This course introduces M.A. students to the content and relational knowledge expected of a successful graduate student in literary studies.
The class focuses on helping students develop specific reading, research, writing, and critical thinking skills necessary for (and expected of) graduate-level coursework and research.
As a result, we will take a practice-level approach to (1) developing scholarly habits and research practices, (2) introducing the debates and issues that shape the English discipline, (3) developing and refining a personal philosophy for one’s individual academic goals, and (4) practicing basic writing and analysis techniques in the context of the forms and styles most common to graduate-level work.
The class will also serve as a general orientation to the specific requirements and practices of the M.A. program, including preparation for the thesis project at the end of the degree.
“Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” Mark Twain’s famous self-deprecating comments about Huckleberry Finn encapsulate both the persistent appeal and the challenge inherent in studying Twain’s writing. Twain is firmly enshrined in the pantheon of American literature; he is regarded as a profound innovator in American literary art; he is seen as one of the nineteenth-century’s most significant thinkers on issues ranging from race to religion to imperialism. Yet despite all this, Twain himself would probably tell us that we have too much time on our hands, that he was only joking, and that we shouldn’t take him so seriously.
But continue to read him we must. Thus, despite the better judgment of all those involved, this class offers an in-depth exploration of Twain’s writings and biography. Students will undertake an in-depth study of Twain’s major works such as Innocents Abroad, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Tragedy of Puddn’head Wilson, andThe Diaries of Adam & Eve; they will encounter lesser-known and unfinished fragments such as The Mysterious Stranger, Tom Sawyer’s Conspiracy, and “Schoolhouse Hill;” and they will study Twain’s status as a public figure and celebrity during his lifetime and afterwardsAlong the way, the class will track the major trends in Twain scholarship including historicist, feminist, and postcolonial perspectives. And, although we cannot make any firm guarantees, it is highly unlikely that any students will be shot over the course of the term.
This course pairs (and sometimes congregates) Shakespearean and other early modern English dramas with modern theatrical counterparts that link to their Renaissance predecessor through appropriation, parody, pastiche, dramatic kinship, ghoulish resurrection, or sundry loose affiliations.
We’ll look both ways: how the past informs these (post)modern dramas, and how they in turn reshape our view of their play progenitors through the lens of pataphysics, absurdism, Celtic and cowboy nostalgia, the cinematic imagination, the ethos of late capitalism, celebrity culture, and other phenomena unknown to those Elizabethans and Jacobeans who were “well able to bombast out a blank verse” but lived in a Beckett- and Beiber-free zone. Hamlet alongside Tom Stoppard’sRosencrantz and Guildentern are Dead, Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine, and Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information; Macbeth with Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf; The Tempestwith Sam Shepard’s True West and Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. John Ford’s Perkin Warbeck with John M. Synge’s Playboy of the Western World and John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation. This list of plays is tentative and may change slightly.
This course fulfills a pre-1800 requirement. Requirements for graduate students will often be more extensive, more rigorous, and different in kind than for their undergraduate counterparts. Prerequisite 411: Eng 300 (may be taken simultaneously); Prerequisite 511: active graduate student status.
In this course we will examine a specific strain of contemporary literature that mines Africa, the Caribbean, and India for stories of suffering. We will discuss how each of the selected works participates in and/or comments on literary humanitarianism, which operates according to the conviction one may engage in a humanitarian act by reading, and thereby witnessing, stories of trauma. As we analyze the portrayal of literature as testimony with narrators as testifiers and readers as witnesses, we will consider the implications of reading political violence as trauma. We will contemplate how this literature fits into socioeconomic and political debates and how it reflects changing national and international power dynamics.
The prospective reading list includes the following:
Dave Eggers, What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng
Focusing on the modern period (1900-1945), this course will explore novels by Henry James, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and Elizabeth Bowen.
Issues we will consider will include (but not be limited to) the modernist preoccupation with history; the artist’s relation to society, culture, and the material world, particularly as exemplified in novels of exile and ex-patriotism; innovations in the expression of consciousness; and the connections between such themes and emerging literary styles and narrative forms.
A phenomenon of spiritual traditions originating out of the African Diaspora and developed within the French, Spanish, Creole, and African American population found in 18th and 19th century Louisiana, New Orleans Voodoo is marked by its departure from more formalized religious practices. While often confused with Haitian Vodou, New Orleans Voodoo, (although sharing some similarities with Vodou), is marked by its concentration on the gris-gris (spiritual amulet), Voodoo queens, and Li Grand Zombi (the snake deity). Overall, there are three distinct historical phases to New Orleans Voodoo: African (1719-1830), Creole (1830-1930, and American (1930-present).
The Creole phase is known as the Golden Age of New Orleans Voodoo because it is during this time the aforementioned gris-gris and the prominence of the Voodoo queens made their debut, but more importantly, the rituals involved in the Creole phase contained dances, sounds and unique techniques giving birth to a new sound that would eventually become known as Jazz.
This was also a period in the history of New Orleans Voodoo where it merged with other celebrations in the city, especially Mardi Gras, and its African spirits were fused with Catholic Saints. Because New Orleans Voodoo emphasizes an oral tradition and an amorphous system of rituals it provides an excellent context for an artistic aesthetic created by novelist Ishmael Reed and deemed the Neo-HooDoo Aesthetic, an aesthetic which argues that “every man is an artist and every artist a priest.”
This class will first examine the origins of Voodoo and its infusion into and sometimes dubious role as a part of New Orleans culture before moving on to see how it operates as both character and theme in New Orleans fiction. These goals will be aided by applying the principles of Reed’s Aesthetic. In particular, the preeminent Voodoo queen Marie Laveau will be singled out as a both a central historical figure in discussing New Orleans Voodoo and a significant literary figure in discussing the fiction. As has been the custom these past six years with this class and in order to experience, first hand, the sights, sounds, inhabitants, and smells of the city that hosts this unique combination of the spiritual and the literary, there is an optional journey to New Orleans that will take place on the traditional third weekend in October, October 16-20.
Required texts: Voodoo in New Orleans (Robert Tallant); Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau(Martha Ward); The Sound of Building Coffins (Louis Maistros); Voodoo Child (Michael Reeves); Dominque Laveau: Voodoo Child Vol. I (Selwyn Sefyu Hinds); Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau (Jewell Parker Rhodes); Big Easy (Eric Wilder); Shadows Over New Orleans (Shirley Chance Yarbro)
The course will begin with a synopsis of the classical and modern heritage of rhetoric.
Using this material as a backdrop, the remainder of the term will be spent focusing on issues raised in the contemporary era, many of which have their seeds in the literature of the classical and modern times.
We will specifically consider the unique affordances and constraints of diverse modalities of writing (alphabetic, visual, and aural). We will identify how digital technologies and contexts influence multimodal processes and products. We will adapt multimodal composing to address audiences’ unique needs, beliefs, experiences, abilities, and aesthetic tastes. And finally, we will engage in discussions of the rhetorical effectiveness of various digital and multimodal texts.
The writing process encompasses a wide—perhaps infinite—range of variables. These include writers’ levels of skill and engagement, the nature of their writing projects, the choices they have for information-gathering, the audiences they write for, and their abilities to perceive and persist amid all the means for persuasion available to them.
This course will introduce students to selected texts—including pedagogical, theoretical , research-based, and primary—relevant to writers’ processes and writing pedagogy. We will read, discuss, write about, and synthesize these texts in an effort to devise strategies for modeling engaged, responsible, and purposeful approaches to academic writing. ENG 456/556 is the gateway course for becoming a Consultant for the Harbert Writing Center. As well, it will provide a sturdy foundation of knowledge for students who plan to become secondary and college-level writing teachers.
Students will conduct observations of writing instruction, write frequent informal pieces, and prepare two researched papers.
In Advanced Creative Writing: Forms of Fiction, student writers will study and practice fictional techniques and forms ranging from the traditional to the explosive; possibilities include the visitation story, the journey story, and the frame story, as well the micro story, the meta story, and the surreal/magically real story.
We will read and discuss a number of representative published pieces and then try our hand at creating our own. Through this process, writers will develop a sense of fiction’s possibilities, from its initial shadowy impulses to its shapelier, more polished outcomes. They also will hone their skills in craft elements such as characterization, perspective, setting, voice, language, and narrative structure, which are integral to deeply resonant literature of all shapes and sizes.
Please note: Because this class is intensely focused on the study of techniques and form and the practice of new material within those forms, all work will be generated during the course; no outside/previously written work will be permitted.
Central to this course is the workshop: after extensive practice with several exercises in form, students will present two pieces of their original fiction to the class for critique; they also will read their classmates’ fiction-in-progress and respond to those works both in discussion and in thorough written critiques. In addition, students will keep a dedicated writing notebook. Graduate students will be held to more rigorous standards than undergraduates in every phase of the course.
Textbooks: TBD. Many readings will be handed out in class or made available online.
The workshop cap of 15 is firm; no overrides will be allowed. If the class is full, students must use Banner to gain admittance. The instructor does not keep a waitlist.
PREREQUISITE: Prior collegiate-level workshop experience or instructor’s permission. This course may be repeated for credit.
An exploration of poetry by women in the long eighteenth century (1660-1800) in relation to literary tradition, conventions, genre, and kind.
Readings from Backscheider and Ingrassia’s monumental British Women Poets of the Long Eighteenth Century (906 pages!), will test the editors’ hypothesis that women, working “within forms primarily created by men, . . . faced the dual challenge of demonstrating a mastery of poetic conventions while simultaneously using them to serve often very different poetic purposes.” Poetic genres and kinds to be studied include female friendship poems, retirement poems, landscape poems, sonnets, ballads, and odes. Class members will keep a reading journal, write several short critical essays, and produce a researched term paper (12-16 pages).
Prerequisite: English 300. English 305 and 306 helpful but not required. Note: Students who took English 475/575 Summer I can repeat for credit. This course fulfills the Diverse Voices and the pre-1800 requirement for the major.
There are two insurmountable English voices in the medieval period: Geoffrey Chaucer is one, and William Langland is the other. In this class, we will look to the second.
Piers Plowman is a monster of a poem, and it encompasses everything from vernacular religious movements, pointed political complaint, biblical commentary, and physical humor. This class will read the poem in its entirety, focusing on how Langland deals with the question of political, social, and devotional justice. We will examine how Langland tries to propose massive social reform to counter what he saw as a world descending to chaos, and we will see what happens when readers of the poem use it to affect very violent very real revolution in the streets in and around London. We will also look at the poem as an experiment in language and examine how Langland uses his unique style to authorize readers to political and devotional action. This is a poem of revolution in every sense of the word, but it is an uneasy and abstract revolution at best. Our discussions will focus on how these two sides of Langland’s writing work together, and what this means for the state of political and devotional readership in the period. In doing so, we will consider a large amount of current criticism, studying it both for how it discusses Langland’s masterwork and also as an example of academic writing.
The class will conclude with a major research essay suitable for presentation and/or publication. No previous experience with Middle English is required.