English Literature Graduate Course Descriptions

Fall 2016

English 516—Studies in a Major Author: Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson
CRN 15568
Rebeccah Bechtold

“Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?” asked Emily Dickinson in 1862. This course answers no, choosing to spend the semester working with Dickinson’s poetry and that of her contemporary, the very “disgraceful” (Dickinson’s words—not mine!) Walt Whitman. Our semester will begin by building a brief understanding of early American poetic theory before turning to the poetry, manuscripts, and prose writings of Dickinson and Whitman. Throughout the semester we will work with their writing—treating it as an object with textual, oral/aural, and tactile elements—while considering its placement within the everyday landscape of nineteenth-century America. In addition to the required books listed below, we will be working extensively with electronic resources, including the digitized archives of Whitman and Dickinson.

Required Texts: Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass and Other Writings, ed. Michael Moon (Norton Critical Edition; 9780393974966); Franklin, ed., The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition (Belknap/Harvard; 9780674018242)

English 536—Writing by Women
CRN 15576
Jean Griffith

Readers have long made easy assumptions about literature by women, foremost among them being the notion that it is primarily, if not exclusively, written for and read by women. Women’s literature therefore creates a female-dominated conceptual community, the thinking goes, even as fresh-and-blood women live, for the most part, in male-dominated communities.  In American terms, this means women’s literature stands in opposition to men’s writing. While men write about individuals standing in opposition to (an oftentimes feminized or effeminate) society, women writers celebrate family, friendship, and community. How accurate are these assumptions? What kinds of communities, if any, do texts by women create, and on what basis is membership decided? How does a focus on community inform the formal aspects of a text? Under what circumstances do communal bonds start to chafe? If women really do write against the highly-prized individualism supposedly synonymous with being American, do they offer an alternative way to define national identity? Is there such a thing as an American women’s literary tradition (or traditions), and, if so, how has it changed over time? Our class will explore these and other questions as we read literature by American women from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries.

English 680—Theory and Practice in Composition
CRN 14394
Danielle Koupf

This course introduces students to theories of rhetoric and writing, major research questions in composition studies, and best practices for teaching writing in schools and colleges. We will investigate writing processes, analyze varieties and examples of student writing, and hone our writing skills by drafting, revising, and evaluating our own and others’ work. As we read significant publications in the field, we will continually consider the relationship between theory and classroom practice. Assignments will give students experience reading challenging pedagogical and theoretical texts, performing research, drafting course materials for current or future writing classes, reading instructional texts critically, and responding effectively to student writing.

English 681—Editing American English
CRN 15571
Chris Brooks

The class is misnamed and misinterpreted. As it functions now, English 681 is a preparatory workshop for GTAs that examines the nuts and bolts of the critical-expository paragraph and essay. It is intended to build confidence and reaffirm competencies in teaching a composition class. It offers an “interpretive community” approach to parts of speech, sentences and clauses, punctuation, and paragraph theory. It is boot camp for new composition instructors.

English 686—Scientific, Technical, and Professional Writing and Editing
CRN 15581
Danielle Koupf

This course introduces students in the humanities to writing and editing in scientific, technical, and professional contexts. We will analyze and create technical, scientific, and professional documents designed for a variety of audiences, both in print and online. These may include research summaries, press releases, procedures and specifications, infographics, public service announcements, fact sheets, and popular science and nature writing. Assignments will help strengthen students’ rhetorical awareness, as well as the precision, clarity, and design of their writing.

English 700—Introduction to Graduate Study
CRN 14398; 14800
Chris Brooks

This class will focus on critical method, that is, ways of interpreting literature that are meaningful to the academic community in today’s world. This requires a focus on academic writing and on locating critical sources, interpolating those sources, and creating a document suitable for sharing at a local colloquium or as a conference presentation.  For both MA and MFA students, the class will investigate questions of audience and critical reception. The mantra of the class will be that anything written creatively must be interpreted creatively.

English 704—Seminar in American Literature II
CRN 15577
Jean Griffith

Between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century, American writers increasingly abandoned the romanticism so influential to mid-nineteenth-century writing and opted instead to embrace realism--the literature of the home and the street. This course will examine the salient characteristics of American realism and its subgroups (regionalism, naturalism) in works by a range of authors, including Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Stephen Crane, and Kate Chopin, among others. We will also explore in some depth the social, political, and economic conditions in which realism developed--westward expansion, the development of a consumer culture, urbanization, immigration--and pay attention to other manifestations of “realist” representation, such as non-fiction, photography, film, and journalism.  Finally, our course will consider postmodern theory’s skepticism that realism, because of its very conventions, cannot accomplish the goal so many realist writers set for their works: to use the text to intervene in and shape its contexts.

English 722—English Drama, 1587-1642
CRN 15573
Fran Connor

A distraught father finds his son hanging from a bower and swears revenge. An old misanthrope who hates noise marries an extraordinarily meek wife (so he thinks.) An adulterous wife hires killers to 'take care' of her ambitious husband. 'Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle. She died young.' A cross-dressing swordswoman helps unite a young couple in love. A virtuous young newlywed is 'seduced' by a powerful Duke while her mother plays a game of chess. A brother and sister fall in love, because why not? Wealthy noblemen crash the Athenian economy. A grotesque servant murders a women's betrothed at her request, then blackmails her. Petruchio remarries after Kate dies; irony ensues. A family of grocers, unhappy with the play they're watching, insist on a different performance. An insatiably lustful king forces an arranged marriage on one of his subjects. 'Infinite riches in a little room.'

These micro-summaries of early modern plays can only hint at the richness of the early English drama. The confluence of a nascent commercial theater, new systems of commerce and credit, and the maturing technology and economies of print and the book trade allowed actors, writers, and other businessmen and merchants to create a vibrant theatrical culture that produced plays that continue to resonate today. Our course will survey the Elizabethan and Jacobean English drama in all of its comic, tragic, and tragicomic glory, from the rise of the public theater until its close at the dawn of the English civil war. While the primary aim of the course is to introduce you to some of the key dramatic authors, works, and books of the age, we will discuss recent studies in the material theater, book history, textual theory, and authorship studies, fields which have reopened questions about the status of the dramatic writer and the influence of dramatic collaboration on playtexts.

English 780—Advanced Theory and Practice in Composition
CRN 14401
Darren DeFrain

For teaching assistants in English. Review of new theories of rhetoric, recent research in composition, and new promising developments in composition programs in schools and colleges. Students are given practice in advanced writing problems, situations and techniques and may propose projects for further special study.