Extended Descriptions-Undergraduate

Fall 2016

English 337R: Rhythm and Meter in the Poetic Imagination (John Talbot)What do you miss if you don’t pay attention to a poem’s beat? In this course we’ll be mainly listening for the beat – a poem’s rhythm and meter, and see how much it contributes to a poem’s imaginative force. You’ll learn first basic, and then more advanced, ways of paying attention to meter. We’ll consider whether metrical study is tainted by ideology; how poetic meter relates, or fails to relate, to contextual approaches such as history, theology, class, gender; whether in the past five years or so there have been signs of a renewed interest in the formal properties of poetry.

English 384R: Later British Authors: Joseph Conrad (Aaron Eastley)

Joseph Conrad remains one of the most taught and written about writers of the British Modern period. Beyond the ubiquity of Heart of Darkness, his works have shaped our understanding of racial and cultural issues, of modernist psychology, and of modern prose style. A master of the seaman’s tale, he constantly sought to include the whole of the universe in the microcosm of the ship. We will explore these explorations in some of his best works: well-known texts such as The Secret Sharer, Heart of Darkness, and Lord Jim, and lesser-known gems such as Typhoon, The Shadow-Line, The Nigger of the Narcissus, and Nostromo. Our reading of Conrad’s fiction will be nuanced by regular readings in theory and criticism, and, as this is a 384R, with several progressive writing opportunities culminating in a thoroughly researched and revised 12-15 page final paper.

English 390R: Poe & 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. 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. We will read several works by Poe and various poetic and prose responses to Poe from France, England, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. 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. We will also read several pieces of literary criticism that examine works by Poe and/or many of these authors.

English 495: Literature in the Anthropocene (Jamin Rowan)

As we settle in to 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.

English 495: The Rhetoric of Women’s Emancipation from Wollstonecraft to Woolf (Kristine Hansen)

Did you realize that American women have been able to vote for less than 100 years? Do you know how women won this and other rights denied them for centuries? No doubt Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton are familiar, but who else contributed to this long effort? What were they up against? How did they use the available means of rhetoric to change a culture? This course will trace the rise and progress of the women’s rights movement—focusing particularly on suffrage—from roughly 1790-1930. It will situate primary texts in their historical context and use secondary texts to teach concepts and vocabulary for analyzing and evaluating rhetorical strategies used. You will develop your rhetorical skill through class presentations, short papers, and a term paper.

English 495: Adapting Frankenstein (Dennis Perry)

In this course we will read Shelley’s Frankenstein and study important film adaptations of the novel, including Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein and 1935 Bride of Frankenstein, Fisher’s 1957 Curse of Frankenstein, Nispel’s 2004 Frankenstein, and Burton’s 2010 Frankenweenie. We will also study film adaptation theory which we will apply to our longer research paper. As one of the most adapted novels Frankenstein presents a rich field for studying intertextual adaptation, and is itself a model of adaptation in Shelley’s patchwork of textual influences, including Paradise Lost, Promethean mythology, Caleb Williams, and others.

English 495: The Modern Pastoral (M. Lavers)

We are living in a moment of ecological crisis, where the questions of shepherds in poems by Theocritus or Virgil are gaining new relevance: how have human labor and urbanization affected our rural landscapes, and how can we understand, cope with, or even repair the bifurcation of nature and civilization? This course will explore these questions through the lens of pastoral poetry.  Our main focus will be contemporary poets who perpetuate or transform the genre’s historical conventions, as well as theoretical works that clarify—and complicate—pastoral considerations.  We will write critical and creative projects that help us understand the evolution of pastoral poetry and its significance to larger cultural contexts.

English 495: Shakespeare and Film  (Brandie Siegfried)

This section of English 495 will focus on a variety of theatrical, socio-historical, political, and literary issues in relation to several film adaptations of Shakespeare. This includes a historical overview of the evolution of Shakespeare’s plays from stage, to page, to illustration, to painting, and to moving pictures.  The class also requires you to learn special terms in film criticism, introduces you to the stages of movie making, invites you to explore the similarities and differences between stage and screen productions, and encourages you to develop some ability in the craft of film criticism by way of close readings of Shakespeare.  Remember that Shakespeare wrote the plays to be enjoyed, and enjoyment will be our first order of business as serious critics.


Winter 2017

English 495R: Rhetoric, Jazz, and the Influence [or Power] of the Aesthetic  (Greg Clark)

This course will explore the rhetorical power of aesthetic experience in general, and literary and musical experiences in particular. It will be built around my recent book, Civic Jazz (U of Chicago P, 2015—I will return all royalties earned from my students to the university). It will use literature (James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, others) as well as jazz music to examine ways that aesthetic experience affects and changes people’s attitudes and judgments.  In the process, students will read appropriate literary theory (K Burke, W Booth) and explore the effects of various instances of aesthetic experience, particularly in literature and music.

English 495: (Jamie Horrocks)


English 495: Odd Angles of Heaven: A Contemporary Poetry of Belief (Lance Larsen)

After reviewing devotional verse from the Renaissance forward and sampling a few of the greats, we’ll consider several key contemporary poets and read collections by nine of them, including two Pulitzer-prize winners, Louise Gluck and Charles Wright.  What will you gain from such a class? One, an in-depth reading of an often ignored genre. Two, crucial links to devotional poetry, modernism, and postmodernism. Three, a greater understanding of prosody, form, and the evolution of genre. Four, a distilled report of our present cultural moment.  Five, a sense of how contemporary poets grapple with issues of belief against a secular backdrop.

English 495: Law and Literature (Peter Leman)

This class will provide an introduction to the field of “Law and Literature,” focusing in particular on methodological questions, ethics, and language. As a field, Law and Literature 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 configurations, we will draw heavily upon Robert Cover’s insight that the law depends upon a deep structure of cultural narratives for its meaning. We will ask what it means to think about law in terms of culture and what cultural texts (novels, plays, films, etc.), therefore, have to do with law. In what ways do works of literature enhance our understanding of the cultural foundations (and ragged edges) of the law? In what ways does the law provide a theoretical or historical framework for thinking about literature? Can the literary be legal and the legal literary? We will read key theoretical texts, including works by James Boyd White, Robert Cover, Brook Thomas, Richard Posner, Martha Nussbaum, Richard Weisberg, and Ravit Reichman, among others, as well as a combination of legal cases and literary texts from multiple periods and national traditions.

English 495: Let the Games Begin: Sexual Politics in the Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century (Brett McInelly)

This course will examine the ways literary texts represented, and informed, courtship practices, marriage customs, and gendered spheres during what is often referred to as the Long Eighteenth Century, roughly 1660-1800. We will focus much of our attention on two genres, drama and prose fiction (specifically, the novel). Both the theater and the prose fiction of the period demonstrate a preoccupation with the relationships between the sexes, gender norms, and identity formation within domestic and sociopolitical spheres. This course will examine these themes in a number of texts, considering how context influenced the development of drama and the novel on both thematic and formal levels as well as the ways literary representation may have influenced social practice and norms. We will also give attention to contemporary criticism of eighteenth-century literature, investigating the preoccupations and methods of contemporary literary critics.

English 495: Literature and (the Theory of) Spiritual Experience  (Matt Wickman)

This class explores spiritual experience as a subject of academic as well as religious inquiry. Our objective is not to identify spiritual experience in works of literature as much as to undertake a generative inquiry into what a concept of spiritual experience might mean relative to literature, or perhaps through it. This means that spiritual experience may appear in a variety of ways across the spectrum ranging from content to form. What we will strive to elucidate in our inquiry, then, is not a theology of spiritual experience, but rather a literary theory of it. In formulating such a theory, we will read a variety of poems, novels, stories, academic works on spiritual experience (from philosophy and the sciences), and religious texts. Our discussions will center on questions like these: What does spiritual experience bring to our understanding of literature? And how can literature enhance our understanding and appreciation of spiritual experience?


Spring 2017

English 495: The Contemporary Memoir (Joey Franklin)

Thomas Larson, author of The Memoir and the Memoirist, wrote that in the 1980’s “memoir burst forth sui generis from the castle of autobiography and the wilds of the personal essay.” He calls memoir “an American form” and suggests a study of the genre requires a mix of  “criticism, psychology, reflection, essay, [and] historical and cultural contexts.” Using Larson’s book as a starting point, we will explore the memoir as both a literary genre and cultural artifact. We will read 4 memoirs that mark important moments in the contemporary development of the genre and we will write critically and creatively about the role of memoir in western letters.