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. Elisabeth Daumer and Dr. Carla Damiano
This course will explore an international body of Jewish women’s writing, from a range of diasporic cultural and literary traditions, and written in a range of languages—Polish, German, Italian, English, Yiddish. While all the texts studied will be available in English translation, students will have a chance to read the texts in their original language as well.
Dr. Craig Dionne
This class will focus on the idea of the “posthuman” in theory and literature: how is ecological catastrophe represented in different literary genres? Tragedy? Gothic? Horror? Sci fi? How does living in the anthropocene --the geological era where the world’s climate is changed by human life--demand a new attention to literary themes and landscapes? Emphasis will be placed on how to apply the new critical terms of posthuman theory to help answer these questions: how does the idea that our lives are “enmeshed” -- or entangled—by ecosystems outside our control allow us to discuss literature’s new role in shaping empathy in the reader? How does literature help us reimagine the idea of “distributed agency,” where human power is conceived as part of a larger assembly of causes and effects? How does science fiction introduce new attitudes toward human “exceptionalism,” the idea that cognition or growth in our species is more valuable or vital than other forms?
Tentative list of literary texts range across historical periods and genres: William Shakespeare’s King Lear (next to selections from Thomas More’s Utopia), Philip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Richard Matheson’s I am Legend, Amitav Ghosh’s Hungry Tide, Eric Shonkwiler’s Above All Men, and Emily John Mandell’s Station Eleven. Class will draw on a list of current theory: Giorgio Agamben, Bruno Latour, Jane Bennett, Gaia Vince, Ian Bogost, Rosi Braidotti, Tim Morton, ant David Roden.
Dr. Christine Neufeld
Dr. Melissa Jones
In one of the many anti-theatrical tracts that littered the streets outside the Elizabethan playhouse, Stephen Gosson complains of the theatre's affective and spectacular pleasures—as well as its physical occasion for "promiscuous intermingling" of sexes and classes—in a tellingly bad pun: "This open corruption is a prick in the eyes of them that see it, and a thorn in the sides of the godly when they hear it. This is a poison to beholders, and a nursery of idleness" ("Plays Confuted in Five Actions" ). Gosson's perverse mixing of sensual, sexual, religious, and even gendered metaphors aptly captures the provocative and complex place of the theatre in early modern life, and it adumbrates some of the vexed questions of the self and the social that the dramatic literatures of the period worked through in front of and in concert with their popular audiences. In our study of this incendiary cultural moment and of the drama of the Tudor and Stuart reigns, we'll search for where familiar modern concepts such as "truth," "self," "nation," and "freedom" converge and where they break apart—and we'll ask why. We'll look for traces of—and resistances to—the modern individual as we have come to know "him." And we'll ask how textual formulations of modes of thought and feeling can help us to locate and to chart shifting literary and cultural priorities, then and now. Such a course has a number of institutional responsibilities: to provide students with a representative scope of the literature of a given period (the canon), to alert students to key historical issues in the period (cultural context), and to teach graduate students not only to read hard lines but also to discern social and political meaning between those lines (ideology, agency, epistemology). Yet the act of composing a syllabus for a course organized by chronology—and monarchy—is also, always, an act of historiography, of deformation, of perfidy. In our examination of the dramatic literature of the Elizabethan and Jacobean period, therefore, the problem of history-making itself will help to direct our inquiry, providing us with both critical and topical angles from which to approach the period, its texts, and our relationship to them. At the same time, our study of early modern cultural and literary history will also trace a more complex—"perverse," marginal, fringe—path, as we search for lost meanings, fractured identities, and failed possibility at the center of what has come to be known as the modern self.
Dr. Paul Bruss
Dr. Sandy Norton