English

2019-20

104 Engaging the Arts

When writing about literature, performance or, indeed, any form of art, you face a difficult task. In order to share your perceptions with readers, you must first conjure the artwork for them using nothing but words. The ancient Greeks had a name for this feat: ekphrasis, literally the “speaking out” of an experience or thing, the verbal description of a non-verbal work of art.

In this course, an introduction to literary study, performance analysis, and critical writing across the arts, we will study ekphrastic poems, prose, and plays in order to see how they conjure works of art. We will then test our own ekphrastic powers, not only on these literary works themselves, but also on art we encounter near Amherst College. Since this will require you to attend an assortment of performances (literary, musical, theatrical, and dance-based) and to visit museums, cinemas, and art galleries near campus, it will serve as your introduction to the wide range of cultural institutions in the area. You will be expected to engage in workshops in class and meet individually with the instructor outside class on a regular basis to discuss your writing.

Preference given to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Grobe.

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

105 Engaging Literature: Close Reading

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

Open to first-year students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Cobham-Sander.

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

106 Engaging Literature: Craft, Conversation, Community

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

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

Preference given to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professors Brooks and Mireles Christoff.

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

107 Poetry with Friends

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

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

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

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Writer-in-Residence Lawson.

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

116 Literary Storms

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

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

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

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

Limited to 18 students. Ten spots reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Abramson.

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

118 Big Books

This seminar explores the particular pleasures and interpretive problems of reading and writing about three very long works of fiction–novels so large that any sure grasp of the relation between individual part and mammoth whole may threaten to elude author and reader alike. How do we gauge, and thereby engage with, narratives of disproportionate scale and encyclopedic ambition? How do we lose, or find, our place in colossal fictional worlds? As befits its interest in the losing and finding of place, the course introduces students to college-level literary study. Short papers on different aspects of the novels will be assigned most weeks. In a recent version of the course, the seminar’s three novels included George Eliot’s Middlemarch, the first volume of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood. Future selections are likely to display similar historical, geographic, and stylistic diversity.

Limited to 18 first-year students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Mireles Christoff.

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

119 From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Literature of Everyday

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

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

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

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Abramson.

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

120 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

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

Limited to 18 students. In Fall semester, twelve spots reserved for first-year students. Fall semester: Professor Frank. Spring semester: Lecturer B. Sánchez-Eppler.

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

125 Representing Illness

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

Twelve seats reserved for first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman.

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

150 Amherst Poets

From Emily Dickinson to Robert Frost to Sonia Sánchez, Amherst is world-famous because of its poets. More than twenty well-known poets have written, lived and taught in the area where we find ourselves living. This introductory course is designed to welcome students who have not previously taken a college-level English course into the literary environment of Amherst, as well as into the literary community of poetry readers across the globe. Our main focus will be on the close-reading skills needed to engage with poetry of all kinds, and on the skills needed to write a college-level essay. We will engage in frequent writing workshops together. The class includes several field trips to places important to Amherst writers, and makes use of manuscript versions of poems held by the Frost Library.

No prior experience of poetry will be assumed. Limited to 18 first-year students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Worsley.

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

170 Making Arguments

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the fundamentals of argumentation theory and research, in order to give extensive practice in analyzing and producing arguments. The readings and discussions will familiarize students with various theorists whose concepts and ideas are frequently studied and applied by scholars in the field. The course is also intended as an informed introduction to rhetorical theory (including feminist rhetoric[s] and African American rhetoric) in the twentieth century. For us, an “argument” will involve conveying a reasoned position on an issue of controversy, and this conveying may take a variety of forms, including op-ed pieces, political ads, websites, blogs, essays, prose fiction, films, images, and even everyday conversation.

Limited to 18 students. Ten seats reserved for first year students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Handley.

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

172 Whodunit? Thinking with Detective Fiction

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

Limited to 18 students. Eight seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

180 Film and Writing

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

Limited to 25 students. In the Fall semester, 12 seats reserved for first-year students. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie. Spring semester: Professor Guilford.

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

216 Women Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2024

217 Making Literary Histories I

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

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Nelson.

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

221 Writing Poetry I

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

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

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

222 Playwriting I

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

223 Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations

Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020

225 Non-Fiction I or Personal Story

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

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

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

226 Fiction Writing I

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

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester: Writer-in-Residence Lee and Visiting Writer Myint. Spring semester: Visiting Instructor Susan Stinson. 

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

227 Reading and Writing Electronic Literature

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

Fall semester. Professors Frank and Parham.

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

230 Introduction to Performance Theory

The term “performance” can refer to any of the stylized doings that define our world. This, of course, includes the traditional performing arts, but it also encompasses religious rituals, public ceremonies, political protests, sports events, social media use, etc. “Performance” can even describe the regimented behaviors that structure our everyday lives, whether we’re aware of them or not.

In this course, you will explore this full range of performance through readings, screenings, and attendance at live performances. We will be guided in our approach by critical and theoretical texts in the interdisciplinary field of “performance studies.” Guiding questions will include: How is a performance different from a text? How do we enact a shared reality? How have the major forces shaping our world (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, nationality) been created and sustained through acts of performance?

Students in this course will be required to complete regular, short exercises and writing assignments. A final exam, inviting creative approaches to critical topics, will assess mastery of the ideas in this course.

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Grobe.

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

232 Reading Drama

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 2019-20. Professor Bosman.

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

238 Shakespeare

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

Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor Pritchard.

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

240 Reading Poetry

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

Limited to 35 students. Fall semester: Professor Emeritus Sofield. Spring semester: Professor Nelson.

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

250 Reading the Novel

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

Preference given to sophomores. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester: Professor Mireles Christoff. Spring semester: Professor Sanborn.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

253 Modernists: In Their Words and In Their Worlds

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

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

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Abramson.

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

258 Black Speculative Fictions

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

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Parham.

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

270 Letter Writing and Epistolarity

The participants in this course will read and write letters. We will explore the letter as a complex instrument of communication, as literary artifact, as carrier of affect, intention and ideas, and as a record of individual and communal growth. Letter writing will be experienced as a performance that deploys persona, tone, voice, purpose, persuasion and decorum. Your discoveries and the development of your thoughts will be circulated as letters written among a small circle of correspondents.

Readings will range from the letters of Paul and Erasmus, through selections from French eighteenth-century salons, plantation and emancipation correspondence, Lake District poets, twentieth-century travelers and diasporas; from Heloise and Abelard to Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller; from Galileo to Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project.

The reading of epistolary novels will focus our attention on fictional uses of the form. The current evolution of letter writing in the time of e-mail and social media will provide another frame of reference.

Capstone projects will be researched and curated presentations of selected unpublished letters from the archival holdings at Frost, Du Bois and the Jones libraries in Amherst.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Benigno Sánchez-Eppler.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

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

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

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

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

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

272 A Primer to Children’s Literature

Children’s books are a site of first encounter, a doorway to literacy and literature. This course will offer both a history of book production for child readers in England and the United States and an exploration of what these first books can teach us about the attractions, expectations, and responsibilities of reading.

Limited to 80 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

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

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

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

274 Native American Literature: Decolonizing Intellectual Traditions

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

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Brooks.

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

276 Black Feminist Literary Traditions

Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

277 Videogames and the Boundaries of Narrative

(Offered as ENGL 277 and FAMS 333) In this course we will engage in a comprehensive approach to narrative video gaming–-play, interpretation, and design–to explore how video gaming helps us to conceptualize the boundaries between our experiences of the world and our representations thereof. We will ask how play and interactivity change how we think about the work of narrative. What would it mean to think about video games alongside texts focused on similar subjects but in different media? How, for instance, does Assassin’s Creed: Freedom’s Cry change how we understand C.L.R. James, Susan Buck-Morss, Isabel Allende, or others’ discussions of the Haitian Revolution? And how do video games help us to reconceptualize the limits of other media forms, particularly around questions of what it means to represent differences in race, gender, physical ability? Finally, how might we more self-consciously capitalize on gaming’s potential to transform the work of other fields, for instance education and community development?      

In this course, students will play and analyze video games while engaging texts from a variety of other critical and creative disciplines. Assignments for this course will be scaled by experience-level. No experience with video games or familiarity with computer coding is required for this course, as the success of this method will require that students come from a wide variety of skill levels.

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Parham.

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

278 Digital Africas

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

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

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

279 Global Women's Literature

Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2023

280 Coming to Terms: Cinema

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

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Guilford.

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

282 Knowing Television

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

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

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

284 Coming to Terms: Media

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

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

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

288 Introduction to Film Theory

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

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Hastie.

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

292 Signifying, Sermonizing, and Storytelling: African American Rhetorical Theory

(Offered as ENGL 292 and BLST 115) This course is intended as an informed introduction to African American rhetoric, which is defined as the “communicative practices, and persuasive strategies rooted in freedom struggles by people of African ancestry in America” (Jackson and Richardson). The readings and discussions will familiarize students with various contemporary theorists whose ideas broaden contemporary conceptualization of African American rhetoric. The course will focus on representative writers, canonical texts, and theoretical debates within the field. By the end of the course, students will have a richer understanding of how rhetoric is a tool of social change encompassing a variety of written, visual, and verbal communication strategies. Readings will include major twentieth-century thinkers such as Keith Gilyard, Cornel West, Maulana Karenga, Mark McPhail, Molefi Kete Asante, and Geneva Smitherman.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Handley.

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

295 Literature and Psychoanalysis

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

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Mireles Christoff.

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

301 The Qur'ān and Its Controversies

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2022, Fall 2023

303 Books and Their Afterlives: Writing and/as Technology

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

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

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

304 Narratives of Suffering

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

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Sanborn.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

306 Modern British and American Poetry, 1900–1950

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

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

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

309 The Literary Histories of Technology

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

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

Fall semester. Visiting Professor Henrichs.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013

311 Lives on the Page

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

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professors Mireles Christoff and Frank.

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

314 Fact, Fiction, and the Truth

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

315 Nabokov's Art and Terrors

Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, January 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Fall 2023

317 Caribbean Poetry: The Anglophone Tradition

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

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Cobham-Sander.

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

318 Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature

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

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

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

319 The Postcolonial Novel: Gender, Race and Empire

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

320 Literature as Translation

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

322 Playwriting Studio

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

323 On The Edge: Writing for Performance

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

324 Writing Poetry II–Poetry in Translation

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

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

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

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

325 Her Story Is: Feminist Approaches to Theater and Performance

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

326 Fiction Writing II—Moving Beyond Plot

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

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

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

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

327 Moving Elsewhere: Performance, Poetry and Psychoanalysis

2023-24: Not offered

330 Race and Otherness in the Middle Ages

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

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Nelson.

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

332 Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

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

Fall semester. Professor Nelson.

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

337 Thinking Law with Shakespeare

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

341 Great English Writers

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

Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

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

343 British Romantic Poetry: Nature and the Imagination

Can reading poetry change our understanding of our environment? How might the way we perceive nature be conditioned by the ways in which writers have imagined it? In turn, how might the way we perceive our own imaginations be conditioned by ideas about the natural world? Although “nature” might seem like a universal and unchanging concept, British Romantic writers did much to invent our modern perception of it. This course questions what “nature” might mean, and how it developed alongside changing ideas about the imagination.

We will read the writings of William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Keats, and Felicia Hemans alongside seventeenth- and eighteenth-century theories of the imagination by David Hume, Edmund Burke, and Immanuel Kant. We will also make frequent visits to the Mead Art gallery in order to experiment with some of these imaginative theories. Finally, we will debate what impact this history has had on current environmental discourse, contemporary ethics, and the Green movement. Some critics have argued, for instance, that the Romantics’ reverence for nature is more destructive than it might at first seem. Might it be more environmentally responsible to get rid of the Romantic concept of “nature” altogether?

Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professor Worsley.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2019

344 Frankenstein: The Making of a Monster

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

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

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 Amherst students and 18 Smith students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Worsley and Professor Gurton-Wachter of Smith College.

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

346 The Victorian Novel

This course offers students an immersion in nineteenth-century British fiction, from Jane Austen to Joseph Conrad. Reading a selection of the long novels (both serious and comic, restrained and emotionally overwrought, domestic and imperial) that continue to shape our sense of what the novel is and does, we will ask how the Victorian novel’s imagination of things like love and sex, gender and politics, the relation between the aesthetic and the social, and race, ethnicity, and empire, remain with us still. Engaging with a range of critical approaches to the novel and to novel reading, we will also consider the nineteenth century as the birthplace of theoretical approaches (such as Marxism and psychoanalysis) that continue to shape the ways we read, live, and think. Writers may include: Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Mireles Christoff.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2018

348 Modern British Literature, 1900–1950

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

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

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

350 American Origins

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

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

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

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 36 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Brooks.

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

352 Reading Land, Writing Waters

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

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Brooks.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2022, Spring 2025

353 Unraveling Nationalism in American Literature

(Offered as ENGL 353 and AMST 353) This course begins with the premise that if we are to understand the rise of nationalism in our time, it is worthwhile to grapple with its roots. Although these roots reach back long before the beginning of the United States, we will focus on nationalism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as it was linked to debates about race, social Darwinism, colonialism and immigration. Some of the guiding questions will include: How was nationalism entangled with Anglo-American claims to “native” American identity? What was the relationship of nationalism to colonialism, including military actions and legal acts that contained and dismembered Native American nations? How can we understand these ideologies and policies in relation to U.S. territorial expansion, and in relation to laws and policies that sought to contain the borders and keep some immigrants out of the national body? How did Jim Crow laws deny African-Americans access to an American national identity? How can citizenship be understood in relation to both Jim Crow and immigration laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act? How did authors of color assert self-determination in their work, to intervene through creative expression and representation? Most important, how might literature (and literary analysis) create a vital space for grappling with this complex terrain? To wrestle with these questions, we will read closely literary texts written during the period between 1880-1930 in conversation with recent critical scholarship, as well as fiction and creative non-fiction set in this tumultuous time.

Limited to 40 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Brooks.

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

357 Race and Relationality

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

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

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

358 Readings in English and American Fiction, 1950–2010

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

Omitted 2019-20. Professor Emeritus Pritchard.

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

362 Wright-Ellison-Baldwin

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

368 Bad Black Women

Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2024

370 Witch Hunt! Magic and Belief in Renaissance Literature

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

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Bosman.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2022

372 Reading the Romance

Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023, Fall 2023

373 A Decade Under the Influence: U.S. Film of the 1970s

(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. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Hastie.

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

376 Disability Media

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

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

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

377 The Documentary Impulse

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

Open to students with no prior film classes. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Rangan.

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

381 Cinema and Everyday Life

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

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.

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

383 Intimate Film Cultures

(Offered as ENGL 383 and FAMS 360) What’s intimate about cinema? Since its invention, cinema has spurred pronouncements on the emotional, affective, and even spiritual impact of the filmic image, as well as deeper examinations of the specific devices through which films produce intimate experience (the close-up, the kiss, etc.). For classical film theorists, such devices were often invested with redemptive potential, though more recent cultural theorists have issued strong rejoinders to such claims. Isn’t intimacy crucial to the workings of modern power? Doesn’t cinema structure intimate relations in accordance with normative ideologies? Examining such issues, this course considers how matters of intimacy have organized critical discourse on a range of intimate film cultures, from surrealism to the melodrama, underground film, queer independent cinema, and contemporary diasporic cinema. Examining film theory alongside diverse contributions to the emerging field of intimacy studies, we will ask how recent inquiries into the politics of intimacy force us to rethink the problems and potential of cinema.

Requisite: One 200-level FAMS or ENGL course, or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Guilford.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2022

384 Television and Experience

(Offered as ENGL 384 and FAMS 382) As one of our most dominant, even omnipresent media forms, television is something most of us experience every day. But Television Studies scholarship does not always take on the question of “experience” as a central part of its analysis. This course will take experience as the central component of our study. The first unit of the course will consider phenomenological approaches to television criticism, centering on those elements of televisual form that delineate an experience different from other media. Our second unit will focus on historical experience, with an emphasis on Civil Rights era television, African-American productions and/or stars, and African-American audiences. Our third and final unit will consider the platforms and devices through which we experience television in order to query how “television experience” changes over time and what elements of it have remained constant. The course will blend lecture and discussion. Readings will be both theoretical and historical. Students will produce regular reading summaries, two formal essays, and a digital final project.

Some previous coursework in FAMS may be useful. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Hastie.

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

386 Andy Warhol, Filmmaker

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

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

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

395 Literature and the Nonhuman World

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

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Sanborn.

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

415 The Unprinted Page: Working with Manuscripts

(Offered as ENGL 415 and AMST 365) This course will focus on the manuscript culture of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, using manuscripts as a means of thinking about the act of writing, the implications of audience and publication, and the relations between the private and public word. We will study the private forms of diaries and letters. We will look at the traces of the writing process in manuscripts of ultimately published works–the window into the literary creation that manuscripts provide. We will also confront the problems raised by literary work that was never published during its author’s lifetime, heedful of the questions of social propriety and power that often inform what can and can’t be published. Texts will include Julia Ward Howe’s The Hermaphrodite, a closeted manuscript of sexual indeterminacy written in the 1840s and only published in 2004; Hannah Crafts’ The Bondwoman’s Tale, a manuscript novel probably written in the late 1850s by a fugitive slave and first published in 2002; the manuscript books of Emily Dickinson; the posthumous publication process of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel poems; and works like Edgar Allan Poe’s “MS. Found in a Bottle” and Henry James’ The Aspern Papers that tell anxious tales about manuscripts. The heart of the course, however, will be independent research with students drawing on rich local archives to do some manuscript recovering of their own. As part of the preparations for the Amherst College bicentennial, research in this semester will focus on materials written by Amherst students over the past two hundred years. A core aspect of coursework will be developing an online exhibition to analyze and share these materials.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

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

416 In the Archives of Childhood: Adventures in Book History

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

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

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

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

426 Writing the Novella

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

Requisite: ENGL 226, Fiction Writing I. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 10 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Frank.

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

431 Transnational Shakespeares

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

Requisite: ENGL 238, Shakespeare. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Bosman.

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

432 Shakespeare: Media, Technology, and Performance

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

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

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

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

435 The Play of Ideas

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

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

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Grobe.

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

441 Medieval and Renaissance Lyric

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

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

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

444 Emily Dickinson

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

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

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

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

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

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

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Writer-in-Residence Lawson.

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

449 Avant-Garde Poetry

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

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Nelson.

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

453 The Value of Literature

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

Admission with consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

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

458 Indigenous American Epics

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

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

Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Brooks.

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

459 The Spiral of Time in Native American Novels

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 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Brooks.

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

462 Film and Video Curation

(Offered as ENGL 462, ARHA 462, and FAMS 462) In recent years, curating has taken on an increasingly central role in the production of contemporary media cultures. As the practice of selecting, organizing, and presenting cultural artifacts for public exhibition, curating often determines the sorts of media forms audiences have access to and the frameworks through which those media forms are interpreted. Curating requires a facility with a wide variety of skills, from historical research to critical analysis, communication, administration, and creative thinking. Yet it also entails an attentiveness to the complex socio-political issues that subtend all approaches to cultural representation.

This course introduces students to the history, theory, and practice of film and video curation, paying special attention to the curation of experimental media. Students will learn about curating in both theoretical and practical ways, analyzing a variety of conceptual issues and debates that have emerged from historical and contemporary approaches to experimental film and video exhibition, while also embarking on creative assignments designed to allow them to begin developing their own curatorial perspectives. Through weekly screenings, readings, and discussion seminars, as well as visits to off-campus arts venues and cultural institutions, we will examine the different registers of film and video exhibitions that are regularly shaped by curators (program, sequence, exhibition space, text, and formats, etc.), as well as the broader social and political stakes of media curation. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in FAMS or ARHA. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Guilford.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2022

470 Decolonial Love

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

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

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

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

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

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Writer Myint.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2014

472 African Literature and Social Media

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

473 Hybrid Forms

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

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

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Writer-in-Residence Lawson.

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

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

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

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Parham.

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

477 The Confession: Theory and Practice

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

Requisite: Prior coursework in ENGL or FAMS strongly recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Rangan.

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

478 "Having a Voice": Theories of Voice and Documentary

(Offered as ENGL 478 and FAMS 478) Documentary’s difference from fiction is frequently understood in terms of its emphasis on the spoken word. In documentary studies, voice, rather than point of view, is the standard parlance for describing the unique social perspective of a documentary film. Voice is also the metaphor of documentary’s social mission: some of the most influential histories of documentary are narrated as a history of giving—and having, or appropriating—the right to speak. Rather than approaching the voice as a pre-existing social fact or content, this course will ask how discourses of documentary mediate our understandings of voice. Readings will include classic texts on the cinematic voice alongside contemporary and historical theories and counter-histories of voice from a variety of critical and disciplinary contexts, including philosophy, sound, music, disability, race, gender, and sexuality studies. Screenings will draw widely from documentary and experimental film. We will ask: how are Western philosophical discourses of voice unacknowledged influences on the formal expressions of the spoken word in documentary? And conversely, how do the conventional documentary expressions of speech, such as voice-over, interview, testimony, and conversation cultivate normative and counter-normative modes of listening?

This is an advanced discussion seminar that places a heavy emphasis on speaking in class. The course also includes a final research paper.

Requisite: ENGL 280/FAMS 210, or equivalent introductory film course, plus any one course in cultural studies/literary theory/gender studies/race and ethnicity studies. Special consideration will be given to students who have taken a documentary course (whether theory or production). Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Rangan.

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

479 Problems in Documentary

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

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

Requisites: A 200-level Foundations in Critical Media Studies course (“Coming to Terms: Cinema,” “Coming to Terms: Media,” “Knowing Cinema,” “Knowing Television,” or “Introduction to Film Theory”) and an introductory film/video production course. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professors Levine and Rangan.

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

480 The Film Essay

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

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

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

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

481 Conversations with Experimental Filmmakers

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

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

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

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

490 Special Topics

Independent reading courses.

Fall and spring semester. The Department.

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

491 The Creole Imagination

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

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.

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

495 Modernism, Trauma, and Theories of Violence

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

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

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

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

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

496 Literary and Critical Theory

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

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

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

498, 498D, 499 Senior Tutorial

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

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

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

111 The Language of Movement

An introduction to movement as a language and to dance and performance composition. In studio sessions students will explore and expand their individual movement vocabularies by working improvisationally with weight, posture, gesture, patterns, rhythm, space, and relationship of body parts. We will ask what these vocabularies might communicate about emotion, thought, physical structures, cultural/social traditions, and aesthetic preferences. In addition, we will observe movement practices in everyday situations and in formal performance events and use these observations as inspiration for individual and group compositions. Two two-hour class/studio meetings. Selected readings and viewing of video and live performance.

Limited to 20 students. Six seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Woodson.

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

112 Visual Thinking: Materials of Performance

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

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

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

113 Action and Character

This course examines the creation of dramatic action and character from the points of view of both the playwright and the actor. Students learn how to analyze and bring dramatic texts to life through a creative process, using the body, voice and imagination.

Classwork includes regular acting exercises designed to develop craft and to give students an understanding of creative and collaborative processes. Homework includes regular rehearsal assignments and theoretical texts, along with practical research and short writing assignments in various modes. Two two-hour class meetings per week. In addition, a lab component (equivalent to two hours per week) puts class study into production context.

Limited to 20 students, In the Fall, 6 spots reserved for first-year students. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Eliraz. 

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

114 Contemporary Performance: Case Studies

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

This foundation course in the history/theory of performance is open to all students. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Assistant Professor Eliraz.

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

115H Contemporary Dance: Modern 1/2

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

Fall and Spring semester. Visiting lecturer Kassmann.

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

117H Contemporary Dance: Modern 3/4 Practicing Presence and Performance

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

Fall semester. Professor Riegel. 

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

121H Contemporary Dance Technique: Modern 2/3

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

Fall semester. Visiting Professor Brown.

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

142H Contemporary Dance Techniques: West African

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

Spring semester. Lecturer Escobar. 

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

154 Re-Imagining the Classics

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

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

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

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

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

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

155 Introduction to Dance Studies: What is Performance?

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

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2019-20. Visiting Assistant Professor Brown.

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

209 Contemporary Dance Technique and Repertory 3/4

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

Limited to 12 students. Spring Semester. Assistant Professor Riegel. 

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

213 The Actor's Process

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

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

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

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

216H Contemporary Dance Technique: Modern 4/5

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

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Assistant Professor Riegel. 

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

217H Contemporary Dance Techniques: Modern/Ballet 4

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

Requisite: Ballet 1/2 or Ballet 2/3. Spring semester. Lecturer MacArthur.

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

220 History of Opera

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

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

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

Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro. 

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

225H The Craft of Speaking II: Spoken Expression

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

Requisite: THDA 125H. Spring semester. Professor Bashford.

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

232 Collaboration in Theater

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

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

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

Limited to 20 students. Five seats reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Eliraz.

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

235 Critical Moves: Performance, Politics and Activist Bodies

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

Spring semester. Five College Visitor Chapman.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2023

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

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

Spring Semester. Artist-in-Residence Brown. 

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

240 Contemporary Fashion in a Historical Perspective

Using a seminar format, this course will ask students to choose a topic and explore the relationship between culture and clothing in historical context, addressing issues of race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality and their connection to the aesthetics of self-expression. In addition, students will develop their own contemporary fashion ideas using the Audubon Portfolio as a point of departure. Individually scheduled weekly labs, conducted by Emily Hoem, professional cutter draper for the Theater and Dance Department, will teach the necessary technical skills needed to fabricate one garment.

Limited to 10 students. Fall semester. Professor Dougan.

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

249 Partner Dancing (Intermediate Composition)

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

Requisite: A previous movement course or consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Riegel.

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

254 Sound Design

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

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

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

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

255 Sound, Movement, and Text: Interactions and Collaborations

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

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

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

261 Lighting Design

An introduction to the theory and techniques of theatrical lighting, with emphasis on the aesthetic and practical aspects of the field as well as the principles of light and color.

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

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

263 Scene Design

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

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

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

266, 267 Ensemble: Dancing in Community

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

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

Requisite: Previous performance experience in dance/theater. Limited to 10 students. Admission with consent of the instructor after audition. Omitted 2019-20. Visiting Professor Brown.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023, Fall 2024

270 Playwriting I

(Offered as THDA 270 and ENGL 222) (Offered as THDA 270 and ENGL 222.) This course explores key aspects of writing for the theater in a workshop style, from a transcultural perspective. Through writing exercises, analysis of scenes, feedback sessions, and the rewriting of materials produced, participants will experience the creative process and start developing their own voice. At the end, there will be a showcase of works. In the fall of 2019, in collaboration with the University of Basra, this unique playwriting workshop will also include moments of exchange with student peers in Iraq. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester.

Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Visiting Artist Carneiro.  

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

272 On The Edge: Writing for Performance

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

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

275 Her Story Is: Feminist Approaches to Theater and Performance

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

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

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

320 Seminar on Opera, Operetta, and Musical

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2019, Spring 2022, Fall 2024

353 Performance Studio

(Offered as THDA 353 and FAMS 345) In this advanced course in the techniques of creating performance, each student will create and rehearse a performance piece that develops and incorporates original choreography, text, music, sounds and/or video. Improvisational and collaborative structures and approaches among and within different media will be investigated. The final performance pieces will be presented in the Holden Theater.

Two ninety-minute class sessions per week. There will be weekly mandatory showings. These showings are a working document of the important and necessary vicissitudes within a creative process.

Requisite: THDA 252 or the equivalent and consent of the instructor. Limited to 8 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Woodson.

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

354 Sound Design Studio

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

Requisite: THDA 254/MUSI 254 or consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Meginsky.

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

355 Solo Performance

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

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

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

360 Design Studio

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

Requisite: THDA 260, 261, 263 or consent of the instructor. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Dougan.

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

363 Design Studio II

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

Requisite: THDA 260, 261, or 263 or consent of the instructor. Fall and spring semesters. Professor Dougan.

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

370 Playwriting Studio

(Offered as THDA 370 and ENGL 322) A workshop/seminar for writers who want to complete a full-length play or series of plays. Emphasis will be on bringing a script to a level where it is ready for the stage. Although there will be some exercises in class to continue the honing of playwriting skills and the study of plays by established writers as a means of exploring a wide range of dramatic vocabularies, most of the class time will be spent reading and commenting on the plays of the workshop members as these plays progress from the first draft to a finished draft.

Requisite: THDA 270 or the equivalent. Limited to 10 students. Omitted 2019-20.

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

400H Production Studio

An advanced course in the production of Theater and Dance works. Primary focus will be on the integration of the individual student into a leadership role within the Department’s producing structure. Each student will accept a specific responsibility with a departmental production team testing his or her artistic, managerial, critical, and problem-solving skills. A half course.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Professor Bashford.

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

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

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

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

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

For Honors candidates in Theater and Dance.

Open to seniors. Spring semester. The Department.

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

Arts of Theater & Dance Courses

125H The Craft of Speaking I: Vocal Freedom

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

Limited to 28 students. Six spaces reserved for first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Bashford.

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

Studio Courses

122H Contemporary Dance Technique: Hip Hop

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

Fall semester. Lecturer Johnson.

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

340 Acting and Directing Studio

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

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

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

Related Courses

COLQ-342 Hearing Difference: The Political Economy of Accent (Course not offered this year.)FYSE-106 Language Crossing and Living in Translation (Course not offered this year.)FYSE-112 Beginnings (Course not offered this year.)FYSE-125 Amherst Poets (Course not offered this year.)