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. Each section limited to 12 students. Fall semester: Professor Barale and Dean Lieber. Spring semester: Dean Lieber.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
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.
Each section limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Berek, and Professors Bosman, Christoff, and Cobham-Sander, and Grobe.2016-17: 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.
2016-17: 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 K. Sánchez-Eppler. Spring semester: Visiting Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
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. Omitted 2013-14. Visiting Lecturer Bergoffen.2016-17: 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 2013-14. Professor Hayashi.2016-17: 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.
Omitted 2013-14. Professor Parham.2016-17: Not offered
This course will use crossings as a framework for considering how ethnic and racial identities have been understood, represented, and theorized in America. One of our goals will be to use this conceptual lens to examine works of multiethnic literature, works that address the experiences of immigration, adaptation, ethnic multiplicity, passing, and ethnic tension. What does it mean to identify as ethnic in American culture? What are the challenges in self-defining identity in a culture that categorizes people and groups? Another goal will be to examine how these texts engage with others regarding multiethnic experience. Close attention will be paid to issues of language, style, and form. Readings will include texts by Abraham Cahan, Pauline Hopkins, Richard Rodriguez, Sui Sin Far, Nella Larsen, Philip Roth, and Anna Deveare Smith.
Preference to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Bergoffen.2016-17: 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.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
In the years 1830 to 1860 Emerson dominates. He is known throughout the entire United States, widely read, yet more widely heard, an inspiration to many writers, a curse to a few. Melville and Thoreau are little known for the most part. Until Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, none of the many women writers achieved comparable stature, though many were popular.
Political and social struggle marked these times: Indian Rights, abolitionism, women’s rights, utopian communities, the continuing efforts of black people to become free in the North as well as in the South, and the sectional antagonisms that led to the Civil War. These pervade every form of literature and support the emergence of Indian writers, a substantial number of black writers (most notably Frederick Douglass) and slave narratives, a whole new genre, and more writing by women. For the first time in American history something like the full range of voices in the society could be heard and read.
The readings in the course focus on Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Douglass, Apess, and Stowe.
Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.2016-17: 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.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Hayashi.2016-17: 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: Visiting Professor Stinton.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
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. We will practice a kind of “middle-distance reading.” That is, in addition to paying close attention to the local detail of a play, we will also stand further away from it in order inquire into its broader structure and premises. How does this stage-world work? What are its rules, its tendencies, its textures? Most importantly, since this is a course on small-casted plays, how are characters created, tested, and distributed within the play? How might theatrical character differ from novelistic character or poetic voice?
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Grobe.2016-17: 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 and spring semesters. Professor Sofield.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
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. Fall semester: Professor Frank. Spring semester: Professor Sanborn.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
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. Omitted 2013-14. Visiting Writer Gaige.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 271, BLST 332 [US], FAMS 374, and WAGS 271.) Girl Power is the pop-culture term for what some commentators have also dubbed “postfeminism.” The 1990s saw a dramatic transformation in cultural representations of women’s relationships to their own sense of power. But did this still rising phenomenon of “women who kick ass” come at a cost? Might such representations signify genuine reassessments of some of the intersections between gender, power, and the individual? Or are they, at best, superficial appropriations of what had otherwise been historically construed as male power? With such questions in mind, this class will teach students to use theoretical and primary texts to research, assess, and critique contemporary popular culture. Each student will also be trained to produce a critical multimedia project. One class meeting per week, which includes a 135-minute seminar and a 60-minute workshop and lab.
Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Parham.2016-17: 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.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as AMST 280 and ENGL 273.) In Penobscot author Joseph Nicolar’s 1893 narrative, the Corn Mother proclaims, “I am young in age and I am tender, yet my strength is great and I shall be felt all over the world, because I owe my existence to the beautiful plant of the earth.” In contrast, according to one Iowa farmer, from the 2007 documentary “King Corn,” “We aren’t growing quality. We’re growing crap.” This course aims to unpack depictions like these in order to probe the ways that corn has changed in its significance within the Americas. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, students will be introduced to critical theories and methodologies from American Studies as they study corn’s shifting role, across distinct times and places, as a nourishing provider, cultural transformer, commodity, icon, and symbol.
Beginning with the earliest travels of corn and her stories in the Americas, students will learn about the rich histories, traditions, narratives, and uses of “maize” from indigenous communities and nations, as well as its subsequent proliferation and adaptation throughout the world. In addition to literary and historical sources students will engage with a wide variety of texts (from material culture to popular entertainment, public policy and genetics) in order to deepen their understanding of cultural, political, environmental, and economic changes that have characterized life in the Americas.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professors Brooks and Vigil.2016-17: 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. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Johnston.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
(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.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
(Offered as ENGL 282 and FAMS 215.) For better or worse, U.S. broadcast television is a cultural form that is not commonly associated with knowledge. This course will take what might seem a radical counter-position to such assumptions--looking at the ways television teaches us what it is and even trains us in potential critical practices for investigating it. By considering its formal structure, its textual definitions, and the means through which we see it, we will map out how it is that we come to know television.
Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended, but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.2016-17: Offered in Fall 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/course_applications. Fall semester. Five College Professor Hillman.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
(Offered as ENGL 289 and FAMS 222.) The topic changes each time the course is taught. In spring 2013 the topic was “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. Omitted 2013-14.2016-17: 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. Professor Christoff.2016-17: Not offered
Much of the course focuses on writings by and about those who have resisted some of the many forms of repression. Among them will be American slave narratives, memoirs of the Civil Rights movement, accounts by those imprisoned, and stories of working peoples’ struggles to limit their exploitation. There will be weekly writing.
This is an INSIDE/OUT course. There will be 15 Amherst and Five College students and 15 inside students from the Hampshire County Jail. The course meets at the Jail. To be admitted, outside students must be interviewed the week before fall preregistration (contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule).
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Emeritus O’Connell.
2016-17: Not offered
“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.
Omitted 2013-14. Professor Sanborn.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Readings and discussions centering on the work of Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Wallace Stevens. Some attention also to A.E. Housman, Edward Thomas, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams.
Omitted 2013-14. Professor Pritchard.2016-17: Not offered
Readings of poets who have chosen to live in a culture other than their own, with an emphasis on T.S. Eliot in London, Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil, Thom Gunn in California, and Agha Shahid Ali in New England. Two class meetings per week.
Spring semester. Writer-in-Residence Hall.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Cameron.2016-17: 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.2016-17: 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.
Spring semester. Professor Frank.2016-17: 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 2013-14. Professor Cobham-Sander.2016-17: 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.2016-17: 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.2016-17: 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.
Limited to 15 students. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. Omitted 2013-14. Writer-in-Residence Hall.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
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.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Grobe.2016-17: 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.
Omitted 2013-14. Professor Chickering.2016-17: 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 most of the poetic Tales and excerpts from the two prose Tales. Three class hours per week.
Fall semester. Visiting Professor Adams (University of Massachusetts).2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
[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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Bosman.2016-17: 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 Bosman. Spring semester: Professor Grobe.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
[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.
Omitted 2013-14. Professor Nelson.2016-17: Not offered
A study of six classic writers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ben Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, and Samuel Johnson. Among the readings are: Jonson, poems and Volpone; Milton, Comus, “Lycidas” and Paradise Lost; Dryden, poems and critical prose; Pope, “The Rape of the Lock,” Essay on Man, The Dunciad; Swift, Tale of a Tub, Gulliver’s Travels, poems; Johnson, poems, Rasselas, Prefaces to Shakespeare and to the Dictionary, passages from Boswell’s Life of Johnson.
Fall semester. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.2016-17: Not offered
In this course, we will examine a selection of nineteenth-century British novels that illuminate the cultural politics of imperialism and colonization in the Victorian period. In particular, we will question the ways that novels seem to focus exclusively on the personal and the domestic work to repress and/or represent the social and the political. Authors may include Jane Austen, Emily and Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, and E.M. Forster. We will conclude the course with a contemporary novel that engages these issues and re-examines the representational practices of Victorian fiction.
Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Christoff.2016-17: Not offered
Some classic novels from the first half of the twentieth century will be considered with an eye to juxtaposing English and American writers. Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Theodore Dreiser, D.H. Lawrence, Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Evelyn Waugh.
Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Sanborn.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor O’Connell.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Pritchard.2016-17: Not offered
“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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Sanborn.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
(Offered as WAGS 312 and ENGL 370.) 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Barale.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 373 and FAMS 353.) U.S. film in the 1970s was evident of tremendous aesthetic and economic innovation. Rife with but not limited to conspiracy, disaster, love and war, 1970s popular films range from the counter-cultural to the commercial, the independent to the industrial. Thus, while American cinema of the first half of the decade is known as the work of groundbreaking independent “auteurs,” the second half of the decade witnessed an industrial transformation through the emergence of the giant blockbuster hit. With a focus on cultural and historical factors shaping filmmaking and film-going practices and with close attention to film form, this course will explore thematic threads, directors, stars, and genres that emerged and developed during the decade. While the course will largely focus on mainstream film, we will set this work in some relation to other movements of the era: blaxploitation, comic parodies, documentary, and New American Cinema. Two class meetings and one screening per week.
Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
(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.
Omitted 2013-14. Professors Parham and Drabinski.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as FAMS 356 and ENGL 375.) Film flourished in the U.S. as a popular form amidst the rise of modernity. Born of the industrialization and urbanization that defined the twentieth century, it was at once “high” and “low,” an autonomous art and popular cultural form. Given this historical and aesthetic basis, to claim it also as “classical” seems inherently contradictory. Using a variety of critical and theoretical texts, the primary objective of this course is to negotiate the many ambiguities of understanding “classical” cinema as an artistic practice that represents the experience of modernity. This course will develop an understanding of what traditionally has been called Classical Hollywood Cinema – the period from roughly 1930-1960 – through looking at canonical films (from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times to John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln to Hitchcock’s Rear Window) and readings in film and aesthetic studies. We will utilize small group discussion and writing assignments to help us to articulate the relationship between this coherent tradition of filmmaking and the complexities of modernist aesthetics.
Limited to 25 students. Class meeting twice weekly with mandatory film screenings once weekly. Fall semester. Five College Fellow Cornett.2016-17: 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. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Johnston.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Hastie.2016-17: 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. Preference will be given to English, Film and Media Studies, and Art majors. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Johnson.2016-17: Not offered
In 1980, on the eve of publication of his second short story collection, Raymond Carver wrote to his editor Gordon Lish and begged him to stop the presses. Carver felt Lish had edited the stories so dramatically the author could no longer claim them as his own. Yet this collection is an American masterpiece. What can we learn about the art and practice of editing from this relationship? How does one read and think like an editor? In addition to reading editor-author correspondence and the “before” and “after” versions of landmark literary works, including The Great Gatsby, students will read and analyze trail-blazing literary magazines, defunct and contemporary, that have shaped literary landscapes and authors’ careers. Submissions to The Common, the Amherst College-based print and online literary magazine, will provide some of the course materials and opportunities for hands-on editing work.
Requisite: One English course at the 200 level or higher required. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Acker.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Visiting Writer Gaige.2016-17: 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). Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.2016-17: Not offered
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. Fall semester. Professor Grobe.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Sofield and Simpson Lecturer Wilbur.2016-17: Not offered
Adapting legends of King Arthur, and with inventiveness that in our own time might have turned to science fiction, Edmund Spenser creates the first English epic poem. The Fairy Queen (1590) engages romantic love, gender roles, religious controversy, and Elizabethan politics. Modeling himself on classical predecessors, Spenser through his career shapes the idea of a national poet. John Milton, possessed by Jerusalem, Greece, and Rome and committed to the English revolution, follows Spenser in creating himself as bard of a redeemed nation in the greatest of English long poems, Paradise Lost (1667). Canonized yet occasionally reviled, both poets are the subject of critical controversies raising questions about the nature of poetry and its relationship to its own time and ours.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Berek.2016-17: Not offered
Readings of the poetry and prose (in Keats’ case, letters) of these two major Romantic figures. Attention will be paid to the biographical, political, and social implications of their writings.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Townsend.2016-17: Not offered
A seminar–-intensive reading, in-class presentations, a long paper at the end-–in which the work of six or seven British and American post-World War II poets will be studied. The poets will be drawn from this group: W.H.Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Amy Clampitt, Richard Wilbur, Philip Larkin, Anthony Hecht, David Ferry, Donald Justice, John Ashbery, Geoffrey Hill, Louise Glück, and Don Paterson. Attention will be given to the poets’ own critical writing as well as to the critical literature devoted to them.
Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, with preference to junior English majors who have not taken a 400-level English course. Although an English Department seminar, students not majoring in English are welcome. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Sofield.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Nelson.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Sanborn.2016-17: 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. In a country that works hard to live without a racial past, both authors have brought deep articulation to what it means to experience that which is often otherwise ignored and regardless unspoken. This semester we will explore several key novels from each author’s oeuvre, looking for where their texts converge and diverge. We will also spend time with Jean Toomer–-a modernist writer critical to understanding what might be at stake in Faulkner and Morrison’s writerly manipulations of time, space, place, and memory–-and with several philosophical texts that will help us to conceptualize what it means to “know” something like race or to “understand” history.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Parham.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
(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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Parham.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Brooks.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Brooks.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Hayashi.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 474 and BLST 452.) Concurrent migrations of Chinese and Indian indentured laborers to the Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean workers to and from the Panama Canal, at the turn of the twentieth century, profoundly influenced the style and scope of modern Caribbean literature. Both migrant groups worked under difficult conditions for exploitative wages, yet members of each managed to save enough to enter the educated middle class. Their cultural forms and political aspirations shaped Caribbean literary production as well as anti-colonial political movements. In this course, students will learn how to use digital, print, and audio-visual archival material related to these migrations to enrich their reading of Caribbean literature. Librarians at Frost as well as scholars, librarians, and students at two other universities will join us. We will hold some class discussions online and students at all three campuses will learn how to create finding aids for the archives we use. We will read works by Claude McKay, H.G. de Lisser, Marcus Garvey, George Lamming, V.S. Naipaul, Ismith Khan, Ramabai Espinet, Meiling Jin, and Patricia Powell.
A previous course in English, History, or Black Studies is recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Visiting Professor Christoff.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Hastie.2016-17: 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. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Johnston.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Bosman and Visiting Professor Johnston.2016-17: 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. Omitted 2013-14. Visiting Professor Johnston.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 489 and FAMS 489.) This course in film production and film history will address changing cinematic representations of the architecture and urban space of Paris and the surrounding suburbs. The course will include workshops in cinematography, lighting, editing, and sound recording. We will consider shifting representations of the city and the body of the performer in the films of Feuillade, Vigo, Rivette, Prévert, Cantet, Denis, Kechiche, and Volta. We will analyze performances of identities, emphasizing the body as the primary site of a daily negotiation of language and culture. Students will be encouraged to question how performative languages of movement, architecture, and speech function as aesthetic systems that reflect the ways in which the body is coded. The course will include a study of articles from Présence Africaine, Trafic, Cahiers du Cinéma, and Bref, as well as works by Petrine Archer-Straw, Carrie Tarr, Raphaël Bassan, and Nicole Brenez. Students will complete two film or video projects. One three-hour class meeting and one film screening per week.
Recommended prior coursework: ENGL 287/FAMS 228, Introduction to Super 8 Film and Digital Video, or other introductory course in film and video, photography, or painting. Preference given to FAMS majors. 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. Five College Professor Hillman.2016-17: Not offered
Independent Reading Courses.
Fall and spring semester. The Department.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
Students intending to continue independent work begun in ENGL 498 are required to submit, by the end of the first week of classes, a five-page prospectus describing in detail the shape of the intended project along with a substantial writing sample from the work completed in English 498. Students beginning a new project who wish to apply for English 499 must submit, by the end of the first week of classes, a five-page description and rationale for the proposed independent study. Those who propose projects in fiction, verse, playwriting, or autobiography must submit a substantial sample of work in the appropriate mode; students wishing to undertake critical projects must include a tentative bibliography with their proposal.
Preregistration is not allowed. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017