Our 2022-23 graduate seminars are subject to change based on assignment of duties.
Instructor: Bill Bartley
Thursdays, 1:30 pm to 3:50 pm
We will read the poems of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) who, in her lifetime, was an unknown, small-town poet with a fiercely subversive sense of vocation, and whose greatness is as undeniable as her strangeness. We will try to accommodate the latter and to account for the former. To that end we will examine her intellectual preoccupations as we learn to find our way through the inseparable complexities and idiosyncrasies of her style—a passage illuminated by attending to her appropriations and modifications of literary tradition, to the distinctive features of her poetic personae, to her techniques of composition, and to the textual issues raised in recent scholarship. More specifically, we will examine the ways in which Dickinson was shaped by and engaged the legacies of Puritanism, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism in New England culture. In the end, we will discover (among other possibly congruent qualities — for example, as one critic says, Dickinson wrote “with a brutality that could stop a truck”) a ruthlessly precise, rebellious, and profoundly incisive intelligence in critical, passionate engagement with the problems of religious belief, personal identity, and love.
R.W. Franklin, The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge MA: Belknap Press, 2005
Lyndall Gordon. Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds. New York: Penguin Books, 2010.
Alfred Habegger, My Wars Are Laid Away in Books. New York: Modern Library, 2001)
Helen Vendler, Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries. Cambridge MA: Belknap Press, 2012.
Monstrous Progeny: Adapting Horror Fiction
Instructor: Lindsey Banco
Tuesdays, 9:00 am to 11:20 am
Since the earliest days of cinema, when Thomas Edison was adapting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and F.W. Murnau was turning Bram Stoker’s Dracula into the German Expressionist classic Nosferatu, gothic and horror fiction have served as “base texts” for film. This course uses the framework and methods of adaptation theory (Linda Hutcheon, Robert Stam, Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan, Simone Murray, André Bazin, Thomas Leitch) to explore more recent examples of the sometimes tenuous and sometimes torturous threads between horror fiction and film. The course will be organized around provocative individual examples of horror adaptation, as well as around a series of “clusters” (texts seen as “originary” plus their multiple adaptations). Possible examples include: The Shining (Stephen King’s novel and Stanley Kubrick’s film), Beloved (Toni Morrison’s novel and Jonathan Demme’s film), and Lovecraft Country (Matt Ruff’s novel and Misha Green’s television series). Possible clusters include: “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (Richard Matheson’s short story, Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episode, George Miller’s retelling in Twilight Zone: The Movie, and Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot); The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson’s novel, Robert Wise’s film, Jan de Bont’s remake, and Mike Flanagan’s Netflix series); Rosemary’s Baby (Ira Levin’s novel, Roman Polanski’s film, an NBC miniseries starring Zoe Saldana); The Ring (Koji Suzuki’s novel, Hideo Nakata’s film, Gore Verbinski’s American remake); Candyman (Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden,” Bernard Rose’s film Candyman, several sequels, and Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele’s remake). Throughout, we will explore questions of narrative and storytelling, relationships between textual and visual arts, and fears and anxieties over textual and personal categories of identity (including concepts such as “origins,” “legitimacy,” “authenticity,” and “doubling”).
The Politics of End Times in Margaret Atwood’s Speculative Fiction
Instructor: Wendy Roy
Thursdays, 9:30 am to 11:50 am
Margaret Atwood is the most well-known contemporary Canadian author. Part of that fame is due to the spectacular world-wide influence of the recent television adaptation of her 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The Handmaids’ confining red robes and white bonnets have become potent visual symbols of protest around the world, in what has been called “a subversive inversion of [their] association with the oppression of women” (Beaumont and Holpuch 2018). This class will study the political and social contexts of Atwood’s best-known dystopian work and its adaptations (including film, TV series, and graphic novel), in conjunction her other dystopian and apocalyptic novels, including the MaddAddam trilogy (Oryx and Crake, 2003, The Year of the Flood, 2009, and MaddAddam, 2013), The Heart Goes Last (2015), and the belated sequel to her 1985 novel, The Testaments (2019). We will also study Atwood’s apocalyptic and dystopian short stories, such as “When It Happens” (1975), “Torching the Dusties” (2014), and “Impatient Griselda” (2020), as well as her critical analyses of speculative fiction in In Other Worlds: SF and the Imagination (2011). All of this work will be considered in the context of what has been dubbed “Peak Atwood,” as well as how Atwood’s non-fictional words — including her signature on a controversial open letter and a subsequent article by her in a Canadian national newspaper — have been interpreted as carrying sometimes problematic political power.
Reading Medieval Texts
Instructor: Yin Liu
Tuesdays, 1:30 pm to 3:50 pm
What did ‘reading’ mean in medieval England? Who were the intended readers of English-language literary texts? What are the significant differences, if any, between ‘readers’ and ‘audiences’? How and why did people read these texts, and how did their reading practices change over the thousand years that we glibly call the Middle Ages? What did they think they were accomplishing when they read? What does this history of medieval reading mean for literary history and theory more generally, and what are its implications for our attempts to read medieval English literary texts today?
We will consider the material conditions for reading, including the physical objects that people read and the important role of speaking voices; medieval ideas about mental activity, textuality, genre, and literary value; linguistic factors; and, not least, cultural and historical influences on reading practices. We will unsettle our assumptions by confronting and considering a wide range of medieval English-language texts, from runic inscriptions to complex allegories. Knowledge of Old and Middle English will be helpful but not required; you should, however, be prepared to grapple with these texts in their original language forms, to the best of your ability. The purpose of the course is not to advocate any one ideal method of reading medieval texts, but to raise questions about what reading may have meant then, and what it might mean now. I hope we will find that, although there is no safe way to read a medieval text, the risks bring their own rewards.
The course should be useful not only to those with an interest in medieval literature, but also to those who want to take a historically informed approach to theory, and to those who like to discover that what had been familiar or forgotten has come back to our attention as something surprising and strange. No one could take reading for granted in the Middle Ages. Neither should we.
Primary focus texts (tentative):
Ruthwell Cross / The Dream of the Rood
Exeter Book Riddle 47
Beowulf lines 1651-1799: Hrothgar reads the hilt
‘Sumer is icomen in’
John Trevisa, introductory poem to Middle English translation of Bartholomeus Anglicus, De proprietatibus rerum
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath’s Prologue
William Langland, Piers Plowman Passus 7: Truth's pardon
William Caxton, prologue to Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur
Indigenous Literatures in Conversation with Modernism/Modernity
Instructor: Jenna Hunnef
Tuesdays, 9:30 am to 11:50 am
In his introduction to the Fall 2017 special issue of Texas Studies in Literature and Language on the topic of “Modernism and Native America,” editor and contributor James H. Cox explains that the coordinating conjunction separating the issue’s operative terms “leaves [them] in productive tension and resists the implication that designating Native American literary productions as modernist amplifies their literary value” (270). Taking its cue from Cox and other like-minded critics, this course considers Indigenous literary and cultural engagements with modernism and modernity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries while resisting their containment within existing modernist studies rubrics. We will consider the aesthetic, political, and cultural preoccupations of Indigenous literary and artistic productions from Turtle Island, including how they were shaped by broader movements in the literary arts and, more importantly, how Indigenous cultural producers were actively involved in the shaping of present and future artistic and political directions while maintaining discursive connections with nation-specific epistemological frameworks and artistic practices that long preceded the arrival of modernity in the West. While this is not a course on literary modernism, per se, it will nonetheless draw upon both Indigenous and modernist studies scholarship to explore the generative possibilities of disciplinary cross-pollination and the ethical considerations involved in doing so.
Primary text readings for this class may include works by R. Lynn Riggs, John Joseph Mathews, D’Arcy McNickle, Zitkála-Šá, Carlos Montezuma, Mourning Dove, Emily Pauline Johnson, Simon Pokagon, Edward Ahenakew, Will Rogers, and Tommy Orange. Selected works of secondary criticism may be drawn from Kirby Brown, Glen Coulthard, James H. Cox, Shari Huhndorf, Beth H. Piatote, Philip J. Deloria, Jodi Byrd, Christine Bold, Deanna Reder, Susan Stanford Friedman, Stephen Ross, and Robert Dale Parker.
Modernism and Things: Objects, Commodities, Matter
Instructor: Ann Martin
Thursdays, 9:30 am to 11:50 am
New Materialist approaches to texts from the early 20th C. have illuminated the place of object culture in artistic responses to the period. Encounters with the everyday world and “so-called trivia” (Beja 21) anchor modernist explorations of not just the subjective movement of the mind, but also the apprehension of self and other according to social vectors and cultural norms. The reciprocal dynamic of Modernism and modernity is the underlying focus of the course, as we engage with an historicized sense of the modern material and natural world through writers situated in British and Irish contexts. Alongside canonical modernists (James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf), we’ll be reading authors whose modernisms are not always part of mainstream scholarship, including Mulk Raj Anand, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Stella Gibbons. We’ll also be exploring the work of theorists such as Sarah Ahmed, Louis Althusser, Jane Bennett, Pierre Bourdieu, and Bill Brown. The main questions of the course: how and to what ends do modernists depict the lived dynamics of consumerism and colonization, the lived experiences of machines and technology, and the lived effects of changing landscapes and class consciousness? How might depictions of subjects interacting with objects—and of objects both supporting and complicating systems of value—be read through writers’ and characters’ tactical engagements with matter and the material world?
Introduction to Textual Scholarship
This class will give an introduction to the theory, history and practice of textual scholarship. It will cover the following questions: What is textual scholarship and why is it important? The key concepts: texts, documents and works; the history of texts from 3000 BC to the digital age; key events in the history of textual scholarship over that period; fundamental vocabulary: the words, phrases and ideas needed to navigate scholarship relating to texts; fundamental people and organizations: the most significant people and organizations in textual scholarship over the last two hundred years; how texts, their study, use and editing are changing in the digital age.