Spring 2014 Courses

English M.A. Program
Course Descriptions, Spring 2014

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.

ENGL 600-01  Seminar in British Literature: Contemporary Irish Writing
Professor Lucy McDiarmid
Tuesdays, 5:30-8 p.m.

A selection of Irish film, poetry, fiction, and drama from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Films studied will include (among others) The Quiet Man (dir. John Ford, 1952);  Butcher Boy (dir. Neil Jordan, 1997), a critique of 1960s Ireland (in which Sinéad O'Connor plays the Virgin Mary); and Once (dir. John Carney, 2006), a Dublin love story whose cinematic subtleties should be appreciated even by those who enjoyed the off-Broadway musical.  Poets studied will include the late Seamus Heaney (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995) and the Cork/Dublin poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin.   Drama will include work by Northern Irish playwright Brian Friel as well as The Sugar Wife (by the half-Hungarian Elisabeth Kuti), a play set in nineteenth-century Dublin that features a freed American slave and a wealthy Quaker family. Fiction will include recent work by Kevin Holohan, an Irish writer living in Brooklyn who will visit our class when we discuss his  novel The Brothers' Lot, about the apocalyptic dissolution of a Catholic boys' school in Dublin.  As we study these modern and contemporary Irish films and literary works, we will consider such issues as the urban landscape and its association with the reconstructed family; critique of the Catholic Church's control of sexuality;  the role  of the Irish "public" poet; and the emergence of secular, global Ireland in the 1990s.  Required work will include an oral report, several one-page papers, and a long final paper.

ENGL 600-02 Seminar in British Literature:  Charles Dickens
Professor Lee Behlman
Thursdays, 8:15-10:45

Our focus will be on the novels and stories of Charles Dickens and on his impact on 19th-century publishing and literary history.  We will address Dickens's career, his cultural milieu, and some of the major critical responses to his work by 20th and 21st-century critics.  Novels read will likely include The Pickwick Papers (selections), David Copperfield, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Our Mutual Friend, along with some of Dickens's Christmas stories and journalism.  Requirements will include several short response essays, a book/article review, and a 15-20 page final paper. 

ENGL 560-01 Modern American Fiction
Professor Jonathan Greenberg
Mondays, 8:15-10:45

Rather than offer what might be an overly familiar course in Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Hemingway, I have framed this semester’s syllabus around the theme of satire in American fiction, and arranged a survey of the “modern” that spans the 20th century.  We begin with the gadfly and social critic H.L. Mencken, along with a book he admired: Sinclair Lewis’s 1922 portrayal of a typical American businessman in Babbitt; we follow the critical course of satire through Don DeLillo’s dissection of postmodernity in White Noise and probably a contemporary voice such as Sam Lipsyte or Jennifer Egan.    We will include important satiric voices of women writers (Dorothy Parker, Dawn Powell, Mary McCarthy), African Americans (George Schuyler, Ishmael Reed) and American Jews (Nathanael West, Joseph Heller).

We will look at many facets of satire: its potential for social and political commentary; its use of ridicule, wit, invective, and exaggeration; its sociological function as a marker of cultural distinction; its status as what Judith Butler has called “excitable speech”; its continuity with Freud’s notion of the tendentious joke; its deployment of what Mikhail Bakhtin called speech genres and double-voiced discourse.  But our conversation should certainly range where the texts lead us, since they engage a broad variety of social, cultural, psychological, philosophical, and political questions; my hope is that the theme of satire will liberate rather than confine our discussions.

ENLT 515 01 Ancient Tragedy
Professor Naomi Liebler
Wednesdays,  5:30-8 p.m.

In addition to selected plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Seneca in English translation, we will examine the origins of Greek and Roman tragedy in religion and myth; the foundational Aristotelian theory that still underpins all tragedy (including the modern); recent (and radical) critical/theoretical approaches to classical drama including feminist, Marxist, psychoanalytic, and anthropological interventions—notably those by Nicole Loraux (Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman and Mothers in Mourning), Jan Kott (The Eating of the Gods), Northrop Frye, (The Anatomy of Criticism and The Stubborn Structure), Augusto Boal (Theatre of the Oppressed)-- that refresh and reconfigure our readings of classical tragedy and the world that produced it.  If time permits and student interest warrants, we might also look at later retellings of classical tragedies—e.g., Percy Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound (1818-19), Nobel Laureate Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), MacArthur Fellow Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice (2003).

ENLT 536-01:  The Romantic Movement
Professor Wendy Nielsen
Tuesdays, 5:30-8:00

What were French and German authors writing about before and after Shelley composed Frankenstein? The European Romantic Movement aims to foster understanding of the term "Romantic," especially as it relates to the fiction, prose, poetry, and drama in Britain, France, Germany, and abroad ca. 1780 to 1830. We will read harbingers of the European Romanticism (Rousseau's Second Discourse, and Goethe's Sufferings of Young Werther); key texts of the period (Goethe's Faust, Shelley's Frankenstein, and Hoffmann's Sandman); poetry by Droste-Hülshoff, Novalis and Heine; and overlooked writers and artists who influenced major issues of the day like the French Revolution, colonialism, and women's rights. The class will discuss themes common to Romantic-era writing, such as nature, utopia, freedom, the grotesque, and the uncanny across several fictional genres (poetry, drama, prose, memoir, and novellas). Students will leave the course with an appreciation for the ways in which literary movements transcend national and generic borders.


ENWR 588: Research in Writing Studies.
Professor Caroline Dadas
Thursdays, 5:30-8:00.

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.