Extended Descriptions-Graduate

Winter 2021

ENGL 621R: The Daring Muse: Eighteenth-Century Women’s Poetry and Literary History (Billy Hall)

The primary draw for this course on eighteenth-century British poetry written by women are the poems themselves. The poetry of Anne Finch, Mary Montagu, Sara Dixon, Mary Leapor and many more is by turns hilarious and tragic; at times deeply personal and others furiously engaged in public debate, it leaves deep and lasting impressions on nearly any student of literature. We will add to this bounty of literary riches analytical frameworks rooted in literary history, but self-aware and flexible enough to accommodate students with varied critical interests. Anchored in the poetry, students will explore current and emerging approaches to the practice of literary history (feminist literary historiography, historical poetics, computer-assisted text analysis, and more) with an eye to developing facility in the approach that most resonates with their own interpretive and conceptual inclinations. On the one hand narrow and the other broad, the two main goals for the course are to deepen our understanding and appreciation of eighteenth-century poetry, and to reflect on the assumptions that underpin various approaches to writing literary history.

ENGL 622: Law and Contemporary British and Anglophone Literatures (Peter Leman)

In this seminar, we will examine contemporary British and Anglophone literatures in relationship to the field of Law and Literature. This field has been notoriously heterogeneous throughout its (relatively recent) history, with scholars positing a variety of configurations for relating the two disciplines: e.g., law as literature, law in literature, literature in law, literature as law, law and rhetoric, law and hermeneutics, etc. Though touching on some of the most important of these methods, we will draw heavily upon the late legal scholar Robert Cover’s insight that the law depends upon a deep structure of cultural narratives for its meaning. In thinking through the implications of this claim, we will read cultural narratives by Samuel Beckett, George Orwell, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, Brian Friel, Polly Stenham, and others, and consider how their works might be understood in relationship to privacy law, torts, emergency law, international law, constitutional history, and more. 

626R: American Literature Before 1860: Crisis and Catastrophe in Early America (Mary Eyring)

In this graduate seminar, we will analyze the literature that represents conditions of crisis and catastrophe in America before 1860. The course will be divided into five units, each covering a set of circumstances that put pressure on the cultures, ecologies, religious practices, or political systems of the American Northeast: Settlement, Heresy, Homelessness, Revolution, and Prosperity. In these units, we will consider the crises settler colonialism posed to the environment and peoples of the Northeast; the existential threats the Antinomian Controversy and the witch hunts posed to Puritan life in New England; the military campaigns, accidents, and environmental forces that made many early Americans homeless in the seventeenth century; the spirit of revolution that swept the seas and then the land masses constituting early America; and the literature and cultural practices that grew up in the wake of revolution and in conditions of relative calm and prosperity in the new United States. We will read a variety of genres, and our study of these texts will combine close reading with the theoretical approaches of ecocriticism, post-secular studies, Black and Indigenous American studies, post-continental American studies, and book history.

ENGL 627R: Literary New York and Aesthetic Modernity (Edward Cutler)

This seminar features New York City as a vital capital of literary and cultural modernity in the latter decades of the 19th century. We will consider major New York writers–Walt Whitman, Henry James, and Edith Wharton–and discuss how the uniqueness of modern life in America’s rapidly transforming metropolis, in turn, shapes America’s contribution to an emergent modernist aesthetic. Beyond broadening your awareness of this urban literary-historical context, our seminar will consider theoretical ways to approach the cultural history of capitalist modernity. How does urban experience both intensify social class divisions and open new ways of freely exploring and imagining identity? How do new technologies of production and representation (photography, panorama, voice recording, motion pictures) pressure the conventional visual and literary arts? What, in particular, can the outmoded, discarded, or obsolete ephemera—for instance a short-lived design style like Art Nouveau–reveal to us now, in ways not discernible then, something of the latent dreams and desires of humanity? To pursue such questions, we will consider two influential studies of nineteenth-century capitalism and its discontents: Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project and Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. Our consideration of these evocative critical and aesthetic materials will strengthen you in your own creative processes and provide texture for your independent conceptual investigations of literature.

ENGL 630R: Performativity (Sharon Harris)

What do ordinary language philosophy, linguistics, deconstruction, gender and queer studies, postmodern political theory, and performance studies have in common? Performativity. We’ll dive into this alluring topic, investigating its winding genealogy and multiple deployments. In each iteration we’ll circle back to an organizing question of J. L. Austin in the mid-twentieth century: how do words do stuff? The pronouncement “Let there be light” is a divine performative that is both utterance and action. So is the legal designation of hate speech. This course gives occasion to ask several questions, including: How is it that language is also action? How are the structures of the word of Biblical creation and of hate speech similar and how different? What is the relationship between speech and the body? What kinds of force proceed from speaking, and what implications does this have for forming not just identity but also materiality and the real? Performativity is a great ride. Readings include works by J. L. Austin, Jacques Derrida, Stanley Cavell, Judith Butler, Giorgio Agamben, and others.

English 667R: Graduate Creative Nonfiction Workshop (Joey Franklin)

In this course, we will focus on the role of the personal essay in exploring identity in all its facets. We will test the words of Michel de Montaigne: “There is no description so difficult, nor doubtless of so great utility, as that of a [person’s] self:” We will read book-length collections of essays by visiting writers, and several individual essays, craft articles, and theoretical texts. We will use what we learn from those texts to create our own identity-defining personal essays–three of them. We will grow as writers as we share our manuscripts in workshop, offer one another honest, constructive feedback, and submit our work for publication.

ENGL 668R: Graduate Fiction Workshop (Spencer Hyde)

What is a story cycle? What is a composite novel, and how is that different from a collage? When does a short story become a novella, and does such taxonomy matter? In this workshop, we will study numerous works of contemporary fiction coupled with theoretical texts. Students will submit at least three stories/chapters/experiments for workshop discussion, and write many smaller exercises in an attempt to understand the hybrid nature of form and function.

ENGL 669R: Poetry Workshop (Kimberly Johnson)

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 the first 30(-ish) minutes of class discussing a point of poetic theory or craft; the next 45(-ish) minutes discussing a single collection of poetry, and the remaining time workshopping student poems.

Fall 2021


ENGL 600: Introduction to Graduate Studies (Mary Eyring)

ENGL 610: Composition Pedagogy (University Writing Directors)

ENGL 612R: History of Rhetoric (Nancy Christiansen)

ENGL 620R: Seminar in British Literature before 1660: Renaissance Women (Kimberly Johnson)

This course explores texts written by women during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with particular focus on the intersection of theology and gender.  We will examine poetry, prose, political and religious tracts, and drama of the period with an eye toward understanding the cultural position of women in Renaissance England.  Our discussions will range through the literary and generic strategies of women’s writing, considering it aesthetically and for the evidence it gives of the political, religious, social, and generic developments of the period.

We’ll also, perforce, consider the question of authority in literary writing and in society, and interrogate the means by which authority is conferred by cultural institutions in order to understand how women in this period conceived of, and negotiated, sanctions of and resistances to self-representation.

ENGL 621R: Seminar in British Literature, 1660-1830: British Romantic Literature: The “Best” of British Romanticism (Nicholas Mason)

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 for now in a chastened, less-swaggering form. Suddenly it seems easy to imagine a near future when English teachers from middle school through graduate school 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.” Anticipating such a gradual, discipline-wide return to old ways, this seminar will function as something of a semester-long training exercise in the safe handling of evaluative criticism. Our particular focus will be works that at some point over the past two centuries were widely hailed as the “undisputed,” “timeless,” and “unfading” masterpieces of Britain’s Romantic Age. These will include poems, both lyric and epic, by “Big 6” bards like Wordsworth, Byron, and Blake; now-ultra-canonical novels like Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein; and long-forgotten “instant classics” like the stage tragedies of Joanna Baillie and metrical tales of Walter Scott, Felicia Hemans, and Thomas Moore. Studying these authors and texts—and the ebbs and flows of their critical reputations—will offer frequent occasion to debate whether (as David Hume posited in the mid-eighteenth century) educated readers should indeed aspire toward a shared “standard of taste” or (as Barbara Herrnstein Smith countered some 250 years later) we should concede once and for all that aesthetic judgment is inherently subjective and therefore highly contingent on the critic’s culture, historical moment, and lived experiences.

ENGL 622R: Seminar in British Literature, 1830-Present: Woolf and Motherhood (Jarica Watts)

ENGL 628R: Memory, Nostalgia, and Trauma 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, 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. 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.

ENGL 629R: Poe and the World (Emron Esplin)

To claim that no other U.S. writer has had as much influence on world literature as Edgar Allan Poe is not to practice hyperbole. Variously proclaimed as a master of the macabre, the inventor of detective fiction, a precursor to science fiction, the inventor of the modern short story, and a dark poet-prophet, Poe’s figure casts multiple shadows on the world. In this course, we will study Poe’s influence on and affinities with writers from across the globe, and we will also analyze how the world has shaped the Poe that we know in the United States today. Our course readings will include a few of Poe’s poems and essays, a large portion of his short fiction, and various poetic and prose responses to Poe from France, England, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Our course material will focus on Poe the writer, but we will also approach the figure of Poe as a pop culture icon. Our discussions of the other writers in the course will examine their literary relationships with Poe, but we will also explore why each of these authors should be studied in their own right.

ENGL 630R: Theoretical Discourse: Environmental Humanities (Brian Roberts)

As a master’s-level theory course, this section of ENGL 630R requires no prior knowledge of the environmental humanities. Rather, it offers a set of readings, discussions, and assignments designed to permit graduate students to enter into conversation with some of the field’s most important theoretical and conceptual currents, developments, and conversations. As readings, discussions, and assignments unfold and build on each other over the course of the semester, we will approach various topics: the Anthropocene, environmental justice, postcolonial ecologies, multispecies studies, ecologies associated with new materialist thought, and archipelagic and oceanic ecologies.

ENGL 667: (Pat Madden)

ENGL 669: Poetry Workshop (Lance Larsen)

In this workshop you’ll be writing at least nine poems, nine “small or large machine[s] made out of words” (WC Williams) whose purpose is to take off the top of the reader’s head and leave her so cold no fire will ever warm her (Dickinson). Whether we achieve this collectively remains to be seen,  but we’ll certainly put in the sweat equity. If the seminar is small, each person will workshop six or seven times; if it’s bursting at the seams, four times. In addition, we’ll systematically study half a dozen contemporary poetry collections, complete in-class prompts, and you’ll do a presentation, memorize a sonnet, send out new poems, and talk about your work using a portfolio of twenty carefully curated quotes by other writers. We’ll also meet together two or three times to discuss your progress, and you’ll complete a final portfolio and an analysis essay. Shantih Shantih Shantih

Winter 2022


ENGL 611R: Teaching Advanced Composition (University Writing Directors)

ENGL 613R: Rhetorical Theory and Criticism (Jon Balzotti)

ENGL 616R: Research Methods in Composition (Amy Williams)

ENGL 617R: (Pat Madden)

ENGL 620R: Seminar in British Literature before 1660: Medieval (Juliana Chapman)

ENGL 622R: Seminar in British Literature, 1830-Present: Victorian (Jamie Horrocks)

ENGL 626R: Witchcraft (Mary Eyring)

The early American witchcraft phenomenon has been studied as a manifestation of anxiety surrounding gender and sexuality in the Americas. Certainly it was. But in a much larger sense, witchcraft registered early Americans’ concerns about their relationship to the continent, the Atlantic world, and the globe. In small and often isolated settlements, European colonists in the Americas were in a perpetual posture of defense against anticipated attacks—on their bodies, homes, souls, children, institutions, customs—with no clear sense of the origins or implications of the threat. In this climate, everything in the world, visible and invisible, was suspect. During the most famous episodes in the history of early modern witchcraft, accusers blurred the lines between sinner and saint, stranger and friend, on terms that echoed their constantly shifting status on a globe in flux. Were they Europeans (transmitting centuries of repression and violence) or Americans (entangled with the native inhabitants of their continents and islands)? Witchcraft periodically threw the ongoing tensions of colonial expansion and governance into sharp relief. At stake in these trials was not only the fate of individuals, but also the role that science, spirituality, law, literature, cross-cultural cooperation, and individualism were to play on the dramatic theaters of the New World. In this course, we will trace the concerns of witchcraft in a variety of texts. Our seminar will begin with a study of the European bases upon which the early American witchcraft phenomenon rests, and we will study the animating anxieties as they were manifested, repressed, analyzed, and dramatized in other global contexts. Our sources will include the familiar and conventionally literary—histories, drama, short stories, a novel—as well as journals, letters, newspapers, and a film. 

ENGL 629: Contemporary African American Literature (Kristin Matthews)

ENGL 630R: Theoretical Discourse: Cultures of Nationalism (Frank Christianson)

How do nations induce loyalty in their citizens? What role does literature play in defining membership–affinity and difference–for a community? This course will focus on theories of nationalism and literature’s place in the development and maintenance of nationalist cultures. Readings and research will explore how the concept of nationhood functions as an identity category, and examine related notions of regionalism, ethnicity, and cosmopolitanism. While case studies come from a period of high nationalism in nineteenth-century Britain and America, students can adapt the critical framework, questions, and lexicon to inform readings within their preferred subfields. Primary literary genres will be novels and autobiographies.

ENGL 667: The Personal Essay Large and Small (Joey Franklin)

How do you write an essay? or a book of essays? Or a six-volume mega-memoir? The same way you eat an elephant. One small bite at a time.  In this course we will study short-form nonfiction as both a stand-alone art, and as a building block for longer works. We will read collected flash-nonfiction and book-length projects that are built of smaller pieces. We will dissect the short form, use what we learn to create our own flash nonfiction, and combine what we create into larger cohesive manuscripts. We will review the contemporary flash nonfiction scene and see if we can come to our own theories of flash-nonfiction. We will workshop our manuscripts, revise like crazy, and submit our work to journals around the country.

ENGL 668: Fiction Workshop (Spencer Hyde)

ENGL 669: Poetry Workshop (Michael Lavers)

ENGL 670R: Young Adult Novel (Chris Crowe)

ENGL  670R is a workshop designed for graduate students who are working on a young adult novel. Students in this course should have read widely in YA literature (ENGL 420 is wonderful preparation).  The seminar will run on a workshop format, so it is essential that every student is prepared to work on a YA novel.  In late fall semester of 2021, every student enrolled in the course must submit a writing sample for me to review. We’ll then meet to discuss the sample and to discuss the individualized required reading to be completed prior to the start of the class in winter 2022.

Spring 2022

ENGL 520R: Fairy Tales and Other Speculative Fictions: Socialization and the Search for Just Worlds (Jill Rudy)

This seminar starts with “Snow White and Rose Red” as collected and published by the Grimm brothers along with critical readings of formalism, socionarratology, cognitive, archipelagic, and disability studies, and Marek Oziewicz’s Justice in Young Adult Speculative Fiction. Other literary texts will include Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan; Bird Summons, by Leila Aboulela; The Marrow Thieves, by Cheri Dimaline; and One Boy, No Water, by Lehua Parker. Assignments include writing Digital Dialog responses, leading class discussion, and preparing a conference paper.

Fall 2022


ENGL 627R: American Literature, 1865-1914, Reconstructing American Identity: Issues of Belonging (Mike Taylor)

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.

ENGL 628R: The Culture of Climate Change (Jamin Rowan)

As we settle into life in the Anthropocene, a wide variety of writers and culture makers have responded to the emerging conditions of this new climactic period. Through course readings and independent research, we will have the opportunity to identify and analyze the narrative and formal patterns through which writers and other artists are making sense of the Anthropocene. We will also address the challenges that climate change poses to our conventional understandings of literary history and our traditional analytical approaches to literary study.

Winter 2023


ENGL 626R: American Literature, European Beginnings to 1860: Early American Narratives and Created History (Keith Lawrence)

This seminar will first overview the variety of colonial European narrative forms comprising traditional early American literature—captivity narratives and other narratives of divine providence, criminal narratives and other narratives of divine judgment, other moral narratives (including those focused on scientific, historical, religious, or social subjects), narratives for children, and narratives of nation—to underscore the early American print narrative as a basis for a created history focused on western European Americans. We will look past the unfolding political, cultural, and religious tensions within these texts—tensions revealing commonly-held and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century white perspectives eventually ingrained as the core elements of the [white] “American character”—to consider contrasting tensions in the comparatively few print narratives from indigenous peoples and Blacks and to posit what the true, more inclusive “American character” might be.

ENGL 628R: American Literature, 1914 to Present (Jamin Rowan)

Forthcoming.