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Spring 2019

English 6620: Shakespeare's Histories
Professor Richard Preiss
Monday/Wednesday 3:00pm-4:20pm
LNCO 3875

What is Shakespeare’s masterpiece? It isn’t Hamlet, or King Lear, or Romeo and Juliet – or, for that matter, any single play at all. Between roughly 1590 and 1592, and again between 1596 and 1598, he wrote (or co-wrote) two cycles of plays – two tetralogies, or groups of four, for a total of eight – all dealing with the Wars of the Roses, the calamitous dynastic conflict that ravaged England for most of the 15th century. These eight plays – Richard II, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, Henry V, 1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI, and Richard III – constitute the bulk of Shakespeare’s “Histories,” all based to some degree on his reading of national chronicles. Though less often taught and performed today than his Comedies or Tragedies, collectively they went through more printings during his lifetime than the rest of his plays combined. These were the plays that established his reputation, that introduced his most beloved and diabolical characters, and that made the chronicle history play the first blockbuster genre of early modern English theater. They are Shakespeare’s House of Cards, his Game of Thrones.

They also represent his most sustained dramatic engagement with any historical moment – urgently worth revisiting in our own, when our nation is likewise disintegrating into tribal factions, when elitism pretends to populism, when cynicism masquerades as idealism, when political divisions devolve onto personal grudges, when hypocrisy cultivates amnesia, when warfare is transacted across the bodies of women, when propaganda makes discerning fact from fiction difficult, and equivalences (or distinctions) between “good” and “evil” all too easy – and they demand to be experienced that way, as a continuous text. Yet they are also designed to disrupt that very continuity. Their order of composition inverts the chronology of the events they depict: Shakespeare began with the latter episodes, 1, 2,3Henry VI and Richard III, and only later returned to the earlier ones, Richard II, 1 & 2Henry IV, and Henry V. We will read them in that original, preposterous sequence, to consider how their penetrating analysis of language, power, gender, kingship, identity, and duplicity is endlessly complicated by their own dramatic form. How many plays, we will often ask, are we reading at once, and how did their mutual ‘ghosting’ shape what playgoers saw? How did Shakespeare segment, expand, compress, and distort his sources, in response to political pressures and to give each dramatic unit an internal structure? How have modern adaptations faced the same problems, and extended the same project? Do the Histories really comprise eight discrete plays? Or two tetralogies? Or a single, immense super-play? When audiences were not only constrained to watch them out of order, but free to watch them in any order – as they recycled themselves at random in the early modern repertory – is there any normative, correct way to encounter them? Can we develop a vocabulary to describe this labyrinthine narratological experiment? What does it mean, ultimately, to dramatize a story whose end is already known in advance? What does “history” itself mean, in a universe where time flows backwards, and in circles?

Primary readings

1 Henry VI (c.1591) (probably co-written with Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe)

2 Henry VI (c.1589) (yup… Parts II & III may have been written before Part I)

3 Henry VI (c. 1590)

Richard III (c. 1592)

Richard II (c. 1596)

1 Henry IV (c. 1597)

2 Henry IV (c. 1597)

Henry V (c. 1598)

English 6660: Early American Literature
Professor Stacey Margolis
Tuesday/Thursday 12:25pm-1:45pm
LNCO 3875

Early American Fiction and the Culture of Democracy

In this class, we will read novels and stories from the late 18th century through the decades leading up to the Civil War. In different ways and from very different perspectives, these texts explore, critique, and test the limits of democratic politics as it was experienced “on the ground.” Some of these writers were concerned about the unchecked influence of public opinion, some about the rising power of the market, some about the silencing of marginal voices, and some about ending slavery. But all of them were attempting to assess the cultural repercussions of the American Revolution in ways that still resonate today.


Hannah Foster, The Coquette, 1797

Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland, 1798

James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers, 1823

Catharine Sedgwick, The Linwoods, 1835

Edgar Allan Poe, Collected Tales, 1838-1848

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables, 1851

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1852

William Wells Brown, Clotel; or The President’s Daughter, 1853

Other readings linked to course schedule on Canvas (Can in schedule)


During the term, you will write two short essays (approx. 5 pages), one of which will be presented in class. At the end of the semester you will turn in a longer final essay (approx. 10 pages), which will also be presented.  You will sign up for the short paper assignments; the longer paper must be based on one of your short papers. 

Keep in mind that this is a seminar and thus requires your active participation. Missing more than 2 classes will adversely affect your grade.

In order to promote class discussion, I do not allow laptop computers to be used in class.

English 7000: Experimental Forms
Professor Lance Olsen
Tuesday 4:35pm-7:30pm
LNCO 3865

This semester we shall ask ourselves a deceptively straightforward question: How, if at all, can we write the contemporary rather than rewriting the past? To begin to begin to answer, we shall keep in mind Heidegger’s observation that not-being-at-home is a more fundamental human condition than being-at-home as we investigate how the possibility space called innovative writing may become richer by living alongside, in, and/or among several art forms and genres at once. What might happen, for instance, at the intersection(s) of fiction/poetry/nonfiction and photography, collage, music, architecture, painting, literary theory, new-media composition, book arts, critifiction, the lyric essay? Medical textbooks, car manuals, movie subtitles, indexes, footnotes, menus, comics, tables of content, appendixes, news reports, the safety card in your airplane seatback, video games? In other words, our goal will be to explore the productive energies of liminal zones, hybridization, pla(y)giarism, the permeability of formal and generic boundaries that might give rise to interesting and illuminating configurations.  Along the way, I shall invite us to resist, rethink, and/or expand such notions as “the workshop” and “the workshop critique”; “narrativity”; writing’s “past,” “present,” and “future”; and the pragmatics of the current literary marketplace—all in order to bring into greater relief why and how we do what we do.

Requirements: At least two extended textual projects; weekly narratologically amphibious creative responses to readings; one 60-minute oral presentation/conversation(s) on an experimental text, with emphasis on the how and why of specific techniques at function within it; remarkably active class participation; reading and responding thoughtfully and respectfully to your fellow students’ work and to that of established writers and theorists.PLEASE NOTE: You may NOT put up work here that has appeared in any other workshop, anywhere, ever, cross your heart.

Texts will include (with another three or five to be added soon — so please let me know if you have any suggestions you’d like to study in this context): Jen Bervin, Nets (2003); Anne Carson, Nox (2010); Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee (1982); Young-Hae Chang & Heavy Industries, Traveling to Utopia and Bust Down the Door (ca. 2000, online); David Clark, 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein (2009, online); Raymond Federman, Double or Nothing (1971); Shelley Jackson: Skin Project ongoing, online); David Markson, The Last Novel (2007); Maggie Nelson, Bluets (2009); Steve Tomasula, VAS (2004).

English 7040: Poetry Workshop
Professor Katharine Coles
Monday 4:35pm – 7:30pm
LNCO 3865

This is a poetry workshop in which we will both explicate student work and examine aesthetic issues raised by student work and the outside readings.  In addition to your assigned reading and writing, each of you will identify a non-literary area in which you will perform research (this could be an area in science, the arts outside literature, history, culture, etc.) and prepare a brief bibliography of texts (broadly defined) you will engage during the semester, the number depending on length and density.  During the last half of the semester, each of you will give a very brief (10-minute) and informal presentation to the class about your chosen area of study.

English 7450: Narrative Theory & Practice
Professor Michael Mejia
Wednesday 4:35-7:30pm
LNCO 3865


For more information on this class, please contact Professor Mejia at

English 7700: Seminar in American Studies
Professor Stephen Tatum
Tuesday/Thursday 2:00pm-3:20pm
LNCO 3875

This interdisciplinary seminar in American Studies will focus on Critical Regionalism and the American West through an critical exploration of selected contemporary literary representations of the urban “Unhomely” or Homeless American West. The seminar will begin with selected critical essays or articles or chapters that provide a “frame” for critical regionalism using examples drawn from literature, visual culture, theory, and architecture. We will also do selected reading in globalization studies, where the focus on the economics of a globalizing world system--underpinned by finance capital and advanced communication technologies--will help us understand the emergent context of new territorial divisions of labor and uneven regional economic development that exacerbate various inequalities the visibly come to ground, so to speak, in the visibility of increasing homelessness and the migrations of peoples across national borders. In this regard, we will ultimately be talking about the intersection of critical regionalism with transnational or Global Wests. Seminar participants will be asked to contribute an oral presentation on a secondary reading that will accompany the primary texts we’ll discuss, prepare short (5 pages or so) close reading essays on each of the primary texts, and develop a longer critical essay in consultation with me.

Pool of Primary Texts from which I shall select our required readings:

Hector Tobar, The Tattooed Soldier

Helena Maria Viramontes, Their Dogs Came With Them

Charles Bowden and Alice Leora Briggs, Dreamland: The Way Out of Juarez

Douglas Coupland, Generation X

Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange

Leslie Marmon Silko, Almanac of the Dead

Joan Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem

Yuri Herrera, Signs Preceding the End of the World


Jeremy Rosen

Last Updated: 11/12/18