Graduate Courses, Spring 2001

English 520
Nonfiction Writing Workshop
Professor Deborah Mutnick

This course is a nonfiction writing workshop that gives students the opportunity to develop, share, and get feedback on their own writing in a workshop format. The focus this semester will be on the personal and informal essay, although students interested in pursuing other forms of nonfiction writing will be able to do so. The course is intended to provide writers with new approaches to nonfiction writing, such as the use of autobiography to anchor criticism and of literary techniques like dialogue and point of view to write about real places, people, and events. Students will benefit from a group of readers with different perspectives, close readings of their work, and constructive criticism.

At the beginning of the semester, we will read a variety of personal, informal, and autocritical writing. A tentative reading list includes essays by Michel de Montaigne, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, James Baldwin, John Edgar Wideman, Sara Suleri, Richard Rodriguez, Adrienne Rich, Phillip Lopate, Vivian Gornick, Alice Walker, Peggy Phelan, Michael Dorris, and Barbara Kingsolver. The emphasis, however, will be on students' own writing, which will be discussed each week in workshops. Students will keep a course journal on the readings and their own writing process, and produce three short (4-6 page) essays and one longer (15-20 page) essay or the equivalent.

English 524: Fiction Writing Workshop
Professor Lewis Warsh

This workshop explores both the art and the craft of fiction writing. Frequent writing assignments and exercises will concentrate on the conventions of fiction—description, dialogue, and characterization—as well as more experimental possibilities such as fragmentation and shifting point of view. Focus will be on the ways autobiography overlaps with fiction and how the past is fictionalized as a way of keeping it alive. Among the models we will look at are the stories and novels by Marguerite Duras, Don DeLillo, Lydia Davis and James Ellroy. Much of the workshop time will be spent reading and discussing student work.

English 579: Jane Austen Seminar
Professor David Toise

This course will focus on one of the most popular figures in the English literary canon, Jane Austen. Her audiences have taken pleasure in prose such as the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of wife." As this sentence suggests, readers are attracted to Austen both for likeable heroines who make happy marriages and because of a strategic humor that asks us to question the seemingly conventional pleasures that her novels provide. The course will focus on Lady Susan, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion but may include some of Austen's other writings. In addition, we will screen film adaptations of Austen's works, from Clueless, an updated version ofEmma set in a Beverly Hills High School, to Persuasion, a faithful rendering of the original novel set in its original period. As we read, we will also examine our own responses and a diverse set of questions raised by Austen scholars addressing Austen's relation to: politics and colonialism; contemporary feminism; sexuality; irony and wit; social class and the role of money; and the history of the novel. 

English 620:  Theories of Teaching Writing/Rhetorical Theory
Professor David Tietge

Throughout the course of the twentieth century, rhetoric has undergone some sweeping and pioneering changes. Whereas the traditional view of rhetoric was based primarily on the writings of figures like Aristotle and Cicero, who both saw rhetoric as a technique for public persuasion and ethical discourse in the larger framework of the city-state---the "good man speaking well"---modern rhetorical theorists realized that rhetoric was far more encompassing as a descriptive apparatus in all spheres of human communication.  As a field of metadiscourse (language used to talk about language), modern rhetoric acknowledges that we are, in the words of Kenneth Burke, "symbol using and misusing animals," which raises this question: When are we, as communicative beings, using rhetoric? What assumptions, preconditions, and expectations does our rhetoric reflect? What are the connections between rhetoric, power, and influence? When is language a-rhetorical?  Can it be? These are questions we will explore in this course using rhetoricians like Kenneth Burke, I. A. Richards, and Claim Perelman, to name a few.

We will also explore how barriers between spoken and written forms of rhetoric have been largely broken down. Whereas rhetoric was once viewed as a function of verbal interchange, we now extend many of its lessons to the written word. We will be especially interested in studying and applying contemporary rhetorical theories to composition classrooms so that students might gain a deeper understanding of the richness and dangers of language in their own written expression.

English 634:  Modern Drama
Professor Joan Templeton

This course studies major playwrights of modern drama, including Ibsen, Strindberg, Brecht, Williams, and Beckett. Videos, performance and production of the texts will be emphasized as well as the texts themselves.

English 636: Postcolonial Literature & Theory
Professor Huma Ibrahim

This seminar on postcolonial literature and theory will be an examination of the crucial years of the changes that took place on the imperialistic map of Africa and Asia and the issues that related to this dynamic change.  These changes occurred because of nationalist movements that demanded the ouster of imperialist governments, mainly British and French, but also some Portuguese, Italian and Spanish. The people and the movements that represented them wanted autonomy and self-government in these geographical areas. In large part they were successful in this endeavor. However with the new sorts of world economics, Africa and Asia continued to be, as Walter Rodney would say, "underdeveloped."

The literature and theory we are going to read roughly covers the last fifty years of the last century. This course will deal with theories that postcolonial scholars have fostered and developed in order to understand the whole experience of colonialism and its aftermath as well as the literature that engages with those problems. We will read literature specifically from Africa, Western and Southern Africa in particular, as well as literature from Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka and simultaneously look at the theory that engages with that literature as well as larger problems of the developing world. For the theory I will probably assign one of a few postcolonial readers in existence and the literature will cover the geographic areas already mentioned.      

English 650: Gender and Sexuality in Medieval Literature
Professor Sealy Gilles

This seminar explores the formation of masculine and feminine identities in the literature of the Middle Ages. The focus is on Western Europe and England, with brief forays into the Arabic tradition. All texts will be read in modern translations; the course is designed for the non-specialist. Medieval romances, folk tales, and love lyrics have shaped our ideas of what it is to be a man or a woman and our attitudes towards sexuality. The course examines those notions about who we are and how we relate to others as they are embodied in texts from the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries. We shall look closely at bonds between men (brotherhood, king and vassal, father and son) and between women (sisterhood, mother and daughter, the hag and the young woman), as well as at the nature of love and sexual passion. The cultural construction of male heroism and of the lady will be particular topics of concern, but we will also be reading texts in which men are the objects of desire and women the aggressors, as well as poems that express same-sex desire. Texts include Tristan and Isolde, the laisof Marie de France, Dante's Vita nuova, the Romance of the Rose (excerpts), Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (excerpts), and a wide selection of lyric poetry.

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