A study of what might be referred to as “classical American literature” or “The Age of Emerson.” The writers studied will be Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Dickinson. Among the central questions asked are these: How successful were these writers in their efforts to create a distinctively American language and literature? What was their view of nature and of human nature? How did they dramatize social conflict? In what ways did they affirm or challenge traditional conceptions of gender? The course will pay close attention to the interactions of these writers with one another and will give particular emphasis to Emerson as the figure with whom the others had to come to terms.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Guttmann.2017-18: Not offered
This course will study some of the arguments that structure our thinking about contemporary concerns–for example, punishment; animal rights; the right to die. Although we might have strong opinions about these topics, it is nonetheless the case that all of our judgments about the “rightness” of our ideas, feelings, and behaviors can be (and undoubtedly will be) questioned by someone else with very different opinions. The goal of this course is not to discover the “right” way to think about euthanasia or vegetarianism. Instead, we will examine the kinds of evidence and authority, logic and structure that produce strong arguments in favor of thinking one way or another. Readings will include such authors as Kazuo Ishigura, Toni Morrison, George Orwell, Peter Singer, and Charles Johnson.
Preference given to sophomores. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester: Professor Barale. Preference given to first year and second year students. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester: Dean Lieber.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018
A first course in reading fictional, dramatic, and lyric texts: stories, a major novel, one or more plays by Shakespeare, poems by Donne, Dickinson, Frost, and others.
Why does any writer--an Amherst College student, Philip Roth, Emily Dickinson, Shakespeare--say what he or she says one way rather than another? And what in the expression itself makes a story, a play, a poem effective, something a reader might care about, be moved or delighted by? We will try to answer these questions by reading primary examples of each genre, including much recent work, with close and sustained attention to details of expressive language. There will be frequent writing exercises.
The course will be taught in sections of 15-20 students. Preference will be given to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Berek (Mount Holyoke College).2017-18: Not offered
This course offers students an opportunity to develop their analytic and writing skills. We will read a variety of literary forms–prose and poetry, novels and essays and drama–and will write frequently and at length about what we read. This semester our readings will focus on the topic of Illness. We will read such authors as Susan Sontag, Anatole Broyard, Sophocles, José Saramago, Mark Doty. Three class hours per week.
Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Frank.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
In this course we will examine twentieth-century and contemporary novels, essays, plays, and performances that challenge generic and disciplinary boundaries. All are preoccupied with the visual, perform visually, or employ images within narrative. Some of these works respond directly to pieces of visual art, others include photographs or analyze forms of seeing. Because this is a writing-intensive course we will not pursue an exhaustive or chronological history of the immense conversation between visual and literary modes of expression. While actively discussing the course materials, we will consistently and frequently engage them in critical and creative, formal and informal writing. One of our goals will be to deepen our own practices of seeing and using visual evidence as a method toward writing personal, exploratory, and persuasive essays.
Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Cayer.2017-18: Not offered
Students, as part of the work of the course, each week will tutor or lead discussions among a small group of students at Holyoke High School. The readings for the course will be essays, poems, autobiographies, and stories in which education and teaching figure centrally. Among these will be materials that focus directly on Holyoke and on one or another of the ethnic groups which have shaped its history. Students will write weekly and variously: critical essays, journal entries, ethnographies, etc. Readings for the course will include works by Sylvia Ashton-Warner, James Baldwin, Judith Ortiz Cofer, John Dewey, Jonathan Kozol, Herbert Kohl, Sarah Lightfoot, John Stuart Mill, Abraham Rodriguez, Esmeralda Santiago, and Patricia Williams. Two class meetings per week plus an additional workshop hour and a weekly morning teaching assistantship to be scheduled in Holyoke.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester: Professor Sánchez-Eppler. Spring semester: Visiting Professor Cayer.2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018
This introduction to literary theory will offer an interrogation of some of the assumed tensions between experiences generally described as real and those described as imaginary. Over the course of the semester we will consider the ways literature enlarges personal experience, even as we will also attend to what happens when art approaches the limits of representation. Some of our particular concerns will include learning how to draw relationships between texts and their social and historical moments; questioning our own acts of learning about others through books; and exploring the relationship between identity and literacy. This class will also include a service component in which some of the class’ theory will come into practice, with students in this course working as reading partners to high school students engaged with the same texts and questions in American urban, rural, and reservation schools. Priority will be given to students already involved with teaching and literacy programs.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor Parham.2017-18: Not offered
Living today in an era of rapid technological innovation, we tend to forget that print itself was once a new medium. The history of English and American literature since the Renaissance has been as much a response to the development of new material formats (scribal copying, printed play scripts, newspaper and serial publication, broadsides and ballads, “little magazines,” radio, film, TV) as it has been a succession of ideal literary forms (poems, plays, and novels). This course will survey literary works from the sixteenth to the twentieth century in relation to the history of emerging media. Texts may include Renaissance sonnet sequences, Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair, Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, selections from Johnson’s The Rambler, Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, Dickens’The Pickwick Papers, Poe’s Selected Tales, Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman, Wilde’s Salomé, selections from Pound’s The Cantos, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, Kushner’s Angels in America.
Preference given to sophomores. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Parker.2017-18: Not offered
This course explores the relation between literature and history. How does fiction work to interpret and understand the past? Can literary texts serve as historical evidence, providing information about social conditions and beliefs in a particular place and time? In what ways might other sorts of historical documentation affect or amplify the reading of literature? We will address these questions through specific examples and through theoretical readings that address issues of narration, memory, and the continuance of the past. The theme changes each time the course is taught. In 2010 we will focus on American literature and in particular on writing that confronts the social “problem” of the unmarried woman. Texts will include Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Harriet Jacobs’Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Stephen Crane’s Maggie, A Girl of the Streets, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, Toni Morrison’s Sula, and Mei Ng’s Eating Chinese Food Naked.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Sánchez-Eppler.2017-18: Not offered
How do generic conventions affect a work’s production and interpretation? Reading a selection of plays written for the commercial Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline theaters, we will try to answer this and other questions by considering the works in their historical and theatrical context, and by closely reading the plays themselves. Turning our attention to the tragedies, comedies, histories, and tragicomedies of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, Webster, Ford, and Shirley, we will consider a range of topics, including genre, performance history, politics, religion, and gender.
Omitted 2009-10.2017-18: Not offered
Reading and writing about the natural world. This course will pay equal attention to which aspects of nature writers choose to write about and the various literary strategies they use. Texts include such works as Greek myths, the Hebrew Bible, Aesop’s Fables, British and American poetry, Thoreau’s Walking, Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and Paula Gunn Allen’s Grandmother Spider’s Stories.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Rushing.2017-18: Not offered
This course examines briefly the literature of World War II and then turns to Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, and Lionel Trilling, the writers who made Jewish American literature a central part of American literature. Their dominance turned out to be quite brief and for the remainder of the century a rich abundance of writing appears, some of which can be labeled ethnically (American Indian, African American, Asian American, Latino), but what stands out is a range of imaginations and styles. Among the other writers we will read: James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, N. Scott Momaday, Maxine Hong Kingston, Chang-Rae Lee, Gloria Anzaldua, Anne Tyler, and Jane Smiley.
Limited to 40 students. Omitted 2009-10. Professor O'Connell.2017-18: Not offered
Once American literature began with the Pilgrims and Puritans, though they were latecomers among the Europeans in the Americas. In this course we will begin with the oral traditions of some of the native inhabitants and then read accounts from the European discovery and conquest, Spanish, French, and English: Columbus, Verrazano, Cartier, Cortes, Bradford, and others. Then we will read the literature of the settlers: diaries, sermons, captivity narratives, and autobiographies. In the eighteenth century we will follow the emerging literature of independence, not only that written by Anglo-Americans, but also the writings of Africans and African Americans like Olaudah Equiano. We will end the course with the literature of post-independence: novels by Charles Brockden Brown and Rebecca Rush.
Limited to 40 students. Omitted 2009-10. Professor O'Connell.2017-18: Not offered
The focus in this course will be on lesser-known writers alongside the “major” figures: James Weldon Johnson, Willa Cather, Nella Larsen, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Edward Dahlberg, Henry Roth, Tillie Olsen, Hisaye Yamamoto, Toshio Mori, Saul Bellow, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin and others.
Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Professor O'Connell.2017-18: Not offered
This course will serve as an introduction to theater, performance art, and cultural politics in the Americas since 1960. We will read and discuss both U.S. and Latin American theater as aesthetic and sociocultural phenomena. We will discuss how identity is performed in the everyday sense and how historical identities, selves, and others have been performed. We will pay particular attention to how theater practitioners and theorists have responded to, adapted, and critiqued European traditions. Topics may include feminism, dictatorship, censorship and self-censorship, exile, experimentation and absurdist theater, queerness and gender, historical revision, and political theater.
Spring semester. Visiting Professor Cayer.2017-18: Not offered
A first course in the critical reading of twelve English, Irish, and American poets: Donne, Herbert, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Dickinson, Frost, Eliot, Bishop, Larkin, and Heaney. Attention will be given to the careers of the poets, as well as to individual poems. Both poems and poets will be read in the light of two principal contexts: (1) The cultural moments in which poets write their poems, and (2) The continuing history of poetic style, as each writer responds to his or her predecessors. There will be a final paper on a book published recently.
Spring semester. Professor Sofield.
A first course in the critical reading of selected major English, Irish, and American poets: Donne, Pope, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Yeats, and Bishop. Attention will be given to poetic forms and to the careers of the poets as well as to individual poems.
Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Townsend.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
(Offered as English 13 and Black Studies 15 [A].) Against a backdrop that moves from Heart of Darkness to (PRODUCT)RED™, this semester we will focus on the current proliferation of “Africa” in the western imaginary. Such surges in interest about the continent are not new, and we will trace this literary and cultural phenomenon across the twentieth century, coming to settle mainly on contemporary American films. We will read our films as films, but also as cultural texts. We must wonder: Why these films now? Are there certain conditions under which the West turns to its imagination of Africa? And how might we account for the repetition of such turns over time? We will end the course in a consideration of cultural appropriation and what it means for expressive traditions. To get at this question, however, we will also look to some of the ways African filmmakers have responded to and have themselves appropriated elements of texts similar to those with which we began the semester.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor Parham.2017-18: Not offered
(Offered as Black Studies 54 [US] and English 15.) Music is the central art form in African American cultures. This beginning survey course considers the relationship between poetry and music from the oral and written poetry of slavery to contemporary hip-hop. We will pay special attention to the ways poetry uses musicians as subjects and builds on such musical forms as spirituals, the blues, rhythm and blues, reggae, and jazz. The course will begin with the importance of music in the Western African cultures from which most enslaved Africans came and pay careful attention to lexicon, rhythm, refrain, pitch, tone, timbre, cadence, and call-and-response. Students will be expected to read poetry, hear it read by its creators, and listen to its musical inspirations and manifestations. We will pay special attention to such periods as the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and today’s hip-hop music. We will read such poets as Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Michael Harper, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Brenda Marie Osbey; and hear music by classic musicians like Billie Holiday and John Coltrane and newer voices like Mos’ Def, John Legend, and india.arie. Throughout the course we will focus on the relationship between artists and their audiences and the unique role of cities such as New York, Chicago, and New Orleans.
Preference given to students who have taken Black Studies 11 or a first course in English. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Rushing.2017-18: Not offered
An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of a few critical and descriptive terms together with a selection of various films (historical and contemporary, foreign and American) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion will include, among others: the moving image, montage, mise en scène, sound, genre, authorship, the gaze.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor Cameron.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
An introduction to contemporary literary studies through the analysis of a variety of critical terms, a range of literary examples, and the relations between and among them. The terms considered in spring 2010 will be lyric, narrative, author, translation, and autobiography.
Preference given to sophomores. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.2017-18: Not offered
To be taught in spring 2010 as English 01, section 04.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018
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. Limited enrollment. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course.
Limited enrollment. Fall semester: Writer-in-Residence Hall. Spring semester: Professor Sofield and Simpson Lecturer Wilbur.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018
This is an introductory course in screenwriting with a focus on narrative. We will look at film, adaptation, structure, and "the business," with an emphasis on workshopping original screenplay.
Requisite: At least one film course and/or one creative writing course at the college level recommended. Limited to 15 students. Preference given to juniors and seniors. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Murray.2017-18: Not offered
We will study writers’ renderings of their own experiences (memoirs) and their analyses of society and its institutions (cultural criticism). Workshop format, with discussion of texts and of students’ experiments in the genre. Students must submit examples of their writing to the English office. Three class hours per week.
Limited enrollment. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Emeritus Townsend.2017-18: Not offered
A first course in writing fiction. Emphasis will be on experimentation as well as on developing skill and craft. Workshop (discussion) format.
Limited enrollment. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. Fall semester: Professor Frank. Spring semester: Visiting Writer Chee.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018
A second, advanced workshop for practicing poets. Students will undertake a longer project as well as doing exercises every week exploring technical problems.
Requisite: English 21 or the equivalent. Limited enrollment. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. Fall semester. Writer-in-Residence Hall.2017-18: Not offered
An advanced level fiction class. Students will undertake a longer project as well as doing exercises every week exploring technical problems.
Requisite: Completion of a previous course in creative writing. Limited enrollment. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. Fall semester. Visiting Writer Chee.2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018
A poetry writing course, but with a strong emphasis on reading. Students will closely examine the work of various poets and periods, then attempt to write plausible imitations of their own, all by way of learning about poetry from the inside, as it were.
Spring semester. Writer-in-Residence Hall.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active appreciation of his dramatic and narrative poetry. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected. A knowledge of Modern English grammar and its nomenclature, or a similar knowledge of another language, will be helpful. Short critical papers and frequent declamation in class. The emphasis will be on Chaucer’s humor, irony and lyricism. We will read The Parliament of Fowls, Troilus and Criseyde, and some shorter poems. Three class hours per week.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor Chickering.2017-18: Not offered
The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active appreciation of his poetry. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected. A knowledge of Modern English grammar and its nomenclature, or a similar knowledge of another language, will be helpful. Short critical papers and frequent declamation in class. The emphasis will be on Chaucer’s humor, irony, and his narrative and dramatic gifts. We will read all of the poetic Tales and excerpts from the two prose Tales. Three class hours per week.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor Chickering.2017-18: Not offered
(Offered as English 32 and Women’s and Gender Studies 55.) This course will examine the literary and cultural meanings of love, sexuality, and marriage in the Middle Ages, with a primary focus on late medieval England. We will explore such phenomena as “courtly love,” bawdy humor, and the place of romantic love in marriage, while we also consider how various authors use the language and concepts of love to explore deeper questions of power, identity, and literary purpose. We will read and discuss selected texts from the Arthurian tradition and from the works of John Gower and Geoffrey Chaucer, as well as assorted religious texts, love poems, comic tales of adultery, and debates about the sinfulness of women. Readings will be in translation or in Middle English (of which no prior knowledge is required).
Spring semester. Visiting Professor Walling.2017-18: Not offered
The course surveys multiple forms of drama and spectacle in Renaissance England with special attention to the cultural articulation of space. We will consider the relation of a range of texts to their real and imagined performance sites-public theatres like the Globe as well as private playhouses, castles, fairgrounds, taverns, and the streets of London-asking what impact these places had on the dramas themselves, on their representation of public and private worlds, and on the social and political role of theatre in society at large. Reading will include works by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Heywood, Middleton and Rowley, and Milton.
Requisite: Recommend a previous course in Shakespeare or Renaissance literature. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Bosman.2017-18: Not offered
36. Shakespeare. An exploration of selected comedies, histories, and tragedies, with attention to the problem of genre. We will study Shakespeare on page and stage, and from his time to our own. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 50 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018
This course will explore the characteristic verse forms, imagery, and themes of late medieval and early Renaissance poetry and will examine how these characteristics have resonated throughout the work of later poets into the present day. We will consider the work of translators from Dryden to Pound and Heaney, trace the reinventions of alliterative poetry by such poets as Hopkins and Auden, and analyze the medievalism of poets from Spenser through Eliot. Throughout, we will explore the particular meaning these medieval devices carry for later poets and what they suggest about the changing role of the Middle Ages in the English poetic tradition.
Fall semester. Visiting Professor Walling.2017-18: Not offered
Readings in the poetry and prose of six classic figures from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ben Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, Samuel Johnson. Attention given to other writers from the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1. Three class meetings per week.
Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Pritchard.2017-18: Not offered
Readings in the poetry and prose of six classic figures from the nineteenth century: Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Byron, Tennyson, Matthew Arnold. Some attention given to Coleridge, Shelley, Browning.
Spring semester. Professor Pritchard.2017-18: Not offered
A selection of mid-nineteenth-century English novels approached from various critical, historical, and theoretical perspectives. In spring 2009 the course will focus on novels written around 1848, among them Disraeli’s Sybil, Gaskell’s Mary Barton, E. Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Dickens’ Dombey and Son, Trollope’s Barchester Towers, and Eliot’s Adam Bede.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor Parker.2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018
A selection of late-nineteenth-century British novels approached from a variety of critical, historical, and theoretical perspectives.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor Parker.2017-18: Not offered
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.
Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Pritchard.2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018
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.
Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Pritchard.2017-18: Not offered
Exploring the relations between literary form and socioeconomic change, this course examines the rise of the novel in England in the context of the rise of capitalism. Topics of discussion will include the novels’ portrayals of subjectivity, the representation of female experience, the role of servants in the imaginary worlds of novels by ruling-class authors, and the early novel’s affinity for and relation to criminality. Novels by Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Burney and Edgeworth.
Spring semester. Professor Frank.2017-18: Not offered
(Offered as European Studies 36, English 48, and French 62.) Why was reading novels considered dangerous in the eighteenth century, especially for young girls?
This course will examine the development, during this period, of the genre of the novel in England and France, in relation to the social and moral dangers it posed and portrayed. Along with the troublesome question of reading fiction itself, we will explore such issues as social class and bastardy, sexuality and self-awareness, the competing values of genealogy and character, and the important role of women-as novelists, readers, and characters-in negotiating these questions. We will examine why the novel was itself considered a bastard genre, and engage formal questions by studying various kinds of novels: picaresque, epistolary, gothic, as well as the novel of ideas. Our approach will combine close textual analysis with historical readings about these two intertwined, yet rival, cultures, and we will pair novels in order to foreground how these cultures may have taken on similar social or representational problems in different ways. Possible pairings might include Prévost and Defoe, Laclos and Richardson, Voltaire and Fielding, Sade and Ann Radcliffe. French novels will be read in translation. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2009-10. Professors Frank and Rosbottom.2017-18: Not offered
The moral essay is a genre situated somewhere between literature and philosophy, between stories and sermons. “The essay interests itself in the narration of ideas,” one critic writes, “in their unfolding.” The moral essay is not about morals per se but about manners, about the way people live-and die. We will read essays by Montaigne, Bacon, Emerson, and Simone Weil.
Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Townsend.2017-18: Not offered
Organizing and expressing one’s intellectual and social experience. Twice weekly writing assignments: a sketch or short essay of self-definition in relation to others, using language in a particular way-for example, as spectator of, witness to, or participant in, a situation. These short essays serve as preparation for a final, more extended, autobiographical essay assessing the student’s own intellectual growth.
Limited to 20 students. Open to juniors and seniors. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.2017-18: Not offered
(Offered as English 52 and Black Studies 37 [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, as well as more recent poetry by women writers and performance (“dub”) poets.
Spring semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.2017-18: Not offered
A specialized study of a peculiar kind of literary experiment-the attempt to create, in verse or prose, the sustained illusion of insane utterance. Readings will include soliloquies, dramatic monologues and extended “confessional” narratives by classic and contemporary authors, from Shakespeare and Browning, Poe and Dostoevsky to writers like Nabokov, Beckett, or Sylvia Plath. We shall seek to understand the various impulses and special effects which might lead an author to adopt an “abnormal” voice and to experiment with a “mad monologue.” The class will occasionally consult clinical and cultural hypotheses which seek to account for the behaviors enacted in certain literary texts. Three class hours per week.
Requisite: Several previous courses in literature and/or psychology. Open to juniors and seniors and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Peterson.2017-18: Not offered
“The Linguistic Turn” is a first course in literary and cultural theory. Though it will devote some early attention to the principles and methods of linguistic analysis, this class is not conceived as an introduction to linguistics per se. We will be asking, instead, much broader questions about the nature of “language,” among them whether there is such a thing, and, if so, why it has come to define for us the nature of our contemporaneity.
Open to juniors and seniors. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Parker.2017-18: Not offered
(Offered as English 55 and Black Studies 29 [A/CLA].) 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. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.2017-18: Not offered
To be taught in spring 2010 as English 95, section 04.Limited to 15 students. Preference given to junior and senior English majors. Professor Peterson.2017-18: Not offered
The period 1880 to 1920 appears to have been the moment of the emergence of modern sexuality in American and European culture and literature. The representation of proliferating forms of erotic desire, often veiled or coded, found rich and complex articulation in the discourse of literary modernism. The course will take advantage of recent historical and theoretical work (Foucault, Sedgwick, Butler and others) to approach writing by Melville, Cather, Henry James, R.L. Stevenson, Wilde, Forster, Lawrence, Woolf, Gide, Mann, Colette, and others. Attention will be paid to the work of Sigmund Freud in this period as being perhaps the queerest fiction of all.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor Cameron.2017-18: Not offered
A study of American and British gay and lesbian novelists, from 1990 to the present, who have written historical novels. We will examine such topics as the kinds of expressive and ideological possibilities the historical novel offers gay and lesbian novelists, the representation of sexuality in narratives that take place before Stonewall, and the way these authors position queer lives in history. Novelists include Sarah Waters, Emma Donoghue, Jeanette Winterson, Leslie Feinberg, Alan Hollinghurst, Colm Tóibín, and Michael Cunningham.
Fall semester. Professor Frank.2017-18: Not offered
The topic varies from year to year. In fall 2008 the topic was “Twentieth-Century American Indian Literature.” Before the twentieth century American Indian writing took the form of sermons, political statements, journalism, or a few remarkable autobiographies. But there was little in the way of poetry, short stories, or novels. Especially since the 1960s Indian writing has enjoyed what has been called a “renaissance,” and there are a number of Indian writers who stand among the first ranks of American writers. We will attempt as comprehensive a survey as possible of the major American Indian writers since 1960 across all genres, writers such as Louise Erdrich, James Welch, Gerald Vizenor, Leslie Marmon Silko, Linda Hogan, and Sherman Alexie. In addition the course will begin with a brief look at Indian writers of the first half of the twentieth century: Charles Eastman, John J. Mathews, and Darcy McNickle.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor O'Connell.2017-18: Not offered
This course will regularly examine, from different historical and theoretical stances, the literary and cultural scene in nineteenth-century America. The goal of the course is to formulate new questions and possibilities for investigating the history and literature of the United States. The topic changes each time the course is taught.
The topic for 2010 is EMILY DICKINSON. “Experience is the Angled Road / Preferred against the Mind / By–Paradox–the Mind itself–” she 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 College archives, and set her work in the context of other nineteenth-century writers including 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. One class meeting per week.
Recommended requisite: English 61. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Sánchez-Eppler.2017-18: Not offered
Over the course of the semester, we will examine the construction of Asian American identity from the late 1800s to the present day. We will explore, in particular, how Asians in America have been represented and defined in the realms of law and literature, how these separate realms have intersected and informed one another. We will not only explore the formation of Asian American identity from the outside, but also from within this broad racial category, as reflected in works by Asian American authors and documentary filmmakers. The course will be strongly interdisciplinary and include readings in history, ethnic studies, legal studies, material culture, and literary criticism.
Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Hayashi.2017-18: Not offered
A study of the emergence after the Civil War of works and theories of literary “realism” and of the movement’s transformation into “naturalistic” novels and experimental “modernist” fictions of the early twentieth century. The course concludes with a brief look at a contemporary “postmodern” text. Special attention will be given to changing conceptions and renderings of racial, cultural, and sexual differences. Among the authors likely to be assigned are Howells, James, Twain, Dreiser, Norris, Chopin, Wright, Larsen, Hemingway, Toomer, Faulkner, and DeLillo. Three class hours per week.
Spring semester. Professor Peterson.2017-18: Not offered
Ethnicity. What is it? What does it mean to be Irish American? African American? Jewish American? How does one experience being any one of these? What does literature by “ethnic” authors tell us about identity in America and how ethnicity, in particular, shapes how we tell stories? Moreover, what about the other side of that hyphenated identity–American? What does that mean in an increasingly diverse nation? These are some of the questions that will guide us during the semester as we read and discuss samples of American ethnic literature: poetry, oratory, prose, and memoir.
Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Hayashi.2017-18: Not offered
(Offered as English 66 and Black Studies 39 [US].) The topic changes each time the course is taught. In fall 2007 the topic was “The Weary Blues: Mourning in African American Literature and Culture.” As a population generally familiar with the facts of living too hard and dying too soon, how have African Americans used their literary and cultural traditions to memorialize-to articulate and often to work through conditions of pain and loss? Using a variety of literary and cultural texts, including RIP murals, poetry, and music, this semester’s topic examines the various ways African Americans express and aestheticize loss; how mourning often works as a foundation for militancy; and, most importantly, how loss is often recuperated through ideologies of art, love, and memory.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Parham.2017-18: Not offered
(Offered as English 67 and Black Studies 40 [A].) The best known African novel is Nigerian Chinua Achebe’s masterful Things Fall Apart (1958) with its depiction of the tragic collision between a “traditional” African society and the colonizing power of Great Britain. As dozens of African countries gained political independence from their European colonizers, the next generation of novels presented renditions of post-colonial Africa. The novels for this course depart from both those categories. We will focus on writers from such English-speaking countries as Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Although we will consider political and cultural contexts, we will concentrate our attention on the stories the novels tell, the strategies their authors use to tell them, and their use of language.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor Rushing.2017-18: Not offered
The focus of the course will be on education within the United States. From the earliest days of the new republic Americans have linked the prospects of democracy with the quality and extent of educational opportunity. Two fundamental and contradictory questions, however, have shaped nearly every controversy: (1) Should education be a competitive system to establish and legitimate a hierarchy of merit? or (2) Should schools focus on the fullest development of each student so as to enable her or him to participate equally in a democratic society by contributing from her or his individual gifts and differences? Finally, another key and virtually silent assumption has shaped these debates: that schools are the primary generators of equality or inequality. One might argue that this assumption has functioned to help Americans evade greater and more substantial sources of inequality such as the corporate order, housing, access to medical care, and many others. The course will not seek to resolve these questions, but to explore how the different assumptions involved structure what can be taught and learned and by whom. The texts for the course will range across a number of disciplines: philosophy, cognitive psychology, literature, sociology, and political science and theory. John Dewey’s Democracy and Education will be the framing text. Two class meetings per week.
Requisite: English 02 or an equivalent course. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2009-10. Professor O'Connell.2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018
Novels and short fiction, mainly comic, by such writers as Saul Bellow, Flannery O’Connor, Norman Mailer, Anthony Powell, Kingsley Amis, John Updike, Philip Roth, Nicholson Baker, Jonathan Franzen, Ian McEwan, Barbara Pym, Robert Stone, Richard Ford. The emphasis will be on developing students’ ability to write useful criticism about the work and the writer in question.
Omitted 2009-10. Professor Pritchard.2017-18: Not offered
This is a course in the reading of the contemporary graphic novel, a form with a voice made from the juxtaposition of visual art and text. Readings will focus on the unique demands this voice places on the reader, the writer/artist and the story as well as how a form first known for pulp science fiction and melodrama now tells stories about war, illness, censorship, terrorism, immigrant experiences and sexual identity. We will read Max Ernst, Frank Miller, Art Spiegelman, David Wojnarowicz, Kazuo Koike, David B., Guy Delisle, Joann Sfar, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Marjane Satrapi, Alison Bechdel, and Eugene Yang. All French and Japanese work will be read in translation. Two class meetings per week.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Preference given to junior and senior English majors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Writer Chee.2017-18: Not offered
Why feminism? Isn’t feminism outmoded and passé? What is feminism today, and how is it relevant for theater and performance work? This class will explore the relationship between feminist history, theory, and practice. It will serve as an introduction to the work of twentieth-century women playwrights, performance artists, and critical thinkers. We will first confront feminism as a tool for reading and interpreting issues of gender and sexuality in plays and performances. We will also consider how, and to what extent, feminism influences practices of writing, performing, and spectatorship. We will then mobilize a global and inclusive definition of feminism in order to explore how the social and political aims of early feminisms influenced thinking about racial, national, post-colonial, queer, and ethnic representation in performance. Central debates will include the distinctions and shifts between theater and performance; textuality and embodiment; essentialism and social construction; and identity and representation. Course materials will include plays, performances, and visual art as well as feminist theoretical texts. We will aim to understand the diverse political and personal ambitions, risks, and power of women’s theoretical, theatrical, and performance work.
Omitted 2009-10. Visiting Professor Cayer.2017-18: Not offered
The topic changes each time the course is taught. In fall 2009 the topic will be “Narrative Cinema in a Global Context.” This course will introduce students to a diverse range of approaches to narrative filmmaking. Students will gain skills in videomaking and criticism through project assignments, readings and analysis of critical discourses that ground issues of production. The course will include workshops in cinematography, sound recording, directing and editing. Weekly screenings will include films and videos by Jia Zhangke, Claire Denis, Charles Burnett, Tsai Ming-liang, Abdellatif Kechiche, and Lucia Murat. Students will complete three video projects.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Recommended requisites: Completed coursework in one of the following areas: Film Studies, Visual or Performing Arts, Art History. Please complete the questionnaire at https://cms.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/english/events/questionnaire. Fall semester. Five College Professor Hillman.2017-18: Not offered
The study of a range of non-fiction films, including (but not limited to) the “documentary,” ethnographic film, autobiographical film, the film essay. Will include the work of Eisenstein, Vertov, Ivens, Franju, Ophüls, Leacock, Kopple, Gardner, Herzog, Chopra, Citron, Wiseman, Blank, Apted, Marker, Morris, Joslin, Riggs, McElwee. Two film programs weekly. Readings will focus on issues of representation, of “truth” in documentary, and the ethical issues raised by the films.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.2017-18: Not offered
The topic changes each time the course is taught. In spring 2011 the topic will be “Cinema and Everyday Life.” 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. Two class meetings and one screening per week.
Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.2017-18: Not offered
The topic changes each time the course is taught. In spring 2010 the topic will be “Five Contemporary Filmmakers.” The course will study, in some depth, the work and situation of several critically admired contemporary filmmakers, each of whom might be described as a distinctive stylist of the medium, even as each has no less distinctive roots in their native culture. We will ask in what ways their filmmaking style negotiates between their national and cultural roots and the expectations of a worldwide audience. To be considered will be the work of Wong Kar-Wai (Hong Kong), Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan), Abbas Kiarostami (Iran), Pedro Almodóvar (Spain), and either Claire Denis (France) or Michael Haneke (Austria). Two class meetings and two screenings per week.
Spring semester. Professor Cameron.2017-18: Not offered
A critical reading in English translation of substantial portions of Marcel Proust’s great work of fiction and philosophy, A la Recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). An extended synopsis of the entire work will be provided. Class discussion and exercises will concentrate on major passages of the work (amounting to roughly half of the whole). Attention will be given to the tradition of critical commentary in English on Proust’s work and its place as a document of European modernism. Two class meetings per week.
Requisite: Recommend prior study in nineteenth- or early twentieth-century English or French novel. Not recommended for first-year students. Spring semester. Professor Cameron.2017-18: Not offered
Readings in Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and some portions of Finnegans Wake. Two class meetings per week.
Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2009-10. Professor Cameron.2017-18: Not offered
Open to senior English majors who wish to pursue a self-defined project in reading and writing. Students intending to elect this course must submit to the Department a five-page description and rationale for the proposed independent study by the end of the first week of classes in the fall semester of their senior year. 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. Preregistration is not allowed.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017
(Offered as English 89 and Theater and Dance 96.) This course will focus on creating a performance, music, and video piece on the themes of migration, displacement, memory and history. The piece will be developed through interdisciplinary experiments that emphasize the exploration of reciprocal relationships within and between the different media. Students will work individually and in collaborative teams and will be involved in the conception, rehearsals and performances of an original performance work directed by the professors. One three-hour class meeting per week plus a lab session.
This course is for intermediate/advanced performers, videomakers, composers, and designers who have previous experience in any of the above media. Requisite: Previous experience in composition in video, theater, music, creative writing, and/or dance. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 16 students. Spring semester. Five College Professor Hillman and Professor Woodson.2017-18: Not offered
Readings of poets who have chosen to live in a culture other than their own, with an emphasis on T.S. Eliot in London, Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil, Thom Gunn in California, and Agha Shahid Ali in New England. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2009-10. Writer-in-Residence Hall.2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018
The story of American writers, artists, and musicians who lived and worked in Paris can be imagined as a drama in two acts. Act I, set in the 1920s, brings Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein to center stage. Act II, set in the postwar years, belongs mainly to African American writers such as Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Although the spotlight is mainly on the writers, there are important roles for painters (Gerald Murphy), photographers (Man Ray), dancers (Josephine Baker), and musicians (Sidney Bechet). There is also a kind of epilogue in which the French present their view of the Americans in their midst. Foremost among the questions to be asked is this: how did their experience as “exiles abroad” alter and complicate these Americans’ sense of their national, racial, sexual, and professional identities? Two class meetings per week.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Guttmann.2017-18: Not offered
This course focuses on cinephilia–a passionate, affective engagement with cinema–as a means of seeing both the movies themselves and our critical, historical understanding of them. While focusing on cinephilic figures (the archivist, the filmmaker, the critic, the theorist, the historian, the collector, the teacher, the student), we will also look at particular historical junctures in which cinephilia has arisen in earnest (the photogenie movement in 1910s and 1920s France; post-war French criticism and auteurist production; late twentieth-century enthrallment with international new wave movements). Through experiments with reading, writing, and viewing habits, we will inject theoretical work with experiential practices, ultimately asking how (and if) cinephilia might be mobilized today. One class meeting and one screening per week.
Prior film course recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.2017-18: Not offered
These three men are arguably the greatest American philosophers and psychologists yet they are rarely taught. Remarkably enough they may be least taught in departments of philosophy or psychology. In years they stretch from the eighteenth century to the twentieth. In accomplishment and influence each dominated his time, and it would be difficult to limit them to any one academic field. Their writings can be read as literature, as religion, as theology, philosophy, psychology, education–the list could cover most of the humanities and much of the social sciences–and each kept current with the most advanced natural scientific thought in his period. This seminar will engage in close readings of their most important writings. Two class meetings per week.
Open to all juniors and seniors as well as English majors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor O’Connell.2017-18: Not offered
Readings and discussion. The syllabus will include poets from the English-speaking world: Bishop, Lowell, Jarrell, Wilbur, Larkin, Hecht, Merrill, Hill, Clampitt, Walcott, Heaney, and others. The course will conclude with a substantial paper on a book published in 2008 or 2009. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Sofield and Simpson Lecturer Wilbur.2017-18: Not offered
(Offered as American Studies 68 and English 95, section 02.) This course is designed to provide American Studies majors, as well as others interested in interdisciplinary work, the opportunity and support to produce a major piece of research writing on a topic of their choosing. We will examine a wide range of materials, including photographs, paintings, legal documents, journals, poems, and plays. The course will also introduce students to the variety of methodologies utilized by practitioners in the field of American Studies. The specific focus of the course will be the role of place in American culture. By studying discrete geographic locations--their histories, residents, and cultural representations--students will gain appreciation for interdisciplinary work and the development of American Studies.
Requisite: American Studies 11 and 12. Open to juniors and seniors or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Hayashi.2017-18: Offered in Spring 2018
Theater and anthropology have been linked, from debates on the ritual origins of theater to those accounts of the performative dimensions of rendering the fieldwork experience in writing. “Performance” is a key term for both disciplines. We will begin with the links forged between theater and anthropology, and the debates and discussions that contributed to the development of performance studies as a discipline. We will then look closely at the relationship between performance art practices and the enterprise of fieldwork-based ethnography. What does it mean to stage theatrically an “other” or the idea of otherness? How have artists used the body in performance to imagine and enact culture, nation, otherness, selfhood, and the complex relations among them? Our comparison of artistic and social practices will be grounded in the following topics: ritual, play, gender, documentation, primitivism, exoticism, the participant-observer process as it relates to self-other dynamics, and practices of spectatorship and the gaze.
Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Cayer.2017-18: Not offered
Independent Reading Courses.
Fall semester. The Department.2017-18: Offered in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018