English 621R: British Romanticism and Contemporary Trends in Book History (Nick Mason)
“Book History” has come to function as the umbrella term for a wide range of scholarly modes, including textual studies, the sociology of print, publishing history, bibliography, digital humanities, and periodical, media, and reception studies. While researchers in virtually every corner of the modern English department cross over into this subfield, a disproportionate amount of the best work in book history has come from scholars of nineteenth-century British and, more generally, European literature. The concepts and interpretive methods brought forward in these scholars’ work will form the backbone of this seminar.
English 622R: Dystopian Worlds and Contemporary British Literature (Peter Leman)
In this course, we will examine an important trend of dystopian writing in contemporary British/Anglophone literature. In addition to thinking about issues of form and genre and the history of utopian/dystopian writing in the British literary tradition (e.g., Moore, Bacon, Morris, Verne, Butler, Wells, Orwell, Huxley, Golding, etc.), we will also examine dystopias in relationship to religious thought (have literary dystopias become a secular eschatology?) and social thought (socialism, Marxism), as well as recent theories of dystopia, capitalism, science fiction, “deep time,” and the Anthropocene by figures like Frederic Jameson, Slavoj Zizek, Dipsesh Chakrabarty, Wai Chee Dimock, and Michael Gordin. Our primary readings will include the novels A Clockwork Orange (1962) by Anthony Burgess, Stand on Zanzibar (1968) by John Brunner, Children of Men (1992) by P.D. James, Oryx and Crake (2003) by Margaret Atwood, Cloud Atlas (2004) by David Mitchell, and Never Let me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro.
English 628R: Memory, Trauma, and Nostalgia in Contemporary American Literature (Trent Hickman)
In recent years and in the wake of postmodernist inquiry, critical attention has turned anew not only to the study of how we represent the past but of memory itself–how it is formed, how it is transformed, and how it is deformed by nostalgia and trauma. Even as scholars refocus this discussion in newer terms to speak of the past (strategies of distant reading, planetary reading, Anthropocenic reading, etc.), they still frequently find themselves concerned in many cases with the representations of the past and memory in its various forms, be they individual, familial, collective, national, environmental, or biological, and so on. Our course will familiarize you with some of the seminal theoretical texts on this return to studies of memory in its various forms, introduce you into some of the debates surrounding them, and finally ask you to identify how contemporary American literature incorporates representational strategies which speak to these concerns.
English 629R: Contemporary Anglo-American Autobiography (Phil Snyder)
To provide a portable and adaptable theoretical apparatus—autobiography and ethics—for pursuing projects inside and outside the seminar, we’ll start with Linda Anderson’s Autobiography (2nd edition). Then we’ll produce some smart readings of paired texts—1) Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman & Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (familial relations) and 2) The Faraway Horses by Buck Brannaman & H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (human/animal relations)–as informed by our theoretical apparatus. Requirements include a discussion handout; a review of a recent autobiographical text (any genre, including blogs); a 12-page hybrid essay blending critical analysis with creative nonfiction.
English 630R: What Is the Postsecular? And Why? (Matt Wickman)
The postsecular comprises a body of thought that is reformulating the place of religion — and, in some ways more importantly, the place of religious thinking — in contemporary culture. Postsecularism thus designates a distinctive body of work (by figures like Jean-Luc Marion and Talal Asad) and also a way of reading the wider, “secular” tradition(s) of theory. Our section will engage both aspects of the postsecular, sampling this important new body of work and reading influential secular theories from a postsecular perspective.
English 620R: Writing Revolution: Literature of the English Civil Wars and Interregnum (Jason Kerr)
The period of the English Civil Wars and Interregnum—roughly 1640-1660—involved an unprecedented explosion of print literature, its conflicts contested in the print-shop and bookstall as much as on the battlefield. In this course we will explore these conflicts through the literature they produced, construing “literature” broadly to include prose pamphlets on subjects political and religious alongside more traditionally literary works in prose and verse. In addition to writings by familiar figures like Milton, Marvell, and Dryden, we’ll read things like prophecies by women about public events, constitutional debates, subversive personal liturgies written in internal exile, letters from a woman defending her home against a siege, a religious polemic in the form of a treatise on fishing, and the most vicious sermon you’re likely to encounter. We’ll conclude by reading Milton’s Paradise Lost with an eye to its contemporary political and religious resonances.
English 629R: Transatlantic Literary Geography ( Paul Westover)
We have recently seen a “spatial turn” in literary studies, driven by new technologies, theoretical insights, and geographies of cultural history. The nineteenth century is an excellent place to explore this conceptual terrain. British Romantics developed literature grounded in place, to the point that reading and tourism became interwoven. American writers undertook analogous (sometimes rival) efforts to create literary landscapes. Writers of both nations aimed to theorize literary geography and catalog its features. Consequently, studying landmarks of Anglophone literature will convince us that literary geography is not in itself new; in fact, it was a major fascination of nineteenth-century culture.
English 630R: Environmental Humanities (Brian Roberts)
During the past few decades, a confluence of ecological and humanistic thought has culminated in the multidisciplinary field of the Environmental Humanities. This emergent field is attentive to the humanities’ potential relation to and impact upon multiple arenas: ecology, energy use, geological epochs, climate change, rising sea levels, nuclear testing, the planet’s carbon and nitrogen cycles, definitions of “wilderness,” interspecies relations, etc. Taking the journal Environmental Humanities as a point of entrance for introducing students to the conceptual, theoretical, and critical terms of the field, this course prepares students to bring literature into dialogue with environmental thought and materialities.
Introduction to Graduate Studies (Ed Cutler)
English 620R: The English Renaissance: Continuities in Modern Film (Brandie Siegfried)
This course covers works by several influential Renaissance writers, including Spenser, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Raleigh, Jonson, Donne, Sidney, Wroth, Herbert, Cavendish, Milton, and several others. You will also read segments from the 1611 King James Bible, a book that until very recently was the single most influential publication in English. In this course, we will explore the religious, philosophical, and aesthetic aspects of Renaissance literature in relation to modern film avatars, giving special attention to Humanism, Reformation theology, and question of belief vs. knowledge.
English 620R: Literature and Heresy (Jason Kerr)
With the breakdown of censorship in England in the early 1640s, hitherto-suppressed ideas began finding their way into print, resulting in a public religious conversation whose breadth and diversity had not been seen since the earliest days of the Radical Reformation. Some of these writings, like Milton’s divorce tracts and the notorious Ranter pamphlets, challenged existing sexual mores. Others, like the reports of women prophets, simultaneously challenged gender norms and ecclesiastical structures. Still others, like the Socinian pamphlets of John Biddle, challenged the very idea of God. As our course studies these writings and the inevitable responses they generated, we will explore the complexities of free speech and freedom of religion, asking what it means to have a functioning public sphere.