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Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses

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English

Professor Emeritus O'Connell; Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber; Professors Brooks*, Cobham-Sander‡, Frank‡, Hastie, Parham*, Sanborn‡, and K. Sánchez-Eppler; Associate Professors Bosman*, Mireles Christoff*, Grobe (Chair), Nelson (Director of Studies), and Rangan*; Assistant Professors Abramson, Guilford*, Lawson*, and Worsley; Writer-in-Residence Lee; Visiting Writers Kapur and Myint; Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler; Visiting Professor Sanders; Visiting Assistant Professor Henrichs; Visiting Lecturers Couch and Sweeney.

Major Program. Students majoring in English are encouraged to explore the Department’s wide range of offerings in literature, film and media, performance studies, cultural studies, and creative writing.

Majoring in English requires the completion of ten courses offered or approved by the Department. The Department organizes its courses into four levels. The courses numbered in the 100s are writing-attentive and writing-intensive courses that introduce students to a variety of genres and media, entail frequent writing, and cultivate students’ skills in close reading. The courses in the 200s emphasize a particular approach to method, genre, medium, period, or discourse. They include introductory courses in creative writing as well as literary, film, or cultural study. The courses in the 300s are electives designed to foster immersion into specific topics in literary, film, cultural studies and creative writing. They help students learn skills and/or study materials that will prepare them for independent work in their 400-level seminars. They are open, however, to both majors and non-majors across the college, and generally do not carry prerequisites for admission. Courses in the 400s are junior and senior seminars emphasizing independent inquiry, critical and theoretical issues, and extensive writing. These courses teach students the intellectual skills vital to framing a research question and conducting independent research.

Majors are required to take at least one 100 course, at least two 200 courses, at least two 300 courses, and at least two 400-level seminars. One of these courses must substantially address material from the period before 1800. While senior thesis and special topics courses also have 400 numbers, these individualized courses cannot count as the 400-level seminar.

In the early spring of each year, senior majors present independent work drawn from one of their 400-level seminars or from their senior theses at the English Department Capstone Symposium to fulfill the Comprehensive Requirement. The ten-minute presentations can take many forms and they will be organized into panels. The Comprehensive Requirement is fulfilled by presenting your work at the Symposium, participating in preparation sessions, and also participating in the conversations that are generated by your classmates’ presentations.

Majors may count towards the ten required courses up to three courses in creative writing. Level and period requirements should be fulfilled with courses from Amherst College English Department offerings. Because 400-level seminars can lead in the senior year to a thesis project, the Department strongly urges majors to take at least one of their required 400-level seminars before the end of the junior year. The Department will not guarantee admission to a particular 400-level seminar in the second semester of the senior year.

Senior Thesis. The senior thesis provides an opportunity for independent study to any senior major who is adequately motivated and prepared to undertake such work. English majors apply for admission to the senior thesis courses (English 498/499) in April of their junior year. Admission to English 498/499 is contingent upon the Department’s judgment of the feasibility and value of the student’s proposal as well as of their preparation and capacity to carry it through to a fruitful conclusion. The Department assigns Thesis Advisors to students whose applications it approves.

To be considered for senior honors a student must submit to the Department a portfolio, which contains normally 50 to 70 pages of writing. The work may take the form of a critical essay, a short film or video, a collection of essays or poems or stories, a play, a mixture of forms, an exploration in education or cultural studies.

Before a student can submit a thesis, the final work must be approved by the student’s designated advisor. Once the thesis is approved, the Department appoints a committee of faculty examiners to read it. Following an interview with the student, the committee conveys its evaluation to the whole Department, which then makes the final recommendation for the level of honors in English.

Departmental Honors Program. The Department awards Latin honors to seniors who have achieved distinction in course work for the major and who have also demonstrated, in a submitted portfolio of critical or creative work, a capacity to excel in composition. Students qualify for Latin honors only if they have attained a B+ average in courses approved for the major; the degree summa cum laude usually presupposes an A average.

Learning Goals. By the time of their graduation, we expect that students who major in English will have become:

  • Adept at reading closely and writing well.
  • Skilled at critical writing about works in multiple genres, including both written texts, performances and visual narratives such as film. Some students may choose to create works of their own in verse, prose fiction or other media.
  • Attentive to the production of literary culture in a range of historical periods and social contexts.
  • Informed about the relationship between literary texts, literary criticism, and theories about cultural production.
  • Well versed in the literature associated with at least one specific area of concentration.
  • Capable of producing a well-researched long essay and/or completing a sustained creative project.

Graduate Study. Students interested in graduate work in English or related fields should discuss their plans with their advisor and other members of the Department to learn about particular programs, requirements for admission, the availability of fellowships, and prospects for a professional career. Many graduate programs in English or comparative literature require reading competence in several foreign languages; while to some extent these programs permit students to satisfy the requirement concurrently with graduate work, we would encourage those interested in graduate study to broaden their language skills while at Amherst. We would also encourage students to consider writing a thesis, for several reasons: to produce a polished writing sample they can submit with their application; to gain, and demonstrate, experience in sustained independent work; and to get a sense of the areas they might want to pursue in graduate school, some knowledge of which is essential for writing an effective admissions essay.

N.B. The English Department does not grant advanced placement on the basis of College Entrance Examination Board scores.

*On leave 2020-21.
†On leave fall semester 2020-21.
‡On leave spring semester 2020-21.

105 Engaging Literature: Close Reading

Why study literature? In many contexts, including the contexts of most other academic disciplines, one reads in order to extract the gist of a text. By studying literature, we enable ourselves to do much more than that. Studying literature makes it possible to recover a relationship to language that we all once had, in which words and their interrelationships were new, strange, and rich with possibility. It makes it possible to develop a more acute awareness of the ongoing tension between language as units of meaning (words, phrases, sentences) and language as units of sound (the beat of syllables, the harmonization of one syllable with another). It even makes it possible for us to carry this sense of everything that is uncanny about language–the medium of our relationship to others and to ourselves–into our lives more generally, to recognize that in just about everything that we say, we mean more than we mean to mean. People who study literature are people who are capable of taking away from conversations, no less than from poems, much more than the gist, the summary, the bottom line. By dwelling on texts patiently, by slowing down the process of moving from mystery to certainty, by opening ourselves to the crosscurrents of potential meanings that are present at every moment in just about every sentence, it is possible for us to become more accurate and nuanced readers of just about everything that happens in our lives.

Instruction will be centered on synchronous class meetings, but those meetings will be prepared for by asynchronous means: mainly twice-a-week Moodle prompts and postings, but also my personal videos on backgrounds for the readings. Individual meetings with all students, both before and after papers, will be conducted either by phone or on Zoom.

Eighteen seats reserved for first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

106 Engaging Literature: Craft, Conversation, Community

Literature engages us. It moves us, it delights us, it makes us ask hard questions. How do we engage literature? How do we respond to it in conversation, in writing, in performance, and in our communities? How do we write about literature in a way that effectively engages others?

This course seeks to engage you in a process of seeing literature and your own writing process anew. We will engage with authors, in person, in public, and on the page. We will attend literary events and enter into conversations among writers: authors who are influenced and inspired by each other, literary critics who give us illuminating interpretations, and literary historians who open our eyes to contexts heretofore unseen. Students will practice writing about literature in a range of modes from the personal essay to the book review to the academic paper. Frequent writing workshops will be geared toward the process of revising in a collaborative environment. A first course in reading fictional, dramatic, lyric, and non-fiction texts, this course also challenges Amherst College students to think of themselves as writers.

Preference given to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professors Brooks and Mireles Christoff.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020

107 Poetry with Friends

This poetry workshop is made for buddies: the ones you build and the ones you bring. Although most poets love to go solo, the contemporary writers we will study in this course prove how writing can be better with friends.

In this course, we will look at contemporary poets who collaborate: to perform, to further their own collections, to create their passion projects. We will look at poetic movements that planted the seed for twenty-first century partnerships and examine contemporary collaborations that prove there’s poetic strength in numbers.

Requirements for this course include a desire to experiment with collaboration. Students are encouraged to register with a friend as a way to begin their writing partnership but will also be paired with a partner or group within the course to write with. Completion of this course will include the creation of two sets of collaborative work. Partners will decide if this means writing individual poems that are in conversation with each other, or writing work collectively. This is a great course for non-majors and good friends.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Writer-in-Residence Lawson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2021

111 Having Arguments

Using a variety of texts–novels, essays, short stories–this course will work to develop the reading and writing of difficult prose, paying particular attention to the kinds of evidence and authority, logic and structure that produce strong arguments. The authors we study may include Peter Singer, Aravind Adiga, Willa Cather, Toni Morrison, George Orwell, Charles Johnson, James Baldwin, Alice Munro, William Carlos Williams. This is an intensive writing course. Frequent short papers will be assigned.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Emeritus Lieber.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

114 Narratives of Migration and Transformation

How does migration transform identity? Which techniques do writers use to express and recreate this complex experience on the page? What role can language and narrative technique play in forging a sense of self and home? How might writing be related to refuge? Reading across genres of poetry, fiction and memoir, this class explores how writers have described the experience of locating themselves while departing, arriving or living in between. The course will cover topics such as alienation, assimilation, generational memory, survival, nostalgia, hybridity, and transformation. Students can expect a wide range of writing assignments, both analytical and creative. Readings may include Bapsi Sidhwa, Amitav Ghosh, Zadie Smith, José Olivarez, Warsan Shire, Suji Kwock Kim, Fady Joudah, Edwidge Danticat, Eduardo Corral and Ocean Vuong.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Spring 2025

116 Literary Storms

In this course we will weather famous storms featured in literary, artistic, and cinematic works from the nineteenth century through the present day. Together, we will make our way through snow, sleet, hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, superstorms, and everyday rain showers. This topic will provide a unifying thematic thread for a class focused on the fundamentals of close reading, viewing, writing, and revision. We will examine how various genres, narrative styles, and authorial voices engage this common topic in strikingly different ways. We will also use storms to learn about literary and aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, and to think about the basic building blocks of narrative. How do storms blur lines between setting, plot, characterization, suspense, and closure? What does it mean for a setting to come to life or function as a character?

Together, we will discuss: How do stories of environmental violence and human violence collide? Who gets to tell the story of a storm? What stories emerge on either side of the ostensibly rupturing event itself, before and after the storm? How do storms expose and exacerbate disparities along racial and socioeconomic lines? Can reading local storm stories provide a way of thinking about global climate change?

Some of our storms will be based upon actual events, including Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Irene; this will raise complex questions about the boundaries between history and art.

Possible works include paintings by J. M. W. Turner; short stories by Kate Chopin, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Ben Marcus; novels by Zora Neale Hurston, Ben Lerner, and Jesmyn Ward; film by Behn Zeitlin, and documentary by Spike Lee.

While this class will default to an online (mostly synchronous) format, there will be on-campus opportunities, including but not limited to office hours; it is also possible that on-campus group meetings might become more possible as the semester progresses. But students should be clear that the online format is the default we will begin with.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Abramson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2021

117 Arthurian Literature

(Offered as ENGL 117 and EUST 117) [Before 1800] Knights, monsters, quests, and true love: these are the things we associate with King Arthur and tales of his court. Why has Arthurian literature proved so enchanting to centuries of poets, novelists, and recently, filmmakers? In this introductory English course, we will read and watch Arthurian legends from Chaucer to Monty Python, examining the ways in which they have been represented in different eras. Beginning with the historical foundations of the King Arthur legend, we will examine how it blossomed and took form in later eras. Our focus will be on close literary and visual analysis of British, American, and French (in translation) versions of these legends. We will also discuss what cultural forces lie behind the popularity of Arthurian legend in certain eras: later medieval England and France; the Victorian era; and twentieth-century England and America. There will be frequent writing assignments and presentations, as well as a final creative project.

Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Open to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Nelson.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

119 From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Literature of Everyday

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life. And just as our primary authors practice the art of noticing, so will we adopt a similar stance of scrutiny and attention to detail in this course.

We will also discuss questions such as: How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does the seemingly mundane or quotidian become infused with meaning? How does art make the familiar newly strange or fascinating? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in capturing the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? What happens when the ordinary and extraordinary change places?

We will look at short stories, novels, photography, and memoir. Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Amit Chaudhuri, Teju Cole, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Henry James, Ian McEwan, Kathleen Stewart, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Abramson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

120 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

This course considers from many perspectives what it means to read and write and learn and teach both for ourselves and for others. As part of the work of this course, in addition to the usual class hours, students will serve as weekly tutors and classroom assistants in adult basic education centers in nearby towns. Thus this course consciously engages with the obstacles to and the power of education through course readings, through self-reflexive writing about our own varied educational experiences, and through weekly work in the community. Although this course presses participants to reflect a great deal about teaching, this course does not teach how to teach. Instead it offers an exploration of the contexts and processes of education, and of the politics and desires that suffuse learning. Course readings range across literary genres including essays, poems, autobiographies, and novels in which education and teaching figure centrally, as well as readings in ethnography, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. The writing assignments cross many genres as well.

Limited to 18 students. In the fall semester, five seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2020-21. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

125 Representing Illness

With a focus on the skills of close reading and analytical writing, we will look at the ways in which writers imagine illness, how they try to make meaning out of illness, and how they use illness to explore other aspects of experience. This is not a course on the history of illness or the social construction of disease. We will discuss not only what writers say about illness but also how they say it: with what language and in what form they speak the experience of bodily and mental suffering. Readings may include drama by Sophocles, Molière and Margaret Edson; poetry by Donne and Mark Doty; fiction by José Saramago and Mark Haddon; and essays by Susan Sontag, Raphael Campo and Temple Grandin.

Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Frank.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

150 Amherst Poets

From Emily Dickinson to Robert Frost to Sonia Sánchez, Amherst is world-famous because of its poets. More than twenty well-known poets have written, lived and taught in the area where we find ourselves living. This introductory course is designed to welcome students who have not previously taken a college-level English course into the literary environment of Amherst, as well as into the literary community of poetry readers across the globe, by closely studying just a few of them. Our main focus will be on the close-reading skills needed to engage with poetry of all kinds, and on the skills needed to write a college-level essay about literature. We will also engage in frequent writing workshops together.

 This course is taught entirely online. The majority of this course will be taught as synchronous Zoom meetings, though there will be opportunities for other kinds of engagement, such as online poetry readings and discussion boards. All students will have a chance to meet and talk with living Amherst Poets, who will attend class with us on Zoom. We will also meet with librarians and Writing Center associates on Zoom, to learn about research methods and essay-writing skills. There will be a chance to explore the Rare Books Room in the Amherst College library to look at manuscripts, and also a chance to view the Emily Dickinson Museum online. Outside of class, students will have a chance to share work in small peer-support groups on their essay writing.

 In an online environment, when some of us are present in Amherst and some of us are not, new questions about the importance of place will come into play, and new opportunities for connecting with Amherst Poets living far away will arise.

 Limited to 18 students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Worsley.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Spring 2021

162 Black (on) Earth: Introduction to African American Environmental Literature

(Offered as ENGL 162 and BLST 162) African and African-descended people have a long-documented and intimate relationship to the natural world as a source of healing, nurture, and wealth. However, for a people who were stripped of their land in colonial Africa, exploited to work the land by European enslavers in the New World, and hung from trees in the American South, and who still have a precarious relationship to water in such places as Flint, Michigan, and post-Maria Puerto Rico, inhabiting the earth is complicated. How might we begin to tell this entangled history? What kinds of stories have Africans and their descendants developed to address their relationship with nature? What does the term “environmental justice” even mean to and for people of African descent today?

In this course, we will encounter a range of texts, including slave narratives, novels, poems, visual art, and performance written by and about Black subjects, to begin to understand how various authors, artists, and activists represent the rich relationship between blackness and the natural world. Readings may include works by Olaudah Equiano, W. E. B Du Bois, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Zora Neale Hurston, Derek Walcott, Jamaica Kincaid, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, T. Dungy, Britt Rusert, Kimberly N. Ruffin, among others.

Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2022

180 Film and Writing

(Offered as ENGL 180 and FAMS 110) A first course in reading films and writing about them. A varied selection of films for study and criticism, partly to illustrate the main elements of film language and partly to pose challenging texts for reading and writing. Frequent short papers. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 25 students. Twelve seats reserved for first-year students. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

212 Storytelling Arts in Mesoamerica

(Offered as ENGL 212 and ARHA 212) [Before 1800] This course will explore the major pictorial narrative traditions of Mesoamerica, focusing on manuscripts of the Aztec, Maya, and Mixtec peoples, as well as other media, including texts and images from murals, ceramics, monuments, and mirrors. These visual and narrative media continue to play important roles in the preservation of Indigenous identity, solidarity, and cultural identity within nation states; the course will examine public, popular, and fine arts reviving, repurposing, and supporting resistance using this imagery.

Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Couch.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

214 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey: Pre-Conquest to 1865

[Before 1800] Until the recent past, and still in high schools and many collegiate institutions, courses that intend to survey American literature represent that oeuvre as nearly exclusively the work of white male writers. In this survey we will often encounter writings by American Indians from different nations, by women, by African Americans, as well as more commonly taught writers like Melville, Thoreau, and Emerson.

Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

215 Re-imagining American Literature, A Survey:  1865 to the Present

Survey courses have in our time increasingly disappeared, except in most high schools. Attempts to make them sufficiently inclusive have seemed impossible. The chosen approach in this course is to concentrate on the remarkable literatures created by African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, bi-national writers, and working-class writers. We will also read “classic” writers like Willa Cather and Fitzgerald along with some of the working-class writers from the Thirties.

Spring semester. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2021

216 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

(See BLST 203)

217 Making Literary Histories I

[Before 1800] What is “English Literature,” and how does one construct its history? What counts as “England” (especially in relation to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and to ancient Greece and Rome)? What is the relationship between histories of literature and political, social, religious and intellectual histories? What is the role of gender in the making of literature, and the making of its histories? These are the kinds of questions we will ask as we read texts from the seventh through the seventeenth centuries, including works such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in translation) and writers from Chaucer and Margery Kempe in the Middle Ages to Margaret Cavendish and John Milton in the Renaissance.

Format: If at least 5 in-person students register for this course, it will run in person, with hybrid options for remote students. Course meetings will include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2021

219 Romantic Revolutions

The Romantic period was one of unprecedented social and political change. Literature both represented, and helped to produce, these changes. This course will question how global political events in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century shaped British literature, and explore what these British writers gave back to the world. We will study how novels, plays, and poems both responded to, and helped to shape, momentous political events, such as the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and debates about the “Rights of Man” and the “Rights of Woman.” At the same time, we will also study the major revolutions in thought that this period witnessed. Massive changes occurred in the ways in which people began to think about equality, race, gender, the emotions, cognition, science, travel, children, animals, and the environment. Literary writers made many important contributions in each of these venues. The question of what literature itself was, and who it was designed for, was also suddenly under question. In discussions of texts by writers like Olaudah Equiano, William Blake, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Jane Austen, George Gordon Byron, Thomas Paine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as well as in critical texts such as C. L. R. James’ The Black Jacobins and contemporary texts such as M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!, this course will contextualize both canonical and understudied works of Romantic literature in one of the most radical moments in history.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Worsley.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

221 Writing Poetry I

A first workshop in the writing of poetry. Class members will read and discuss each others’ work and will study the elements of prosody: the line, stanza forms, meter, free verse, and more. Open to anyone interested in writing poetry and learning about the rudiments of craft. Writing exercises weekly.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

222 Playwriting I

(See THDA 270)

223 Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations

(See THDA 255)

224 Creative Nonfiction

This course explores the questions at the heart of creative nonfiction: What does it mean to tell a “true” story? And what does it mean to tell a true story “creatively”? A deep dive into essay, memoir, and genres of nonfiction that have yet to be named will allow us to form our own definitions of creative nonfiction. Through workshops that will encourage exploration, experimentation, and vulnerability, we will develop our own personal practices for writing from life. Writers in the earliest stages of their engagement with nonfiction are welcome, as well as writers who are seeking to hone their ongoing nonfiction writing and their possible senior projects.

Admission with consent of the instructor.  Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Sweeney.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

225 Non-Fiction I or Personal Story

How can we re-imagine ourselves and the world through our deeply felt personal questions? This course will focus on using personal non-fiction narratives to consider larger themes of politics, history, current events, and our ever-changing social reality. The course welcomes beginning writers who want to learn how to write more creatively without limiting censors and unnecessary judgment. The class will function as a cooperative workshop to help all write more fluently and with greater joy.

The class and office hours will be conducted via Zoom.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Writer-in-Residence Lee.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2022

226 Fiction Writing I

A first course in writing fiction. Emphasis will be on experimentation as well as on developing skill and craft. Workshop (discussion) format.

Spring semester, online only, Visiting Writer Myint: This course is a discussion-based writing workshop that will require your weekly synchronous attendance, as well as your participation in asynchronous discussion forums and writing exercises. Also, though this is an online course, I am open to the possibility of creating in-person opportunities for students on campus, especially as the semester progresses.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Each section limited to 15 students. Fall semester, section 01: Professor Frank.  Fall semester, section 02, online only: Writer-in-Residence Lee. The class and office hours will be conducted via Zoom. Spring semester, online only: Visiting Writer Myint. 

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

227 Reading and Writing Electronic Literature

This introductory course explores a variety of approaches to digital storytelling, from branching narratives, to hypertext media and video games, to more recent developments in machine-generated poetry and also embodied and location-based narrative. A hands-on class, it will link conventional understandings of narrative form and content to contemporary conversations about interface and computation, and ask students to think about materiality and textuality by experimenting with digital composition.

Omitted 2020-21. Professors Frank and Parham.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

238 Shakespeare

[Before 1800] Readings in the comedies, histories, and tragedies, with attention to their poetic language, dramatic structure, and power in performance. Texts and topics will vary by instructor.

This course will meet virtually once a week at the assigned course time; all other activities and readings will be available for the student to complete on their own schedule. Please contact the instructor if you would like to take the class from a different time zone, and we will work out a plan to make this possible.

Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

240 Reading Poetry

A first course in the critical reading of selected English-language poets, which gives students exposure to significant poets, poetic styles, and literary and cultural contexts for poetry from across the tradition. Attention will be given to prosody and poetic forms, and to different ways of reading poems.

 The majority of this course will revolve around synchronous Zoom meetings, though there will be opportunities for visits to museums and archives in smaller groups. Students will receive feedback on their writing in individual meetings.

 Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023

250 Reading the Novel

An introduction to the study of the novel, through the exploration of a variety of critical terms (plot, character, point of view, tone, realism, identification, genre fiction, the book) and methodologies (structuralist, Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic). We will draw on a selection of novels in English to illustrate and complicate those terms; possible authors include Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Kazuo Ishiguro, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, Emma Donoghue, David Foster Wallace, Monique Truong, Jennifer Egan.

Instruction will be centered on synchronous class meetings, but those meetings will be prepared for by asynchronous means: mainly twice-a-week Moodle prompts and postings, but also my personal videos on backgrounds for the readings. Individual meetings with all students, both before and after papers, will be conducted either by phone or on Zoom.

Preference given to sophomores. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

253 Modernists: In Their Words and In Their Worlds

This course provides an introduction to literary modernism in two parts, each part in dialogue with the other. First, in their words: we will look at how early twentieth-century writers described their own formal experiments and aesthetic agendas. This section will pair modernist manifestos and critical essays with fiction and poetry written by those same authors. Second, in their worlds: we will examine the historical, geographical, and cultural dimensions of these famous literary experiments. This section pairs modernist primary works with brief readings focused on World War I, colonization and decolonization, the Harlem Renaissance, and urban technology. When it comes to the dynamic relationship between words and worlds, our goal will be synthesis rather than separation. How does historical change relate to changes in literary form?

Possible authors include Mulk Raj Anand, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Langston Hughes, James Joyce, Nella Larsen, Katherine Mansfield, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Abramson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020

258 Black Speculative Fictions

(Offered as ENGL 258 and BLST 312 [D]) The very idea of the future presents a particular challenge when thinking about Black populations characterized by multiple overlapping experiences of displacement, including displacements in space–diaspora, migration, enslavement–and displacements in time–the middle passage as temporal fracture but also as beginning, the materiality of African pasts. How have futures been conceptualized by Black diasporic communities? What does it mean to transform heavy presents and pasts into visions for better, more livable worlds? This semester we will survey black speculative fiction from the nineteenth through twentieth centuries, looking at topics including Afrofuturism, enslavement, colonialism, science and technology, environmentalism, and dystopia.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Parham.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018

270 Letter Writers and Epistolarity

The participants in this online course will read letters and write letters. This course became radically enhanced with the distancing imposed as COVID-19 exiled us from campus last spring.

The course depends both on experiences and experiments with the letter as a complex instrument of communication, as literary artefact, as carrier of affect, intention and ideas, and as a record of individual and communal growth. Letter writing will be practiced as a performance that deploys persona, tone, voice, purpose, persuasion, transparency, and decorum. Your discoveries and the development of your thoughts will be circulated as letters written among a small circle of correspondence.

Readings will include letters written by Paul, Seneca, Martin Luther King, Biddy Martin, Dorothy Osborne, John Keats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Sigmund Freud, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva, Robert Oppenheimer. The reading of epistolary novels will focus our attention on fictional uses of the form (Daddy Longlegs, Dangerous Liaisons, Screwtape Letters). We will also pay attention to the current evolution of letter writing in the time of e-mail and social media, and social isolation.

Capstone projects will be organized as researched and curated presentations of selected online manuscript letters, or as a compiled and analyzed collection of personal or family letters, or as epistolary fiction.

In addition to the expected use of Zoom and emergency uses of Skype, students are expected to become familiar with: Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides; Dropbox; Microsoft Word, Power Point, and Excel; Audible and Kindle; parabol.co; and ProQuest Ebook Central.

January. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

271 How Can We Talk About Race, Class, and Gender?

Each of us lives in a world in which race, class and gender–complex and elusive terms–reflect multiple realities. In the last few years they have openly shaped public discourse in the US. They also affect individuals and groups differently: invisible to many, an inescapable felt presence for many others. Denial, controversy, struggle, pride, and hesitation are but some of peoples’ responses. A world of courses could not comprehend the responses or the terms themselves, the histories or the controversies. So this course must necessarily be exploratory and, beyond the usual, open to each participant, even in sharp disagreements.

Memoirs, novels and poems, lively and revelatory social science texts make up the readings. Short weekly writings and three essays complete the work of the course.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

272 A Primer to Children’s Literature

Children’s books are a site of first encounter, a doorway to literacy and literature. This course will offer both a history of book production for child readers in England and the United States and an exploration of what these first books can teach us about the attractions, expectations, and responsibilities of reading. While a large online course, activities will include many more intimate spaces including small group projects and class-time collaborations, as well as writing feedback circles.

Spring semester. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2021

273 When Corn Mother Meets King Corn: Cultural Studies of the Americas

(See AMST 280)

274 Native American Literature: Decolonizing Intellectual Traditions

(Offered as ENGL 274 and AMST 274) In 2013, Amherst College acquired one of the most comprehensive collections of Native American writing in the world–nearly 1,500 books ranging from contemporary fiction and poetry to sermons, political tracts, and tribal histories from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Through this course, we will actively engage the literature of this collection, researching Native American intellectual traditions, regional contexts, political debates, creative adaptation, and movements toward decolonization. Students will have the opportunity to make an original contribution to a digital archive and interact with visiting authors. Readings will range from the 1772 sermon published by Mohegan author Samson Occom to fiction and criticism published in 2017.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Brooks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2018

275 Whodunit? Thinking with Detective Fiction

Sherlock Holmes. Miss Marple. Judge Dee. Temperance Brennan. Precious Ramotswe. The Dude. Sam Spade. Batman. You might not know all these characters, but they share one thing in common: they have all been called detectives. Despite their other differences, they all seek to understand a problem; they are all in search of answers. It is probably this attempt to make sense of the world through a process of reasoning that makes the detective such an enduring figure in popular culture. In this course, we will model our own reading, writing, and thinking on the detective’s analytical processes. Through deep engagement with various media including film, television, books, and graphic novels, this course will attempt to understand the persistent fascination with the vibrant (and frequently difficult) figure that is the detective. Topics will include Sherlock Holmes (both early stories and recent BBC television adaptations), Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Gertrude Stein, The Big Lebowski, and more.

This intensive course will meet virtually two to three times per week (the precise frequency will be determined in the first two days of class meetings). As a literature-based and intensive course, expect to read up to 200 pages of a detective novel per week. Please contact the instructor with any questions.

Limited to 35 students. January. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, January 2021

276 Black Feminist Literary Traditions

(See SWAG 208)

278 Digital Africas

(Offered as ENGL 278 and BLST 212 [A]) This course will examine how African writers incorporate digital technologies into their work when they publish traditional print texts, experiment with digital formats, or use the internet to redefine their relationship to local and international audiences. We will reflect on how words and values shift in response to new forms of mediation; on the limits these forms place on the bodies they represent, and on the protections they occasionally offer. Students will read fictional works in print, serialized narratives on blogs, as well as other literary products that circulate via social media. Students also will be introduced to a selection of digital humanities tools that will assist them in accessing, analyzing and responding to these works. Course materials include print, digital and hybrid publications by Oyono, Farah, Adichie, Cole, Maphoto, and Wainaina, among others.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2024

279 Global Women's Literature

(See SWAG 279)

280 Coming to Terms: Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 280 and FAMS 210) An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of a few critical and descriptive terms, together with a selection of various films (classic and contemporary, foreign and American) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion will include, among others: mise-en-scène, montage, realism, visual pleasure, and the avant-garde. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Guilford.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

282 Knowing Television

(Offered as ENGL 282 and FAMS 215) For better or worse, U.S. broadcast television is a cultural form that is not commonly associated with knowledge. This course will take what might seem a radical counter-position to such assumptions–looking at the ways television teaches us what it is and even trains us in potential critical practices for investigating it. By considering its formal structure, its textual definitions, and the means through which we see it, we will map out how it is that we come to know television.

Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended, but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 45 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Hastie.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2016, Fall 2019

283 Television Narratives

(Offered as ENGL 283 and FAMS 234.) What stories does television tell? And how does it tell them? This course will approach television’s narratives through a focus on both form and content. We will take into account issues of production, distribution, and exhibition, with attention both to historical developments and contemporary transformations to the medium. In this way, we will explore how shifts in programming, platforms, and viewing habits alter both televisual narration and consumption. By considering television’s specific form–whether commercial networks, cable TV, or subscription platforms like Netflix and Hulu–we will query how this specific media format enables or limits the ways it tells stories and what stories it tells. Each iteration of this course will focus on particular forms of narrative programming, through an emphasis on genre, format, historical eras, or cultural facets. Readings will include key critical works in Television Studies, essays on particular television series, and other works that situate television texts in a broader cultural framework and history. The goal of the course is to think through narrative form, representational systems, authorship, exhibition, and reception habits in order to define not just what television narrative is but also what it can be.

In spring 2021, “Television Narratives” will focus on policing race, as represented in US television series, with some forays also in documentary programming and music videos from the late 1980s, early 1990s, and our contemporary period. We will begin with episodic police and detective series of the late 1960s and 1970s, such as The Mod Squad, Tenafly, and Shaft, when the role of the black detective merged social consciousness and contemporary style, sometimes treading the line between criminality and the law. We will then turn to the hybrid episodic-serial format of Hill Street Blues, focusing on the representation of both African-American policing and criminality represented within the series. Our next case study, spanning the 1990s and early 2000s, will consider the emergence of the police procedural as a dominant televisual form, with an emphasis on the long-running Law and Order franchise. Our final case study will compose the latter half of the course, as we will look at mini series and limited season serials, including the docudrama When They See Us and the one-season series Seven Seconds. During this final unit, we will also integrate queries into YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram to consider how the narratives of such series are extended through intertextual connections with clips, interviews, and productions by both fans and artists.

Two sections of this course will be offered, each section limited to 25 students. Section 01: hyflex. Section 02: online only. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Fall 2022

284 Coming to Terms: Media

(Offered as ENGL 284 and FAMS 216) Media are not just audiovisual texts but also technological infrastructures, economic enterprises, ideological apparatuses, and artistic practices. This course provides an introduction to the analysis of modern media forms through a consideration of significant critical and analytical terms, together with a selection of media texts (ranging across print, photography, cinema, television, and digital media) for illustration and discussion. The key terms for discussion will reflect the complexity of how we define “media.” Topics may include: mass reproduction, authenticity and aura; print, time, and national consciousness; advertising, glamor, and myth; photography, indifference, and atrocity; cinema, race, gender, and spectatorship; television, liveness, and celebrity; digital media, buffering, and virality. Classes will combine lecture and conversation, and assignments will include several short critical essays and a midterm and final exam.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Rangan.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Fall 2023

287 Introduction to Film Studies: The History of American Cinema, 1895-1960

(Offered as ENGL 287 and FAMS 212) This course is designed to introduce students to key issues in film studies, focusing on the history of American cinema from 1895 to 1960. We will pay particular attention to the “golden age” of Hollywood, with forays into other national cinemas by way of comparison and critique. Screenings will range from actualities and trick films, to the early narrative features of D. W. Griffith, to the development of genres including film noir (Double Indemnity), the woman’s film of the 1940s (Now, Voyager), the western (Stagecoach) and the suspense film (Rear Window). Reading and writing assignments and in-class discussions will address how to interpret film on the formal/stylistic level (sequence analysis, close reading, visual language) as well as in the context of major trends and figures in film history. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 6-8 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop. By the end of the semester, students can expect to gain the following: a familiarity with key terms in film language and film analysis; an ability to think and write critically about film, its aesthetics, historical development, technology, and cultural context; an overview of some key films in American cinema history from the silent era to 1960; an appreciation of different film genres, their structure, iconic language, and ideological/cultural meanings; and confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in film criticism and history.

Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

288 Introduction to Film Theory

(Offered as ENGL 288 and FAMS 218) How does film invite us to see? And how does it invite us to think, to feel, to communicate, to gather together? Or, as twentieth-century French film critic André Bazin asked, “What is cinema?” From nearly its inception as an aesthetic and cultural form, film has incited such ongoing debates about its definition as a medium and a cultural phenomenon. This course will offer a historical survey of these debates from a range of methods and perspectives that attempt to understand what makes film film. Drawing on formalist, phenomenological, psychoanalytic, ideological, cultural, experiential, and other approaches, we will attempt to answer not only what cinema is but also why we continue to be drawn to it as an expressive form. The course will include lectures on particular schools of thought and discussions about debates within and between those schools. Students will produce regular reading summaries, textual analyses, and two formal essays.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Hastie.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019

289 Moving Pictures: The History of Silent Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 289 and FAMS 227) This course focuses on global cinema during the silent era (1895-1927). We will explore the wide range of films produced in cinema’s first three decades, including early actualities, animation, trick films, serials, melodrama, and experimental film. Readings in film history will assist us in investigating the rise of classical narrative, the studio system, star and fan culture, and the transition to sound. In addition to studying the work of Charlie Chaplin, Sergei Eisenstein, D. W. Griffith, Georges Méliès, and Dziga Vertov, the course will highlight filmmaking by women and people of color including Alice Guy-Blaché, Oscar Micheaux, and Lois Weber, among others. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 5-6 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Recommended requisite: ENGL 180/FAMS 110, Film and Writing, or an equivalent 100-level course. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2011, Spring 2021

295 Literature and Psychoanalysis

Why does it seem natural to read ourselves and other people in the same way that we read books? This course will introduce students to psychoanalytic thought and psychoanalytic literary interpretation. Freud famously reads Jensen’s short story Gradiva as a case history, but we will seek out ways of reading literature and psychoanalysis together that go beyond diagnosing characters or authors. How is psychoanalytic theory itself literary? How can it help to open up, rather than reduce, our reading experience? And how does literature in turn help to enrich, deepen, challenge and enliven psychoanalytic theories of subject-formation, language, and interpersonal relations? Putting psychoanalytic and fictional texts in conversation, topics of particular interest may include: dreams, desire, sexuality, mourning, trauma, the unconscious, the uncanny, anxiety, embodiment, racialization, paranoia and the reparative impulse. Psychoanalytic readings will be drawn from Freud, Klein, Lacan, Winnicott, Bollas, Khan, Phillips, Riviere, Fanon, Milner, Sedgwick, Felman, and others. Literary texts change from year to year.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

301 The Qur'ān and Its Controversies

(See RELI 385)

303 Books and Their Afterlives: Writing and/as Technology

Books have a rich history in multiple cultures, and the experience of reading them is often bound up with their material form. In other words, the way we read books has arguably always been tied to how they look, and smell, and feel. So what happens to books in the digital age? What do books feel like when they are on the Internet? From the first printed text to the digital age and beyond, this course will consider the changing shapes, goals, and aims of books. Beginning with the earliest texts produced with moveable type and ending with experimental electronic literature, we will consider the intertwined histories of reading, books, and the technologies used to make them. This course will include sessions held in Frost Library’s Special Collections and one required field trip to Big Wheel Press in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020

304 Narratives of Suffering

It’s possible to imagine people who have not yet suffered, who have not yet had a peculiarly intense and sustained experience of physical or psychic pain. Those imaginary people are, however, vulnerable to future suffering. Even more importantly, they live in a world in which many others suffer, so many that a refusal to attend to suffering amounts to a refusal of a meaningfully relational existence. Thinking and feeling in response to suffering is, accordingly, an inescapable aspect of what Henri Bergson describes as “a really living life.” But how do we respond to suffering, whether in others or in ourselves? How do we take it in without appropriating it? How do we express it without turning it into a spectacle? These questions and others like them are difficult, but the aim of this course is to generate an intellectual and emotional atmosphere in which we can be transformed by the process of taking them up. Readings include The Book of Job, King Lear, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Sanborn.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

306 Modern British and American Poetry, 1900–1950

Readings and discussions centering on the work of Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. Some attention also to A.E. Housman, Edward Thomas, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

309 The Literary Histories of Technology

[Before 1800] What does a reader in 1620 have in common with a reader in 2020? They are both faced with an overwhelming explosion of textual information made possible by technology. In both 1620 and 2020 readers are confronted with massive quantities of information that threaten to overwhelm. The causes differ: in 1620s London, advances in printing and paper-making technologies made textual materials cheaply and widely available on an unprecedented scale. In 2020, we have the Internet.

This course proposes that the seventeenth- and twenty-first centuries share similar methods of controlling their new information environment; both use creative and figurative language to talk about it. Readers in 1620 used recently-Anglicized terms like metaphor or synecdoche, whereas readers in 2020 talk about uploading everything to the cloud. In this course, we will explore the humanist rhetorical handbooks of the English literary Renaissance as a means to two ends: one, to better understand the literary production of canonical authors like Shakespeare; and two, to engage with the rhetoric of digital creativity in the twenty-first century. We juxtapose readings from Renaissance rhetorical handbooks with poetry and essays from that period and with digital humanities scholarship. The final project of the course will ask students to perform individual research as part of a collaborative, multimodal guide to the information structures of the Internet.

Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013

310 Interpretation in Law & Literature

(See LJST 341)

311 Lives on the Page

This course examines the way writers commit their own lives to the page and the many interesting hybrids that, falling somewhere in between fiction and non-fiction, writers have been experimenting with of late. Why have these hybrid forms become so dominant in the literary world? How do the assumptions and expectations we bring to fiction differ from those we bring to non-fiction? Why are forms that play with the relation between these forms so popular right now?  What do they offer us, emotionally and intellectually? And what can they illuminate about literature, identity, the politics of representation, and social justice? This course will include a combination of critical and creative writing, and will approach readings on the level of craft so that we are always thinking of ourselves both as readers and as writers. Possible readings include: David Vann, Legend of a Suicide; Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts; Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?; James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain; Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her; Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend; Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle; Michelle Tea, Black Wave; Beyoncé, Lemonade.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professors Mireles Christoff and Frank.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2022

312 Writing Nineteenth-Century Women

(Offered as ENGL 312 and SWAG 314) This course centers on writing by women at the turn of the nineteenth century. We will study the work of anglophone poets, novelists, and playwrights, alongside important works of literary criticism and feminist theory. Words like “feeling” and “sensibility” were heavily gendered in this period, meaning a study of some of the history of emotion and affect will constitute an important context for reading. At the same time, we will also pay careful attention to how these anglophone women writers have been represented more recently, in twentieth- and twenty-first century editions of their works, as well as in biographies, adaptations, and biopics. How have these women writers themselves been written? How have changing attitudes to issues of gender and sexuality also changed the way these women of the past are viewed? What might we intuit about our present moment, by studying the relation between nineteenth- and twentieth-century accounts of these women’s lives and works? The course will include authors such as Jane Austen, Colette, Mary Shelley, Madame de Staël, Anna Barbauld, Joanna Baillie, Sojourner Truth, Emily Dickinson, and Harriet Jacobs. We will also discuss recent films such as Jane Eyre (2011) and The Favourite (2018). For their final projects, students will study a text of their own choosing.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Worsley.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

315 Nabokov's Art and Terrors

(See RUSS 225)

316 Immersive Accompaniment: Reading the Bildungsroman

(Offered as ENGL 316 and SWAG 316) “From whence comes my help?” “From where does your strength come?” The psalmist and Adrienne Rich ask these questions, which we will face while we read coming-of-age narratives that fit in a genre known by its German name, the Bildungsroman. These novels go beyond the pilgrimage out of adolescence, and into explicit representation of intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual growth experienced in unison with sexual development, awakenings, thrills, mishaps, and marriage. We will pay attention to how we immerse ourselves into the condition of those who grow on the page; not to “identify” with the characters, but to accompany them. From our immersive accompaniment we will re-emerge–intentionally–to write about how we progress, digress, regress, and grow some more. As we read we will explore many terms and theoretical concerns: Erik Erickson on life stages; Donald Winnicott on holding environment and object relation; Jacques Lacan on mirrors and interminability of desire; Silvan Tomkins on affects and nuclear scripts; Shoshana Feldman on re-reading, un-learning, en-gendering, and–again–desire.

Readings will likely include: Plato, Phaedrus; Susan Choi, Trust Exercise; Lazarillo de Tormes; Teresa de Avila, Interior Castle; John Woolman, The Journal; Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse; Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot; Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous; Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook; Richard Powers, The Overstory.

This course will be conducted in-person and online. All participants–whether attending in person or remotely–will have to be connected through Zoom during all scheduled class times. Good earphone/mic equipment is essential to make this possible. The course also requires additional online small group meetings for Co-editing Clusters of 3 students and Discussion Cliques of 5.

In addition to the expected use of Zoom and emergency uses of Skype, students are expected to become familiar with: Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides; Dropbox; Microsoft Word, Power Point, and Excel; Audible and Kindle; parabol.co; and ProQuest Ebook Central.

Spring semester. Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2024

317 Caribbean Poetry: The Anglophone Tradition

(Offered as ENGL 317 and BLST 317 [CLA]) A survey of the work of Anglophone Caribbean poets, alongside readings about the political, cultural and aesthetic traditions that have influenced their work. Readings will include longer cycles of poems by Derek Walcott and Edward Kamau Brathwaite; dialect and neoclassical poetry from the colonial period; and more recent poetry by women writers and performance (“dub”) poets.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Fall 2012, Fall 2018

318 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

(Offered as ENGL 318, BLST 362 [A/CLA], and LLAS 362) The course will concentrate on Caribbean authors. It explores the process of self-definition in literary works from Africa and the Caribbean that are built around child protagonists. We will examine the authors’ various methods of ordering experience through the choice of literary form and narrative technique, as well as the child/author’s perception of his or her society. French texts will be read in translation.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Cobham-Sander.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

319 The Postcolonial Novel: Gender, Race and Empire

(See SWAG 331)

320 Literature as Translation

(See EUST 303)

322 Playwriting Studio

(See THDA 370)

323 On The Edge: Writing for Performance

(See THDA 272)

324 Writing Poetry II–Poetry in Translation

"It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can also be gained."  Salman Rushdie

What can we learn about the craft of poetry through the practice of translation? How can engaging with poetry in another language (even in translation) transform our own thinking and writing? This class will explore these questions by reading and translating poetry from around the world and across the centuries. Readings from Homer, Sappho, Catullus, Montale, Ghalib, Mir and a variety of contemporary Arab poets will be augmented with a mix of essays on the practical and theoretical aspects of translation. Students will experiment with a variety of translation-inspired writing exercises and design a final translation project of their choice. There is no language requirement.

 Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Kapur.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

325 Her Story Is: Feminist Approaches to Theater and Performance

(See THDA 275)

326 Fiction Writing II—Moving Beyond Plot

How do stories move? What are the uses and limitations of the term “plot” in describing movement or development in narrative? What culturally-specific assumptions and expectations about storytelling are bound up with conventional notions of plot, and how can we, as writers and readers, unravel them?

In this advanced fiction writing course, students will explore these questions and more through writing, reading, sharing, and thoughtfully critiquing fiction that challenges, resists, or forgoes linear or sequential narrative. Writers of all aesthetic styles, including plot-driven writers, are welcome. The aim of this course is to build a nurturing and inclusive classroom community where all students can cultivate confidence in their work and writing process.

Requisite: ENGL 226 Fiction Writing I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

327 Moving Elsewhere: Performance, Poetry and Psychoanalysis

(See THDA 348)

330 Race and Otherness in the Middle Ages

(Offered as ENGL 330 and EUST 330) [Before 1800] By many accounts, a concept of “race” does not emerge in the West until the colonizing of the New World in the Renaissance. Yet medieval people had many ways of identifying, exoticizing, excluding, and discriminating against “others.” This was often framed in terms of religion (Christianity vs. Islam), but it also manifests in terms of physiognomic description and ideas of monstrosity in romance and quest narratives. In this course, we will explore how the “othering” of certain medieval peoples creates a racialized language and discourse at once specific to the Middle Ages and relevant to our current understanding of race. We will read from medieval travel narratives (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, Prester John, The Medieval Romance of Alexander) as well as literature by Chaucer and others, alongside critical race theory and historical scholarship to give context to our discussions. We will also explore how the Middle Ages have been racialized in contemporary political and popular discourse.

Format: If at least 5 in-person students register for this course, it will run in person, with hybrid options for remote students. Course meetings will include a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2023

332 Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

[Before 1800] Geoffrey Chaucer’s medieval masterwork, The Canterbury Tales, represents pilgrims from all walks of life, from peasants to artisans to nobility, telling tales that are comical, tragic, religious, and fantastical. In this course, we read almost the entirety of the Tales in its original language. The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active appreciation of his poetry. Our focus will be on Chaucer’s poetry and the ethical and political questions this complex and delightful literary work raises, and how we can understand these questions within a modern context. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected, although a knowledge of grammar in English or another Western language will be helpful.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Nelson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2022

333 Middle English Literature

[Before 1800] An astonishing number of innovative literary masterpieces were produced in the later Middle Ages, including early attempts at auto-fiction, masterful elegiac poetry, bawdy plays, and searching explorations of mental health and the idea of selfhood. In this course, we will read from a selection of these works in the original Middle English. Featured works will include Pearl, an anonymous work of mourning for the author’s lost daughter; Hoccleve’s Series, a portrait of a mental and spiritual crisis; and William Langland’s Piers Plowman, one man’s encyclopedic journey for knowledge and wisdom through a series of dream visions. Throughout our readings, our driving question will be, what constitutes literature in the Middle Ages? What kinds of ideas of poetic style, character, and narrative inform medieval writers? How are these different from our modern ideas of literature, and how are they similar? We will learn to read Middle English together; prior knowledge of the language is helpful but not required.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Nelson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011

341 Great English Writers

[Before 1800] A study of six classic writers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ben Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, and Samuel Johnson.  Among the readings are: Jonson, poems and Volpone; Milton, Comus, “Lycidas” and Paradise Lost; Dryden, poems and critical prose; Pope, “The Rape of the Lock,” Essay on Man, The Dunciad; Swift, Tale of a Tub, Gulliver’s Travels, poems; Johnson, poems, Rasselas, Prefaces to Shakespeare and to the Dictionary, passages from Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2017, Spring 2020

344 Frankenstein: The Making of a Monster

Two hundred years ago, at the age of nineteen, Mary Shelley wrote what is often called the first science fiction novel. Frankenstein not only describes fears about accelerating technology and monstrosity in the early nineteenth century; it also sets the stage for continuing discussions about gender, reproduction, race, ethics, slavery, science, artificial intelligence, language, and disability. To celebrate this groundbreaking novel's 200th anniversary, this co-taught class will explore the making of the text, alongside its monstrous legacy in contemporary culture. We will look both backwards, at Shelley’s influences (such as Milton, Rousseau, and Wollstonecraft), and forwards, to the novel’s adaptations and afterlives–including films, theater, electronic novels, comic books, and the extensive Frankenstein collection in Smith’s rare book room. As we trace the history of the novel and explore the enduring role of gothic monstrosity today, we will ask: what has allowed this novel to endure, and why can’t our contemporary culture let it go?

Classes will alternate between Amherst and Smith Colleges. The course will have a course number at both institutions and will count as an Amherst class for Amherst College students.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 Amherst students and 18 Smith students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Worsley and Professor Gurton-Wachter of Smith College.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018

348 Modern British Literature, 1900–1950

Readings in twentieth-century writers such as Henry James, Bernard Shaw, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, W.H. Auden, Robert Graves, George Orwell, Ivy Compton-Burnett.

Omitted 2020-21. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Spring 2018

350 American Origins

(Offered as ENGL 350 and AMST 350) [Before 1800] American Origins is a course in Early American literature and history. It explores when and how this country began. We readily forget that it only became the “United States” in 1789. Before that and from early in the European conquests, it was “the (Spanish, or French, or English, or Dutch) colonies,” or “America” and thus but a part of European settlements in both the Southern and the Northern hemispheres. It was also a place known as “Turtle Island,” with indigenous trade networks that traversed the continent. It was also a foreign land to which countless African people were brought as slaves, men and women who adapted and made this land their own. These simultaneities and complexities frustrate any comprehensive narrative of the period.

This will, then, be an experiment in shaping a transnational Early American literature and history course. Our goal is to expand the geographic and temporal boundaries of the subject using archival, print, and digital sources. We hope to learn multiple ways of reading the “texts” of early America: print books, pamphlets, broadsides, petitions, manuscripts and graphic media–and innovative scholarship. These will give us some access to the many peoples reshaping what was, in fact, a very Old World.

The end goal is for students to design a syllabus that can be used in secondary schools, or for a future course at Amherst.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 36 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Brooks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2019

352 Reading Land, Writing Waters

(Offered as ENGL 352 and AMST 355) In this course, we will spend equal amounts of time reading the land and waterways and discussing how writers creatively engage these spaces. We will cultivate the craft of writing as a deliberative, interactive process. Even as we read closely the traces and trails of local animals and the networks among plants, we will wrestle with difficult questions. How is the tradition of American nature writing intertwined with colonialism? How are concepts like “wilderness” constructed in relation to culture and race? How has the construction of wilderness spaces been entangled with dispossession and containment? How do Indigenous languages and writers represent an active, animate world, inhabited by multiple, dynamic, sentient beings? How does this conflict with other epistemologies and languages that have constructed animals and plants, and sometimes even people, as objects? What is the relationship between decolonization and the “new materialism”? How might close, critical attention to the activities and relationships among other-than-human-beings teach us about adaptation in the wake of climate transformation? Writers may include Robin Kimmerer, William Cronon, Camille Dungy, Lauret Savoy, Ruth Ozeki, Ray Gonzalez, Annie Dillard, William Bartram, Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, Langston Hughes, Cheryl Savageau, and Leslie Marmon Silko. Field trips will include the Quabbin Reservoir, Shutesbury State Forest, and Beaver Pond Conservation Area/Leverett Meadow, as well as the Amherst College Sanctuary. Three hours of lecture and two hours of field trips each week.

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Brooks.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2022, Spring 2025

357 Race and Relationality

(Offered as ENGL 357 and BLST 365 [US]) When we say “race relations,” we are using a phrase drawn from early twentieth-century American sociology, a phrase that conjures up a scenario in which already-existing racial groups are separated by prejudice and misunderstanding. As many sociologists and historians have argued, we need a new paradigm, one that implies neither that race is a primordial reality nor that racism is merely an information problem. In this course, we will be using histories of the race-concept and theories emerging from the “relational turn” in psychoanalysis to explore the interplay of race and relationality in American literature written between the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The aim of this necessarily experimental course is to see what happens if we combine a historically informed understanding of the race-concept with a psychoanalytically informed understanding of relationality and bring both of those understandings to bear on works like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, William Wells Brown’s Clotel, Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. All of the varieties of American racial identification will be part of our discussions but the focus will be on the literary evocations of white-black conjunctions.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Sanborn.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2019

358 Readings in English and American Fiction, 1950–2010

Novels and short fiction, mainly comic, by such writers as Evelyn Waugh, Saul Bellow, Flannery O’Connor, Vladimir Nabokov, Elizabeth Taylor, Kingsley Amis, John Updike, Philip Roth, Nicholson Baker, Ian McEwan, Jonathan Franzen, Barbara Pym. The effort will be to refine and complicate one’s performance as a critic of these writers and their books.

Omitted 2012-21. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2012, Fall 2015, Spring 2019

362 Wright-Ellison-Baldwin

(See BLST 346)

366 Asian-American Writing Across/Between Genres

In Jenny Boully’s essay, “On the EEO Genre Sheet,” she writes, “I am sometimes called a poet, sometimes an essayist, sometimes a lyric essayist, sometimes a prose poet. My second book was published under the guise of fiction/poetry/essay. I find these categorizations odd: I’ve never felt anything but whole.” In this course we will read works by contemporary Asian-American authors that defy and/or exceed genre expectations and examine these texts’ relationship to wholeness and hybridity. How can we read experimental writing as a politically subversive act? How can we read as a politically subversive act? This is not an introductory course on “Asian-American literature,” but a course that will interrogate the term “Asian-American,” both as a marker of identity and of literary genre. Readings may include works by Mary-Kim Arnold, Jenny Boully, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Lily Hoang, Vi Khi Nao, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and Ocean Vuong.

This is a discussion-based course that will require your weekly synchronous attendance, as well as asynchronous group and individual work. Also, though this is an online course, I am open to the possibility of creating in-person opportunities for students on campus, especially as the semester progresses.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

368 Bad Black Women

(See SWAG 329)

370 Witch Hunt! Magic and Belief in Renaissance Literature

[Before 1800] What was magic in the early modern world? Why did it cause a crisis in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How did that crisis shape the literature of its time? We will follow competing ideas about magic as they ran like wildfire through the imagination of artists, playwrights, and preachers from medieval Germany through Renaissance England to Puritan Massachusetts. We will ask how magic in its apparently beneficial forms, such as alchemy and astrology, might relate to the supposedly malevolent practices of witchcraft, which yielded notorious trials and brutal executions on both sides of the Atlantic. Why did cultures balanced between religion and science become obsessed with magic? How did the fear and wonder that it evoked find its way into art? And what can literary figures of witches and sorcerers still tell us about our modern fantasies of self-empowerment and the counter-threat of demonic possession?

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Bosman.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2022

372 Reading the Romance

(See SWAG 365)

373 A Decade Under the Influence: US Film of the 1970s

(Offered as ENGL 373 and FAMS 353) US film in the 1970s was evident of tremendous aesthetic and economic innovation. Rife with but not limited to conspiracy, disaster, love and war, 1970s popular films range from the counter-cultural to the commercial, the independent to the industrial. Thus, while American cinema of the first half of the decade is known as the work of groundbreaking independent “auteurs,” the second half of the decade witnessed an industrial transformation through the emergence of the giant blockbuster hit. With a focus on cultural and historical factors shaping filmmaking and film-going practices and with close attention to film form, this course will explore thematic threads, directors, stars, and genres that emerged and developed during the decade. While the course will largely focus on mainstream film, we will set this work in some relation to other movements of the era: blaxploitation, comic parodies, documentary, and New American Cinema. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Hastie.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Spring 2017, Spring 2019

375 Victorian Sensations, or, When Old Media Were New

(Offered as ENGL 375 and FAMS 317) Ghosts, vampires, madwomen, and typists: what do these figures have in common? In this course, we will investigate the characters and events that made the Victorian period the age of sensation, from the rise of popular fiction and the illustrated newspaper to the introduction of new methods for viewing and experiencing the world on a global scale. The course will focus on nineteenth-century Britain, exploring the ways in which Victorian fiction, poetry, and print and visual media give voice to the period’s obsession with sensory experience. We will read Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, a tale of deception, mistaken identity and madness, alongside works by Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Sheridan Le Fanu, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Bram Stoker, among others. Historians of “old” media–including telegraphy, photography, and early cinema–will assist us in exploring new technologies for communication in the nineteenth century, while media archaeologists and theorists of ephemerality, memory, and the archive will deepen our understanding of the relationship between past and present media cultures. Three formal essays will be required: a literary close reading (3-4 pages); a critical explication of a scholarly article (4-5 pages); and a final research project (a 10-12 page paper or a digital humanities project of similar length and scope).

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

376 Disability Media

(Offered as ENGL 376 and FAMS 355) Moving image and audiovisual media frequently assume a fully able subject despite the infinite variety of our embodied capacities and debilitations. This course will explore how this assumption has shaped the design, narrative forms, audiovisual poetics, exhibition contexts, and modes of spectatorship and engagement of a range of media forms, from cinema to digital interfaces. We will examine how critical, experimental, and therapeutic approaches to media, the uses of media by people with disabilities, and media made in collaboration with disabled makers and protagonists enable us to fundamentally rethink what media can be and do. Readings will draw from disability studies and film and media studies as well as philosophy, science and technology studies, performance studies, sound studies, and other areas. Topics may include: disability tropes and rehabilitation narratives in film and TV; prostheses and “assistive” technologies; subtitles, captions, and the politics of accessibility; inclusive product and interface design; staring as spectatorial mode; sound art and polymodal listening. 

Prior coursework in ENGL or FAMS is recommended but not required. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Rangan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

377 The Documentary Impulse

(Offered as ENGL 377 and FAMS 383) Documentary is one of the fastest-growing areas of media production today, enjoying unprecedented commercial success in theaters, on television, and online streaming services. What drives the urgent desire to represent reality? Where did this impulse originate, and how do documentarians continue to channel it today? This course focuses on the innovative forms and ethical dilemmas that have resulted from the pursuit of reality. We look at different approaches to documentary (ethnographic, personal, observational, interactive, essayistic, activist) and emerging forms such as fake news, true crime podcasts, mockumentaries, web-docs, and documentary art. Our discussions consider the shifting boundaries of the documentary genre, the unique ethical and political considerations involved in making documentaries, and the impact of technological and socio-cultural changes on historical trends in documentary.

Open to students with no prior film classes. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Rangan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

380 Television Detection

(Offered as ENGL 380 and FAMS 313) What defines “television” today? And how have shifts in programming, platforms, and viewing habits altered how we see it? In order to explore these questions, this course will focus on television’s representation of detection and its work as an investigative medium itself. Thus, our focus on detection will play a dual role: as an inquiry into the development of a genre and as a metaphor for television’s own peculiar form. In order to develop our own investigatory practice, then, we will begin with historical examples of television detectives. Looking at series from the 1950s through the present day, the first part of the course will delineate the investigative habits of episodic programming. The course will then turn to three case studies of contemporary short-form serials that showcase the investigative form and, indeed, the powers of detection of television as a medium. Each of these cases–Rectify, When They See Us, and Unbelievable–focus on the processes of investigation of criminal and legal systems and of American culture. By thinking through narrative form, representational systems, authorship, exhibition, and reception habits, we will attempt to define not just what television is but also what it can be.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Hastie.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2023

381 Cinema and Everyday Life

(Offered as ENGL 381 and FAMS 351) Film theorist Siegfried Kracauer declared that some of the first films showed “life at its least controllable and most unconscious moments, a jumble of transient, forever dissolving patterns accessible only to the camera.” This course will explore the ways contemporary narrative films aesthetically represent everyday life–capturing both its transience and our everyday ruminations. We will further consider the ways we incorporate film into our everyday lives through various modes of viewings (the arthouse, the multiplex, the DVD, the mp3), our means of perception, and in the kinds of souvenirs we keep. We will look at films by Chantal Akerman, Robert Altman, Marleen Gorris, Hirokazu Koreeda, Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsay, Tsai Ming-liang, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-wai, and Andy Warhol. Readings will include work by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Marlene Dietrich, Sigmund Freud, and various works in film and media studies. Three hours of lectures and three hours of film screening per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Hastie.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2020

386 Andy Warhol, Filmmaker

(Offered as ENGL 386 and FAMS 359) This course examines the expansive body of films created by Andy Warhol between 1963 and the mid-1970s and considers the privileged place that cinema occupied in his artistic practice during this period. In addition to viewing key examples of the films that Warhol directed and produced (such as Kiss, The Chelsea Girls, and Flesh for Frankenstein), we will read a wide range of critical writings about Warhol from the disciplines of film studies, art history, cultural studies, and critical theory, while also sampling Warhol’s own literary output (POPism, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, etc.). Through weekly screenings and seminar discussions, we will work to contextualize Warhol’s films within broader cultural developments of the 1960s, and to assess the aesthetic, theoretical, and political parameters of his engagement with the filmic medium. Please note: attendance at course screenings is required.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Guilford.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018

391 Literature of Everyday Life

This is a class all about the art of noticing. Our primary texts fixate on what Amit Chaudhuri calls “the moment of noticing”: heightened attention to the (seemingly) small, the ordinary, the routine. Many readings will be “day-in-the-life” novels set over a 24-hour period; others dwell on single moments, fleeting impressions, or routine rhythms of daily life.

We will discuss questions such as: What formal and stylistic strategies do writers employ to capture everyday life? What happens to narrative conventions of plot and the event when writers are more interested in the textures, rhythms, and background environments of everyday life? How does the ordinary become extraordinary? How does one narrate history in the making, as it unfolds in everyday life? How are major historical events and political structures felt over the course of a typical day? Is it a privilege to think about the everyday as either boring or beautiful? Does it even make sense to talk about “everyday literature” when experiences of daily life are so diverse and varied?

This class will pair novels and short stories with select critical readings from affect theory, urban studies, modernist studies, cultural studies, and ecocriticism. Possible authors include James Baldwin, Amit Chaudhuri, Anton Chekhov, Christopher Isherwood, James Joyce, Kathleen Stewart, Madeleine Thien, and Virginia Woolf.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Abramson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2022

392 The Performance of Politics

When someone says that a politician is being “theatrical” or that a protestor is following a “script,” it is rarely meant as a compliment‒but why? The implication is that true politics is never theatrical, never scripted, never performed, never entangled with spectacle. Put so baldly, this claim is pretty hard to believe. If, instead, we take for granted that all politics is performed, we are left with several unanswered questions. What would an eye trained on performance (theater, dance, film, comedy, spoken word, etc.) see in our politics that someone else would not? Are there distinct performance traditions in politics, as there are in the performing arts? How do activists and office-holders enter these traditions, learn their ways, and apply them in everyday settings? How are citizens expected (or trained) to engage with this performance of politics‒either as spectators or co-performers? What are the key genres of political performance, and what should every citizen know about them? This class will teach you to see these as researchable questions‒and as part of an ongoing scholarly conversation in fields ranging from performance studies, art history, and media studies to sociology, anthropology, political theory, and history. Through reading and discussion, students will learn to think in interdisciplinary terms about politics, making connections across fields and methodologies. They will also study representations of political action and debate in film, television, and theater in order to uncover whatever lessons performing artists can teach us about contemporary political life.

This year, the course will be offered as an intensive four-week course in January. Our goal will be to apply these ideas to recent events (i.e., the 2020 election) and ongoing spectacles (e.g., the presidential inauguration on January 20th). We will do so first in small-group discussions, familiarizing ourselves with relevant theories and bodies of knowledge. Then, we will collaborate on creating a website (or other medium TBD) conveying that knowledge to others.

Limited to 30 students. January. Professor Grobe.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022

395 Literature and the Nonhuman World

Like every other aspect of human culture, literature interacts with biology–with, in Elizabeth Grosz’s words, “a system of (physical, chemical, organic) differences that engenders historical, social, cultural, and sexual differences.” The aim of this course is to make that fact as intellectually fruitful as possible. What happens to our understanding of literature if we think of it as an expression of life? What happens, that is, if we think of literature as one of the countless things that emerges from a non-personal, non-teleological process of evolution? And what happens if we think of individual works of literature as potential ways of getting closer, conceptually and sensually, to life, to the difference-making process within which we all find ourselves? Readings will include Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop. A background in the natural sciences is welcome but not necessary.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Sanborn.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2020

416 In the Archives of Childhood: Adventures in Book History

(Offered as ENGL 416 and AMST 367) Children’s books have always been part toy. The odd duality of all books–simultaneously object and text, commodity and meaning–is particularly evident in books made for children. Think how much more varied in the shape and size of volumes, the font and layout of print, the style and quantity of illustration are books intended for children compared to books for adults. Sites of innovation and experimentation in book production, children’s literature provides an excellent ground for studying book history. So too, book history provides a good gauge of shifts in cultural attitudes towards childhood. This course is interested in tracing both the history of childhood and the history of books, and what each can tell us about the other.

The course will provide an extraordinary opportunity for original archival research in the world’s finest collection of early American children’s literature. Half of the course meetings will be held at the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, Massachusetts, granting students access to one of America’s premier research libraries and enabling students to work directly with the rare materials housed there and with the society’s knowledgeable curators and librarians. This research will culminate in a substantial independent project.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. This course meets for 180 minutes. On days when the class meets at the American Antiquarian Society students should expect to leave Amherst at 1 p.m. and return by 6:30 p.m. Omitted 2020-21. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2019

418 Computing Fiction: Books in a Digital Age

What happens to books in the digital age? How do digital books and electronic literatures draw on earlier book forms and material practices? What do books feel like when they are on the Internet? From the first printed text to the digital age and beyond, this course will consider the changing shapes, goals, and aims of books: beginning with the earliest books produced with moveable type and ending with experimental electronic literature and material bookmaking practices, we will consider the intertwined histories of reading, books, and the technologies used to make them. This course will include original research. Students will have the opportunity to design their own final project. Examples from previous semesters include: writing a program in Python; designing and creating a hand-printed book; and developing an interactive narrative story.

No previous experience with computers or programming is expected or required. We will make virtual visits to the Frost Library Special Collections.

One class session per week will be held synchronously; other activities will be completed asynchronously.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

426 Writing the Novella

An advanced writing workshop devoted to the reading and writing of novellas. We will study such novellas as Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Jane Smiley’s The Age of Grief, and Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day, in order to get a sense of the parameters and scope of this in-between form. Students will write up to ten pages per week with the aim of composing and revising a work of 70-80 pages by the end of the semester.

Requisite: ENGL 226, Fiction Writing I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 10 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Frank.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2024

431 Transnational Shakespeares

[Before 1800] By studying selected Shakespeare plays and their afterlives in literature and performance, we will explore the fate of culture over centuries of global mobility. What qualities of Shakespeare’s works render them peculiarly adaptable to a world of intercultural conflict, borrowing and fusion? And what light does the translation and adaptation of Shakespeare shed on the dialectic of cultural persistence and change? Our examples may include European literature and theater; American silent film and musicals; post-colonial appropriations in India, Africa and Latin America; and versions in the drama, opera and cinema of China and Japan. The course includes an independent research project on a chosen case study.

Requisite: ENGL 238, Shakespeare. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Bosman.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2018

432 Shakespeare: Media, Technology, and Performance

[Before 1800] In 1623, what we now call Shakespeare’s First Folio was printed. As a printed book, it represented an object made with some of that culture’s very latest media technology, namely the printing press. Shakespeare’s plays depict technologies: characters use compasses and astronomical charts, for example. His plays were also staged using technology: set design included pyrotechnics, costuming, and the other necessities of putting on a good show. This course will ask, how did Shakespeare’s plays both represent technology in fiction and require it in performance? In order to investigate Early Modern technologies of performance, we will read selections from Shakespearean plays and poems, as well as Renaissance treatises on science and technology.

Of course, technology plays a large role in modern productions. Whether through discussing the advent of electric lights in playhouses, to film adaptations and high-budget productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, to digital editions of the plays, to experimental augmented reality interfaces, we will critically engage with the technologies of Shakespearean performance in the past, present, and even future. As a final project, students will complete a multimedia project on a chosen play, combining historical research with digital, creative, and experimental practices.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

435 The Play of Ideas

(Offered as ENGL 435 and THDA 335) We don’t just think, speak, or write our ideas; we perform them, too. Think TED Talks. Think political movements. Think 400-level seminars in English. In this course, you will read plays that are fueled by an argument and arguments that look an awful lot like plays. Readings will range from ancient philosophical dialogues to modern “plays of ideas”–from essays on pedagogy to works of social theory. As the semester wears on, you will begin to research your own angle on our central theme: Ideas performed. Your final project will be a mock prospectus, in which you imagine this “angle” turning into a thesis project–creative, critical, or a mixture of the two.

Previous experience with drama or performance theory might help, but is hardly required for enrollment. As a matter of fact, this course works best when students from a wide range of majors enroll. The reading load isn’t heavy, but expectations are high that you will turn up to class prepared to engage in an active discussion. I mean, would you show up to a performance not knowing your lines, or fail to speak when you heard your cue? I didn’t think so. See you there.

As a small, advanced seminar, this course will proceed mainly through synchronous small-group discussions of shared texts, videos, and images. Students will also take part in synchronous workshops (during regular course meeting times) on research skills, oral presentations, and the craft of proposing a thesis. Those not proposing a thesis–or who are already writing one–will have the choice to work instead on collaborative final projects in lieu of submitting a mock prospectus.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2021

441 Medieval and Renaissance Lyric

(Offered as ENGL 441 and EUST 374) [Before 1800] In this course, we read a selection of English and other European lyrics (in translation) from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries. An exciting, fertile era in poetic innovation, these centuries see the dawn of the first romantic love poetry in these languages, the invention of new forms like the sonnet, and the invention of the lyric “anthology.” Reading the lyrics of the French troubadour poets, Chaucer, Petrarch, Wyatt, Donne, Shakespeare, and the many brilliant anonymous poets of medieval England, we will examine both the text and contexts of these short poems. Close readings will be put in dialogue with cultural contexts (such as the volatile court of Henry VIII, in which Thomas Wyatt wrote), and the material contexts of the lyrics (the medieval and early modern manuscripts and books in which they first appeared). We will further think about how the term “lyric” emerges as a privileged poetic category, by reading contemporary “defenses” of poetry and thinking about why the word “lyric” only appears in the sixteenth century. Does the “lyric” poem change once it is defined? How do later works speak to the earlier tradition?

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Nelson.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

444 Emily Dickinson

“Experience is the Angled Road / Preferred against the Mind / By–Paradox–the Mind itself–” Emily Dickinson explained in one poem and in this course we will make use of the resources of the town of Amherst to play experience and mind off each other in our efforts to come to terms with her elusive poetry. The course will meet in the Dickinson Homestead, visit the Evergreens (her brother Austen’s house, and a veritable time capsule), make use of Dickinson manuscripts in the Amherst College archives, and set her work in the context of other nineteenth-century writers such as Helen Hunt Jackson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Jacobs. But as we explore how Dickinson’s poetry responds to her world we will also ask how it can speak to our present. One major project of the course will be to develop exhibits and activities for the Homestead that will help visitors engage with her poems.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2018, January 2021

445 British Romantic Poetry: Nature and the Imagination

Can reading poetry change our understanding of our environment? How might the way we perceive nature be conditioned by the ways in which writers have imagined it? In turn, how might the way we perceive our own imaginations be conditioned by ideas about the natural world? Although “nature” might seem like a universal and unchanging concept, British Romantic writers did much to invent our modern ideas about it. Notions of perception, cognition, and the imagination changed alongside our ideas about nature. We will debate what impact this history has had on current environmental discourse, contemporary ethics, and the Green movement. Some critics have argued, for instance, that the Romantics’ reverence for nature is more destructive than it might at first seem. Might it be more environmentally responsible to get rid of the Romantic concept of “nature” altogether? This course gives students a thorough grounding in Romantic Poetry, the philosophy of aesthetics, and literary theory, while also giving them a chance to follow their own research interests in a final project.

The majority of this course will revolve around online discussion in various formats, though there will be opportunities for visits to museums and archives in smaller groups. Since research and individual projects will be a central feature of this class, students will receive individual attention and feedback on their work. Students will also have a chance to engage with scholars working in this area.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Worsley.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

448 The Body in Peril—An Exploration of Tragedy through Poetic Form

Writing is the landscape through which poets explore the human body. The fluidity of a text often mirrors our relationship to memory–the recollection of the sensory discovering harmony with the fluidity of a poem’s language and syntax. But what happens when a disruption in one’s fundamental experience of being alters the ways in which we experience the world?

In spaces of distress, poetry often makes courageous leaps in formal reinvention. As opposed to dwelling heavily on the subject of physical disruption, this course will examine ways contemporary writers have discovered, or reimagined, prosody as a way to explore the human experience through vulnerability and authenticity. The course will include close-readings of four to six collections of poetry, some creative writing, and discussions on mindfulness practices–all culminating in a critical/personal essay exploring a selected poem of your choice.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Writer-in-Residence Lawson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

449 Avant-Garde Poetry

Avant-garde poetry resists definition. In this course, we will explore poetry that defies convention, be it formal (exploding the poetic verse line), material (appearing outside of the conventional venues of the published, mass-produced book), or linguistic (using everyday language rather than poetic diction). We will read widely from a range of twentieth- and twenty-first century poets as well as important nineteenth-century forebears. The course will center on the movements and schools of avant-garde poetry in the Anglo-American tradition, such as modernism (T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein); the Harlem Renaissance (Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson); the Beat Poets (Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder); the New York School (Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan); the Black Arts poets (Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni); the Language Poets (Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein); and contemporary poets (Nathaniel Mackey, Alice Notley). We will also look at artists’ books, broadsides, and other poetry that makes interesting use of the conventional materials and layout of poetry and poetic books. We will ask, how do these poets and movements challenge the aesthetic and poetic conventions of their time(s)? How do they expand or challenge the boundaries of poetic forms and subjects? What opportunities and constraints do avant-garde approaches offer to poets of color and/or women poets?

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Nelson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2024

453 The Value of Literature

Why, Rita Felski asks, are people “willing to drive five hundred miles to hear a band playing a certain song, or spend years in graduate school puzzling over a single novel?” Concepts like “cultural capital,” “the hegemonic media industry,” or “interpretive communities” do not fully explain “why it is this particular tune that plays over and over in our heads, why it is Virginia Woolf alone who becomes an object of obsession.” Something else has to be involved, a “rogue something,” in the words of Toni Morrison’s narrator in Jazz, that you “have to figure in before you can figure it out.” In this seminar, students will first explore the phenomenon of aesthetic valuation, then turn to a consideration of when, why, and for whom literary experiences are valuable, and finally embark on independent research projects in which each of them studies a single author in depth and experiments with ways of articulating (in a class presentation and in a final essay) the kinds of value that that author may be said to have.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Sanborn.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

458 Indigenous American Epics

(Offered as ENGL 458 and AMST 358) [Before 1800] This course will delve deeply into Indigenous literatures of “Turtle Island,” or North America. The Kiché Maya Popol Wuj (Council Book), the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Great Law of Peace, the Wabanaki creation cycle, and Salish Coyote Stories are rooted in longstanding, complex oral narratives of emergence and transformation, which were recorded by Indigenous authors and scribes. These texts will enable us to consider how the temporal and spatial boundaries of America are both defined and extended by colonization, and disrupted by Indigenous texts and decolonial theory. We will close read these major epics as works of classical literature, narratives of tribal history, and living political constitutions, which embed ecological and cultural adaptation.

Reading each long text (in English translation) over several weeks, we will study the tribally and regionally-specific contexts of each epic narrative as well as the “intellectual trade routes” that link them together. We will also consider the place of these epics within American literature and history and their contributions to historical and contemporary decolonization. We will discuss the ways in which the narratives challenge conceptual boundaries, considering categories such as land/place, gender, sexuality, and other-than-human beings.

Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Brooks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021

470 Decolonial Love

In this upper-level course, we will read literary and theoretical texts that, although loosely grouped in terms of period, geography, and style, are all driven by the same set of questions: Is decolonial love possible? What does it look and feel like? We will read scholars and writers who describe the ways that imperialism, capitalism, racism, and heteropatriarchy structure conventional ways of loving, caring, and forming social bonds, as well as conventional ways of telling stories and writing novels. And we will follow these writers as they imagine alternatives to these conventional structures, asking how we might alter the aspects of ourselves and our worlds that seem as fundamental and as intractable as our aesthetics, our desires, our very pleasures. As a class, we will build transportable definitions of colonialism, anticolonialism, and decoloniality from the texts we study and the contexts in which they were written and that they reflect. We will investigate the power of these analytic categories to interrogate aspects of personal as well as geopolitical experience, particularly aspects of experience that we have sometimes mistakenly believed to be without historical or sociological determinants. Possible texts include: Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks; Moraga and Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back; Stevenson, Life Beside Itself; Muñoz, Cruising Utopia; Lorde, “The Uses of the Erotic”; Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun; Cisneros, The House on Mango Street; Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs; Cole, Open City; Sollett, Raising Victor Vargas; Lee, BlacKkKlansman; Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Mireles Christoff.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

471 Time, Memory, and Ghosts in Post-Dictatorial Narratives

Giorgio Agamben writes in Remnants of Auschwitz that “trauma is thus an event that has no beginning, no ending, no before, no during, and no after.” In this seminar, we will study texts from different genres–poetry, fiction, and memoir–that attempt to narrativize the timeless, ubiquitous, and haunted event that is a military dictatorship. How do these texts undertake the task of remembering or reimagining the past? How do they fill the gap between memory and history, between testimony and literature, and between past and present? What does or can literature do with a legacy of violence and oppression? Readings may include works by Argentinian-Mexican visual artist and novelist Verónica Gerber Bicecci, the Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, the Padaung (Burmese) memoirist Pascal Khoo Thwe, and the Ghanaian-born novelist Ayesha Harruna Attah.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Writer Myint.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2014

472 African Literature and Social Media

(See BLST 412)

473 Hybrid Forms

The non-traditional texts of writers like Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Alison Bechdel have garnered great success that has introduced new audiences to the world of hybrid forms. Through close reading and a study of works at the apex of literary deconstruction, we will erase the lines drawn between poetry and prose, image and memoir, percentage graph and fiction and will embark on an expedition through contemporary hybrid texts, asking what dictates how we define genre.

Completion of this course will include a collaborative oral presentation guiding the reading of one of the semester’s assigned texts and a final critical research project presented in a hybrid form that breaks the boundaries of expected academia. Use of hybridity in the construction of all class assignments (short essays, personal responses, reflections, etc.) will be strongly encouraged.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Writer-in-Residence Lawson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Fall 2021

475 Deep Time: Memory, Media, and Ecological Imagination in the Americas

(Offered as ENGL 475 and FAMS 471) This is a course about the kinds of knowledge held by different material spaces, and the kinds of racialized and gendered experiences of memory made available by a given space. It is also a course about media, and how experiences of identity are made more possible or impossible by media forms. What, like the earth, might a medium hold? Why do so many scholars and artists want us to think about the earth itself as a recording device? What does that analogy reveal about conceptions of the environment and of technology? As an engagement with scholarship at the intersection of literary, ethnic, and ecological media studies, this course will offer a variety of opportunities to conceptualize different kinds of recording. With such concerns in mind, we will look specifically at texts that ask us to understand both media and ecological materialities through three foundational North American and Caribbean experiences–enslavement, migration, and displacement. Artists and scholars we will look at this semester include Bessie Smith, Ellen Gallagher, Ana Mendieta, Joy Kogawa, Jamaica Kincaid, Linda Hogan, Edwidge Danticat, Octavia Butler, and Toni Morrison. Over the course of the semester students will also be asked to integrate their investigations into media with their own forays into literary and cultural analysis.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Parham.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022

477 The Confession: Theory and Practice

(Offered as ENGL 477 and FAMS 455) Confession is arguably central to expressions of postmodern selfhood. It informs the evidentiary logic of our civil apparatuses (legal, medical, humanitarian) and infuses the fabric of our diplomatic, intimate, and public relations. Indeed, we might say that the confession is the preeminent practice through which we understand the “truth” of our selves. This course investigates the relationship between speech, truth, and power through the many meanings and itineraries of the confession. We will focus on various institutions that have shaped confessional regimes of truth (such as the Catholic confessional, psychoanalysis, and torture), as well as the role of media forms (from autobiographical literature to true crime documentary and reality television) in consolidating and challenging these regimes. Assignments include in-class presentation, a midterm essay, and a final research essay.

Requisite: Prior coursework in ENGL or FAMS strongly recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Rangan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2019, Fall 2022

479 Problems in Documentary

(Offered as ENGL 479, FAMS 479, and ARHA 479) The filmmaker John Grierson broadly defined documentary as “the creative treatment of actuality.” How then, do documentary filmmakers responsibly balance the creative license of fiction with a respect for facts and material realities? Similarly, how do we as viewers agree upon a set of terms or rules for judging the success of a documentary film? “Problems in Documentary” explores the complications of the documentary form, which is neither fictional invention nor factual reproduction. This course will involve both creative and critical practice. It is designed for students with prior experience in both studying and making audiovisual media.

Students will read, watch, and discuss material that considers key problems in documentary filmmaking (negotiating power and textual authority; intervening in versus observing events; representing traumatic events; obtaining consent; recreating the past; representing social actors; finding the right form for a subject; filming and editing ethically; navigating institutional protocols) before developing a series of individual documentary video assignments. Subsequent discussions and critique, both in-class and in writing, will focus on evaluating these projects in terms of how they respond to the challenges raised by documentary critics and makers encountered in class.

Requisites: A 200-level Foundations in Critical Media Studies course (“Coming to Terms: Cinema,” “Coming to Terms: Media,” “Knowing Cinema,” “Knowing Television,” or “Introduction to Film Theory”) and an introductory film/video production course. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professors Levine and Rangan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019

480 The Film Essay

(Offered as ENGL 480 and FAMS 423) The “essay” derives its meaning from the original French essayer: to try or attempt. In its attempts to work through and experiment with new ideas, the essay form becomes a manifestation of observation, experience, and transformation. Originally developed through the written form, the essay has also taken shape in visual work–photographic, installation, and, of course, cinematic. The “essay film” is exploratory, digressive, subjective; the “video essay” is similarly personal and simultaneously transformative. The “film essay” has the capacity to be all of these things, though in the past few decades this form has become arguably schematic. Working against the conventions of the “academic” or college essay and inspired by visual experimentation, this course will explore film through a variety of manifestations of the written essay. After all, since film comes in multiple forms and offers multiple experiences, it demands multiple possibilities of rhetorical exploration.

The models for writing in this course will come from both visual and written works. Course readings will be collected from a range of historical periods and will run a gamut of approaches to film: theoretical and experiential, critical and poetic, autobiographical and historical. Class screenings will similarly come from a variety of historical eras, genres, and national spaces. Because writing assignments will often explore the cultural experience of the movies, we will visit a variety of screening venues, including a film festival, “archival” and repertory houses, art cinemas, and commercial theaters. Though it will include some lectures to contextualize readings, this course will primarily be discussion-oriented, with attentive writing workshops. Thus experimenting with method and form, students will produce weekly writings, two extended essays, and a collaboratively-produced project.

Requisite: a 200-level foundations course in ENGL or FAMS. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Hastie.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Fall 2021, Fall 2024

481 Conversations with Experimental Filmmakers

(Offered as ENGL 481, ARHA 481, and FAMS 481) Experimental film is a vital area of contemporary media culture where artists engage the moving image from a wide range of creative approaches, exploring film as an aesthetic, poetic, or political medium, rather than a commercial enterprise. By departing from the conventions of mainstream film, experimental filmmakers present their audience with a stimulating challenge, asking viewers to develop new critical frameworks through which to assess films that often resist classification and traditional interpretive approaches.

In this seminar, students will take up this challenge by exploring different ways of entering into conversation with the work of experimental filmmakers. Through weekly screenings, in-class visits by contemporary filmmakers, and group discussions of course readings (such as artists’ writings, interviews, and related theoretical material), we will develop critical and creative vocabularies that help us to analyze and respond to an array of experimental films and videos. Along with completing writing assignments and in-class presentations, students will plan and execute a final project that can assume a number of critical or creative forms, such as an interview with a filmmaker, a short video, or an analytical essay.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in FAMS, ARHA, or ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Guilford.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2019

484 “It was the ’70s”: US Film, History, and the Cultural Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 484 and FAMS 424) Sometimes referred to as the “silver era” of US film production, the 1970s were a period of aesthetic, technological, and cultural transformation. New “auteurs” emerged as both mavericks and commercial success stories. Independence reigned supreme for some, while others helped to usher in the contemporary blockbuster. At the same time, scholarly study of film was steadily increasing, experimenting with new disciplinary methods, waging debates, and often distancing itself from popular critical writings. All told, such narratives of the era have meant that the 1970s looms large in our cultural imagination of film production. This course will trace film history to consider how narratives of the era have been written and how, in recent years, they have been written anew.

The first half of the course will explore several canonical works, while the second half of the course will consider films that have been recently excavated and/or remade. By intermixing popular critical writings (including reviews, interviews, and essays), academic writings of the era, and recent historical studies, we will consider historical and historiographical methods of film studies scholarship. Moreover, in our discussion of newly excavated or historically underrepresented cases–including works directed by women, examples of Blaxploitation cinema, and independent drama–we will explore how canons are both designed and remade, functioning as emblems of the time of their own critical production. Students will work with primary archival materials along with contemporaneous critical or theoretical models in order to develop their own historical narratives of 1970s film.

Requisite: Prior FAMS coursework or, alternatively, prior 200-level courses in ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2023

485 The City in Literature and Early Film

(Offered as ENGL 485 and FAMS 438) This course examines the role of the city in shaping modern experience. We will study literary works by Charles Baudelaire, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and Virginia Woolf alongside a number of early films, reading these texts against historical and critical discussions of everyday life in the urban environment. Among other themes, we will take up the debate over “flanerie” as a spatial and social practice, investigating the class and gender dynamics of urban and cinematic spectatorship. Our conversations will be shaped by an awareness of the city as a geographically locatable space to be mapped and traversed, but also as a site for imaginary projections of individual and collective experience. In addition to a short creative assignment, two formal essays are required: a midterm paper (5-7 pages) involving close textual analysis of a primary source; and a final research paper (12-15 pages), with a draft to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop.

This course will run primarily online, with periodic small-group meetings for students who are in residence on campus and parallel small-group meetings for remote students. The additional evening time slot will provide opportunities for students to screen films and engage in structured small-group discussion synchronously, whether remotely or in person. There may be additional opportunities for in-person meetings (including office hours) as the semester progresses.

Requisite: A 200-level foundations course in English or equivalent. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

490 Special Topics

Independent reading courses.

Fall and spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023

491 The Creole Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 491, BLST 461 [CLA], and LLAS 461) What would it mean to write in the language in which we dream? A language that we can hear, but cannot (yet) see? Is it possible to conceive a language outside the socio-symbolic order? And can one language subvert the codes and values of another? Questions like these have animated the creolité/nation language debate among Caribbean intellectuals since the mid-1970s, producing some of the most significant francophone and anglophone writing of the twentieth century. This course reads across philosophy, cultural theory, politics, and literature in order to consider the claims such works make for the Creole imagination. We will engage the theoretical and creative work of Édouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat. We also will consider how these writers transform some of the fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, and critical historiography. At stake in our readings will be the various aesthetic and political aspects of postcolonial struggle–how to think outside the colonial architecture of language; how to contest and subvert what remains from history’s violence; and how to evaluate the claims to authenticity of creolized New World cultural forms.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Cobham-Sander.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2023

494 Globe and Planet in Contemporary Literature

What does it mean to talk about literature as “global”? How do writers engage the idea of the globe politically, aesthetically, and environmentally?

This is a class about problems of scale and scope. We will consider how contemporary writers represent phenomena that cross national borders: particular attention will be paid to climate change, migration and immigration, the idea of the “global city,” war and terrorism, and the living legacies of colonialism, slavery, and diaspora. What are the formal and ethical challenges of thinking on a global scale? When thinking globally, how can we preserve awareness of local and historical differences? What are literary theorists saying about these questions today? Our readings will pair late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century fiction with critical and theoretical work drawn from ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, and so-called new global modernisms. This class will also emphasize the process and skills involved in upper-level literary analysis and research: we will experiment with a range of strategies for note-taking, making sense of dense texts, framing research questions, and finding openings and opportunities to engage in ongoing critical debates and conversations.

Possible authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Mohsin Hamid, Jamaica Kincaid, Arundhati Roy, and W. G. Sebald.

While this class will default to an online (mostly synchronous) format, there will be on-campus opportunities, including but not limited to office hours; it is also possible that on-campus group meetings might become more possible and frequent as the semester progresses or if the class turns out to be composed entirely of on-campus learners. But students should be clear that the online format is the default we will begin with.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Abramson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Fall 2021

495 Modernism, Trauma, and Theories of Violence

This course puts modernist formal innovation in conversation with theories of violence and trauma. We will examine the complex intersection between shattering historical violence and modernist formal and aesthetic techniques, including fragmentation, impressionism, collage, empty centers, rupture, abstraction, and multiperspectivalism. We will pay particular attention to what happens when language and literary form run up against the unspeakable, the unimaginable, the blank, the empty.

Critical readings will be drawn from a range of theoretical works on violence and trauma (postcolonialism, psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, and affect theory). These textual pairings will provide a case study for how close reading can be enriched by theoretical and historical scaffolding. We will focus on the ways that war and violence overspill boundaries–beyond the battlefield, beyond the moment of impact, beyond what is visible, beyond national borders, beyond the signing of peace treaties. We will consider violence done to individual bodies and minds, as well as the ways that the shocks of world wars reverberate historically and around the globe. How do modernist texts blur lines between front-lines/home front, victim/perpetrator, and civilian/combatant?

Possible authors include Edmund Blunden, Cathy Caruth, Sigmund Freud, Frantz Fanon, Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, W. G. Sebald, and Virginia Woolf.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Abramson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

496 Literary and Critical Theory

This course introduces students to the basic concepts and methods of literary and critical theory, a body of work that explores and critiques modern assumptions about truth, culture, power, language, representation, subject-formation, and identity. Surveying a wide range of authors and approaches (postcolonial, gender studies and queer theory, critical race theory, psychoanalytic, etc.), students will grapple with complex theoretical texts, consider the place of theory in literary studies and in film, media, and cultural studies as well, and begin to imagine ways of putting theoretical ideas to work for themselves.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Bosman.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

497 Critical Thesis-Writing Workshop

This is a non-required course for English majors who are currently working on a critical (i.e., not creative writing) thesis project. It is meant to offer guidance and a sense of scholarly community to these students as they embark on what can feel like a formidable (and often lonely) process. In this course, we will discuss and analyze examples of the thesis form. We will analyze and practice some of the many subgenres theses contain (e.g., the introduction, the literature review, the methodological statement, and various ways of incorporating the voices of other critics, historians, or theorists). We will also read a representative range of recent criticism in the field, discussing critical methods, rhetorical tactics, and writerly voices employed in that work. And we will discuss issues peculiar to the task of planning, researching, and writing a long critical thesis. Most important, as in an advanced creative writing workshop, this course offers students the chance to present and critique work-in-progress with a group of their peers.

Please note: This course does not replace ENGL-498, the Senior Tutorial, which covers students’ independent work under the tutelage of a thesis advisor.

A major goal of this course is to foster mutual care and support among English Department thesis writers. With that in mind, the main mode of instruction for this course will be synchronous small-group discussion–sometimes about shared readings, sometimes about other students’ writing, and sometimes about the writing process itself. Guided writing in class will play a key role in making the writing process available for discussion. Additionally, students will meet one-on-one (or in small groups) with the professor to discuss their own thesis progress. Finally, students will have the opportunity to take part in structured co-writing sessions outside of class.

Open to juniors and seniors. Preference given to English majors currently writing a critical thesis. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Grobe.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2021

498, 498D, 499 Senior Tutorial

Students intending to continue independent work begun in ENGL 498 are required to submit a five-page prospectus describing in detail the shape of the intended project along with a substantial writing sample from the work completed in ENGL 498. Students beginning a new project who wish to apply for ENGL 499 must submit a five-page description and rationale for the proposed independent study. Those who propose projects in fiction, verse, playwriting, or autobiography must submit a substantial sample of work in the appropriate mode; students wishing to undertake critical projects must include a tentative bibliography with their proposal. Please consult the English Department website for deadlines and for more information on the senior honors process.

Preregistration is not allowed. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

111 The Language of Movement

An introduction to movement as a language and to dance and performance composition. Students will explore and expand their individual movement vocabularies by working improvisationally with weight, posture, gesture, patterns, rhythm, space, and relationship of body parts. We will ask what these vocabularies might communicate about emotion, thought, physical structures, cultural/social traditions, and aesthetic preferences. In addition, we will use observations of movement in our everyday situations and environments, as well as from staged and filmed events, as inspiration for individual and group compositions. Selected readings and viewing of video and films will be included to give students a broad overview of dance and movement practices and tools with which to observe and analyze movement.  

Attention will be drawn to issues of race, class, gender and culture in looking at diverse languages of movement. Two two-hour class meetings and additional peer rehearsal meetings as needed. 

This course will be conducted in a hybrid format.  We will work in site-specific locations, including live sessions on campus with students who are in residence, supported by appropriate technology for remote interactions as needed.  Online-only participation will be available for those students who are not in residence.

Limited to 20 students. Six seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Professors Woodson and Riegel.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

112 Visual Thinking: Materials of Performance

An introduction to methods of visual research and visual creativity for textual, narrative, and performance interpretation. The course is conducted in a format combining discussions, creative play, student presentations, and collaborative critique. Class discussions and readings include the theoretical basis of a range of historical theatrical conventions, from Aristotle through Robert Wilson. Class exercises in perception and analysis build skills culminating in the realization of three-dimensional and story-boarding projects. In addition to two two-hour class meetings per week, students participate in the equivalent of a two-hour per week laboratory experience coordinated with the department’s production season.

This course will be conducted in a hybrid format, with both in-person and on-line components as needed, supported by appropriate technology. Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.

Limited to 12 students per section. Spring semester. Professor Dougan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

113 Action and Character

A first college-level course in the fundamentals of acting, with an emphasis on the connections between dramatic action and character. Students learn how to analyze dramatic texts and bring them to life through a collaborative process, and by using body, voice and imagination.  Classwork includes regular exercises designed to develop acting craft. Homework includes memorization, regular rehearsals and relevant reading, alongside practical research and short writing in various modes. Assignments progress toward realizing performed scenes. Two two-hour class meetings per week.

In 2021, the class format may be altered to provide for physical distancing protocols, combining online instruction with in-person interactions.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Bashford. 

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

114 Contemporary Performance: Case Studies

This course will focus on case studies of selected works and artists of contemporary performance over the last century as a means of placing the creation and practice of theater and dance in context. We will closely consider these case studies as reflective of important aesthetic traditions and experiments in contemporary performance. In addition, we will seek connections between the different case study examples and the social, cultural and political environments that fostered them. We will reflect on issues of race, gender, identity, political activism, individual expression and differing collaborative structures in our encounters with these case studies. We will also look to historical precedents and sources that inform our understanding of artistic innovations and processes. Required of Theater and Dance majors.

This foundation course in the history/theory of performance is open to all students. Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2020-2021.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

115H Contemporary Dance: Modern 1/2

The study and practice of contemporary movement vocabularies, including regional dance forms, contact improvisation and various modern dance techniques. Objectives include the intellectual and physical introduction to this discipline as well as increased body awareness, alignment, flexibility, coordination, strength, musical phrasing and the expressive potential of movement. The course material is presented at the beginning/intermediate level. A half course. Because the specific genres and techniques will vary from semester to semester, the course may be repeated for credit.

Omitted 2020-2021.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018

117H Contemporary Dance Technique: Intermediate

This intermediate-level dance technique course is designed for students with previous movement experience who wish to deepen their work as dance artists through the continued development of physical and performance-related skills in Contemporary Dance. Infusing somatic inquiry and improvisational exploration alongside building-specific alignment/coordination connections in movement organization, this course is an ongoing experiment with a vast terrain of practices that energize and attune ourselves, both individually and together, to the interconnected wholeness of our moving form and being. We transcribe this physical research into the embodiment of increasingly complex and dynamic movement phrases, eventually dancing this material within expansive performance propositions and scores. Our intention is to practice moving with clarity, freedom, adaptability, and artistry, excavating a personal presence and unique movement expression in the moment of performance.

The course will likely be conducted in a combination of formats: online, and through in-person interaction whenever possible. Options for remote learning will be integrated into the course for those students unable to participate in person.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Riegel. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

118H Contemporary Dance Technique: The Influence of Black Artists

This online, intermediate-level dance technique course will highlight the influences of Black artists on American contemporary dance forms. Co-taught by Five College Dance faculty, including Molly Christie González (UMass), Aston McCullough (UMass) and Jenna Riegel (Amherst College), this course will give students the opportunity to learn from and engage with faculty from other campuses and assimilate various forms of contemporary dance including Katherine Dunham technique and philosophies, jazz techniques, and the choreographies and techniques of the Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Company. Our physical practice will be enhanced with visits from guest artists, readings and viewings. This course is designed for students with previous movement experience. 

Instruction in this course will take place online, supported by appropriate technology. However, collaborative work may take place in a variety of formats, online and in-person, as possible.

Limited to 20 students. Fall Semester. Professor Riegel.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

121H Contemporary Dance Technique: Modern 2/3

The study and practice of contemporary movement vocabularies, including regional dance forms, contact improvisation and various modern dance techniques. Objectives include the intellectual and physical introduction to this discipline as well as increased body awareness, alignment, flexibility, coordination, strength, musical phrasing and the expressive potential of movement. The course material is presented at the beginning/intermediate level. A half course. Because the specific genres and techniques will vary from semester to semester, the course may be repeated for credit.

Omitted 2020-2021.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Spring 2019

142H Contemporary Dance Techniques: West African

The study and practice of contemporary movement vocabularies, including regional dance forms, contact improvisation and various modern dance techniques. Because the specific genres and techniques will vary from semester to semester, the course may be repeated for credit. Objectives include the intellectual and physical introduction to this discipline as well as increased body awareness, alignment, flexibility, coordination, strength, musical phrasing and the expressive potential of movement. The course material is presented at the beginning/intermediate level.

Spring semester. Visiting Instructor Osayande.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021

144H Contemporary Dance Technique: Salsa Performance and Culture

This class introduces students to beginner-level salsa technique. We will explore the New York Mambo style of salsa, the Caracas street style, as well as elements of the Cuban Casino style. Students will master variations of the salsa basic step, turns, connecting steps, and arm work. Although we will mostly focus on solo practice, we will learn some essential concepts of partnering work based on the principles of leading and following. Toward the end of the semester, students will be able to use the acquired salsa vocabulary as the basis for improvising and choreographing combinations.

Through the study of salsa’s history, political dimensions, lyrical content, and matrilineal legacy, students will develop an understanding of this artistic expression not only as a dance form or musical genre, but also as a unifying voice of resistance and liberation for Caribbean and Latino cultures. Students will be able to recognize the voices of some of the most iconic Salsa artists and appreciate the contributions of some of the most important female Cuban and Cuban-American performers. We will investigate the legacy of Celia Cruz, paying close attention to the design and performance elements that defined her as The Queen of Salsa. Class discussions and brief writing assignments will serve as opportunities to reflect upon readings, documentaries and other information that will expand our understanding of the form.

Instruction in this course will take place online, supported by appropriate technology. Collaborative work may take place in other formats, online and in-person, if possible. A half course. Visiting Lecturer Miguel Castillo Le Maitre.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

154 Re-Imagining the Classics

(Offered as THDA 154 and CLAS 154) How can we look back to classic plays that were written one or two millennia ago and use them as the basis for a new piece of art that will be relevant and inspiring to a contemporary audience?

This course will explore how artists from various media—theater, film, TV, dance, music, painting—have interpreted and re-authored classical texts. We will discuss western classics as well as canonical texts from Japan, India, Africa and Latin America.

Are there any shared fundamental human elements among these very different continents and cultures? What made these texts enter the eternal dramatic canon of our civilization? Why are artists from various disciplines constantly attracted to re-authoring these classics? How can we build upon these works of the past to create something new, personal and relevant to our time?

This course will examine these questions using a variety of audio-visual examples, dramatic and critical texts, and studio exercises. Students will also re-author a classical text as a contemporary piece, in various artistic media.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Eliraz.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2017

155 Introduction to Dance Studies: What is Performance?

(Offered as THDA 155, BLST 144, and SWAG 155) In this introductory course we will look at dance performance as reflective of culture, gender, race and politics. Class sessions will incorporate viewings of recorded performances and in-depth discussions; attendance at live performances will also be part of the course. Selected readings in gender, critical race and queer theories (among others) will be assigned and used to develop a critical understanding of the relationship between bodies and performance, both on and off stage. Selected readings for this course include Judith Butler, Brenda Dixon Gottschild, and Jose Esteban Munoz, among others. Selected choreographers include Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham, Faye Driscoll, William Forsythe, and Martha Graham.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2020-2021.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Fall 2018

209 Contemporary Dance Technique and Repertory 3/4

This course will include studio sessions in contemporary modern/jazz dance technique at the intermediate level and rehearsal sessions to create original choreography; the completed piece(s) will be presented in concert at the end of the semester. The emphasis in the course will be to increase expressive range, technical skills and performance versatility of the dancer through the practice, creation and performance of technique and choreography. In addition, the course will include required readings, the viewing of dance videos and live performances to give an increased understanding of the historical and contemporary context for the work. 

Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2020-2021. Assistant Professor Riegel. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2020

213 The Actor's Process

The actors bring characters to life, through text, physicality and voice. Using their own bodies, they transform the words from a play’s pages in order to become another live being onstage. This art requires not only technique, but more importantly, an original and personal interpretation of the text, its characters, and their actions.

One of the goals of this course is to nourish each actor’s capacity for personal and original interpretation, or what might be called the elusive “artist’s voice". Another goal is developing independent skills to rehearse a scene. Working toward these goals, we will work in a lab environment, rehearsing scenes and monologues from various playwright’s scripts. We will employ physical and analytical tools, which will enrich the actor's palette of skills, foster their artist’s voice and advance their way of rehearsing a play. The class meets three times per week for two hours.

Requisite: THDA 111, THDA 113, or a prior course in acting at the college level, or by consent of the instructor. Limited to 16 students.Omitted 2020-2021. Assistant Professor Eliraz.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019

216H Contemporary Dance Technique: Intermediate/Advanced

The study and practice of contemporary movement vocabularies, including regional dance forms, contact improvisation and various modern dance techniques. Objectives include the intellectual and physical investigations of this discipline as well as increased body awareness, alignment, flexibility, coordination, strength, musical phrasing and the expressive potential of movement. The course material is presented at the intermediate/advanced level. Because the specific genres and techniques will vary from semester to semester, the course may be repeated for credit.

The course will likely be conducted in a combination of formats: online, and through in-person interaction whenever possible. Options for remote learning will be integrated into the course for those students unable to participate in person. 

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Riegel. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

217H Contemporary Dance Techniques: Modern/Ballet 4

The study and practice of contemporary movement vocabularies, including regional dance forms, contact improvisation and various modern dance techniques. Objectives include the intellectual and physical introduction to this discipline as well as increased body awareness, alignment, flexibility, coordination, strength, musical phrasing and the expressive potential of movement. The course material is presented at the intermediate/advanced level. A half course. Because the specific genres and techniques will vary from semester to semester, the course may be repeated for credit.

Requisite: Ballet 1/2 or Ballet 2/3. Omitted 2020-2021.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2018

218H Contemporary Dance: Repertory Project

In this course, we will engage in a collaborative, creative process to generate an original choreographic work. We will utilize both embodied and traditional scholarly research to inform and support the emergence of our collective creation and locate our work within a broader historical and cultural context. Students will have the opportunity to increase their expressive range, technical skills, and versatility as performers while also deepening their understanding of shared artistic processes. The course experience will culminate in a presentation of our work either in concert or in digital form at the end of the semester.

The course will likely be conducted in a combination of formats: online, and through in-person interaction whenever possible. Options for remote learning will be integrated into the course for those students unable to participate in person. 

Limited to 18 students. Spring Semester. Professor Riegel.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

219H Contemporary Dance Tecnique: Partnering

In an atmosphere of curiosity, warmth and constructive risk-taking, this course investigates the dynamic possibilities of the moving relationships of our dancing bodies. We will practice and develop deep kinesthetic sensitivity and listening as we explore both an intellectual and embodied understanding of contemporary dance partnering basics such as weight sharing, momentum, counterbalance, force, fulcrums, tone and resistance. Directing our attention to cause and effect, our experimentation with different choices will guide our learning process. Skills to build trust and open communication, pillars of healthy dance partnering practices, are folded into every class. A half course. Because the specific techniques will vary each semester, the course may be repeated for credit.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2020-2021. Assistant Professor Jenna Riegel.

220 History of Opera

(See MUSI 220)

222 Adventures in Contemporary Drama: A Play is what I call a Play

How has the theater text changed to accommodate new performance practices? What can be called a “play” today? In this course, we will explore contemporary theater texts from around the world. By reading plays from authors such as Samuel Beckett, Heiner Muller, Caryl Churchill, Young Jean Lee, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Meng Jinghui, among others, we will learn to adopt a “dramaturgical lens” to approach theater and text for performance. Suitable for aspiring professionals in all roles in theater, as well as theater lovers in general, this course also includes practical creative exercises in dramaturgy. Open to first-year students.

Omitted 2020-2021.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2019

225H The Craft of Speaking II: Spoken Expression

In this second course in the craft of speaking, students learn to shape and speak text to powerful effect. Students build on prior work to extend vocal range and capacity while learning component principles of spoken expression. Articulation, inflection, methods of contrast and interpretation, tone, verbal imaging and aural structures of poetry and rhetoric are practiced in a studio setting. Emphasis is placed on personal engagement and presence to others while speaking. Assignments in text scoring and memorization support class work. The course culminates in presentations of prepared texts. Two class meetings per week.

Requisite: THDA 125H. Omitted 2020-2021. Professor Bashford.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

230 Elements of Performance: Perception and Analysis

When we experience a performance, we synthesize a rich array of sensations and information at once, and through time.  Yet, artists employ a variety of different means to create their work, building it bit by bit.  This course explores various elements that practioners use in the making of theater and dance, with an emphasis on the role perception plays in audience experience of meaning and feeling.  Elements of performance will include basic “building blocks” of audience perception (temporal, spatial, visual, aural), leading to consideration of more complex tools and conventions, such as ritual, language, movement, music, design, and performing techniques.  This class will study larger formal conventions used in the structure of whole performances as they reflect artists' possible intentions.

Students will develop analytical skills in the interpretation of multi-layered performance works, and in doing so, extend their own artistic possibilities and appreciation as audience members. In particular, we will investigate how artists build performances to challenge audiences and their society.  Activities include reading and viewing, discussion, targeted writing assignments, and creative exercises to develop experiential understanding. 

We will encounter influential theorists and artists (performers, playwrights, directors, choreographers, designers, etc.), including women, queer artists, and artists of color.  Authors and artists under consideration for this course include Aristotle, Stanislavsky, Grotowski, Beckett, Pinter, Churchill, Brook, Kushner, Bausch, Cunningham, Ailey, Bogart, Bill T. Jones, Lehman, Jawole Zollar, and Anna Deavere Smith, among others.  Guest Theater and Dance faculty will join class discussions as related to their areas of expertise.  Two class meetings per week, with additional collaborative time outside of class required for some creative exercises.

Open to first-year students.  Fall semester. Professor Bashford.

Instruction for this course will take place online, supported by appropriate technology.  However, collaborative work may take place in a variety of formats, online and in-person.  Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

232 Collaboration in Theater

Theater making is a collaborative process, in which all participants contribute to the creation of the theatrical event. A good collaboration in theater brings together the personal voice of each and every collaborator and requires participants to listen and give room to all other voices during the creative process. This course encourages diversity of interests among the students: writing, researching, acting, designing and directing. It will offer various tools and approaches towards collaboration in theater, as being practiced by contemporary groups like The Wooster Group, Tectonic Theater Project, Kneehigh Theater and Anne Bogart.

The course will have a few “steps” in collaboration: we will start with simple and short pieces, in pairs or small groups. Halfway through the semester we will start devising a theater piece that everyone will work on. We will begin to see written drafts and rough drawings and models, and work our way through rehearsals towards a realized production. We will present the piece in front of an audience at the end of the semester.

Class will meet twice a week for two hours. In addition, 4-6 hours per week of rehearsals and/or reading and research are expected outside of class times. Previous experience in theater is welcomed but is not required. First-year students are encouraged to enroll, as well as students with past experience.

Limited to 20 students. Five seats reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2020-2021. Professor Eliraz.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2019

235 Critical Moves: Performance, Politics and Activist Bodies

Athletes taking a knee, bodies marching in the street, dance movements that go viral… How can Dance Studies and Performance Studies help us understand the urgency of movement in our current moment? At the same time, how does dance challenge normative conceptualizations of history and politics? Exploring embodied politics in global perspective, this course works from the framework of “Critical Moves” proposed by late dance theorist Randy Martin: “Critical moves. Steps we must take. Movement that informs critical consciousness.” The interrelationship between theory and practice are emphasized through reading, writing, movement exercises and creative workshops. Students will be expected to regularly read, write, create and move; view and discuss performances; pursue a final research project through embodied, visual, and text-based methods; and work on a collective performance intervention that will take place on campus toward the end of the semester. No dance or performance experience necessary; students should bring an openness to engage with embodied practice and a bodily perspective.

Omitted 2020-2021.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2023

236 Dissecting the Music Video: Dance, Image, and Representation

This dance history course locates the intersections between dance, music, film, and identity politics by analyzing the cultural phenomenon of the American “music video” from the early 1980s to now. By considering American dance history from 1900 to the present, alongside film analysis work, students will gain an introductory understanding of how the moving body on screen intersects with identity politics related to race, class, sex, sexuality, and gender. Students will explore the course topic through readings on dance, music, film, and critical theory; in-class film viewings of music videos, dance for camera, and other visual media; in-class discussions dissecting critical theory for analysis purposes; and written analysis of film and video.

Omitted 2020-2021.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

240 Contemporary Fashion in a Historical Perspective

(Offered as THDA 240 and SWAG 249) Using a seminar format, this course will ask students to choose a topic and explore the relationship between culture and clothing in historical context, addressing issues of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality and their connection to the aesthetics of self-expression. In addition, students will develop their own contemporary fashion ideas and participate in labs, conducted by Emily Hoem, professional cutter draper for the Theater and Dance Department, who will teach the necessary technical skills needed to fabricate a garment.

This course will be conducted in a hybrid format, with both in-person and on-line components as needed, supported by appropriate technology. Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.

Limited to 10 students. Fall semester. Professor Dougan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2024

242 Plays in Play: The Ensemble and the Playwright

In this course, students conduct rehearsal investigations into the work of a particular playwright, and explore ways in which coordinated action renders dramatic writing in theatrical form. In addition to examining selected plays and background material, students will develop ensemble techniques of play, improvisation, and staging.  Emphasis is placed on the communicative means required to develop a shared vision, and to particular acting and directing techniques relevant to the work of the selected playwright.  This course is open to students interested in any aspect of play production, but all students should expect to act, co-direct, conduct research, and explore basic visual design implications together. The course will culminate in a workshop-style performance; group rehearsals outside of class meeting times are required.  The playwright for fall 2020 is Molière.

Requisite: A prior college-level course in theater or permission of the instructor. Open to first-year students with permission. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-2021. Professor Bashford. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016

245 Performance and Race

How do artists invent, reinvent, reinforce, or challenge racial identities through performance? Can race and racism be thought of as performance? What can citizen-performers do to construct a broader and more equitable social narrative? In this course, we will explore key concepts in performance and race studies, and consider them alongside intersecting identities, such as gender, sexuality, class, and disability. We will examine the work of modern and contemporary theater and dance artists of color, such as Suzan-Lori Parks, Larissa Fasthorse, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bill T. Jones, Eiko & Koma, Ananya Chatterjea, Miguel Gutierrez, and Ni’ja Whitson, through a lens of racially-defined aesthetics. We will also inquire into the ethics of art-making processes by encountering a variety of perspectives and practices shared by guest artists. In addition to reading, writing and discussion, this course will include creative practices to support the embodied understanding of course concepts. 

This course will be conducted primarily in person, supported by appropriate technology. Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.

Spring Semester. Professors Carneiro and Riegel.
2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2022

249 Partner Dancing (Intermediate Composition)

In an atmosphere of curiosity, warmth and constructive risk-taking, this course investigates the dynamic possibilities of the moving relationships of our dancing bodies. We practice and develop deep kinesthetic sensitivity and listening as we explore both an intellectual and embodied understanding of contemporary partnering basics such as weight sharing, momentum, counterbalance, force, fulcrums, tone and resistance. Directing our attention to cause and effect, our experimentation with different choices guides our learning. Skills to build trust and open communication, pillars of healthy partnering practices, are folded into our classes. We discuss and embrace the intersections and influences of our personal identities, cultural backgrounds, compositional habits, and aesthetic sensibilities on our movement making. The creation of unique duet or ensemble dances through inventive and improvisational processes culminate in a public showing. Selected readings and viewings of partnering practices utilized across different cultures and performance groups and the ensuing discussions supplement our physical practice.

Requisite: A previous movement course or consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2020-21. Professor Riegel.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2019

252 Performance In (and Out of) Place

(Offered as THDA 352, ARHA 252, FAMS 342 and MUSI 352) This course is designed for students in dance, theater, film/video, art, music and creative writing who want to explore the challenges and potentials in creating performances and events outside of traditional "frames" or venues (e.g., the theater, the gallery, the concert halls, the lecture hall, the page). In the first part of the semester we will experiment with different techniques for working together and for developing responses to different spaces. We will conduct a series of informal performance actions in numerous sites that are available to us, working with different media according to student interest and experience.  A special emphasis will be placed on considering issues of access when we make choices about where and how to perform and create work.  How can we encourage inclusive events that foster interaction and response with communities both near and far? What are possible relationships between art and community? How can we integrate important social and cultural issues into our art making?  How might we collaborate with and make work for sites we are distanced from?  What are crucial limitations to consider in creating site specific events, and how do we allow these limitations to inspire?  The semester will culminate in a series of public final projects developed throughout the semester for online and live viewing.

This course will be conducted in a hybrid format.  We will work in site-specific locations, including live sessions on and off campus with students who are in residence, supported by appropriate technology for remote interactions as needed.  Online-only participation will be available for those students who are not in residence.

Requisite: Previous experience in improvisation and/or composition in dance, theater, performance, film/video, music/sound, installation, creative writing, and/or design is required. Limited to 8 students. Spring semester. Professor Wendy Woodson and Resident Lighting Designer Kathy Couch.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2023

254 Sound Design

(Offered as THDA 254, FAMS 332 and MUSI 254) What is the role of sound in live performance, and how is it designed and produced? This course provides an introduction to the fundamentals of sound design in live performance contexts from both technical and artistic perspectives. Throughout the term we will work towards developing skills that lead to a greater awareness and understanding of sound in theatre, media, and our everyday lives. Students will explore the fundamentals of audio production and acoustics through a series of short projects, covering a range of topics from foley art, to digital field recording, to various digital sound-editing software applications, to live sound reinforcement principles.

Special consideration will be given to software environments and applications (QLab, Ableton Live, Borderlands, Max Msp) dedicated to live playback and design of acoustic spaces, and we will examine strategies for developing an efficient, real-world approach to the technical rehearsal process. Throughout the course, we will consider the creative and technical toolkit needed for imagining sound design opportunities in various script, video, dance, art installation and performance-oriented collaborations.

Recommended requisite: One prior practice-of-arts course in theater and dance, music or studio art, or equivalent experience. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2020-2021. Visiting Lecturer Meginsky.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2023

255 Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations

(Offered as THDA 255, ENGL 223, and MUSI 255) This studio course is designed as an interactive laboratory for dancers, composers, actors, writers/poets, vocalists, and sound artists to work together to create meaningful interactions between sound, movement, and text. Working individually and in collaborative groups, students will create original material in the various media and experiment with multiple ways to craft interesting exchanges and dialogues between word, sound, and movement or to create hybrid forms. The emphasis in the course will be to work with exercises and structures that engender deep listening, looking, and imagining. Some of the questions that inform the course include: How do music, voices, electronic, digital, and natural sounds create a sonic world for live performance and vice versa? How can movement inform the writing of text and vice-versa? How can we successfully communicate and collaborate across and between the different languages of sounds, words, and movement? We will have a series of informal studio performances, events, and installations throughout the semester with a culminating final showing/listening at the end of the semester.

Requisite: Previous experience in composition in one or more of the central media, or consent of the instructors. Limited to 16 students. Omitted 2020-2021. Professor Woodson and Visiting Lecturer Meginsky.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

256 Performance of Identity in the College Classroom

(See SWAG 256)

260 Costume Design and Fashion History

An introduction to the analytical methods and skills necessary for the creation of costumes for theater and dance with emphasis on the integration of costume with other visual elements. This course will study western costume history and will include lab work in costume construction.

Requisite: THDA 112 or consent of the instructor.  Limited to 8 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Dougan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2021

261 Lighting Design

An introduction to the theory and techniques of lighting for performance, with emphasis on the aesthetic, historical, cultural, and practical aspects of the art form. Students' practice of the techniques will be grounded in the deepening of understanding the way light acts upon the body and, thus, shapes our perceptions, our meaning-making, and our lived experiences. 

For Fall 2020, the THDA 261: Lighting Design and THDA 263: Scene Design classes will also work together to explore the intersections between the two disciplines. Students are also likely to collaborate on projects with students in THDA 353: Performance Studio.

The course will likely be conducted in a combination of formats, both online and through in-person interaction. Options for an entirely remote experience will be integrated into the course for those students unable to return to campus. 

Requisite: THDA 112 or consent of the instructor.  Lab work in lighting technology.  Fall semester. Resident Lighting Designer Couch.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

263 Scene Design

The materials, techniques and concepts which underlie the design and creation of the theatrical environment.

In Fall 2020, students will collaborate with THDA 261: Lighting Design to explore the interactions between the two forms.

This course will be conducted in a hybrid format, with both in-person and on-line components as needed, supported by appropriate technology. Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person. 

Requisite: THDA 112 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 8 students, with priority given to majors. Non-majors need consent from instructor. Fall semester. Professor Dougan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2020, Fall 2020

266, 267 Ensemble: Dancing in Community

This advanced studio course is designed for students who want to develop their skills as dance/theater artists by participating in the creation of a student dance company that is viable and sustainable in a liberal arts environment. Students enrolled in this course will be part of an ensemble and perform regularly in different sites in the Five College Community. In addition to the ongoing practice of technique, class times will focus on learning and creating different repertory with the instructor of the course, guest artists and the students who are enrolled in the course.

In addition, we will examine different professional dance company models as inspiration in the formation of the ensemble as well as research diverse examples for community engagement and the arts. Questions that will inform the work include: What does it mean to be part of a performing ensemble in a liberal arts setting? How do performance art making and community intersect? What are potential structures for organizing an ensemble performance company to ensure flexibility as well as sustainability? What are some of the challenges in keeping a collaborative body together and viable Three two-hour meetings per week plus lab TBA.

Requisite: Previous performance experience in dance/theater. Limited to 10 students. Admission with consent of the instructor after audition. Omitted 2020-21. 

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023, Fall 2024

270 Playwriting I

(Offered as THDA 270 and ENGL 222) This course explores key aspects of writing for the theater in a workshop style, from a transcultural perspective. Through writing exercises, analysis of scenes, feedback sessions, and the rewriting of materials produced, participants will experience the creative process and start developing their own voice as playwrights.

This course will be conducted primarily in person, supported by appropriate technology. Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

272 On The Edge: Writing for Performance

(Offered as THDA 272 and ENGL 323) This course is an exploration of writing for performance using interdisciplinary and experimental approaches. By exposing students to contemporary manifestations of performance across cultures – including those by Rodrigo Garcia, Rimini Protokoll, Romeo Castelluci, Robert Lepage, Carolina Vivas, and Gebing Tian – this course will lead to a new understanding of the art and practice of writing for the theater. In dialogue with other artforms such as literature, music, dance, and cinema, as well as performance theory, we will creatively explore dynamics involving words, bodies, spaces, objects, and media. Through imagining, devising, writing, and performing exercises, participants will develop their own original pieces that will be showcased as works-in-progress at the end of the semester.

This course will be conducted primarily in person, supported by appropriate technology. Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person. 

Limited to 18 students. Spring Semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

275 Her Story Is: Feminist Approaches to Theater and Performance

(Offered as THDA 275, ENGL 325 and SWAG 275) Western text-based theatre has historically hushed the voices of women and those from marginalized communities. This course will focus on examples of such voices, paying special attention to artists, writers, and thinkers who challenge and deconstruct aesthetics that privilege the male gaze. In dialogue with feminist theories of gender and identity, we will read plays and study works by women and gender non-conforming artists, such as Hildegard von Bingen, Juana Ines de la Cruz, Susan Glaspell, Adrienne Kennedy, Marina Abramovich, and Taylor Mac. Finally, we will also inquire into new forms of gender-inspired “artivism,” such as The Kilroy’s, the Guerilla girls, Pussy Riot, and the #MeToo movement in theatres around the world. During this course, students are expected to pursue an individual writing or performance project that will further explore the concepts discussed. For this purpose, we will study the Theater of the Oppressed methodology as applied by contemporary Latinx feminist theater-makers.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Artist Carneiro. 

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

320 Seminar on Opera, Operetta, and Musical

(See MUSI 420)

335 The Play of Ideas

(See ENGL 435)

348 Moving Elsewhere: Performance, Poetry and Psychoanalysis

This course will focus on interrelationships between poetry, performance and psychoanalysis to explore the concept of ‘elsewhere.’ Physicists think of the elsewhere as the area in space-time that is outside of our present but enters into it after lag, much as the unconscious is held outside of consciousness but may slip through at any moment. The elsewhere represents a space of possibility, a creative wellspring, which the artist can tap into in order to imagine other worlds and dimensions for belonging.

The course will be taught with assistance from visiting guest artist, poet and psychoanalyst Nuar Alsadir, and is an advanced seminar specifically for student poets and performance makers in dance, theater and video. Students should have experience in writing or performance but not necessarily in both media; however, all students will need to be interested in experimenting with the different media and in the creative process. Studio sessions will involve tapping into the unconscious through writing and embodied, free-associative improvisational exercises in order to strengthen access to the ‘elsewhere.’  We will work with different poetic texts to inspire performance experiments and vice versa, while also considering research examples of successful interactions between poetry and performance. After a series of different experiments, students will create final projects to be presented at the end of the semester.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2020-2021. Professor Woodson. 

2023-24: Not offered

353 Performance Studio

(Offered as THDA 353 and FAMS 345) This is an advanced course in making performance in dance, theater, video and/or hybrid forms. Each student will create, rehearse and produce an original performance piece in his/her/their preferred medium. Due to Covid 19 restrictions, these pieces will be shared on digital platforms as ongoing works in progress (with students in the class) and as final projects with a wider audience at the end of the semester. Different strategies, tools and philosophies will be given and explored with an emphasis on taking creative advantage of found spaces and available resources. Improvisational and interactive structures and approaches among and within media will be investigated.  

Instruction in this course will take place online, supported by appropriate technology. However, collaborative work may take place in a variety of formats, online and in-person.

Two ninety-minute class sessions per week and rehearsal/production sessions as required.   

Requisite: An intermediate departmental course in performance-making and consent of the instructor. Limited to 8 students. Spring semester. Professor Woodson.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

354 Sound Design Studio

(Offered as THDA 354, FAMS 354 and MUSI 354) Building on the concepts learned in THDA 254/MUSI 254, this studio course further develops the student’s work in sound design through an intensive focus on hands-on practice. Students will participate as sound designers in the Amherst Theater & Dance production program, the Five-College production program, and in other collaborative sound design and compositional opportunities with filmmakers, visual artists, installation artists, game designers, and podcasters. Throughout the term, students will expand and deepen their relationship to the toolkit introduced in Sound Design I, while we examine strategies for developing an efficient, real-world approach to the creative and technical rehearsal processes in various modes of live performance and art making. Limited to twelve students.

Requisite: THDA 254/MUSI 254 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2020-21. Visiting Lecturer Meginsky.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

355 Solo Performance: Movement, Text, Sound, Video 

In this studio course, we will explore different skills and approaches towards creating solo performance. We will examine examples of historical and contemporary solo performances in theater, dance, video, music, radio plays, street, stand up and in political/social arenas to inform and ask what makes these effective (or not). We will use what we learn from these examples to inspire our own solo material. We will also develop additional techniques (through improvisational trial and error) that enliven and engage our different voices, stories, imaginations and emotions. An emphasis will be placed on exploring and crafting dynamic relationships within and between different media and modes of expression in order to create confident and compelling solo presentations for live and virtual arenas. We will consider the solo as both a personal vehicle of expression and as a means of giving voice to experiences of others. In the process of making compositional choices, we will consider the personal and social implications of these choices. The semester will culminate in public performances of final solos.

This course will be conducted in a hybrid format, with both in-person and on-line components as needed, supported by appropriate technology.  Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.

Requisite: Previous experience in performance and/or video--whether in the arts or public presentations in other disciplines/contexts. Open to juniors and seniors. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 10 students. Spring semester. Professor Woodson.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

360 Design Studio I

An advanced course in the arts of theatrical design. Primary focus is on the communication of design ideas and concepts with other theater artists. Also considered is the process by which developing theatrical ideas and images are realized. Students will undertake specific projects in scenic, costume and/or lighting design and execute them in the context of the Department’s production program or in other approved circumstances. Examples of possible assignments include designing workshop productions, and assisting faculty and staff designers with major responsibilities in full-scale production. In all cases, detailed analysis of the text and responsible collaboration will provide the basis of the working method. 

This course will be conducted in a hybrid format, with both in-person and on-line components as needed, supported by appropriate technology.  Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.

Requisite: THDA 260, 261, 263 or consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Dougan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020

363 Design Studio II

This course is a continuation of THDA 360, an advanced course in the arts of theatrical design. Primary focus is on the communication of design ideas and concepts with other theater artists. Also considered is the process by which developing theatrical ideas and images are realized. Students will undertake specific projects in scenic, costume and/or lighting design and execute them in the context of the department’s production program or in other approved circumstances. Students in this course will design for a full-scale production. In all cases, detailed analysis of the text and responsible collaboration will provide the basis of the working method. 

This course will be conducted in a hybrid format, with both in-person and on-line components as needed, supported by appropriate technology.  Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.

Requisite: THDA 363 or consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Dougan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020

370 Playwriting Studio

(Offered as THDA 370 and ENGL 322) A workshop for writers who want to complete a full-length play or series of shorter plays. Emphasis will be on bringing a script to a level at which it is ready for the stage. The majority of class time will be devoted to reading and commenting on developing works-in-progress.  In addition, we will also hone playwriting skills through class exercises, and study exemplary plays by established writers as a means of exploring a range of dramatic vocabularies.

This course will be conducted primarily in person, supported by appropriate technology. Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person. 

Requisite: THDA 270, 272, or the equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

400H Production Studio

A course in integrating previously studied skills, while developing collaborative and leadership roles in the making of Theater and Dance works, within the Department’s producing structure.  With permission, enrolled student will accept a specific assignment within a departmental production team. A half course.

Admission with consent of the Chair. Not open to first-year students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Bashford.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

For Honors candidates in Theater and Dance.

Open only to senior Theater and Dance majors. Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2024

Arts of Theater & Dance Courses

125H The Craft of Speaking I: Vocal Freedom

A beginning studio course in the development of voice for speaking. Students develop range and tone through regular physical exercises in relaxation, breathing technique, placement, and presence. Individual attention focuses on helping each student develop the physical, mental, and emotional self-awareness needed for expressive vocal production. Practice is oriented toward acting for the stage, but students with a primary interest in public speaking, teaching, or improved interpersonal communication will find this course valuable. A modicum of reading and written reflection is required. Three class meetings per week. A half course.

Limited to 28 students. Six spaces reserved for first-year students. Omitted 2020-2021. Professor Bashford.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

Studio Courses

122H Contemporary Dance Technique: Hip Hop

This course is designed to focus on the movement aspect of hip hop culture. Dance in the tradition of B-Boys and B-girls while learning a wide variety of hip hop movement. From the old school "bronx" style to commercial hip hop, learn a wide range of hip-hop vocabulary in a course emphasizing group choreography, floor work, and partner work. No previous dance experience is necessary. Class will incorporate funk, street, b-boy/b-girl, and house elements to stretch and tone the body. Class will include across the floor and center combinations which will ask the dancers to find their relationship to musicality, athleticism, dynamics, and articulation of the body.

This course will be conducted in a hybrid format, with both in-person and on-line components as needed, supported by appropriate technology. Options for online-only participation will be available for those students unable to participate in person.

Fall semester. Lecturer Johnson.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

340 Acting and Directing Studio

This is a studio course in collaboration leading to completed theatrical creations. Students produce a portfolio of short projects, using published text or through rehearsal devising. Readings, writing, and class discussion are devoted to the shared practices of acting and directing, and to individual problems and approaches. Topics include the articulation of artistic vision, advanced textual analysis, and the use of space, sound and light. Studio exercises are employed to support relevant techniques. In addition, applicable organizational and research methods will be employed. When possible, students may collaborate with others enrolled in a related course in design. Two class meetings per week. Students should expect to schedule a significant amount of rehearsal time outside of class meetings for the successful completion of projects.

In Spring 2021, remote instruction will be combined with in-person interactions and the use of video, streaming, and other technology as appropriate to the needs of physical distancing and artistic goals.  

Requisite: One 100-level THDA course, and an appropriate intermediate, 200-level course in THDA, or equivalent college-level experience with consent of the instructor. Spring Semester. Professor Bashford.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

Related Courses

FYSE-106 Language Crossing and Living in Translation (Course not offered this year.)FYSE-126 Polemical Women Writers of the Premodern Era (Course not offered this year.)