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. Robin Lucy
The United States has the highest rates of incarceration of any country on earth. There are about two million people – or about 1 in every 100 adults – in jails and prisons across the nation. Families and communities are also deeply affected by this reality. In this class, we will examine literary and theoretical texts, many written by prisoners and returning citizens, that explore the experience of captivity, slavery, imprisonment, liberation, and freedom beginning with the foundations of the nation itself. We will read work that spans Toni Morrison to Jay Z, Angela Davis to Michel Foucault, the writing of political prisoners, poetry, non-fiction, and a young adult novel about (and for) the children of incarcerated parents. We will also consider the representation of crime and prisons in the media and television shows such as The Wire and Orange is the New Black.
Dr. Natasa Kovacevic
In this class we will investigate a wide variety of literary theory, both past and present, paying special attention to critical debates most influencing current practice in the field. While we often assume that theory is something that is “applied to” or “used for” reading a literary text, the ways in which theory – and philosophy which inspires it – informs literary debates is much more multidirectional and unpredictable. Thus, we will approach literary theory in a similar way that we approach literature: both as an imaginative, creative genre, and as an analytical, intellectual endeavor. Instead of treating theory as a mere tool or instrument, we will read theory closely as well as read “with” theory. As we explore various theoretical perspectives that have arisen in the 20th and 21st century, we will test them out on the concept of “love” as a case study. This kaleidoscopic study of a specific topic, refracted through various theoretical lenses, will help highlight the key interpretive assumptions and strategies of each school of criticism.
Dr. Craig Dionne
This class will introduce you to several of Shakespeare's major dramatic works, as well as the different critical perspectives that currently shape Shakespeare studies. The textbooks and accompanying critical essays represent a few of the current debates and controversies in the field. They will expose you to some of the new approaches to Renaissance literary criticism, particularly new historicism’s focus on the religious, political and literary discourses that shaped early modern subjectivity. Litr 541 will provide a challenging intellectual context for you to read and talk about early modern English drama next to current literary criticism and social history. As a graduate seminar, class will be run as a discussion group. Special focus will be on the following themes in separate units: Reform: Loss of Carnival, Literacy and Aesthetics (including Shakespeare’s politics and aesthetics), Posthuman Theory, and Shakespeare in Pop Culture.
Dr. John Staunton
The 'American Renaissance' is a term (popularized by the title of F.O. Matthiessen's 1941 critical study of the Romantic tradition in American literature) used to designate the first sustained period of literary, artistic, and cultural production in the United States concerned with articulating a distinctly 'American' subject and identity. But focusing solely on the 'representative men' of the period occludes much of the rich and complicated political,cultural, and material history of mid-19th century America. We will read across genres and 'canonical' and 'non-canonical' texts as we pursue an inquiry into the conditions which made possible the so-called 'flowering of American literature.'
Authors will include: Emerson, Fuller, Melville, Stowe, Hawthorne, Cary, Douglass, and others.
Dr. Elisabeth Daumer
The focus of this semester’s Litr 577 is on American Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics. American poets have long turned to the American landscape—its open vistas, its wilderness, and, at least since the early 20th century, its urban sprawl—for inspiration, subject matter, imagery, and form. Nature, a volatile and changing concept, has offered to poets intimations of a transcendent order, spiritual communion, as well as solace and refuge from a rapidly industrializing, technologized world. Key works of American poetry chronicle the changes in human, specifically American, attitudes toward nature, caused, on the one hand, by developments in science and technology such as Darwinism, industrialization, and the discovery of atomic energy, and, on the other hand, by economic and political changes. Our era has been designated the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans, a geological epoch in which human activity is significantly impacting the earth’s ecosystem. In America (both the nation and the myth), the legacies of the Anthropocene are manifest in awe-inspiring technological inventions (nuclear power, space travel) but also in the radical decimation of the continent’s last wild spaces, a staggering share of the world’s pollution, and the enormous proliferation of non-biodegradable waste. Twentieth-century American poetry, as Robert Haas suggests, came of age at a time of sharpening awareness that “the wide open spaces and places of exceptional beauty”—foundations of American patriotism—were diminishing, severely threatened by urbanization, industrialization, agri-and aqua businesses, and the exploitation of natural resources. American poets have served as prescient witnesses to the fragility and the transformation of the American landscape. They have also helped us intimately to know, revision, and reinhabit this landscape. The class text, The Ecopoetry Anthology, introduces us to three generations of American poets writing about nature and the environment while experimenting with diverse poetic forms best suited to advance poetry’s cultural work. Clayton Eshleman’s multi-generic long poem Juniper Fuse, while focused on the ice-age caves of Lascaux, France, speaks to one strand of American ecopoetics—the desire to return to origins, in this case, to the moment of the great divorce between humans and animals, culture and nature, an event in which Eshleman locates the beginnings of image-making. Additional poems and other readings are available on canvas and poetryfoundation.org.
Clayton Eshleman. Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination & The Construction of the Underworld. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 2003.
Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street, eds. The Ecopoetry Anthology. San Antonio: Trinity UP, 2013.