CoursesSenior Seminars

Fall 2021

Senior/Capstone Seminars for American Literature and Culture Majors

Transcendentalism

Topics in 19th Century American Literature
English 183B / Prof. M. Gallagher

This course will focus on the literary, religious, social, and political movement that was Transcendentalism, with emphasis on the three major writers—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau. Between the 1830s and 1850s, the Transcendentalist movement exerted its influence over New England, toward the western frontier, and across the Atlantic, manifesting itself in utopian experiments, abolitionist activities, and a new school of literature. What began with a “religious demonstration” in Boston and at Harvard quickly expanded to include all manner of “new views”: on religious and spiritual life; on the individual and society; on human rights; and on nature and the natural world. We will consider the many forms that Transcendentalism takes—sermons, speeches, journals, letters, essays, reviews, narratives, and poetry—and will determine what they have to say about nature, spirit, and the self.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Immigrant Stories: Literary and Cinematic

Topics in 20th and 21st Century American Literature
English 183C.1 / Prof. Decker

This course examines literary and cinematic representations of the American immigrant experience over the last century. To live between cultures, to experience the confounding processes of racialization and assimilation, to labor to translate one’s deepest interiority into a foreign language––all these aspects of migration make a new imaginative relationship with the world a necessity for the migrant and, as such, are fertile ground for literary exploration and cinematic expression. In this class, we study novels and movies as distinct mediums even as we attend to their affinities, such as an impulse toward narrative storytelling. Among our films, one is from the silent era (Chaplin’s The Immigrant); among our novels, one is a wordless story of sequenced, illustrated panels (Tan’s The Arrival). Other novels include Eugenides’ Middlesex, Ozeki’s A Tale for a Time Being, Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World. Other movies: Coppola’s The Godfather, Nair’s The Namesake, Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Literature of the Beat Generation

Topics in 20th and 21st Century American Literature
English 183C.2 / Prof. Dickey

This course will explore the Beat phenomenon in its historical and cultural moment and will locate Beat literature in the tradition of American Romantic writing. We will concentrate on works by William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, paying attention to other figures like Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose lives and works in some way confront and contest the pedestrian values of 1950s America (and after). We will also investigate the aesthetic principles that the Beats appropriated from diverse modernist and contemporary sources – Dada and Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Bebop – in order to ratify their own contrivances of spontaneity. And finally, we will consider predecessors (e.g. James Fenimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, Henry Miller) and inheritors (e.g., Ken Kesey, Sam Shepard, Hunter S. Thompson) whose works illuminate the achievement, or fried shoes, of the Beats.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Narrating the 1960s: Creative Nonfiction in an Age of Electronic Media

Capstone Seminar
English 184.1 / Prof. Decker

This course examines the 1960’s literary movement called New Journalism and the culture that gave rise to it. We read the most celebrated New Journalists––Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter Thompson––to consider how they use their talents as non-fiction novelists to respond to upheavals in mass media and society at large. We address the following kinds of questions. How can an older (print) form like the novel compete for the attention of consumers within a new mediascape brought about by the proliferation of film and TV? Is the New Journalist’s non-fiction narrative mode up to the task of representing a reality––political assassinations, urban riots, Black and Chicano protests, psychedelic drugs, moon walks, Vietnam War, Watergate, women’s liberation––that threatens to outstrip the writer’s imagination? Readings include: The White Album, Radical Chic, Dispatches, Strange Rumblings in Aztlan. Documentary films: Rush to Judgment, Black Panther, Medium Cool, Hearts and Minds. Plus TV news coverage from the era.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

The Feminist Classroom: Gender, Knowledge, and Pedagogy

Capstone Seminar
English 184.2 / Prof. S.K. Lee

Feminist theory is often encountered in the classroom: on the syllabus, in lectures, seminars, and discussions between teachers and students. The classroom, then, is a crucial site for feminist theory, as the space where it is taught and learned, but also as the site of feminist theorizations of teaching and learning. This seminar focuses on feminist theory that critically reflects on not only what is taught and learned in the feminist classroom, but how one teaches and learns, both in the feminist classroom and outside of it. Central questions that will frame our discussion are: How is knowledge produced and transmitted in the feminist classroom? How does the personal and lived experience constitute knowledge and ways of knowing? What are the gendered power dynamics in the classroom and how do they shape feminist pedagogies that move beyond the classroom? This seminar engages with novels and feminist theories centered around the classroom as the site for creating feminist methods, practices, and styles of teaching, learning, communication, and expression.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Topics in African American Literature

English M191A / Prof. Streeter

Variable specialized studies course in African American literature. Detailed description to be posted soon.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Senior/Capstone Seminars for English Majors

Theory of the Novel

Topics in Genre Studies
English 181A.1 / Prof. Dimuro

The theory of the novel falls into two categories: the development of its generic and material form over time, and its affinities with narratology. In the first case, the novel is studied in its relations with social reality, the rise of the middle class, capitalism, print reproduction, consumer markets and distribution practices, rates of literacy, and discursive origins to name a few. In the second case, scholars tend to collapse the novel’s distinctive rhetorical, narrative, and structural features into the broader technical elements it shares with other forms of narrative. These include plot, character, point of view, and other common features of prose fiction. We will study the differences between the novel as a genre and the novel as a sub-category of narrative. Most of the readings are theoretical, but we also read three novels from the nineteenth century that lend themselves to theoretical analysis: Jane Austen’s Emma, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, and Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady.

Crime Stories

ONLINE COURSE
Topics in Genre Studies
English 181A.2 / Prof. Seltzer

This seminar will look at crime fiction—primarily novels, some film—over the past century or so.  Crime stories have a long history but a special place in a modern world. What can such stories tell us about how we experience our personal lives and our public life?  What form do these stories take?   How can they help us understand the ways in which we work, interact, and play today?  Readings may include writers such as Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, James M. Cain, Cormac McCarthy, and Natsuo Kirino.   Focused literary analysis will center the course and the required papers. Consistent attendance, and active participation in seminar discussions, are required.

British Romanticism and the Black Atlantic

ONLINE COURSE
Topics in Romantic Literature
English 182D / Prof. Dembowitz

This course will explore how the Black Atlantic shaped British Romantic literature and culture from approximately 1770 to 1850. Paul Gilroy defines the Black Atlantic as a fluid space “crisscrossed by the movements of black people—not only as commodities but engaged in various struggles towards emancipation, autonomy, and citizenship.” More broadly, the Black Atlantic marks the intersection of race and modernity. Engaging with a wide range of genres—such as poetry, graphic satire, staged drama, and the novel—we will consider how transatlantic slavery and abolition, including the Haitian Revolution and West Indian slave revolts, influenced the period’s debates about radical republicanism, natural rights, commercial empire, class, gender, and especially race. Readings will draw on the work of Black Atlantic authors like Mary Prince, Olaudah Equiano, and Robert Wedderburn, as well as writers like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake, Hannah More, Mary Wollstonecraft, and William Earle.

The Reform Aesthetic: Political Reform and the Victorian Novel

Topics in 19th Century Literature
English 182E / Prof. Vignola

Perhaps no word captures the Victorian attitude toward social change like ‘reform.’ Nineteenth-century Britain underwent any number of reforms: sanitary, judicial, administrative, and more. But to Victorians, ‘reform’ meant first and foremost suffrage reform: the gradual expansion of the electorate toward full democracy. In this class, we will discuss reform as a topic in novels by Anthony Trollope and George Eliot, but we will also discuss suffrage reform theoretically as a mode of shaping the future.

Transcendentalism

Topics in 19th Century American Literature
English 183B / Prof. M. Gallagher

This course will focus on the literary, religious, social, and political movement that was Transcendentalism, with emphasis on the three major writers—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau. Between the 1830s and 1850s, the Transcendentalist movement exerted its influence over New England, toward the western frontier, and across the Atlantic, manifesting itself in utopian experiments, abolitionist activities, and a new school of literature. What began with a “religious demonstration” in Boston and at Harvard quickly expanded to include all manner of “new views”: on religious and spiritual life; on the individual and society; on human rights; and on nature and the natural world. We will consider the many forms that Transcendentalism takes—sermons, speeches, journals, letters, essays, reviews, narratives, and poetry—and will determine what they have to say about nature, spirit, and the self.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Immigrant Stories: Literary and Cinematic

Topics in 20th and 21st Century American Literature
English 183C.1 / Prof. Decker

This course examines literary and cinematic representations of the American immigrant experience over the last century. To live between cultures, to experience the confounding processes of racialization and assimilation, to labor to translate one’s deepest interiority into a foreign language––all these aspects of migration make a new imaginative relationship with the world a necessity for the migrant and, as such, are fertile ground for literary exploration and cinematic expression. In this class, we study novels and movies as distinct mediums even as we attend to their affinities, such as an impulse toward narrative storytelling. Among our films, one is from the silent era (Chaplin’s The Immigrant); among our novels, one is a wordless story of sequenced, illustrated panels (Tan’s The Arrival). Other novels include Eugenides’ Middlesex, Ozeki’s A Tale for a Time Being, Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World. Other movies: Coppola’s The Godfather, Nair’s The Namesake, Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Literature of the Beat Generation

Topics in 20th and 21st Century American Literature
English 183C.2 / Prof. Dickey

This course will explore the Beat phenomenon in its historical and cultural moment and will locate Beat literature in the tradition of American Romantic writing. We will concentrate on works by William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, paying attention to other figures like Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose lives and works in some way confront and contest the pedestrian values of 1950s America (and after). We will also investigate the aesthetic principles that the Beats appropriated from diverse modernist and contemporary sources – Dada and Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Bebop – in order to ratify their own contrivances of spontaneity. And finally, we will consider predecessors (e.g. James Fenimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, Henry Miller) and inheritors (e.g., Ken Kesey, Sam Shepard, Hunter S. Thompson) whose works illuminate the achievement, or fried shoes, of the Beats.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Narrating the 1960s: Creative Nonfiction in an Age of Electronic Media

Capstone Seminar
English 184.1 / Prof. Decker

This course examines the 1960’s literary movement called New Journalism and the culture that gave rise to it. We read the most celebrated New Journalists––Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter Thompson––to consider how they use their talents as non-fiction novelists to respond to upheavals in mass media and society at large. We address the following kinds of questions. How can an older (print) form like the novel compete for the attention of consumers within a new mediascape brought about by the proliferation of film and TV? Is the New Journalist’s non-fiction narrative mode up to the task of representing a reality––political assassinations, urban riots, Black and Chicano protests, psychedelic drugs, moon walks, Vietnam War, Watergate, women’s liberation––that threatens to outstrip the writer’s imagination? Readings include: The White Album, Radical Chic, Dispatches, Strange Rumblings in Aztlan. Documentary films: Rush to Judgment, Black Panther, Medium Cool, Hearts and Minds. Plus TV news coverage from the era.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors only on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

The Feminist Classroom: Gender, Knowledge, and Pedagogy

Capstone Seminar
English 184.2 / Prof. S.K. Lee

Feminist theory is often encountered in the classroom: on the syllabus, in lectures, seminars, and discussions between teachers and students. The classroom, then, is a crucial site for feminist theory, as the space where it is taught and learned, but also as the site of feminist theorizations of teaching and learning. This seminar focuses on feminist theory that critically reflects on not only what is taught and learned in the feminist classroom, but how one teaches and learns, both in the feminist classroom and outside of it. Central questions that will frame our discussion are: How is knowledge produced and transmitted in the feminist classroom? How does the personal and lived experience constitute knowledge and ways of knowing? What are the gendered power dynamics in the classroom and how do they shape feminist pedagogies that move beyond the classroom? This seminar engages with novels and feminist theories centered around the classroom as the site for creating feminist methods, practices, and styles of teaching, learning, communication, and expression.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.

Topics in African American Literature

English M191A / Prof. Streeter

Variable specialized studies course in African American literature. Detailed description to be posted soon.

 

Reserved for American Literature & Culture majors on first pass. Open to English majors on second pass.