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 students. Limited to 12 students. Fall and spring semesters. Dean Lieber.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
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 students. Preference will be given to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Emeritus Berek (Mount Holyoke College) and Professors Cobham-Sander, Grobe, and Sofield.2015-16: 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 Frank. Spring semester: Visiting Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
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.
Preference given to first-year students. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
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 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Guttmann.2015-16: Not offered
This course offers students an opportunity to explore the relationships of literary works to one another, their readers, and the field of literary studies. We will read a series of works written by American authors between 1880 and 1930, putting canonical and lesser-known writers into conversation with one another. The conversation theme will inform not only the works we read but also shape how we read, write, and “converse” in class and through assignments. For each set of readings, we will consider multiple conversations: the processes by which readers respond to texts, thereby participating in a dialogue with writers; the “cultural debates” to which the authors, their texts, and readers contribute; and the role of critics and literary criticism in shaping and sustaining discussions about writers and their works.
Preference given to first-year and sophomore students. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Bergoffen.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 153 and WAGS 112.) This course will examine the emergence of the “New Woman” as a category of social theory, political action, and literary representation at the turning of the twentieth century. Early readings will trace the origins of the New Woman as a response to nineteenth-century notions of “True Womanhood.” Discussions will situate literary representations of women in larger cultural events taking place during the Progressive Era–debates over suffrage as well as their relationship to issues of citizenship, immigration, Jim Crow segregation, urbanization, and nativism. The course will focus on texts written by a diverse group of women that present multiple and, at times, conflicting images of the New Woman. Close attention will be paid to the manner in which these women writers constructed their fictions, particularly to issues of language, style, and form. Readings will include texts by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, Pauline Hopkins, Anzia Yezierska, and Sui Sin Far.
Preference given to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Bergoffen.2015-16: Not offered
This course will explore the concept of wilderness in American culture. Americans have portrayed the less tamed region of the American landscape in a variety of ways: as a hostile space full of evil, as a rugged frontier that shapes individuals into Americans, and as a protected sanctuary for endangered species. In this class, we will focus on writings that explore the range of definitions and responses to the nation’s wild spaces. Students will explore these issues in class discussions about the texts and in writing assignments that analyze and critique the readings and our own definitions of what makes a place “wild.”
Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Hayashi.2015-16: Not offered
In the United States, as in many countries, we divide ourselves into regions. Differences in language and/or dialect, in history, in customs and politics, are often seen as legitimating regional divisions. The South has always held an especially powerful place in the American imagination, even before the Civil War. Through close encounters with texts and music, we will explore the differences within the South, the ways in which particular literary texts have come to be seen not just as representing the South but, in part, constituting its difference, and the complex roles played by race, ethnicity, and class. Among the writers and musicians we will study: Louis Armstrong, Ernest Gaines, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Breece D.J. Pancake, William Faulkner, Hank Williams, and the Carter Family.
Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor O'Connell.2015-16: Not offered
(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 80-minute class meetings and two screenings per week.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester: Visiting Professor Johnston. Spring semester: Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
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 2011 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. Fall semester. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.2015-16: Not offered
Over the last twenty-five years literary historians and critics have completely remade the field of American literature. The important artistic contributions of women, of African Americans, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, and of Native Americans have received attention and appreciation. In many instances long-forgotten texts have been uncovered and appreciated as first-rate works of art. Neglected artists like Willa Cather and James Weldon Johnson have been reread, re-seen. The goal of this four-semester sequence is to survey American literature from its beginnings to the present in a history that attempts to bring together what were once considered the classics with the most important of the newer additions to the body of American literature. In doing so our primary attention will be on texts of exceptional literary merit.
The course will cover the years from 1820 to 1920. These are the years when Anglo-American literature achieved an international reputation. They are also the years of African Americans’ first intense and bitter struggle for liberation, and the years when the Euro-American conquest of the Indians was completed. The second half of the century also experienced the largest immigration in the history of the country until the post-1965 period, which enabled the United States to become the greatest industrial power in the world. The literature we will read is enmeshed in all these complex events: Cooper, Sedgwick, Emerson, Thoreau, Fanny Fern, Hawthorne, Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frederick Douglass.
Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Professor O'Connell.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
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.
Fall semester: Visiting Lecturer Hennessy. Spring semester: Professor Sofield and Simpson Lecturer Wilbur.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
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 to 12 students. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. Spring semester. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Hayashi.2015-16: 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: Visiting Writer Gaige. Spring semester: Professor Frank.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
How small can drama get while remaining “dramatic”? During the first half of the twentieth century, it was not unusual for a stage in America (or anywhere in the English-speaking world) to be filled with dozens of actors. Over the last sixty years, though, the crowds onstage have thinned. Today, three-, two-, and even one-person plays are as common as twenty-person plays once were.
In this course, we will study plays by American, British, Irish, and South African writers–from Eugene O’Neill and Samuel Beckett to Athol Fugard and Sarah Kane–who have found new inspiration within these tight constraints. In doing so, we will not only closely analyze dramatic texts, we will also look through those texts to imagine how they might shape our sense of space, sound, movement and image in the theater. Plays, after all–from the most “realist” to the most avant-garde–both reflect reality and compress or distort it in beautiful and strategic ways. We will also pay particular attention to the way in which drama creates and deploys character differently than novels or poems do.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.2015-16: Not offered
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.
Fall semester: Professor Chickering. Spring semester: Professors Nelson and Sofield.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
An introduction to the study of the novel, through the exploration of a variety of critical terms (point of view, narrative structure, tone, realism, irony, genre fiction) and methodologies (feminist, Marxist, post-colonial). We will draw on a selection of novels in English for illustration and discussion; possible authors include Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Edgar Wideman, Thomas Pynchon, Emma Donoghue, David Foster Wallace. A question to which we will continually return: with what kinds of expectations for immersion and identification do we approach the novel–which, unlike poetry, we often consider a relatively easy and transparent form–and what kinds of pleasures might be gained when novels baffle or frustrate those expectations through their difficulty or sheer strangeness?
Preference given to sophomores. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Frank.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
This course is concerned with the problem of honesty in subjective expression. We will study both fictional and non-fictional first person narratives. Some narrators deliberately deceive, and some deceive without intending to. How does an elusive understanding of the self make even an “honest” narrator’s project of telling harder, if not impossible? Readings will include works by Kazuo Ishiguro, Vladimir Nabokov, Joseph Mitchell, Janet Malcolm, Lauren Slater, and Geoff Dyer. Students will be required to produce both critical and creative writing. Creative writing experience preferred. Writing attentive.
Limited to 15 students. Admission will be determined via writing sample submitted at first class. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Gaige.2015-16: Not offered
(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: the cinematic image, mise en scène, montage and editing, narration in cinema, genre, authorship. Frequent critical writing required.
Limited to 35 students. Fall semester: Professor Cameron. Spring semester: Visiting Professor Johnston.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
(Offered as ENGL 281, FAMS 220, and ARHA 272.) “Foundations and Integrations” will be an annual team-taught course between a Critical Studies scholar and moving-image artist. A requirement of the Film and Media Studies major, it will build on critical analysis of moving images and introductory production work to develop an integrated critical and creative practice. Focused in particular around themes and concepts, students will develop ideas in both written and visual form. The theme for spring 2012 will be “Film and Inner Life.”
Requisites: A foundations course in Critical Studies of Film and Media (such as “Coming to Terms: Cinema”) and an introductory film/video production workshop. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie and Visiting Lecturer Chris Mason Johnson.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
(Offered as ENGL 287 and FAMS 228.) This course will introduce students to basic Super 8 film and digital video techniques. The course will include workshops in shooting for film and video, Super 8 film editing, Final Cut Pro video editing, lighting, stop motion animation, sound recording and mixing. Students will learn to think about and look critically at the moving and still image. Students will complete three moving image projects, including one Super 8 film, one video project, and one mixed media project. Weekly screenings will introduce students to a wide range of approaches to editing, writing, and directing in experimental, documentary, narrative, and hybrid cinematic forms. Screenings include works by Martha Rosler, Bill Viola, the Yes Men, Jennifer Reeves, Mona Hatoum, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Dziga Vertov, D.A. Pennebaker, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Cécile Fontaine, and Johanna Vaude.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 13 students. Please complete the questionnaire at https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/english/major/Pre-Registration/course_applications/app_engl287. Spring semester. Five College Professor Hillman.2015-16: Not offered
This course will explore ventriloquism as a literary and cultural phenomenon. What does it mean to “throw” one’s voice? How is a ventriloquized voice different from one’s “own”? Why has the possibility of ventriloquism stimulated the literary imagination from the ancient world to the present?
Discussion will focus on novels, poems, plays, films, and essays bearing on the relationship between voice and body. Requirements include voice-throwing and other in-class exercises, contributions to a class wiki, frequent short papers and a final exam.
Spring semester. Professor Parker.2015-16: Not offered
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 both psychoanalytic theory and literary interpretation, asking about their similarities as well as their dissonance. Why do novels of development and case-studies resemble one another? What can the Freudian understanding of the structure of the psyche teach us about the structure of narrative? And what do “illnesses” like hysteria and paranoia have in common with everyday acts of meaning-making and with the way we read literature? Each week pairing a psychoanalytic paper with a short story or novel, we will ask how psychoanalysis alters not only what we see in literary works, but also the way we understand our own acts of interpretation. Topics include the unconscious, dreams, childhood, the uncanny, desire, subjects and objects, and mourning.
Reading will include essays by Freud, Lacan, Winnicott, Melanie Klein, and others; and fiction by Jensen, Melville, Poe, Brontë, James, Flaubert, and Ishiguro.
Preference given to sophomores considering an English major. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Christoff.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
[before 1800] This course provides an introduction to some of the most popular texts of the medieval and Renaissance periods in England by focusing on stories of Christian-Muslim encounter. These stories of interfaith conflict and union offer an important prehistory to the highly-charged relations between Christians and Muslims today. Such interfaith encounters lay at the center of numerous early modern texts, generating a wide variety of stories about love, warfare, friendship, and conversion. We will place these stories in their proper historical contexts, learning about the history of the Crusades as well as about the rise of English commerce with the Ottoman empire. How did literature contribute to the formations of religious, national, and racial identity? We will consider the interrelations between literary form and cultural history, as well as the significance of genre in shaping stories of Christian-Muslim encounter. Texts include poetry, prose, and drama by such authors as Geoffrey Chaucer, John Mandeville, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Mary Wortley Montagu, and others.
Fall semester. Five College Professor Degenhardt.2015-16: Not offered
[before 1800] 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.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Townsend.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as EUST 302, ENGL 302 [Meets the pre-1800 requirement for English majors.], and FREN 362.) 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 Jane Austen. French novels will be read in translation. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professors Frank and Rosbottom.2015-16: Not offered
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. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Pritchard.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
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.
Spring semester. Writer-in-Residence Hall.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
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. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Cameron.2015-16: 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. Fall semester. Professor Peterson.2015-16: 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.
Omitted 2011-12. Professor Frank.2015-16: Not offered
In this course we will read novels about revolutionaries and about violent responses to oppression. Most were written for and about particular social problems. Yet revolutionaries often appeal to novelists precisely because they seem to represent much more than the social problem they seek to reform. The course examines the extent to which this representative quality can help and hinder a novel’s status as globally lasting art. Two critical questions among the many we will explore are: How does the novel reconcile the long aims of literature with the urgent claims of the present? What happens when historically specific stories are smuggled across national borders, or revisited a century later? How, for example, does a novelist writing about Kenya, a former British colony, relate to the literary heritage of the British colonizers? Readings will include novels by Dickens, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Henry James, Conrad, Ngugi, and others.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Bronstein.
2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 317 and BLST 252 [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.
Omitted 2011-12. Professor Cobham-Sander.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 318 and BLST 362 [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. Spring semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
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.2015-16: Not offered
A second, advanced workshop for practicing poets. Students will undertake a longer project as well as doing exercises every week exploring technical problems.
Requisite: ENGL 221 or the equivalent. Limited enrollment. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. Spring semester. Writer-in-Residence Hall.2015-16: Not offered
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.
Omitted 2011-12. Writer-in-Residence Hall.2015-16: 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. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Gaige.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Poetry is not merely a written form; it is an oral art and a prompt to performance. Students in this course will learn to use “close listening,” as well as the embodied experience of performing poetry themselves, in order to access poetic meanings that are unavailable through silent reading alone. This course will require both written analyses and performed repertoires of poetry. No prior performance experience is required.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Grobe.
2015-16: Not offered
This course has as its first goal the rapid mastery of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) as a language for reading knowledge. Selected prose and short poems, such as The Wanderer and The Battle of Maldon, will be read in the original, with emphasis on literary appreciation as well as linguistic analysis. After that, our objectives will be an appreciation of Beowulf in the original, through the use of the instructor’s dual-language edition, and an understanding of the major issues in interpreting the poem. Students will declaim verses and write short critical papers. Three class hours per week.
Omitted 2011-12. Professor Chickering.2015-16: Not offered
[before 1800] A study of Chaucer’s “dream visions” and short lyric poems, which explore topics as diverse as love, death, fame, and politics. This course will introduce students to Chaucer’s poetic style and themes, and to the medieval culture in which he lived. All texts will be read in Middle English (of which no prior knowledge is required).
Fall semester. Professor Nelson.2015-16: 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 2011-12. Professor Bosman.2015-16: Not offered
[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.
Limited to 50 students. Fall semester: Professor Emeritus Berek (Mount Holyoke College). Spring semester: Professor Bosman.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
This course offers a survey of tragedy as a genre of theatrical representation, charting the development and crisis of the form. We will read texts from the classical and contemporary dramatic repertoire coupled with theoretical readings and documentation of performance. Readings may include plays by Sophocles, Euripides, Shakespeare, Racine, Buchner, Miller and Parks, among others. Attendance at weekly screenings and/or local performances is required.
Spring semester. Five College Mellon Fellow Sack.2015-16: Not offered
[before 1800] Readings in the literature of the British Isles from the medieval and early modern periods. We will read masterpieces of English literature by Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton alongside lesser-known works by anonymous authors, chroniclers, and women. Our focus will be on the emergence of a distinctly “English” literature, defined by shifting ideas of language, nation, and world from the seventh through seventeenth centuries.
Fall semester. Professor Nelson.2015-16: 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.
Omitted 2011-12. Professor Frank.2015-16: Not offered
A selection of mid-nineteenth-century English novels approached from various critical, historical, and theoretical perspectives. In spring 2011 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.
Spring semester. Professor Parker.2015-16: 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. Fall semester. Professor Pritchard.2015-16: 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. Spring semester. Professor Cameron.2015-16: 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: ENGL 120 or an equivalent course. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor O'Connell.2015-16: Not offered
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 2011-12. Professor Pritchard.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
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.2015-16: Not offered
This course surveys the literature and culture of the Victorian era. Reading novels, poetry, and non-fiction, we will ask how the Victorians lived, worked, and played, and how they imagined such essential differences in lifestyle as those between the wealthy and the working classes, between men and women, and between the young and the old. Topics include the life of Queen Victoria, the “invention” of childhood, life-writing and gender, the Industrial Revolution and factory work, religious belief and secular culture, evolutionary science, and an essential Victorian literary obsession: gaining access to the minds and inner lives of others.Fall semester. Visiting Professor Christoff.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 379 and FAMS 380.) Throughout its history artists and filmmakers have experimented radically with cinema, exploring the limits of the medium. This course traces the history of experimentation and its relation to broader avant-garde movements in the arts, such as Symbolism, Dada, Constructivism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop, and Minimalism. Many of the filmmakers and movements we will study set about creating a new type of film, as well as a new kind of film language, in an attempt to re-orient how individuals engage with art in their everyday lives. We will interrogate broad theoretical questions, such as: What is the avant-garde? What is the relation between cinema and different art movements? How are different revolutionary aesthetic practices tied to political projects? How are mainstream and avant-garde cinemas related? What can cinema do beyond providing representations and narratives? Besides theoretical and critical texts by Peter Bürger, Renato Poggioli, Annette Michelson and Michael Fried, we will examine manifestos and documents from the various movements, as well as historical studies. We will view films by artists such as Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Marcel Duchamp, Hans Richter, Jean Epstein, Luis Buñuel, Maya Deren, Andy Warhol, Tony Conrad, and Stan Brakhage. Two class meetings and one required screening per week.
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Johnston.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 380 and FAMS 354.) 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.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 387 and FAMS 215.) The topic changes each time the course is taught. In fall 2010 the topic was “Knowing Television.” 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 30 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Hastie.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 388 and FAMS 240.) A first workshop in narrative screenwriting. Through frequent exercises, readings, and screenings we will explore the fundamentals of scene and story shape as they’re practiced in mainstream commercial filmmaking, while taking a broader look at what a screenplay might be outside of that world. In the process, we’ll juxtapose two modes of writing that are not mutually exclusive but are often at odds with each other, both historically (within the industry) and aesthetically: the well-established craft of three-act screenwriting, on the one hand, and the more elastic possibilities of the audio-visual medium as exemplified by the art film, on the other. Two class meetings per week.
Requisites: Two classes from any of the following categories in any combination: critical studies of film and media; film/video production; creative writing workshops (fiction or non-fiction); playwriting; photography or drawing courses. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Preference will be given to English, Film and Media Studies, and Art majors.
Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Johnson.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
(Offered as ENGL 391 and FAMS 331.) What is a medium? Why has the term acquired its current theoretical prominence? How does it differ from discourse, genre, mode, format, and other such terms? This course surveys accounts of mediation from the ancient world to the present, focusing on key figures and historically-important texts (among them, Plato’s Republic, Martin Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology” and “The Origin of the Work of Art,” and Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”) before turning attention to our contemporary mediascape and some recent attempts to take its theoretical measure.
Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Parker.2015-16: Not offered
This course will focus on the major poets and schools of American poetry from 1900 to 1990, placing equal weight on each school’s agenda. Inevitably, though, we will confront two related questions: how does one form and represent aesthetic judgment and what is the social basis for evaluations of taste. These questions will become evident as we analyze the often fractious (but also nourishing) dynamics of formation and counter-formation which govern the development of distinct schools and trends in poetry. Along the way we will try to unsettle a few cherished orthodoxies while contextualizing formal concerns within historical frameworks. Why, for instance, does Imagism emerge when it does and what drives its rejection of the past? How does the Cold War inflect the mid-century work of poets as distinct as Elizabeth Bishop and Charles Olson? Is there really such a deep divide between Allen Ginsberg, on the one hand, and Anne Sexton, on the other? Two class meetings per week.
Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Pritchett.2015-16: Not offered
This advanced course first reviews the structure and terminology of modern English grammar through descriptive and exemplary readings. Students then examine their own sentences and those of literary and non-literary texts with special attention to the relationship between syntax and style. We will learn the tropes and figures of classical rhetoric and apply them in frequent short papers of literary analysis of such writers as Dr. Johnson, Henry James, Hemingway, Dickinson, Faulkner, Hopkins, Baldwin, Gibbon, Stein, or Brooks. Topics for study will include gender differences in usage, the social and political uses of prescriptive grammar, and the linguistic analysis of, like, non-standard spoken English.
Requisites: Two courses in English; exceptions by consent of the instructors. Open to juniors and seniors. Non-English majors are welcome. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professors Barale and Chickering.2015-16: Not offered
This course will introduce students to the history and role of English-language literary magazines. We will begin with an overview of the function of literary, or “little,” magazines in America, England, and Canada, learning how they shaped literary trends and launched the careers of major writers. Students will read both important defunct magazines and influential contemporary magazines (print and digital) and analyze their editorial visions and reasons for their success or failure. Students will also learn the nuts and bolts of editing and publishing a literary magazine today through involvement with The Common, the new print literary magazine based at Amherst College. Students will read and evaluate fiction and nonfiction submissions, submit edited manuscripts for discussion, and produce web content for The Common Online.
Requisite: One English course at the 200 level or higher. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Acker.2015-16: Not offered
This course looks at our penal system and places it in the context of the economic and political development of the U.S. It begins with the introduction of the penitentiary in the antebellum period at a time of extraordinary economic expansion and optimism about social institutions. After the Civil War ideas of criminal control change as rapid industrialization in the North and large waves of immigration produce labor unrest and unprecedented urban poverty. The course also explores the convict-lease system in the post-emancipation “New South.” It looks, too, at Progressives’ creation of the juvenile justice system at the turn of the century as well as ideas linking criminality with heredity. It ends with the current boom in prison populations. Throughout it closely attends prisoners’ accounts of their experiences and how they represent them in diverse literary forms.
The course will be conducted inside a correctional facility and enroll an equal number of Amherst students and residents of the facility. Permission to enroll will be granted on the basis of a questionnaire and personal interview with the instructor. Amherst students studying the philosophical and material development of the penal system in the company of incarcerated men will get the benefit of their fellow students’ personal experience of that system. This setting creates a pedagogical opportunity to bring together genuinely diverse perspectives. One class meeting per week.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor O’Connell.
2015-16: Not offered
This course will focus on the manuscript culture of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, using manuscripts as a means of thinking about the act of writing, the implications of audience and publication, and the relations between the private and public word. We will study the private forms of diaries and letters. We will look at the traces of the writing process in manuscripts of ultimately published works–the window into the literary creation that manuscripts provide. We will also confront the problems raised by literary work that was never published during its author’s lifetime, heedful of the questions of social propriety and power that often inform what can and can’t be published. Texts will include Julia Ward Howe’s The Hermaphrodite, a “closet” manuscript of sexual indeterminancy written in the 1840s and only published in 2004; Hannah Crafts’ The Bondswoman’s Tale, a manuscript novel probably written in the late 1850s by a fugitive slave and first published in 2002; the manuscript books of Emily Dickinson; the posthumous publication process of Ernest Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden and of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel poems; and works like Edgar Allan Poe’s “MS. Found in a Bottle” and Henry James’ The Aspern Papers that tell anxious tales about manuscripts. The heart of the course, however, will be independent research with students drawing on rich local archives to do some manuscript recovering of their own.
Limited to 15 students. Juniors and Seniors only. Fall semester. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.2015-16: Not offered
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.
Junior/Senior seminar. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Guttmann.2015-16: Not offered
[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 338 (Shakespeare). Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Plot is never the only motor driving drama forward, though it is the most conspicuous. This class focuses on a long tradition of playwrights using argument--instead of, or alongside plot--to structure their plays. Readings in drama (mainly from the eighteenth century to the present) will be supplemented by consideration of the “dramatic” traditions in philosophy and in philosophical poetry. We will also pay particular attention to those playwrights who have written simultaneously in dramatic and essayistic forms. Why (and when) is thought theatrical? Featured playwrights include Addison and Steele, Ibsen, Shaw, Brecht, Churchill, and Kushner.
Junior/Senior seminar. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
[before 1800] (Offered as ENGL 441 and EUST 441.) No word for lyric poetry is in use in Europe until the sixteenth century. This course examines the poems written before and at the dawn of the definition of lyric poetry, in order to form our own working definition of a short, musical poem. We will read poetry by Sappho, Horace, Pindar, anonymous medieval writers, Richard Rolle, William Dunbar, and others, along with classical and medieval tracts on poetry and poetics. The course will conclude with readings from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century lyric poets (Wyatt, Surrey, Shakespeare, Donne) alongside the treatises that defined lyric for the first time (such as Sidney’s Defense of Poesy). Does the “lyric” poem change once it is defined? How do later works speak to the earlier tradition?
Requisite: At least one previous English course, preferably in poetry. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.2015-16: Not offered
Who are the earlier poets whose work remains acutely alive in the minds of recent and contemporary poets, critics, scholars, and what Samuel Johnson called, respectfully, common readers? This seminar will consider the thesis that the short and mid-length poems of John Donne, George Herbert, William Wordsworth, and Robert Frost make the case that these poets belong high on the list of those who are read now with the kind of attention that the range of readers gives to today’s major writers. Beginning with Donne in the 1590s and concluding with Frost in the 1950s, the work of the poets will be considered, in detail, from historical, formal, and religious/philosophical points of view. In addition, we will read examples of the abundant criticism devoted to each of the four.
Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, with preference to junior English majors. Although an English Department seminar, students not majoring in English are welcome. Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Sofield and Simpson Lecturer Wilbur.2015-16: Not offered
A study of two major writers whose works span five decades. Their careers will be followed by a chronological survey of each from the late 1950s to the present. They will be viewed biographically and historically, but mainly through close engagement with literary style.
Open to junior and senior majors. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Pritchard.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 454 and BLST 442.) William Faulkner and Toni Morrison are generally understood as two of the most important writers of the twentieth century, and indeed, the work of each is integral to American literature. But why are Morrison and Faulkner so often mentioned in the same breath–he, born in the South, white and wealthy, she, the daughter of a working-class black family in the Midwest? Perhaps it is because in a country that works hard to live without a racial past, both Morrison’s and Faulkner’s work bring deep articulation to the often unseen, and more commonly–the unspeakable. This class will explore the breadth of each author’s work, looking for where their texts converge and diverge. And we will learn how to talk and write about the visions, dreams, and nightmares–all represented as daily life–that these authors offer.
Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Parham.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 456, BLST 441 [US], and FAMS 451.) This class begins with narratives about individuals who pass–that is, who come to be recognized as someone different from whom they were sexually or racially “born as.” Such stories suggest that one’s identity depends minimally on the body into which one is born, and is more attached to the supplementation and presentation of that body in support of whichever cultural story the body is desired to tell. Drawing on familiar liberal humanist claims, which centralize human identity in the mind, these narratives also respond to the growing sophistication of human experience with virtual worlds–from acts of reading to immersions in computer simulation. But what kinds of tensions emerge when bodies nonetheless signify beyond an individual’s self-imagination? As technology expands the possibilities of the virtual, for instance surrogacy, cloning, and cybernetics, what pressures are brought to bear on the physical human body and its processes to signify authentic humanness? Rather than ask whether identity is natural or cultural, our discussions will project these questions into a not-so-distant future: What would it mean to take “human” as only one identity, as a category amongst many others, each also acknowledged as equally subject to the same social and biological matrices of desire, creation, and recognition? We will approach these questions through works of literature, philosophy, media history, and contemporary science writing.
Junior/Senior seminar. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Parham.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
[before 1800] (Offered as ENGL 466, BLST 435 [US], and FAMS 314.) Mining a variety of archives in search of captivity narratives created by American slaves and their progeny, this class will use its materials to consider larger questions regarding the overlapping roles of voice, testimony, trauma, and narrative in cultural and historical understanding. Work for this semester will culminate in the production of a multimedia research project, but no previous familiarity with media production is required.
Junior/Senior seminar. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Parham.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as AMST 468 and ENGL 470.) This course is designed to provide American Studies juniors (and others) with a methodological grounding in the discipline and an opportunity to write a research paper on a topic of their own choosing. We will engage a wide range of materials and methodologies in this course in order to grasp the broad interdisciplinarity of the field of American Studies. Through short written exercises addressing a variety of documents including manuscripts, journals, census records, images and printed books, students will gauge the utility of various methodological approaches to determine which are most useful for their own independent work. The major requirement of this course is a research paper, approximately 20-25 pages in length, that will be due at the end of the semester.
Limited to 20 students. Open to juniors and seniors as a research seminar; underclassmen admitted under special circumstances. Spring semester. Professor Hayashi.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
(Offered as ENGL 482 and FAMS 482.) 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.2015-16: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 484 and FAMS 484.) This seminar will explore theories of animation and new media in moving image culture. While animation is many times considered children’s entertainment, this course situates it as the technical coincidence of life and movement while examining its relation to the nature of cinema and other media. Cinema is a privileged type of animation in the class, but one that exists in a long history of moving images that we will interrogate along with the roles different techniques and technologies play in that history’s formation. We will begin with an examination of nineteenth-century optical devices like zoetropes and phenakistoscopes and then study handmade and industrial animation practices, finally working our way to digital special effects technology, machinima, and algorithmic cinema. Particular attention will be paid to the role of motion in the aesthetics of cinema and the sense of vitality objects and figures take on in film. How is life attributed to this illusion of movement? How is the threshold between the animate and inanimate used to define our understandings of media and mediation? To answer these questions we will read theoretical and historical texts by Donald Crafton, Sergei Eisenstein, Tom Gunning, Esther Leslie, and Lev Manovich and view films by artists such as Emile Cohl, Lotte Reiniger, Mary Ellen Bute, Chuck Jones, the Quay Brothers, Lewis Klahr, Cory Arcangel, Marjane Satrapi, and Takeshi Murata. One three-hour class meeting and one required screening per week.
Requisite: Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Johnston.2015-16: Not offered
Independent Reading Courses.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
(Offered as ENGL 491 and BLST 461 [CLA].) 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.
Junior/Senior seminar. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Cobham-Sander and Visiting Professor Drabinski.2015-16: 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.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015