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Fall 2007/Spring 2008 Course Catalog
The information below is taken from the printed catalog the college produces each year. For more up to date information, including links to course websites, faculty homepages, reserve readings, and more, use the 'courses' or semester specific link to your left.
Level I. Writing-Intensive Courses on a variety of topics.
01. Writing-Intensive Courses. Six sections will be offered in the first semester 2007-08.
01. AMERICAN RENAISSANCE. A study of what might be referred to as “classical American literature” or “The Age of Emerson.” The writers studied will be Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Dickinson. Among the central questions asked are these: How successful were these writers in their efforts to create a distinctively American language and literature? What was their view of nature and of human nature? How did they dramatize social conflict? In what ways did they affirm or challenge traditional conceptions of gender? The course will pay close attention to the interactions of these writers with one another and will give particular emphasis to Emerson as the figure with whom the others had to come to terms.
Limited to 20 students. Professor Guttmann.
02. BIG BOOKS. This course explores the particular pleasures and interpretive problems of reading (and writing about) very long works–books so vast that any sure sense of the relation between individual part and mammoth whole may seem to elude the reader who becomes lost in a colossal imaginative world. How do we gauge, and engage with, works of disproportionate scale and encyclopedic ambition? How do we find our bearings within huge texts and who or what is our guide? In fall 2007 we shall read three famous fictional representations of a national culture undergoing crisis and transformation: Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Melville’s Moby Dick, and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.
Preference given to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 15 students. Professor Peterson.
03. NOVELS, PLAYS, POEMS. A first course in reading fictional, dramatic, and lyric texts: stories, a major novel, one or more plays by Shakespeare, poems by Donne, Dickinson, Frost, and others.
Why does any writer—an Amherst College student, Philip Roth, Emily Dickinson, Shakespeare—say what he or she says one way rather than another? And what in the expression itself makes a story, a play, a poem effective, something a reader might care about, be moved or delighted by? We will try to answer these questions by reading primary examples of each genre, including much recent work, with close and sustained attention to details of expressive language. There will be frequent writing exercises.
The course will be taught in sections of 15-20 students. Preference will be given to first-year students. Professor Chickering.
04. NOVELS, PLAYS, POEMS. Same description as English 01, section 03.
05. NOVELS, PLAYS, POEMS. Same description as English 01, section 03.
06. NOVELS, PLAYS, POEMS. Same description as English 01, section 03.
Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.
01. Writing-Intensive Courses. Four sections will be offered in the second semester, 2007-08.
01. 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, MoliPre 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.
Limited to 15 students. Professor Bosman.
02. WRITING ABOUT LITERATURE. This course offers students an opportunity to develop their analytic and writing skills. We will read a variety of literary forms—prose and poetry, novels and essays and drama—and will write frequently and at length about what we read. This semester our readings will focus on the topic of Illness. We will read such authors as Susan Sontag, Anatole Broyard, Sophocles, Jose Saramago, Mark Doty. Three class hours per week.
Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Limited to 12 students. Professor Frank.
03. VAMPIRES, IMMIGRANTS, NATIONS. This course acquaints students with the critical study of “entertainment” film by reading vampire films as immigration stories and by considering these films in terms of the uneven and unequal global circulation of audiovisual media. The course situates cinematic vampires within the historical and cultural context of pre-cinematic vampires, including vampires from central and eastern European folklore, vampires from western European literature and drama, as well as supernatural creatures from much older traditions, such as the Indian vetala and the Chinese jiang shi, that come to be confused with vampires through colonialism, modernity, postcolonialism, and alternative modernities. Weekly writing assignments emphasize textual analysis of film in terms of its formal properties and generic codes and conventions, whether from horror and melodrama, or from masala and wuxia, to support thematic analysis. The course ask students to consider ways that vampires function in European, North American, and Asian popular cinemas in relation to questions of cultural assimilation, racialization, nativism, nationalism, and violations of national sovereignty, such as political assassinations and vigilantism. As a counterpoint to vampire films, we will screen short films on the subject of immigrants from the early days of cinema. The course asks students to reflect upon the politics of entertainment in films from Canada, Cuba, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, the U.K., and the U.S.
Preference given to first-year students and sophomores. Limited to 15 students. Visiting Professor Hudson.
04. FOUNDATIONS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE. (Also Black Studies 38.) The focus of this introduction to African American literature is the complex intertextuality at the heart of the African American literary tradition. Tracing the tradition’s major formal and thematic concerns means looking for connections between different kinds of texts: music, art, the written word, and the spoken word–and students who take this class will acquire the critical writing and interpretive skills necessary to any future study of African American literature or culture.
Limited to 20 students. Professor Parham.
02. Reading, Writing, and Teaching. Students, as part of the work of the course, each week will tutor or lead discussions among a small group of students at Holyoke High School. The readings for the course will be essays, poems, autobiographies, and stories in which education and teaching figure centrally. Among these will be materials that focus directly on Holyoke and on one or another of the ethnic groups which have shaped its history. Students will write weekly and variously: critical essays, journal entries, ethnographies, etc. Readings for the course will include works by Sylvia Ashton-Warner, James Baldwin, Judith Ortiz Cofer, John Dewey, Jonathan Kozol, Herbert Kohl, Sarah Lightfoot, John Stuart Mill, Abraham Rodriguez, Esmeralda Santiago, and Patricia Williams. Two class meetings per week plus an additional workshop hour and a weekly morning teaching assistantship to be scheduled in Holyoke.
Limited to 20 students. First semester. Professor Sánchez-Eppler.
Level II. Creative Writing Courses and Introductions to Literary, Film, and Cultural Studies, primarily for first- and second- year students, but open to all.
04. Literary History and/as Media History. Living today in an era of rapid technological innovation, we tend to forget that print itself was once a new medium. The history of English and American literature since the Renaissance has been as much a response to the development of new material formats (scribal copying, printed play scripts, newspaper and serial publication, broadsides and ballads, “little magazines,” radio, film, TV) as it has been a succession of ideal literary forms (poems, plays, and novels). This course will survey literary works from the sixteenth to the twentieth century in relation to the history of emerging media. Texts may include Renaissance sonnet sequences, Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair, Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, selections from Johnson’s The Rambler, Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, Poe’s Selected Tales, Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman, Wilde’s Salomé, selections from Pound’s The Cantos, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, Kushner’s Angels in America.
Preference given to sophomores. Second semester. Professor Parker.
05. Reading Historically. This course explores the relation between literature and history. How does fiction work to interpret and understand the past? Can literary texts serve as historical evidence, providing information about social conditions and beliefs in a particular place and time? In what ways might other sorts of historical documentation affect or amplify the reading of literature? We will address these questions through specific examples and through theoretical readings that address issues of narration, memory, and the continuance of the past. The theme changes each time the course is taught. In 2007 we will focus on American literature and in particular on writing that confronts the social “problem” of the unmarried woman. Texts will include Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Stephen Crane’s Maggie, A Girl of the Streets, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, Toni Morrison’s Sula, and Mei Ng’s Eating Chinese Food Naked.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Sánchez-Eppler.
10. American Literature in the Making. Over the last 25 years literary historians and critics have completely remade the field of American literature. The important artistic contributions of women, of African Americans, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, and of Native Americans have received attention and appreciation. In many instances long-forgotten texts have been uncovered and appreciated as first-rate works of art. Neglected artists like Willa Cather and James Weldon Johnson have been reread, re-seen. The goal of this four-semester sequence is to survey American literature from its beginnings to the present in a history that attempts to bring together what were once considered the classics with the most important of the newer additions to the body of American literature. In doing so our primary attention will be on texts of exceptional literary merit. The topic changes each time the course is taught.
01. COLONIES, EMPIRES, AND A NEW REPUBLIC. Once American literature began with the Pilgrims and Puritans, though they were latecomers among the Europeans in the Americas. In this course we will begin with the oral traditions of some of the native inhabitants and then read accounts from the European discovery and conquest, Spanish, French, and English: Columbus, Verrazano, Cartier, Cortes, Bradford, and others. Then we will read the literature of the settlers: diaries, sermons, captivity narratives, and autobiographies. In the eighteenth century we will follow the emerging literature of independence, not only that written by Anglo-Americans, but also the writings of Africans and African Americans like Olaudah Equiano. We will end the course with the literature of post-independence: novels by Charles Brockden Brown and Rebecca Rush.
Limited to 80 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor O’Connell.
02. NINETEENTH CENTURY TO THE CIVIL WAR. The course will cover the years from 1820 to 1920. These are the years when Anglo-American literature achieved an international reputation. They are also the years of African Americans’ first intense and bitter struggle for liberation, and the years when the Euro-American conquest of the Indians was completed. The second half of the century also experienced the largest immigration in the history of the country until the post-1965 period, which enabled the United States to become the greatest industrial power in the world. The literature we will read is enmeshed in all these complex events: Cooper, Sedgwick, Emerson, Thoreau, Fanny Fern, Hawthorne, Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frederick Douglass.
Limited to 80 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor O’Connell.
03. THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, 1900-1941. The focus in this course will be on lesser-known writers alongside the “major” figures: James Weldon Johnson, Willa Cather, Nella Larsen, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Edward Dahlberg, Henry Roth, Tillie Olsen, Hisaye Yamamoto, Toshio Mori, Saul Bellow, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin and others.
Limited to 80 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor O’Connell.
04. THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, 1942-2000. This course examines briefly the literature of World War II and then turns to Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, and Lionel Trilling, the writers who made Jewish American literature a central part of American literature. Their dominance turned out to be quite brief and for the remainder of the century a rich abundance of writing appears, some of which can be labeled ethnically (American Indian, African American, Asian American, Latino), but what stands out is a range of imaginations and styles. Among the other writers we will read: James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, N. Scott Momaday, Maxine Hong Kingston, Chang-Rae Lee, Gloria Anzaldua, Anne Tyler, and Jane Smiley.
Limited to 80 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor O’Connell.
12. Reading Poetry. A first course in the critical reading of twelve English, Irish, and American poets: Donne, Herbert, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Dickinson, Frost, Eliot, Bishop, Larkin, and Heaney. Attention will be given to the careers of the poets, as well as to individual poems. Both poems and poets will be read in the light of two principal contexts: (1) The cultural moments in which poets write their poems, and (2) The continuing history of poetic style, as each writer responds to his or her predecessors. There will be a final paper on a book published recently.
Limited to 35 students. Second semester. Professor Chickering.
13. Reading Popular Culture. (Also Women’s and Gender Studies 28.) The purpose of this class is to learn how to use theoretical and primary texts to critique and write about contemporary popular culture: movies, television, radio and the media. The topic changes each time the course is taught. The topic in spring 2007 is “girl power,” the pop-culture term for what is better understood as “postfeminism.” Instances of girl power are characterized by their emphases on female protagonists who fight, speak, and enter intimate relationships on their own, sometimes angry, terms. The 1990s saw a dramatic transformation in the representation of women’s relationships to their own sense of power. But has this rising phenomenon of “women who kick ass” come at a cost? Are these representations simply appropriations of what has been generally construed as “male power,” or are they genuine reassessments of the relationship between gender, power, and the individual?
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Parham.
14. Reading Fiction. A first course in the reading and criticism of fiction, with emphasis on the comic. Novels and stories by such writers as Jane Austen, Dickens, George Eliot, Henry James; lesser-known books and writers from this century, mainly from England and America. Attention centered on matters of technique and on different kinds of literary value. Three class hours per week.
Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Pritchard.
15. Black Music and Black Poetry. (Also Black Studies 54.) See Black Studies 54.
First semester. Professor Rushing.
16. Coming to Terms: Cinema. An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of a few critical and descriptive terms together with a selection of various films (historical and contemporary, foreign and American) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion will include, among others: the moving image, montage, mise en scène, sound, genre, authorship, the gaze.
Recommended requisite: English 19 or another college-level film course. First semester. Professor Cameron.
18. Coming to Terms: Literature. An introduction to contemporary literary studies through the analysis of a variety of critical terms, a range of literary examples, and the relations between and among them. The terms considered in fall 2007 will include lyric, narrative, author, translation, and autobiography.
Preference given to sophomores. First semester. Professor Bosman.
19. Film and Writing. 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 90-minute class meetings and two screenings per week.
Limited enrollment. Second semester. Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.
21. 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.
This course is limited in enrollment. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. First semester: Writer-in-Residence Hall.
22. Writing Poetry II. A second, advanced workshop for practicing poets. Students will undertake a longer project as well as doing exercises every week exploring technical problems.
Requisite: English 21 or the equivalent. This course is limited in enrollment. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. First semester. Writer-in-Residence Hall.
Limited enrollment. Second semester. Professor Townsend.
26. 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.
This course is limited in enrollment. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. First semester. Visiting Writer Chee. Second semester: Professor Frank.
28. Fiction Writing II. An advanced level fiction class. Students will undertake a longer project as well as doing exercises every week exploring technical problems.
Requisite: Completion of a previous course in creative writing. This course is limited in enrollment. Preregistration is not allowed. Please consult the Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course. Second semester. Visiting Writer Chee.
29. Imitations. A poetry writing course, but with a strong emphasis on reading. Students will closely examine the work of various poets and periods, then attempt to write plausible imitations of their own, all by way of learning about poetry from the inside, as it were.
Limited to 15 students. Second semester. Writer-in-Residence Hall.
Level III. Courses in Film and Cultural Studies, Individual Authors, and Literary History, Criticism, and Theory, open to all, except those that list prerequisites.
30. Chaucer: An Introduction. The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active appreciation of his dramatic and narrative poetry. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected. A knowledge of Modern English grammar and its nomenclature, or a similar knowledge of another language, will be helpful. Short critical papers and frequent declamation in class. The emphasis will be on Chaucer’s humor, irony and lyricism. We will read The Parliament of Fowls, Troilus and Criseyde, and some shorter poems. Three class hours per week.
First semester. Professor Chickering.
31. Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales. The course aims to give the student rapid mastery of Chaucer’s English and an active appreciation of his poetry. No prior knowledge of Middle English is expected. A knowledge of Modern English grammar and its nomenclature, or a similar knowledge of another language, will be helpful. Short critical papers and frequent declamation in class. The emphasis will be on Chaucer’s humor, irony, and his narrative and dramatic gifts. We will read all of the poetic Tales and excerpts from the two prose Tales. Three class hours per week.
Second semester. Professor Chickering.
34. Renaissance Drama: The Places of Performance. The course surveys multiple forms of drama and spectacle in Renaissance England with special attention to the cultural articulation of space. We will consider the relation of a range of texts to their real and imagined performance sites—public theatres like the Globe as well as private playhouses, castles, fairgrounds, taverns, and the streets of London—asking what impact these places had on the dramas themselves, on their representation of public and private worlds, and on the social and political role of theatre in society at large. Reading will include works by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Heywood, Middleton and Rowley, and Milton.
A previous course in Shakespeare or Renaissance literature would be helpful. First semester. Professor Bosman.
35. Shakespeare. Readings in the comedies, histories, and tragedies, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I Henry IV, As You Like It, Hamlet, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, and The Tempest. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 50 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Sofield.
36. Shakespeare. An exploration of selected comedies, histories, and tragedies, with attention to the problem of genre. We will study Shakespeare on page and stage, and from his time to our own. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 50 students. Second semester. Professor Bosman.
37. The English Novel and Colonialism. This course will focus on how English novelists have represented colonialism in India, Africa, and the Caribbean, and how colonialism has, in turn, shaped the novel form. We will also give attention to how contemporary authors represent those same colonial projects today. The question to which we will continually return: How can we continue to find pleasure in works whose very production is tied into regimes of domination and oppression? Authors we may consider include Maria Edgeworth, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Rudyard Kipling, J.M. Coetzee and Edward Said. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2007-08. Professors Frank and Parham.
38. Major English Writers I. Readings in the poetry and prose of six classic figures from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ben Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, Samuel Johnson. Attention given to other writers from the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1. Three class meetings per week.
Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. First semester. Professor Pritchard.
39. Major English Writers II: Romantics. Readings in poets and prose writers from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, the Shelleys, and Keats, with emphasis on Wordsworth and Keats.
Second semester. Professor Townsend.
40. Victorian Novel I. A selection of mid-nineteenth-century English novels approached from various critical, historical, and theoretical perspectives. In spring 2005 the course focused on novels written around 1848, among them Disraeli’s Sybil, Gaskell’s Mary Barton, E. Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Dickens’ Dombey and Son, Trollope’s Barchester Towers, and Eliot’s Adam Bede.
Omitted 2007-08. Professor Parker.
41. Victorian Novel II. A selection of late-nineteenth-century British novels approached from a variety of critical, historical, and theoretical perspectives.
Second semester. Professor Parker.
42. The Politics of the Gothic in the English Novel. If the English novel of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries typically ends in marriage, in novels with gothic elements, a course of terror must first be endured. This course considers the structural and ideological role of the gothic in a range of novels about marriage from this period, using Foucault’s work on torture and discipline as a guiding framework. Novels include Ann Radcliffe, The Italian, “Monk” Lewis, The Monk, Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Charlotte Brontë, Villette, Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White, and Bram Stoker, Dracula. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2007-08. Professor Frank.
43. 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, and Anthony Powell. Three class hours per week.
Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Pritchard.
45. 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.
Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Pritchard.
46. Poetry 1950-2005. Readings and discussion. The syllabus will include poets from the English-speaking world: Bishop, Lowell, Jarrell, Wilbur, Larkin, Hecht, Merrill, Hill, Clampitt, Walcott, Heaney, and others. The course will conclude with a substantial paper on a book published in 2005 or 2006. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2007-08. Professor Sofield.
48. Dangerous Reading: The Eighteenth-Century Novel in England and France. (Also European Studies 36 and French 62.) See European Studies 36.
First semester. Professors Frank and Rosbottom.
49. The Moral Essay. The moral essay is a genre situated somewhere between literature and philosophy, between stories and sermons. “The essay interests itself in the narration of ideas,” one critic writes, “in their unfolding.” The moral essay is not about morals per se but about manners, about the way people live—and die. We will read essays by Montaigne, Bacon, Emerson, and Simone Weil.
First semester. Professor Townsend.
50. Composition. Organizing and expressing one’s intellectual and social experience. Twice weekly writing assignments: a sketch or short essay of self-definition in relation to others, using language in a particular way—for example, as spectator of, witness to, or participant in, a situation. These short essays serve as preparation for a final, more extended, autobiographical essay assessing the student’s own intellectual growth.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited enrollment. Second semester. Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.
51. Writing the Novella. (Also English 309-01 at Mount Holyoke College.) 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, Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day, and William Gass’s The Pedersen Kid, 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: A previous fiction-writing workshop. Limited to 12 students. Admission with consent of the instructors. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Frank of Amherst College and Writer-in-Residence Grant of Mount Holyoke College.
52. Caribbean Poetry: The Anglophone Tradition. (Also Black Studies 37.) A survey of the work of Anglophone Caribbean poets, alongside readings about the political, cultural and aesthetic traditions that have influenced their work. Readings will include longer cycles of poems by Derek Walcott and Edward Kamau Brathwaite; dialect and neoclassical poetry from the colonial period, as well as more recent poetry by women writers and performance (“dub”) poets.
Omitted 2007-08. Professor Cobham-Sander.
53. The Literature of Madness. A specialized study of a peculiar kind of literary experiment—the attempt to create, in verse or prose, the sustained illusion of insane utterance. Readings will include soliloquies, dramatic monologues and extended “confessional” narratives by classic and contemporary authors, from Shakespeare and Browning, Poe and Dostoevsky to writers like Nabokov, Beckett, or Sylvia Plath. We shall seek to understand the various impulses and special effects which might lead an author to adopt an “abnormal” voice and to experiment with a “mad monologue.” The class will occasionally consult clinical and cultural hypotheses which seek to account for the behaviors enacted in certain literary texts. Three class hours per week.
Open to juniors and seniors and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Requisite: Several previous courses in literature and/or psychology. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Peterson.
54. “The Linguistic Turn”: Language, Literature and Philosophy. “The Linguistic Turn” is a first course in literary and cultural theory. Though it will devote some early attention to the principles and methods of linguistic analysis, this class is not conceived as an introduction to linguistics per se. We will be asking, instead, much broader questions about the nature of “language,” among them whether there is such a thing, and, if so, why it has come to define for us the nature of our contemporaneity.
Open to juniors and seniors. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Parker.
55. Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature. (Also Black Studies 29.) 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. First semester. Professor Cobham-Sander.
56. Four African American Poets Haunted by History. (Also Black Studies 60.) Some of the stellar African American poets seem “haunted” by various versions of personal, local, cultural, national, and international history. This course focuses on the ways four poets display their particular relationship to history. Poets vary from semester to semester and include such figures as Lucille Clifton, Michael Harper, Robert Hayden, Audre Lorde, Brenda Marie Osbey, Melvin Tolson, and Jay Wright. The writers are usually formalists and employ long forms of poetry. We will concentrate on close reading, contextualize the poetry, pay attention to literary criticism and literary theory, and study the poets’ manifestations of inter-textuality.
Omitted 2007-08. Professor Rushing.
57. Topics in Literary Theory. The topic changes each time the course is taught. In fall 2005 the topic was “Marxism and Psychoanalysis.” An introduction to writings by Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud that, in their radical understandings of unconscious motivation, revolutionized the interpretation of art and literature. In addition to classic texts by Marx and Freud, we will be reading works by their followers along with novels by Balzac, James and others to assess the possibilities and limits of materialist and psychoanalytic criticisms.
A previous course in literary or cultural theory would be helpful. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Parker.
58. Modern Short Story Sequences. Although little studied as a separate literary form, the book of interlinked short stories is a prominent form of modern fiction. This course will examine a variety of these compositions in an attempt to understand how they achieve their coherence and what kinds of “larger story” they tell through the unfolding sequence of separate narratives. Works likely to be considered include Hemingway’s In Our Time, Joyce’s Dubliners, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, Jean Toomer’s Cane, Eudora Welty’s The Golden Apples, Alice Munro’s The Beggar Maid, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Raymond Carver’s Cathedral. The course concludes with a significant independent project on a chosen modern (or contemporary) example of the form and its relation to preceding works.
Preference given to junior and senior English majors. Limited to 15 students. Second semester. Professor Peterson.
60. Sexuality and History in the Contemporary Novel. A study of American and British gay and lesbian novelists, from 1990 to the present, who have written historical novels. We will examine such topics as the kinds of expressive and ideological possibilities the historical novel offers gay and lesbian novelists, the representation of sexuality in narratives that take place before Stonewall, and the way these authors position queer lives in history. Novelists include Sarah Waters, Emma Donoghue, Jeanette Winterson, Leslie Feinberg, Alan Hollinghurst, Colm Tóibín, and Michael Cunningham.
First semester. Professor Frank.
61. Studies in American Literature. The topic changes each time the course is taught.
62. Studies in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. This course will regularly examine, from different historical and theoretical stances, the literary and cultural scene in nineteenth-century America. The goal of the course is to formulate new questions and possibilities for investigating the history and literature of the United States. The topic changes each time the course is taught.
Recommended requisite: English 61. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2007-08.
64. Realism and Modernism. A study of the emergence of literary realism and its transformation into the “naturalistic” novels and the experimental fictions of the early twentieth century. Readings from the work of Howells, James, Twain, Crane, Dreiser, Chopin, Stein, Hemingway, Toomer, Larsen, and Faulkner. Three class hours per week.
Omitted 2007-08. Professor Townsend.
66. Studies in African American Literature. (Also Black Studies 39.) The topic changes each time the course is taught. In fall 2007 the topic will be “The Weary Blues: Mourning in African American Literature and Culture.” As a population generally familiar with the facts of living too hard and dying too soon, how have African Americans used their literary and cultural traditions to memorialize–to articulate and often to work through conditions of pain and loss? Using a variety of literary and cultural texts, including RIP murals, poetry, and music, this semester’s topic examines the various ways African Americans express and aestheticize loss; how mourning often works as a foundation for militancy; and, most importantly, how loss is often recuperated through ideologies of art, love, and memory.
Limited to 20 students. First semester. Professor Parham.
67. Contemporary African Fiction. (Also Black Studies 40.) The best known African novel is Nigerian Chinua Achebe’s masterful Things Fall Apart (1958) with its depiction of the tragic collision between a "traditional" African society and the colonizing power of Great Britain. As dozens of African countries gained political independence from their European colonizers, the next generation of novels presented renditions of post-colonial Africa. The novels for this course depart from both those categories. We will focus on writers from such English-speaking countries as Nigeria, Somalia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Although we will consider political and cultural contexts, we will concentrate our attention on the stories the novels tell, the strategies their authors use to tell them, and their use of language.
First semester. Professor Rushing.
68. Democracy and Education. The focus of the course will be on education within the United States. From the earliest days of the new republic Americans have linked the prospects of democracy with the quality and extent of educational opportunity. Two fundamental and contradictory questions, however, have shaped nearly every controversy: (1) Should education be a competitive system to establish and legitimate a hierarchy of merit? or (2) Should schools focus on the fullest development of each student so as to enable her or him to participate equally in a democratic society by contributing from her or his individual gifts and differences? Finally, another key and virtually silent assumption has shaped these debates: that schools are the primary generators of equality or inequality. One might argue that this assumption has functioned to help Americans evade greater and more substantial sources of inequality such as the corporate order, housing, access to medical care, and many others.
The course will not seek to resolve these questions, but to explore how the different assumptions involved structure what can be taught and learned and by whom. The texts for the course will range across a number of disciplines: philosophy, cognitive psychology, literature, sociology, and political science and theory. John Dewey’s Democracy and Education will be the framing text. Each student, in addition to the usual classroom work at Amherst, will undertake a placement in local schools for three to four hours weekly observing as many aspects as possible of the culture of a school. Two class meetings per week.
Requisite: English 02 or an equivalent course. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor O’Connell.
69. Racial Passing in Literature and Film. Is race “natural” or “cultural”? This question has persisted through centuries of American writing, and often finds its most interesting meditations in books and films that deal with “passing.” Texts about passing, about people who can successfully pass themselves off as of a different race, form an important subgenre of American culture because they force us to question what really is at the heart of the thing we call race. If race signifies a “real” difference, how could there be such a thing as passing? But at the same time, if race is “only” a construction, why, as many of the texts we will examine show, is passing so often characterized as a certain kind of crime, if not a crime against nature? Passing texts reveal a fundamental ambivalence about race in America, and it is in the interest of understanding this ambivalence that we will explore a range of literary and cultural texts, including novels by Charles Chestnutt, Jessie Fauset, and William Faulkner, the two film versions of Imitation of Life and Eddie Murphy’s Saturday Night Live skit, “White Like Me.”
Omitted 2007-08. Professor Parham.
70. African American Autobiographies: A Survey. (Also Black Studies 26.) See Black Studies 26.
Omitted 2007-08. Professor Rushing.
71. Written in English: An Introduction to Postcolonial Literature. This seminar is an introduction to what is generally known as postcolonial literature—literature written by the inhabitants of countries formerly colonized by other, often European, nations. In fall 2006 we mainly focused on former members of the British Empire, on literary works that, despite originating in very different geographies, nonetheless share a language. Beginning with the idea that texts written in English can come from many places in the world, we will then look for other kinds of similarities, namely questions of power, identity, and loss. We will also pay particular attention to the kinds of literary and cultural representations of “history and its futures” that are the hallmarks of postcolonial literature. Some of the texts we may encounter this semester include novels like Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (Dominica), Armah’s The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born (Ghana), and Sidhwa’s Cracking India (Pakistan); films like Gibson’s Braveheart (U.S./Scotland) and Law’s The Floating Life (Hong Kong/Australia); and Friel’s short play, Translations (Ireland).
Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Parham.
73. “This New Yet Unapproachable America”: A Survey of Asian American Writing. Emerson’s phrase speaks, as fully now as when he wrote it, to the constant remaking of American literature and culture by the coming together in the United States of many different peoples. It also indicates how integral a part of American literature Asian American writing necessarily is. Only recently, however, have scholars and critics begun to discover and write about Asian American literature. This body of writing is extensive, rich, and diverse. Somewhat problematically, the term “Asian American” gathers under one heading the substantially different histories of people originally from many parts of the continent. The primary aim of the course is to introduce students to the range and abundance and quality of Asian American writing from the poems in Chinese left on the walls at Angel Island to the postmodern stories of Jessica Hagedorn.
Not open to first-year students. Recommended: English 61. Omitted 2007-08. Professor O’Connell.
74. The Graphic Novel. This is a course in the reading of the contemporary graphic novel, a form with a voice made from the juxtaposition of visual art and text. Readings will focus on the unique demands this voice places on the reader, the writer/artist and the story as well as how a form first known for pulp science fiction and melodrama now tells stories about war, illness, censorship, terrorism, immigrant experiences and sexual identity. We will read Max Ernst, Frank Miller, Art Spiegelman, David Wojnarowicz, Kazuo Koike, David B., Guy Delisle, Joann Sfar, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Marjane Satrapi, Alison Bechdel, and Eugene Yang. All French and Japanese work will be read in translation. Two class meetings per week.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Preference given to junior and senior English majors. Second semester. Visiting Writer Chee.
76. Old English and Beowulf. This course has as its first goal the rapid mastery of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) as a language for reading knowledge. Selected prose and short poems, such as The Wanderer and The Battle of Maldon, will be read in the original, with emphasis on literary appreciation as well as linguistic analysis. After that, our objectives will be an appreciation of Beowulf in the original, through the use of the instructor’s dual-language edition, and an understanding of the major issues in interpreting the poem. Students will declaim verses and write short critical papers. Three class hours per week.
Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Chickering.
82. Production Workshop in the Moving Image. The topic changes each time the course is taught. In fall 2007 the topic will be “Eye and Ear Control: Beginning Video Production.” In this class we plunge into the multiple, overlapping, and contradictory histories and practices of what are commonly called experimental film and video. Experimental work is often perceived as messy, chaotic, or random. In this class, we will investigate the precise structures and rhythms of experimental media and its makers’ deep understanding of craft and materials. As a class, we seek to unpack the term “experimental,” and create our own videos that embrace, engage, dismantle, and even antagonize more traditional practices. We begin by looking at early twentieth-century films and move into analyzing the works of contemporary experimental media makers. We will also learn traditional and alternative approaches to video production and postproduction. This is a beginning course that will cover the basics of shooting, lighting, audio, and digital editing in the context of the above themes.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. First semester. Five College Professor Perlin.
83. The Non-Fiction Film. The study of a range of non-fiction films, including (but not limited to) the “documentary,” ethnographic film, autobiographical film, the film essay. Will include the work of Eisenstein, Vertov, Ivens, Franju, Ophüls, Leacock, Kopple, Gardner, Herzog, Chopra, Citron, Wiseman, Blank, Apted, Marker, Morris, Joslin, Riggs, McElwee. Two film programs weekly. Readings will focus on issues of representation, of “truth” in documentary, and the ethical issues raised by the films.
Limited to 25 students. First semester. Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.
84. Topics in Film Study. The topic changes each time the course is taught. In fall 2007 the topic will be “Cinema and New Media.” Like television before it, new media is often considered the death knell to cinema. This course complicates such assumptions, focusing on understanding and writing about ways that new and old technologies converge. Students will consider key issues relating to social, philosophical, legal, geopolitical, economic, and aesthetic implications of new media on cinema. New media transforms production through high definition video (HDV) and computer-generated imagery (CGI) in commercial, avant-garde, and amateur film, video, and animation. New media also transforms distribution, exhibition, and reception though broadband, multimedia compression formats, and the Internet. The course examines media fandom and political activism through online fic and role-playing games, wikis, blogs and vlogs, machinima, and virtual worlds. More significantly, the course asks questions about access to technologies “in real life” (IRL) through readings and documentaries on the digital divide and racial ravine both in U.S. classrooms and in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as questions on piracy, file sharing, and copyright. The course explores the interface of technology and the environment in its broadest definition, such as virtual migrations in information technologies (IT) and business processing outsourcing (BPO) industries in India, state control of user access to content within the so-called borderless frontier of the Internet, and digital mobilizations for environmentalism and human rights. Weekly screenings and in-class streamings explore new media as a theme in commercial narrative filmmaking, as in The Matrix or The Blair Witch Project, and as a practice, as in hacking, culture poaching and jamming, clip culture, and tactical media.
A previous course in film studies or media studies is recommended. First semester. Visiting Professor Hudson.
84. Topics in Film Study. Two topics will be offered in the second semester, 2007-08.
01. FIVE CONTEMPORARY FILMMAKERS. The course will study, in some depth, the work and situation of several critically admired contemporary filmmakers, each of whom might be described as a distinctive stylist of the medium, even as each has no less distinctive roots in their native culture. We will ask in what ways their filmmaking style negotiates between their national and cultural roots and the expectations of a worldwide audience. To be considered will be the work of Wong Kar-Wai (Hong Kong), Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan), Abbas Kiarostami (Iran), Pedro Almodóvar (Spain), and either Claire Denis (France) or Michael Haneke (Austria). Two class meetings and two screenings per week.
02. FILM THEORY AND CRITICISM. This course provides a survey of theoretical and critical approaches to analysis of film and video with an emphasis on the historical and cultural context in which these approaches emerge, examining selections from classical, grand, contemporary, and non-western film theory and criticism. This course begins with readings that frame early debates on medium specificity, film’s ability to capture and construct both reality and illusions, psychological and philosophical implications of the new medium, and theorizations of key filmic practices (editing, close-up, deep focus), structuralist-inflected and semiotic approaches to film genres and film stars, and neo-romantic and nationalist auteur approaches. After examining classical and grand theory approaches, the course will turn toward interventions, elaborations, and corrections to these theories and approaches made by postcolonial feminisms, Third Cinema, postmodernism and alternative modernities, subaltern studies, ethnic and whiteness studies, reception and audience studies, queer theory, cultural studies, and new media theory. The course concludes with a comparison of theorizations of visual relays in Hollywood, Hindi, Chinese, and Iranian cinemas in order to recognize that film theory and criticism, like film itself, are culturally and historically constructed.
Requisite: a prior film studies course, preferably a solid introduction to basic cinematic terms, such a cinematography, editing, mise en scène, and sound. Visiting Professor Hudson.
85. Proust. A critical reading in English translation of substantial portions of Marcel Proust’s great work of fiction and philosophy, A la Recherche du temps perdu (known now in the revised Scott-Moncrieff translation as In Search of Lost Time). While students will be encouraged to read the whole of the work, class discussion and exercises will concentrate on major sections, mainly from Swann’s Way, The Guermantes Way, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Time Regained. Some attention will be given to other writing by Proust and to the tradition of critical commentary in English on Proust’s work and its place as a document of European modernism. Two class meetings per week.
Recommended: prior study in nineteenth- or early twentieth-century English or French novel. Not recommended for first-year students. Second semester. Professor Cameron.
86. James Joyce. Readings in Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and some portions of Finnegans Wake. Two class meetings per week.
Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2007-08. Professor Cameron.
87. Senior Tutorial. Open to senior English majors who wish to pursue a self-defined project in reading and writing. Students intending to elect this course must submit to the Department a five-page description and rationale for the proposed independent study by the end of the first week of classes in the first semester of their senior year. Those who propose projects in fiction, verse, playwriting, or autobiography must submit a substantial sample of work in the appropriate mode; students wishing to undertake critical projects must include a tentative bibliography with their proposal.
Admission with consent of the Department. Preregistration is not allowed. First or second semester.
88. Senior Tutorial. A continuation, where appropriate, of English 87. Students intending to continue independent work are required to submit to their tutorial advisor, no later than the first day of classes of the second senior semester, a five-page prospectus describing in detail the shape of the intended project along with a substantial writing sample from the work completed in English 87. If he or she approves, the advisor will forward these materials, along with a recommendation, to the Department.
Admission with consent of the Department. Preregistration is not allowed. First or second semester.
87D, 88D. Senior Tutorial. This form of the regular course in independent work for seniors will be approved only in exceptional circumstances.
First and second semesters.
89. Production Seminar in the Moving Image. This is an advanced production/theory course for video students interested in developing and strengthening the elements of cinematography, editing, directing and performance in their work. The course will include workshops in non-linear editing, lighting, sound recording and cinematography. The class will emphasize the development of individual approaches to image, sound and text. Students will complete four production assignments. Weekly screenings and critical readings will introduce students to a wide range of approaches to narrative, documentary and hybrid structures within early and contemporary film and videomaking. We will study works by Louis Feuillade, Wong Kar-Wai, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Nagisa Oshima, and Lucrecia Martel among others. Readings by Gilles Deleuze, Hamid Naficy, Jane Campion, Guy Debord and Maureen Turim.
Requisite: English 82, Video I or Introduction to Media Production. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2007-08.
90. Form and Freedom. An intensive examination of the differences between formal and free verse; in particular, the commonly held notion that the one is a prison cell and the other an open field. We will be reading two texts, Paul Fussell’s Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, and Charles Hartman’s Free Verse: An Essay on Prosody, as well as numerous examples drawn from all periods of poetry in English.
Omitted 2007-08. Writer-in-Residence Hall.
91. The Grammar of English. An examination of the structure and history of English grammar through descriptive and exemplary readings. Students will analyze their own sentences and those of literary and non-literary texts, with special attention to the relationship between syntax and style. Topics will include gender differences in usage, ethnic and regional grammars, comparisons with grammars other than English, and the social uses of prescriptive grammar. Literary selections will be from such writers as Dr. Johnson, James, Hemingway, Dickinson, Faulkner, Hopkins, Baldwin, Gibbon, Stein, and Brooks. Media and popular culture will also provide examples. Two class meetings per week.
Open to juniors and seniors. Non-English majors are welcome. Requisites: One English course numbered 01 through 20 and one upper-level English course; exceptions by consent of the instructors. Omitted 2007-08. Professors Barale and Chickering.
93. The Changing Images of Blacks in Film. (Also Black Studies 18 and Theater and Dance 27.) See Theater and Dance 27.
Second semester. Professor Mukasa.
94. Expatriate Poets. Readings of poets who have chosen to live in a culture other than their own, with an emphasis on T.S. Eliot in London, Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil, Thom Gunn in California, and Agha Shahid Ali in New England. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2007-08. Writer-in-Residence Hall.
97, 98. Special Topics. Independent Reading Courses.
First and second semesters. The Department.
Level IV: Seminars for Juniors and Senior Majors.
These courses all emphasize independent inquiry, critical and theoretical issues, and extensive writing. They are normally open only to juniors and seniors and limited to 15 students. Preference is given to declared English majors in their junior year, who are strongly advised to elect 95 then and not later. Although this seminar is a requirement for the major, the Department cannot guarantee admission to seniors in their second semester.
The Department offers at least three sections of English 95 each semester. Each instructor will specify appropriate requisites.
95. Seminar in English Studies. Five sections will be offered in the first semester, 2007-08.
01. MODE OF MELODRAMA. The term refers historically to a form of popular theater of the nineteenth century; by extension it is also commonly used, as a term of aesthetic taste, to disparage excesses of emotional and moral expression in dramatic narrative more generally. Yet just such “excesses” mark the style and action of novels, operas, and films that are held, both popularly and critically, in high regard. Is there an art of melodrama? The course will approach this question by taking into account recent criticism and scholarship which has studied the distinctive features of what Peter Brooks calls “the melodramatic imagination” and by reading and discussing: fiction by Balzac, Dickens, James, Faulkner (for example), an opera by Puccini or Verdi, a film by D.W. Griffith, and a number of films from the traditional genres of Hollywood (westerns, gangster/mafia films, “the woman’s picture,” films noir, family melodramas, sci-fi films, etc.). Two class meetings per week and screenings as appropriate.
02. NATIONAL AND GLOBAL CINEMAS. Acknowledging that cinema is always already transnational, this course explores tensions between “the national” and “the global” in narrative, documentary, and experimental films produced in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas in the postcolonial era of cultural hybridity and global capitalism. The course begins by examining the nationalist ideologies of Hollywood production in tandem with Third Cinema’s radical decentering of the assumptions of both Hollywood and auteurist cinemas. The course examines ways that minor, feminist, avant-garde, and third world cinemas respond to the regional and global domination of the commercial industries in Hollywood, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Cairo, Mexico and elsewhere, either by appropriating and reconfiguring cinematic conventions within indigenous pre-cinematic traditions, by parodying and satirizing them, or by outright rejecting them. The course explores ways that political economy relates to filmic aesthetics and styles; different historical and cultural conceptions of cinema; different theoretical models for the analysis of national and global cultures; and implications of an increasing standardization of world film into an “international style” particularly since the 1990s. Films produced in, or financed with state or private funds from, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, France, India, Iran, Kenya, Mali, Martinique, Mexico, Sénégal, South Korea, the U.K., and the U.S. will be screened.
Requisite: a prior film studies course, preferably a solid introduction to basic cinematic terms, such as cinematography, editing, mise en scène, and sound. Visiting Professor Hudson.
03. FAULKNER AND MORRISON. William Faulkner and Toni Morrison are generally understood as two of the most important writers of the twentieth century, and indeed, the work of each is integral to American literature. But why are Morrison and Faulkner so often mentioned in the same breath—he, born in the South, white and wealthy, she, the daughter of a working-class black family in the Midwest? Perhaps it is because in a country that works hard to live without a racial past, both Morrison’s and Faulkner’s work bring deep articulation to the often unseen, and more commonly—the unspeakable. This class will explore the breadth of each author’s work, looking for where their texts converge and diverge. As we will learn how to talk and write about the visions, dreams, and nightmares—all represented as daily life—that these authors offer.
04. EMILY DICKINSON. “Experience is the Angled Road / Preferred against the Mind / By–Paradox–the Mind itself” 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 at the Emily Dickinson Museum, make use of Dickinson manuscripts at the Jones Library and the College archives, and set her work in the context of other nineteenth-century writers including Helen Hunt Jackson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Jacobs. 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 Emily Dickinson Museum that will help visitors engage with her poems. One class meeting per week.
Limited to 12 students. Professor Sánchez-Eppler.
05. SHAKESPEARE. Four plays, to be read slowly in conjunction with a substantial selection of the commentary on them–and a performance by a distinguished visiting troupe of players of one play–from Samuel Johnson to Stephen Greenblatt and beyond. The texts may be said to represent much of the variety of Shakespeare’s work over a dozen years: three comedies, each generically different from the others: a “romantic” comedy, Twelfth Night; a “problem” comedy, Measure for Measure; and a “romance,” The Winter’s Tale; and the last of the principal tragedies, Macbeth. A long paper on one of these texts and brief ones on the other three. Two class meetings per week.
A course in Shakespeare or his contemporaries in the theater or in poetry would be welcome. Professor Sofield.
95. Seminar in English Studies. Five sections will be offered in the second semester, 2007-08.
01. WILLA CATHER. Until the 1970s, Willa Cather (1876-1947) was read in the context of nation-making. She wrote of American soil, of the Western plains, of pioneers and immigrants, of the women and men who farmed, rode the range, built houses and churches and banks and barns, who succeeded or failed, or who simply toiled, a little bit mad or almost heroically.
More recently, however, Willa Cather is read as a queer writer, as someone whose same-sex preferences and affiliations find covert presence in those same American narratives. In this course we will read a selection of Cather’s twelve novels, some of her short fiction, as well as a variety of critical texts and biographies with an eye to examining how narratives of sexual and national identity entwine. Short and frequent assignments as well as a long essay (18-20 pages) will be required. Two class meetings per week.
02. AMERICANS IN PARIS. The story of American writers, artists, and musicians who lived and worked in Paris can be imagined as a drama in two acts. Act I, set in the 1920s, brings Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein to center stage. Act II, set in the postwar years, belongs mainly to African American writers such as Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Although the spotlight is mainly on the writers, there are important roles for painters (Gerald Murphy), photographers (Man Ray), dancers (Josephine Baker), and musicians (Sidney Bechet). There is also a kind of epilogue in which the French present their view of the Americans in their midst. Foremost among the questions to be asked is this: how did their experience as “exiles abroad” alter and complicate these Americans’ sense of their national, racial, sexual, and professional identities? Two class meetings per week.
03. MEMORY, HAUNTING, AND MIGRATION IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN NOVELS BY WOMEN. At the beginning of Joy Kogawa’s Obasan, the narrator wonders, “If I could follow the stream down and down to the hidden voice, would I come at last to the freeing word?” This class takes as its topic the many ways American female authors have written about memory–memories of the past as well as of other places, about memories that refuse to be surfaced and memories that are at times not even of their protagonists’ own lives. How, for instance, do writers portray the ways painful pasts have influenced their characters’ identities? Or what it means to suffer for a past whose details one does not even know? Is the “truth” freeing, or does overcoming the hidden and silent increase memory’s burdens? What are some of the possibilities and limitations of portraying what are often traumatic experiences in the novel form? And can “trauma” even mean the same thing across ethnic experiences? With such questions in mind, we will look specifically at novels concerned with two of the foundational experiences of American civilization, slavery and migration, and at the pervasive problems of longing, disjuncture, and displacement endemic to such experiences. Authors we may read in this cross-cultural course include Maxine Hong Kingston, Edwidge Danticat, Alesia Perry, and Cristina Garcia.
04. POET-CRITICS. A study of some nineteenth- and twentieth-century English and American writers who have made their mark both as poets and as critics of poetry: Matthew Arnold, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, W.H. Auden, Robert Lowell, and Randall Jarrell. What relation is there between the performance of each as poet and as critic?
05. MAKING PLACES: RESEARCH METHODS IN AMERICAN CULTURES. (Also American Studies 68 and History 83.) Who am I? How do I fit into this place? Taking as its starting point each student’s own personal and family stories, this course will draw on a wide range of research methodologies and resources to help students place their own experiences in the larger context of American cultures. Students will be introduced to research tools that will allow them to investigate literary, visual, geographical, material, and historical artifacts and data. Structured by a series of units that develop and interrogate specific skills, the course will culminate in individual research papers, at least 20 pages in length, that explore some aspect of American life.
Those students who wish to take this class as English 95 need to develop an essentially literary final project.
Professors Sánchez-Eppler and Sandweiss.
Friendship. To be taught as a First-Year Seminar.
First semester. Professor Townsend.
Fyodor Dostoevsky. See Russian 27.
First semester. Professor Peterson.