A close reading of Beowulf, with some attention to shorter heroic poems.
Also LING 501.
A study of Shakespeare’s later plays, emphasizing form and dramaturgy, in relation to works by his contemporaries and to the institutions of the Jacobean theater. Nine plays by Shakespeare and masques and plays by Marston, Middleton, Chapman, Tourner, Webster, and Beaumont and Fletcher.
This course offers a broad survey of the history of racial science and racialist thinking in the Atlantic world from the early modern period through the late nineteenth century. Rather than attempting to detail the histories of specific racial formations (such as blackness or whiteness), the course tracks the intellectual history of the emergence of “race” as a specific category of human differentiation and traces a swath of its most muscular—and pernicious—permutations through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Also AFAM 705/AMST 708/HIST 708/HSHM 729.
A study of writings that seek a specific effect in their reader—whether didactic instruction and moral formation, or an instigation to take action towards political change–and their uneasy alliance in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with the literary genre of prose fiction. How do writings that seek to inform or reform the real person or the real world put fictional narratives to use? How is the genre of the novel shaped, explicitly or implicitly, by writing to a specific “end”? Texts will include novels, tales for children, life-writing, poetry with a “cause,” polemical essays; possible authors include Olaudah Equiano, Edmund Burke, William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth, Jane Austen, Anna Barbauld, and Mary Shelley.
Also WGSS 769.
The major Victorian poets, Tennyson and Browning, in the context of the romanticism they inherited and transformed. A selection of other Victorians whose genius or popularity warrants attention, including Morris, the Rossettis, Hardy, Swinburne, Hopkins, and Barrett Browning.
A broad selection of short stories, poems, and novels, accompanied by class performances, culminating in a term project with a significant writing component. “Performance” includes a wide range of activities including: staging; making digital films and videos; building websites; game design; and creative use of social media. Readings include poetry by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Claudia Rankine; fiction by Herman Melville, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Junot Diaz.
Also AMST 775.
Although the concept of the Anthropocene can be dated in various ways, two of the most important benchmarks seem to be the beginning of industrial production in the late 18C and the uptick in CO2 emissions from the mid 19C (petroleum came into use during the Civil War). As it happens, the period between these two moments is also that in which the modern language of the environment took shape, from Cuvier’s discovery of extinction and Humboldt’s holistic earth science to the transformative work of Thoreau and George P. Marsh. This course will shuttle between the contemporary debate about the significance and consequences of the Anthropocene and a reexamination of that environmental legacy. We will look at the complexity of “nature,” beginning with the Bartrams, Jefferson, Cuvier, and the transatlantic literatures of natural history; georgics and other genres of nature writing; natural theology; ambiguities of pastoral in American romantic writing (Bryant, mainly), the impact of Humboldt (Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman); westward expansion and Native American writing about land; Hudson School painting and landscape architecture; etc. We will also think about the country/city polarity and the development of “grid” consciousness in places like New York City (not just the famous grid plan of 1811 but, more tellingly, the new relation to resources that followed the Croton aqueduct and gaslight). One aim will be to assess the formation and legacy of key ideas in environmentalism, some of which may now be a hindrance as much as a foundation–for example, the idea of nature as a primordial equilibrium from which the human is estranged. Secondary readings will include classic readings from Leo Marx, Henry Nash Smith, and William Cronon, as well as more recent attempts to reconceive environmental history (Joachim Radkau), ecocriticism (Lawrence Buell), and related fields, as well as science journalism (Elizabeth Kolbert). We will attend and discuss Dipesh Chakrabarty’s Tanner lectures in February. Students will be invited to explore a wide range of research projects; and one assignment will be to devise a teaching unit for an undergraduate class on the same topic, since one aim of this course is to generate further teaching in environmental humanities.
Also AMST 848.
The postwar period is of great interest for recent media theorists and historians. Both our moment and the immediate postwar era faced the threat of species extinction, new leaps in computing power, the invention of institutions for monitoring and managing the environment, an ontological flattening between humans, machines, animals, and objects, and ongoing unsettlements in gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity. This course examines the postwar moment of cybernetic excitement and strain, including such media as bombs, bugging devices, computers, film, hi-fi, hydrophones, radio, tape, and TV, such themes as archival abundance, decryption, inter-species communication, mind control, planet management, and such writers as Arendt, Heidegger, McLuhan, Nabokov, Wiener, in addition to more recent scholars working on the postwar period. Each student will write a substantial original research paper on a relevant topic.
Also FILM 652.
Introduction to key debates about post-1945 world literature in English, the politics of English as a language of world literature, and theories of globalization and postcolonial culture. Course themes include: colonial history, postcolonial migration, translation, national identity, cosmopolitanism, writing the self, global literary prizes.
Also AFST 746.
This seminar compares representative writings by African, Caribbean, and African American authors of the past one hundred years, together with European, American, and South African Jewish authors writing in Yiddish, Hebrew, French, and English. This comparison examines the paradoxically central role played by minority, “marginal” groups in the creation of modern literature and the articulation of the modern experience.
Also AFAM 660, AFST 678, CPLT 678, JDST 678.
At least a dozen North American autobiographies are studied, mostly from the “American Renaissance” to the present. Discussion of various autobiographical forms and strategies as well as of various experiences of American selfhood and citizenship. Slave narratives, spiritual autobiographies, immigrant narratives, autobiographies of childhood or adolescence, relations between autobiography and class, region, or occupation.
Also AFAM 588/AMST 710.
Topics include the Living Theater, Happenings, Cunningham/Cage, Open Theater, Judson Dance Theater, Grand Union, Bread and Puppet Theater, Ontological-Hysteric Theater, Theater of the Ridiculous, Meredith Monk, Robert Wilson, and the Wooster Group.
Also AMST 681/DRAM 496.
Uniting the approaches of theater history, dramaturgy, and performance studies, this seminar will begin with the case study of Lolita Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet (2012, revived 2016), a play about the life of Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), the African-American actor who is said to be the first black man to play Othello. Readings will include plays, critical theories, and historical documents from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first. The seminar will be organized around selected genealogies of performance as represented by adaptations, revivals, and critical re-writings: Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko by Thomas Southerne and Biyi Bandele-Thomas; John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera by Bertolt Brecht, Wole Soyinka, and P. L. Deshpande; Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Derek Walcott; and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot by Femi Osofisan and Suzan-Lori Parks.
Also AFAM 793/AMST 694.
Poetry and related writings from the first half of the twentieth century, with emphasis on expanding notions of modernism and recent critical reevaluations of poetic genres and forms. What, for instance, is the relation between new formalism and modernism’s “formal” poets (Yeats, Hart Crane, Stevens, Louise Bogan)? How do women poets (Bogan, Loy, Millay, Georgia Douglas Johnson) concerned with sentimentality and the figure of the poetess illuminate the role of gender in lyric theory? We will look at Robert Frost and Sterling Brown to explore theories of voice and vernacular sound; read Eliot and Pound to rethink periodization and the emergence of literary criticism as an institution; and pursue the legacy of Stein, Williams, and others in debated canons of lyric, language, and conceptual poetry. The Beinecke’s Pound, H.D., Loy, and James Weldon Johnson collections will be a starting point for exploring new work in modernism’s print and digital archives.
Designed to help fill gaps in students programs when there are corresponding gaps in the department’s offerings. By arrangement with faculty and with the approval of the DGS.
Open to current students in the English graduate programs. Submit a completed Directed Reading Proposal Form to the department registrar by the end of the first week of classes.