Spring 2015


CORE COURSE (departmental approval required; contact Dr. Liebler)
ENLT 514  Seminar in Literary Theory
Professor Jeffrey Miller
Tuesdays, 8:15 -10:45

This course will explore some of the most significant trends in modern literary theory, past and present, from New Criticism and New Historicism to Queer Theory, Ecocriticism, and New Aestheticism.  Building off of the course’s longstanding title, we will examine the extent to which certain kinds of theories of literature necessarily entail certain kinds of approaches to literature – what might be thought of as the relationship between theory and method – and we’ll also consider whether certain kinds of theories or approaches to literature are mutually exclusive of other kinds.  Is literary theory a sort of toolkit, as it is sometimes conceived as being, from which one can select any number of various theories to use at different points in one’s work, or does literary theory in fact resist being understood in such a way?  If it’s possible to use literary theory in one’s work, is it possible not to use it?  Do all literary theorists come down on the same side of these questions?  These are only some of the matters that I hope we will discuss throughout the course.

American Literature
ENGL 601: Seminar in American Literature: The War for Literary Independence
Professor Robert Weisbuch
Mondays, 5:30-8 p.m.

This course raises the impolite question, why did British and American writers hate each other in the nineteenth century?  Why does the invention of a self-consciously American culture depend on a mockery of British literary models, often within major poems and novels?  We will read some Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Dickens briefly as the huge figures such writers as Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau and Whitman needed to challenge. Emerson will serve at the course's center and Emily Dickinson and, more, Henry James will serve as the peacemakers who brought the war for literary independence to a close.

British Literature
ENGL 508:  Shakespeare: The Tragedies
Professor Naomi Liebler
Wednesdays, 5:30-8 p.m.

This course studies Shakespeare’s ten tragedies in the context of major ideas and conflicts that informedElizabethan and Jacobean thinking as reflected (deflected, inflected) in the plays.  We look at theories of tragedy as a genre from Aristotle to the present and current critical/theoretical approaches to Shakespeare's work, including gender theory, historicism (old and new), class and eco-criticism, and ritual/anthropological approaches, among others.  We cover all ten plays, both familiar and not, tracing along the way Shakespeare’s philosophical and artistic development throughout his career.  We will set aside shop-worn notions about tragedy, and read tragic heroes not as failures or deeply flawed individuals but as triumphant examples of human beings at their most magnificent (i.e., as heroes), and as representatives--and generically scapegoats--of the communities in which Shakespeare sets them.  We will look at the reasons why even the seemingly simplest plays in the group (this is not your grandmother’s Romeo and Juliet and certainly not her Julius Caesar, Macbeth or Othello) are still read, studied, and performed after 450 years, in and outside schools, and the more complicated ones (e.g., Hamlet,Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra, King Lear) speak to us about what still matters.

International Literatures
ENLT 535: The Enlightenment in Europe
Professor Wendy Nielsen
Tuesdays, 5:30-8 p.m.

A comparative study of literature and ideas in eighteenth-century Europe, focusing on British, French, and German literature that reflects the legacy of the Enlightenment. We will read works by Diderot, Kant, Lessing (Nathan the Wise), Montesquieu, Locke, Rousseau (First Discourse), Swift (Gulliver's Travels), Voltaire (Candide), and others. Major literary and philosophical trends are analyzed, including the rational and satirical attack on traditional values. The course emphasizes the diversity of genres that comprise the literature of the Enlightenment: polemical texts about the key debates of the day, including slavery, the definition of the human, and the concept of Enlightenment; novels from the satirical traditions developed in eighteenth-century France and Britain; opposition to the Enlightenment (Rousseau, Foucault, Horkheimer and Adorno); and dramatic and personal works (memoirs, letters) from authors writing in German. These genres will also work as means for exploring major cultural and historical developments during the period, including nationalism, salon and coffeehouse culture, the growth of bourgeois identity, secularism and atheism, as well as challenges to traditional values around gender.

Writing Studies
ENWR 586: Theory and Practice of Teaching Writing
Professor Jessica Restaino
Thursdays, 5:30-8 p.m.

This course draws on considerable research and theory in the fields of rhetoric and composition studies in order to examine best practice approaches to writing instruction and assessment. We will consider a range of essential issues in writing pedagogy: student engagement in high-level revision, teachers' delivery of written and verbal feedback, effective writing assignment design, writing across the curriculum, and diverse approaches to assessment. We will additionally consider the wider influences on student writing, such as issues of second-language learning, socioeconomics and schooling, "out of school" literacy practices, and of course the emphasis on standardized testing, all which shape students' understanding of themselves as writers.  Ultimately, our goal in this class is to ask critical and, at times, theoretical questions about how to teach writing, while we consistently experiment with the realities of practice.