School of Humanities
English Graduate Course Descriptions
Studies in American Literature II
Dr. Adam Clay
MWF 8:00 - 11:15AM, Summer I
** fulfills American post-1865 requirement
This course will consider American poets from the period of modernism, including William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, H.D., Hart Crane, and others. We’ll be particularly interested in the interplay between ideas and things, to borrow a phrase from Williams, and initially discuss poems from Dickinson and Whitman to develop a framework for the poets that follow them. This course will especially benefit students preparing for comprehensive exams, though all are welcome. Students will submit shorter response papers each week and a longer seminar paper at the end of the term.
Subterranean Homesick Blues: Studies in Contemporary Literature
Dr. Monika Gehlawat
M 2:30 - 5:15PM
** fulfills American post-1865 requirement
This seminar will begin with a periodizing framework that situates 20th century modernism in relation to the late modernism of the postwar period, followed by high postmodernism, and the various developments of contemporary literature leading up to the post-millennial period. We will consider literature in relation to the evolving and correspondent art movements of the postwar period, including Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism, and other genres like earthworks and performance art. Among others, we will read Paul Bowles, Frank O’Hara, Ann Beattie, Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Robert Creeley, Christopher Isherwood, Grace Paley, Elena Ferrante, Jenny Offill, and Teju Cole.
Readings in Poetry
Dr. Michael Aderibigbe
W 6:00 - 9:00PM
** fulfills creative writing elective requirement, only open to CW students
In ENG 626, students will study contemporary poetry books. We will specifically focus on how these texts utilize different elements of poetry. Over the semester, students will write one paper and brief weekly responses. Students will also write original poems that employ poetic elements with intentionality. Some of the writers we will read include Robert Bly, Anne Sexton, Wanda Coleman, Terrance Hayes, Natasha Trethewey, Kwame Dawes, Kimiko Hahn, Jericho Brown, Paul Muldoon, and Agha Shahid Ali.
Critical Reading and Methods
Dr. Alexandra Valint
TH 2:30 - 5:15PM
** required for MA in lit, PhD in lit, PhD in CW
This course prepares you to do literary analysis and research at the graduate level.
Our focus will be on learning and practicing various ways of approaching texts such
as close attention to language and form; historical, biographical, and publishing
contexts; and a range of theoretical lenses. We will also practice how to read, respond
to, and build on critical scholarship about literature. The major assignment is an
original, research-driven, and theoretically informed essay on one of the course’s
The Life of the Author--New Biographical Criticism and Theory
Dr. Eric Tribunella
TH 2:30 - 5:15PM
** fulfills theory requirement
British author Beverley Nichols wrote in 1920 that “nowadays fiction is becoming more and more biography, with the result that biography is to-day the only province of literature where we can be quite certain that we are soaring in the realms of pure imagination.” The New Critics of the mid-twentieth century rejected the practice of reading literature through and for the biography of its author, and postmodern theorists went a step further by pronouncing the death of the author. However, as historicist approaches have become increasingly dominant in the post-theory era, “New Biographical Criticism” has been offered as a more theoretically informed approach to using biographical contexts to analyze literary texts, and the lives of authors have been especially important in feminist, queer, and African American literary criticism. In this course, we will review the theoretical debates surrounding the role of author biography in literary analysis and read several biographies in order to practice New Biographical Criticism as an historicist approach to literature. Readings will include essays by Wimsatt & Beardsley, Barthes, and Foucault and selections from Michael Lackey’s Biographical Fiction: A Reader, George Hoffmann’s The New Biographical Criticism, and William Epstein’s Contesting the Subject: Essays in the Postmodern Theory and Practice of Biography and Biographical Criticism.
Studies in American Literature II: The South and Film
Dr. Kate Cochran
M 6:00 - 9:00PM
** fulfills American post-1865 requirement
“Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it will become possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere.”
–Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer (1961)
This course is designed to provide insight into how the South has been portrayed in American film and literature in the 20th and 21st centuries, from one of its first filmic appearances in The Birth of a Nation to the recent Minari, and its correspondence in fiction, from Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men to Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!. We will be supplementing our viewing and discussions of primary movies and literature with a variety of clips from other films, critical articles, and brief, focused lectures. The course is arranged by topic, rather than chronologically, and examines some of the major tropes in movies about the South. In addition to completing readings and viewing films, students will be expected to maintain a reading journal, participate in class discussion, and craft a well-researched seminar essay.
Theory of Teaching Composition
M/W 11:00 - 12:15AM
** required for new instructors
Seminar in Modern World Literature
Dr. Charles Sumner
TH 6:00 - 9:00PM
** fulfills American post-1865 or British post-1800 requirements
This course will examine modernist art and literary movements of America, Britain, and Continental Europe. We will treat major art movements including Cubism, Vorticism, and Futurism, and we will consider the challenges that advances in the visual arts posed for such writers as F. T. Marinetti, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Kay Boyle, Mary Butts, and Ernest Hemingway.
Seminar in Fiction Writing
Dr. Joshua Bernstein
W 2:30 - 5:15PM
** fulfills fiction workshop
In Immediacy, or The Style of Too Late Capitalism, literary theorist Anna Kornbluh traces the rise of first-person perspectives in fiction. Citing data, she explains that “for most of its 300-year existence, third person has been the norm for the anglophone novel. Now, a serious formal mutation is underway, with first person becoming the dominant.” She offers a host of theoretical explanations, mostly connected to capitalism and the consolidation of markets, as she sees it. Our purpose in this workshop isn’t theory. But we’ll ask what’s at stake in the sudden rise of first-person and ask when or how a novelist or fiction writer might do well to buck the trend. To that end, we’ll read a classic Victorian novel, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, and put it in conversation with several similarly themed contemporary works, including Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and shorter pieces by Becky Hagenston, Dana Johnson, Cris Mazza, and Sana Krasikov, to name a few. From a craft standpoint, we’ll ask what, if anything, a first-person narrative needs to do, what sort of expectations it places upon the reader (and writer), and what its limitations and advantages might be in writing fiction.
Graduate Poetry Workshop: The Five Obstructions
Dr. Angela Ball
W 2:30 - 5:15PM
** fulfills poetry workshop requirement
This workshop has its source in Lars von Trier’s 2003 film, The Five Obstructions, in which von Trier asks his mentor, director Jorgen Leth, to remake his 1967 short film, The Perfect Human in accordance with various crippling stipulations, or “obstructions,” such as “all frame lengths the same,” “set it in the worst place in the world,” etc. In the workshop version, the student submits his or her poem, which is commented on by the first respondent, also known as the “vile obstructionist,” then by the group as a whole. At the end of the discussion, the obstructionist provides the poet with one or more obstructions which he or she must use in the revision. We will workshop new poems by everyone each week, and everyone will serve as Vile Obstructionist each week. The semester will end with a reading of the obstructed poems.
Seminar in 18th-Century British Literature: On the River: Riparian Landscapes in British Literature
Dr. Nicolle Jordan
T 2:30 - 5:15PM
** fulfills British pre-1800 requirement
From the Thames to the Congo, rivers in British literature suggest important links between nation and nature. This is especially true for an island nation such as Britain, whose imperial stature was aided in no small part by its mastery of inland and oceanic waterways. This course explores rivers as both agents of nationhood and sites for negotiating national and regional identity. How do rivers aid or determine human activity, and vice versa? How does a provincial river like George Eliot’s fictional Floss differ from an urban behemoth like the Thames, and with what consequences for the landscape and its people? More broadly, what might a riparian—i.e., riverbank—literary criticism look like? Authors include Alexander Pope, George Eliot, and Joseph Conrad.
Seminar in American Literature I: Reading Poe
Dr. Craig Carey
W 6:00 - 9:00PM
** fulfills American pre-1865 requirement
This seminar is devoted to the literature and critical reception of Edgar Allan Poe. How do we read Poe today and how have others read him in the past? What might it look like to catch Poe and his readers in the act of reading itself, ensnared by the uncanny effects of literature, theory, history, criticism, and popular culture?
We will practice the art of reading Poe’s work, reading critics reading Poe’s work, and reading across different historical methods of criticism. On one level, this will include reading Poe’s body of work directly by exhuming a corpus that consists of poems, stories, sketches, a novel, reviews, and essays, splintered across genres including Gothic fiction, horror, adventure, science fiction, mystery, hoax, detective fiction, cosmology, criticism, and ecohorror. It will also include reading Poe in conversation with his contemporaries, specifically Emerson and Hawthorne. On another level, it will include reading some of the most famous readings and adaptations of Poe by other writers, theorists, and scholars. At this scale, we’ll read selected fiction by Jules Verne, Ambrose Bierce, and H.P. Lovecraft; French critics and symbolist poets like Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Valéry; essays by Walter Benjamin and T.S. Eliot; psychoanalytical and deconstructive readings of Poe by Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida; Toni Morrison’s influential reading of Poe’s racialized blackness; Meredith McGill’s materialist reading of Poe in the “culture of reprinting”; political readings of Poe in the context of capitalism and popular culture; and contemporary works inspired by Poe including Mat Johnson’s Pym: A Novel and Mike Flanagan’s miniseries The Fall of the House of Usher. Finally, we’ll also consider Poe’s relevance for understanding the uncanny horrors of Generative AI, stable diffusion, and new techniques for image, text, and sound composition/decomposition.
Throughout our reading, the seminar will explore how Poe and his critics challenge the premise of Henry James’s assertion that “an enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection” and “that to take him with more than a certain degree of seriousness is to lack seriousness one’s self.” Inspired by the history of reading and criticism, participants will probe the historical ambiguities and enigmas produced by others playfully “reading Poe” seriously.
Readings in American Literature
Dr. Luis Iglesias
T 6:00 - 9:00PM
** fulfills nontraditional requirement or American post-1865 requirements
The past ten years has witnessed an explosion of Latine cultural production across the literary, artistic, and creative fields, seemingly unprecedented but with deep historical roots. Sensitive to the changing national demographics and the globalizing reach of Latinx culture, the contemporary literary marketplace has not only given an expansive reach to writers of Hispanic origins and identities but also opened up radical textual imaginaries for linguistic and expressive creativity. This course will examine texts across the ethnic and national spectrums of Latino/a/x/e identity, reading a variety of novels, short stories, and poetry collections representative of diverse subject and racialized positions while taking the pulse of the effects the most recent cultural interventions of Latine creative artists are having on the national literary scene.
Among the readings:
Postcolonial Love Poem (2020), Natalie Diaz
Of Women and Salt: A Novel (2021), Gabriela Garcia
What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez (2023), Claire Jimenez
Fiebre Tropical (2020), Julián Delgado Lopera
Stepmotherland: Poems (2022), Darrel Alejandro Holnes
Plantains and Our Becoming: Poems (2023), Melania Luis Marte