Spring 2017 Seminar Descriptions

Undergraduate Seminars

ENGL 4920 Seminar in Literature and Language

The Gothic Novel: From Walpole to Shelley, Monday, 6:00pm-8:45pm with Dr. Nicole Horejsi

The end of the eighteenth century saw the birth of the literary gothic, a subgenre of romance that registered a backlash against the prescriptive realism favored by critics earlier in the century. In addition to indulging flights of sensationalistic fancy, the gothic was also an outsider’s genre, dramatizing the frightening nature of everyday life, of social institutions too often taken for granted: persecuting villains stand in for tyrannical husbands, and corrupt churches for patriarchal failure; transgressive desires reveal the stifling nature of traditional gender roles and heteronormative expectations. At the same time, the gothic confronts monsters from without, for the popularity of the genre mirrors the rise of the British Empire. This seminar will explore the origins and development of the gothic (1764-1824), as well as the ways in which eighteenth and early nineteenth-century writers used gothic tropes to reflect on the values of contemporary society. Despite the genre’s frequently supernatural trappings, the gothic appears everywhere, these novels suggest—even in everyday life.

ENGL 4920 Seminar in Literature and Language

The Medieval Amatory Tradition, Tues/Thur 4:30pm-5:45pm with Dr. Michael Calabrese

The Medieval Amatory Tradition traces one of the most vast and important literary movements in European literary history, involving many genres, nations, languages, religions, and cultures, from Classical love lyrica nd epic, through early medieval Arabic-influenced lyric poetry, to the 12th-century renaissance, to courtly poetry of the high middle ages. In works written by men and women about a range of cultural experiences, this class engages students in various cultural histories, gives them linguistic and literary knowledge, helps them explore religious and political history, and encourages them to reflect on their own identities and self in a modern world.

Graduate Seminars

ENGL 5190 (formerly 510) Proseminar in Literature

Global Shakespeare, Wednesday, 6:00pm-8:45pm with Dr. Alison Taufer

In this class, we will read four of Shakespeare’s better known plays—The Tempest, Othello, Macbeth, and Hamlet —in relation to recent adaptations from the late 20th and early 21st centuries. We will explore how Shakespeare’s plays have become global texts, produced and re-fashioned around the world. We will read the original plays and then explore dramatic texts, films, and a novel that respond to these plays. Our approach will shift back and forth between close reading and socio-historical analysis, focusing on the following questions: What about Shakespeare and his work continues to be relevant more than 400 years after their original productions and/or publications? In what ways has Shakespeare been re-written, re-appropriated, and re-figured in the last century? Why have these Shakespeare plays inspired these particular adaptations?

ENGL 5400 (formerly 560) Proseminar in Literature

Women Written and Women Writing in the Middle Ages, Monday, 6:00pm-8:45pm with Dr. Michael Calabrese

This class studies women's works in the spiritual and secular tradtions. It begins with texts written by men in concert with women in monastic communities concerning the ascetic, spiritual life of anchoritic and hermetic lives of chastity. It moves on to two great women writers of the English 14th century, Margery Kempe, the author of the first autobiography in English, and then to the Anchorite Julian of Norwich, the very first woman of letters in English in literary history. Then we move back in time but across to the "terrestrial" realm and read the Lais of Marie de France, writing in Anglo-Norman in the 12th century in Britain, a time before England became again the dominant literary language. We end the class with the complex and diverse writings of Chistine di Pizan, born in Italy but moved to France, and the author of secular love poetry, prose tracts on gender in literary criticism, and the only existing poem in honor of Joan of Arc.

ENGL 5600 (formerly 570) Seminar: American Literature

The New Critics and Us, Wednesday, 3:05pm-5:50pm with Dr. Andrew Knighton

The ascendancy of the American New Criticism in the 1930s and 1940s left a permanent mark on the theory and practice of all subsequent literary criticism.  Not only did the New Critical approach enshrine as hegemonic the explicatory techniques of “close reading,” but – perhaps more controversially – the literary values it espoused shaped the mid-century American canon in ways that we often take for granted and hence are still coming to understand.  This seminar explores some of the mysteries of the New Critics and seeks to apprehend the persisting effects of their intervention.  If, as Jonathan Culler asserts, “we are all New Critics,” how might that realization help us to amplify and focus our critical powers? Our seminar will explore the tenets of New Critical practice as well as the theory that undergirds it, and will do so in a number of different ways.  We will read extensively and symptomatically from the critical literature produced by these critics.  Additionally, we will collectively confront the challenge of key works of poetry drawn from the American tradition.  We will moreover be guided by contemporary theoretical texts on canon formation and the attribution of literary value by institutional sites within literary systems. Finally, we will locate the phenomenon of the New Criticism amid the complicated forces and pressures that shaped the American literary system between roughly 1930 and 1960 (and also account for the various other critical alternatives of that moment that have since been overshadowed by the accomplishment of the New Critics).