Graduate Courses, Spring 2008

Eng. 504: Traditions & Lineages
Professor John High
Tuesdays, 4:10 - 6:00 pm

Where do our literary traditions come from, and how do they affect the ways, consciously or unconsciously, we approach our own creative work? Who gave us our names and do we have to accept them? While the conventions of popular culture imitate and mimic the past, art is constantly reinventing itself and simultaneously building upon the literary traditions that inform who we become as writers. We have choices. Our goal in this course will be to make the unfamiliar familiar, to uncover the sources and lineages of our own art by making the past real and practical for the books we are writing in the 21st Century. We will do close readings of primal poetries and narratives and examine the crossroads as well as the connections between oral and written language and the so-called primitive and postmodern while looking at origins and naming as method and technique in our own writing. We will explore the use of visions and spells, changes and repetitions, and verbal invention in ancient to contemporary texts from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Near East, Oceania, and the Americas. At the core of the course will be the question of how we can expand upon the techniques and craft of our own poems and stories. Writers will include those from the Kato Indian to the Bushman and Navajo, the Tibetan and Aztec, the Eskimo and Egyptian up to the contemporary poets and fiction writers who have played off these traditions and lineages and become models for 20th/21st Century avant-garde movements.

A final chapbook, consisting of all your own new writing, is due at the end of the semester. We will also schedule a part and give a reading in the reading series hosted by the English Department's MFA in Creative Writing Program.

Eng. 520: Nonfiction Writing Workshop
Professor Deborah Mutnick
Wednesdays, 4:10 - 6:00 pm

This nonfiction writing workshop is designed to give you the opportunity to experiment with creative nonfiction (the nonfiction essay infused by literary techniques and devices) through the lens of testimony. The focus of the course is on place, history, and testimony, and how they intertwine in writing inspired by political struggle and resistance. Originating in Latin American countries among people who were targets of harsh political repression, testimonio blends history and literature to give voice to historical experience from a grassroots, eyewitness perspective. What does it mean to "speak truth to power"? What happens when people challenge "official histories"? From whose perspective is most history told? What stories are marginalized, silenced, erased? And what sort of writing best enables those stories to be heard?

A central course text is Edwidge Danticat's new book, Brother, I'm Dying, a memoir about her father and uncle, one a Haitian immigrant in New York City, the other a minister who stayed in Haiti until he was forced at 81 years of age to evacuate in ill health, detained by U.S. Customs, and died in a prison in Florida. Other texts we may read include testimony by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina and participants in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, as well as works by Audre Lorde, Terry Tempest Williams, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Eduardo Galeano, James Baldwin, and Susan Griffin, Alessandro Portelli, John Beverly, George Yudice, and Frederick Jameson. The readings serve to model, inspire, and interrogate first and third person narratives that situate individual experience in broad socio-historical contexts.

In addition to creative nonfiction techniques and strategies, the course will incorporate oral history, story circles, and other interactive methods to gather materials. Students will be encouraged, though not required, to produce multi-modal work integrating text and images. The emphasis of the class is on student writing, which will be discussed at least twice in workshop during the semester. You will be required to complete a minimum of three 5-7-page essays and a 4-6-page reflective essay in which you situate your own writing in relation to the texts and traditions we study.

English 523: Fiction Writing Workshop
Creating Characters: Their Lives, Their Fictions
Professor Jessica Hagedorn
Wednesdays, 6:10 - 8:00 pm

The fiction writing workshop is designed to expose student writers to challenging critical responses to their work. We will explore strategies for the development of characters: their sources, their evolutions and the challenges of making them fantastic, credible and complex. How do we give characters distinct positions in a story that develop perspective and purpose? Be prepared for weekly writing and rewriting assignments; you will be asked to present excerpts from your novels-in-progress or short stories for class discussion. The work of writers as varied as Roberto Bolaño, Jorge Luis Borges, Denis Johnson, Lydia Davis, Junot Diaz, Ha Jin, Flannery O'Connor and others will be read and examined.

Jessica Hagedorn, who is the Parsons Family Professor of Creative Writing at Long Island University in Brooklyn, was born and raised in the Philippines and came to the United States in her early teens. Her novels include Dream JungleThe Gangster Of Love, which was nominated for the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and Dogeaters, which was nominated for a National Book Award. 

Hagedorn is also the author of Danger And Beauty, a collection of poetry and prose, and the editor ofCharlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction and Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home In The World. Her poetry, plays and prose have been anthologized widely.

Recent work in theatre include the musical play, Most Wanted, in collaboration with composer Mark Bennett and director Michael Greif, at the La Jolla Playhouse; Fe In The Desert and Stairway To Heavenfor Campo Santo in San Francisco, and the stage adaptation of Dogeaters, which was presented at La Jolla Playhouse and at the NYSF/Public Theater (director: Michael Greif); at SIPA Performance Space in Los Angeles and at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City (director: Jon Lawrence Rivera).

Upcoming theatre projects: The 2007 Manila premiere of Dogeaters, directed by Bobby Garcia; and Three Vampires, a multimedia collaboration with director Ping Chong.

Honors and prizes include a 2006 Lucille Lortel Playwrights' Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fiction Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, an NEA-TCG Playwriting Residency Fellowship, as well as fellowships from the Sundance Playwrights' Lab and the Sundance Screenwriters' Lab.

Hagedorn has taught in the MFA Creative Writing Programs at Columbia University and New York University, and at the Yale School Of Drama. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Jerome Foundation, the Board of Trustees of PEN, the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation, the Advisory Board of the Asian American Writers' Workshop, the Advisory Board of Amerasia Journal at UCLA, and on the Editorial Board of Random House's Modern Library.

English 524: Poetry Writing Workshop / Eros and Loss
Professor Akilah Oliver
Thursdays, 6:10 - 8:00 pm

Students will work on a long, serial poem throughout the semester to investigate the nature of Eros and loss. Working from these two dual fields or sites, students will construct a serial poem of approximately 20-25 pages, or a series of related poems, which engage the topic from multiple perspectives. Students will be asked to write to, from and around critical questions to frame a poetic inquiry that steps beyond a sentimental or self-indulgent notion of the subjects. We will aim to enter into a poetic investigation that engages "new" forms and challenges the poet's notions of "voice".

Required course readings will include contemporary poets who investigate Eros and loss from differing subject positions, including Eleni Sikelianos, Yusef Komunyakaa, Kristen Prevallet, and Alice Notley. Roland Barthes' A Lover's Discourse will serve as our primary critical reading source.

Akilah Oliver is a poet. Her most recent chapbooks are The Putterer's Notebook (Belladonna Press, 2006), a(A)ugust (Portable Labs at Yo-Yo Press, 2007), and An Arriving Guard of Angels Thusly Coming to Greet (Farfalla, McMillan & Parrish, 2004). She is also the author of the she said dialogues: flesh memory (Smokeproof / Erudite Fangs, 1999), a book of experimental prose poetry honored by the PEN American Center's "Open Book" award. She has been artist in residence at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Los Angeles, and has received grants from the California Arts Council, The Flintridge Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. She has taught at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Naropa University. She is currently core faculty at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics' Summer Writing Program at Naropa University. She lives in Brooklyn.

English 579: Toni Morrison
Professor Carol Allen
Tuesdays, 6:10 - 8:00 pm

Toni Morrison's writing career has spanned over thirty-five years, but the historical net for her fiction and prose has covered from slavery to the contemporary period. She is one of the foremost chroniclers of American history, culture and social formations in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Often, her texts are preoccupied with geography (a sense of place), language, and the physical limitations of a given age, so we will follow her lead and also concentrate on place, word (or sound), and time. Our focus will be on Morrison's novels: The Bluest EyeSulaSong of Solomon, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, and Love, but we'll give ample attention to her criticism and essays: Playing in the Dark and other pieces. Supplemental material includes criticism on Morrison's work and a sampling of texts by writers that have highly influenced her: Faulkner, Brooks, perhaps Ellison and Twain. Requirements include a short paper, final project, and at least one oral report.

English 580: Modern Irish Literature / James Joyce's Ulysses
Professor Maria McGarrity
Mondays, 6:10 - 8:00 pm

During this term, we will devote ourselves to the study of James Joyce's Ulysses. We will examine Joyce's literary inheritance and influence, specifically invoking the enduring myth of the wanderer in the alienated modern metropolis, as we determine how Joyce exploded conventional novelistic boundaries and reshaped the expectations of the common reader. Joyce's Ulysses has had a profound impact on Irish, Modern, and World literature. We won't subscribe to one model of the novel or a singular conceptual paradigm to organize the book but rather will attend to critical and theoretical issues as they become relevant. Through the close reading of the novel and the highlighting of specific passages, we will follow Bloom, Stephen, and Molly through their Dublin wanderings and discern why this novel continues to capture the imagination.

Requirements: One short paper explicating assigned passages, a class presentation on a critical article, a final class presentation your research paper, and a final research paper.

Required Texts: course reader (to be distributed); Blamires, The New Bloomsday Book: a Guide toUlysses; Brooker, Joyce Critics: Transitions in Reading and Culture; Gifford and Seidman, Allusions in Ulysses; Joyce, Ulysses: the Corrected Text, Gabler et al., eds.

This course is cross-listed with English 170.

English 620: Theory of Rhetoric & Teaching of Writing
Professor Harriet Malinowitz
Mondays, 4:10 - 6:00 pm

To write involves making rhetorical choices, and rhetorical theory provides a crucial foundation upon which teachers of writing can build informed pedagogies. In this course we will examine rhetorical theories that can help us to understand and teach persuasive and analytic writing as it manifests itself in the 21st century. After beginning with the ancient rhetorics of Aristotle and the Sophists, we will quickly jump ahead to the twentieth century to study the work of Kenneth Burke, Michel Foucault, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Geneva Smitherman, Paulo Freire, Stephen Toulmin, Edward Bernays, Jacques Ellul, Edward Schiappa, and others. Some of the questions we will explore are: What sorts of persuasive techniques have rhetoricians proposed? What's the difference (if any) between persuasion and propaganda? When does persuasion amount to sneaky manipulation and when does it constitute ethical discourse? How can we teach students (and ourselves) to spot the former and produce the latter? What is "truth," and how do we present "truthful" claims in academic and public writing? What is meant by terms such as "objectivity" and "bias"? What is the role of social context in individuals' acts of construing and constructing knowledge? Why are rhetorical strategies—for instance; definition, classification, cause and effect-—important? How do they relate to the ways we make meaning as individuals and as a society in realms such as law, public policy, medicine, education, international relations, communication between different social groups, our treatment of the environment, and culture? Should these rhetorical strategies be taught in the writing class? How? Each student will make a presentation to the class on one of the theories we read, suggesting questions for investigation and potential pedagogical applications. There will also be a 10-page paper which seeks to address a theoretical question of the student's choosing.

English 636: Postcolonial Literature & Theory
Professor Jonathan Haynes
Thursdays, 4:10 - 6:00 pm

Nearly all of the world's cultures have been deeply marked by the experience of colonialism, whether as colonizers or colonized; the aftereffects are so important that the literatures of most of the world's population are described (in Western universities, at least) as "postcolonial." This course will explore some of the imaginative landmarks and theoretical concepts that have shaped thinking about colonialism and its consequences for contemporary global culture. We will begin with Shakespeare's The Tempest, which lays out the mythology of colonialism; and then turn to anti-colonial resistance, revolt, and revolution as formulated by the Caribbean and African writers Aimé Césaire, Leopold Senghor, and Frantz Fanon. More recently, the fierce dualisms of colonialism and the struggles against it have been supplemented by more nuanced concepts of hybridity, creolization, and syncretism; women, who were often ignored or treated as objects, have made their voices heard; and popular culture has attracted more attention. We will trace these shifts in several theoretical texts and in two big novels from the Indian subcontinent, Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses and Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things.

English 700: Practicum in the Teaching of Writing
Professor Donald McCrary
Thursdays, 6:10 - 8:00 pm

This course prepares graduate English students to teach in the LIU/Brooklyn Writing Program by examining the theories and practices that guide the program, including social constructionism, process writing, portfolio assessment, and thematic course design and applying those theories and practices to the creation of a viable English 16 syllabus. In addition, the course will explore managing the classroom, creating/integrating reading and writing assignments, responding to student texts, teaching grammar, organizing/facilitating teacher-student conferences, and addressing the linguistic issues of a multicultural student population.

Possible texts for the course include Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts by Anthony Petrosky and David Batholomae, The St. Martin's Guide to Teaching Writing by Cheryl Glenn et al., and Portfolio Assessment in the Reading and Writing Classroom by Robert J. Tierney, Mark A. Carter, and Laura E. Desai.

English 707: Methods in Research & Criticism
Professor Lewis Warsh
Tuesdays, 6:10 - 8:00 pm

Let's begin with Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud—two 19th Century French poets. Baudelaire and Rimbaud were two of the main precursors to everything that happened in Western poetry in the 20th century. We're going to use our theoretical readings to look at their poetry and its reception, as well as all the strands that developed out of their work. Besides these poets, we're going to read Walter Benjamin's study of Baudelaire, The Writer of Modern Life, and other essays by Benjamin, as well as many short essays by numerous poets and theorists. We're going to start off with Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents, and look closely at Pierre Bourdieu's The Field of Cultural ProductionThe Human Condition by Hannah Arendt, and The Shape of Time by George Kubler.

I want to test these two methods of research: the direct, more generic approach, where we go head on at something, and find out everything about our subject; and the indirect approach, where everything unrelated to the subject has the potential to count for something, The indirect approach is tricky, but it's what gives the individual stamp on an act of research. As a way of doing this, we're going to study the ways of making connections between different branches of knowledge, and look for relationships that didn't exist before. The field is endless. Let's try to do as much as we can, and build something we can use for the future.

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