English 495 Senior Seminars Extended Descriptions
Kristin Matthews—African American Literature and the Politics of “Home”
America has been called “home of the brave” and “land of the free.” “Home” invites ideas of inclusion, community, and safety. At the same time, “home” also communicates a sense of “belongingness” that, while including some, necessarily excludes “others” from particular spaces, places, and orders. Understood in these ways, “home” becomes a concept that is at once philosophical, psychological, and political. Our class this semester will focus on the ideas, performance, and complexities of “home” in post-WWII African American literature. These texts pose key questions about “home” and its relationship to geography, ancestry, language, history, displacement, class, and gender. Ultimately, the texts selected for this course examine what it means and what it takes to feel “at home” in one’s community and one’s own skin.
Jesse Crisler—The Literature of 1859
The Literature of 1859 concentrates on major works written or published during that year both in America and Europe. While the course will concentrate primarily on fiction (A Tale of Two Cites, Adam Bede, The Marble Faun), other texts featured include poetry (Idylls of the King, The Rubaiyat) and essays (On Liberty and excerpts from On the Origin of Species). Additionally, the course will consider major cultural and current events of this significant year.
Dennis Perry—Frankenstein in Literature and Film
In this course we will read the original Shelley Frankenstein (1818) as well as the recent Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein (2005), as well as viewing films relevant to both texts. Some emphasis will also be given to how the Frankenstein monster appears in popular culture in general. We will also study adaptation theory and film terms. Writing will involve short film logs (1 page each) and a longer researched paper (8-10 pp.).
Brandie Siegfried—Shakespeare and Film
This section of English 495R will focus on a variety of theatrical, socio-historical, political, philosophical, religious and literary issues in relation to how and why Shakespeare is adapted to film. Special attention will be given to five main objectives. Students will
(1) read seven of Shakespeare’s plays with critical attention;
(2) view at least nine film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays;
(3) read and respond to both literary and film critics as they develop their own scholarly stance in relation to the movies;
(4) gain specific knowledge of the literary sources and the cultural influences that bear on the development of the film adaptations;
(5) add to their understanding of the continued influence of Shakespeare’s plays historically and in contemporary life.
The course will include some film theory but will focus especially on the historical relationship between stage performance, dramatic painting, and the development of film adaptations (moving pictures).
Poetry of the Natural world from the Romantic Era to the Present—Susan Howe
In this course we will consider the variety of ways poets have used nature in their poetry. We will study a different poet each week, ranging from Wordsworth and Dickinson to Merwin, Hogan, and Wrigley, learning their attitudes toward, focus on, and use of nature in their poems. Each student will find and summarize in class an academic article on one of the poets’ use of nature, as assigned. Students will also present an in-depth study of the poetry of one poet. A seminar paper will be required.
Contemporary Asian American Fiction and Criticism—Keith Lawrence
Quite predictably, a crucial historical concern of Asian American literature has been Asian American identity. But Asian American writers have also been engaged in and have made significant contributions to discussions of broader American identity. Interestingly, all such identity discussions by Asian Americans have been framed in response to white-created racial stereotypes as well as to literary and social criticism generated by fellow Asian American authors and historians. In this class we will first consider about a dozen representative short stories and essays from white American writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Next, we will consider essays by eight Asian American literary critics and
historians from the 1960s forward. In the context created by these contrasting white and Asian American voices, we will read fiction by seven contemporary Asian American writers, focusing on themes of American and Asian American identity.
Paul Westover - William Wordsworth and Literary Geography
The imagination has its own geography, and England’s Lake District has become an essential region within it for readers of Anglophone poetry. William Wordsworth, the leading poet of English Romanticism, is the primary reason. Never had a writer so thoroughly grounded his work or his own identity in place. Wordsworth permanently altered the way readers imagined their relationships not only to the Lake District but also to location and to “nature” generally. Thus, it is no surprise that by the late 1800s readers were referring to the Lake District as “Wordsworth Country” and going there on pilgrimage. Wordsworth had helped create one of the first modern literary landscapes.
We have recently seen a “spatial turn” in the Humanities. One of its manifestations has been the acceleration of interdisciplinary work on literary geography. An exploration of Wordsworth and his legacy, as offered by this senior capstone course, provides an introduction to this realm of study. At the same time, investigating Wordsworth will show us that literary geography is not in itself new; in fact, it was a major preoccupation of nineteenth-century culture. Thus, we have in the writing of Wordsworth and his contemporaries a rich archive on the interactions of places, books, andpersonal experiences—an archive that we can explore with tools both old and new. Students in this class will do just that and produce their own original scholarship.
Gloria L. Cronin - John Wideman and Toni Morrison: Dueling Black Trilogies
This is a course focusing on the trilogies of two of the greatest postmodern black writers, John Wideman, Rhodes Scholar, and Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize. We will begin with Wideman’s trilogy: Hiding Place (1981), Sent For You Yesterday (1983), and Damballah (1985). Juxtaposed with these three works will be Morrison’s trilogy: Beloved (1988), Jazz (1993), and Paradise. (1997). Central to our study will be how these writers deal with black history, black femininity, black masculinity, dislocation, the postcolonial condition, the black family, the urban condition, African ancestry, and paradigms of healing and recovery.
Jacqueline Thursby—Women’s Culture, Women’s Folklore
A directed study of folklore, folkways, and culture based on women’s expressed social behaviors both in the United States and abroad. Class time will be spent in lecture and discussion augmented by film clips, fiction and on-fiction book talks, and possibly a few guest speakers on contemporary foods, fashion, and other cultural/social aspects. Required reading will include four books with settings over time and place: A Thousand Years over a Hot Stove (Laura Schenone), Mormon Healer and Folk Poet (Margaret K. Brady), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou), Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi).