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Spring 2020 Courses – MA in English

English M.A. Program
Course Descriptions
Spring 2020

ENLT 520: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament as Literature
Thursdays 5:30-8:00pm
Prof. Lee Behlman

The Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) is a crucial document for understanding world literature.  A source text for the three monotheisms – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – it is also the focal point of more than two millennia of interpretation, retelling, and creative appropriation.  This course will take account of literary and historical aspects of the Hebrew Bible (in translation) as well as some of its early exegetical history.  The reading assignments will include selections from critical sources and readings in the Hebrew Bible itself. The critical sources will include essays on the formal literary aspects of scripture, historical essays on early Israelite culture and religion, linguistic criticism that seeks to identify the multiple authors of the Hebrew Bible, and feminist criticism on its treatment of gender and sexuality. Although our focus will for the most part be fixed firmly on the Hebrew Bible in its own historical context, we will spend some time near the end of the term reading and discussing later Jewish and Christian ways of reading the Hebrew Bible. Agnostics, atheists, and students of all faiths are welcome in this class, and no previous experience with the Hebrew Bible is expected.

Mondays 4:00-6:30pm (Clifton High School)
Dr. Jonathan Greenberg

In the early 20th century, both American literature and the broader culture of which it is a part changed dramatically. The era that we now refer to as “modernism” brought changes in both the form and the content of literary fiction. American fiction, often under the influence of groundbreaking European writers, experimented with language, character, and plot. At the same time, it addressed a many facets of a rapidly changing society: new understandings of gender and sexuality; the ongoing racial struggles of American society; the rise (and threat) of fascism, communism, and other alternatives to liberal democracy; new media technologies such as film and radio; and of course two world wars.

Maybe forty years ago, critical opinion held that modern American fiction centered on a few key, canonical writers—men (and they were usually men) like Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Since then, our understanding of the era has developed enormously, and scholars now give attention to writers of the Harlem Renaissance, women writers, queer writers, and others whose contributions have been undervalued.  This course will seek to understand important trends from this formative period in American fiction through a syllabus that includes both some highly canonical names and some perhaps less-studied texts and authors. Novels we will read may include: Stein, Three Lives; Cather, My Antonia, Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Schuyler, Black No More; Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; Ellison, Invisible Man.

Wednesday 5:30pm-8:00 pm
Dr. Naomi Liebler

This course offers a comprehensive study of English drama from its medieval beginnings to the court-ordered Closing of the Theaters in 1642, with primary focus on major works by Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists excluding Shakespeare (who has three courses of his own in this program!). We read medieval mystery and morality plays, Jonson (Volpone, Bartholomew Fair, The Masque of Blackness), Marlowe (Dr. Faustus), Middleton (The Changeling), Beaumont and Fletcher (The Maid’s Tragedy), Dekker (The Shoemaker’s Holiday), Webster (The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil), and Ford (‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore). Many of these plays will surprise you; all of them remind us that Shakespeare neither lived nor wrote in a vacuum, and the culture that produced his plays also produced other masterpieces. We pay particular attention to shifts in subject matter and tone as reflections of contemporary political, social, and economic changes. Course requirements include bi-weekly mini-papers (2 pp.) and a substantial term paper (15-20 pp.) which will investigate in depth either the work of a single dramatist or the work of several period dramatists as expressions of a particular shared concern. Appropriate for MA, DUAL BA/MA and BA/MAT in English.

ENGL 518: Milton
Tues 5:30-8:00
Dr. Jeffrey Miller

This course is dedicated to exploring the poetry and prose of John Milton. Born in London in 1608, Milton lived through an astonishing and tumultuous period of literary, historical, political, and theological change. He was a little more than three years old when, in 1612, the last person ever to be executed in England for heresy was burned at the stake for refusing to recant his so-called antitrinitarianism, a belief that Milton himself would come to espouse. In 1649, the first King of England ever to be tried by his own subjects and executed for high crimes against them was beheaded on a scaffold in London, an event that Milton would come to take a leading role in defending. Milton saw the overthrow of the monarchy and its eventual restoration, the removal and the return of episcopal church government, and the only brief period of republican rule that England has ever known. While touring Italy in the late 1630s, he met Galileo, and Galileo would go on to feature in multiple of Milton’s works. Shakespeare died when Milton was seven. When Milton died, Jonathan Swift was days away from turning the same age.

ENGL – 603: Graduate Writing Seminar
Tuesday 5:30 pm-8:00 pm
Prof. Rachel Carter

This graduate-level course on crafting the novel is designed to teach the ins-and-outs of novel writing, from conception to outlining to the writing itself. We’ll focus on how to structure a novel as well as establishing conflict, world-building, character work, pacing, and how to create an effective scene. Course participants will share their writing in a workshop setting and will receive in-depth feedback from both their peers and instructor. By the end of the course, students will have completed an original outline and the first three-four chapters of their novel and will have a greater understanding for how to craft a fictional narrative.

ENLT – 514: Theoretical Approaches to Literature
Dr. Jeffrey Gonzalez

Monday 5:30 pm To 8:00 pm
An in-depth study of late 19th and 20th Century theoretical approaches to literature and issues of representation. Critical methodologies to be studied will include: Formalism, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Historical Materialism, Psychoanalysis, Feminism, Post-colonialism and New Historicism. Students will write about literary and/or filmic texts using the lenses that emerge from these the critical theories.

ENLT602: Seminar in International Lit
Dr. Fawzia Afzal-Khan
Thursday 5:30 pm-8:00 pm

This seminar is dedicated to the study of theory and literary texts designated as “Postcolonial.”
We will look at some foundational theoretical texts undergirding this field of subversive literary study, such as Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1952), Abdul R. JanMohammed’s Manichean Aesthetics (1983), and other seminal essays by Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha and Aijaz Ahmed, as well as parts of the now canonical book of the discipline, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literature (1989) by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin and a chapter or two from my own book in the field, Culture and Imperialism in the Indo-English Novel (1992).

We will also read and discuss some key postcolonial literary texts such as Tayyeb Salih’s novel Season of Migration to the North (1966), Salman Rushdie’s Shame(1983), Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows (2009) and Nuruddin Farah’s Maps. as well as Aime Cesaire’s epic poem, Return to My Native Land (1939).

Thus, the works studied will cover a long historical period from the early decades of the 20thC into the present that raise questions about time and space, as these intersect with issues of gender, race, class and national identities in the modern world.