Studies in American Literature
Robert Frost and Edna St Vincent Millay
Summer Session 1
Dr. Jonathan Barron
*Fulfills American literature post 1865
In this class, we’ll be reading two of the most popular poets from the first half of the 20th century. We’ll be asking why they were so popular, and we’ll be discovering that they may not have been all that different. It may seem like Millay, one of the first poets to advocate for women’s rights, a radical devoted to left and liberal social causes, would have little to do with Frost, a well-established poet old enough to be her father; yet this class will bring these two poets together as equally rebellious with regard to their approach to poetry. By reading them together, this class will investigate how beginning in the 1910s their break with literary conventions helped recreate and reimagine what American literature and poetry would become today.
We shall be reading their collected poetry as well as various scholarship about their work. A short paper and a research paper will be required in addition to written responses in the course of the class.
Women in the Country and the City
Dr. Nicolle Jordan
*Fulfills British literature to 1800
How does female identity vary depending on whether it is depicted in a rural or urban setting? Is one setting more congenial to the heroine—or the woman writer—than another? How does a woman’s experience of the country and/or the city vary depending upon her social status? In this course we will read British poetry, closet drama, novels, and letters that imagine female characters in an array of settings, from the bucolic English countryside, to the bustling social season of London, to the foreign cityscapes of Constantinople. We will explore whether a woman’s value, and her values, change depending on the familiarity or strangeness of her surroundings. Authors may include Margaret Cavendish, Jane Barker, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Sarah Scott, Fanny Burney, Jane Austen, Christina Rossetti, and Virginia Woolf.
Split-level class: As a 400-level undergraduate course that is split with a 500-level graduate course, ENG 468/568 provides unique opportunities for two different constituencies. Undergraduates will learn from their more advanced colleagues and, occasionally, play the role of the student for these emerging scholars. Meanwhile, graduate students will maximize both their scholarly and professional development, in part by doing critical reading (in addition to materials assigned to undergraduates) and meeting separately as a group with Dr. Jordan (approximately every two weeks). Critical readings will focus on the following questions: what narrative of women’s literary history emerges from our reading list, with its focus on the country/city binary? How is women’s literary history a form of feminist criticism, and how does it differ from other approaches to feminist scholarship (and from literary history tout court)? What is excluded from women’s literary history, and with what consequences? What kinds of biases or faulty assumptions does it encourage? Graduate students will delve into one or more of these questions in the final paper.
Novel Art: Contemporary Ekphrastic Fiction
Dr. Monika Gehlawat
*Fulfills American literature post 1865
Ekphrasis occurs when one art form explicitly invokes and responds to another, paying homage but also using aesthetic influence to create a new meditation on what art practice can do. Inherently interdisciplinary and yet medium-bound, ekphrastic art explores what can be learned from other creative disciplines to motivate new experimentation, evolve, and even transform meaning using a new genre. This class will study ekphrasis as it occurs (or doesn’t) in contemporary fiction that demonstrates an abiding interest in aesthetic engagement. We will consider why certain contemporary novelists spend so much time narrating the experience of meditating on art, how they use it to interrogate political and social concerns, and finally, how in doing so, they demonstrate the relationship between formal and ethical imperatives. Among others, we will read Teju Cole, Lauren Groff, Rachel Kushner, Cesar Aira, Ben Lerner, and Michael Frayn. Alongside literature, there will be significant engagement with painting, film, and music, both contemporary and historical, as it pertains to the fiction we read.
Readings in Contemporary Poetry
Dr. Angela Ball
*Fulfills creative writing elective
POETS OF THE NEW YORK SCHOOL
This course will explore the work of the principal poets of the New York School --Ashbery, Koch, O’Hara, and Schuyler (along with the work of Barbara Guest, originally associated with the New York School but later choosing to ally herself with West Coast American poets)—and the aesthetic surrounding them, a notion that poetry should be brisk, free of the rigor mortis of the falsely tragic; it should be various, registering art from comics to opera and inventing experience more than soberly recording it.
Valley Voices, USM New York School Symposium Issue, edited by Angela Ball (copies provided).
John Ashbery: The Mooring of Starting Out
Other Traditions (Oxford Lectures in Poetry)
Kenneth Koch: Selected Poems, Library of America Edition
Frank O’Hara: Selected Poems
James Schulyer: Selected Poems
David Lehman: The Last Avant-Garde
Critical Reading and Methods
Dr. Alexandra Valint
*Required of MA in literature, PhD in literature, & PhD in creative writing
This course prepares you to do literary criticism and research at the graduate level. The course is organized around several literary texts. We will closely read and analyze these texts and then read multiple pieces of scholarship about each literary text, practicing how to read, respond to, and build on such scholarship. Additionally, we will review several theoretical approaches to literature, including narratology, feminism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and others. During the course, you will work towards producing an original, research-driven, and theoretically informed paper on one of the course's central texts.
Dr. Ery Shin
*Fulfills theory requirement
An introduction to queer theory, this course surveys both the rise of this field as a formal pursuit as well as its constitutive strands. An overview of the subject’s broader political origins will frame the following concerns: what does queerness mean, how does one queer things, and how has our understanding of the queer as both a noun and verb evolved over time?
Practicum in the Theory and Teaching of Composition
Dr. Shane Wood
*Required of all instructors in their first semester of teaching
This course surveys major theories and practices in the teaching of writing. One of the primary goals of this course is to help teachers better understand composition practices and develop a pedagogical identity that will lead to successful writing classes. This course will rely on critical examination and reflection as we discuss lesson planning, scaffolding activities, opportunities and challenges of classroom teaching, and pedagogical strategies. Through this class, you will be able to explain to your students, peers, future employers, and colleagues why you have chosen specific pedagogies and practices to support student learning and engagement.
ENG 721 (H001)
Seminar in Fiction Writing
Dr. Joshua Bernstein
“I would venture to guess,” wrote Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own (1929), “that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” Ninety-one years later, we’ll ask what kinds of pressures and expectations women face in writing fiction and whether, as Woolf would see it, the situation for them has changed. We’ll survey a range of contemporary women writers, representing a variety of cultures and backgrounds, as well as gender dynamics, and look at the strategies and styles they employ in crafting stories. Since ours is a workshop primarily, our interest will be in the authorial choices they make and in building off their writings to augment our own. You can expect to come away from this workshop with a better grasp of mechanics in fiction writing, from narrative and pacing to dialogue and setting, as well as, hopefully, a better appreciation for what’s being done in current writing. Both long and short-form works are encouraged, as are hybrid approaches.
Selected works by Becky Hagenston, Dana Johnson, Patricia Engel, Bonnie Nadzam, Amina Gautier, Sana Krasikov, Lisa Ko, and Anne Valente.
ENG 721 (H002)
Seminar in Fiction Writing
Dr. Olivia Clare
This semester, we'll experiment with our workshopping methods. For the first round, we'll have a traditional workshop. I invite you to turn in something you feel is "finished" or nearly so. In the second round, we will do away with traditional workshop, and I'll invite you to turn in a drafty draft along with a list of questions and remarks. This second workshop will be a conversation between author and peers.
Stories and novel excerpts are welcome.
Readings will be distributed in class and will include work by:
Joy Williams, Paul Yoon, Gary Lutz, Yiyun Li, Rumena Bužarovska, and Justin Torres
Seminar in Poetry Writing
Dr. Adam Clay
For ENG 722 in Fall 2020, we’ll be writing and discussing poems that incorporate archives. This definition of “archives” is meant to include both personal, historical, and institutional documents. We’ll be completing prompts based on assigned texts and critiquing student work written through this archival lens. Potential texts for the course: Anne Carson’s Nox, Tyehimba Jess’ Olio, and Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas.
Seminar in Children’s and Young Adult Literature
Childhood Studies and Children’s Literature & Culture
Dr. Eric Tribunella
*Fulfills non-traditional requirement
The course will examine children’s literature and culture during the Golden Age, roughly the period between 1850 and WWI, through the lens of Childhood Studies. Childhood Studies represents an interdisciplinary approach to childhood "as a social institution, cultural representation, discourse, and practice"(Woodhead 19). It considers the ways different disciplines—history, sociology, psychology, criminology, literary studies, etc.—understand children and childhood, and it can help literature scholars think about literary works in the context of the history of childhood and children’s culture more broadly. It shares methodological approaches with cultural studies and integrates insights from diverse disciplines in the understanding of literary texts. We will read an introduction to Childhood Studies and pair a selection of essays that either discuss the field or implement its practices alongside a set of literary works that define the first Golden Age of children’s literature. We will consider the following questions: What is Childhood Studies? How can it be put in dialogue with the study of literary and cultural artefacts of childhood? What defines childhood and children’s literature/culture? What is the relationship of children’s literature to other forms of children’s culture?
Seminar in Medieval Literature
“Middle English Poetry: Lovers, Fighters, and Dreamers”
Dr. Leah Parker
*Fulfills British literature to 1800
What was English poetry like before Shakespeare? Before the printing press? Before English was even the Present-Day English language?
Students taking this seminar will explore the poetic forms of Middle English from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, including Arthurian romance, dream visions, debate poems (often between birds!), lyrics, and drama. We will intentionally practice reading and pronouncing Middle English, so that students have the confidence to both research and teach literature from this period of English literary history. We will survey and analyze a wide range of Middle English verse, including selections from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as well as his Troilus and Criseyde, dream visions, and shorter poems. Beyond Chaucer, we will also read poems by Langland, Gower, Hoccleve, Lydgate, Henryson, the Pearl-poet, and anonymous poems including Sir Orfeo, The Owl and the Nightingale, early English drama, and short Middle English lyrics. The goal of the course will not only be to practice creating compelling literary analysis of Middle English verse forms—many of which, like blank verse in iambic pentameter, have been immensely influential for centuries—but also to prepare graduate students to teach Middle English literature, whether as an area of specialty or as part of broader survey courses.
Seminar in Modern British Literature
Dr. Charles Sumner
*Fulfills British literature post 1800
This course will examine major figures of British modernist literature, including Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, Rebecca West, and Jean Rhys. We will round out the semester with a look at contemporary literature from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, including works by Ian Banks, Patrick McCabe, and Niall Griffiths, respectively.