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The English Department's literature program offers a range of courses on English and American literature. First-year courses and survey courses are offered every year. Each year's program also includes a selection of electives, seminars and workshops at different levels.
Listed below are all of the literature courses  taught in the department. Courses offered in 2015-2016 are marked accordingly. Others are not offered this year but may be available in future years.

First-Year Courses

(offered every year)

106 Academic Writing I

By focusing on skills – writing (fiction/creative nonfiction), editing, critiquing – this course is designed to help students gain proficiency in written self-expression through a variety of text types.

107 Academic Writing II

This course introduces students to the fundamentals of effective writing. Through a series of composition assignments and class tutorials, students will practice the basic skills of critical analysis and argument as they learn to express clear, coherent ideas at a university level. This cornerstone course is a prerequisite for more advanced study of literature in the English Department.

190 Introduction to Fiction

The course aims to introduce students to the basic concepts used in the analysis and interpretation of fictional narrative. We will develop this set of critical tools through close reading and class discussion of a series of short stories and novels, both classic and contemporary. 

191 Historical Background to English & American Literature I

A background course in the history of Western thought, with close reading, in English, of primary sources from ancient Greece and Rome.

192 Historical Background to English & American Literature II

Continuing chronologically from 191, English 192 is an introduction to the Christian background of English literature.

194 Poetry Analysis

A detailed study of the elements of poetry: figurative language, rhyme, rhythm, structure and genre.

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Second- and Third-Year Surveys

(offered every year)

206 Renaissance Literature

This course provides a survey of the prose and poetry of the early modern period from Wyatt and Surrey through Milton.         

252 American Literature I

A survey of the development of imaginative writing in America literature from colonial times to the Civil War.  We will consider a broad range of forms—fiction and poetry, of course, but also essays, autobiographies, histories, sermons, diaries, and political documents.  Authors we will read include: Anne Bradstreet, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman.

253 American Literature II: 1865 to Present

If nations are narrated constructs, the work of a writer might be described as nation building.  This class examines how writers narrate America through the stories they tell about their country, their neighbors, and themselves.  We will attend to the limits of the myths of America, as well as to the ways in which previously excluded groups have sought to write themselves into American history.  

Required books: Claudia Rankin, Citizen; Joy Harjo, Crazy Brave; Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn; James Baldwin, The fire next time, among others.
Please plan to purchase a course packet with all of the rest of the semester’s readings on the first day of class.

303 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Literature

This overview of British literature 1660-1890 surveys the major trends in English literature from the late seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Particular focus will be paid to the Restoration, Romantic, and Victorian periods as well as to understanding how literature reflects and participates in the broad social and political changes characterizing this historical span.

314 Shakespeare

 Eight of Shakespeare’s major plays will be studied in the context of the theatrical conditions of his time, the intellectual assumptions of the period in which he wrote, and with special attention to the dramatist’s growing concern with the subtlety and complexity of the human character.  

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Electives (second- and third-year BA students)

669 The Graphic Novel -Prof. Susan Handelman
** offered in 2015-16 **
Jews created the first comic book, and the first graphic novel (Will Eisner).Today the graphic novel is one of the most interesting and  advanced  new literary forms. Art Spiegelman's Maus, a graphic memoir  about the Holocaust, won the Pulitzer prize. In some European countries, two out of every ten books now  sold are graphic novels. We will look at several recent graphic novels by Jews and non-Jews, examine  the intriguing  question of  the  relation of words and images, and  learn about visual rhetoric.
* Not to be taken by students who took seminar 449 - The Graphic Novel
695 Romantic Poetry - Dr. Daniel Feldman
** offered in 2015-16 **

This course surveys the movement known as Romanticism in its British form between the years 1789-1830. What constituted the Romantic revolution in imagination, art, and literature? How did the Romantic movement arise out of the historic events of its day and how does it influence our understanding of literature today? This lecture course emphasizes close reading of works by the great Romantic poets: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Keats, as well as selected texts by William Blake, John Clare, Mary Shelley, and William Hazlitt. Students should have a firm grasp of poetry as a prerequisite for the course.

4xx-level seminars (second- and third-year BA students)

Note: Not all seminars are offered every year. Seminars scheduled for 2015-16 are indicated below.

405 The Dark Tradition: Gothic and Horror in English Literature- Dr. Yael Shapira
(not offered in 2015-16)

This course will follow the development of the Gothic tradition in English literature from the late eighteenth century to the late Victorian era. We will consider the beginnings of the tradition as the “dark” counterpart to Enlightenment culture and literature, and trace its evolution over the next century in a range of texts that extend and reconfigure the Gothic’s typical themes and figures. Selected theoretical and critical readings will help us consider the definition of both “Gothic” and “horror” as a conceptual framework for close reading of individual texts. Reading list (tentative) may include works by Matthew Lewis, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson.    

407 “A Woman in the Shape of a Monster”: Gender and Aberrance in English Literature - Dr. Yael Shapira
(not offered in 2015-16)

The course will explore how ideas of aberrance and monstrosity have shaped representations of women in English and American literary works over the centuries. We will examine long-standing archetypes of “monstrous” womanhood as they appear in a range of literary works and traditions, as well as relevant theoretical and historical perspectives. In the latter part of the course, we will look at how such images are appropriated and transformed by 20th-century women writers in the wake of the Feminist Revolution. We will be reading poetry (including S.T. Coleridge's long poem "Christabel," available in The Norton Anthology of English Literature), short stories, and Fay Weldon's novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, as well as a selection of theoretical and critical texts.

409 American Drama - Prof. Kinereth Meyer
(not offered in 2015-16)
Our goal is to examine the plays of Eugene O'Neill, Tenessee Williams, and Arthur Miller, with particular focus on how their work influenced the development of American drama in the twentieth century.
410 “Food for Thought”: Literature, Food, Culture - Prof. Susan Handelman
**offered in 2015-16**
It's been said that "Every meal has a Story." Food is not just about physical sustenance but is an essential and defining part of culture, identity, religion. Food is about the "making of meaning" in family, relationships, rituals, community, and so forth. This course will investigate the symbolic, rhetorical, and cultural constructions of food in/as literature. It will give students a new perspective on literature and its relation to culture.
414 Reading Minds - Dr. Daniel Feldman
(not offered in 2015-16)

As interpreters of narrative, what do we read and why? This seminar explores the intersection of fictional texts about reading others' minds and narrative theories about why our minds love to read fiction in the first place. The course includes works by Doyle, James, Joyce, Woolf, and Dick in conversation with a range of critical theories about the nature of reading and interpretation. We will explore the thesis that literature develops a model (or models) of consciousness that hones our capacity for insight, experience, memory, empathy, and understanding. Furthermore, the seminar will introduce students to various theories of narrative that will prepare upper-level majors for advanced work in criticism and theory.

417 Poetic Antagonisms - Dr. Daniel Feldman
(not offered in 2015-16)

This seminar offers an overview of the sphere of contested influences and dynamic change that shape the English poetic tradition from the late Renaissance through contemporary verse. In addition to introducing students to Harold Bloom’s model of revisionary misreading, the seminar also offers more advanced training in how to read canonical English-language poets, their literary descendants, and their critical dissidents. Each week the course will present in-depth readings of one major poet – as well as poetic antagonists who repudiate his or her art.

420 - Women and the British Novel - Dr. Ilana Blumberg
(not offered in 2015-16)

This course will consider the historical links between women and the developing genre of the novel. Women were readers, writers, and subjects of novels about everything from girlhood to courtship and marriage, working lives, politics, law, and empire. How were women's lives imagined in novels? How did these depictions differ from or confirm social reality? And what have recent scholars found most notable about the relationship between women and the novel? ​

Through historical studies and novels themselves, we will consider the crucial role that material developments in print technology and publication practices played in shaping the roles of women as authors, readers, and subjects of fiction. Reading list (tentative) includes works by Eliza Haywood, Samuel Richardson, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens and others.

423 Word and Image- Prof. Susan Handelman
(not offered in 2015-16)

We live in a digital culture flooded with images. W.J.T. Mitchell has also famously marked what he called "the pictorial turn" in literary and cultural theory during the 1990s, away from the earlier "linguistic turn" of theory in the previous 20 years. What is the relation of words and images in literary representation and history, in book-making, in culture, and in pedagogy? How can we teach ourselves and our students to "read images" and to "image reading?" How are images also a form of visual rhetoric, exerting powerful arguments and claims in current politics?

The course will give students tools to analyze the relation of word and image, and an introduction to the new and exciting field of visual culture. It will also help to those who will be teaching literature ways think about how to educate students in a time when students are constantly using and besieged by digital images, and what “digital humanities" are all about.

We will read some of the key theorists in this area including W.J.T Mitchell, E. H. Gombrich, and Rudolf Arnheim. We will and also look at current graphic novels such as Persepolis, Maus, the work of Will Eisner and theorists of the graphic novels like Scott McCloud. We'll consider the relation of visual representation to the holocaust. We'll survey some of the recent work in the new fields of visual culture and visual rhetoric, and we will think about what all this means for the teaching of literature and humanities in a digital age.

430 – Shakespeare and Film – Prof. Susan Handelman
(not offered in 2015-16)

"Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” 

― Ingmar Bergman

“It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.” 

― Roger Ebert

Shakespeare was a highly successful actor, producer, and theater-owner. He never wrote his plays to be read silently in a library, or put on exams by English teachers. He wrote them to be seen, heard, and performed onstage by thousands of people of all social levels, and to make  money. Shakespearean theater was a form of  spectacular mass entertainment, just as film is today. 

Especially in the 21st century, in a culture bombarded by images and video, we need to read Shakespeare "in triplicate": as literature, theater, and film. We will try to see how film can help us to interpret and understand literature – and vice versa.  

We will study a few of Shakespeare's plays, taking several weeks on each to focus on issues such as: Shakespearean stage history; how to read a film; performance theory; adaptation theory; “transmediation,” – transfer from one medium to another. We will look at plays that have multiple film versions such as HamletMerchant of Venice,  A Midsummer Night’s DreamJulius Caesar, as well as Al Pacino’s Looking for Richard,, etc.  

Rather than looking for overall meanings in the plays as a whole, we will intensively examine specific scenes from the plays. We will also investigate “Global Shakespeare” – the way Shakespeare'es plays  are presented in the non-anglophone performance cultures of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. For this we will be using English-subtitled films in the open-access archive Global Shakespeares,  (http://globalshakespeares.org/ ), as well as other books, online resources, and videos.

437 Poetry and Place - Prof. Kinereth Meyer
(not offered in 2015-16)   

"Poetry and Place" examines the historical, cultural, and literary function of place and space in literature.  We will read novels, short stories, plays, and poems, together with critical essays, in order to understand how place and space can be so much more than a "setting" for a work of literature. We will study essays that include literary analysis, philosophy, and geographical theory.

450 Creative Writing: A Multigenre Prose Workshop - Prof. Evan Fallenberg
(not offered in 2015-16)

You love a great short story, you’ve grown up on the finest novels, you’re enthralled by a well-written biography, you’re swept away by the clever dialogue in plays.  And now it’s time to try your hand at the craft in earnest.  In this workshop, participants will learn the tools of the trade; read what writers have to say about their craft; delve into masterful pieces of literature in order to learn from them; experiment with forms and styles; have their work critiqued by others; and will be expected to produce a significant body of new and revised prose writing throughout the semester. 

451 Creative Writing: Hybrid Genres - Dr. Marcela Sulak
** offered in 2015-16 **
The course views genre distinctions as a question of degree, rather than category. Recently, verse novellas, documentary poetics, graphic novels, poetic memoir, lyric essay, micro fiction, prose poetry, flash nonfiction, and other hybrid genres have mapped out and explored new arenas of human experience, yielding exciting new insights.  In this class, we will examine skills necessary in all forms of creative writing while addressing the most salient generic features of poetry, essays and fiction, but we will understand that often distinctions can be artfully blurred to release tremendous energy and creativity.  While students may chose to write more traditionally recognizable poems, essays and stories, our readings will encourage experimentation in hybridity. We will examine the expectations we bring to works of various genres; we will write, and we will learn to write intelligent and helpful criticism about published works and the works of our classmates.

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7xx-level seminars (third-year BA students, MA students)

Note: Not all seminars are offered every year. Seminars scheduled for 2015-16 are indicated below.

712 Modernist Drama - Prof. Jeffrey Perl
(not offered in 2015-16)

The course will examine the movement against prose and against realism in drama that began in the 19th century with the younger Romantics in England but had its most influential exponents in Germany and France. After exposure to precedents in Byron, Mallarmé, and Nietzsche, the bulk of the course will concern plays by major British, Irish, and American practitioners of this kind of avant-garde "anti-theater":  Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett.

713 Art, Atrocity, Truth - Dr. Daniel Feldman
(not offered in 2015-16)

A comparative study of how fiction and fact structure each other in literature portraying the Shoah, atrocity, and mass human-rights abuse. What role does fiction play in rendering truths about tragic historic events? What is the relationship between culture and politics in representing or understanding trauma? “Art, Atrocity, Truth” is a comparative seminar examining how literature works with and against historical narrative to create new forms of depicting and comprehending collective trauma. Readings include autobiographical fiction, novellas, and critical texts about the Holocaust and other events of mass trauma. Our purpose is to examine the fraught relationship between art, especially prose fiction, and factual treatments of violent events. By reading and discussing texts that mix fact and fiction, we will ask what role is left to art in the wake of atrocity and whether there is a literary genre we can credibly identify as art of atrocity.

715 Becoming Jane: The Austen Phenomenon - Dr. Yael Shapira
(not offered in 2015-16)

The course aims to acquaint students with Jane Austen’s development as a writer as well as with the tradition of literary criticism devoted to her work. We will read at least four of Austen’s six novels, as well as critical works representing different points in the evolution of Austen studies. Topics of discussion will include Austen’s persistent themes and her evolving style and narrative devices, as well as the context historical and intellectual context, with an emphasis on aspects of gender.

716 T. S. Eliot - Professor Jeffrey Perl
(not offered in 2015-16)

This course will treat the writings of T. S. Eliot, both collected and uncollected, published and unpublished, in the genres of poetry, drama, criticism, religious and social commentary, and philosophy.  The course will deal, in addition, with the readings of his work by both his allies and opponents, and with Eliot’s influence on both his contemporaries and successors.                                    

721 Literature and the Visual Arts- Prof. Murray Roston
(not offered in 2015-16)

This course will study the relationship between leading English and American writers from the Renaissance to the present day and the contemporary movements in painting, architecture, and sculpture to which such writers most closely correspond.

722 Homecomings and Nostalgia - Dr. Daniel Feldman
(not offered in 2015-16)

Homecomings and Nostalgia is an advanced seminar on the concept of home in contemporary fiction. We take as our premise the thesis that homecoming (nostos) and nostalgia have always been closely bound up with literary versions of home. It was one poet (Heine) who said that a canonical book could serve as a portable homeland and another (Frost) who said that home is the place where, "when you go there, they have to let you in." But as much as literature has shaped the notion of home, nostalgia and the yearning to go home form key elements of modern literature . This course explores the literary construction of homecoming in a wide-ranging analysis that considers the rise of nostalgia as a distinct modern concept, the permutations of homecoming in a globalized world, and the ever-changing formulations of home in modern poetry, criticism, and fiction. Readings include Rushdie's Midnight's Children, Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, Robinson's Home, and Sebald's Austerlitz.

723 Victorian Egoism and Altruism - Dr. Ilana Blumberg
** offered in 2015-16 **

This seminar will explore the mid-Victorian discourse of egoism and altruism which organizes British novels, essays and works of socio-economic analysis in the second half of the nineteenth century. We will examine the selfishness/altruism discourse at the critical moment when the established Christian theological account of human selfishness and selflessness confronts the challenge of post-theological modernity. We’ll be reading works by (among others) George Eliot, Elizabeth Haskell and Wilkie Collins alongside relevant Victorian discussions of economics, religion and morality.

726 The Art of Literary Translation: Prose I - Prof. Evan Fallenberg
** offered in 2015-16 **

Translation is a cultural sleight of hand and translators are the magicians who perform it, not only bringing one culture into another but also shaping the literary tradition of the target language in the process. But translators are also creative artists in their own right and translation itself is an art.

In this workshop, students will be introduced to the practice of literary translation and experience how texts both define and transcend cultural borders. Each week we will discuss students’ translations together with essays on the craft by leading writer-translators in order to examine the principal challenges that confront translators of literature. There will also be discussions on ways in which translation can facilitate and enhance one’s own writing.

Students may translate from any language into English.

727 The Art of Literary Translation: Poetry - Dr. Marcela Sulak
(not offered in 2015-16)

Literary translators attempt, on a most basic level, to carry a literal meaning from one language to another across a text.  Yet, as translation often involves surveying and mapping the boundaries of a literary world, a good translator recognizes that words often work within culturally and politically significant prosodic and rhyming forms. In a world marked by mass displacement of populations, in which much national and international literature is written by poets and writers in exile,  prosody can be a tent in which the Old World takes refuge in the New. Poetry is, as Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef puts it, a palm frond that will "carry pollen from exile to exile,” or it can serve as the path by which a conquering cultural force makes inroads into a formerly sovereign one. In this course, students will become acquainted with options and strategies available for translating poetry into English while attending to artistic, cultural and politically significant features of the works they are translating.

Required books:

Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida, ed. John Biguenet and Rainer Schulte

The Craft of Translation, ed. John Biguenet and Rainer Schulte.

The Sounds of Poetry, Robert Pinsky

Poems, translations, and any additional reading will be available in a course packet for students to purchase on the first day of classes.

746 Teaching the Shoah through Literature - Dr. Daniel Feldman
(not offered in 2015-16)

How do we use literature to teach the Holocaust? This course, specifically designed for current or future teachers of literature but open to all advanced students, addresses the network of unique pedagogical challenges associated with teaching texts about the Shoah. The course is part lecture and part pedagogical workshop: we will study seminal texts of Holocaust literature and read crucial commentary on the issues presented by Holocaust education.

777 The Modern Novel - Prof. Jeffrey Perl
(not offered in 2015-16)

“Modernism" and "postmodernism" are tendencies that express themselves differently from genre to genre. This course will examine their specific expressions in British, Irish, and American novels. The reading list will center on works by Henry James, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf, but will also include texts by at least some of the following:  Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, Wyndham Lewis, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, D.H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nabokov, J.M. Coetzee, Susan Sontag, and Michael Cunningham.

790 Assimilation in American Literature - Prof. Michael Kramer
(not offered in 2015-16)

One of the most fascinating phenomena in American history is the process by which immigrants (and others) become Americans, the process commonly known as "assimilation." Equally fascinating are the various ways writers in America imagine that process. In this seminar, we will survey American literature – from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century – with an eye to the way the stories writers tell about themselves inscribe versions of the process of assimilation.  Some of the authors we will discuss: Mary Rowlandson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexis de Tocqueville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Cahan, W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary Antin.  (cannot be taken if 940 has been) 

791 Classicism - Prof. Jeffrey Perl
** offered in 2015-16 **
This course reconsiders the meaning of the term “classicism” in literary and, more broadly, cultural history.  The syllabus is arranged to put in question the usually accepted view that classicism disappeared slowly over the course of the modern centuries and that a revolutionary Romantic tradition displaced it.  Readings in the basic (and conflicting) sources of classicism in antiquity will be followed by discussion of later elaborations and misreadings of them.
793 Autobiography and Life Writing - Dr. Ilana Blumberg
** offered in 2015-16 **
In this course, we will look at early as well as contemporary examples of autobiography, seeking to define the aims of the genre at different moments in its development. We will consider autobiography alongside other forms of life writing. We will also take up questions of the boundaries between fiction and fact as well as the social values of autobiography and testimonial writing.  
797 Jewish American Literature - Prof. Michael Kramer
** offered in 2015-16 **

A consideration of the major periods and themes of Jewish American literature, from the 17th century to the present. How did Jews in America imagine themselves as Jews and as Americans?  We will look at narratives of assimilation, accommodation, and return and discuss the many ways Jewish identities (religion and ethnicity) are constructed in a broad range of texts and genres. Some attention will be given to theories of Jewish literature and literary history and to American and world historical contexts. Authors we will analyze include: Emma Lazarus, Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Isaac Asimov, and a host of others.

799 Literature and Religion - Prof. Michael Kramer
(not offered in 2015-16)

This class, designed for both literature and creative writing students, will explore the complex relation between literary creativity and religious perception.  We will reflect upon some of the fundamental issues of theology—faith and doubt, immanence and transcendence, discipline and ecstasy, the mystical and the mundane, the character of the divine, the power of prayer—as they are take shape in a variety of texts and contexts, from the Bible to Bob Dylan, from hymns to Hollywood.  Some of the thinkers we will consider: Maimonides, Coleridge, Kierkegaard, James, Otto, Freud, Soloveitchik.  Some of the writers we will read:  Eliezer Azikri, Rabi'ah al Adawiyya, Franz Kafka, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Bernard Malamud, Flannery O'Connor, Denise Levertov, Andre Dubus, Steven Milhauser … and others.

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Graduate Seminars

Note: Not all seminars are offered every year. Seminars scheduled for 2015-16 are indicated below.

808 Literature and Film in the Classroom - Dr. Yael Shapira
(not offered in 2015-16)

This course considers the mutually illuminating effect of literary texts and their cinematic adaptations as a tool for both studying and teaching literature. By considering literary works in relation to their film adaptations and placing them in the context of relevant theory and criticism, the course examines the following questions: how can film provide insight into literature? What is entailed in “reading” and evaluating an adaptation? How does studying adaptations contribute to our understanding of literature’s changing place in our cultural hierarchies? Does the presence of film in the literature classroom aid or hinder students’ appreciation of literary works?

Classes consist of close discussions of literary and theoretical works, in combination with joint viewing of segments from relevant films. 

814 - Shakespeare and Performance - Prof. Susan Handelman
(not offered in 2015-16)

The goals of this course are: to study Shakespeare through the lens of current advanced post-modern literary and performance theory; to give students new tools to read, enjoy, understand and teach Shakespeare by getting the words “off the page”; to acquire “visual literacy” in the analysis of staged and film versions; to analyze what happens when a literary work is transposed and adapted into different media.

Shakespeare, of course, wrote his plays to be performed and not read silently in libraries. Since the 1990’s a  convergence of post-modern theory with new pedagogical approaches to Shakespeare has revolutionized the field of Shakespeare studies. Post-modern literary theory understands all texts to be “performances,” i.e., incomplete, until activated by a reader, interpreter, audience.

This course will review the various post-modern theories of performance,(e.g. speech-act theory, gender as performance, reader-responses, anthropology etc.), stage history, and new pedagogical approaches. In addition, there will be analyses of filmed and staged versions of Shakespeare, exercises in performing Shakespeare, and consideration of how all this affects of the teaching of Shakespeare today at all levels.

820 Inventing the Novel: Authors, Readers, and British Eighteenth-Century Fiction - Dr. Yael Shapira
(not offered in 2015-16)

The course will look at the early British novel as both an evolving artistic achievement and a product of its cultural environment: how do authors perceive the “new” kind of writing in which they are engaged? What issues and anxieties concerning the composition, reading and circulation of novels do they express? What kind of choices do they make while creating and refining the art of the novel – a literary form that we, as modern readers, take for granted? We will read works by Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding, as well as selections from the lively scholarly debate about this fascinating moment in literary history.

824 Women and Rhetoric - Prof. Susan Handelman
(not offered in 2015-16)

The literary critic Wayne Booth has defined rhetoric as "all forms of communication short of physical violence: it includes gestures such as raising an eyebrow or giving the finger." Before the rise of modern English Department 100 years ago, the study of literature from ancient times on had been the study of rhetoric – the persuasive and symbolic uses of language. (That's what Shakespeare studied in school.)

A strong "return to rhetoric" is now occurring in literary studies, and many other academic fields. It has been prompted by the postmodern understanding of reality as socially constructed through language.

With the rise of the women's movement and feminist criticism, the interesting question of gender has entered rhetorical studies. This seminar will examine topics ranging from  the role of women in the rhetorical tradition from the Ancient Greeks on, to the rhetorical styles of classic women writers in English, to how women  persuade their  husbands to take out the garbage.

We'll read a variety of texts by and about famous women orators, rhetoricians, writers, as well as essays in rhetorical theory and rhetorical criticism to gain tools of analysis. We'll also include a look at the new area of "visual rhetoric," and women's involvement in it – the intriguing relation of words and images in our digital world 

824 Critical Thought and the Teaching of Literature - Prof. Susan Handelman
(not offered in 2015-16)

The central question of this course is: How do all the recent changes in literary criticism and theory actually affect the way we teach and study literature? What difference does all this theory make, and how can/should we change our classroom practices in light of various theories? My primary aim is to help graduate students and teachers at all levels in their own struggles with teaching – from day-to-day practice to developing a philosophy of what one aims for in teaching, studying, and writing about literature.

Other important questions we'll tackle in this course are: What is it we really seek to accomplish for ourselves and our students? What are the politics and ethics in our practices of teaching, reading, and writing? What should an "English" course really be about? What kinds of new teaching practices can we create to enliven our classrooms?

825 Milton as Creative Writer - Prof. William Kolbrener
(not offered in 2015-16)

Milton’s work stands at the center of the English literary tradition: he not only placed himself in poetic competition with his predecessors and contemporaries (including Homer, Virgil, and Shakespeare), but the works of his poetic imagination made possible the works of the great writers in both American and English literary traditions. Our seminar will focus on Milton’s poetic achievement—attempting to elaborate his radical conceptions of poetic representation and literary authority in the context of the works of contemporaries including works by Ben Jonson, Amelia Lanyer, as well as the metaphysical poetry of John Donne. As Milton was not only a poet, but was deeply implicated in the revolutionary politics of his time (acting as Lord Secretary for Oliver Cromwell), we will be focusing on Milton’s work in the context of the emerging modern political languages which he helped to shape. In our discussions of Miltonic conceptions of individuality, spirituality, community, and gender, we will look to contemporary theological and political contexts—including the works of Thomas Hobbes, Margaret Cavendish, as well as the writings of the radical sectarians with whom he associated.

829 Literary Conversations: Introduction to Advanced Studies in Literature
** offered in 2015-16 **
Required of all new MA students in Literature and Literary Translation

 You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. –– Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia

 The stage lost a fine actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when [Holmes] became a specialist in crime. ― Arthur Conan DoyleThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

English 829 is the introduction to advanced study in literature. This course aims to improve your reading and writing skills and prepare you for future advanced course work in the English Department.

You will learn to enter the hot debates in current literary criticism. We will read about contemporary schools such as formalism, postmodernism, feminism, cultural studies, reader-response criticism, and post-colonial criticism. And we will also consider implications of defining and writing about literature in different ways.

The stories of Sherlock Holmes and Hamlet and some Harry Potter will be our test cases for these debates. Holmes, Harry, and Hamlet are trying to interpret mysterious events, texts, and characters and find patterns of meaning using all kinds of methods.

We will also examine “digital humanities” and new electronic notions of writing and reading – the transformations of literature into different media, as well as the pedagogical implications of all these theories. New material has also been added to the course to help students analyze how literary arguments are constructed, and to teach them how to write better essays and theses.

Required for all new English Literature MA and PHD students (including those specializing in literary translation), it is also open to exceptional advanced undergraduates, by permission of and/or invitation by the instructor. Graduate students in the Creative Writing MA program are especially welcome.

895 Cinderella Stories: Unequal Matches in the British Novel - Dr. Yael Shapira
(not offered in 2015-16)

This M.A. seminar focuses on a recurrent plot motif of British fiction since the appearance of the novel in the 18th century: a marriage that takes place between a man and a woman of unequal social standing. We will read a series of English novels published between the mid-eighteenth century and the present day, all exploring a fantasy in which romantic love intertwines seamlessly with upward social mobility. Drawing on the insights of feminist scholarship and theory, we will explore both the appeal and the darker implications of this enduring narrative paradigm.

919 Advanced Academic Reading and Writing - Dr. Yael Shapira
** offered in 2015-16 **
Required of all new MA students in Literature

Required of all new MA students, this course aims to introduce and practice the skills needed for higher-level academic work in literature. By focusing on several key texts and the body of critical writing about them, we will learn how to find, read, and cite scholarly articles and books. No less importantly, the course aims to give students ample opportunity to practice making their own critical claims in dialogue with the opinions of others. We will return to the basics of critical writing - structure, argumentation, citation - in order to explore their uses in longer and more complex writing projects.

Creative Writing Workshops

(Note: These workshops are intended for Creative Writing students only. Literature students interested in taking a creative writing workshop may apply to the instructor, who will consider their request based on availability and qualifications.)

Not all workshops are offered every year. Seminars scheduled for 2015-16 are indicated below.

931 Jewish Arts Seminar - Prof. Michael Kramer
** offered in 2015-16 **
"The English Writer and the Jewish Literary Tradition."  What does it mean to write in a literary tradition?  What did Leonard Cohen learn from King David?  Naomi Shemer from Yehuda Halevi?  Bob Dylan from Kafka?   This seminar is designed as a forum for the discussion of the interaction of tradition and art and the relation between reading and writing. Close readings of a wide variety of Jewish texts, from the Bible and Midrash to contemporary fiction, poetry, film, and popular music.  
932 Graduate Creative Writing: Poetic Forms and Genres - Dr. Marcela Sulak
(not offered in 2015-16)

The Irish poet Evan Boland has described poetic form as “a truth teller and intercessor from history itself, making structures of language, making music of feeling.”  Poetic forms and genres emerge in response to the way people over time have expressed their most intense feelings: joy, grief, thanksgiving, nostalgia, exaltation, despair, love and fear.    They shape readers’ expectations, they shape poets’ arguments and perceptions, and, most importantly, they allow poets to glean from the past the ideals, values and stories that shape our present moment.   In this class, we will practice using various formal tools to shape feelings and perceptions into music by writing poetry in specific forms, genres and meters.  We will also become familiar and confident with the interpretative tools that enhance our understanding and enjoyment of poetry, and that allow us to communicate about this multi-faceted art form in a clear and thoughtful manner. We will put these tools to immediate use in poetry workshop. 

934 Make It News: the documentary poem & poetry of witness
** offered in 2015-16 **

"The successful documentary poem withstands the pressure of reality to remain a poem in its own right: its language and form cannot be reduced to an ephemeral poster, ready made for its moment but headed for the recycling bin. While it may be that such poems will not “stand up” in a court of law, they testify to the often-unheard voices of people struggling to survive in the face of unspeakable violence."

Philip Metres, the Poetry Foundation

In this workshop we read and experiment with writing poetry that both creates new realities in language and documents the world as it is now.  

936 Writing Seminar: Poetry III - Prof. Linda Zisquit
** offered in 2015-16 **

The Poetry Course is both an intensive reading course, with required readings in American and other English-language poetry, as well as a creative writing workshop, with weekly class exercises and homework assignments. There is a required semester project of immersion in one reputable poet's work, with a final presentation of that poet's poetry and the student's work written "under the influence" of the chosen poet. In addition, a final portfolio of original poetry (10-12 poems) written during the semester is required. 

946 Writing Seminar: Poetry IV - Prof. Linda Zisquit

The Spirit and the Flesh: Translating the Bible and Other Sacred Texts into Poetry: Metaphor and Verse

In this creative writing course we will choose favorite stories and themes (dreams, fertility, flora, etc) of the Bible and other religious sources, and read, analyze and translate them into original poems.

We will spend several classes on the Psalms, and ‘translating’ them into English.

There will be discussion on how Biblical images or themes have been and may be employed in the service of a poet. We will focus on the holocaust, Israeli poetry, Jerusalem, food, the Song of Songs, the Sacrifice of Isaac, etc etc. We will look at paintings that depict these themes. We will also discuss Greek mythology and Hindu mythology as it has been used by writers. Can the Bible be used in the same way?          

Among possible questions, we will ask how do we as writers relate to Jerusalem? How the individual and the community relate to the Bible? What does it mean to us? How do we read it? When do we read it? How do we relate to it? How does it influence our lives, marriages, education, indigestion, attitudes toward death, etc.

We will read writers Yehuda Amichai, Dan Pagis, Dalia Ravikovitch, Paul Celan, Kafka, Emily Dickinson, James Wright, Czeslaw Milosz, Marina Tzvetayeva, Louise Gluck, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Yehuda Halevi and others.              

947 Writing Seminar: Fiction I
** offered in 2015-16 **

The Advanced Writing Seminars focus on the planning, development, and revision necessary for the satisfactory completion of the thesis project.

948 Writing Seminar: Fiction II - Prof. Evan Fallenberg
** offered in 2015-16 **

Participants in this workshop will be expected to create new writing and revise existing texts; discuss issues of craft; read excellent writing and what writers have to say about writing; analyze and discuss work written by members of the workshop; and engage in writing assignments designed to inspire and enlighten.

950 Writing Seminar: Fiction IV -  Prof. Evan Fallenberg
(not offered in 2015-16)
951 Creative Non-Fiction - Prof. William Kolbrener
** offered in 2015-16 **

Creative Non-Fiction explores the nature of the personal essay. Beginning with a brief history of the essay form, we will together survey a wide range of different kinds of essays in the genre: including profiles of people, pilgrimages to places, explorations of the body, elaborations of ritual. We will use all of these examples from the genre -- classics from Baldwin to Didion to more recent experimental writing -- as a means to try to find our own voices in relationship to the personal essay form in the many ways in which it can be defined.

953 Creative Nonfiction III - Dr. Ilana Blumberg
(not offered in 2015-16)

In this course, we will examine models of creative nonfiction in order to shape our own writings. We will consider different ways in which memoir can be organized and use fictional and nonfictional strategies of representation in order to make our writing vivid and evocative.