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. Lori Burlingame
Litr. 450: Major Authors will study in-depth the works of Louise Erdrich, a major author in the overlapping cannons of Native American and American literature. Louise Erdrich is of mixed Turtle Mountain Chippewa (Ojibwe or Anishinabe) and German-American heritage; she writes out of both cultural contexts and is an heir to Native American oral storytelling traditions and the modernist and post-modernist styles of Western authors like William Faulkner. This course will examine 5 novels from Erdrich’s 13 novel series, among them Tracks, Four Souls, Love Medicine, The Round House, and one other, and possibly a little of her poetry too. Students will gain a more cohesive sense of Erdrich’s body of work, its contributions to the field, and the critical commentary on it. Key themes that will be explored in Erdrich’s writing include depictions of family relationships; issues of identity; gender representations; the impact of the Catholic church, twentieth-century wars, and governmental policies, like the Land Allotment Act, upon the Ojibwe people; the power of language and storytelling to create and to shape identity and reality; the subversion of binary ways of thinking; and personal and cultural survival and the importance of a sense of humor to that survival. We will approach the texts that we study from a number of critical perspectives, including ethnographic analysis, social criticism, feminism, and new historicism.
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
India and its borders
For the Fall 2016 term LIT567 will focus on the India Subcontinent (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), home to almost one quarter of the world's population. With texts published within the last twenty years, our discussions will explore the legacies of empire (Mughal and British) that saturate the texts but especially the lingering tensions evident yet today: memories of independence in 1947 and the attendant Partition Riots, of the wars between Pakistan and India over the disputed territories of Jammu and Kashmir, of the 1971 war between East (Bangladesh) and West Pakistan, of the Muslim-Hindu rioting in Ayodhya and Mumbai and elsewhere in the early '90s, of the push for a larger Ghorkaland in the north by a dominant Nepali population. While we'll primarily visit the prominent cities on the "border"-- Karachi, Lahore, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Dhaka, Kolkata, Goa, Mumbai--we'll see how the tensions on the border continue to affect the whole of the subcontinent. But we'll especially appreciate how all these texts, written in English, together display a cultural complexity rich in nuanced reference and artistry that we can only regard as a major achievement in recent literature.
Anam, A Golden Age (2007)
Chaudhuri, freedom song (1998)
Desai, The Inheritance of Loss (2006)
Hamid, Moth Smoke (2000)
Rushdie, The Moor's Last Sigh (1995)
Shamsie, Kartography (2002)
Singh, J., Chef (2008)
Singh, K., Train to Pakistan (1956)
Thayil, Narcopolis (2012)
Zeppa, Beyond the Sky and the Earth (1999)
Dr. Sandy Norton