You are here:

Graduate Course Descriptions

Fall 2017 Graduate Classes

English 6260 Studies in Literary Traditions
Fall 2017 | Professor Scott Black | 3519 LNCO; X: 1-3393
Monday-Wednesday | 3:00pm – 4:20pm | LNCO 3870

Romance, Adventure, Reading

Reading as infection, distraction, and mistake: in this seminar we’ll run some of the most intricate, interesting, and influential experiments in the history of prose fiction. Each of our books plays with the conventions of fiction—tales and telling, text and book, writing and reading—to create a 3-D experience that explores how narrative works and how we, readers, work narratives. We’ll also consider how literary history might look without the novel, a history of prose fiction that doesn’t privilege the novel, realism, or modernity. And as we examine a longer, wider, weirder, more readerly history of prose fiction, we’ll dip into recent conversations about reading “after critique.” 


Heliodorus, An Ethiopian Romance (3rd-4th c.) (trans. Hadas; Penn)
Lafayette, Zayde (1670) (trans. Paige; Chicago)
Manzoni, The Betrothed (1827) (trans. Penman; Penguin)
Apuleius, The Golden Ass (2nd c.) (trans. Walsh; Oxford)
Cervantes, Don Quixote (1605/1615) (trans. Lathrop, Signet)
Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1760s) (ed. New, Penguin)
Diderot, Jacques the Fatalist and His Master (1796) (trans. Coward; Oxford)

And essays by Moretti, Pavel, Dimock, Selden, Blanchot, Poulet, Certeau, Sedgwick, Armstrong, Felski, Best & Marcus, Love, Macé, Landy, and others. (The critical selections are subject to change; the fiction is not.)

English 6480 Foundations of Literary Theory: Overview
Fall 2017 | Professor Anne Jamison | 3411 LNCO; X: 1-7984
Tuesday - Thursday | 2:00 pm – 3:20 pm | LNCO 3870

Course Description: System, Network, Assemblage

This course examines theories based on systems, networks, and assemblages, broadly conceived. We’ll start with Kant and some postmodern responses to Kant (Lacan, Adorno/Horkheimer); Marx and some responses to Marx (Adorno, Althusser); then on to linguistic structuralism (Saussure, Jakobson), literary formalism and structuralism (Todorov, Mukařovský) and some of the extensions/critiques into other semiotic areas (Barthes, Foucault, Derrida); more recent assemblage and network theory (including Kittler, Latour, Deleuze, Ronell) and post humanism (Hayles, Chun); and ending with systems of oppression (Arendt, Crenshaw, Moten).  

The seminar will emphasize creating our own networks and assemblages among these texts and thinkers. Students will present to the seminar on a more in-depth reading of one work excerpted on the syllabus and choose a contemporary theorist—such as those working in post humanism, eco-criticism, or digital humanities—to summarize and critique for the seminar. 

Written assignments: short weekly papers (focused responses to readings, submitted 24 hours in advance of class), two short essays (5 p.); a non-essay assemblage (digital, mixed-media, creative writing, lego…); abstract of contemporary theoretical text.

Oral presentations: seminar presentation on one selected reading from syllabus; summary and critique of contemporary theorist (10 min—accompanies abstract).

Readings will be posted online, but students should consider finding and purchasing (used) copies of at least some of the following (as guided by taste and pocketbook):

Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
Roland Barthes, Mythologies
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus
Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason (Everyman or comparable)
Friedrich Kittler, Discourse Networks
Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social
Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, The Undercommons
Avital Ronell, The Telephone Book

Students should definitely buy a copy of the work they will be presenting on.

English 6680 20th Century American Literature
Fall 2017 | Professor Jeremy Rosen | 3526 LNCO; X: 1-6743
Monday-Wednesday |1:25pm – 2:45pm | LNCO 3875

“Genre Bending” 

For much of the late 19th and 20th centuries, novelists who aspired to produce books of literary quality explicitly defined their writing in opposition to “genre fiction,” popular and often highly commercialized genres, such as romance, western, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. But, surveying the field of global literary fiction in the 21st Century, one notices a striking phenomenon: genre fiction is everywhere. Many of today’s most prestigious “literary” writers have been working with genre fiction forms—often bending these genres in fascinating directions. In this course, we will consider theory and criticism that examine the real or perceived divide between “high” literary art and commercial fiction, as well as theories of genre and popular culture. We will read contemporary novels that transform genre fiction, which will likely include Emily St. John Mandel’s dystopian Station Eleven (2014), Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985), David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004), Kazuo Ishiguro’s experiment in Arthurian fantasy, The Buried Giant (2015), Colson Whitehead’s zombie chronicle Zone One (2011), and Viet Than Nguyen’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning spy novel The Sympathizer (2015).

English 7010 Non-Fiction Workshop
Fall 2017 | Professor Michael Mejia | 613 LNCO; X: 1-5687
Wednesday | 4:35pm – 7:30pm | LNCO 3820

The Walk

This course will take a number of approaches to investigating the relationships between walking thinking and writing, and how all of these combine into a process of essaying that is particularly aware of and curious about the significance of the body in space and in motion, about the nature of the spaces through which it passes (natural, urban, actual, virtual), and about the forces or pressures that shape or guide us (or seem to) through these personal, public, and political geographies. Attendant to this will be considerations of the times of experience and writing and the larger intellectual wanderings to which physical and geographical awarenesses lead. Students' presentations and writings will respond both to assigned readings and to walks of their own in landscapes of their own choosing. "Writing" in all genres and media is encouraged. Course readings may include the work of Matsuo Bashō, Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, Andre Breton, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Anne Carson, Michel de Certeau, Bruce Chatwin, Teju Cole, Guy Debord & Gil Wolman, Andy Fitch, Frédéric Gros, Alexandra Horowitz, Jane Jacobs, E.A. Poe, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, W.G. Sebald, Rebecca Solnit, Henry David Thoreau, Luis Alberto Urrea, Robert Walser, and Virginia Woolf.

English 7030 Fiction Workshop
Fall 2017 | Professor Lance Olsen | 3419 LNCO; X: 1-3199
Tuesday | 4:35pm – 7:30pm | LNCO 3875

This semester we shall conceive of fiction writing as a possibility space, a locale just outside our comfort zones, where we can and should take multiple chances in order to imagine in new ways, explore fresh strategies for finding and cultivating story ideas, re-view what it is we’re doing and why, what “fiction” is and why, and, at the end of the day, understand better from the inside out, at the cellular level, what the Samuel Beckett meant when he advised: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Short-story writers, novelists, so-called nonfiction authors and poets, book artists, hypermedialists, genre-ists, conventionalists, experimentalists, you name it, are warmly welcome. While we shall talk about and sharpen such conventional fiction-writing gestures as scene, plot, and character development, we shall also question the often unconscious assumptions behind and limits to those gestures; visit a number of important concerns/trends/obsessions in contemporary fiction; invent a number of generative prompts for each other; read and discuss two fiction-writing textbooks that approach the topic from diametrically opposed directions in order to discuss fiction-writing pedagogy; read a collection of short fiction, a nonfiction work, or a novel each week; discuss current marketplace (ir)realities and how to navigate them; hone our critical reading and manuscript editing capabilities; and write continuously — all in an honest, friendly, focused, fierce and fiercely committed environment.

Readings: Robert Coover, Pricksongs & Descants; Lydia Davis, Varieties of Disturbance; Thalia Fields, Experimental Animals; Susan Howe, The Midnight; Gary Lutz, Stories in the Worst Way; Ben Marcus, The Age of Wire and String; Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts; Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction; Lance Olsen, Architectures of Possibility; Patrik Ourednik, Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century; Melanie Rae Thon, Silence and Song; Joe Wenderoth, Letters to Wendy’s.

English 7040 Poetry Workshop
Fall 2017 | Professor Jacqueline Osherow | 3401 LNCO; X: 1-7947
Monday | 4:35pm – 7:30pm | LNCO 3820

Students in the graduate workshop will read a book a week and write one poem a week. For the first ten weeks, books will range from the ancient to the contemporary. From a few of the best poetry in the Bible  (a few psalms, Song of Songs, first chapter of Isaiah, for the very first class meeting) , to ancient Chinese poems (in Arthur Sze’s compilation, The Silk Dragon to medieval Arabic poems and Hebrew poems from Andalusia  (Poems of Arab Andalusia, translated by Cola Franzen; the Hebrew poems, translated by Peter Cole, whose own poems we’ll also read, to the great 20th Century Andalucian poet, Lorca, as well as Langston Hughes (my favorite of Lorca’s translators).  We’ll also read Akhmatova and Szymborska.

For the final five weeks our “books” will be collections from students in the class, which might simply be the poems they’ve written for the workshop gathered together, but could also be manuscripts that they are completing and sending out to publishers and contests. A great deal of real interest emerges when students’ poems are looked at in collections. (Ideally, of course, the poems enrich one another; sometimes, however, they appear thinner in a group, revealing an all too similar approach in poem after poem.)

Every other week, the poems submitted will be prompted by thematic or formal assignments, usually drawn from what we’ve read the previous two weeks;  on alternating weeks, the poems will be of the students’ own devising.

About one hour or so of class time will be spent discussion books; about two hours will be devoted to workshopping as many as possible of that week’s poems.

Each student will write one position paper, two pages long, to get discussion going on one of the assigned books.

English 7770 Seminar in English Literature

Fall 2017 | Professor Andrew Franta | 3519 LNCO; X: 1-3393
Tuesday-Thursday | 12:25pm – 1:45pm | LNCO 3870

Self-Reflexivity in Romantic Poetry

This course will examine forms of self-reflexivity in English romantic poetry. Our aim will be twofold: first, to consider the constitutive role of irony in a poetic tradition often thought to be defined by sincerity; second, to explore the critical resources available for the interpretation of romantic poetry in light of the field’s ongoing vacillation between formalist and historicist approaches. In addition, we will take up questions about the relationship between lyric and narrative poetry, voice and persona, and the political efficacy of the poetic text. Readings will include poetry and prose by Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Charlotte Smith, Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.


Over the course of the term, students will write two short papers (5-6 pages), which will be presented in class and will frame the day’s discussion. One of these short papers will serve as the starting point for a seminar paper of 10-15 pages (for MA students) or 15-20 pages (for PhD students).

Course policies:

This course will be conducted as a seminar. Its success depends on the active participation of all of its members. Attendance, preparation, and participation are expected and will constitute an important part of the course grade.


William Blake, Blake’s Poetry and Designs (Norton) 978-0393924985
William Wordsworth, William Wordsworth: The Major Works (Oxford) 978-0199536863
S.T. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Major Works (Oxford) 978-0199537914
Charlotte Smith, The Poems of Charlotte Smith (Oxford) 978-0195083583
John Keats, Complete Poems (Harvard) 978-0674154315
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Shelley’s Poetry and Prose (Norton) 978-0393977523

Last Updated: 8/10/17