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Upcoming Course Offerings

Course offerings are subject to change at any time, depending on instructor availability. Contact the Graduate Program Manager with any questions at 801-422-4939 or gradenglish@byu.edu.

Fall 2022
Winter 2023
Spring 2023
Summer 2023
Fall 2023
Winter 2024
  • During Shakespeare’s lifetime, over twenty theaters were constructed in London where hundreds of plays were performed. Not thirty years later, Parliament closed all theatres. An entire industry was kicked to the curb or, as we will see, run underground. What did the actors, musicians, and playwrights do? How did they translate their work and skills while theatres were illegal? What role did music and print culture play in satisfying the public’s nostalgia for performance? That is to say, where’s the drama? But there’s no shortage of drama of other kinds: This is when the court threw its biggest parties with glitzy costumes, people watching, and dancing. It’s when Puritans outlawed Christmas carols and roast goose. And it’s when the king lost his head. We’ll explore how theaters and performance were transposed to new sites and media and still acted as coping mechanisms for the unscripted drama of the period.

  • This course will explore planetary/global modernisms from an applied literary angle. In traditional literary history, Modernism/Modernity are powerful ideas typically linked either narrowly to Europe and America in the first half of the 20th century or more broadly to Europe and its cultural diaspora from roughly 1500 on. More recently scholars such as Susan Stanford Friedman have argued that modernism is best understood as “a planetary phenomenon across the millennia.” “We need to begin by abandoning the notion of modernity as a period,” Friedman insists, “instead considering modernity as a loosely configured set of conditions that share a core meaning of accelerated change but articulate differently on the global map of human history.” Friedman specifically highlights four major ways in which traditional modernism may be productively re-articulated, terming these: Re-vision, Recovery, Circulation, and Collage. This course will employ these four approaches in reading a constellation of literary texts—largely 20th Century British but not primarily so—seeking to test through interpretive application the merits of the planetary modernist ideas put forward in recent years by Friedman and other important theorists such as Franco Moretti, Emily Apter, Mary Lou Emery, Simon Gikandi, Fredric Jameson, Sarah Lincoln, Jahan Ramazani, and Gayatri Spivak. Though highly informed by theory and criticism, our central focus will be on literary texts, including Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse; Seepersad Naipaul’s Gurudeva and other stories; James Joyce’s “Araby,” A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses; Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; Derek Walcott’s The Odyssey: A Stage Version and Omeros; and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.

  • Typified by the sharply contrasting moments of Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 mass hanging of 38 Dakota men and his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, late nineteenth-century America may be defined as an era of simultaneously limiting and expanding the popular notion and embodied realities of belonging in a still-expanding United States. Throughout this course, we will explore a range of literary genres and communities of writers to engage the diverse—often competing—narratives of national belonging in postbellum America.

  • Ideally, theory and criticism spur inquiry and help identify the parameters and aspirations of our field, while also contributing real and fundamental insight to the realm of general human understanding. More realistically, humanistic theory and criticism—whatever its success in affirming our field to ourselves and our students—has struggled to find its footing in the arena of general human understanding; scientistic, statistical, materialist accounts of our being in the world underwrite what counts as the real. The rest is just literature.

    Even so, a scientistic, secular paradigm—engaging phenomena clinically, without recourse to transcendental, spiritual, or supernatural explanation—has tended to reduce allowable questions to the perceived constraints inherent in materialism, often at the expense of meaningful answers. The felt limitations of old explanatory paradigms in the sciences and the humanities have refreshed thinking across the academic disciplines; our seminar will consider the emergence of a post-critical, post-secular cast of thought, drawing upon insights from recent scholarship in the humanities, philosophy, physics, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology.

    Questions we will consider include:

    • Does the human brain equal the human mind? What insight does contemporary research and critical modeling bring to the classical mind/body duality? What is the “hard problem” of consciousness and what is at stake for a humanist in how this problem is resolved?
    • How do we account for our aesthetic responses? Can neuroscience or postcritical thought in the humanities shed new light on how artworks work upon us? Why are aesthetic experiences idiosyncratic—sometimes durable and transformative, sometimes fugitive and strange, sometimes profoundly emotional to another while absent in you?
    • What should we make of anomalous experiences (UFOs, visitations, precognition, extra-sensory perception, mystic visions and cosmic vibrations, etc)? Some of the most meaningful human experiences are ineffable and irreconcilable with consensus reality; what are the challenges and opportunities for a creative writer or scholar in the humanities, writing against the grain of existing explanatory models for what counts as the real?

    Texts:
    Collins, Christopher. Paleopoetics: The Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination. Columbia UP, 2013.

    Dick, Philip K. The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. Edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. (avail on Scribd)

    Harris, Annaka. Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind. HarperCollins, 2019. (avil on Scribd)

    Felski, Rita. Hooked: Art and Attachment. U of Chicago P, 2020.

    Holyoak, Keith J. The Spider’s Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry. MIT P, 2019.

    Kastrup, Bernardo. More Than Allegory: On Religious Myth, Truth, and Belief. John Hunt Publishing, 2016. (avail on Scribd)

    Kripal, Jeffry J. The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge. Bellevue Literary Press, 2019. (avail on Scribd)

    Lanza, Robert and Matej Pavšič. The Grand Biocentric Design: How Life Creates Reality. BenBella Books, Inc., 2020.

    Pasulka, D.W. American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology. Oxford UP, 2019.

  • This graduate course will introduce students (or expand their knowledge about) the discipline of folklore and explore historical and contemporary scholarship on Latter-day Saint folklore and the folklore of the Intermountain West and the inter-relations between the two. Students will select and investigate their own topic in this area using scholarly, archival, and/or ethnographic methods.

    In-class instruction and discussion, as well as out-of-class activities, are designed to guide students through the process of doing research and getting a paper ready for a scholarly presentation and publication.

  • During this semester, we will divide our time between reading exemplary short stories (and perhaps a novel or two) and a discussion of student writing in a traditional workshop. As we read together, we will address questions of craft and theory in an effort to better understand our own writing experiments and to encourage us to write more broadly and more deliberately than we might otherwise.

  • This poetry workshop (we’ll spend half our time reading and critiquing each other’s poems) happens to coincide with an historical occasion: the centenary of the publication, in October 1922, of “The Waste Land”. So we’ll take Eliot’s poem (a marvel of formal variety) as the impetus for the other aspect of the course: a close study of formal technique, with emphasis on meter, stanza, line, and other elements of poetic form. To that end we’ll read complete collections by W. H. Auden, Anthony Hecht, and A. E. Stallings, with further examples drawn from English poets from Caedmon to the present.

  • British Romantic literature as we know it has been shaped by all sorts of actors, both inside and outside of schools. Among the most influential, yet least recognized, agents have been editors: custodians and transmitters of literary texts. Who are these people? How do they learn and exercise their craft? Why has their work mattered in the past, and why might it matter in the future? With such queries in mind, this seminar will introduce students to the theory and practice of textual scholarship.

    The course will tackle such questions as the following:

    • How are scholarly editions produced?
    • What are the primary materials for textual scholarship?
    • What practical and ethical questions must editors grapple with in studying Romantic-era writers (or any other writers)?
    • What roles have editors played historically in the reception and understanding of the Romantics?
    • How have modern editors recuperated neglected writers of the Romantic Period, and how has the field of Romantic Studies changed as a result?
    • How have digital technologies transformed the field? What is the likely future of textual scholarship?

    Aspiring Romanticists and other British Lit. folks should certainly take this seminar, but students from other emphases—especially those with a passion for books and manuscripts as material objects and an eye for juicy details—will find much to enjoy while developing practical, portable skills. Likely assignments will include plenty of reading; writing in practical genres such as headnotes and annotations; archival work in Special Collections; oral presentations; and hands-on editing projects, both group and individual.

  • Can your wallpaper make you a better person? Or, conversely, can a poorly designed carpet weaken the moral sensibility of your children? Before you laugh, consider how many Latter-day Saint homes contain pictures of the temple, suggesting a belief that even a cheap framed print will bring the Spirit and cultivate a moral atmosphere—“beauty all around.” In a similar way, many Victorians believed that objects of art (or artifice) should “uplift,” contributing to the moral improvement of the people who owned or used them. Just like many middle-class consumers today, they worried whether having nice stuff reflected one’s righteous industriousness (#blessed) or simply revealed a superficial and acquisitive nature. As the narrator of George Eliot’s Middlemarch points out, the struggle to conciliate “piety and worldliness, the nothingness of this life and the desirability of cut glass” stretches back at least as far as the nineteenth century.

    The cultural debate surrounding these issues had an enormous impact on Victorian commodity culture and drove a national design reform movement. Victorian designers and design theorists—attempting to ensure that British manufacturers manufactured only the very “best” things—produced a discourse that continues today, encompassing virtue ethics, prosperity gospels, situational morality, and ethical design. Our class will examine this discourse, especially as it finds its way into Victorian literature. We’ll read Ruskin and Pugin as we consider the role of naturalism and religiosity in nineteenth-century design. We’ll use design reform treatises to explore some of the ethical questions raised for Victorians by the Great Exhibition. We’ll examine issues of urban design, via writers like Dickens and Mayhew, and the nascent environmental movement via writers like Gissing and Octavia Hill. And we’ll end the semester with William Morris, perhaps the best-known Victorian designer and one of many whose attempts to establish an ethical design movement was linked to political reform and social justice campaigns. Through it all, we'll be asking, “Is it possible to make better people or make people better? And if so, what roles does design play in this project?”

  • We will explore the emergence of the American historical narrative, beginning with close readings of representative texts by such canonized writers as John Smith, Mary Rowlandson, and Anne Bradstreet. Next, as we study together less familiar narratives in class, students will use out-of-class time conducting professor-mentored primary document research using the Early American Imprints microfiche series; secondary sources will be used to contextualize and clarify primary documents—and students will summarize their projects in a class presentation. Finally, we will discuss together the emergence of American novels and American drama; early on, such works were invariably cast as historical narratives.

    Texts:

    MacLeish, The Day Before America; Kolodny, The Lay of the Land; Tilton, Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative; Gunn, ed., Early American Writing; Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple/Lucy Temple; Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly; and online e-texts of selected early American narratives and plays

    Assignments:

    • Mentored research on a historical narrative topic of personal interest
    • Conference paper (10 pages + works cited)
    • Four seminar papers, each of which poses and responds to a significant question about a class text (one page each, single-spaced)
    • Class presentation
    • Close familiarity with at least one critical/theoretical text beyond the three the class studies together

    Note:

    The historical narrative is increasingly important to the field of early American and transnational literary studies, especially the non-English historical narrative. And in my primary research area of Asian American literature, my labor of the past several years has been tied to assembling, editing, and introducing the historical narratives which shaped American conceptions of Asia and Asians during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Over the past eighteen years or so, many publications in my field, including Nguyen’s Race and Resistance, Hu-DeHart’s Across the Pacific: Asian Americans and Globalization, Lee/Lim/Matsukawa’s Re-Collecting Early Asian America, and my Recovered Legacies (co-edited with Cheung), approach Asian American literature and culture via historical narratives located within and without the standard literary tradition.

  • The secularization thesis is one of the most powerful progress narratives to develop in the modern era. It suggests that with increasing scientific knowledge, industrialization, and technological advancements, religion and religious practice declines. In recent decades, however, it has become increasingly clear that such is not the case. In spite of secularization’s attempts to eradicate it, religion remains as present as it ever was—it has only changed shape. Literature, in particular, has remained a repository for what we might call postsecular concerns, and many contemporary poets and novelists continue to articulate a specific ethical and moral vision as they seek to reconnect spiritual and secular virtues. That vision is not an atavistic return to pre-modern religious paradigms, but rather a uniquely postsecular sensibility developed in light of both the scientific advancements and the tumultuous cultural upheavals of the past century.

    In this course we will take what Paul Ricœur calls an “affirmative” approach to a selection of American literary texts published in the last twenty years that demonstrate a postsecular sensibility. Our goal, in part, is to practice a mode of scholarship that remains open and responsive to what a text has to offer, and one that accepts what it sincerely reveals as of equal importance to what it might conceal.

    Texts:

    Coleman, Daniel. In Bed With the Word: Reading, Spirituality, and Cultural Politics. U of Alberta P, 2009.

    Erdrich, Louise. LaRose. HarperCollins, 2016.

    Mirza, Fatima Farheen. A Place for Us. Random House, 2018.

    Morrison, Toni. A Mercy. Knopf, 2008.

    Powers, Richard. Bewilderment. W.W. Norton, 2021.

    Robinson, Marilynne. Lila. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014.

    Smith, Tracy K. Such Color: New and Selected Poems. Graywolf Press, 2022.

    Vuong, Ocean. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Penguin, 2019.

  • The Arthurian legend (or, as the Medievals called it: the Matter of Britain), is one of the best-known narrative traditions from British literature. But from their sixth-century beginnings till today, Arthurian tales of knights, quests, named weapons, and monstrous beasts have relegated women to the margins. Despite the seeming equality of the Round Table, there are no seats for women, and when women do appear in the stories, they often do so in disturbing or problematic ways. This course aims to recover Arthurian women—women as characters in, as well as authors and readers of, the Matter of Britain. Our study will begin with the roles of women in the legend’s creation and expansion during the medieval period, both in England and across Europe, then turn to women’s roles in perpetuating the legend’s global literary afterlife. From Marie de France’s twelfth-century Arthurian poems, to the medievalism of the Romantic and Victorian periods, up through recent modern adaptations into literature, music, visual art, and film, women around the world have repeatedly made spaces for themselves at the Arthurian table.

  • After decades in the wilderness of literary studies, evaluative criticism—the interpretive mode that aims to identify and celebrate the “best” poems, novels, or plays of a particular age or tradition—shows early signs of returning to favor, albeit in a somewhat chastened, less-swashbuckling form than in its mid-20th-century heyday. Suddenly it seems easy to imagine a not-so-distant future when English teachers from the middle-school classroom to the doctoral seminar again unite in a common mission of instilling Arnoldian reverence for “the best that is known and thought in the world” and Wordsworthian disdain for “frantic novels, sickly and stupid [gothic] tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories.” To prepare for this potential return to old ways, this seminar will function as something of a semester-long training exercise in the safe handling of evaluative criticism. Our focus will be partly historical, as we will examine famous cases of writers’ critical reputations either skyrocketing or plummeting from one generation to the next. Against this backdrop, we will wade into ongoing debates between those who believe cultivating refined tastes should be a crucial component of any literary education and others who feel aesthetic judgment is largely contingent on one’s culture, lived experiences, and historical moment and therefore inherently subjective.

  • ENGL 667: Writing “Wilde” Essays: Oscar Wilde claimed that only literature could capture “life in its full and absolute entirety; not merely the beauty that men look at, but the beauty that men listen to also; not merely the momentary grace of form or the transient gladness of colour, but the whole sphere of feeling, the perfect cycle of thought” (“The Critic as Artist”). That is our goal this semester—to capture the perfect cycle of thought—to recreate our minds at work on the page, to explore the world around us and take notes, to teach ourselves and our readers something new, and, ultimately, to discover a few fresh truths about the world and ourselves in the process. And if that’s not a tall enough order, consider this: Wilde also claimed that life and literature were the two highest forms of art. And if literature really is the highest form of art, is it possible that the essay (the literature of life), in all its quirky, “indigested,” experimental, self-consciousness, is the highest form of literature? Maybe (don’t tell the poets!). In this course, we will read and discuss some great essays. We will write and observe and research and think and exercise our creative muscles. We will become better literary citizens, stronger critical thinkers, and more proficient revisers of our own work. Students can expect three formal essay projects reviewed in workshop, class presentations, several books worth of reading, and other assignments tied to creative writing professionalization.

  • A writing workshop represents an opportunity to hear from disinterested persons about the communicative successes and failures of your work. This course combines traditional workshop discussion of student poems with a larger discussion about the craft and theory of poetry writing. We will frame that larger conversation by looking at key theoretical texts, exploring issues of craft, and discussing a number of poetry collections, identifying their poetic strategies and assessing the effects of those strategies, and considering the concept of the poetry book qua book—that is, as a coherent document with its own governing arguments. Each week, we will seek to acknowledge the mutually constitutive labors of thinking, reading, and writing. We will spend one-third of class discussing a point of poetic theory or craft; one-third discussing a single collection of poetry; and the remaining third workshopping student poems.

  • This course involves participation in the CUWP’s summer institute (SI). The course dates are unique, and graduate students should contact Debbie Dean before March 1 with their intention to participate as the course begins with an evening session in March, a full day in May, and then three weeks in June of daily, all-day, attendance. The program encourages teachers to be writers and focuses on improving writing instruction in a highly collaborative environment with teachers of multiple grade levels and content areas.

  • Following the Puritan Interregnum, during which time London playhouses were effectively shut down, the English theater had to essentially reinvent itself. This process resulted in new plays and new dramatic types, but theater managers likewise tapped plays from England’s not-too-distant past, including Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare became the most celebrated playwright of his day, it was during the Long Eighteenth Century that he was canonized—and immortalized—not merely through the reproduction of his plays, which were sometimes revised for eighteenth-century tastes—but through literary criticism as Samuel Johnson and others submitted the bard’s works to serious literary criticism for the first time. It was also during this period that we can talk about literary tourism as Shakespeare’s birthplace became a site of pilgrimage for Shakespeare enthusiasts. This section will examine the process of canonizing Shakespeare—as well as issues of canonization more broadly conceived—and explore how Shakespeare became Shakespeare while reflecting on what this process tells us about literary and cultural sensibilities during the period.

    Following the Puritan Interregnum, during which time London playhouses were effectively shut down, the English theater had to essentially reinvent itself. This process resulted in new plays and new dramatic types, but theater managers likewise tapped plays from England’s not-too-distant past, including Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare became the most celebrated playwright of his day, it was during the Long Eighteenth Century that he was canonized—and immortalized—not merely through the reproduction of his plays, which were sometimes revised for eighteenth-century tastes—but through literary criticism as Samuel Johnson and others submitted the bard’s works to serious literary criticism for the first time. It was also during this period that we can talk about literary tourism as Shakespeare’s birthplace became a site of pilgrimage for Shakespeare enthusiasts. This section will examine the process of canonizing Shakespeare—as well as issues of canonization more broadly conceived—and explore how Shakespeare became Shakespeare while reflecting on what this process tells us about literary and cultural sensibilities during the period.

  • In this course, we will examine dystopian writing in contemporary British/Anglophone literature within a framework of biopolitics, or the extension of sovereign power over biological life. We will consider the utopian/dystopian genre’s development throughout its long history in the British tradition and also read theories of biopolitics as a way of approaching recent dystopian fictions that portray “individual bodies and entire populations … integrated into new rationalities of governing” (Coole 2014). Our primary texts will likely include A Clockwork Orange (1962) by Anthony Burgess, The Handmaid's Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood, A Number (2002) by Caryl Churchill, Never Let Me Go (2005) by Ishiguro Kazuo, the film Children of Men (2006), and The Power (2016) by Naomi Alderman, as well as theoretical texts by Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, Achille Mbembe, Donna Harroway, Peter Sloterdijk, and others.

  • This course offers an introduction to various theories of literary translation and to the growing field of translation studies. The course takes a descriptive and theoretical approach to translation rather than a prescriptive and/or practical approach. We will analyze how ideas about translation have changed dramatically over time. We will study source texts and target texts as complex historical products that are closely connected to their historical contexts and to the particular praxes of specific translators. The ideas of Argentine writer and translator Jorge Luis Borges on translation, thoughts that were fairly radical in the middle of the twentieth century but are now mainstream to several currents in translation studies, will serve as the bookends of the class and as through lines during our course of study. We will examine notions of translatability and fidelity, and we will challenge the hierarchical relationship between “originals” and translations. We will also highlight the importance of paratextual materials—forewords, prefaces, notes, indexes, glossaries, etc.