NOTE: Below you will find descriptions of graduate and special topics undergraduate courses offered in the Literature program. For regularly offered undergraduate courses, official undergraduate and graduate program information, and course requirements, please visit the online catalog. For recent course offerings, click here.
Dr. Laura George
Dr. Robin Lucy
This course will explore 20th- and 21st-century African American literature and several of its antecedents ranging from the slave narrative, American popular cultural representations such as minstrelsy, the figure of the mulatto, and the abiding presence of the cultures of the African diaspora. The course begins with James Weldon Johnson’s fictional first-person narrative, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) and concludes with Claudine Rankine’s Citizen (2014). We will read each text in the context of readings on history, culture, and theory. We will also examine the visual representation of African Americans in American culture as an instrument of racist oppression and a method for its subversion by African Americans: from Frederick Douglass to Claudia Rankine and John Lucas. This class is, in part, an exploration of the possibilities and difficulties of the question posed by the work of the visual artist Kara Walker which we will also be exploring: “Is it possible to draw attention to something [for example, racist/sexist representations] without increasing its power or implicating oneself in the hegemonic claims that one is critiquing?”
In addition to Johnson’s novel and Rankine’s poetry, we will be reading Nella Larsen Passing (1929), George Schuyler Black No More (1931), Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), Ishmael Reed Flight to Canada (1976), and Michelle Cliff Free Enterprise (1993).
Dr. Christine Neufeld
Geoffrey Chaucer’s works have been objects of study from the 15th century onwards. Over the centuries, as our understanding of the Middle Ages and our notions of literature and the imperatives of literary criticism have changed, so has our perception of Chaucer. Recent scholarship on the medieval literature and philosophy suggests that “postmodernity” is an intellectual vantage point ideally suited to explore the alterity of “premodernity.” As we explore the medieval formal, ideological and social dimensions of Chaucer’s narratives, we will simultaneously interrogate theoretical paradigms whose application render these canonical texts unfamiliar again. Thus, the overriding question informing this study of both Chaucer and contemporary theory is: how do the issues invoked in the process of dismantling “modernity” sensitize us to the unique aspects of medieval literature to which we have previously been blind? Or, to what extent are contemporary theoretical approaches guilty of recasting the English Middle Ages and its literary figurehead in our own image?
Dr. Laura George
Literature 570: Studies in Romanticism aims to introduce students to major texts from the British Romantic period and to current critical and theoretical issues in the field of Romanticism. The Fall 2015 section will focus on intersections between Romantic-era masculinity and the Romantic epic. The course will focus centrally on William Wordsworth’s The Prelude (thirteen books of blank verse describing the development of his own mind and imagination) and on Lord Byron’s Don Juan (16 and a fraction ottava rima cantos describing the life of a Spanish nobleman from his birth, first sexual affair, and subsequent capture by pirates and life as a harem-girl among other adventures). In order to think through questions of Romantic masculinity and poetic genre, the course will also cover a range of canonical and recent scholarly articles dealing with gender, genre, sexuality, fashion, and poetic form.
Dr. Marty Shichtman
You are also required to view the following films outside of class, which are considered course texts: The Reader, Life is Beautiful, The Night Porter, Schindler's List, and The Pianist. Class discussions will also include The Eternal Jew and discourses of racial anti-Semitism, A Film Unfinished and rhetorics of Holocaust cinema, and Triumph of the Will and constructions of Nazi identity. Student groups will lead discussion on the writings of poets Abraham Sutzkever, Dan Pagis, Paul Celan, Miklos Radnoti, Nelly Sachs, and Jacob Glatstein.
Note: This class counts toward the 20th century requirement or an elective.