What is literary tradition? Why do some stories, myths, poems, or characters—ones like Shakespeare’s Caliban—continually reappear in English-speaking and global cultures through the centuries? Is it the language used to express such tales or characters? Is it the human experience conveyed in them? Is it both; neither?
We’ll begin with these questions as we trace the path of the mysterious, often tormented and surly Caliban from his appearance in Shakespeare’s 1611’s The Tempest through to his reimagining in Margaret Atwood’s 2016 novel, Hag-Seed. Along the way, we’ll examine other related characters from English literature, reading and watching their legacies unfold together.
This course teaches students how to think and write about literature clearly and insightfully. Our readings represent a wide range of styles, themes, authors, genres, aesthetics, periods, and cultures: Romantic odes, Harlem Renaissance sonnets, Southern Gothic fiction, contemporary magical realism, Japanese cinema, Shakespeare plays, and more. At the same time, these works are all defined by what they share: interesting, imaginative, strange, beautiful, complex language that rewards rigorous attention. Students will learn techniques for analyzing literary texts and expressing their ideas about them in concise, compelling prose. In a variety of assignments, including frequent, brief writing exercises, several short formal essays, self-reflections, class presentations, exams, a dramatic performance, and an artist’s statement, students will hone their skills as literary critics and marshal these skills in the service of eloquent, original interpretations. This course treats reading, thinking, planning, drafting, revising, and reflecting as essential, inseparable elements of the complex process we call writing; students should expect to write frequently, discuss their writing in conferences with the professor and classmates, and revise extensively.
In English 101, we examine the diversity of literary forms, considering the distinctive expressive possibilities within different modes of writing. What makes a poem sound and feel poetic? How can a personal essay elicit meaning from memory and experience? Which techniques allow a short story to tell a moral truth through fictional events? We finish with Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, a play in which one young woman must fight for what she thinks is right against the decadent mores of her city, its corrupt officials, and even her own family. In lieu of a final exam, students stage scenes from the play.
This writing-intensive course explores the significance of word choice, syntax, meter, figurative language, authorial persona, point of view, and cultural and artistic context in creating the force and value of a work of literature. In addition to Renaissance lyric poetry and a play by Shakespeare, students will read and write about a selection of modern and contemporary short stories and Toni Morrison’s novel Home.
Literature and Composition will help you write well by showing you how to read with imagination and curiosity. Join this early-bird community for its lively conversation, its wide range of readings, its abundance of individual feedback on your writing, and the flexibility it offers with deadlines and work. We’ll read stories by Danielle Evans and Carmen Maria Machado, poetry by Tiana Clark, Audre Lorde, Claude McKay and Marilyn Nelson (to name a few), and Othello by William Shakespeare. This course is assessed in a way that closely aligns steady, diligent effort with success: students can rewrite assignments as often as necessary to hit the mark.
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” (Marcus Garvey).
This course focuses on several early works from different literary genres (but excluding the epic) manifestly part of “the cultural imaginary” of writers such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Margaret Cavendish, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison. First-hand knowledge of such works both enhances one’s ability to identify and understand literary subtexts, and also trains students to be attentive to the productive ways that later writers responded to and repurposed these early literary touchstones. Using English translations, we will be reading and thinking critically about Euripides’s Alcestis and Medea, Plato’s “Parable of the Cave,” Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things, Vergil’s Georgics, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Cicero's On Duties, On Friendship, and Scipio's Dream, Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy, and the Anglo-Norman courtly romances of Marie de France. A good time will be had by all.
Are you fascinated by our language? Does the awareness that “sing, sang, sung” hasn’t changed in 1500+ years intrigue you? Do the lines “Þa com of more under misthleoÞum / Grendel gongan, godes yrre bære” both thrill and terrify you? In English 301, Old English Language and Literature, you will learn to read the language of England from the 5th to the 11th centuries—you will be able to read the earliest histories of England, the tales of Beowulf and of Judith, and the moving and profound poetry of men and women who, like you, sought to understand their place in the world.
“To move wild laughter in the throat of death…” (Love's Labours Lost, 5.2). This class will view Shakespeare’s works from the prospect of the premodern death arts—not “death as a theme,” but the plurality of closely linked cultural expressions of memento mori (“remember you must die”), contemptus mundi (“contempt for things of the world”), ars moriendi (“the art of dying well”), funeral rituals, commemorative activities, and rhetorical techniques and strategies fundamental to the performance of the work of dying, death, and the dead. Beginning with Hamlet, as the ultimate proving ground of the death arts in practice, this course seeks to engender revitalized discussions around key representations of mortality temporality in all phases of Shakespeare’s career (and not just in his tragedies), specifically (in addition to Hamlet) Love’s Labor’s Lost, Much Ado About Nothing, Measure for Measure, 1 Henry 4, Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and The Winter’s Tale. Students also will engage critically with the most recent scholarly studies in the field to determine and defend their own close readings of the plays in light of The Shakespearean Death Arts (2022), copies of which will be provided gratis.
This course will examine the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer, a major poet of the 14th century. Though he was by no means the only poet writing in English during the 14th century, his poetry stands at the head of a long tradition, and has consistently been admired and imitated since his death. In fact, Chaucer has, for several centuries, been known as the “father of English poetry” (John Dryden called him this in 1700). Indeed, when people think, “English literature” they often think, “Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton.”
However, in my experience, students often approach Chaucer with a mix of reverence and boredom: like their jokes, dads have the tendency to be considered bland and decidedly uncool. They are also often granted authority they didn’t really earn (I say this as a father). So I want us to discover ways to find the weird, the obscene, and the life in Chaucer. Chaucer wrote profound, erotic, and downright filthy poems, and wrote them without necessarily expecting to spawn a literary tradition. In this course, we will learn about Chaucer’s literary and philosophical background, learn his language (Middle English), and examine both critical and theoretical approaches to research on Chaucer. The course, which is Writing Intensive in the Major, will provide students with training in writing a research paper. And in doing all that, we will discover anew one of England’s weirdest writers.
This course also qualifies as a Women's and Gender Studies course.
In English 357, we survey the early years of Shakespeare’s career in the London theater, a period in which he tried his hand at a wide variety of different forms, including English chronicle history (Richard III, Henry V), romantic comedy (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It), and historical tragedy (Julius Caesar). As Shakespeare twists these genres into powerful and sometimes unsettling hybrid forms like Romeo and Juliet or The Merchant of Venice, we witness his refinement of core dramatic techniques like stichomythia and the soliloquy, as well as the unfolding development of his distinctive views on love, power, and human nature itself.
Theories of art, education, landscape, erotic desire, politics, history, and religion – all of these undergo monumental changes in the 16th century and present models we are often still living with and in today. In this class, students will trace how these discourses overlap, come into conflict, and combine in the literature and culture of Renaissance England. In doing so, we will attempt to chart out (and critique) the intellectual history of power and privilege that made possible works like Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Marlowe’s Hero and Leander, Thomas More’s Utopia, and more. The class will culminate in a reading of part of Edmund Spenser’s magnum opus, The Faerie Queene, which we will read as a watershed example of how a literary text draws from but also adapts and challenges its historical moment.
If you read for pleasure (as all English majors surely do), chances are that the bulk of your reading consists of novels, a genre that began to take its modern English-language shape during the so-called long eighteenth century. While the eighteenth-century novel in English borrows copiously from other genres and works–for instance, Henry Fielding says that his novel Joseph Andrews, riffing on Cervantes’ Don Quixote, is a “comic epic in prose”–the early novel is, at heart, innovative and experimental, comprising, among other things, picaresques about pick-pockets and pirates ending in religious conversions, happily-ever-after romances that speak unabashedly about money and class, the invention of the Gothic novel, and even a free-associative non-linear story, Tristram Shandy, that anticipates modernist experimentation of the twentieth century. Significantly, the eighteenth century also heralds the growing importance of women writers, whose literary genius and social interests now begin to play a prominent and lasting role in literary production.
Our reading includes Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, Ann Radcliff’s gothic novel The Italian, Frances Burney’s Evelina, and Jane Austen’s gothic parody, Northanger Abbey. Written work includes short textual analysis papers, imitations, and a 10-12 page researched argument.
Victorian literature is famously preoccupied with the past: memory and personal experience, national history, nostalgia, and repressed trauma. At the same time, Victorian culture encouraged a robust faith in various visions of progress: the possibility of self-determination, advances in science and technology, and the growth of England as a nation. In this survey of Victorian poetry and non-fiction prose, we will read works of literary and intellectual significance by writers whose preoccupations ranged widely—from romantic desire to evolutionary science, from religious belief to the rise of capitalism. Yet they all grappled with the relationship between art, individuals, and the ever-changing society they inhabited. As we put these fascinating works in dialogue with one another, we will pay special attention to their representations of individual and collective pasts, presents, and futures.
Texts include poetry by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold, Algernon Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Thomas Hardy, as well as essays and non-fiction prose by Thomas Carlyle, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Engels, Charles Darwin, Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, William Morris, and Oscar Wilde.
American Literature I tackles American literature from before the United States was founded, and follows its development in the "American renaissance" of writers like Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Stowe, and Whitman. The course brings together captivity narratives, American spiritual writing, Transcendentalism, and the blossoming of American philosophy, fiction, and poetry.
A consideration of British fiction from the last half-century, this course will put you into the most current currents of literary expression. There is no canon yet in this course, no guarantee that the books we discuss, in another century, will have been deemed The Important Books from this narrow slice of literary history. Instead, you will be invited to make and test bold claims about canonicity and how literary value is accorded and revised. What constitutes an “important” novel, or for that matter, a “British” one? Who decides? What’s the relationship among genre, the marketplace, and that slippery notion, “the literary”?
An advanced research methods and composition course intended for students pursuing honors in the department. The class will introduce students to the process of conducting independent research in the field of English and will provide experience with the most common research tools and methods used by scholars of literary analysis. We will discuss argumentative structures, disciplinary conventions, and work together in a collegial and cooperative environment that gives students experience with scholarly collaboration. By the end of the semester, students will have produced an initial rough draft of their thesis project that will then be revised in a more leisurely manner, under the supervision of their thesis advisor, during the following term.
In the beginning workshop, students develop their skills writing, reading, and critiquing poems, and share their writing with peers in a workshop setting. Students learn the basics of craft and read a diverse range of published poems, but the primary focus is the creation and critique of their own work and the work of their peers.
This workshop focuses on writing literary short fiction. After examining a diverse selection of exemplary forms of the craft and learning techniques for their own writing, students will generate and share their own stories with the workshop. Along the way, the course will help students develop a common language for discussing and critiquing the creative work of their peers. Beyond that, the workshop asks students to interrogate their own point of view and how it informs their artistic principles, while also seeking to understand and embrace the unique stories of their peers.
Are you a fan of The Flight Attendant or House of Cards? Do you love Raya and the Last Dragon, Encanto, or Turning Red? What do they all have in common? They were all written by playwrights.
Whether you are a fiction writer interested in improving your dialogue, a poet who wants to explore narrative, a theatre geek who wants to see their work come to life, or someone simply interested in trying something new, Beginning Playwriting Workshop is an excellent opportunity to explore dramatic writing in a safe and supportive environment. Emphasis is placed on promoting growth as a writer. A variety of foundational texts are read in order to develop an understanding of basic dramatic structure. Each play is chosen to address a corresponding skill, such as dramatic tension, subtext, dialogue, exposition, or character. Weekly writing exercises are assigned to work in concert with the plays we read. By reading plays and dissecting the form and content, students have an opportunity to develop their analytic skills, which can then be applied to their own work. In addition to short writing exercises, students will also complete either two 10-minute plays or a one-act play.
For the Easter 2022 semester, the Forms of Fiction course will focus on linked story collections, also called novels-in-stories. We will read and analyze (both critically and creatively) several examples of the form, including Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad and Edward P. Jones's Lost in the City, looking at the various ways that linkages can be made between individual stories. We will then generate our own creative work, outlining a linked story collection and writing one story within that larger collection for a workshop discussion.
In the inaugural semester of Forms of Drama, we will explore a wide variety of plays that challenge conventional story structures. We will see how queer playwright Taylor Mac reimagines realism in Hir, question our relationship with technology in the futuristic play, The Nether, and investigate the power of non-verbal storytelling in Small Mouth Sounds. In addition, we will discuss how plays work in conversation with one another like Adrienne Kennedy's Funnyhouse of the Negro and Jackie Sibblies-Drury's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Fairview. We will also read the work of Cuban-American playwright, Maria Irene Fornes, see how Paula Vogel uses bunraku puppetry as a metaphor for family dysfunction in The Long Christmas Ride Home, investigate Dan O'Brien's use of documentary storytelling in Body of an American, deconstruct Robert O'Hara's satire on sexuality, Booty Candy.
Each play we read will then serve as inspiration for a corresponding writing exercise which will challenge the writer to find their own voice while emulating the style. This is an excellent opportunity for writers who wish to explore dramatic writing while challenging themselves to take risks and experiment with form.
In the intermediate workshop, students expand their skills writing, reading, and critiquing short stories, as well as share their writing with peers in a workshop setting. The course builds upon the basics of craft learned in the Beginning Fiction Workshop and explores more complex ways of utilizing that craft. Students read a diverse range of published short stories, but the primary focus is the creation and critique of their own work and the work of their peers.
In the advanced workshop, students focus on their capstone project, sharing that work with peers in a workshop setting. The course requires students to work with the professor to develop specific reading lists with the goal of shaping their own capstone project. The primary focus of the workshop is the creation and critique of their own work and the work of their peers.