ENGL 115 Sections

Fall 2023 Sections

01. Children and Books: Literature For and About Young People. MW 11.35-12.50

Jill Campbell

What distinguishes the period we call childhood from other stages of life?  Are children characterized by innocence and empathy, a tendency to violence, or an innate sense of justice that adults often lose?  How have works of literature shaped our understanding of what children are like?  What does the experience of reading books offer to children themselves? 

This seminar will explore these questions by considering select works of literature both for children and about them from the late 18th century to 2023.  We will read several classic works of children’s literature, including E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, as well as more recent favorites such as Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese and Jerry Craft’s New Kid.  We will investigate the intertwined histories of modern conceptions of childhood and of the children’s book trade, reading poems about childhood by Wordsworth and Blake and visiting the Beinecke to view early works of children’s literature.  We will also sample memoirs of childhood, such as Pauli Murray’s Proud Shoes.  Throughout, we will attend to how the meaning of childhood is shaped by categories of race, gender, and socioeconomic class.

Opportunities to correspond or meet with children from New Haven Public Schools may also allow us to learn more about young people’s creative responses to what they read.  The course has been approved for the Individuals and Society requirement for Education Studies Scholars.. Also EDST 115.

02. Hearing the African Diaspora. MW 2.30-3.45

Rasheed Tazudeen

For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell; it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.

And this tale, according to that face, that body, those strong hands on those strings, has another aspect in every country, and a new depth in every generation.

                                                            —James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues” (1957)

This course explores the sonic histories, traces, inscriptions, archives, and counter-archives of the African diaspora, broadly and intergenerationally considered. We will pay close attention to the ethical and aesthetic demands that sound poses for literary representation, as well as to the excesses, ruptures, and fugitivities of sound in the literary text, especially as these intersect with questions of race, gender, and cultural identity. And we will listen carefully to literary and poetic expressions of Black sound, Black musicking, and Black joy in and as the making of (another) modernity, or what philosopher Alexander Weheliye calls a “sonic Afro-modernity.” Central to this course, following along the paths opened by Daphne Brooks in Liner Notes to the Revolution, are the histories, legacies, and imaginaries of Black women authors, musicians, and feminist thinkers, as “the progenitors of sonic forms, aesthetics, and strategies, as well as ideas about the sonic that have destabilized and reordered our sensorial and expressive lives.” Readings will include works by James Baldwin, Dionne Brand, Yaa Gyasi, Saidiya Hartman, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Ishmael Reed, Maboula Soumahoro, and Sylvia Wynter.

03. Modern Fairy Tales. TTh 2.30-3.45

Kate Needham

As western European fairy tales have become ubiquitous in English-language media, many feminist writers have retold these stories as acts of resistance. They reclaim helpless heroines, dispel the romanticization of violence, restore ideas from oral folklore traditions, and otherwise subvert our expectations of the fairy tale genre. By reading re-interpretations of fairy tales from second-wave feminism through the present day (as well as some of the 17th-19th century texts these writers reference), we will ask how the fairy tale form depicts violence, gender and sexuality, domesticity, the environment, the human body, and the human/animal divide. We will ask why the genre engages with these issues and what it allows us to see or subvert. And we will explore how these revisions attempt to stage new ideas of humanity, family, power, and even love. Students may also write their own fairy tale revision or a new fairy tale that speaks to our contemporary moment. This is also a composition course, and class meetings will usually be split between 1) discussing literary readings and 2) discussing composition readings and practicing writing skills. 

04. Comedies of Manners: Shakespeare to Sally Rooney. TTh 1.00-2.15

Eve Houghton

The concept of “manners” governs nearly everything about our social lives—our self-presentation, our impressions of other people, and our beliefs about what we can ask of one another. This course explores the comedy of manners, a genre of writing that depicts the social norms and social rituals of contemporary life, sometimes in a satirical or undercutting way. We’ll work towards a theory of the twentieth- and twenty-first century comedy of manners, asking how novels by Sally Rooney, Kiley Reid, and Alan Hollinghurst stage the relationship between manners and contemporary negotiations of class, sexuality, race, and gender. But we’ll also look at the long literary history of the form. We’ll read various plays often described as early comedies of manners, including William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and an example of the Restoration comedy of manners (George Etherege’s The Man of Mode), before turning to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels of manners by Samuel Richardson and Jane Austen. Throughout the course, we’ll think about perennial questions about manners—are they a litmus of inner virtue, a reflection of our best and most generous selves? Or are they simply a tool of self-promotion, a way to get ahead?