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. Fall semester: Professor Barale and Dean Lieber. Spring semster: Dean Lieber.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
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 Sofield. Spring semester: Professor Emeritus Berek (Mount Holyoke College).2020-21: Not offered
In 1852, Karl Marx observed that “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” Modernism–the aesthetic response to the experience of modernity–can be understood as a way to cast off that nightmare through the revolutionary force of the new. In this course, arranged around thematic clusters such as The City, Alienation, Primitivism, The New Woman, War, Speed, and Consciousness, we will range widely through European and Anglo-American writers, painters, musicians, and filmmakers from the late nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries as we look at the explosion of styles and approaches that characterize modernism in all its dazzling vivacity and disruption.
Preference given to first-year students. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Pritchett.
2020-21: 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 Cobham-Sander. Spring semester: Visiting Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.2020-21: 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.2020-21: 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. Fall semester. Professor Hayashi.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 160 and BLST 132 [US].) The focus of this introduction to African American literature is the complex intertextuality at the heart of the African American literary tradition. Tracing the tradition’s major formal and thematic concerns means looking for connections between different kinds of texts: music, art, the written word, and the spoken word–-and students who take this class will acquire the critical writing and interpretive skills necessary to any future study of literature.
Fall semester. Professor Parham.2020-21: 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: Visiting Lecturer Pritchett.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Over the last thirty some 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 accepted as first-rate works of art. Known but neglected artists have been reread, re-seen. An important goal of this course is bringing what were once considered the classics together 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: fiction and non-fiction and poetry.
This course begins with Norman Mailer and Philip Roth, two of a number of writers who, in the 1950s, 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 writers we may read: James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Danzy Senna, N. Scott Momaday, Maxine Hong Kingston, Chang-Rae Lee, Louise Erdrich, Ray Young Bear, Junot Diaz, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Chuck Palahniuk, Chris Hedges, and Joe Sacco (graphic non-fiction).
Limited to 40 students. Spring semester. Professors Brooks and O'Connell.2020-21: Not offered
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: Writer-in-Residence Hall. Spring semester: Professor Sofield and Simpson Lecturer Wilbur.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
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. Professor Emeritus Townsend.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
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 Douglas. Spring semester: Professor Frank.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
This course explores the unique challenges of experiencing performance through the page. While this course is not intended as a survey of dramatic literature or theater history, students will be introduced to a variety of drama from across the English-language tradition. The organizing theme of the course may change slightly from year to year, but the goal will always be to explore a wide array of theoretical and methodological approaches to drama. Of particular interest will be the relationship of play-reading to other reading practices. What does a play demand of the reader that a novel, a poem, or an essay does not? How must the central elements of storytelling or world-making (character, plot, setting, dialogue, point of view, etc.) change when they are required to appear onstage?
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Grobe.2020-21: 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.
Limited to 35 students. Fall semester: Professor Nelson. Spring semester: Professor Sofield.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
An introduction to the study of the novel, through the exploration of a variety of critical terms (plot, character, point of view, tone, realism, identification, genre fiction, the book) and methodologies (structuralist, Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic). We will draw on a selection of novels in English to illustrate and complicate those terms; possible authors include Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Kazuo Ishiguro, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, Emma Donoghue, David Foster Wallace, Monique Truong, Jennifer Egan.
Preference given to sophomores. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Frank.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Although little studied as a separate literary form, the book of interlinked short stories is a prominent (and increasingly popular) form of modern fiction. This course will slowly read and closely examine a variety of these compositions in order to better understand how they achieve their coherence and how they structure a larger story through an unfolding sequence of independent narratives. Works likely to be considered include Joyce’s Dubliners, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, Hemingway’s In Our Time, Eudora Welty’s The Golden Apples, Jean Toomer’s Cane, and more recent collections by contemporary American and Anglophone writers. For each class meeting a pair of students will collaborate on presenting a reading of a story that links it to the larger whole in which it is integrated. The course includes frequent brief writing and concludes with an independent project on a chosen modern (or recent) example of this unusual genre of sequenced stories. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Peterson.2020-21: Not offered
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. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Gaige.2020-21: Not offered
Children’s books are a site of first encounter, a doorway to literacy and literature. This course will offer both a history of book production for child readers in England and the United States and an exploration of what these first books can teach us about the attractions, expectations, and responsibilities of reading.
Spring semester. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
(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.2020-21: Not offered
(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 2013 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 Johnson.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 289 and FAMS 222.) The topic changes each time the course is taught. In spring 2013 the topic will be “Production Foundations: Image and Sound.” What is the relationship between image and sound in video? How does listening affect what we see and imagine? This class will cover the technical and aesthetic fundamentals of video production including composition, framing, camera movement, lighting, audio recording, and digital editing using Final Cut Pro. Sonic expression will play a leading role in our exploration of video production and interpretation. The art of audio and the function of sound for the screen will be considered through hands-on exercises, screenings, readings, and discussion. Students will create non-fiction and narrative videos with dynamic employments of sound as we develop a critical vocabulary of the audiovisual medium. One three-hour class meeting and one film screening per week.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Please complete the questionnaire at https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/english/major/course_applications. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer EE Miller.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
“The word ‘suffer,’” Nietzsche writes, is something that we “set up . . . at the point at which our ignorance begins, at which we can see no further.” What makes suffering especially mysterious–and especially attractive as an element of story-telling–is that it both escapes secure designation and refuses to be ineffable; it is a Thing, neither fully beyond nor fully within our ken. It provokes a desire to give it shape and a desire to do no more than approach its shapelessness; it occasions humanitarian crises and stands beyond them as an unbudgeable element of existence; it rings like a pure gold coin and like an alarm bell that cannot be shut off. In this course, we will be studying a series of thematically connected but wildly different works that model especially suggestive ways of approaching this phenomenon. Readings will include the Book of Job, King Lear, Emily Dickinson’s poetry, Owen Chase’s shipwreck narrative, John Hersey’s Hiroshima, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.2020-21: 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.
Spring semester. Professor Pritchard.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 309 and EUST 309.) 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.2020-21: 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.
Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.2020-21: 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. Fall semester. Writer-in-Residence Hall.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
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.
Limited to 15 students. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. Spring semester. Writer-in-Residence Hall.2020-21: Not offered
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.2020-21: Not offered
[Before 1800] 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.
Spring semester. Professor Chickering.2020-21: Not offered
[before 1800] 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.
Spring semester. Professor Chickering.2020-21: Not offered
[before 1800] 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.
Recommended requisite: A previous course in Shakespeare or Renaissance literature. Fall semester. Professor Bosman.2020-21: 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 Grobe.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
[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.
Spring semester. Professor Nelson.2020-21: Not offered
In this course, we will be reading the works of two American writers who are associated not only with the South, but with haunted fictional worlds, worlds whose tense inwardness is uncannily bound to historical traumas. The aim of the course is to become more sensitive to the implications of each of these writers’ works, more broadly conversant with the history of the South and of the nation more generally, and more aware of how questions about form and style can help us formulate more sharply focused questions about culture and subjectivity. Readings will include Poe’s only book-length fiction, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym; a healthy (or unhealthy) sampling of his tales and poems; three Faulkner novels–Sanctuary, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom!–and several of his stories.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Sanborn.2020-21: Not offered
The focus of the course will be on education within the United States. Many Americans believe that a free public educational system is crucial in a democratic society. What concretely does this mean? The question has shaped a persistent and unresolved debate throughout American history to the present, as it will our work together. Two fundamental and contradictory questions have centered nearly every controversy: 1. Should education be a competitive system to establish and legitimate a hierarchy of merit? 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? Another assumption also moves through these debates: that schools are the primary generators of equality or inequality.
The course will not seek to resolve these questions and issues, but to explore how the different assumptions 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. Considerable attention will go to the educational reforms of the last thirty years including the role of institutions such as Teach for America.
Requisite: ENGL 120 or an equivalent course or experience in public education. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor O’Connell.2020-21: Not offered
Novels and short fiction, mainly comic, by such writers as Evelyn Waugh, Saul Bellow, Flannery O’Connor, Elizabeth Taylor, Kingsley Amis, John Updike, Philip Roth, Nicholson Baker, Ian McEwan, Jonathan Franzen, Barbara Pym. The effort will be to refine and complicate one’s performance as a critic of these writers and their books.
Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Pritchard.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
“I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be extra-vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limit of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced,” Thoreau writes in Walden. “Extra vagance! it depends on how you are yarded.” The aim of this course is to seek in a series of fictional extravaganzas by American authors a better understanding of how we are generally yarded, as readers of stories and novels, and what opens up for us when that yard expands. What does a wildness of invention, an insistent pressure on the confines of literary forms, make it possible for us to feel and know? What aspects of American cultural history are exposed to our view when writers freewheelingly generate, in Melville’s words, “more reality than real life itself can show”? Readings include Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Nabokov’s Pale Fire, the stories of Donald Barthelme and Lydia Davis, Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, Edward P. Jones’s The Known World, and Mat Johnson’s Pym.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Sanborn.2020-21: Not offered
This course will critically examine multiple works by three writers: Sarah Orne Jewett, Willa Cather, and Carson McCullers. As American regional writers--Jewett, Maine; Cather, the West; McCullers, the South--all three concern themselves with insiders and outsiders, with foreigners, neighbors, strangers, and natives. When these deeply national, and often highly racial or ethnic, distinctions begin to also make sense as sexual and gender categories, the textual layering of the narratives becomes perplexing. This course will require three short papers and one lengthy one.
Requisite: One WAGS and/or English course. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Barale.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 374, BLST 330 [US], and FAMS 358.) In offering extended formal considerations of Spike Lee’s cinematic oeuvre–in particular his uses of light, sound, and color–this course is interested in how shifting through various modes of critical inquiry can enable or broaden different kinds of cultural, political, or historical engagement with a film. This semester we will also pay special attention to the question of what it means to encapsulate a particular cultural moment, particularly vis-à-vis the often differing demands of fictional and non-fictional representation.
Spring semester. Professor Parham and Visiting Professor Drabinski.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 381 and FAMS 351.) Film theorist Siegfried Kracauer declared that some of the first films showed “life at its least controllable and most unconscious moments, a jumble of transient, forever dissolving patterns accessible only to the camera.” This course will explore the ways contemporary narrative films aesthetically represent everyday life–capturing both its transience and our everyday ruminations. We will further consider the ways we incorporate film into our everyday lives through various modes of viewings (the arthouse, the multiplex, the DVD, the mp3), our means of perception, and in the kinds of souvenirs we keep. We will look at films by Chantal Akerman, Robert Altman, Marleen Gorris, Hirokazu Koreeda, Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsay, Tsai Ming-liang, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-wai, and Andy Warhol. Readings will include work by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Marlene Dietrich, Sigmund Freud, and various works in film and media studies. Two class meetings and one screening per week.
Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.2020-21: 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. One class meeting 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.2020-21: Not offered
This is an advanced writing course for students seeking to move their fiction writing into longer forms. Students will be expected to complete at least 60 pages of new writing, comprised of three different “approaches” to novel writing. Readings will be extensive, including published novels, the work of peers, and essays on theory and craft. One class meeting per week.
Requisite: ENGL 226. Recommended requisite: ENGL 326. Open to juniors and seniors. 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.2020-21: Not offered
A seminar devoted to the work of an eclectic list of poets active from the 1850s to the 2010s: Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hardy, A.E. Housman, T.S. Eliot, Robert Francis, Langston Hughes, W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Randall Jarrell, James Merrill, and Seamus Heaney.
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 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Sofield and Simpson Lecturer Wilbur.2020-21: Not offered
“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.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.2020-21: Not offered
In this course, students will become proficient in research methods related to the study of poetry. Focusing on select periods from the English language poetic tradition, we will read poems alongside historical contexts, critical essays, and contemporary treatises on poetics. The central question we will explore is, how can close reading benefit from secondary research? Students will be expected to present course material, and to choose a specific poet or group of poems as the basis of the final project, a long literary critical research paper.
This advanced seminar is designed for students who have previous training in close reading and analysis of poetry. In spring 2013 we will focus our readings on the Metaphysical poets, the Romantic poets, and their contemporaries.
A previous course in poetry is recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Nelson.2020-21: Not offered
During a mountain picnic in the summer of 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville struck up a private conversation. That champagne-fueled talk led to an intense, maddening, and relatively brief friendship, a friendship that grew out of writing, that was mediated by writing, and that can only be approached by way of writing. What was it like? How did it affect each of them? What might it suggest about the nature of the intimacies that are made possible by words on a page? In pursuit of the answers to these and other questions, we will read everything that Hawthorne and Melville wrote between July 1849 and December 1852. That will mean reading, in addition to White-Jacket, The Scarlet Letter, Moby-Dick, The House of the Seven Gables, A Wonder Book, Pierre, and The Blithedale Romance, all of their letters, journals, and marginalia. We will also take trips to Melville’s house in Pittsfield and the House of the Seven Gables in Salem.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.2020-21: 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.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 458 and AMST 358.) [before 1800] This course will delve deeply into the literature and history of “Turtle Island,” or North America. The Quiché Maya Popol Vuh (Council Book), the Iroquois Great Law, and the Wabanaki creation cycle are rooted in longstanding, complex oral narratives of emergence and transformation, which were recorded by Native authors and scribes. We will close read these epics (in English) as works of “ancient American” literature, as narratives of tribal history, and as living constitutions of tribal governance. We will study the tribally and regionally-specific contexts of these epic narratives as well as the “intellectual trade routes” that link them together. The course will conclude with an epic narrative of more recent colonial history, composed by the nineteenth-century Pequot author William Apess, born in the Connecticut River valley. Following an interdisciplinary American studies approach, our reading will be enriched by guest speakers and artistic media.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Brooks.2020-21: Not offered
What if the past is not behind us, but spiraling within our present? How are indigenous conceptions of time expressed in Native American writing? How do Native novelists enable us to imagine a past, present, and future that are intertwined, embedded in place, and spiraling in constant motion? How does the creation of a fictional world, so similar to ours, allow us to envision alternative models of gender, sexuality, race, and nationhood? This seminar will invite in-depth exploration of contemporary Native American fiction, through frameworks drawn from oral traditions, indigenous languages, literary media, and scientific theory. Authors will include Sherman Alexie, LeAnne Howe, Thomas King, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Craig Womack, among others.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Brooks.2020-21: Not offered
By working through a combination of creative non-fiction, film, and prose texts, this course in literary theory and textual analysis explores 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 how literature enlarges personal experience, even as we 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; how to question our own acts of learning about others through our consumption of culture; and examining how personal identity itself might also be understood as a question of narrative. This semester will likely include texts by Kazuo Ishiguro, Daniel Defoe, J.M. Coetzee, Marlene Nourbese Philip, Stephen King, Herman Melville, and the Wachowskis.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Parham.2020-21: Not offered
This course’s primary objective is to enable students to conduct independent and substantive research in literary studies. The vehicle to meet these goals will be the traditional canon of American literature. Reading, considering, and evaluating recent scholarship on a selection of canonical American literary texts will demonstrate how different theoretical frames and methodological approaches reveal textual content and meaning in unexpected ways. Such practices reconstitute our sense of even the most familiar texts. We will study this scholarship–in areas such as ecocriticism, sexuality studies, regionalism, cultural studies, postcolonialism–as a means to apprehend, appreciate, define, and ultimately model literary research. We will also consider and model various methods of analyzing literary texts: interdisciplinary, biographical, comparative and material. Moreover, we will focus intently on fundamental information gathering skills: finding, evaluating, and synthesizing both secondary and primary sources. Therefore, the course will entail formal sessions in library training and archival research. Students will conduct a major independent research project of their choice over the course of the semester. Authors may include Dickinson, Rowlandson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Melville.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Hayashi.2020-21: Not offered
This course explores psychoanalytic theory beyond Freud. Reading the work of modern and contemporary psychoanalytic thinkers in depth, we will ask as well what their theories teach us about reading itself. We will cover a range of modern psychoanalytic approaches, from ego psychology to the British object relations school to “contemporary Freudian revisionists.” Writers may include Anna Freud, Heinz Hartmann, Harry Stack Sullivan, Melanie Klein, Wilfred Bion, W.R.D. Fairbairn, D.W. Winnicott, Heinz Kohut, Jacques Lacan, Otto Kernberg, Roy Schafer, and Christopher Bollas, among others. The course is organized around ideas and close reading: we will trace the evolution of a number of psychoanalytic concepts (such as hysteria, paranoia, aggression, aesthetic experience, dissociation, projection, and transference) from their foundations to the present day. In addition to learning about the history of psychoanalysis, its modern incarnations, and the development of psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice, we will consider how contemporary psychoanalysis offers us new approaches to reading, thinking, and cultural analysis.
Previous experience with courses in English and/or psychoanalysis recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Christoff.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 483, FAMS 426, and WAGS 483.) This seminar will be devoted to the study of feminism and film, considering the ways feminism has shaped both film theory and film practice. Though focusing in large part on post-1968 writings, which largely ushered in semiotic, psychoanalytic, and feminist theory to film studies, we will also consider early writings by women from the 1910s-1950s in a range of venues–from fan magazines to film journals–that developed points of view regarding women’s practices as both artists and audience members. We will also consider a range of films, from Hollywood melodrama (also known as “the women’s picture”) of the 1940s to contemporary action films, and from avant-garde feminist works to current independent and international films directed by women. Informed by feminist film theorist Claire Johnston, we will explore how and when “women’s cinema”–whether theory or practice–constitutes or shapes “counter-cinema.” One three-hour class meeting per week.
Requisite: As an advanced seminar in film theory, some previous work with film and media studies is required. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 485 and FAMS 485.) How do words and images bring each other to life? How have different graphic and material instantiations articulated their separation or union? This seminar will explore the relationship between word and image across different media forms and historical periods, continually asking how they mutually animate, constrain, and give shape to one another. Studying works such as illustrated and graphic novels, theatrical performances, films, and digital works we will attend at once to the intersection between material form and aesthetic experience. Over the course of this seminar we will engage with key concepts and topics including ekphrasis, adaptation, remediation, and synaesthesia while reading theoretical and historical texts by classical and Renaissance authors as well as contemporary critics from Maurice Merleau-Ponty to Katherine Hayles. Primary texts may include works by Shakespeare, William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Dziga Vertov, W.G. Sebald, William Gibson, and Miranda July. One three-hour class meeting per week.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman and Visiting Professor Johnston.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 486 and FAMS 456.) How can we write histories of media? How are media written about, used, designed, preserved and sometimes discarded? Where are the relics of past media stored and what do these alternative paths not taken and now forgotten futures of media say about different historical moments and the present? This seminar will explore theories and practices of media archaeology and historiography by both examining different scholarly responses to the above questions while also learning about forms of media preservation at various archives throughout the semester. We will move through different historical periods, from the magic lantern performances and phantasmagoria of the eighteenth century through film and the phonograph, and then on to recent digital media and magnetic storage technologies like the floppy disk, hard drive, and personal computer. Throughout the seminar we will continue to ask how media landscapes of the past provide a context for our contemporary engagements with media and also emphasize how the histories we will explore point not only to technological experimentation and change but also to how these media were to engage with the senses of the body. We will read theoretical and historical texts by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Jonathan Crary, Lisa Gitelman, Tom Gunning, Katherine Hayles, Matthew Kirschenbaum, Friedrich Kittler, Vivian Sobchack, Paolo Cherchi Usai and Siegfried Zielinski. One three-hour class meeting and one required screening per week.
Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Johnston.2020-21: Not offered
Independent Reading Courses.
Fall and spring semester. The Department.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
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.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020