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Course Descriptions 2020-2021

Course Categories:

Courses Primarily for Undergraduates

English 300 – Seminar in Reading & Interpretation: Ideas of Justice

Course Description: This course will introduce you to literary studies with a focus on ideas of justice. Library works will include the classical tradition, the biblical tradition, and Shakespeare who inherited both and reworked them in the early modern period. The trial of Socrates, the trial of Jesus, biblical prophecy, tragedy in Shakespeare, and modern works by Melville, Kafka, and the play, “Inherit the Wind” will be included. Reading closely, we will heed how literature offers elaborations and complications of theories of justice, as they shape the public and intimate lives of people. We will also put literature in dialogue with strands of political thought, showing how literature both reflects and shapes ideas of justice.

Teaching method: Seminar

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 & Interpretation: Southern Food, Music, and Literature

Course Description: “The South got something to say,” André 3000 declared at the 1995 Source Awards in New York City when OutKast won the best new rap group category, changing the course of hip hop. From Beyoncé to Lynyrd Skynyrd, soul food to new south cuisine, Flannery O’Connor to Natasha Trethewey, this course looks at the ways cultural production from the second half of the twentieth century to today has sought both to cling to a nostalgic sense of Southernness and to challenge that notion, imagining the region anew and (re)claiming it in the process. The course engages culturally diverse, multi-media and multi-genre texts about the U.S. South. We will read poems, short stories, Kiese Laymon’s novel Long Division (2013), recipes, blog posts, and music videos through the theoretical lenses of sociology, black feminism, ecocriticism, and food studies, exploring different methodological approaches to the study of literature and popular culture.

Teaching Methods: Seminar discussion, collaborative group work.

Evaluation Methods: Participation, two short papers, one-time in-class presentation on the day’s readings, paper proposal oriented around a chosen theoretical framework.

Texts include: Flannery O’Connor, “Everything That Rises Must Converge” (1965); Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Vibration Cooking or, the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl (1970), excerpts; Natasha Trethewey, selected poems from Native Guard (2006); Kiese Laymon, Long Division (2013); Beyoncé, Lemonade (2016).

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

Instructor Bio: Sara Černe’s research and teaching interests focus on environmental studies and American literature, especially African American and Native American literature and the literature of the U.S. South. At Northwestern, she has designed and taught courses on 20th- and 21st-century American literature and culture. Her classes combine literary studies with cultural analysis, engaging diverse voices and interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks. Sara is a former Franke Fellow at the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities and a researcher for a Humanities Without Walls project on Indigenous art and activism in the Mississippi River Valley. Her current book project explores race and the environment in post-Twain literature along the Mississippi, tracing how the river’s environmental status and industrial uses manifest in its literatures, which grapple with the area’s sedimented histories of dispossession and extraction.

English 300 – Seminar in Reading & Interpretation: Sex and the Gothic Girl

Course Description: The gothic has been a consistently popular genre, one that often seems to express cultural anxieties that otherwise simmer beneath the surface of realist literature. From Horace Walpole’s genre-defining tale, The Castle of Otranto (1764) to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (1938), gothic literature has grappled with sexual mores, gender expression, and sexual violence.  This course will explore the central preoccupation with sex and gender that informs and drives gothic literature from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. What can the gothic tropes of a given historical moment tell us about that culture? How do we approach the seemingly infinite retelling of certain gothic stories, like twentieth-century film adaptations of Frankenstein and Dracula? How does the gothic reiterate or undermine the way that women are depicted in popular narratives? In addition to a core set of texts, we will consider literary criticism and theory that takes on the gothic from multiple perspectives, including psychoanalysis, disability studies, queer theory, trans studies, and narratology.

Teaching Method: Discussion, peer review, workshops

Evaluation Method: Participation; several short writing exercises (1 page) building to one final paper (8-10 pages)

Texts Include: Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764); Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818); Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897); Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca (1938).

Texts Will Be Available At: Novels will be available at Beck’s Bookstore. Supplementary readings and theory will be posted on Canvas.

English 307 – Advanced Creative Writing: What Happens Next? Structure, Plot, and Suspense in Short Fiction

Course Description: You can write a beautiful sentence, bust out of the gate with an enticing premise, and clairvoyantly reveal your character’s rich interior life to say something profound about the human condition---but at some point your story loses momentum and fizzles out. Answering the simple question of “What happens next?” is a powerful impulse that drives us as readers, and it should likewise, drive us as writers. Learn to grow your brilliant ideas into tense, invigorating stories. Put your beautiful sentences to work in the service of plot and character. And dive deep into a character during moments of conflict.

Students will explore structure, plot, and suspense through a variety of interdisciplinary, playful writing exercises that employ visual media and also other texts, encouraging spontaneity while adhering to constraints of form. Be prepared to write at least one full-length story with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Textbooks Will Include: Thrill Me by Benjamin Piercy. PDFs of short stories and excerpts from longer texts available on Canvas.

English 308 – Advanced Nonfiction Writing: The Radio Essay

Course Description: Writers today can write as they always have, but they needn’t stop there. They can also produce. They can make. In the past ten years we have seen the maturation of the radiophonic arts in the form of podcasting—a profusion of voices and aesthetics that has broken out into the mainstream. Podcasting has filled the void left by the deadening of broadcast radio that began in the 1970s, and will likely soon surpass it (if it already hasn’t) in variety, accessibility and beauty. Students will be invited to write and produce multiple radio essays, mini-docs, stories and poems, layering the spoken word with evocative sonic textures and music. We will place equal emphasis on literary quality, vocal performance and the application of audio production techniques. We’ll will take cues from the best of contemporary radio practice by listening into the rich and varied soundscapes of About Race (Reni Eddo-Lodge), Love + Radio (Nick van der Kolk), Crybabies (Susan Orlean, Sarah Thyre), Atlas 1984 (DJ Tron) as well as broadcast mainstays such as This American Life, and we’ll move backward in time as we sample the densely layered soundscapes of Laurie Anderson, Glenn Gould, Joe Frank, Ken Nordine, Delia Derbyshire and many others.

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: Brave New Worlds, 1500-1700 (Pre-1830)

Course Description: More than once, early modern England had to learn how that their world was bigger than they had known—adding after 1492 the Americas, and after Galileo, new worlds in the heavens.  Often these realms were understood to be new worlds beside the more familiar one, part of it and yet somehow apart from it as well.  As their worlds widened and multiplied, early modern English writers and thinkers learned to invent new worlds of their own, fairy realms, enchanted forests, kingdoms of darkness, dreamlike polities, imagined worlds through which they could offer critique of their own, or propose and explore what seemed impossible in it.  Despite usually being avowed as fictions, these speculative worlds claimed value, seriousness, and even kinds of truth through the extravagance of their fantasies, while also asserting their pleasurableness and recreativity.  In this class we will explore some of these worlds of imagination and how and why early modern writers crafted them.

Teaching Method(s): Largely discussion.

Evaluation Method(s): Papers; other research-based projects; imaginative work; group work.

Texts include:

Texts will be available at: Beck’s.

English 344 – Eighteenth Century Fiction: Jane Austen and the Culture Wars (Pre-1830)

Course Description: The 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 consider 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. Is Austen a radical or conservative novelist? Does she defend the values of a dying aristocracy, or champion a new middle class sensibility? How does she respond to the jarring changes affecting her society? Does she assert the privileges of the governing classes or urge the rights of silenced groups (especially young women)? Does she offer a traditional or progressive view of marriage? Should children make their own choices in marriage or defer to parental authority? How do her novels cultivate good judgment? Do the arts have a progressive role in transforming society or a conservative one in maintaining traditional values? These are some of the questions we will examine as we read a range of her novels. 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.

Texts include:

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

Course Description: What might the world like if it were made in the image of black feminist visionaries? How and why should we invite those imagined futures into our political and social realities? In this course, students will survey a range of writing in Black feminist and queer-of-color theory, paying special attention to the world-making potential of radical thinking. Students will read foundational texts including those by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Cathy J. Cohen, and Angela Y. Davis, alongside more recent contributions from scholars including Jennifer C. Nash, Jasbir Puar, and Simone Browne to understand the shape and contour of contemporary black feminist world-making. Additionally, students will examine the veil between literature and theory and consider the ways in which these two genres of writing bleed into and reinforce one another. This course is reading intensive with weekly writing assignments and a large summative writing assignment.

Teaching Method: Two seminar meetings per week

Evaluation: Reading response essays, Class presentation, final paper/project

Texts Include:

Note: This course is combined with AFAM 380-X-XX.

English 368 – Studies in 20th Century Literature: Lesbian Representation in Popular Culture (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: This class will examine lesbian representation in film and television over the last four decades. “Representation” is a tricky word in politics and media: queer communities, communities of color, and disabled communities (and those categories overlap in important ways) have pushed for more representation in film, television, the music industry, and publishing. Lesbian women have long complained of the community’s invisibility. At the same time, minoritized communities must grapple with the fact that simple representation can be a mixed bag. If the primary goal is visibility, is all representation good representation? Are lesbian villains, or lesbians who are narratively punished, still politically useful?  Does the inclusion of a lesbian character (or lesbian characters) “count” if no one involved in the production of the object was themselves a lesbian? This course will explore these questions and more, discussing theoretical readings from cultural studies alongside our primary films, television, music, and print media. We will consider the difficult and derogatory tropes that are part and parcel of lesbian representation in the media, but we will engage most intensively with narratives that have attempted to expand the narrative potential of queer female life and to affirm lesbian identities—with complex results.

Teaching Methods: Discussion, collaborative course building, in-class viewing of cultural objects.

Evaluation Methods: Participation, pop culture journal, reflections, final paper (5-7 pages).

Texts Include: Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt (1956); Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle (1973); Alison Bechdel, Dykes to Watch Out For (1987-2008). Films: Personal Best (1982); But I’m a Cheerleader (1999); Pariah (2011); Carol (2015). TV: episodes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), The L Word (2004-2009), Orange is the New Black (2013- ). Students will be asked to keep up with lesbian and queer women’s online magazines, including Autostraddle, Curve, Qwear, or others, based on student interest.

Texts Will Be Available At: Novels will be at Beck’s Bookstore; all other media will be available on Canvas.

Instructor Bio: 

English 371 – American Novel: Major Authors: James Baldwin (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: This course will introduce students to the writings of James Baldwin. Born in 1924, Baldwin wrote all throughout the mid-20th century during the height of the Civil Rights Era. His writing spanned genres (essays, novels, poems) as well as decades (from the 1940s up to his death in 1987). Through writing and language, Baldwin did profound work toward justice. On Toni Morrison’s account, “No one possessed or inhabited language for me the way” Baldwin did; he gave us “a language to dwell in.” This course will thus be a study and meditation with and within Baldwin’s language. We will ask what Baldwin’s language gifts us as we navigate race and racism, gender and sexism, history, and intimacy? We will read his most notable nonfiction essays, including selections from Notes of a Native Son and The Evidence of Things Not Seen; his longform essayistic sermon The Fire Next Time; his short stories, namely “Sonny’s Blues” and “Going to Meet the Man”; and his novel If Beale Street Could Talk.

Teaching Method(s): Discussion

Evaluation Method(s): Class attendance and participation required; two close reading analyses; one final research paper

Texts include:

Note: This course is co-listed with AFAM 360.

English 371 – American Novel: Defining America (Post 1830)

Course Description: In this class, we will examine the related ideas of the Great American Novel and “the American Dream” to explore the ongoing construction of American identity, values, and literature. We will operate from two basic points: America can be understood as a text, constantly being rewritten, revised, and contested; and American identity is relational, situated in culture, history, and the body. The questions we will examine include: In a racially and ethnically diverse (even divided) nation, what constitutes American identity, the quality of "Americanness"? Who, if anyone, speaks for all Americans? What sort of literary voice best expresses American realities and ideals? How does the dynamic of culture and counter-culture, dominant and marginal, get worked out aesthetically and ideologically?

Teaching Method: Lecture, discussion.

Evaluation Method: Brief written responses to each novel and several options for papers.

Texts include: Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Chopin, The Awakening; Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm; Kerouac, On the Road; Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; Morrison, Song of Solomon.

English 378 – Studies in American Literature: American City: Chicago & Im/Migration in 20th-C. Literature (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: In the span of a hundred years, Chicago grew from a town of a few thousand people to a quintessentially American metropolis—all thanks to waves of migrants from the South and immigrants from all over the world who have made the city their own. From the Mexican Revolution to the Great Migration to more recent trends, this class examines the different patterns of im/migration to Chicago in the long 20th century and the literatures they have produced. Among other things, we will read excerpts from Upton Sinclair’s 1906 protest novel about Lithuanian workers in the meat packing industry (The Jungle); Gwendolyn Brooks’ 1945 poems about the lives of African Americans on the segregated South Side (A Street in Bronzeville); Sandra Cisneros’ 1984 bildungsroman about growing up in a Chicano and Puerto Rican neighborhood (House on Mango Street); Susan Power’s 2002 stories about Native Americans in the urban space of Chicago (Roofwalker); and Aleksandar Hemon’s 2008 novel about two Eastern European immigrants living in the city a century apart (The Lazarus Project). In addition to teaching literary and cultural analysis, this class will invite you to engage with Chicago by visiting its museums and neighborhoods and thinking about the relationship between past and present, as well as between physical and textual space. 

Teaching Methods: Seminar discussion, collaborative group work.

Evaluation Methods: Participation, two short papers, one-time in-class presentation on the day’s readings, collaborative story-map and in-class presentation.

Texts include: Gwendolyn Brooks, selected poems from A Street in Bronzeville (1945); Sandra Cisneros, House on Mango Street (1984); Susan Power, “Watermelon Seeds” & “Chicago Waters” from Roofwalker (2002); Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project (2008); Eve L. Ewing, selected poems from 1919 (2019).

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

English 381 – Studies in Literature & Medicine: Literature and Medicine from Mary Shelley to Will Self (Post 1830)

Course Description: For millennia, literature has helped to represent and define the experience of illness. It has also given voice to suffering and dramatized the diagnoses and treatments associated with conditions that are, in turn, inseparable from their cultural history. From Victorian notions of “moral insanity” to contemporary focus on personalized care, this course examines two centuries of writing on the tangled relationships between illness and narrative, norm and pathology, and diagnosis and treatment. It revisits the rise of the asylum and of the medical case study; the rhetoric of addiction and the demand for so-called rest cures; the testament of patients, including as patient power; the rise of biomedicine and psychopharmacology; and the transformation of ordinary conditions into treatable disorders. Designed for students wanting to pursue a career in the health professions, the course is also for those drawn to science and literature, the history of medicine, medical ethics, the politics of diagnosis, and the way literature shapes our understanding of health and illness. 

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

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

Primary Texts (in order of use): Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (ISBN 0141439475); Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (ISBN 0140439013); George Eliot, The Lifted Veil (ISBN 0199555052); Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (ISBN 9780486266886); Charlotte Perkins Gilmore, The Yellow Wallpaper (ISBN 1625009909); Anton Chekhov, “Ward No. Six” (ISBN 1592642020); Ken Kesey, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (ISBN 0451163966); Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals (ISBN 0143135201); Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors (ISBN 0312420137); Tony Hope and Michael Dunn, Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction (ISBN 0198815603). Please follow the editions assigned (new and used available at the Norris Center Bookstore and online vendors); comparable pagination will greatly facilitate discussion. A course-pack including additional assigned material will be available from Quartet Digital, 825 Clark Street.

English 385 – Topics in Combined Studies: The Cinema of Always-On Computing (Post 1830)

Course Description: In the 21st century, visual culture moved from the big screen to the small screen. The rise of smartphones, social media, and ubiquitous wireless networks ushered in a new way of life lived on the basis of constant connectivity. This apparent transformation in the media landscape has not only witnessed the emergence of new devices (the iPhone) and aesthetics (#oddlysatisfying), it has also shifted the role of older visual forms. This course considers the place of cinema in the age of always-on computing, and cinema’s role in documenting, representing, and expressing the technological tumult of the historical present. It analyzes the ways new technologies have affected the thematic preoccupations of filmmakers and also formal innovations and experimentations reflective of the experience of always-on computing. The course will proceed by pairing one or two movies per week with readings drawn from critical theory and cinema and digital media studies. These combinations will aim to open up discussion of the films themselves as well as broader topics such as networked personalization, Big Data, fake news, self-care, gamification, gender, and much else. Movies to be studied may include The Matrix, The Social Network, Her, Personal Shopper, Unfriended: Dark Web, Cam, Citizenfour, Eighth Grade, Summer Wars, Spider-Man: Far From Home, My Best Thing, and supercuts by Jennifer Proctor.

Teaching Method: discussion, short lecture.

Evaluation Method: participation, analytical essays.

Textbooks: Course Reader.

Note: This course is combined with HUM 325.

English 385 – Topics in Combined Studies: Learning to Walk: Experiments in Exteriority (Post 1830/TTC)

Course Description: While enduring the spring 2020 stay-at-home orders, a simple walk outdoors on the public way emerged for many who were able as a rare form of freedom or escape in a world suddenly bereft of common interior spaces. This course investigates the literature and phenomena of ambulation: its history, its great poets, its social and cultural meanings, and some practices that organize mobile attention to exterior space. Our readings will range from Thoreau’s praise of “sauntering” to the French avant-garde’s collective practice of the urban “drift” in small cadres of two or three, from urbanist Jane Jacobs’s descriptions of the city’s “sidewalk ballet” to Sunaura Taylor’s meditations on the meaning of the walk for the differently-abled, and from Welsh writer Iain Sinclair’s “psychogeographical” rambles around the margins of London to Jamaican writer Garnette Cadogan’s searing account of walking while Black. Just as importantly, we’ll adopt these writers’ practices of attention in our own appreciation of local exteriors, gaining immersive knowledge of the landscapes and built environments on Northwestern’s campus; the situation of Evanston and Chicagoland; or, alternatively, whatever remote diaspora in which we find ourselves in fall 2020.

This course is “rain or shine” as well as “hybrid”: for those on campus, we’ll uphold good public health practices by holding a combination of zoom courses to discuss readings but also several class sessions *outdoors and on the move.* Students taking the course remotely will be able to virtually join the outdoor sessions via zoom. If we must go entirely remote due to unforeseen outbreaks, some of our focus on local Northwestern and Evanston will be rerouted to sharing virtual walks with one another wherever we end up. Readings may include one or two novels such as Teju Cole’s Open City; essays by Friedrich Engels, Henry David Thoreau, Guy Debord, Jane Jacobs, Iain Sinclair, Rebecca Solnit, and Garnette Cadogan; poems by Charles Baudelaire, Harryette Mullen, Frank O’Hara and Arun Kolatkar; conceptual art by Francis Alÿs, Erica van Horne, and Helen Mirra; a film by Agnès Varda; and various archival documents on Northwestern campus history such as architectural master plans. *All readings will be made available in digital formats. Required: good walking shoes, a raincoat, cellular access to join group zoom calls when we are outdoors ... and maybe a selfie stick?!

English 386 – Studies in Literature and Film: American Fantasy (Post 1830)

Course Description: Throughout the twentieth century, American filmmaking has contributed to multiple forms of fantasy. Film is often associated with sexual and social desire, as it shapes audience fantasies about beauty, glamour, and the good life. Major Hollywood productions have also influenced the fantasy genre, depicting magical events and imaginary settings with the help of cinematic special effects. This course will explore the multiple meanings and implications of fantasy in relation to American film. What kinds of ideals do fantastic productions shape for viewers? What questions and lessons about the nation and national identity do films with magical and surreal elements raise? What can they teach us about audiences’ personal and political desires? Drawing on scholarship from literary, media, and cultural studies, we will consider these questions in relation to a range of American cultural constructs, including “the American dream,” the nuclear family, democracy, and national security.

Teaching Methods: short lectures, discussion, collaborative group work.

Evaluation Methods: participation, group presentation, four response papers (2-3 pages each), final paper (6-7 pages).

Texts IncludeThe Wizard of Oz (1939), The Stepford Wives (1975), Star Wars (1977), The Princess Bride (1987), Inglorious Basterds (2009), Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), and The Witch (2015).

Texts Will Be Available At: All films and readings will be posted to the course Canvas site.

English 397 – Research Seminar: Ghosts and Stories, or, the Relevance of Revenants

Course Description: Why tell ghost stories?  What do our stories about ghosts and hauntings uncover?  In many of these stories characters are visited by figures of their buried pasts; in others, by desires that they would rather not know; in some, they become capable of glimpsing a accounts of a future that is different from their present.  In this course we will read a variety of tales in which the living are haunted by the dead, in order to explore why this theme has been of such interest for so long.

Teaching Method(s): Mostly discussion-based.

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

Texts include: Shakespeare, Hamlet; Stoker, Dracula; James, The Turn of the Screw; Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House; Morrison, Beloved; other ballads, short stories.

Texts will be available at: Beck’s.

English 275 – Introduction to Asian American Literature (ICSP)

Course Description:  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.

Teaching Method: Lecture and discussion.

Evaluation Method: Class participation, 3 papers, quizzes, and writing assignments.

Texts Include: 

All other material will be provided through the course’s Canvas site.

English 300 – Seminar in Reading & Interpretation: Two Thousand Years of Trans Fictions

Course Description: Only recently has it become possible to “change sex” through gender reassignment surgery or hormone therapy. But in another sense, that possibility has long intrigued the imagination. In this course we will survey two thousand years of trans fictions—in verse, prose, and drama; in Latin, French, and English; in tragic, comic, and epic form. Our protagonists will range from the famous mythic hero/ine Tiresias through medieval saints, cross-dressing lesbians, a female knight, an operatic castrato, a 300-year-old poet, and a Greek-American child of incest. While discussing a wide variety of texts, we will learn and practice the fundamentals of literary analysis.

Evaluation Method: Class discussion, a short oral report, and three 5- to 7-page papers.

Texts will include: Selections from Ovid, Metamorphoses (1st c.), and Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend (1261); Heldris of Cornwall, The Romance of Silence (13th c.); Christine de Pizan, The Book of the Mutability of Fortune (1403); Shakespeare, Sonnet 20; John Lyly, Galatea (1588); Honoré de Balzac Sarrasine (1830); Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928); and Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002).


English 300 – Seminar in Reading & Interpretation: Theory of the Global South Novel

Course Description: Emerging from the language of World Bank policy, the term “Global South” has gained currency in literary studies as an alternative to the outdated idea of the Third World. It has given rise to the curious case of the Global South novel, an exploration of uneven economic and political development under global capitalism. Reading contemporary novels, from the 1980s highwater mark of postcolonial fiction to an examination of globalization in the 2010s, this course turns to the bildungsroman or the novel of development to chart a paradigmatic shift from national underdevelopment to a global experience of dispossession. Thus, the course asks,how does Global South writing—particularly from South Asia, West and South Africa, and Central America—deploy the bildungsroman in new ways to highlight the intensification of global inequity and the failure of postcolonial political promises? The course simultaneously introduces students to aesthetic concepts like realism, global modernism, magical realism, and peripheral realism to thicken the stakes of contemporary literary innovation. Ultimately, we will look to both understand and question the viability of the “Global South novel” as a category of literary study.


English 300 – Seminar in Reading & Interpretation: Reading and Interpreting Poe

Course Description: You will read Poe’s writings as a means of learning how to analyze and interpret 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. You will study and learn to apply a variety of critical approaches to reading and interpreting Poe’s writings, including formalist, psychoanalytic, historicist, Marxist, feminist, critical race, poststructuralist, postcolonial, cultural studies, disability studies, ecological criticism. You will also be encouraged to think about the continued relevance of Poe’s writings by looking at the ways Poe’s works have been translated and adapted in contemporary literature and film and other pop cultural forms.

As your final project, you will edit and introduce your own collection of Poe’s works as a means of demonstrating what you have learned in this course about Poe, literary analysis, critical theory, and popular culture.

Teaching Method(s): Some lecture; mostly discussion; final student presentations. Evaluation Method(s): 2 papers; final project; class participation

Texts include:Edgar Allan Poe: Poetry, Tales, and Selected Essays (Library of America); M. H. Abrams and Geoffrey Galt Harpham: A Glossary of Literary Terms (Thomson, Eleventh Edition); Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, eds.: Literary Theory: An Anthology (Blackwell, Third Edition, 2017).

Texts will be available at: Norris Book Store.

English 302 – History of the English Language (Pre 1830/TTC)

Course Description: Have you noticed that, unlike many other languages, English has often has two different names for the same animal? These double names can be traced back to 1066, when the French-speaking Normans, led by William the Bastard, conquered England and installed their countrymen in almost every position of power. In the aftermath of this victory, William the Bastard became William the Conqueror and cow and pig and sheep became beef and pork and mutton – at least when they were served up to the Normans at their banquets. Like many other words associated with aristocratic life, these names for different kinds of meat all derive from French, while the names of the living animals, cared for by Anglo-Saxon peasants, can be traced back to the Old English cu, pigga, and scep. In this course we will investigate this and many other milestones in the history of the English language, focusing on the period from the end of the Roman Empire through the eighteenth century. We will pay particular attention to the relationships among “high” and “low” forms of language, including efforts to elevate the status of English and the dynamics of self-consciously “low” registers of language such as slang and obscenity, and to the relationship between language and gender. In addition to offering an introduction to the linguistic, literary, and social history of England, this course will help you to develop a more sensitive understanding of the varieties of English spoken today.

Course Materials: David Crystal, The Stories of English, ISBN 978-1585677191; Tore Janson, The History of Languages, ISBN 978-019960429-6; readings and videos posted to Canvas.

Note: This course can count towards either the Area IV (Historical Studies) or the Area VI (Literature & Fine Arts) distribution requirement.

English 307 – Advanced Creative Writing

Course Description: Some stories run uninterrupted from start to finish, like the exhalation of a single breath or—as George Saunders likes to say—a toy car zipping under the couch. Other stories seek to delay, linger, or meander using various devices, one of which is breaking the narrative into sections or parts. This class will explore some of the different ways that authors have used this strategy, why they did so, and how the strategy affects a story’s structure, pace, and ambition.

Evaluation Methods: Students will draft two new stories using one method or another for dividing the narrative into parts. Other writing will include exercises and feedback for workshop stories. Published short stories and brief craft lessons will supplement our focus on student work.

Teaching Method: Workshop and discussion.

Notes: Enrollment is by permission number.  Please contact Professor Donohue for inquiries.

We’re scheduled to meet synchronously once a week for 3-hours, but since we’re on Zoom, we won’t use all of that time. Instead, students will meet separately a few times in pairs or groups for discussions or small workshops, scheduled as they prefer.

Note that all stories should be either literary realism or magical realism; no fantasy or sci-fi.

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

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), experimental final paper (3-4 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 other readings will be posted on the course Canvas site.

English 313 – Studies in Fiction: Desire and Danger in the 19th C English 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 very motors not only of social relations but of narratives and fiction. In great novels, we as readers hang as much on the outcome of romantic entanglements as we do on the solution of crimes. 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!

Teaching Method: Seminar discussion.

Evaluation Method: Early 3-pp. paper (15%); midterm project or presentation; final 5-7 pp. paper (40%); seminar presentations, brief assignments, and contribution to seminar discussion (20%).

Texts include: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Penguin, 9780141439518), Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (Oxford, 9780199577033), Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Penguin, 9780141439594), Bram Stoker, Dracula (Oxford, 9780199564095). Books will be available at Norris Bookstore, though students are encouraged to acquire their texts independently and beforehand.  Please note that it is ESSENTIAL to acquire the specific editions listed or to have a digital version of the novels, so we can all "be on the same page."

English 324 – Studies in Medieval Literature: The Seven Deadly Sins (Pre-1830)

Course Description: What are the Seven Deadly Sins, how did they come into being, and how do can we make sense of the role they continue to play the 21st century popular imagination?  What is the nature of moral and ethical transgression:  is sin a disposition, a thought, an action, or an external force? And how does one make amends for such transgression? Over the course of the quarter, we will attempt to answer these questions by exploring the shifting representations of sin, secrets and confession that pervade late medieval literature. Analyzing the texts of preachers and poets alike, we will investigate the ways in which medieval writers adapted their depictions of sin to address the major social and political issues of their day, highlighting certain sins while hiding others as the moment required.  Along with sin, we will examine the practice of confession in its historical and literary contexts, discovering how priests, poets, and playwrights exploited and transformed this pastoral tool for narrative and social ends.  While giving students with a background in confessional practice and the discourse of Seven Deadly Sins, this course will also provide an introduction to some of the major works of the late Middle Ages: Dante’s Purgatory, Langland’s Piers Plowman, and Everyman. We will also explore how David Fincher’s 1995 film, Se7en reworks these medieval concepts for a contemporary audience.

Teaching Method(s): Discussion and some lecture.

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

Textbooks will be available at: Beck’s Book Store. [Dante, The Divine Comedy, Vol. II:  Purgatory.  ISBN 978-0140444421 (approximate cost: $16); other readings will be available on Canvas].

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 365 – Studies in Postcolonial Literature: Imaginary Homelands: South Asian Literatures in English (Post 1830/ICSP/TTC)

Course Description: South Asian writers win prizes. Ever since Salman Rushdie catapulted to international fame with the Booker Prize in 1981, writers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have become the mainstay of not only literary prize cultures and the festival circuit but also U.S. university campuses. What has made South Asian literature so popular, especially when it deals with somber questions of anticolonial resistance, postcolonial nation-building, violence, and loss? This course will introduce students to twentieth and twenty-first century South Asian Literatures in English characterized by exciting stylistic innovations in magical realism, modernist language games, lyrical prose, and biting satire. By examining novels, short stories, poems, political writing, and films, we will ask, how has literature shaped both the promise and failure of the postcolonial nation-state? What might South Asian writing teach us about the global project of democratic world-making? Topics of discussion will include gender, caste, empire, globalization, migrancy, and environmentalism.


English 368 – Studies in 20th Century Literature: Joyce's Ulysses: Poetics & Politics of the Everyday (Post 1830/TTC)

Course Description: An encyclopedic epic that tracks three Dubliners’ criss-crossing adventures on 16 June 1904, James Joyce's landmark Ulysses (1922) 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 Homer’s Odyssey and other sources, notes, and commentaries. In thinking about the fictional Dubliners who populate Ulysses, we’ll consider Joyce’s transmutation of Homer’s Odyssey 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; resonances of home, exile, and homecoming; psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious and “the psychopathology of everyday life” (Freud); scapegoat dynamics in theory and everyday practice; bodies, sensation, 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, satire, 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 voices: narrative voice, 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 and soundscapes from the cat’s “mrkgnao” to a screeching tram and characters’ inner, speaking, and singing voices; the worldly diction of Joyce’s beyond-English; and more. Together we’ll approach this challenging, maddening, amazing, exhilarating, funny, moving, deeply rewarding book in ways playful and critical, jocoserious and analytic, and we’ll seek revelation by engaging it with serious purpose and imaginative freedom.

Teaching Method: Impromptu lectures, presentations, discussion.

Evaluation: Prompt attendance, preparation, participation (20%); weekly posts (25%; these count as midterm and final); class presentation with 1-2-page handout (15%); course papers and projects: option of two shorter or one longer paper/project) (40%).

Books: Joyce, Ulysses (Modern Library, 1961 text), Don Gifford with Robert J Seidman, Ulysses Annotated, Homer, The Odyssey, Robert Fitzgerald's or another translation. Other recommended and supplementary readings, recordings, and films via Canvas Course Reserves and Library Media.

English 371 – American Novel: Race and Politics in Faulkner (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: This course will involve the close reading of Faulkner's four great tragic novels of race and identity: The Sound and The Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), Light In August (1932), and Absalom, Absalom! (1936). Until very recently, these works have been considered central to the canon of modernist fiction and read as meditations on the tortured consciousness of the artist (TSATF, AILD, AA!) or the dilemma of the outsider adrift in an alienating world (LIA). Saturating Faulkner's novels are images of the anguished history of race relations in the American South from the 19th century to the Great Migration and Great Depression. Yet the tragic legacy of slavery, Faulkner's abiding subject, has been understood by critics as a figure for more abstract and universal moral predicaments. Our investigation seeks to localize Faulkner's representation of history, particularly his vision of slavery and the effects of the color line, as a specifically American crisis, embodied in the remarkable chorus of narrative voices and visions that constitute his fictive world.

Teaching Method: Lecture and discussion.

Evaluation Method: During the quarter, you will write two take-home close reading examinations of two pages each, as well as a final paper of 8-10 pages on a topic of your choice that you have discussed with me. All written exercises are due over email in the form of Microsoft Word attachments. One quarter of your grade will be based on your participation in class discussion. Anyone who misses a class will require the professor's permission to continue in the course. No late papers will be accepted. Conflicts with deadlines must be discussed with the professor and any extensions must be approved in advance.

English 371 – American Novel: The Big Book: Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" (Post 1830)

Course Description: How do we gauge, and thereby engage with, a narrative of disproportionate scale and encyclopedic ambition? How do we lose--or find--our place in a colossal fictional world? 

One can find only a few examples in world literature of bigger, more capacious, more ambitious books than Moby-Dick.  In the first place, of course, the book is long, and part of our work will be to consider the specific pleasures and challenges of reading a big book.  But Moby-Dick is also big in another sense: it has proven to be a hugely influential and profoundly consequential novel.  Indeed, one cannot really understand U.S. literary, cultural, and political history if one has not come to terms with its story and the issues it engages.  Our work will be, like Captain Ahab, to take on Melville’s Leviathan better to understand the worlds the novel has helped to shape—including, by no means incidentally, our own.

Teaching Method: Mostly Discussion.  Possible student oral presentations. 

Evaluation method:  It is essential to keep up with the reading and there may be occasional quizzes to gauge compliance.  Possible short writing assignments.  Two longer papers (8-10 pages each).

Texts:  Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (first published in 1851), and a range of reviews and critical essays, including film adaptations.  Everyone MUST purchase and read ONLY THIS Norton Critical third edition of the novel, edited by Hershel Parker; ISBN: 978-0-393-28500-0.

English 378 – Studies in American Literature: US Literature and That ’70s Feeling (Post 1830)

Course Description: What was the Seventies, really? It seems the only consensus about the decade is that there isn’t one, aside for the noisy kaleidoscope of disco, drugs, and killer style known to popular culture. Politically, socially, and economically, however, the Seventies is seldom discussed for itself, instead conceived as the disastrous decade clearing the stage for Eighties corporatism, Reaganism, and nostalgia. This course reads deep and diversely to study this period of time as rendered and remembered. We will read and watch materials of the period as well as contemporary texts in order to ask, Why is the Seventies so difficult to summarize? How do narratives about race, class, and nation clash and diverge? What is the mood of the time and whose mood is it? What about our current period necessitates remembering the Seventies in a certain way and how does this rewrite the sense of the time for those who lived and wrote it? Possible authors and texts include Hunter S. Thompson, Jaws, Stephen King, The Salt Eaters, Joan Didion, Ishmael Reed, the Carpenters, Toni Morrison, Inherent Vice, Mad Men, Judy Blume, Gwendolyn Brooks, American Hustle, Lana Del Rey, and The Muppets.

Teaching Method: Seminar-style discussion.

Evaluation Method: Brief weekly response posts (Chalk); two essays.

Texts include: TBD

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore, Canvas

English 381 – Studies in Literature & Medicine: Contagious Narratives (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: In her monograph Contagious, Priscilla Wald writes, “Disease emergence ineluctably evinces human interconnections on global scale, but the stories of disease emergence fashion the terms in which those connections make sense” (270). For Wald, and for others, understanding the narratives of contagion can help us understand the cultural and social work that diseases do in the world. In this independent study, we will investigate how authors imagine the lifeworlds of those in the grip of contagious outbreak. The course will move in three sections. Beginning with HIV/AIDS epidemic, we will examine Tony Kushner’s masterwork, Angels in America. In the second section, we will extracts from some of the most famous nonfiction writing on disease outbreak, including the work of John Barry, Laurie Garrett, and Richard Preston. In the final section of the course, we will examine fictions of virality unmoored from the real world, including Colson Whitehead’s novel Zone One, Francis Lawrence’s film I am Legend, and Junot Diaz’s “Monstro.” Throughout, we will engage with important secondary literature from scholars including Priscilla Wald, Ramzi Fawaz, Neel Ahuja, Adia Benton, and others. We will be especially attentive to how race, gender, and sexuality relate to notions of susceptibility to disease, how these categories organize government response, and how solidarity within and between these communities has reorganized political and cultural responses to contagion.

Teaching method: Bi-weekly seminar meetings

Evaluation Method: Three papers, discussion, Canvas posts

Texts include:

English 385 – Topics in Combined Studies: LGBTQ Art and Activism in the United States (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: From the Civil Rights Movement to the AIDS crisis to the legalization of gay marriage, LGBT art and activism have been deeply intertwined.  Queer writers in the U.S. have negotiated ever-shifting priorities and stigmas to represent queer life in literature and media. Yet stories have always been a way to have a voice, to account for oneself and one’s community, and to connect to others who share one’s experience. LGBTQ literature might be outward facing—representing queerness to a straight audience—or it might face inwards, speaking to a queer community of readers. This class will consider the relationship between sociopolitical movements and the art and literature that were produced from or around them. Focusing on flashpoints in the history of LGBTQ rights and culture in the United States, students will leave this course with a concrete sense of recent history, artistic diversity, and intersectional queer studies. In addition to a core set of literary and historical texts, students will give queer culture presentations on each of the primary periods this class covers. These presentations will provide the opportunity to bring in objects from outside of the class, which will supplement our understanding of queer art and activism.

Teaching Methods: Discussion of assigned texts, as well as supplementary material presented in class.

Evaluation Methods: Participation, short presentation, reflections, final paper or creative project.

Texts Include: Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt (1952); James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room (1956); Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle (1973); Tony Kushner, Angels in America (1991); Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (2006). In addition, we will read a series of activist documents, short stories, and essays, and watch the documentary How to Survive a Plague (2012).

Texts Will Be Available At: Novels will be at Beck’s Bookstore; all other essays and films will be on Canvas.

English 386 – Studies in Literature and Film: 2001: A Cinematic Odyssey (Post 1830/TTC)

Course Description: This course will introduce key terms and concepts for close reading a film, then lead students through applying those tools to an eclectic, ambitious range of global cinema, spanning scripted dramas, musicals, documentaries, short films, and animated features. As we hone our aesthetic sensibilities and capacities for rigorous argument, we will also pose historical questions about the year 2001, when all of these movies debuted on the world stage and/or arrived in U.S. theaters. This year, is significant for many reasons: most obviously the epochal events of September 11, but also the GOP’s reclaiming of the U.S. Presidency, the deepening of a global recession, advances in home computing and gaming, and major industrial shifts in how Hollywood produces and circulates movies. Throughout the course, we will confront what it means to unpack the complexities and even contradictions of a moment that still feels “recent” by the standards of most history classes, but is already measurably different from our own, and perhaps divergent from how we tend to commemorate the 9/11 period, the Bush years, or the new millennium in pop-cultural terms. Lectures will combine formal analyses of artistically and socially significant films, including work from six continents.

Teaching Method: Twice-weekly lectures, with significant interaction and discussion. Evaluation Method: Graded writing assignments; lecture participation.

Assignments: Writing assignments will include two traditional, thesis-driven essays as well as a series of shorter, skill-building exercises, some of them with individual research components. These assignments will also include opportunities to craft prose in different voices and for different audiences.

Readings: None required for purchase. All assigned readings available on Canvas.

Films: Movies screened in whole or in part are likely to include 11’09”01 (Miscellaneous), Amélie (France), Amores perros (Mexico), Beneath the Veil (UK/Afghanistan), By Hook and by Crook (USA), Donnie Darko (USA), Faat Kiné (Senegal), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (USA), In the Mood for Love (Hong Kong), Kandahar (Iran), Lagaan (India), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (New Zealand), Memento (USA), Monster’s Ball (USA), Moulin Rouge (Australia), Mulholland Drive (USA), No Man’s Land (Bosnia-Herzegovina), The Pinochet Case (France/Chile), Southern Comfort (USA), Spirited Away (Japan), (USA), and Training Day (USA).

Note: This course satisfies the Transnationalism and Textual Circulation (TTC) requirement for the English major.

English 397 – Research Seminar: Landscape and Technology in 20th Century Literature

Course Description: Conrad's Marlow piloting a rattletrap steamship carrying armed "pilgrims" up the Congo; Mansfield taking a French train to meet her lover at the front as industrial war machines shell tiny, fragile human bodies amid fields of poppies; Hemingway driving an ambulance on the Italian front; Chaplin's Tramp cast opposite a zeppelin in a censored wartime short film; Woolf's young men descending in a submarine to "suffocate uncomplainingly together"; Eliot's typist home at teatime, putting a record on her gramophone; the clanking newsroom presses and the printed newspapers, ads, posters, and "throwaways" that beckon, call, and cry to Dubliners in Joyce's river-threaded cityscapes; the train to the Caves and automobile accident on the Marabar Road in Forster's A Passage to India; the aeroplane writing on the sky above Mrs Dalloway's mesmerized Londoners; Giles Oliver's vision of Hitler bombing the church to smithereens on the festival day of the annual village pageant in Woolf's Between the Acts; Time Magazine bringing the world-shaking news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima to the American Army prison camp in Pisa, where it reverberates in Pound's Pisan Cantos: twentieth-century literature abounds in depictions of emergent technologies shaping the landscapes, conditions, and events of human life and thought.

In our research seminar, we'll read a selection of works alongside essays by Benjamin, McLuhan, Woolf, Kittler, Leopold, Hansen, and others. Working closely with the instructor and our Humanities Bibliographer, Josh Honn, each student will home in on a topic and design a juicy, imaginative, feasible project that combines scholarly research and literary interpretation. One for all and all for one, we'll learn to frame promising research questions; to navigate scholarly databases and archives; to evaluate sources; to explore readings in context while capturing and testing our own insights and ideas; to craft a sound, engaging, well-written essay; and to give and take constructive critique. Each student will produce a work notebook, a preliminary proposal, an annotated bibliography, a working proposal and bibliography, and a 12-15 page research paper.

Teaching Methods: Seminar discussions, peer workshops, individual conferences.

Evaluation Methods: Attendance, preparation, class participation; exercises, such as posts, peer review, and in-class workshops; a preliminary proposal and bibliography, annotated bibliography, working proposal and bibliography, drafts, and the 12-15 page research paper.

Texts: Exemplary selected works, excerpts, essays, and research guides to be read in common; plus each student's particular bibliography. Everyone will learn from each other's projects while pursuing his or her own.

Prerequisites: Open to juniors and seniors only. Students should successfully complete 4-6 300-level English courses before taking English 397.

English 220 – The Bible as Literature (Pre-1830/TTC)

Course Description: This course is intended to familiarize students of literature with the most influential text in Western culture. No previous acquaintance with the Bible is presupposed. 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; recurrent images and themes; the Bible as a Hebrew national epic; the New Testament as a radical reinterpretation of the “Old Testament” (or Hebrew Bible); and the overall narrative as a plot with beginning, middle, and end. Since time will not permit a complete reading, we will concentrate on those books that display the greatest literary interest or influence. From the Torah we will read Genesis, Exodus, and parts of Deuteronomy; from the Prophets, Amos, Jonah, Second Isaiah, and Daniel; and from the Writings, the books of Judges, Ruth, Psalms, and the Song of Songs, along with the saga of King David and portions of the Wisdom literature. In the New Testament, we will read the Gospels according to Matthew, Luke, and John and the book of Revelation.

Teaching method: three interactive lectures and one discussion section per week.

Evaluation methods: class participation, two lecture outlines, four in-class quizzes, eight online posts, one five-page paper. No midterm or final exam.

Texts: Bible (must be either New Revised Standard Version or New International Version); course packet at Quartet Copies. Available at Norris or online.

Note: This course is combined with Comp Lit 211-0-2A.

English 300 – Seminar in Reading and Interpretation: Global Ecologies

Course Description: In this seminar, we practice close reading of novels, poems, and visual art from different parts of the globe in relation to their depiction of environmental issues. How, for example, do we interpret environmental symbols within specific cultural contexts while acknowledging their global significance? How do we read on a global scale but at the same time maintain the integrity of individual texts? How are works about the environment related to one another, and what strategies does a literary scholar use to compare individual texts without replicating the unequal social relations between the societies from which the works emerge and circulate? In what ways do environmental themes intersect with other social and political concerns (e.g., gender violence, colonialism, homophobia, etc.) in a text, and how should we treat this interface without losing track of our main focus? Furthermore, how do we integrate activist and political positions in literary criticism while retaining professional aesthetic distance?  Emphasizing the primacy of close reading, the seminar is based on the premise that textual interpretation is the beginning of literary scholarship, not the end of it.

Teaching Method(s): Mostly discussion-based.

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

Texts include: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Hardy’s Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Welcome to Sodom (dirFlorian Weigensamer and Christian Krönes), Octavia Butler's Dawn.

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

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 method: 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.

English 300 – Seminar in Reading and Interpretation: Medieval Pop Culture

Course Description: The earliest reference to the legend of Robin Hood occurs in the fourteenth-century religious poem Piers Plowman. There, a character named Sloth confesses to a character named Repentance that, instead of memorizing the Lord’s Prayer and other basics of the Christian faith as instructed by his parish priest, he has learned by heart numerous “rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolf Earl of Chester.” Taking Sloth’s comment as its starting point, this course will investigate a series of works that people in the Middle Ages read and listened to for fun rather than out of a sense of obligation. In addition to reading “rhymes of Robin Hood” and other outlaw tales, we will look at animal stories featuring the trickster-hero Reynard the Fox and scurrilous fabliaux in which adulterous couples are celebrated rather than punished. As we seek to come to grips with these stories, we will draw on a wide range of intellectual tools, from scholarly articles to modern analogues. In what ways, for instance, do the mid-twentieth-century Coyote-Road Runner cartoons shed light on the antics of Reynard the Fox? An important goal of this course is to develop the skills in writing and textual analysis that you will need for more advanced English courses.

Course Materials: Reynard the Fox: A New Translation, by James Simpson, ISBN 978-0871407368; The Fabliaux, trans. Nathaniel Dubin, ISBN 978-0871403575; readings and videos posted to Canvas

English 309 – Advanced Creative Cross-Genre Writing: Writing Ancestry

Course Description: This course will examine ancestry as a vector of meaning that has both ancient roots and current relevance. We will develop a regular practice of meditative, imaginative writing, while doing research to connect our stories with wider historical and cultural contexts. We will frame the course with essays by thinkers including Marianne Hirsch (“The Generations of Postmemory”); Alondra Nelson (The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations and Reconciliation After the Genome); Daniel Foor (Ancestral Medicine: Rituals for Personal and Family Healing) and adrienne maree brown (Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds.) We will then read works of literature that cross genres and explore the author’s ancestry through fact, imagination and inventive genre-crossing. Most of the course will be spent in the dual symbiosis of close reading and creative writing. Students will be guided in how to write into the known and unknown chapters of their ancestry, and will write creatively in response to their readings. Participants will end the course with a suite of writing—poems, essays, short stories or cross-genre meditations—that combine the personal with the historical, the self with the ancestors. (People unsure of their ancestry are welcome in this course, and ancestry may be fluidly, openly defined.)

Teaching Method: Seminar-based discussion and some peer exchange and workshopping.

Evaluation Method: Active participation in class; written responses to our readings; three creative assignments that may be fulfilled through poetry, creative non-fiction, fiction or cross-genre experiment. (Students will be given the same prompts, but may write in the genre of their choice.)

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: This course is combined with Humanities 395-0-20.

English 323-1 – Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales (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: $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: Speculative Fictions: Allegory from Rome to Star Trek (Pre 1830)

Course Description: When your high-school English teacher praised “rounded” literary characters at the expense of “flat” ones, he or she was prizing the novelistic over the allegorical, representing the latter as at best a sign of authorial laziness and at worst a vehicle for the heavy-handed transmission of doctrine. This course will approach allegory differently, considering it as a tool for thought. After an introductory unit that examines a number of competing definitions of allegory, we will read and view a variety of speculative fictions, pairing the medieval with the modern in order to highlight commonalities as well as differences. In order to explore the conventions of allegorical battle, we will thus read Prudentius' fifth-century Psychomachia, which recounts a series of gruesome battles between personified Virtues and Vices, in conjunction with selected episodes from Joss Whedon's teen-focused television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Within the category of allegorical journey, we will consider early episodes of Star Trek alongside the fourteenth-century “best-seller” Piers Plowman, and the medieval morality play Everyman alongside the classic 1957 western The 3:10 to Yuma. In engaging with these works, we will ask ourselves how their personifications are “good to think with.” What kinds of work do they do that mimetic characters do not? In what ways are they more or less “real” than the fictive persons and authorial personae with whom they interact? Finally, is personification itself a relatively homogenous category, or can we distinguish important subtypes? What different reading practices might these subtypes allow or encourage?

Course Materials: Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. Relihan, ISBN 1619492431; Langland, Piers Plowman, ed. Elizabeth Robertson and Stephen Shepherd, ISBN 978-0393975598; readings and videos on Canvas.

English 324 – Special Topics in Shakespeare: Hamlet: That is the Question (Pre 1830)

Course Description: We will spend the term delving deeply into the meaning and significance of a play often said to be at the heart of Shakespeare’s canon and of modern Western culture more generally. Devoting a full course to one play will allow us to read this enduringly important, exceptionally enigmatic tragedy intensively, scene by scene, sometimes line by line. At the same time, it will allow us to see the many and sometimes conflicting Hamlets that have existed since about 1600, when it was first written and performed. We will read the three early (and different) printed versions of the play from Shakespeare’s time. We will also encounter the play through the lenses and tools of several modern critical approaches that have sought to address the mystery of the play and its central character: psychoanalytic Hamlet, post-structuralist Hamlet, Marxist Hamlet, new historicist Hamlet, feminist and queer Hamlets, alongside the critical perspectives of some film versions and Tom Stoppard’s ingenious revision. “To be or not to be,” as we will see, is not the only question.

Teaching Method(s): Seminar discussion and mini-lectures

Evaluation Method(s): Thorough preparation of readings and participation in our discussions; essays.

Texts include:

Texts will be available at: Beck’s

English 361-1 – 20th-Century Poetry: Modern Poetry & Poetics (Post 1830)

Course Description: "Make It New": Ezra Pound translated this famous slogan from an ancient Chinese inscription: "As the sun makes it new / Day by day make it new." What is "it"? What designs guide poets' "making"? What makes a poem "new"? These questions open broad reaches on the vast river of poetic traditions, materials, techniques, and experiences that poets navigated during the long, turbulent twentieth-century, articulating poetic aims, theories, principles, and manifestos as they went. Thus Baudelaire sings the painter of modern life; Eliot urges poets to cultivate a "historical sense," a knowledge of past literature, so as to seize what is new in their own moment; while for William Carlos Williams, "So much depends / upon / a red wheel / barrow / glazed with rain / water / beside the white / chickens." As readers of modern poetry and poetics, we'll aim to deepen our attunement to the multifarious workings of poetic traditions by studying poems and poetic manifestos in themselves, in dialogue with other poems/poetics, and in light of the cultural contexts and poetic resources that inspired them. As we listen to poems sing, speak, talk to each other, and engage resources of poetic language (voice, rhetoric, figurative language, versification, rhythm, music, visual arrangement, &c.), we'll seek to broaded and hone our analytic skills, deepen our understanding, and feel and appreciate their beauty.

Teaching Method: Impromptu lectures, presentations, discussion.

Evaluation Method: Prompt attendance, informed participation, weekly exercises, class presentation, option of two shorter essays or one longer course project.

Texts: Poems and prose texts by Baudelaire, Mallarme, Whitman, Dickinson, Yeats, Pound, H. D., Eliot, Williams, Moore, Stevens, Hughes, Brooks, the war poets, and some post-WWII poets.

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: Lecture-discussion.

Evaluation Method: Response posts on Canvas, midterm response, and final essay.

Texts include:

Texts will be available at: Norris Bookstore, Canvas.

Note: This course is combined with African American Studies 380-0-21.

English 368 – Studies in 20th Century Literature: Writing Human Rights (Post 1830/ICSP/TTC)

Course Description: Over the last decade, posters announcing “Refugees Welcome Here” have appeared across the American landscape. What does the particular figure of the refugee tell us about the status of human rights in the twenty-first century? In other words, what are human rights and why do we care about them? Who gets to be a human and who doesn’t? This course examines the logic behind both the dispensation and withholding of human rights through literary texts across genres (novels, short stories, and graphic novels) and political theory across global sites like Kashmir, Palestine, Guantánamo, and Manus Island. The course queries the role of empathy, citizenship, the category of the human, and protection from torture, genocide, and extralegal violence in representation by studying key figures such as the refugee, the undocumented migrant, the prisoner, and the animal.  


English 375 – Topics in Asian American Literature: Memory + Identity in Asian American Literature (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: How can writers represent inaccessible stories, ones lost to the passage of history? How is this question multiply fraught for Asian American authors who contend with obstacles stemming from diaspora, linguistic difference, and minoritization? Are traumatic memories better forgotten? This quarter, we will explore contemporary Asian American literary production by reading a variety of texts focused on the concept of memory—as an individual subject’s capacity for recall (“I can/can’t remember”), as an act of commemoration (“in memory of”), and as a material device or receptacle for data (a hard drive’s “memory”). This framing will allow us to explore how literature functions as repositories of minority histories and memories, as meditations on the process of assembling and collecting stories, and as imaginings of alternative histories and futures. Given the difficulty of assembling a coherent Asian American identity (an imagined panethnic grouping that originated in the 1960s), our examinations will be defined as much by the absences, gaps, and contradictions of Asian America’s collective memory as by what is found within it. In the process, we will familiarize ourselves with the richness and diversity of Asian American literature by considering a variety of genres, including poetry, novels, short stories, comics, and film.

Evaluation Methods: Participation, discussion posts; group presentation, midterm essay exam, final research paper (7-8 pages).

Potential primary texts include: Miné Okubo, Citizen 13660 (comic); Monique Truong, Bitter in the Mouth; Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost; and poems by Craig Santos Perez and Emily Jungmin Yoon. Potential critical texts from Lisa Lowe, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Diana Taylor, Michael Davidson, and Rodrigo Lazo.

Texts Will Be Available at: Books will be available at the Norris bookstore. All other readings will be provided through Canvas.

Note:  This course is combined with Asian American Studies 376-0-1.

English 378 – Studies in American Literature: American Women Auteurs, Black and White: 1850-1870 (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course DescriptionThis course will explore the slave narratives, novels, and memoirs of 19th-century America’s most imaginative and eloquent women writers, black and white, as they transform those genres in a series of literary works both aesthetically ground breaking and politically transformative.  Selections from the following authors will include Harriet Beecher Stowe, Hannah Crafts, Harriet Wilson, Harriet Jacobs (the Harriets), Julia Collins, Elizabeth Stoddard, Elizabeth Keckley (the Elizabeths), and Louisa May Alcott.

Teaching Method: Discussion.

Evaluation Method: Two brief take-home close reading exams and a final paper or project.

English 378 – Studies in American Literature: Environmental Justice in Black and Indigenous Women’s Literature (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: While ecocriticism has not always considered the lived experience of women of color, literary texts by African American and Native American women have found ways of theorizing their own versions of environmental and spatial justice. Reading leading theorists like Rob Nixon and Edward Soja side by side with Jesmyn Ward’s post-Katrina novel Salvage the Bones (2011), Toni Jensen’s stories about oil and fracking on Indigenous lands, and poetry by Nikky Finney and Heid E. Erdrich, this class interrogates how literature can inform our understanding of environmental injustice and different types of violence. It grounds the discussion in a longer history of colonial extraction and Indigenous dispossession, racism, structural neglect, and ongoing residential segregation by discussing Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 hurricane novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and looking at Zitkala-Ša’s influential 1924 report on the settler defrauding of Osage Indians for their oil-rich lands.

Teaching Methods: Seminar discussion, collaborative group work

Evaluation Methods: Participation, two short papers, one-time in-class presentation on the day’s readings, oral presentation on environmental activism

Texts include: Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937); LeAnne Howe, Shell Shaker (2001); Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (2011); Nikky Finney, selected poems from Head Off & Split (2011); Toni Jensen, “Women in the Fracklands: On Water, Land, Bodies, and Standing Rock”

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

Note: This course is combined with Asian American Studies 376-0-1.

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

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 381 – Studies in Literature and Medicine: Introduction to Disability Studies in Literature (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: The field of disability studies grew out of the rights-based activism that led, in the United States, to the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Yet, as disability theorists have observed, “western” literature has long been obsessed with disability as metaphor, character trait, and plot device. This course will serve as an introduction to the application of disability studies in literature. We will explore a range of questions: how do we approach the representation of disability in texts by non-disabled authors? How do we differentiate (or should we?) between disability and chronic illness, or between physical and mental disabilities? Can literary representation operate as activism? How do we parse the gap between disability as metaphor and lived experience? What does literature offer disability studies, and why should disability studies be a core method for studying literature?  Readings will be divided between theoretical texts and primary sources. Students will learn to grapple with complex sociocultural and literary analysis, as well as to make space for their own primary source readings.

Teaching Methods: Discussion, collaborative reading.

Evaluation Methods: Participation, collaborative course-building; final research paper (8-10 pages).

Texts Include: Jane Austen, Persuasion (1817); Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940). In addition, we will read from the theoretical work of Lennard J. Davis, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Michael Bérubé, Robert McRuer, Alison Kafer, and Jasbir Puar, and a selection of short stories and personal essays.

Texts Will Be Available At: Novels will be available at Beck’s Bookstore. All other readings will be provided through Canvas.

English 385 – Topics in Combined Studies: Writing Gay Men's Lives (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course DescriptionIn 1882, Oscar Wilde, on a triumphant American tour, met with Walt Whitman at his home in Camden, New Jersey.  What can we learn from this meeting of the two most famous homosexuals the nineteenth century produced?  But also: what might be lost by characterizing the meeting in these terms—as a meeting of two “homosexuals”?  What if we were instead to imagine their meeting as a dizzying historical co-incidence of the last example of whatever-men-were-before-they-were-understood-to-be-“homosexual” (Whitman), and the first example of this new type (Wilde)?

In this course we’ll study the terms in which “gay men” have written about themselves in diaries, novels, letters, poetry, and journals, as well as how they have been written about in various discourses of power—legal, medical, sociological, and theological—in the 128 years since Whitman’s death in 1892, which is also the year the word “homosexual” first appeared in English.

Partly to answer the question how “we” came to be where “we” are today, we’ll consider writings on a range of topics and from a range of historical periods, including the HIV pandemic (AIDS as “a gay disease” and as the disease of gayness); the 1950’s and 1960’s (periods often seen, respectively, as those of normative heterosexuality, and of the sexual revolution); early twentieth-century characterizations of gender “inversion; and nineteenth-century versions of male-male amorous attachments.    

The course will be directed largely toward the texts and contexts out of which emerges the “sexual orientation” called “gay male,” but issues of “straightness,” “lesbianism,” “bisexuality,” “queerness,” and “trans” will necessarily arise as well.

Teaching Method: Discussion

Evaluation Method: No exams.  A shorter midterm paper expanded into a larger, research-oriented final paper.  Students may be required to present an oral report.

Readings will likely be drawn from: Walt Whitman's writings both in poetry and prose (1842-92); Henry Blake Fuller’s Evanston/Northwestern novel Bertram Cope’s Year (1919); Rat and the Devil: Journal Letters of F. O. Matthiessen and Russell Cheney (1924-45); Tony Kushner's Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches (1992); Rafael Campo, The Other Man Was Me (1994).  A number of films may also be screened: Pillow Talk (1959); Marlon Riggs’s Tongues Untied (1989); Rodney Evans’s Brother to Brother (2004); Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight (2016).

Note: This course is combined with Gender Studies 361-0-20.

English 385 – Topics in Combined Studies: Law and Literature (Post 1830/TTC)

Course Description: This course will examine ideas of justice in western cultural and literary traditions. The focus will be the classical tradition, the biblical tradition, and Shakespeare who inherited both and reworked them in the early modern period. The trial of Socrates, the trial of Jesus, biblical prophecy, tragedy in Aeschylus and Shakespeare, and a modern work by Melville will be included. Our exploration will be done in the context of theories of justice, and we will read those theories alongside the literature. But we will also heed how literature itself offers elaborations of theories of justice, following their consequences both within legal frameworks and beyond, as they shape the public and intimate lives of people. We will ask how religious ideas of justice inform and depart from secular ideas of justice, how retributive and distributive ideas of justice are imagined and critiqued, and how the relation between justice and law has been conceived.

Teaching Methods: Lecture and discussion.

Evaluation Methods: Discussion and papers.

Texts include: Excerpts from Plato and Aristotle; Aeschylus, The Eumenides; Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet; excerpts from Rawls; Kymlicka, Political Philosophy.

English 385 – Topics in Combined Studies: Information Overload! (Post 1830/TTC)

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(s): Discussion

Evaluation Method(s): Class participation, presentations, mid-term paper, final project.

Texts include:

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

English 385 – Topics in Combined Studies: Animal Letters (Pre 1830)

Course Description: In 1614, Sir Walter Raleigh re-calculated the size of Noah’s Ark to insist it was feasible for it to hold representatives of all the existing kinds of creatures, asserting there were fewer kinds than had been previously imagined. Raleigh’s intervention combined new forms of early modern math and science with a continued reliance on traditional religious accounts. Before the rise of nineteenth-century ideas about extinction and evolution, early modern thinkers read the creation narrative in Genesis as natural history. This course will explore their accounts of the “creaturely kinds” before and during the time in which a more modern science was being launched. This perspective on animals will also allow us to speculate about what it has meant to be human – and when – and to assess how aptly a word like “progress” describes the human story. To end with two capstones that leap forward to look back once more, we will turn to Virginia Woolf’s 1933 biography of the spaniel, Flush, and Missouri Williams’ 2014 production, King Lear with Sheep (a staging of King Lear ... yes, with sheep).

One course goal will be to think about the central place of animals in the history of what we call “human” knowledge. Another will be to understand the capacities of the now-obsolete term, “creature”: the term enshrines biological variation as a sign of plenty and also makes clear how sympathy, collaboration, and identification routinely occur across the differences of species. At the broadest level, the seminar will challenge the notion that all human thought has always been or must inevitably be “human-exceptionalist” thought. The course will also serve as a broad introduction to sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century literature, including intellectual texts, dialogues, lyric poetry, prose essays, and Shakespeare.

Teaching Method: lecture and discussion

Evaluation Method: sustained and substantive class participation, a mid-term exam, and two papers.

Texts Include:
Readings will be selected from among the following texts: The Book of Genesis (selections); Pliny, Natural History (selections); Thomas More, “Comments of a Rabbit” (c. 1517); The legal case against the green weevils of St. Julien (1545-87); William Baldwin, Beware the Cat (1553); George Gascoigne, “The Otter’s Oration” (1575); Michel de Montaigne, “The Apology for Raymond Sebond” (1580-92); William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595), As You Like It (1599), and King Lear (1606); Edward Topsell, The Historie of the Four-Footed Beasts (1607) (selections); Walter Raleigh, The Historie of the World (1624) (section on Noah’s Ark); René Descartes, Discourse on Method (1637); Margaret Cavendish, “The Hunting of the Hare” (1653); Virginia Woolf, Flush: A Biography (1933); and Missouri Williams, King Lear with Sheep (2014). (Many of these items, along with short contextualizing materials, will be supplied by the instructor).

English 385 – Topics in Combined Studies: Interracial Encounters (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: The United States is set to become a majority minority country by 2045. What are the many promises—and what are the many pitfalls—of interracial encounters, and what do they reveal about the country writ large? How do minority writers understand and narrate each other? This class brings contemporary African American, Native American, Latinx, and Asian American literature into relation with a focus on interracial dynamics. By examining complex topics from Black veterans of the Korean War to the shared border migrations of indigenous and Latinx subjects, we will develop an analytical framework attuned to how American racial identity has been differentially and unevenly constructed through history, culture, and politics. A central goal of the course is decentering whiteness as the primary locus of literary analysis, to allow for more nuanced interpretations of topics such as U.S. imperialism, mixed race identity, activism, labor history, and immigration. In the process, we will familiarize ourselves with the richness and diversity of multiethnic American literature by considering a variety of genres, including poetry, novels, short stories, and film.

Evaluation Methods: Participation; discussion posts, group presentation, midterm essay exam, final research paper (7-8 pages).

Potential primary texts include: Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves, Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange; Toni Morrison, Home; Cristina Garcia, Monkey Hunting; Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing (film); short stories by Junot Díaz; and poetry by Natalie Diaz. Potential critical texts from W.E.B. Du Bois, Lisa Lowe, José Muñoz, Tiffany King, Kim TallBear, Vijay Prashad, and Ramón Saldívar.

Texts Will Be Available At: Books will be available at the Norris bookstore. All other readings will be provided through Canvas.

Note: This course is colisted with Asian American Studies 303-0-3.

English 386 – Studies in Literature & Film: Gender and Horror (Post 1830/ICSP)

Course Description: A 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: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Halloween (1978), Alien (1979), 28 Days Later (2002), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), Get Out (2017).

Texts Will Be Available At: All films and readings will be posted to the course Canvas site.

Note: This course is combined with Gender Studies 373-0-21.

English 386 – Studies in Literature & Film: Fake news: Journalists as Storytellers, Sinners, and Saints (Post 1830)

Course Description: What happens when chasing “the story” becomes the story? In this class, we will examine how stories about journalism reflect and shape perceptions of the fourth estate. How have journalistic ethics been depicted in film and television? How do films and literature create sinners and saints out of journalistic figures? How have racism and misogyny affected representations of journalism, and how do they continue to impact the news in reality? As we analyze representations of journalists, we will learn how to apply close-reading skills to films and literature as well as to works of journalism themselves. Students will study narrative style and the creation of journalistic personas in historical and contemporary media, and will apply ideas from journalism studies and feminist media studies to discuss fictional works. Rather than tracing a chronology, course materials will be divided into units that engage with the most popular themes of journalism stories, especially on film: journalism ethics, individualist journalist heroes/anti-heroes, and sex scandals. Additionally, we will explore critical issues in contemporary journalism, with units focusing on race in the newsroom and covering global catastrophes

Teaching Method: Seminar discussion.

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

Texts include:

TV and Films will include: Scandal (Season 1, 2012); All the President’s Men (1976); Absence of Malice (1981); Broadcast News (1987); Heat Wave (1990); Livin’ Large (1991)Good Night, and Good Luck (2005); Capote (2005); A Private War (2018)

Novellas and Non-fiction will include: Katherine Anne Porter, Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939); Isaac Asimov, Nightfall ((1941); excerpts from Ida B. Wells, The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader (1892-4); excerpts from Elizabeth Rush, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore (2018).
Texts will be available at: Canvas.

English 397 – Research Seminar: Nineteenth-century U.S. Poetry and the History of the Book

Course Description: Your mission: to recover a work of poetry published in the nineteenth-century United States from the NU Library’s open stacks or from Special Collections, and to make every aspect of it the object of intensive study—from the paper quality to the binding to the cover to the illustrations to the book design to the publisher to the author to the book’s circulation and reception, and including all of the words and poems inside it.  By investigating every aspect of a book of poetry in this way, you will be demonstrating what can be learned by attending not simply to the form and content of the poems, but also to the poetic and printed forms in which these poems originally circulated.  To do so is to engage in the interdisciplinary scholarly methods of what has come to be called Studies in the History of the Book, and by quarter’s end, each member of the class will have pursued unique questions and reached unique conclusions about a single book that provides a window on the cultural work performed by poetry in the nineteenth-century United States.  You can read examples of what other students in past sections of this class have accomplished by checking out the website of their published essays:

Alongside this independent work, we will spend class meetings reading selectively from the vast archive of U.S. nineteenth-century poetry—an archive much more varied, in terms of both form and content, than the two poets who have most frequently come to represent it: Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.  In so doing, our classroom discussions will practice the same methodologies that each class member is undertaking with regard to a single book of poetry. 

Teaching Method: Discussion.

Evaluation Method: No exams.  As in all English 397 Research Seminars, the primary work of the course is the guided completion of a 15-page research paper, following the steps embedded in the syllabus. 

Readings will likely include these books and/or poets: William Cullen Bryant; Thomas Cole; Richard Henry Dana; Emily Dickinson; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Margaret Fuller; Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Forest Leaves (c. 1848); Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline (1847); Henry David Thoreau; Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773); Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855); William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (1798).

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Note: English 207 is normally First Class Mandatory, however, this particular section is being taught asynchronously.  In lieu of attending the first class, which is not possible in this format, there is a mandatory, short assignment due within 24 hours of the class opening online.  Students who do not complete the assignment will be dropped from the class, forfeiting their seat to the next person on the wait list.

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. We will spend significant time thinking critically about who is and who is not included in this "canon," and what values are enshrined in it--including the particular ideologies of race, gender, and empire these texts record and perpetuate. When and how does the canon include the voices of women, persons of color, and colonized subjects? What are the differences between such voices as written by white men and the writings penned by these subjects themselves? Authors will include Geoffrey Chaucer, Marie de France, Margery Kempe, Thomas More, Thomas Hariot, Leo Africanus, John Donne, John Milton, Aphra Behn, Jonathan Swift, Eliza Haywood, Oludah Equiano, and Samuel Johnson.  

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

Evaluation Method: Assignments include a midterm and final exam and a midterm and final paper. Robust participation is required.

Course Materials (Required): Norton Anthology of English Literature (Volumes A, B, C) ISBN-13: 978-0393603125.

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 outstanding representative 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 and the rise of human rights; the industrial revolution and democratization; the growth of imperialism, anti-slavery, and new forms of Victorian racism; print and transportation technologies, rapidly increasing literacy rates, first-wave feminism, and a wealth of related cultural arguments attached to all.

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 informal quizzes, and participation.

Texts includeThe Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors (8th ed., Vol. B: ISBN 0393928314) (used copies only); 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: The Experience and Logic of 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.  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 (w)reading exercises;  one 5-7 page paper;  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: What is fiction? What is fiction for? What is the relationship between fictional worlds and the real one? These are the questions that we will explore in this class. Reading both essential works of fiction and important theories of fiction, we will seek to understand the construction and purpose of these other literary worlds, as well as the social and political importance of reading this world otherwise. 

Teaching Method(s): lecture with required TA-led discussion section.

Evaluation Method(s): Short essays, midterm exam, final exam, quizzes and participation.

Texts include: 

These specific editions are required.  All are available in e-book formats.

English 214 – Introduction to Film and Its Literatures

Course Description: This course harbors two primary objectives: 1) to acquaint students with vocabularies and frameworks of argument required to analyze film in terms specific to that medium; and 2) to familiarize students with a broad range of written texts crucial to the study of cinema, enabling them to render persuasive interpretations of those texts, as well. The first half of the course will emphasize recent case studies of literature adapted into popular movies, tracking how not just the plots and characters but the perspectives, voices, structures, prose styles, and associated politics of written work get preserved but also transformed on screen, in blatant and subtle ways. In the second half, we will reverse course to examine plays, essays, and other literary works inspired by the movies. We will also explore some classic texts of popular film journalism and scholarly film theory, treating these as two literary and intellectual canons in their own right. Cultivating techniques of close analysis—whether breaking down a film sequence, parsing a scholar’s arguments, or negotiating between two versions of the “same” story—will be the paramount skill developed in the course, hopefully leading to deeper appreciations of several kinds of texts. Moreover, students will gain a valuable fluency in how to watch, dissect, and debate movies at a time when they still retain enormous cultural sway, both as entertainment vehicles and as venues for sustaining or contesting cultural and political narratives.

Lectures, discussion sections, and assignments will presume no prior coursework in film studies, but they will require quick, studious absorption of terms and concepts that might be new. Moreover, the course requires a willingness to put movies and other assigned materials under close analytical pressure, while hopefully retaining the joy of watching, reading, and evaluating them. The syllabus has been streamlined somewhat from previous offerings and skews more heavily (though not exclusively) toward contemporary material, but the expectations of your writing, thinking, and conversation remain high. Movies are many things, but not a vacation!

Teaching Method: Twice-weekly lectures as well as weekly discussion sessions.

Evaluation Method: Graded writing assignments; lecture quizzes; section participation.

Assignments: Writing assignments will include two conventional, argument-driven essays of 4 5pp. (around mid-quarter) and 6-7pp. (as a final), as well as two shorter, skill-building exercises of 1-2pp. (around Weeks 2 and 7). Students will also take three quizzes administered during lecture to ensure absorption of key concepts and details from viewings and readings.

Readings: Most assigned readings will be available free on Canvas, with the exceptions of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (ISBN: 1973762196), Annie Baker’s The Flick (ISBN: 1559364580), Ron Stallworth’s Black Klansman (ISBN: 1250299055), and Steve Erickson’s Zeroville (ISBN: 1933372397). The combined costs for these texts on Amazon total around $40.

Films: Movies screened in whole or in part are likely to include Arrival (2016), Birdman (2014), BlacKkKlansman (2018), Brokeback Mountain (2005), A Place in the Sun (1951), Pulp Fiction (1994), and The Salesman (2016).

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 , Part 1

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 273 – Introduction to 20th Century American Literature (ICSP)

Course Description: In the introduction to his important work The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois declared predicted that the problem of the “color line” would characterize the 20th century. In this course, we will examine an archive of key works of American literature to assess Du Bois’ portent. How and in what ways have racial divides structured American life and American letters? How do people of color—black descendants of enslavement, indigenous people dispossessed of their ancestral homes, and immigrants from the global south newly arrived—describe their experiences in relationship to American-ness? How has American-ness been imagined by white authors invested in preserving or disrupting this conflation of the two categories?

Drawing on works by a range of authors including Langston Hughes, William Faulkner, Carlos Bulosan, Lorraine Hansberry, Gloria Anzaldua, Louise Erdrich, and others, students in this will endeavor to understand how the residue of these conflicting and conflicted understandings have characterized contemporary understandings of and relationships to American identity.

Teaching Method: Two Lectures per week and one discussion session.

Evaluation Method: Reading quizzes, one paper, in-class midterm, take-home final.

Texts Include:

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: How to Work

Course Description: This course for writers of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction focuses on the contexts and processes of creative writing.  Our multi-genre readings are texts of many sorts that enact or think or imply something about how what we are writing develops out of our social, intellectual and artistic formation, intellectual curiosity, psychic processes, emotional investments, sense of language, and artistic goals. Readings will broaden our sense of how writers find and develop their materials, techniques, and artistic goals out of their sense of themselves and their context.  In many of our readings we'll see how our the complexity of the individual's sense of social, historical, political and personal contexts may lead to a range of structures, stances, and processes of writing. We’ll draw examples, methods and stances from our readings to expand our ability to think about (and perhaps begin) new possible projects and new ways of working on present projects. Writing assignments will be unlike those you may have previously completed.  (This is not a creative writing workshop.)  Readings (many of these are brief) include Julia Álvarez, Gloria Anzaldúa, James Baldwin, Eavan Boland, Christopher Bollas, Julia de Burgos, Helene Cixous, Lucille Clifton, Víctor Hernández Cruz, Mahmoud Darwish, Robert Duncan, William Goyen, Kimiko Hahn, Amy Hempel, Danilo Kiš, Clarice Lispector, Nathaniel Mackey, Katherine Mansfield, Linda McCarriston, Leonard Michaels, Marga Minco, Toni Morrison, Lorine Neidecker, Grace Paley, Sterling Plumpp, Adrienne Rich, Yannis Ritsos, Ed Roberson, Richard Wright, Jenny Xie.

English 410 – Introduction to Graduate Study

Course Description: This course serves as an introduction to the theories, methods, and practices of advanced literary study. While trying to avoid isolating theoretical and methodological approaches into their discrete silos, we will traverse a wide variety of different ways of understanding and analyzing literary texts (including perceiving what texts count as "literary"). We will also work to identify the ways in which these approaches, at their best, build on one another to constitute, in their best moments, the richest parts of the field of literary criticism. Rather than a single final paper at the end of the course, you will write weekly response papers (posted publicly on Canvas), in which you experiment in analyzing a chosen text from your field in the style or tradition of the texts we have read for the week. Grades will be based on robust participation, weekly response papers, and one oral presentation on one of the week's assigned texts. The course will also include a series of weekly Friday discussion sections, at which invited faculty and staff from around the university will speak about various topics related to professional development (for example: academic publishing, cv construction, conference presentations, finding your archive). Attendance is required at these sessions, but no additional preparation will be required.

Most readings to be posted on Canvas.

Required texts:

English 455 – Studies in Victorian Literature: Hardy's Genders and Protomodernism

Course Description: In his near-obsessive focus on Victorian sexual politics, Hardy helped to fashion a distinctly “modern” narrative while advocating for progressive reforms. We will study how his fiction challenged the limits of Victorian culture and its complex protocols about courtship, marriage, seduction, and divorce, voicing tensions that brought his novels to the brink of censorship. We will also pair those works with remarkable poems that make powerful claims about intimacy, repetition, infatuation, doubt, and belief. In this way, we will examine how Hardy’s fiction tried to educate late-Victorian readers in new and “protomodern” ways of thinking about themselves, their bodies and relationships, environment, 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 posts on Canvas, one response paper, final essay, and in-class participation.

Primary Texts (in order of use): Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd (ISBN 0141439653), The Mayor of Casterbridge (ISBN 0141439785), The Woodlanders (ISBN 0140435476), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (ISBN 0141439599), Jude the Obscure (ISBN 0140435387), and Selected Poems (ISBN 0140436995). Please follow the editions assigned (new and used available at the Norris Center Bookstore and online vendors); comparable pagination will greatly facilitate discussion.

English 461 – Studies in Contemporary Literature: Hemispheric Literature and Politics

Course Description: The geopolitical relationships between the United States and Latin America have left profound marks on the literary histories of the hemisphere. After brief consideration of early twentieth-century geopolitical contexts (dollar diplomacy, assigned sovereignties, and the Good Neighbor policy), this course will focus primarily on the period after 1973: interventions in Chile and Argentina; 1980s inflammation of civil conflicts in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama; 1990s neoliberalization policies such as NAFTA; regimes of Caribbean disaster capitalism in the climate emergencies of the 21st century; and the demise of the “pink tide” and the prospects for reemergence of an anti-imperial left in the U.S. This course explores these shared histories, especially through recent works of literary and cultural theory, poetry, memoir, poet’s prose, and literary magazines (made available digitally). The course has three goals: a broad introduction to hemispheric studies as a framework for both U.S. and Latin American cultural studies; a practicum in the construction of a comparative literary historical and political context; a survey of tendencies in U.S., Latino/a/x, and Latin American poetries since 1970. Authors and critics may include Cecilia Vicuña, Roberto Tejada, Raúl Zurita, Carolyn Forché, C.D. Wright, Roque Dalton, Margaret Randall, Ernesto Cardenal, Mark Nowak, Urayoán Noel, Claire Fox, Greg Grandin, Diana Taylor, Edgar Garcia, and others. Magazines will include El corno emplumado, Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas, and XCP: Cross-Cultural Poetics.

English 481 – Studies in Literary Theory & Criticism: Introduction to Digital Humanities

Course Description: 

This seminar will introduce the digital humanities as a community of practice, a growing interdisciplinary field, and a set of approaches to research and teaching. Students in this course will explore a wide range of arguments and techniques, spanning such topics as critical code studies, technology in the classroom, digital editions, text and network analysis, machine learning, and data visualization. We will mix seminar discussion with hands-on activities designed to invite students to participate in DH's expanding community and to interrogate the methods, aims, and boundaries of digital scholarship in the twenty-first century.

Teaching Method(s): seminar discussion, digital tool workshops.

Evaluation Method(s): discussion lead, short written responses, seminar paper/project.

Texts include:

English 493 – Elements of Craft

Course Description: TBA

English 494 – The Long Form

Course Description: This 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). Students will generate their own project plan, which will provide an individualized map for the term. They will first identify those pieces of creative work that they see as the potential seeds of their longer thesis. (This may be 3-15 pages of poetry, a suite of short essays or a single long essay, or a suite of stories or a novella.) With the help of the instructor and peer partners, students will learn to examine these pieces as an editor would, looking not only for revision opportunities, but for formal, contextual and thematic threads that may be further explored or extrapolated into a longer, cohesive original manuscript. They will then write up detailed and individualized project plans, including specific formal goals for the quarter, reading material, and intentions in terms of both research and drafting. As a class, we will hold each other accountable to these plans, and will engage in weekly research, drafting and revision exercises that will provide students with rough starts and finished works to add to their thesis. The quarter will result in this new writing, as well as an evolved end-of-quarter plan for their final work in the program.

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 individual projects.

Texts will be available at: TBD.

English 403 – Writers' Studies in Literature: Art & Practice of Public Writing & Scholarship

Course Description: This course will initiate students into the practice and performance of public scholarship along with the wider online and print market of creative non-fiction. We will read and discuss a range of genres, styles, and approaches to melding the academic with the accessible and artful and discuss the nitty-gritty of the professional side of actually getting work published. Readings includes short- and longform work by writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, David Foster Wallace, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Joan Didion, Emily Lordi, Daphne Brooks, Hanif Abdurraqib, and Hilton Als, among others.

Teaching Method: This is a seminar-style course.

Evaluation Method: Short writing assignments and a final project.

Texts include: All readings will be available on Canvas.

English 422 – Studies in Medieval Literature: Allegory and Gender

Course Description: This seminar will explore the medieval personification allegory: perhaps the most supple, durable, and widely favored of all medieval genres, yet also the one whose modern critical history has been most checkered and riddled with misunderstandings. We will look at the rhetorical, philosophical, and emotional logic of personification, paying special attention to the role of gender. Latin and French works will be read in translation, but students with competence in those languages are richly encouraged to read the originals. Modernists may, if they wish, read Piers Plowman in translation.

Evaluation Method: Grades will be based on class participation, weekly postings, an oral presentation accompanied by a brief (5-page) paper, and a research paper of about 15 pages.

Texts: Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy; Prudentius, Psychomachia; Bernard Silvestris, Cosmographia; Hildegard of Bingen, The Play of Virtues; Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose; Marguerite Porete, The Mirror of Simple Souls; Chaucer, The Parliament of Fowles; William Langland, excerpts from Piers Plowman; and a selection of works by Christine de Pizan.

English 441 – Studies in 18th Century Literature: Theories of Language

Course Description: The “linguistic turn” in philosophy and the humanities – the attention to the constitutive function of representation in human knowledge and culture – is usually thought to be a twentieth-century phenomenon (Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Gadamer, Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Derrida), but its origins can be traced back to eighteenth-century accounts of language (Vico, Rousseau, Herder). In this class, we will explore the developing understanding of language in the eighteenth-century alongside twentieth-century philosophies that have been decisive for articulating the constitutive function of language. Through these seminal texts, we will address a wide range of questions important in the study of language: what is the relation between language and thought? Does a language embody a specific form of rationality? Does language merely reflect reality or shape our perception of it? What role do emotion and embodiment play in the development of language? Is a culture bound to a particular language, or can it transcend its linguistic embedding? How are we to understand literary features of language (metaphor, narrative) in relation to its representational and truth-telling aspects?

Although it will not be our only focus, one particular nexus of questions will be especially important to us. What are the differences between natural and formal language? Are there particular things that each is able to articulate that the other cannot? Can the difference between natural and formal language be mapped onto different models of explanation and causation (final v efficient causation)? Are there different modes of rationality specific to these different forms of language (algorithmic v discursive rationality)? In particular, can we make the case for judgment as a distinct cognitive operation, irreducible to knowledge, by distinguishing these two forms of language and their underlying modes of explanation and rationality?

Our primary readings in the eighteenth century will be Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Book 3), Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (Book 3), Shaftesbury’s Soliloquy, Vico’s New Science, Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Language and Herder’s Essay on the Origin of Language, with other possibilities including Hobbes, Leibniz, Diderot, Condillac, Burke and Hamann. Readings after the eighteenth century will include at least Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics, Gadamer’s Truth and Method, Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, Derrida’s Of Grammatology, Charles Taylor’s Language Animal, Cavell’s Claim of Reason and McIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality? Other readings may be drawn from Heidegger, Anscombe, Foucault, Barthes, Levi-Strauss, Habermas, Jameson, as needed.

English 461 – Studies in Contemporary Literature: GIFs, Selfies, Memes: New Networked Genres

Course Description: The early twenty-first century has witnessed the rise of always-on computing, a distinctive digital media ecology defined by smartphones, social media, and the tacit assumption of life lived on the basis of ubiquitous wireless networks. This same moment has also witnessed an incredible explosion of new networked genres. These genres include animated GIFs, memes, selfies, supercuts, podcasts, vaporwave, ASMR videos, likes, comments, and much else. This seminar is devoted to studying these new forms collectively and individually as aesthetics symptoms of a rapidly changing historical present in the overdeveloped west. While not framed as an introduction to digital media studies or digital aesthetics, this seminar will be taught with the consideration that it will function most likely in this way for most students. Our approach will be to privilege artistic negotiations with new networked genres. Our guiding principle will be that artistic texts offer especially rich reflexive occasions for studying the overwhelmingly non-reflexive aesthetics of always-on computing. We will often pair theoretical texts and work in digital media studies that will grant us a working vocabulary for gaining traction on a number of feelings and ideas: from creepiness and A E S T H E T I C to ambivalence, lethargy, boredom, mindfulness, and touch, as well as things like big data, post-internet art, fake news and the decline of symbolic efficiency, and vulnerability. Authors to be read will likely include Berlant, Ngai, Butler, Richmond, Dean, Cohen, Frosh, and Hu among others. Artists will likely include Dennis Cooper, Allie Brosh, Mary Bond, Jennifer Proctor, Elisa Giardina Papa, Eric Fleischauer and Jason Lazarus, Frances Stark, Faith Holland, Miranda July, and others.

Teaching Method: discussion, short lecture

Evaluation Method: participation, analytical essays, experimental editing projects


Texts should be ordered in advance online

English 461 – Studies in American Literature: Black Mindfulness Literature

Course Description: In his book of essays, Turning the Wheel, author Charles Johnson says that Jean Toomer’s “Blue Meridian”: “offers us a bridge between the black experience and the profound reflections on selfhood long a part of Vedic literature.” Johnson identifies Toomer’s work as a key text within a longer tradition of Black letters that intersect with Vedic and Buddhist philosophies and practices.

Considering the buzz word “mindfulness,” this synchronous graduate course explores the extended tradition of spiritual, contemplative, and ancient practices influencing Black letters since the 18th century. Alluding clear and consistent definition, "mindfulness" is an umbrella term that includes contemplative practices, embodiment, transcendentalism, and many other lines of spiritual and secular strategies for survival and more. In this and at a time when the US negotiates tensions born from the forced fixity of Covid-19 health practices and the various political movements driving particularly young Black people into the streets, this course will consider how stillness, concentration, and focus on interiority provide alternative and complementary strategies for Black survival and thriving.

We will read works by Johnson and Toomer, as well as Phillis Wheatley, Octavia Butler, Ralph Ellison, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Toni Morrison, and Lorraine Hansberry. Additionally, we will consider the theory and criticism of Howard Thurman, Kevin Quashie, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others along with Buddhist, Vedic, and West African religious texts and studies to consider the many sides of a Black mindfulness literary tradition. We will contemplate the theory and praxis of meditation, transcendence, tantra, Dharma, ritual, and possession. Additionally, we will create and execute our own mindfulness exercises and consider how they may or may not support various politics of Blackness in our current moment.

This course will require active and enthusiastic participation by everyone in the class. A Zoom class, together, we will also devise ways to build and stay engaged within our classroom environment. There will be weekly response papers/discussion board writing, group presentations, journaling, and ongoing experimentation with mindfulness. There will also be a final project due at the end of the course.

English 496 – MFA Poetry Workshop: The Art of Research, or Toward the 25th Poem

Course Description: In what is most likely an apocryphal story, Robert Frost referred to an entire collection of poetry as the 25th poem—the way a book holds together, an elegant cohesion that renders the whole more than just compilation or the sum of its parts. Indeed, there are many potential scaffoldings for the architecture of successful collections; this course will consider the art of research. Thus, the objective is the further development of the craft of poetry with a focus on researching and writing a long sequence of poems. Beginning with an abstract and proposal, a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, as well as a list of other primary sources, students will develop a research plan—which can be carried out over one or two quarters—into some aspect of history, science, law, art, language, geography, etc.

Furthermore, by analyzing and discussing the formal and thematic elements of several collections of poems—such as Patricia Smith’s Incendiary Art, Kiki Petrosino’s White Blood, Robin Costa Lewis’s Voyage of the Sable Venus, Davis McCombs’s Dismal Rock, Nadine Meyer’s The Anatomy Theater, and Ellen Bryant Voight’s Kyrie—we will identify and define strategies and formal techniques for using information gathered from our research, and produce a long sequence of poems that can serve as the spine of an entire collection, the 25th poem.  

Selected essays on poetry, as well as various collections of poems, will serve as texts for the course.

English 497 – MFA Fiction Workshop

Course Description: 

Dear Writer,

Welcome to this fiction workshop.

There are many ways to approach a fiction workshop, but whatever the approach is, it is important to keep in the foreground the idea that we are making literature. What do I mean by this? We have to move beyond the limitation of making a small piece of art that is competent and sufficient to pass a class, and to impress our peers in a classroom (virtual or otherwise), to being able (aspirationally at least) to place the work we make within the larger context of tradition, genre and aesthetic considerations. Remember literature is a frame applied to story at a remove, concerned more with cultural and field/canon making, than with production itself.

In this workshop we should focus on all our reading of each other, and perhaps in the supplied readings, on 2 main approaches. Mastering of these two approaches opens up possibilities in writing in very unique ways and will move our craft forward exponentially. In this class we will look at the idea of story and narrative separately and then blend. All story, it seems, arises from, and carries a deeply emotional drive; whereas narrative is more about organizing or the organizational drives that bring clarity and focus to story.

You will submit a three-to-five-page aesthetic statement about your approach to fiction and story, editing and writing, and what you’re hoping to develop or achieve by the end of this class, while locating yourself  in a tradition (not vaguely but with concrete examples).

You will also submit a 15-to-20-page story or first novel chapter. Both of these are due on the first day of class, no exceptions. There will be supplemental and secondary readings and videos to help illustrate a pathway into deeper conversations. We will be flexible and adapt these additional resources as the quarter unfolds its own unique opportunities and challenges.

I look forward to seeing you soon.


Chris Abani

English 498 – MFA Creative Nonfiction Workshop

Course Description: TBA

English 505 – Research Development Seminar

Course Description: English 505 will guide students through the preparation of a first draft of the dissertation prospectus and at least one draft of a grant or fellowship proposal.  While students should remain engaged with their proposed dissertation committees as they draft the prospectus and grant proposal, English 505 will explain and model best practices for research and grant proposals in the field while also providing structure to keep students on track with their research plans.

Teaching Method: Seminar, discussion, and exchange.

Evaluation: Discussion and exchange. Draft cv, proposal, and prospectus.

Texts: Various readings relevant to writing the dissertation prospectus and a grant proposal.

English 412 – Studies in Drama: American Bodies in Motion

Course DescriptionStarting with the myriad of performances staged as part of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, this course surveys diverse genres of popular and theatrical dance in US culture from the late 19th century to the early 21st century. In so doing, the course also surveys varied methods and theories for performance research. Readings are drawn from several disciplines and are supplemented by feature films and documentaries. Taken together, the course materials historicize embodiment and corporeality in US culture. Graduate students with interests in American culture from any disciplinary perspective are welcome.

For Ph.D. students in English, the course fulfills area 5.

All readings and viewings accessible via Canvas.

Note: This course is combined with Theatre & Drama 503-0-20.

English 431 – Studies in 16th Century Literature: Creaturely Life before Descartes

Course DescriptionThis course traverses the long sixteenth-century (and surveys key representative texts from the period), while also suggesting longer arcs of intellectual context for our topical concern: creaturely life. We will approach the question of “creatures” by examining texts that call on species difference or variety and that use cross-species comparisons to make sense of embodiment. We’ll stress encounters and engagement across species, rather than trace the grounds for a “human/animal divide.” We’ll explore the problem of how we have imagined an objective standard for “the human,” against which the endless variety of all other animated things might be made homogeneous and compressed together as a lesser order of life within a conception of “the animal.” One goal will be to think about the central place of animals in the history of what we call "human" knowledge. Another goal will be to understand the capacities of the now-obsolete term, “creature,” as a name for all living things -- the term enshrines biological variation as a sign of plenty and also makes clear how sympathy, collaboration, and identification routinely occur across the differences of species. At the broadest level, the seminar will challenge the notion that all human thought has always been or must inevitably be "human-exceptionalist" thought. To the contrary: animals are not just "good to think with" (as Levi-Strauss famously put it); it might be more accurate to say that has been impossible to “think” without them.

Readings will be selected from the following texts:




English 461 – Studies in Contemporary Literature: Proust, Joyce, Woolf, and the Invention of Modernist Realism

Course Description"Modernity--the transient, the fleeting, the contingent--is one half of art," writes Baudelaire in "The Painter of Modern Life", "of which the other is the eternal and immutable." Taking this manifesto as a point of departure, we'll read works by Proust, Joyce, Woolf, and other painters of modern life--e. g., Ibsen, Conrad, Strachey, Mansfield, Williams, Pound, Colette, Eliot, Beckett, Toomer--alongside writings in autobiographical, historical, theoretical, and critical genres to explore the aesthetics of the everyday by which these artists transmute lived experience into works of art. In the first part of the seminar we'll work through a flexible syllabus of readings and critical approaches. Then each seminar member will design a project, grounded in these or related texts, methods, and questions, that furthers both our class conversation and his/her/their intellectual goals.

Teaching Method: Discussion.

Requirements: Attendance and active, informed participation in discussion (20%), weekly reading-for-discussion notes and questions (15%), presentation with 1-2 page handout (20 min.; 15%), seminar project(s) totaling 15-20 pages, e. g.: research project, critical paper, review essay; or an equivalent combination of shorter projects, e.g.: a book review, annotated bibliography, shorter critical note or essay, edited text, digital project, critique of existing digital projects, research project, conference paper, course syllabus, or (for creative writers), creative projects (45%); discursive self-evaluation, open to rethinking and/or re-weighting of requirements, and recommended grade (1-3 pp., 5%).

English 471 – Studies in American Literature: American Women Auteurs, Black and White: 1850-1870

Course DescriptionThis course will explore the slave narratives, novels, and memoirs of 19th-century America’s most imaginative and eloquent women writers, black and white, as they transform those genres in a series of literary works both aesthetically ground breaking and politically transformative.  Selections from the following authors will include Harriet Beecher Stowe, Hannah Crafts, Harriet Wilson, Harriet Jacobs (the Harriets), Julia Collins, Elizabeth Stoddard, Elizabeth Keckley (the Elizabeths), Louisa May Alcott, and Zora Neale Hurston.  Her recently published Barracoon, written in the late 1920s, tells the story of the last surviving former slave numbered among the human cargo on the U.S. ship Clotilde, which was illegally landed in Alabama in 1862.

Theoretical readings will include selections from black feminists such as Hortense Spillers, Jennifer Nash, Christina Sharpe, and others.

English 481 – Studies in Literary Theory and Criticism: Queer Theory and Queer Cinema

Course Description"Queer theory" and "queer cinema" were two neologisms born of the same early-1990s moment in Anglophone academia, artistry, and activism. Both saw themselves as extending but also complicating the intellectual, aesthetic, and ideological parameters of prior formations like "gay and lesbian studies" or "LGBT film." These new and spreading discourses stoked each other's productive advances. Scholars developed and illustrated new axioms through the medium of the movies, while filmmakers rooted their stories and images in changing notions of gender performativity, counter-historiography, and coalitional politics. Still, queer theory and queer cinema faced similar skepticisms: did their ornate language and conceptual novelty endow dissident sexualities with newfound political, cultural, and philosophical stature, or did they retreat too far from daily lives, mainstream tastes, and ongoing public emergencies? Did "queer" enable elastic identification and coalition among subjects with a wide range of sexual and gendered identities, or did the term reproduce the demographic and discursive hierarchies it claimed to deconstruct? Was the lack of fixed definitions, consensus ideals, or shared aesthetic practices a boon or a harm in sustaining a long-term movement of art, action, or thought? This class will explore some decisive shifts as critical theory and narrative film reclaimed "queer" as a boundary-breaking paradigm, in the pivotal era of Gender Trouble, Epistemology of the Closet, Tongues Untied, and Paris Is Burning, though we will also complicate the “foundational” or “canonical” status often applied to such texts.  We will recover scholarly and cinematic trends that laid indispensable groundwork for these queer turns and will also track the subsequent careers of "queer" in the ways we perform readings, perceive bodies, record histories, reimagine genders, form alliances, enter archives, and orient ourselves in space and time.  Diversities of race, class, and gender identity will constantly inflect our understandings of "queer" and even challenge the presumed primacy of sexuality as the key referent for that term.  Participants will engage nimbly with the overarching claims but also the curious nuances, anomalies, and paradoxes in the scholarship we read. We will also develop skills of close-reading films as films, and note when the granular details of image, sound, script, editing, and performance are advancing and complicating their own implied arguments.

This course satisfies a core requirement toward the Gender & Sexuality Studies Certificate as well as the Area 7 rubric of “Genres, Topics, and Theories” toward the English Ph.D.

Assignments: Writing assignments will include a simulated peer-review of an assigned article or chapter; a 500-word proposal for a hypothetical conference paper; and a 12-15pp. final paper. Shorter, skill-building exercises in writing and research may also be added.

Readings: All assigned readings will be available free on Canvas and are likely to include work by Combahee River Collective, Teresa de Lauretis, Richard Fung, Michael Hames-García, Cáel M. Keegan, Kara Keeling, Heather Love, Jay Prosser, Gayle Salamon. Karl Schoonover and Rosalind Galt, Céline Parreñas Shimizu, Eliza Steinbock, and Patricia White, among others.

Films: Movies screened in whole or in part are likely to include Born in Flames (1983), Looking for Langston (1989), Paris Is Burning (1990), Tropical Malady (2004), Pariah (2007 and 2011), Under the Skin (2013), Kiki (2016), Spa Night (2016), and They (2017).

English 496 – MFA Poetry Workshop: The Art of Research, or Toward the 25th Poem

Course Description: In what is most likely an apocryphal story, Robert Frost referred to an entire collection of poetry as the 25th poem—the way a book holds together, an elegant cohesion that renders the whole more than just compilation or the sum of its parts. Indeed, there are many potential scaffoldings for the architecture of successful collections; this course will consider the art of research. Thus, the objective is the further development of the craft of poetry with a focus on researching and writing a long sequence of poems. Beginning with an abstract and proposal, a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, as well as a list of other primary sources, students will develop a research plan—which can be carried out over one or two quarters—into some aspect of history, science, law, art, language, geography, etc.

Furthermore, by analyzing and discussing the formal and thematic elements of several collections of poems—such as Patricia Smith’s Incendiary Art, Kiki Petrosino’s White Blood, Robin Costa Lewis’s Voyage of the Sable Venus, Davis McCombs’s Dismal Rock, Nadine Meyer’s The Anatomy Theater, and Ellen Bryant Voight’s Kyrie—we will identify and define strategies and formal techniques for using information gathered from our research, and produce a long sequence of poems that can serve as the spine of an entire collection, the 25th poem.  

Selected essays on poetry, as well as various collections of poems, will serve as texts for the course.

English 497 – MFA Fiction Workshop

Course Description: The primary text for English 497, the Fiction Workshop, will be the work written by you. As a way to properly unearth and address your story’s needs, we’ll discuss several key craft elements, such as: chronic and acute conflicts, codes of suspense, narrative transportation theory, rate of revelations, dialogue and the dialectic, fabula and syuzhet, character obsessions, immediate and super objectives, voice, dialogue, language, and much more. We’ll also discuss ways in which we can read the work surgically, holistically, and optimistically—so as to inspire meaningful revisions. This class is for students who are unafraid of taking real risks, unafraid of discipline, unafraid of writing stories that actually move the reader.

English 520 – Writing for Publication

Course Description: This workshop (offered P/N) is open to all students in candidacy with the consent of their advisers. Students will work on either expanding a strong seminar paper or abridging a dissertation chapter to publish in article form. Topics will include selecting the right journal; adapting the framing, argument, and rhetoric to the intended audience; deciding where to cut and where to expand; following a style sheet; identifying and addressing weaknesses in research, argument, and style; writing a strong, attention-catching lead; meticulously checking references; making the initial submission; and responding to readers’ reports. We will also discuss other issues around publishing scholarship, including the pros and cons of publishing in edited volumes and other venues, as well publishing materials also intended for a future monograph. Students will begin by workshopping each other’s submissions and getting initial “readers’ reports” from the instructor and, ideally, a colleague in the field. Each student will work closely with the instructor and other workshop members on successive drafts. The goal will be to have an article ready for submission by the end of the quarter.

If demand is high, enrollment preference will be given to students in the English Department who are nearing the job market.

Teaching Method(s): Seminar and workshop

Evaluation Method(s): P/NP

Texts include: N/A

Texts will be available at: N/A

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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