CoursesSenior Seminars

Winter 2020

Senior/Capstone Seminars for American Literature and Culture Majors

Con Artists, Cross-Dressers, Imposters, and Frauds: The Secret History of the Western Frontier

Capstone Seminar
English 184.2 / Prof. Allmendinger

This seminar exposes various forms of deception practiced by writers, artists, and ordinary men and woman on the western frontier at the turn of the previous century.  These figures include geologist and nature writer Clarence King, who passed as black while he was secretly married to an African American woman; Willa Cather, who cross-dressed as a man while writing about unconventional women in the American West; Yone Noguchi, an immigrant Japanese poet with a fluid sexual orientation, who published an “autobiographical” novel called The American Diary of a Japanese Girl; Isadora Duncan, the founder of modern American dance; Sylvester Long, a mixed-race individual who posed as a full-blooded Native American chieftain in silent film; and James Addison Reavis, who sought to defraud the US government by forging a Spanish land grant which allegedly entitled him to ownership of the entire Arizona and New Mexico Territories.  The syllabus will include their published works, as well as silent films, sketches, drawings, forged archival documents, photographs, and biographies of these individuals.  Requirements include weekly attendance and participation in seminar, one oral report, and a research paper due on the last day of class.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Pornography and the Politics of Sexual Representation

Capstone Seminar
English 184.4 / Prof. Mott

As a capstone seminar, the course proceeds from the assumption that students will pursue an independent research project representing a culmination of their learning at UCLA. We begin with a study of Linda Williams’s Hard Core from the perspective of researchers, reading to discover her process and methods as much as her argument. In the third week, students meet individually with the instructor to plot their research project. For the following five weeks, students post the results of their research to the course website, creating an archive for themselves and their peers. The postings scaffold the final project into “What’s at Stake,” “Critical Approach,” and “Close Reading” entries. At the same time, class functions as a workshop in which students receive suggestions on their works-in-progress. During ninth week, we will conduct a round-robin editing workshop during which students will receive more pointed suggestions on a substantial piece of their project. In the final week, students present their nearly-complete project in a “mini-conference.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Stories Our Ancestors Tell: History and Memory in Women’s Poetry

Capstone Seminar
English 184.5 / Prof. Rowe

Who we are and may become originates in our history, each uniquely personal by virtue of family of origin, ethnic heritage, gender, sexuality, spirituality, and individual talents and traits.   Yet, by coming into the university, each of us expands our vision of the world both by coming to know oneself better and by learning to enter, curiously and respectfully, into the life stream of human beings different than ourselves and by focusing on the literary and artistic productions of diverse cultures. Language (oral and written) enables us to speak and name the self; stories link us in a chain of remembrance to a collective past. Through this cultural link, some writers claim an ethnic community, clan and tribal identity, continuity with the spirits, and a sense of the home (and land) where they learned to grow and flourish.  For other writers, exiled from originary home(land)s by migrations, enslavements, internments, death camps, and urban violence, the search for connection to the communal past becomes a struggle to regenerate the self–through linguistic visions of new possibilities and newly forged identities. This seminar asks students to engage these issues of self-definition, history, and memory through the study of poetry and related essays.In autobiographical writings, interviews, theoretical essays, and poetry by (primarily) American twentieth-century authors, such as Angelou, Anzaldúa, Atwood, Cervantes, De Leon, Harjo, Kalia, Kim, Klepfisz, Lorde, Suhair Majah, McElroy, Mirikitani, Mora, Plath, Rich, Rose, Rukeyser, Silko, Tapahonso, Thúy, Wong, and Walker (Margaret and Alice), women speak of growing up replete with memories, ancestral echoes, and resonant maternal voices.  Each woman connects the present with the past, often by hearing stories transmitted by grandmothers and mothers who tell a collective history of family, homeland, and spiritual beliefs.  By heeding truths gleaned from the ancestral past, each woman comes to know her “Self” and infuses her poetry with a unique vision and voice that makes lives, both old and new, into poetic memoirs.

Whether reading poetry or creating it, hearing stories or crafting them, drawing forth dreams of ancient lands, objects, and faces, or considering how the present self bears the imprint of earlier history, students are expected to be contributors and collaborators.  This seminar engages students in learning to identify and celebrate their personal legacies of being and belonging. Each student will “adopt” a poet/poems as the basis for intensive study.   Requirements will be a twenty-minute presentation, a short prospectus, a 15-page final critical paper or creative project (in two installments), and a cumulative poetry portfolio, as well as active participation in seminar discussions.  Remember, Audre Lorde proclaims that “poetry is not a luxury” but rather the “skeleton architecture of our lives,” which “lays the foundation for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Fiction of the Harlem Renaissance

Topics in African American Literature
English M191A / Prof. Yarborough

The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s was a remarkably productive period for African American artists in a range of fields, including music, literature, dance, film, drama, and the visual arts.  Catalyzing this phenomenon were several factors, among them the unprecedented migration of blacks from the rural South to the urban North and a burgeoning interest in African American culture on the part of whites.  In addition, we see a generation of African Americans coming of age with new educational opportunities and fresh orientations toward politics and toward black identity itself.

 

In this seminar, we will focus on novels and short stories produced by African Americans during this period with the goal of coming to an appreciation of the diversity of stylistic approaches in the assigned texts as well as of the wide variety of topics engaged.  Among the authors to be covered are Claude McKay, Jesse Fauset, George Schuyler, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, and Wallace Thurman.  Requirements include attendance and class participation, weekly online response posts, one oral presentation, two term papers.

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

The Self as Nation in Chinese American Literature

Topics in Asian American Literature
English M191C / Prof. Cheung

This course covers Chinese American texts written between 1970s and 2020, tracking Chinese American Literary history and its three cultural nationalist trajectories (“claiming America,” “claiming diaspora,” and “simultaneity of geography”) and its gender/ sexuality crosscurrents (“remasculation,” feminism, and alternative gender).

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Senior/Capstone Seminars for English Majors

Early English Verse Structure

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

This seminar will survey the changing modes and principles of poetic composition in English examined in relation to language history. We will start with a general introduction to scansion using 21st-century (non-free) verse and discuss the similarities and differences between verse and prose. This requires an overview of the pronunciation and stress patterns of Old, (7th-11th century), Middle (11-15th century) and later English. The core of the course will address: (1) the metrical structure of Beowulf and other Old English alliterative compositions, possibly including Ælfric’s “rhythmical prose”, (2) the alliterative innovations and constraints in Middle English, (3) the (dis)continuity of alliteration in modern writing and culture, (4) the emergence and the evolution of rhyme and syllable-counting in English prior to Chaucer, and (5) the iambic pentameter: metrical rules and violations in Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare. A solid analytical grounding in the general principles of poetic meter, speech rhythm, the semiotics of verse structure, and the differences between prose and verse, should lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the constantly changing interplay between language and literature.

Crime Stories

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

This seminar will look at crime fiction—primarily novels, some films and anime—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?  Why do we like them?   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, Chester Himes, Patricia Highsmith, James M. Cain, Cormac McCarthy, Tom McCarthy, and Natsuo Kirino.   Focused literary analysis will center the course and the required work:  the primary course requirement is two interpretive papers (5-7 pages each).   Consistent attendance, and active participation in seminar discussions, are required too.

London Theatre and the New King

Capstone Seminar
English 184.1 / Prof. Braunmuller

Scottish King James VI and I replaced Elizabeth I on the English throne in 1603. In their individual ways both monarchs were interested in the theatre, and the theatre was interested in them.  How did the new political order influence the public theatres? we will read some famous plays from 1603-06 in order to formulate a few hypotheses. Knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays and early modern English are important advantages in this seminar as is the intellectual confidence to pursued research topics individually. Seminar presentations and one long paper required.

Con Artists, Cross-Dressers, Imposters, and Frauds: The Secret History of the Western Frontier

Capstone Seminar
English 184.2 / Prof. Allmendinger

This seminar exposes various forms of deception practiced by writers, artists, and ordinary men and woman on the western frontier at the turn of the previous century.  These figures include geologist and nature writer Clarence King, who passed as black while he was secretly married to an African American woman; Willa Cather, who cross-dressed as a man while writing about unconventional women in the American West; Yone Noguchi, an immigrant Japanese poet with a fluid sexual orientation, who published an “autobiographical” novel called The American Diary of a Japanese Girl; Isadora Duncan, the founder of modern American dance; Sylvester Long, a mixed-race individual who posed as a full-blooded Native American chieftain in silent film; and James Addison Reavis, who sought to defraud the US government by forging a Spanish land grant which allegedly entitled him to ownership of the entire Arizona and New Mexico Territories.  The syllabus will include their published works, as well as silent films, sketches, drawings, forged archival documents, photographs, and biographies of these individuals.  Requirements include weekly attendance and participation in seminar, one oral report, and a research paper due on the last day of class.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

From Ancient Epic to Medieval Romance

Capstone Seminar
English 184.3 / Prof. Jager

This course explores how the ancient Mediterranean epic bequeathed to the medieval European romance a wide range of character types, narrative patterns, themes and imagery having to do with war, eros, justice, spirituality, the community (city, kingdom, etc.) and the personal journey or quest. The assigned books change year by year but are typically drawn from the following list: Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Augustine’s Confessions, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, Chrétien de Troyes’ Lancelot, The Romance of the Rose, The Lais of Marie de France, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur. Assigned work includes weekly reports and a (10-12 pp.) research essay due at the end and also to be adapted for presentation at a concluding tenth-week mini-conference.

 

Admission by instructor’s permission (PTE) only. Students wishing to take this course should submit a list of literature courses taken so far, along with a brief (3-5 pp) writing sample from a previous course (hardcopy only), to the instructor’s mailbox in 149 Humanities.

Pornography and the Politics of Sexual Representation

Capstone Seminar
English 184.4 / Prof. Mott

As a capstone seminar, the course proceeds from the assumption that students will pursue an independent research project representing a culmination of their learning at UCLA. We begin with a study of Linda Williams’s Hard Core from the perspective of researchers, reading to discover her process and methods as much as her argument. In the third week, students meet individually with the instructor to plot their research project. For the following five weeks, students post the results of their research to the course website, creating an archive for themselves and their peers. The postings scaffold the final project into “What’s at Stake,” “Critical Approach,” and “Close Reading” entries. At the same time, class functions as a workshop in which students receive suggestions on their works-in-progress. During ninth week, we will conduct a round-robin editing workshop during which students will receive more pointed suggestions on a substantial piece of their project. In the final week, students present their nearly-complete project in a “mini-conference.

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Stories Our Ancestors Tell: History and Memory in Women’s Poetry

Capstone Seminar
English 184.5 / Prof. Rowe

Who we are and may become originates in our history, each uniquely personal by virtue of family of origin, ethnic heritage, gender, sexuality, spirituality, and individual talents and traits.   Yet, by coming into the university, each of us expands our vision of the world both by coming to know oneself better and by learning to enter, curiously and respectfully, into the life stream of human beings different than ourselves and by focusing on the literary and artistic productions of diverse cultures. Language (oral and written) enables us to speak and name the self; stories link us in a chain of remembrance to a collective past. Through this cultural link, some writers claim an ethnic community, clan and tribal identity, continuity with the spirits, and a sense of the home (and land) where they learned to grow and flourish.  For other writers, exiled from originary home(land)s by migrations, enslavements, internments, death camps, and urban violence, the search for connection to the communal past becomes a struggle to regenerate the self–through linguistic visions of new possibilities and newly forged identities. This seminar asks students to engage these issues of self-definition, history, and memory through the study of poetry and related essays.In autobiographical writings, interviews, theoretical essays, and poetry by (primarily) American twentieth-century authors, such as Angelou, Anzaldúa, Atwood, Cervantes, De Leon, Harjo, Kalia, Kim, Klepfisz, Lorde, Suhair Majah, McElroy, Mirikitani, Mora, Plath, Rich, Rose, Rukeyser, Silko, Tapahonso, Thúy, Wong, and Walker (Margaret and Alice), women speak of growing up replete with memories, ancestral echoes, and resonant maternal voices.  Each woman connects the present with the past, often by hearing stories transmitted by grandmothers and mothers who tell a collective history of family, homeland, and spiritual beliefs.  By heeding truths gleaned from the ancestral past, each woman comes to know her “Self” and infuses her poetry with a unique vision and voice that makes lives, both old and new, into poetic memoirs.

Whether reading poetry or creating it, hearing stories or crafting them, drawing forth dreams of ancient lands, objects, and faces, or considering how the present self bears the imprint of earlier history, students are expected to be contributors and collaborators.  This seminar engages students in learning to identify and celebrate their personal legacies of being and belonging. Each student will “adopt” a poet/poems as the basis for intensive study.   Requirements will be a twenty-minute presentation, a short prospectus, a 15-page final critical paper or creative project (in two installments), and a cumulative poetry portfolio, as well as active participation in seminar discussions.  Remember, Audre Lorde proclaims that “poetry is not a luxury” but rather the “skeleton architecture of our lives,” which “lays the foundation for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

Dreams, Visions and Apparitions in Medieval Literature

Capstone Seminar
English 184.6 / Prof. Thomas

Dreams, visions and apparitions are constitutive of medieval literature writ large. They are ubiquitous in hagiographical writings, academic commentaries, theological treatises and poetic compositions. They often inaugurate treatises and tales, raise expectations, fulfill or even frustrate audience expectations. Wherever they occur, they offer a space for thinking through the relations between the real and the visionary, between the historical and the fantastic, between the empirically verifiable and the spiritually valuable, between medieval discourses or disciplines including rhetoric, history, law, and theology. In this course, we will explore dreams, visions and apparitions in texts ranging from the “lives” of holy women and men (such as the semi-autobiographical The Passion of St. Perpetua and Felicity, the anonymous biography of the bride Christina of Markyate, and Eadmer’s Life of Anselm) to the great poetic works of Chaucer (The Parlement of Foules, The House of Fame, The Canterbury Tales), Gower (Confessio amantis) and Langland (Piers Plowman). Our focus will be on the ways in which writers handle dream experiences not just for their content but also their form. We will read fictional compositions framed by dreams, visions and apparitions alongside relevant dream theories/commentaries such as Macrobius’s influential Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, glosses to his commentary and Augustine’s Literal commentary on Genesis.

Fiction of the Harlem Renaissance

Topics in African American Literature
English M191A / Prof. Yarborough

The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s was a remarkably productive period for African American artists in a range of fields, including music, literature, dance, film, drama, and the visual arts.  Catalyzing this phenomenon were several factors, among them the unprecedented migration of blacks from the rural South to the urban North and a burgeoning interest in African American culture on the part of whites.  In addition, we see a generation of African Americans coming of age with new educational opportunities and fresh orientations toward politics and toward black identity itself.

 

In this seminar, we will focus on novels and short stories produced by African Americans during this period with the goal of coming to an appreciation of the diversity of stylistic approaches in the assigned texts as well as of the wide variety of topics engaged.  Among the authors to be covered are Claude McKay, Jesse Fauset, George Schuyler, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, and Wallace Thurman.  Requirements include attendance and class participation, weekly online response posts, one oral presentation, two term papers.

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.

The Self as Nation in Chinese American Literature

Topics in Asian American Literature
English M191C / Prof. Cheung

This course covers Chinese American texts written between 1970s and 2020, tracking Chinese American Literary history and its three cultural nationalist trajectories (“claiming America,” “claiming diaspora,” and “simultaneity of geography”) and its gender/ sexuality crosscurrents (“remasculation,” feminism, and alternative gender).

 

Enrollment in this seminar will be restricted to American Literature and Culture majors during first pass, and will open up to English majors during second pass.