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Graduate Courses in English Literature & in Creative Writing
Fall 2011 (6 September - 19 December)

English 293A: Toni Morrison R 4:30- 6:20pm J. Henton
English 293D: Lit, Trauma, Climate Crisis W 4:30- 6:20pm L. Zimmerman
English 293E: Chaucer and Chaucerians M 6:30- 8:20pm J. S. Russell
English 293H: Byron, Shakespeare, Verdi T 6:30- 8:20pm J. Digaetani
English 294U: Critical Theory R 6:30- 8:20pm S. Sawhney
Creative Writing 240: Poetry Writing W 4:30-6:20pm P. Levin
Creative Writing 241: Fiction Writing M 4:30-6:20pm M. McPhee
Creative Writing 243: Creative Non-Fiction T 4:30-6:20pm P. Horvath
Creative Writing 291J: The Double R 4:30-6:20pm S. Lorsch
(NB: The MFA in Creative Writing requires students to complete credits in English Literature; and the M.A. in English Literature allows students up to one course in Creative Writing. Should you have any questions, contact the Graduate Directors of your individual programs: for the MFA in Creative Writing, contact Erik Brogger; and for the M.A. in English Literature, contact Shari Zimmerman.)

R 4:30- 6:20pm
Prof. Jennifer Henton

This course delves into the major literary works of Toni Morrison, one of the greatest American authors of our day. Students will develop their own independent thinking with respect to such esteemed African American works as The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Sula, Beloved, Paradise and Love. We will first consider the nuances of black culture in Morrison's artistic expression. But also, by way of short, focused essays and a longer, research essay, we will conduct an assessment of how race, gender, sexuality and class are used to express a literary aesthetic that marks the author's canonization (claim to greatness). Likewise, attention will be given to problems provoked by Morrison's work: such problems as hatred of men, anti-white sentiment, pro-queer politics, fair-skin elitism, etc. This course includes exams that test thorough reading and annotating of all material, so it is essential that students who take this course have adequate time to fully read all primary texts.

(This course satisfies the individual author requirement for the MFA in Creative Writing.)

W 4:30-6:20pm
Prof. Lee Zimmerman

This course centers on an urgent question: since we know the climate crisis will mean global catastrophe unless we very quickly mount a meaningful response, why have we so far utterly failed to do so? We'll approach that question in light of the growth, over the past few decades, of a cultural interest in trauma, especially the development of "trauma theory" and of what we might call the literature of trauma. This will help us consider, for example, what kind of knowledge is at stake when we say we "know" that catastrophe will follow from inadequate action; what does it mean, that is, to become aware of reality if such awareness challenges your capacity to process what you see? We'll read some trauma theory (from, for example, Cathy Caruth's Unclaimed Experience and Roger Luckhurst's The Trauma Question), but will focus mostly on works of literature. For the most part, these won't engage climate change per se (the relative absence of which is a sign of the larger cultural denial) but will be texts that struggle with trying to give shape and meaning to experiences that seem, by definition, to defy such attempts. In addition to selections from trauma theory, possible readings include W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz, D. M. Thomas's The White Hotel, and Art Spiegelman's Maus (texts that grapple with the problem of representing "the Holocaust"), Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker and Cormac McCarthy's The Road (grappling with how to represent a nuclear apocalypse, and the consequent climate change), and Toni Morrison's Beloved (grappling with how to represent knowledge of slavery). We'll also compare such attempts to formulate traumatic knowledge with the sort of widespread representations of climate change that construct it in the public sphere.

M 6:30- 8:20pm
Prof. J. Stephen Russell

The course will examine the Canterbury Tales and its criticism. The course will focus on six major parts of Chaucer's great poem: the General Prologue, the Knight's Tale, the Wife of Bath's Tale, the Pardoner's Tale, the Prioress' Tale and the Tale of Melibee. The class will spend roughly two weeks on each of these works, the first week devoted to a consideration of the work itself and the second devoted to the more important critical responses to the works. Each student will write three short essays, prepare and give an oral presentation, and complete a critical literature review on one of the class readings for the end of the term. Expect to spend a couple of hours in the library every other week to complete the required secondary readings.

(This course satisfies a pre-1800 requirement for the M.A. in English Literature and the pre-1900 requirement for the MFA in Creative Writing.)

T 6:30- 8:20pm
Prof. John DiGaetani

This graduate course will investigate the connections between the English playwrights Shakespeare and Byron and the two greatest opera composers of the l9th century, Verdi and Wagner. We will look at Shakespeare's Macbeth, Othello and Midsummer Night's Dream as well as Byron's The Two Foscari and The Corsair, and we shall see how these literary works were turned into operas by Verdi and Wagner. This course will also look at how theater and poetry can work together to create various forms of opera in both the l9th and 20th centuries. Musical theater will be seen as an extension of great literature and great theater.

(This course satisfies a pre-1900 requirement for both the M.A. in English Literature and the MFA in Creative Writing.)

R 6:30- 8:20pm
Prof. Sabina Sawhney

"Theory," in the current academic idiom, refers to a genre of works that are not easily categorized in any one discipline. These works may originate in, or otherwise deal with, issues connected to such fields as literature, linguistics, philosophy, psychoanalysis, anthropology, and so on.

One way of organizing this interdisciplinarity is by seeing these works as a far-ranging and comprehensive critique of the existing organizations of knowledge. That is to say, these works (by Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Patricia Williams, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Joan Scott, et al.) attempt to indicate those mediating influences that enable us to first formulate and then articulate our understandings of concepts, the world, the text in front of us. These writings emphasize the way meaning is created and conveyed, rigorously questioning the various guiding principles of interpretation that we normally tend to take for granted. By focusing on our assumptions on how a sentence should proceed, or on our shared common-sensical notions of history, or of genres, these writers force us to see how much of what we think we understand is based on unspoken but powerful rationales; rationales which need to be discussed, and only then accepted, revised or discarded. For instance, the notion of "the universal" (as in universal applicability or universal appeal of ideas) relies on a very limited and circumscribed set; the notion of the universal functions only if we erase the differences and contradictions that any attention to gender, race or class may elicit. Theory, thus, attempts to draw attention to those aspects of human experience that existing ideologies were unable to convey or were interested in suppressing.

This course will attempt to deal with these theoretical concerns by reading the works of the theorists I mentioned above. We will look at the way these theorists talk with, to, against, or at each other and consider the assumptions and ideologies that motivate their works. Students will be required to write several response papers (2-3 pages each) through the course of the semester on the various theorists as we read them. In addition, there will be final essay (15-18 pages). Students are also expected to make presentations on various topics that I will suggest at the beginning of the class.

(The course in Critical Theory is required for the M.A. in English Literature; we offer this course once a year, generally in the spring semester.)

CRWR 240: Poetry Writing Workshop
W 4:30-6:20pm
Prof. Phillis Levin

In this Graduate Poetry workshop we will concentrate on writing and revising new poems while studying essential elements of the craft. We will critique each other's work with an ear and an eye for problems and solutions, and problems as solutions - opportunities for risk, for an unending interplay of mystery, mastery, and discovery. Workshop participants will experiment with myriad ways of moving through a poem. As readers and writers we will consider various patterns and literary conventions, attending to the dynamic interaction of rhythm, line, stanza, syntax, rhetoric, image, idiom, and tone. We will also devote time to reading and discussing the work of published poets who deploy a broad range of poetic strategies that spur the development of voice and style. Regular attendance is mandatory, along with an ongoing commitment to revision, active participation in class, and constructive criticism of poems presented to the workshop. Students are expected to turn in a new poem every week.

CRWR 241 Fiction Writing Workshop
M 4:30-6:20pm
Prof. Martha McPhee

This course is a classic fiction workshop for graduate students, earning their MFA. We will study the craft of fiction by looking closely at what makes for a good story. How do we find the small moment that becomes the larger story, the small desires of a person that lead to the bigger consequences of a life? We will be using essays on the subject by fiction writers such as E.M. Forester, Stephen King, Francine Prose, Jane Smiley and many others. We will be discussing the basic elements of fiction writing from character development to plot, tone, voice, point of view, while always attempting to excavate strong character driven narratives that realize the world through vivid detail and observation. Students' stories will be read and analyzed in class and used as well as the jumping off point for discussions particular to the manuscript and to the craft in general.

T 4:30-6:20pm
Prof. Patricia Horvath

This non-fiction writing workshop will entertain work in a number of subgenres--personal essay, memoir, profile, travel writing, meditation, humor piece. Various literary models will be assigned as reading, and for inspiration. Particular attention will be paid to the creation of a credible and engaging authorial persona, the establishment of a tone of authority, the ability to convey past experience with retrospective intelligence, and the appearance of fair play in the portraits of others. The ethics of nonfiction will also be discussed, as will the overlaps and differences between fiction and nonfiction. Students will be expected to write about fifty pages over the course of the semester, and to make a minimum of three presentations in-class.

R 4:30-6:20pm
Prof. Susan Lorsch

As I was walking up the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
I wish, I wish he'd stay away.
(Hughes Mearns)

The world is a Noah's ark on the sea of eternity containing
all the endless pairs of things, irreconcilable and inseparable.
and heat will always long for cold and the back for the
front and smiles for tears and mutt for jeff and no for yes
with the most unutterable nostalgia there is.
(Diane Arbus)

The notion of the divided self is deeply embedded in Western conceptions of identity—whether the parts of the self represent such easy divisions as "good" and "evil" or more subtle distinctions between ego and superego or between the subconscious and the conscious. Writers of fiction and filmmakers use ideas of the double or "doppelganger" to reflect psychological struggle and to explore the relationship of the self to the self and to the world outside the self. In narrative literature and film, one's shadow-self—whether mischievous, malicious, friendly or forbidding—appears as a reflection of a crisis in identity and offers its alter ego the opportunity for self-exploration.

This course will examine some of the ways narratives have explored identity and probed human psychology through the use of the double. As this is a "craft course," in addition to investigating the tales that are told, we will also be studying the variety of techniques fiction and film employ in order simultaneously to demonstrate and embody the divisions and conflicts, the complexities of desire, within the self.

While literature students will write analytical essays, creative writing students will have the opportunity to try out, in their own stories or screenplays, the techniques of creating character doubles. Emphasis will be on class discussion and analysis; thus class attendance and participation, along with written work, will figure significantly in final grades. Works to be studied will probably include some of the following:

Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Highsmith's Strangers on a Train, Shelley's Frankenstein, Nabokov's Pale Fire, Plath's The Bell Jar

Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train, " Nolan's "Insomnia," and Koepp's "Secret Window," Nolan's "The Prestige," Lynch's "Mulholland Drive"

***Students should be able to come to class early on days films will be shown.