, with participants probing the events and experiences that formed them as writers and offering an in-depth exploration of their own artistic challenges and goals. In addition to A Giacometti Portrait, we’ll read works by Virginia Woolf, Jamaica Kincaid, Rachel Cusk, Mark Doty and Wisława Szymborska, among many other authors.

English 435 – Studies in 17th-Century Literature: The Renaissances We Earn

Course Description: The great scholar of early modernity Aby Warburg declared, “Every age has the Renaissance of antiquity that it earns.” That is, different times have found different things to admire or to deplore in the Renaissance, and have framed their own cultural projects accordingly. There is thus not one Renaissance, and not just because the period itself was multiple There have been many Renaissances, and they have served different purposes in different cultural moments. The Renaissance has been asked to stand for the rise of science and the decline of faith; an upwelling and channeling of powerful, ancient forces; a point of resistance to industrialism, capitalism, and modernity; the very opening of modernity. Taking its cue from reception studies in Classics, this course will consider how the Renaissance as a cultural and historical phenomenon has been framed and reframed for various ideals in various eras. Case studies may include Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the Renaissance declared itself a Renaissance of ancient culture; the 19th century, when historians like Burckhardt and Michelet and artists like William Morris, Ruskin, and the pre-Raphaelites imagined a Renaissance that opposed the industrialization that they saw marring Europe; the later 19th century, when Pater and Symonds used the Renaissance to explore sexual desires that their own culture did not sanction; and the early 20th century, when Warburg and Walter Benjamin imagined an apocalyptic Renaissance that shattered the linearity of history itself. Students will be asked to research another moment in the history of the reception of the Renaissance.

English 451 – Studies in Romantic Literature: Lyric Environments

Course Description: This course serves as an introduction to the “greater romantic lyric,” as well as an abbreviated  survey of lyric theory. While tracking the sequence and dialogue of a handful of key critical paradigms from the last half century (and more), we will investigate how lyric poetry situates its reader in a universe of discourse through rhetorical address, affective cues, and social disposition. The “environments” in question thus connote familiar Romantic scholarship on “nature poetry,” and the relations of language to nature; but we will do so always bearing in mind that for the Romantics, natural environments implicate social and psychic geographies as well. Relevant critical work will be drawn from intersections of phenomenology, theories of voice, sound ecologies, social theory, and linguistic anthropology. We end the course with a handful of works by living poets that distinctively (and sometimes self-consciously) reconfigure the conventions of romantic lyric. Poets include Charlotte Smith, William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, Anna Barbauld, John Clare, Percy Shelley, Felicia Hemans and John Keats (depending on student interest, this list may extend farther forward into the C19); contemporary poets: Claudia Rankine, Ed Roberson, Tommy Pico, Lisa Robertson and Daniel Borzutzky.

English 465 – Studies in Colonial & Postcolonial Literature: Forms and Ecology

Course Description: This course will examine experimental texts from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean that treat environmental concerns, paying particular attention to the interface of form and ecology in postcolonial literature. We will also discuss the relationship between “new” forms and what are considered traditional modes of expression. We will read work by such contemporary thinkers as Jahan Ramazani, Meg Ahrenberg, and Liz Alexander on new forms of minority writing and their relationship to the traditions they respond to. What is the role of literature and the environmental humanities in addressing ecological questions in the Global South? How well have postcolonial artists used avantgarde aesthetics to respond to ecological disasters? How does ecology intersect with other social justice questions (race, gender, sexuality, etc.) through form in postcolonial literary texts? What do the texts tell us about human-animal entanglements? As we respond to these questions, we will explore and critique ideas on postcolonial ecocritical thought (e.g., work by Elizabeth Deloughrey, Amitav Ghosh, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rob Nixon, Cajetan Iheka, and Byron Caminero-Santangelo). Literary texts will include fictions and poetry by Nnedi Okorafor, Shani Mootoo, Warsan Shire, Nalo Hopkinson, Indra Sinha, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Shailja Patel.

English 471 – Studies in American Literature: The Poetics of Dissolution

Course Description: Frantz Fanon has famously written that the conditions of modernity have rendered blackness increasingly illegible, fraught with contradictions that push it outside the realm of facile comprehension and explicability. Taking Fanon’s polemic as a cue, this graduate seminar will look at a number of late twentieth-century textual and performance sites with radical instances of experimentation where articulations of blackness move into the interstitial space between meaning and non-meaning, coming into being precisely at the moment when the compositional logic of their anticipated forms are ruptured. The course will focus on three primary sites where black artists engage what might be called the poetics of dissolution to examine and critique the processes of racial formation: poetry (where the form of the line or stanza dissolves); music (where sonic interpolations put additional, if not different, claims on the lyrical content), and visual culture (where moves toward graphic mimesis are refused delineation). The material under consideration will include work by the poets Nathaniel Mackey and Harriet Mullen; turntablists DJ Spooky, Jazzy Jeff, and Premier; songs by musicians from Ella Fitzgerald to Rahzel; and pieces by visual artists Kara Walker and Glenn Ligon. In addition to material by ethnomusicologists and linguistic anthropologists, theoretical texts include work by Barthes, Freud, Saussure, Lacan, and Fred Moten.

English 496 – MFA Poetry Workshop

Course DescriptionA graduate class is a master class, so with that in mind, this class aims to combine the creative workshop approach with an analytical approach aimed at understanding the process of composition at both poem and manuscript levels. How do we approach the construction of our work? What is our core aesthetic – and what do we mean by that? How are we moving beyond the “recording” of experience, which is essentially a passive form of writing (regardless of the content of the experience and the individual value that we bring to it) to the idea of “using experience as the template for an intervention of inquiry,” itself a much more active approach? How to translate the much-needed theoretical positions that undergird our work into poems that transcend them?  

Students will select a photographer or other visual artist whose work they think shares the same core aesthetic as theirs (and no it cannot be another writer), pick a series from that artists work (no more than 5  (five) paintings, photographs or any other “forms”) and write a short one page explanation speaking to why this artist, this work and this sequence. Then students MUST submit a sequence of 15 pages of poetry assembled as an arc (the typical chapbook is 25-30 pages of poetry, so this is less than that). The poems will be placed in a manuscript style format with a title page etc. The two items (artist selection and poems) will be submitted on the first day of class so that we can begin work almost immediately. We will offer each other constructive critiques, a catalog of the work submitted spanning a set of 19 points that will be laid out in the syllabus (like Themes, Style, Syllabic Structure, Form vs Content etc.), creating a critical and creative catalog of the work.

The outcome is a thorough workshop of a sequence of our poems advancing us towards the skills needed for a full-length thesis and later, a full-length book for publication.


English 498 – MFA Creative Nonfiction Workshop

Course Description: This course will investigate how writers use research to generate new ideas, propel a draft forward, and facilitate revision. Students will be encouraged to work with research as an integral component of their creative process. Class discussions of readings will be augmented by visits from archivists and presentations by librarians, but this is not a research skills course. As a writing workshop, this course will be devoted to supporting and discussing student work. Students will have the option of working on one long project for the entire course or writing three shorter works. The primary genre under discussion in this course will be the personal essay, but students will be free to write in other genres. We will approach the essay as a record of the movement of the author’s mind over her subject, a process aided and augmented by research. Research takes many forms in the personal essay, from informal conversations to meandering walks to the consultation of archival documents and photographs. Accordingly, our working definition of research will be expansive, and students will be encouraged to engage in research that is not text-based. Readings will be drawn from a broad range of contemporary nonfiction as well as some poetry. Authors under discussion will include: Cathy Park Hong, Michael Ondaatje, Aisha Sabatini Sloan, Kevin Young, John McPhee, Ariana Kelly, Layli Long Soldier, Joan Didion, Wendy Walters, Jazmina Barrera, and others.

English 571 – Teaching Creative Writing

Course Description: In this course, we will engage with a wide range of possible approaches to the instruction of creative writing. To begin, we will look at the history of Creative Writing programs and the models of teaching that have traditionally guided MFA programs. We will then move on to discuss theories of learning as they apply to fine-arts courses. We will take into consideration intersectional challenges (race, gender, class, disability, etc). And we will think about the differences between teaching undergraduates and graduate students.

In the second half of the course we will move into the practical work of designing creative writing courses that have a beginning, middle, and end, and also a clear set of achievable learning objectives. You will do the practical work of drafting syllabi, generating exercises, and selecting reading material for introductory courses in poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.

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