Graduate Seminars


Apart from the inherent rewards of studying literature, a degree in English or American Literature & Culture offers intensive training in skills essential in the modern job market, training that is rarely offered by other fields of study. The major also aspires to nurture the kinds of thoughtfulness essential for an intelligent, diverse, and harmonious society, a society that appreciates traditions without following them blindly. The reading and writing in the major

 Fall 2017

Graduate Proseminar: Approaches to Literary Research

English 200 / Prof. Cohen
Tuesdays, 3:00pm – 5:50pm

The Graduate Proseminar is an introduction to the profession of literary studies. The course will cover a wide array of topics related to issues in the profession and professionalization, including (but not limited to): the structures and histories of the discipline; writing and publishing for scholarly and general audiences; scholarly organizations and conference presentations; building a CV; understanding the academic job market; humanities careers; and critical and methodological approaches to literary studies.

Ulysses: Developments and Issues in Modern Critical Though

English 201C / Prof. Hornby
Thursdays, 9:00am – 11:50am

In “Ulysses, Order, and Myth,” T.S. Eliot writes that Ulysses “is a book to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can escape.” This course interrogates the inescapability of Ulysses, focusing on the novel’s grand experiment with prose style in the context of modernism. We will use Joyce’s novel to think through a series of questions about literary influence; the epistemology of the novel; the relationship between literature, science, and art; the novel’s production of time and space; stylistic difficulty; canonicity; and the purchase of modernist studies. We will consider various ways in which the novel has been taken up critically, each week focusing on a particular theoretical or historical approach to Ulysses and to literary criticism. In addition to Ulysses, we will read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, selections from Dubliners, and portions of Finnegans Wake. Students may either write two 8-10 page papers or a seminar paper.

Shakespeare: A Graduate Introduction

English 247 / Prof. Watson
Tuesdays, 9:00am – 11:50am

This seminar intends to help students engage with Shakespeare’s plays at an advanced level and, secondarily, use that engagement to develop professional perspectives on literary research in various methodologies and ideologies (historicist, feminist, ecocritical, editorial, close and distant reading, performance and adaption, etc.). We will explore between eight and ten plays, and direct analysis of those plays will be our primary emphasis, but we will also consider various scholarly approaches — usually through articles or chapters chosen by members of the seminar — to those plays. The weekly discussions will require students to prepare thoroughly for each meeting, not only studying the assigned material in detailed, alert, and imaginative ways, but also taking initiatives to look further into areas of doubt or interest, and then to be active, informed, and courteous participants during class. We will most likely study Romeo and Juliet, Measure for Measure, and Othello, and will choose our other plays from among Midsummer Night’s Dream, Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Henry V, As You Like It, King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. Students will write brief (1-2 page) position-papers on topics of their own choice for each session of the first half of the Quarter, to be posted on the course website the day before the class meets, and will write a seminar paper (about fifteen pages) at the end of the Quarter

Imagining the Early Modern Mediterranean: Studies in Drama

English 256 / Prof. Fuchs
Thursdays, 12:00pm – 2:50pm

This course will examine representations of the Mediterranean—-that space in between Europe and Africa, Christianity and Islam, East and West—-in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, to explore how English identities are negotiated in relation to Italy, Spain, and Africa. What is the role of the Mediterranean in early modern conceptions of race and gender? How do Mediterranean exchanges complicate our histories of imperialism? How does the literary negotiate and inflect these exchanges? Authors will include Kyd, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Massinger.

Anatomy of the Novel: Studies in the Novel

English 258 / Prof. North
Wednesdays, 9:00am – 11:50am

This will be a practical course in formal analysis of the novel. Thus we will read some of the important authorities on the topic: Genette, Bakhtin, Chatman, and a number of novels, including Joseph Andrews, Jane Eyre, Emma, Frankenstein, Mrs. Dalloway, and others. Our purpose will be to acquire a command of the basic categories in the analysis of the novel, but also to subject these to some critical pressure. For example, why is the apparently basic distinction between story and discourse so hard to describe and why are the names given to these two so variable? Is it appropriate to divide novelistic narration along the linguistic line between first and third person? What are the limitations to omniscient narration and how does the acknowledgement of limitations undermine the very concept? Is the term “psychological realism” an oxymoron? Requirements include a) two scholarly book reviews, or b) a seminar paper.

Toni Morrison’s Literary Trilogy: Studies in Afro-American Literature

English M262 / Prof. Streeter
Thursdays, 3:00pm – 5:50pm

This seminar focuses on Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison’s novels Beloved (1987) Jazz (1992) and Paradise (1998), works the author has described as a trilogy. Spanning a century, Beloved represents African American life during and immediately after slavery, Jazz is set during the 1920s Jazz Age, and Paradise during the ambiguous, transitional decade of the 1970s. We also read Morrison’s first novel The Bluest Eye (1970), and her most recent, 2015’s God Help the Child, along with selected critical essays. Note: Vintage International print editions of all books are required for this seminar.

Winter 2018

Realisms: Developments and Issues in Modern Critical Thought

English 201C / Prof. Seltzer
Wednesdays, 3:00pm – 5:50pm

This course centers on realism, or, more exactly, realisms. Realism, as genre or tendency, is premised on a world that comes to itself by staging, and reporting, its own the conditions. Such a world is one recast by the presence of alternatives—and so always in a state of suspense. ”The real world” is thus given to what the novelist David Shields calls “reality hunger.” Realisms present how we live in and with these circular networks, and so how such a world renders its own reality comprehensible to itself—or, at times, the degree to which its reality lacks reality. We will look first at two very recent attempts to take the temperature of such a world: Tom McCarthy’s novel Satin Island (on the drive to write “the great report” on the contemporary) and China Miéville’s novel This Census-Taker (on storifying lives via data-base fictions, in a chalk-lined world). Such an “interdisciplinary” turn may lend itself to seemingly harmless
introductory surveys—at times, to approaches, genres, and theories as nearly one-word arguments (“interdisciplinarity,” for example). There may be no way around these problems. But there are different ways of entering them. For one thing, these concerns are not alien to realism: they are constitutive of it. So we will next look back at canonical, albeit weird, realisms (novels, for example, of William Dean Howells, Sarah Orne Jewett, Theodore Dreiser, Henry James). Then, turn to some recent and experimental realisms (for example, the fiction of Kazuo Ishiguro, Cormac McCarthy, Patricia Highsmith, or Natsuo Kirino). Here official reality, spectral finance, and new ego-technic media (euphemized as social media) lead realism into uncanny valleys. Each week core readings will dock onto recent work in art theory, media studies, social psychology, science studies, among other things. Topics will include the
ontological turn in literary studies (object envy); the allure of systems (cybernetic irony); and current enchantments with neo-animisms and immersive, or actor-network, connections (network love). Course requirements: either two shorter papers–each may take the form of a brief essay or a book review—or a longer term paper.

Forms of Attachment: Restoration and 18th-Century Literature

English 250 / Prof. Kareem
Tuesdays, 9:00am – 11:50am

Literary critics agree that now is a good time to think about how we relate to literature in terms that move beyond the stances—such as “digging down and standing back,” in Rita Felski’s phrase—associated with literary critique, a view that has unsurprisingly brought renewed attention to questions of attachment. I call this interest unsurprising because, where critique operates via detachment and dissection, attachment is about the ties that bind. But how does attachment work, by what objects is it mediated, and what is its relationship to the task of literary criticism? This course will investigate these questions by pairing attachment theory from psychology, sociology, and literary studies, with literary texts, primarily from the eighteenth century, that both thematize and embody different modes of attachment. Literary texts will include works by Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, William Hogarth, James Boswell, and Jane Austen.

Romantic Difficulty: Romantic Writers

English 251 / Prof. Nersessian
Wednesday, 9:00am – 11:50am

This is a seminar in Romantic poetry and also in the idea of poetic difficulty. In other words, it is appropriate for students of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature and of poetics more broadly, in particular those interested in the historical formation of “the” avant-garde. We will consider the emergence of difficulty as a term of praise and disrepute, the relationship between poetry and jargon, difficulty’s politics (e.g., what kinds of audience does difficulty presume and create, what are the ideological claims of demands for plain-speaking, what is the function of specialized languages, from techno-scientism to local dialect, in producing difficulty’s affiliations and alignments), and the consequences of difficulty’s coevolution with global capital. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century authors will include Wordsworth, Keats, Hazlitt, Burke, Blair, G. Campbell, Hogarth, C. Smith, Shelley, Kant, Cowper, Young, Clare, Hegel, and Marx; later materials from Bernstein, Glissant, Prynne, Apter, Dworkin, Forrest-Thomson, Doyle, and Spivak, among several others.

The Oceanic Imaginaries: Postcolonial Literatures

English 265 / Prof. DeLoughrey
Tuesday, 12:00pm – 2:50pm

This course traces out the recent oceanic turn in the humanities, with an emphasis on postcolonial and indigenous methods and approaches. While diaspora and transnational studies have emphasized maritime mobility, most scholars have treated the ocean as a blank space across which travelling human subjects attain their agency. More recently there has been a rise in what has been called a “critical ocean studies” that examines the ocean as embodied space, fluid material, a place for engagement with nonhuman others, and a place of alternative knowledges and ontologies. We will examine postcolonial texts that engage with all of these themes and turn to representations of the ocean (including the frozen poles) as a space of migration as well as an agent of climate change. Given the interdisciplinary range of the “Oceanic Humanities” (or “Blue Humanities”) we will examine a wide range of texts, including literature and the visual arts and host a number of visiting scholars. Students will be required to attend the “Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago” exhibit (part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA) at the Museum of Latin American Arts, Long Beach. [Since the exhibit ends in February, do try to attend before the quarter begins.] Readings may include Epeli Hau`ofa, Derek Walcott, Keri Hulme, Craig Santos Perez, Phil Steinberg, Liza Paravisini-Gebert, Stefan Helmreich, Stacy Alaimo, and Astrida Neimanis.

Edward Said: Seminar: Literary Theory

English M270.1 / Prof. Makdisi
Thursdays, 12:00pm – 2:50pm

This seminar will examine the development of the thought and work of Edward Said. We will read most of Said’s major works, often in relation to some of the other major intellectual figures (e.g., Vico, Adorno, Gramsci) in relation to whom Said elaborated his own unique intellectual career. Readings will include Orientalism; The Question of Palestine; The World, the Text and the Critic; Culture and Imperialism; Representations of the Intellectual; and On Late Style, and will involve Said’s approaches to literature, theory, music, aesthetics and politics.

Narrative Theory: Seminar: Literary Theory

English M270.2 / Prof. Heise
Mondays & Wednesdays, 12:30pm – 1:50pm

This lecture aims to introduce graduate students in the humanities and social sciences to basic concepts, theories, and methods in research on narrative. We will cover “classical” structuralist narratology; early sociolinguistic approaches to oral narrative; “postclassical” narratology as it emerged from feminist and reader response theory; anthropological field work and narrative; storyworld and virtual reality theories; and recent developments from cognitive science, affect theory, and the digital humanities. The class will explore storytelling situations, plot structure, character construction, fictionality and nonfictionality, cultural story templates, modes of reading/hearing narrative, image-text relations, and cross-media translation (text, film, games, Internet). Assignments will emphasize application of narratological concepts and methods to your own field of research, and to communication of your research to the public sphere. Open to graduate students from the humanities and social sciences; open to advanced undergraduates by instructor’s permission.