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705- Cultural Studies, W 1830
The concept of class was central to cultural studies as it emerged in Britain in the 1950s and 60s. In particular, a new generation of scholars focused their attention on the working class, whose experience had previously been neglected, and whose lives were being transformed by postwar affluence, greater educational opportunities, and exposure to the mass media. As Grant Farred argues, “[m]ore than anything, Cultural Studies was a project intent upon making working class culture an object of serious study, granting it an institutional and broader social recognition.” Literature and literary criticism were essential to this process; Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, two of the founders of the new field, taught in English departments, and another, the historian E. P. Thompson, wrote extensively on literature. Early work often applied techniques of close reading, developed to analyze complex literary texts, to other signifying practices, a process was theorized partly in discussions over semiology, the ‘science’ of signs.
As cultural studies diversified, class and literature necessarily received less attention. This course explores the ways in which a renewed focus on both might contribute to current debates over the functions and development of the field. We will explore studies from Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy to Owen Jones’ Chavs, and analyze the representation of the working class in contemporary popular culture. We will also examine the particular contribution literature and literary criticism might make to the understanding of class and to cultural criticism more generally. In so doing, we will consider the ways in which the concept of class can be developed and deployed under new historical conditions, and in the context of new theoretical insights. As Jones argues, after the economic collapse of 2008 “class is back with a vengeance,” but, as this course will demonstrate, we need further critical and theoretical work to understand the ways in which it functions and the purposes it might serve.
The course will be assessed by two presentations and a term paper.
712- Studies in Sixteenth-Century British Literature, T 1830
The Early Modern Body
The rising importance of human dissection as a medical practice, the proliferation of conduct books focused on self-governance, and the early modern analogy between the individual body and the body politic make the body a contested site in the 16th century. In what ways do early modern writers understand the body? How do conceptions of the body influence attitudes toward gender, status, race, and sexuality? In what ways are self-understanding and self-representation inflected by changing experiences of the body? Through literary, medical, and philosophical texts this course will explore the nature of early modern embodiment and its relationship to shifting notions of selfhood in the period. We will focus especially on authors of the sixteenth-century including Marlowe, Nashe, Spenser, and Sidney. Requirements include participation and careful reading, short written exercises, oral presentations, and a final research project.
717- Studies in Eighteenth-Century British Literature, R 1830
What is the lyric? As Heather Dubrow has stated, “virtually all the qualities on which the category of lyric is based have been challenged” by recent theories. Restoration and eighteenth-century lyrics have only sporadically been taken on their own terms, especially ironic because their own terms teach us about the very era in which lyric came to be identified as the most elevated kind of poetry. By the end of the eighteenth century, the lyric came to stand for poetry in its “purest” form. Some of these lyrics show us the passions in relation to overtly social realms, whereas other lyrics portray the passions in relation to ostensibly “private” realms, often marked by inwardness and isolation. We will study theories of the lyric and historicize them by beginning with Petrarchan sonnets and variations on them by Wroth and Donne. We will focus on Restoration and eighteenth-century lyrics by writers such as Behn, Dryden, Finch, Prior, Swift, Pope, Montagu, Gray, Collins, Seward, and Cowper. In closing, we will consider Romantic-era lyrics by Charlotte Smith, Blake, and W. Wordsworth as part of a longer historical trajectory. As we analyze the theories, history, and contexts of the lyric, we will examine how the transmission of the lyric (e.g., in manuscript, print, and musical performance) helps defines its course. Assignments will include one oral presentation, a project on the transmission of lyric that will include participating in a digital site, and a seminar paper.
730- Studies in American Literature, W 1530
Literature and the Environment.
--These stories have trees in them.”
Single-sentence rejection letter received by Norman MacLean for A River
Runs Through It
* * * * * * * * * *
What is the traditional relationship between literature and the
environment in America? What do we
mean when we say "the environment"? This course will begin by examining
some classics of American nature writing with an appreciative and
critical eye, gradually opening our investigation toward a
more generous conception of both the genre and its resonances in the
world. For example, "nature writing," which is often depicted as an
entirely neutral discourse, seems unrelated to the more politicized mode
that we might call environmental (or ecological) writing. Yet
contemporary writers and critics have challenged this dichotomy; for
example, the novelist and essayist Jamaica Kincaid asks, What is the
relationship between gardening and conquest?” The Nobel Prize Committee
underscored the necessary connections between the environment and
peace with the recognition of Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai as its
2004 Peace Prize Laureate. And thousands of Americans, often following
Thoreau's example and cherishing his words, have entered the voluntary
simplicity movement. In the various discourses surrounding the
environment, we find that social identity matters profoundly, with white
women, people of color, and working people taking central roles in
speaking, writing, and acting for the future. This course explores the
roots and branches of some of today's important literary texts and
affiliated social movements, with particular attention to the
outsider's eye of women writers. We will also read some ostensibly "nonliterary" texts, which might include such readings as Jared Diamond's Collapse, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and Bill McKibben's Deep Economy.
734- Studies in American Women Writers, M 1830
This course will survey major works and authors, concentrating on the rise of women writers in the 1850s and moving forward to the present day. We’ll follow questions and issues which provide structure to women’s interactions with the literary marketplace: how do women writers gain access to literary networks, publishers, and readers? How do dominant concepts of the “feminine,” “domestic,” “private” and “public” shape women’s writings, and reactions to them? How do major historical and cultural changes (the Civil War, woman suffrage, “chick lit”) alter access, success, and content? Major authors to be studied, with critical and theoretical supporting material, include Harriet Beecher Stowe, Pauline Hopkins, Zitkala-Sa, Zora Neale Hurston, Willa Cather, Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Edwige Danticat. Students will also choose a chick lit or YA author to read at the end of the semester. Assignments include short weekly response papers and a longer (15 pp. minimum) research paper.
735- Studies in African-American Literature, W 1830
Charles W. Chesnutt's "Future American" Critical "Race" Theory
This is an intensive interdisciplinary study of Charles W. Chesnutt's attempts to turn British naturalist Charles Darwin's evolutionary biology theory into novelistic art (literary Darwinism), arguing that the only cure for American racism is miscegenation and passing for white. The course explores this author's myriad attempts to test his theory primarily in the much-examined The House behind the Cedars (1900), and the largely neglected posthumously published archival novels Mandy Oxendine (1997), The Quarry (1999), and Paul Marchand, F. M. C. (1999). The class will read his "whiteness novels" A Business Career (2005) and Evelyn's Husband (2005), which also set the chronological stage for this writer's lifelong contention that diversifying the genes of whites through interracial marriage--arguably the dominant theme of Chesnutt's texts--will ease racial strife in the United States of America and elsewhere. Students will present one oral report, write short position papers on selected course readings and an original course essay of no less than 15 pages.
778 - Directed Reading
778-01. R. Langenfeld
778-02. R. Langenfeld
Pr. admission to the Ph.D. program, 24 hours of course work beyond the M.A., and the permission of Director of Graduate Studies.
Individual conferences. Program of reading formulated to meet the varying needs of each student.
780 - Independent Doctoral Study
780-01. R. Langenfeld
780-02. R. Langenfeld
Pr. 36 hours of Ph.D. course work and the permission of Director of Graduate Studies.
Intensive review of literature and criticism in a given field in preparation for preliminary examination or dissertation. May be repeated for up to six hours credit.