Eastern Michigan University
direct edit

Courses: Summer and Fall 2013

LITR 480 (Undergraduate): Hollywood Science Fiction

Dr. Craig Dionne

Sci fi has always been a pop cultural art form. From its very first investment in its so-called Pulp Era in the 1920s and 30s, through the Golden Age in the 50s and 60s and into the New Wave period of the 80s onward, Hollywood has always served up sci fi in recognizable stock generic cinematic forms that speak to historical contexts: serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, for example, were indistinguishable from Westerns of the period, in the way they define the protagonist's struggles against vaguely authoritarian (read Communist) villains posed against American autonomy and individualism (think Star Wars as merely a Reagan era return to the Western). The focus of this class will be on this subtle form of translation where the narrative possibilities of the original sci fi fiction are adapted and transformed to work--or fit--on the big screen. For the purpose of focus, we will look at films of the last 20 years that speak to the American millennium "post-x" anxieties about the end of this-or-that hegemonic value in the face of a perceived new global phase of capitalist expansion (loss of nation, tradition, empire, and even the definition of the human). Special focus will be on the works of Philip K. Dick, whose novels and stories have been consistently retooled to fit this narrative motif. The class gives students terms important for the critical understanding of science fiction as an imaginative literary form that poses crucial questions about the role of technology in this new post-x social context. Students will learn to analyze the generic conventions of science fiction, while learning to recognize and appreciate how this genre reflects deeply on the role science plays in shaping our dreams, as well as our fears, about a post-human future.

LITR 450 (Undergraduate): Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

Dr. Elisabeth Daumer

An intensive study of a major literary figure or a group of related authors. In fall 2013, the class will revolve around the work of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

LITR 540 (Graduate): Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama

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" [1599]). 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.


A Norton Anthology, English Renaissance Drama (Eds. Bevington, Engle, Maus, Rasmussen)

(Maybe) The Arden Shakespeare Series, Henry VIII (Ed. Gordon McMullan)

Articles on e-reserve (pw: sensational)

LITR 585 (Graduate): Visualizing Pedagogies: Teaching Literature and Art

Dr. John Staunton

This section of LITR 585 Literature for Teachers will invite students to investigate the interconnections among literature texts, visual art, and classroom practice through an interdisciplinary and multimodal exploration of literary and visual art works. The hybrid and intensive course format will allow us to pursue both shared and independent inquiries into a range of literary genres related to visual arts, pedagogy, and the image of the artist. At Off-site outings to area museums (Detroit Institute of Art, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, EMU Art Galleries) and on campus at EMU, we will engage in viewing and analysis of visual art work that is the subject of literary texts and/or gives visual treatment to literature and narrative. Assignments will include pedagogical planning around core visual and literary art works, comparative and multimodal interpretive analyses of visual and literary art works, and inquiry into the hybrid genres of literary and visual texts for 21st-century readers and writers. (This course fulfills one of the two Literature for Teachers requirements.)

LITR 592 (Graduate): Victorian Travel

Dr. Andrea Kaston Tange

This course will examine many different issues related to Victorian travel, from methods of traveling to perceptions of the foreign to preparations to emigrate. We will read excerpts from guide books, letters, travel diaries, and commissioned travel narratives. We will look at short stories, cultural histories, and military accounts. We will consider travel from the perspectives of those who explored, those who were explored, and those who stayed home and dreamed of explorations. We will venture, via these Victorian writers, across Great Britain, Europe, India, Japan, and Australia. We will read contemporary scholars and theorists who offer useful lenses for interrogating the writings and perspectives of the often-colonizing travelers. And through it all we will, I hope, gain a better understanding of how travel abroad helped define more precisely what it meant to be British in the Victorian period. Note: This class counts toward the 18th/19th century requirement or an elective.

LITR 510 (Graduate): Critical Practices in Literary Studies

Dr. Laura George

This course is designed to introduce graduate students in English literature to the range of resources available for doing advanced research in literary studies. Emphasis is placed on developing critical reading skills that enable students to construct arguments within the on-going discussions currently shaping literary studies.

LITR 526 (Graduate): 19th-Century African American Literature

Dr. Robin Lucy

Note: Beginning Fall 2013, this course will be renamed "19th Century African American Literature" and will count toward the 18th/19th century requirement.

From Frederick Douglass & Harriet Jacobs to Zora Neale Hurston & Ishmael Reed

Literature 526 focuses on what Toni Morrison has described as the literate roots of the African American literary tradition: the slave narrative and its revisions after the end of slavery. The course will also explore oral sources of African American writing by examining how folk tales, spoken histories, and music have shaped writing. In turn, we will read African American texts in the context of other American writing of the period – Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) for example – and representations of African Americans and Black culture in popular forms: the plantation romance (the Uncle Remus tales of Joel Chandler Harris, for example) and the theater of minstrelsy / black face. African American writers both drew on and subverted these representations in their work.

We will read: the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs; the first play written and performed by an African American, The Escape (1858), by William Wells Brown; the post-Reconstruction conjure stories of Charles Chesnutt; Frances Watkins Harper's rewriting of "the tragic mulatto," Iola Leroy (1892); the political writings of Booker T. Washington and WEB Du Bois; James Weldon Johnson's novel of passing, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912). We will finish the class with two very different interpretations of the slave narrative tradition as this genre has shaped the literature of the 20th century: Zora Neale Hurston's womanist novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), and Ishmael Reed's satiric, "Neo-Hoodoo" and post-modern text, Flight to Canada (1976).

LITR 530 (Graduate): The Canterbury Tales: Postmodern Readers and the Premodern Text

Dr. Christine Neufeld

Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales has been an object 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 and his most famous text. 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 story about story-telling, we will simultaneously interrogate theoretical paradigms whose application render this familiar canonical text 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 Middle Ages and its literary figurehead in our own image?

LITR 566 (Graduate): Studies in 20th-Century British Fiction

Dr. Paul Bruss

LITR 566 will address/interrogate the unstable and permeable edge between modernism and postmodernism. The seminar will consist of three units that attend to the deconstructionist tendencies already evident in modernism and then thoroughly explored in postmodernism: (1) the retreat from structures of "common meaning" and the destabilization of narrative; (2) the increasing commitment to a (postcolonial) reconsideration of empire/identity; and (3) the increasing attention to the uses and abuses of history. The seminar will focus on primary texts, five texts from the first half of the century, five from the second--but always in an effort to isolate the theoretical "fault lines," the moments of errancy when the text wanders beyond its putative framework and provides a window for exploring the murky relations between modernism and postmodernism. Occasionally, as time allows, the seminar will also refer to parallel developments in 20th c. art and architecture. While the reading list is not yet final, the ten texts will include a large number from the following:

  • Byatt, Possession (1990)
  • Conrad, The Secret Agent (1907)
  • Durrell, Justine (1957), Balthazar (1958)
  • Ford, The Good Soldier (1915)
  • Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969)
  • Lowry, Under the Volcano (1947)
  • Rushdie, The Moor's Last Sigh (1995)
  • Swift, Waterland (1983)
  • Thomas, The White Hotel (1981)
  • Welsh, Trainspotting (1993)
  • Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
LITR 592 (Graduate): Literature, Film, and the Holocaust

Dr. Martin Shichtman

Required Texts

  • Langer, Lawrence L. Art from the Ashes (New York and London: Oxford, 1995).
  • Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz (New York: Collier, 1993).
  • Spiegelman, Art. Maus I and II (New York: Pantheon, 1986).
  • Schwarz-Bart, Andre. The Last of the Just (New York: Overlook, 2000).
  • Susan Sontag, "Fascinating Fascism."

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.