Spring 2013 Courses

CORE COURSE (departmental approval required)

ENLT 514 – Theoretical Approaches to Literature
Professor Rick Reid
Thursdays, 6:30-9 p.m.

This course will introduce us to a selection of the most influential debates of modern literary theory, while keeping in mind its classical foundations.  We will investigate Hermeneutics and Semiotics, Formalism and Structuralism, Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Feminist and Post-Colonial Theory, Queer Theory, New Historicism and such recent trajectories as Neo-Pragmatism and Inaesthetics.  Select writings of key figures will be considered within their cultural and historical contexts and in relation to several literary and filmic texts.  We will seek to discover how literary theory frames the question of literature, as to realize its varied invention of our living and engage its relevance to our circumstances.

AMERICAN LITERATURE

ENGL 601 Seminar in American Literature: Miller, Albee, Kushner

Professor Rita D. Jacobs     
Mondays, 5:30- 8 PM


This seminar focuses on the work of three of the preeminent American playwrights of second half of the 20th Century and the early 21st Century:  Arthur Miller, Edward Albee and Tony Kushner. Briefly, Miller set the course for a drama of social criticism, Albee built on this with theater of the absurd motifs, and Kushner embraces the work of both of his predecessors and creates a unique body of work that grapples with contemporary and historical issues.  Thematic and structural aspects of drama will be considered as we read a number of plays by each playwright along with selected works of criticism. We will read the playwrights’ signature works, Death of a Salesman, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Angels in America, along with some lesser known and equally powerful plays, such as After the Fall, The Play about the Baby, and Caroline, or Change, among others. Seminar participants will be writing brief essays every other week and developing a substantive research project which will be presented to the seminar orally and submitted as a final research paper.

BRITISH LITERATURE

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

This course examines Shakespeare’s tragedies as cultural productions reflecting the concerns, anxieties, values, and ideologies of Shakespeare’s England. We attend to theories of the development and function of tragedy as a genre, and give careful consideration to such social issues as constructions of gender and class, the complex identity of the hero and the scapegoat, and the contests for political power that are the special focus of this drama, seen through the development of tragic patterns and concerns from play to play.   Plays under discussion cover the full development of Shakespeare’s tragic genre, starting with Titus Andronicus and continuing on through such golden oldies as Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, Timon of Athens, and Coriolanus.  Students write two-page mini-papers every other week and develop a full and substantive research project to be handed in at the end of the semester.

ENGL 542:  The Irish Revival
Professor Lucy McDiarmid     
Tuesdays 5:30-8

This seminar will mix close readings of Yeats’s poems with study of the folklore, history, and cultures of the Irish Revival, with a focus on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries .  Students will, for instance, look at three varieties of Revivalist ethnography:  Yeats’s Celtic Twilight  (stories from "peasants" in the west of Ireland modified for sale to metropolitan audiences), Synge’s Aran Islands (the travel writing of an educated, Europeanized Dublin Protestant visiting a rural, Catholic, "primitive" island), and folklore with a proto-feminist emphasis on childbirth, female healers, and the abduction of children, collected by Lady Gregory from country people in Galway and the Aran Islands.   We will also study Joyce's Dubliners as a form of "counter-revival." Later in the semester, the class will focus on the Easter Rising of 1916, reading Gregory and Yeats’s co-authored "incendiary folk-drama" Kathleen Ni Houlihan, Yeats’s poems on the Rising’s leaders, and the poems of those leaders themselves, anticipating their martyrdom.   Having studied peasants and rebels, we will not neglect the rich and powerful:  students will also become familiar with the domestic culture of the "Big House" and Yeats’s interest in it as a symbol of a moribund class and as an architectural measure of masculinity.  We will also read autobiographies of two women political activists, Maud Gonne and Kathleen Clarke.  The approach throughout will be pluralist and eclectic, using feminist, postcolonial and new-critical methodologies when they seem helpful, but seeking always to situate our reading among the many voices and practices of the Irish Revival.  Evaluations will be based on participation, one oral report, a short paper, and a long paper due at the end of the semester.   

INTERNATIONAL LITERATURE

ENLT 569: Writers of Africa and the African Diaspora
Professor Daniel Mengara
Mondays, 5:30-8 p.m.


This course will consist in a survey that will introduce students to some of the essential authors (such as Aimé Césaire, Léopold Senghor, Thomas Mofolo, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Ferdinand Oyono, Wole Soyinka, etc.) who helped to shape the literary aesthetics and history of Europhone black writing in both sub-Saharan Africa and the African Diaspora of the Caribbean. Of particular interest will be the various colonial and post-colonial trends that saw these writings evolve from the aesthetics of mission literature to aesthetics that not only sought to convey and promote the higher degree of African consciousness that helped to inspire and shape the anti-colonial movements of the 1920-1950s, but also endeavored to overcome what the Indian writer Raja Rao described as the challenges of expressing "in a language that is not one's own the spirit that is one's own." In this sense, this course does not limit itself to the sole exploration of some of the issues inherent in colonial politics; it attempts, in addition, to look at how some of the later (male and female) authors (such as Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ama Ata Aidoo, Mariama Bâ, Cyprian Ekwensi, Henri Lopès, Louis-Philippe Dalembert, etc.) sought to deal with the (political, cultural and gender-related) continuities and discontinuities of a post-colonial era that has been viewed by some as an era of disillusionments. While only a limited sample of these authors will be read for the purpose of this course, students should, however, come out of this class with a competent overview of the politics and aesthetics of Europhone writing by both sub-Saharan African authors and Caribbean authors of African descent.

ENLT 578: SCIENCE FICTION 
Professor Wendy Nielsen
Tuesdays, 5:30-8 p.m.

This course investigates science fiction and genre-defining works from varying time periods, making this an excellent class for first-time sci-fi readers and enthusiasts alike. We will focus on those qualities that distinguish science fiction (“fiction of the future that speculates and extrapolates from the physical and social sciences”) and its history. Discussion topics include utopias/dystopias, the limits of being human, gender and class relations, and the uncanny. We will examine the ways in which science fiction offers solutions to solve our social problems, and consider what the world would look like if science were employed to address social justice issues such as equality, fairness, and tolerance between diverse races, creeds, and genders. Readings will range from novels and/or novellas from authors such as Zamyatin (We), A. Huxley (Brave New World), Octavia Butler (Parable of the Sower); E.T.A. Hoffmann (The Sandman); short stories by Francis Bacon (New Atlantis), Ursula K. Le Guin, and Philip K. Dick (of Minority Report and Total Recall fame); and polemical texts.

WRITING STUDIES

ENWR 588: Research in Writing Studies
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Professor Caroline Dadas
Wednesdays, 5:30-8 p.m.

In this course, we will explore the methodological, ethical, and logistical considerations of researching writing, writers, and writing contexts. Our areas of focus will include qualitative methods such as case studies, interviews, participant-observation, ethnography, and digital research. We will read studies of writers/writing in a variety of contexts including K-12, college, community, workplace, and online settings. In our discussions, we will analyze the ethical and methodological choices that these researchers made, using various analytic lenses such as feminist perspectives, queer theory, and cultural studies. Building on this theoretical grounding, each of you will design and carry out a short research study of another writer. As part of your study, you will be responsible for submitting a proposal to MSU’s Institutional Review Board. Through this project, you will not only gain a firsthand understand of the methodological and ethical choices that researchers must make, but you will also learn how to situate your results within the larger field of Writing Studies.

Possible texts include: Kirsch and Sullivan, Methods and Methodology in Composition Research; Simmons, Participation and Power; Cintron, Angels Town; Restaino, First Semester; and articles by Writing Studies researchers such as Adsanatham, McKee, Blackburn, and Selfe & Hawisher.