Spring 2018 Courses

English M.A. Program
Course Descriptions
Spring 2018

ENLT 514 Seminar in Literary Theory
Professor Adam Rzepka
Wednesday 5:30-8:00

This seminar provides an overview of three key lines of thought in twentieth-century critical theory: structuralism and post-structuralism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis. In each case, we will begin with foundational texts and proceed through later developments, including, for instance, the emergence of gender theory and postcolonial theory from psychoanalytical and Marxist bases. In each case, too, we will focus on the translation of theoretical models into methods of literary interpretation.

ENGL 600: Seminar in British Literature: Dickens
Professor Lee Behlman
Thursday 5:30-8:00 p.m.

This course addresses the novels, journalism, and stories of Charles Dickens, one of the most remarkable figures in English literary history. We will take on Dickens's life and work, his Victorian cultural milieu, and his enduring impact on the novel form. Along the way, we'll deal with the following issues in Dickens and much, much more:  his reinvention of the comic (picaresque) novel with his first major work, The Pickwick Papers; the crucial influence of nineteenth-century theatrical forms on Dickens's work, including Victorian melodrama and pantomime; his liberal/radical politics, and his complex and often contradictory ideas about social class; Dickens's much less radical gender politics— specifically, the limitations of his idealized, girlish heroines and his domestic ideology; Dickens as an urban writer: the centrality of London in his journalism and fiction; Dickens as the walker in the city; the development of Dickens's novelistic art in his later fiction, as represented in Our Mutual Friend, a work that stakes a claim as one of the greatest of its century; and some major critical statements on Dickens by leading scholars on such issues as humor, professionalism, mass culture, surveillance, and Dickens's use of language. 

ENGL 561: Modern American Poetry 
Professor Michael Robbins
Monday 5:30-8:00 pm

"On or about December 1910, human character changed," Virginia Woolf wrote. This change — call it modernism — reverberated throughout American poetry. This course will examine what that change consisted in by considering the work of some of the principal American modernists — including Frost, Stevens, Eliot, Marianne Moore, Pound, Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein — as well as that of their early successors, such as Robert Lowell.

ENGL 542: The Irish Revival
Professor Lucy McDiarmid
Tuesday 5:30-8:00 pm

This seminar will study the folklore, literature, history, and cultures of the Irish Revival (1895 – c. 1922). We’ll consider the cultural politics of collecting folklore as we read 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 fairy legends 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’ll also read The Burning of Bridget Cleary, a narrative account of the 1895 death of a young woman whose male relatives believed she was not herself but a fairy. Lady Gregory and Yeats’s co-authored “incendiary folk-drama” Kathleen Ní Houlihan will also be on the syllabus, as well as Yeats’s poems and Gregory’s plays. We will also study Joyce's Dubliners as a form of "counter-revival” and a reaction against the rural emphasis of the major Revivalist writers. Later in the semester, the class will focus on the Easter Rising of 1916, reading not only Yeats’s many poems on this subject but the poems of the rebel leaders themselves and eye-witness accounts of participants in the Rising. 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. Finally, we’ll 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.