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Fall 2024 Courses

ENGL 6260: Literary Traditions

Prof. Maeera Shreiber
Tu/Th 10:45am – 12:05pm
LNCO 3870

Course Description:  Studies In Sacred Verse

In the ancient world, religious texts, works of prayer, and sacred wisdom often took the form of poetry. Psalms, the Song of Solomon, and, much later, the Book of Common Prayer are all examples of works which blur the boundary between poetry and prayer. These texts, full of their own rhythms and beauty, set the stage for this course, as we set out to investigate the relationship between poetry and expressions of spiritual longing as found in the three Abrahamic religious traditions. Using each of these traditions as a discrete framework, we will work historically--beginning with poems from the Hebrew Bible, turning then to medieval Hebrew poetry, and concluding this unit with some modern and examples of Jewish poets who write on the edge of prayer. Then, using the Song of Songs. Psalms and poetry by Paul Celan as hinge texts, we will turn to the Christian prayer tradition, focusing particularly on John Donne, George Herbert, and Emily Dickinson. This sequence will conclude with modern and contemporary poets, including Countee Cullen, George Oppen and Louise Gluck, as we study how language can be used to access and assault the divine. Finally, we will move to the Islamic tradition--beginning with Rabia Basari, one of Islam’s mystic poets, and ending with a cluster of Muslim American poets such as Aghah Shahid Ali and Kaveh Akbar.

Throughout we will consider the different ways poetry transforms the notion of prayer, and how prayer pushes the limits of poetry--especially of the lyric.

Course expectations will include short weekly written responses, an in-class presentation (resulting in a paper suitable for a conference), and much class discussion.

All works will be read in translation.

ENGL 6480: Intro to Crictical Theory

Prof. Justin Carpenter
Tu/Th 9:10 – 10:30AM
LNCO 3875

Course Description

This course will examine the historical and theoretical contexts which contributed to the notion of critical theory, initially introduced by the Frankfurt School theorists, and the contemporary ‘Theory’ that has emerged since the so-called ‘cultural turn’ of the 1980s. Beginning with the earliest examples of Critical Theory found in the writings of Frankfurt School thinkers—including Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Ernst Bloch, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, and so on—we will examine the Frankfurt School’s theoretical premises, particularly their blending of aesthetics and politics. With this context, we will proceed chronologically, outlining the trajectory and dynamics of reception surrounding the Frankfurt School’s eventual move to America, observing how their ideas were understood and adapted to the context of the American University. Parallel to this development, we will also discuss the circulation of French Structuralist and Post-Structuralist ideas into this same environment, both of which greatly structured the eventual ‘cultural turn’ of the 1980s, which itself was heavily informed by the intellectual import of British Cultural Studies (CS). 


By engaging with the historical development and the general dilemmas surrounding the transposition of literary-theoretical ideas from one context to another, students will be capable of understanding the development of ‘Theory’ as an unfolding process within a given ecosystem, helping them to reconcile earlier aesthetic theories with the contemporary theoretical paradigm they are entering as graduate students today. In particular, this course will help students develop a larger picture of the establishment of cultural, political, and aesthetic approaches to “Theory” which have persisted and have come to define much of the literary field.

ENGL 6640: 19th Century British Literature

Prof. Jessica Straley
Mo/We 1:25 – 2:45PM
LNCO 3870

Course Description: Animal Victorians

No single attitude encompasses our paradoxical relationship with animals: we love them, we kill them, we

protect them, we cage them, we eat them, we dress them, we wear them, we imagine their inner thoughts, we damage their physical bodies, and we define our humanity both against and in relation to our understanding of them. Many of these contradictions came into focus in 19th-century Britain. The Victorian period saw the birth of a discourse about animal rights, the establishment of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, an increasing sentimentality about household pets, the opening of the London Zoo, the public spectacle of circuses and dog and cat shows, the growing popularity of vegetarianism, debates about medical experimentation on animals, and the development of evolutionary theory.


Tracing the current discourse of Animals Studies back to the Victorian period, we will read literary, scientific, political, and theoretical texts that began this cultural conversation about our interactions with, treatment of, and similarity to other animals. While the centrality of animals to Victorian culture makes this focus a useful approach to the 19th-century, our consideration of the animal will also be a transhistorical and transcultural examination of how “animality” intersects with cultural constructions of gender, sexuality, race, and ability, as well as an interrogation of language, metaphor, and fiction. As physical beings existing in their own biological and environmental realities and simultaneously entities which we invest with our own affective meanings, animals are always both facts and fictions, matter and metaphor. Speculations about how animals think, feel, talk, and regard us challenge our entrenched notions about subjectivity, agency, selfhood, and language – aesthetic, moral, and political concepts that center our shared enterprise as creative writers and literary critics.


Readings may include: Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books, H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau, poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, May Kendall, and Michael Field, scientific writings by Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley, and theoretical essays by Jacques Derrida and Donna Haraway, among others.

ENGL 6810: Special Topics

Prof. Elizabeth Callaway
Mondays 1:25 – 4:20pm
FD 618 - 122

Course Description: AI and the Environment

In this course we will study the intersections between AI, the environment, and science fiction. We will explore the environmental costs of AI in the real world and current AI projects designed to help the environment through optimizing efficiency and protecting species.  Alongside these real-world examples, we will examine fictional representations of AI that sketch out the imagination space surrounding technology and the environment. We will ask how concepts like extraction can be used to link the material production of AI to its data accumulation practices and how plants and animals can provide alternatives to thinking of AI in terms of human intelligence. This course explores very different classes of nonhuman actors and the complex interplay between them.

ENGL 7040: Poetry Workshop

Prof. Paisley Rekdal
Mondays 4:35 – 7:25pm
LNCO 3865

Course Description

Please email instructor at

ENGL 7450: Narrative Theory & Practice

Prof. Ronald Shavers
Tuesdays 4:35 – 7:25pm
LNCO 3865

Course Description:  “The Form(s) of Fiction”

This course will include and analyze literary fiction and genre work in hopes of interrogating both categories. Students will read literary criticism, published short fiction, “hybrid” material, and a few narratives that may just make one question the mental fitness of the writer. Students should note that “Forms of Fiction” is neither a course in pure narratology nor literary criticism in any sense of the term, but rather a course that promotes reading, writing, and thinking as essential and necessary creative acts. 

Overall, “Forms of Fiction” will require students to engage in several different types of scholarly and literary analysis while assuming no particular or significant expertise in any of them. Instead, emphasis will be given over to creative and intellectual risk-taking, analytical exploration, and the expansion of how one reads, creates, and thinks about literature and literary works. Vigorous class participation is required.  

Last Updated: 5/6/24