Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives


Course Descriptions

English Department Course Offerings for Fall 2014

 10-134 Introduction to Creative Writing. Through lectures, readings, and writing workshops, this entry-level class will focus on the fundamental structures of narrative fiction, with emphasis on character development, point of view, and plotting. Students will be expected to write three short stories, as well as written critiques of other student works in preparation for workshops. Class participation in workshop is mandatory, and it is an essential component of the final grade. We will also examine strategies for finding subjects, researching stories and organizing ideas into coherent narratives.

10-154 British Literature I (Gender). The purposes of this class are two-fold: on the one hand, it will provide a sketch of the most important elements of British literary development between 1390 and 1755. On the other hand, we will develop a conversation about the history of gender in that period.

10-174 American Literature. An historically organized course, focusing on American literature and culture from Columbus to the present.

10-254 Introduction to Film Studies. Watching and talking about movies seems easy. We do this all the time with family and friends. But this course will introduce you to the study of film as a literary genre, teaching you a vocabulary for film analysis that will allow you to appreciate films as both aesthetic productions and cultural events. Films may include Blade Runner, Annie Hall, Rear Window, The Godfather, Silence of the Lambs and Zero Dark Thirty.

10-304 Don Quixote. In this course we will read Cervantes’ seminal work, Don Quijote, along with a number of short critical and theoretical texts. We will consider, among others, the following questions. Textual authority: how does Cervantes’ text, through a multiplicity of rhetorical strategies undermine its own and by extension all textual authority? Human psychology: to what conclusions does Cervantes lead us regarding the primary motives of human behavior and the structuring of human consciousness? The individual and society: how does social context, as Cervantes represents it, condition individual behavior, and which behaviors contribute to the general welfare and which undermine it? Government: what do governmental institutions do in the Quijote and to what extent do they promote or undermine the general welfare? Finally, Cervantes’ text has been commonly regarded as the first modern novel. If this is the case, how might we define that modernity?

10-384 Shakespeare through Performance. An introduction to Shakespearean acting: this course culminates in a performance. No acting experience is necessary, or even expected, for students enrolling in this course. In preparation for a staging of Romeo and Juliet, we will study figures of speech, rhetoric, Shakespearean language, characterization and vocal technique.

10-444 Theory: Problems in Poetics. This course will look at various theories of literature, engaging with the implications within the root word for poetry, derived from the Greek word “to make.” We will be looking at claims for and about poetry, narrowly understood. But we will also be looking at questions and issues having to do with the relationship between words and things, the representational function of language, and the power and place of literary discourse. This course looks back further than Literary Theory and Criticism, and addresses theorists from Aristotle to the present. We will be reading a fair amount of literature too, to help focus our discussions.

10-504 Reel Jewish Genders. Reel Jewish Genders will focus on the ways Jewish American cinema has represented and shaped Jews as both insiders and outsiders to dominant gender and racial systems.  The cultural work of Jewish movies has often been accomplished through the development of specific gendered types—e.g., the patriarch, the long-suffering and/or overbearing mother, the tzaddik, the shiksa, the rebel—and narratives propelled by assimilationist desires/anxieties.   We will be especially attentive to cinematic narratives that explore the role that antisemitism and assimilation has played in shaping Jewish gender relations, that attend to the Holocaust’s impact on Jewish masculinity, that feature the critical and transformative work of Jewish women/feminists, and that queer the Jewish family.   (cross-listed with FST and RES)

10-524 American Movies. This course will cover 100 years, from D.W. Griffith to Wes Anderson, with stops at the movies of Chaplin, Welles, Hitchcock, and Kubrick—as well as others—along the way. The dual emphases will be upon Hollywood in cultural context and the varieties of film studies approaches to popular and experimental movies.

10-654 Restoration & 18th-Century Drama. Noted 18th-century cleric William Law is credited with remarking that “The Playhouse is the Porch of Hell, the Place of the Devil’s abode…. A Play is the Devil’s triumph; a sacrifice performed to his glory, as much as in the Heathen Temples of Bacchus or Venus.” In this class we’ll find out what all the noise was about by reading selected plays from one of the most robust and controversial eras of English-language playwriting and play-acting. We’ll examine plays by Wycherley, Behn, Etherege, Congreve, Centlivre, and others. Take this course if you dare!

10-664 British Romanticism:  Science, Exploration, and Observation of the Natural World. The course will examine British poetry and essays of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century that reflect the rapid advancements in the science and technology of the period.  Through these works, we will study the changing perspectives on nature and the shifting position of the human subject, and we will consider how these perspectives continue to shape the way we view the opposition of technology and the environment in the present day.  We will read works by William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Robert Southey, Joseph Banks, Mary Shelley, and others.

10-674 Victorian Mystery. The modern detective novel has its roots in the nineteenth century, in the sensational whodunits penned by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Arthur Conan Doyle. This course will recapture the thrills and chills of the Victorian era, featuring famous stories of bigamy, arson, murder, blackmail, adultery, illegitimacy, forgery and mistaken identity.

10-684 20th-Century British Women Writers.This course will provide an overview of 20th British literary history by focusing on key modernist and contemporary female-authored texts.  This focus on women writers will highlight not only the continuities within the British female literary tradition but also stark differences within it; thus this course simultaneously assumes that gender is an important category of analysis for literary study and refutes any notion that anatomy is literary destiny.  Thematic considerations will include the development of the female artist, the wrestling with and revising of precursor texts, the resistance to and reinscription of the primacy of heterosexual romance, the nature of love, and the (re)vision of national identity and identifications.

10-714 American Women Writers. In American Women Writers, we’ll begin with the first published book of American poems, Anne Bradstreet’s The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, and we’ll read up to Alison Bechdel’s 2007 graphic memoir Fun Home.  We’ll read works by women poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists, and short story writers. The terms that compose the title of this course will be the ones we interrogate throughout the semester as we discuss the ways these authors adopted, adapted, or resisted dominant conceptions to force us to think about what it means to be an American and a woman and a writer. 

 10-834 Postcolonial African Writing. We will be looking at a range of texts that represent various environments in Africa under colonialism and after decolonization. The course will engage with issues of identity, social justice, and cultural authority in contexts of cultural intersection and conflict. We will be looking at works by Achebe, Armah, Ba, Coetzee, Head, Ngugi, Soyinka, and others.

10-934 Capstone Seminar: Theorizing Identity. Capstone is an upper-level seminar, culminating in the production of a substantial piece of literary research and criticism, generated by a shared set of readings and independent research.  In particular, this seminar will focus on contemporary American literature and postmodern identity, investigating recent theoretical approaches to identity politics. The seminar presents provocative questions and content to help students generate ideas for their research projects.  During the first half of the semester we will read both primary and secondary texts together.  During the second half of the semester, the seminar will shift to a workshop structure, intended to help you design, research, draft, and revise your research projects.


 English Department Course Offerings for Summer 1 & 2

10-504 Shakespeare in Hollywood. This course offers an in-depth study of Romeo and Juliet, followed by an examination of a variety of ways in Shakespearean plays have been made into films. Our films will start with Shakespeare in Love, and students will pick from a selection of top adaptations to watch, and to analyze after that.

10-504 Austen in Adaptation. This course offers an exciting opportunity to read and discuss the original fiction of Regency novelist Jane Austen in the context of contemporary adaptations of her work.  We will view faithful Hollywood reproductions and faithless Bollywood revisions, and explore the mash-ups, homages, and reboots that continue attract and entrance contemporary audiences. Austen novels will include Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma; spin-offs will include Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, Hess’s Austenland, and the YouTube sensation, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries. Critical readings in adaptation theory with inform our viewing and class discussion.

10-504 Sixties Hollywood. The first so-called “New Hollywood” will be the focus of the course. We will begin with the transgressive movies “Some Like It Hot” (1959) and “Psycho” (1960) and end with the cult classics “Easy Rider” (1969) and “The Wild Bunch” (1969). We will study what Sixties moviemakers were responding to and their effect on Hollywood.


English Department Course Offerings, Spring 2014

10-004 Introduction to Creative Writing. An introductory workshop focused primarily on prose fiction. (John Pipkin)

10-174 Survey of American Literature is an historically organized course, focusing on American literature and culture from Columbus to the present. (David Gaines)

10-284 Literary Analysis and Methods will demystify literary interpretation and provide students with tools to become more effective critical readers and writers.  We will focus on the diverse and often interrelated questions that literary critics ask of texts; the range of questions demonstrates that literature speaks of (and to) aesthetic, political, biographical, and cultural issues. (Helene Meyers)

10-304 Writing for Stage and Screen is a workshop focused on playwriting and screenplay writing. Also THE 74-304. (C Swanson)

10-324 Creative Writing is a workshop focusing on prose fiction. (John Pipkin)

10-404 Literary Criticism/Literary Theory An advanced introduction to major critical and theoretical approaches to literature, including Structuralism, Poststructuralism, Marxism, Feminism, and Postcolonial Theory. (Jim Kilfoyle)

10-504 Shakespeare in Hollywood. In this course we begin by reading Othello as a play, and then we watch an outstanding current adaptation of it for the screen.  We then watch a series of adaptations, including Shakespeare in Love, as we learn the basic concepts involved in translating Shakespeare into film. (Michael Saenger)

10-514 World Cinema is an upper-level survey of Hollywood and (so-called) Second and Third World Cinemas. Commercial, aesthetic and political approaches to and receptions of film will all be discussed. The course begins with D.W. Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein. It ends with Hayao Miyazaki and Abbas Kiarostami. Films will be discussed in terms of both their cultural contexts and their aesthetic qualities. Hopefully students will complete the course with an expanded sense of cinematic possibilities and a clearer one of their own tastes. (David Gaines)

10-624 Shakespeare We begin with The Spanish Tragedy, by Thomas Kyd, and then we read seven Shakespeare plays, carefully. We will discuss the history of the time and how the theater worked. Particular emphasis on reading the plays aloud, finding humor and subtlety in scenes, and developing discussion as a class. (Michael Saenger)

10-634 The Queer Eighteenth Century introduces students to the Enlightenment through celebrated queer personalities, real and imagined, and reads the early novel through the lens of queer theory. Topics include the historical construction of sex, gender and heteronormativity; bluestocking feminism and romantic friendship; the rise of the novel and the invention of authorship; national identity, race, and colonialism; and celebrity and material cultures. (Kevin Bourque)

10-664 British Romanticism examines major poetic works of the British Romantic Period, spanning the late-1700s to the early-1800s: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Shelly, Byron, as well as marginalized works by Charlotte Smith, Felicia Hemans, and others.  Critical attention will be given to the historical context and the rise of modern aesthetics. (John Pipkin)

10-684 Best Recent Fiction: The Booker Prize Since 1969, the Man Booker Prize has “promote[d] the finest fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.” We will read a selection of recent winners, and investigate questions of aesthetic value, the institution of prize-giving, and changing values in the contemporary U.K. (Jim Kilfoyle)

10-734 Critical Approaches to Dickinson & Whitman Frequently figured as the mother & father of modern American poetry, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are two of the best-known and best-loved American poets.  In this class, we’ll explore their work and look at a few of the many interpretive lenses that have been applied to these writers. (Julia Delacroix)

10-764 American Ethnic Literature examines representations of ethnic and racial identity in contemporary American literature.  Our study is attentive to the intersections of ethnicity and race with gender, sexuality, citizenship, and class in works by Junot Diaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko, GB Tran, and Colson Whitehead. (Carina Evans)

10-934 Capstone Seminar: Wasteland We will begin by reading T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” then we will read some of the works he cites, including the Bible, the Upanishads, The Spanish Tragedy, Beaudelaire and Dante. We will read these books for their own sake and also as part of an “intertext” that includes Eliot.